Repeated forms dominate the quilts of Gee’s Bend—squares, diamonds, “strings” (small, usually rectangular pieces of scrap cloth), hexagons, and triangles. Among these geometric forms, massed triangles produce the most striking effects of movement and contrast, a goal for many of the quiltmakers. Repeating, revising, and rearranging a single shape, the Gee’s Bend quilters create a seemingly endless number of variations.
Triangle patterns date to the earliest known American patchwork quilts of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Triangles also adorn textiles, beadwork, and woodcarvings from many West and Central African cultures. Triangle-based piecing processes have thrived in Gee’s Bend at least since the 1920s and 1930s, the dates of the oldest surviving quilts. According to many living quilters, these patterns were handed down from former generations.