"Housetop"—sixteen-block "Half-Log Cabin" variation sashed with feed sacks

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
c. 1935
Cotton sacking material and dress fabric
86 x 86 inches
Collection of
Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Museum purchase and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation

The most popular pattern in Gee’s Bend, the “housetop" begins with a central solid medallion of cloth around which rectangular strips are joined, long end to short, creating a frame around the center motif, a square within a square. Here, Rachel Carey George quarters the squares, adding a lyrical whimsy to this otherwise traditional quilt. Made in the midst of the Great Depression, a time in history when Gee’s Bend's Wilcox County was one of the poorest in the country, the practical employment of pieces of any fabric handy becomes particularly poignant when those scraps come from empty feed sacks. Created on the cusp of Alabama's transition from a predominantly agricultural society to an industrialized one, this quilt materially and metaphorically maps the declining agricultural lifestyle of which George was once a part.