Gee's Bend Quilters and Black History Month

I've shared my adaptations of the 8 Gee's Bend quilts from several years ago. I have new blog followers all the time and thought I'd do it again with some quilts I made using my own improvisational stitching (at the bottom of this post). First, let's see my version of the Housetop Denim quilt.
My Housetop Denim: 51" x 62"

And the very improvisational one created by Rita Mae Pettway:

Rita Mae Pettway's Housetop Denim: 70" x 84"

You can read a LOT of background info on these talented quilters and see dozens more quilts. I discovered this last year and it's a gold mine! The site is called The Gee's Bend Quiltmakers.

As most of you know, I had a CONTRACTUAL agreement with Windham Fabrics to adapt these quilts, signed off on by the Gee's Bend Collective. I own all rights to my adaptations. There is no copyright theft here (as I've had someone accuse me of).

Now, back to this awesome web site. Since it's Black History month, getting some solid background info on these talented ladies is a good place to start. It lists each quilter and links to many (maybe all) of the quilts she has made. You will spend a LOT of time here, I promise, so go get another cup of coffee.

NOTE: When you click on the name of the quilt maker, it will take you to a page dedicated to her and the various quilts she has made. It's an awesome thing to see, believe me!

Let's see the rest of the quilts I adapted and the originals:

Mary Lee Bendolph gave her permission for me to pattern Strips and Strings. Holy cow! That was the hardest quilt. Why? Just look! How can you pattern something so, well, improvisational!

And here's my rendition. Pretty close, huh?
Strips and Strings: 50" x 75"
And I got it into my head to make Strips and Strings with some Amy Butler and Kaffe Fassett fabrics. This is such a PINK quilt!
Strips and Strings with print fabrics
Mary Lee Bennett also made one of the Housetop quilts - Housetop 4 Block:

Housetop 4 Block by Mary L. Bennett

This was easier to pattern. What do you think?

Housetop 4 Block: 57" x 65"
My Housetop 4 Block is available at my Etsy shop. You can see a bio page on Mary L. Bennett there, too.

Bennett is a popular last name. Loretta P. Bennett made Blocks and Strips, which was the easiest to pattern of the 8 quilts. Here is hers:

Loretta Bennet's Blocks and Strips

And here is mine (with pattern available in my Etsy shop):

Blocks and Strips: 50" x 62"
Loretta Pettway Bennett created the Work Clothes Denim Quilt. This is a fun way to recycle old jeans. And let's make sure we include a few pockets here!

Loretta P. Bennett's Work Clothes quilt: 60" x 79"

And my version. Yes, four pockets!

Work-clothes Denim: 46" x 60"
Qunnie Pettway designed and made Lazy Gal. Don't you just love that quilt name?

Lazy Gal by Qunnie Pettway
This was also an easier quilt to pattern. No hair pulling here. My version of Lazy Gal.

Lazy Gal: 52" x 62"

Rita Mae Pettway made Housetop Denim. There were a LOT of "housetop" quilts (ie, log cabin variations). And they used a lot of denim - leftover jeans.

Rita Mae Pettway's Housetop Denim: 70" x 84"
My version is scaled at 3/4 (as we did with most of the others). Don't you love that renegade piece of red print up at the top?

My Housetop Denim: 51" x 62"
Louisiana P. Bendolf created this fantastic strippy quilt she called Medallion Variation. This was also a hair puller to pattern. Look at all those strips and strings! And, yes, that is a LOT of white around the center!
Louisiana Bendolf's Medallion Variation: 66" x 86"

Windham asked me to pattern just the center. Again, this was a real challenge, but I gave it my best shot. I actually made Medallion Variation two times. I gave the second one to my oldest daughter's best friend and she was delighted beyond words!

My Medallion Variation: 52" x 76"
Here is Meg and me with her special birthday gift a few years ago. I hung it in my kitchen with a big sign at the top: Happy Birthday, Meg. It took her about 20 minutes to finally look up and see that it was hers!

Medallion Variation gifted to Meg

And the last quilt in this series is Housetop 9 Block by Annie E. Pettway.

Housetop 9 Block by Annie E. Pettway: 71" x 77"
My version:

Housetop 9 Block: 66" x 73"
I have always been one to avoid improvisation in my quilting. But after working with these 8 quilts I decided to take a leap. What do you think? I turned this into a workshop (2010 - 2011) and filled brown lunch bags (stapled shut) full of these Gee's Bend strips, scraps, and fat eighths of fabric. Students had to put their hands into their bags and pull out two strips and sew them together. Then a 3rd one, all the while NO PEEKING. I called the class "No Sneaky Peeky."

No Sneaky Peeky #1
 And one more.
No Sneaky Peeky #2
Then the next year I developed my Improv Adventure (2011 - 2012). Again, bags of the Gee's Bend fabrics and several block options. Here is one small sample. I used this as a machine quilting sample, too, until one of my kids wanted it.

Improv Adventure #1
Improv Adventure #2
Here's a look at the 9 blocks the students could get inspiration from. This was the back of the pattern.

I hope you enjoyed seeing all of these amazing quilts. Perhaps you've been to an exhibit of Gee's Bend quilt or had the privilege to attend one of these quilters' workshops or lectures.

I hope you also take some time to visit the links I've shared above: The Gee's Bend Quilters. There are so many quilts made by so many Gee's Bend quilters. I personally have never seen so many in one place (and I've been at this for over 12 years).


  1. Love Gees Bend quilts and quilters. Your GBs inspired quilts are great.

  2. Hi Debby! I love this whole post. You shared some fabulous fabulous photos of some fun quilting project. Each one is better than the next. All the blocks look fun and easy, but best of all is the photo of you with Meg. HAHA - it probably would have taken me longer to notice the sign saying HB. ~smile~ Roseanne

  3. Love the Gees Bend quilts and your interpretations. Good job!


Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by Debby Kratovil Quilts! If you had a question and don't get an answer from me, please feel free to email me at: