Nellie Mae Abrams (1946–2005), Housetop (detail), c. 1970
Denim and cotton, 84 x 72 in.; Minneapolis Institute of Art, Museum purchase and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
In Gee’s Bend, a quilt dominated by concentric squares is called a "Housetop." Its all-around simplicity allows for experiments in formal reduction and, at the same time, offers compositional flexibility unchallenged by other multi-piece patterns. It begins with a medallion of solid cloth, or one of an endless number of pieced motifs, to anchor the quilt. After that, "Housetops" share the technique of joining rectangular strips of cloth so that the end of a strip's long side connects to one short side of a neighboring strip, eventually forming a kind of frame surrounding the central patch; increasingly larger frames or borders are added until a block is declared complete.
Nellie Mae Abrams (1946 - 2005) is the daughter of renowned quilter Annie Mae Young. Her innovative “Housetop” variations from the 1970s, featuring denim work clothes and remnant Sears corduroy from the Freedom Quilting Bee, demonstrate the tradition of creative reuse seen in the work of generations of quilters in the Gee’s Bend area.
Nellie Mae Abrams’s work is in the permanent collections of the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Learn more about Nellie Mae Abrams here.
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