Delia Bennett (1892–1976), "Housetop"—Fractured-Medallion variation (detail), c. 1955
Cotton, 79 x 79 in.; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Museum purchase and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
Delia Bennett was the matriarch of an extended family of quiltmakers that includes her daughters Creola B. Pettway, Georgiana Pettway, and Ella Mae Irby. Her granddaughters Mary L. Bennett, Linda Diane Bennett, Stella Mae Pettway, Marlene Bennett, and many others continued the tradition. Perhaps Delia's most engaging quilt is a "Housetop" variation some call "Pig in a Pen," pieced mainly from wonderfully mismatched pale pink, brown, and deep green fabrics. The jarring chromatic disjunctions are reinforced by the fact that the concentric strips are sometimes aligned and sometimes not.
Delia Bennett (1892 - 1976) was the matriarch of an extended family of quiltmakers that included her daughters Creola Bennett Pettway, Georgiana Pettway, and Ella Mae Irby. Quiltmakers in Gee’s Bend typically design their own quilts and eschew printed patterns. Delia’s daughter, Creola, describes her mother’s and her own design abilities in just those terms:
She had it in her head, so that’s why we don’t use patterns. I don't use patterns. When I get ready to make me a quilt, I just get me some cloth and start sewing. We had the pattern in our head, and that was the best. My mother had the quilt in her head. She didn't use no pattern. She used her brains!
The “Housetop” form has always been one of the Bennett family’s preferred quilt forms, and the emphatic and wildly asymmetrical geometries of Delia’s designs continue to echo in the quilts of her granddaughters Mary L. Bennett and Marlene Bennett Jones.
Delia Bennett’s work is in the permanent collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Learn more about Delia Bennett here.
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