Lucy T. Pettway (1921–2004), "Housetop" and "Bricklayer" blocks with bars, c. 1955
Cotton, corduroy, cotton knit, flannel, even weave, 90 x 78 in.; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
Each workday as Lucy T. Pettway walked to and from the fields, she carried a pencil and paper in her pocket to sketch ideas that came to her from observations. In the mid-l950s, she created an extraordinary block-and-strip quilt that presented an almost literal map of a section of the old Pettway community. At the top is the large plantation house. Beneath it are four ﬁeld-workers’ cabins, each with a slightly different architectural configuration and strips that denote dirt roads and paths. On one side is a representation of the fields and their variety of crops, and on the other, the Alabama River. Not one of this unique quilt’s parts is out of the ordinary: each is a basic design element from traditional Gee’s Bend quilts—“Housetop,” “Bricklayer,” and “Lazy Gal” (a simple quilt of parallel stripes).
Raised and trained by several of Gee’s Bend’s most serious quiltmakers, Lucy T. Pettway (1921-2004), known as “Lunky,” made quilts for seven decades. Whereas many quilters would develop an approach to quilting early on that remained consistent throughout their lives, Pettway rarely repeated herself. She was curious as an artist and conspicuously sought to explore almost every pattern known to her and to personalize it with her precise interpretation.
As she walked to and from the fields each workday, she carried a pencil and paper in her pocket to sketch ideas and observations. Sometimes a quilt drying on a line or a fence offered suggestions: a variation of the observed quilt, perhaps, or a variation of a detail, or a combination of colors. Something she noticed along the road or from the field might do the same. She sometimes took cloth scraps to the fields so that as ideas came to her while she worked, she could immediately create a quilt block during her rest break.
Pettway’s daughter, Mary Margaret Pettway, serves as board chair of Souls Grown Deep Foundation and Community Partnership.
Lucy T. Pettway’s work is in numerous permanent collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the High Museum of Art, The Phillips Collection, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Learn more about Lucy T. Pettway here.
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