Martha Pettway (1911–2005), "Housetop" variation quilt back (close-up detail 5), 1930s
Cotton, 84 x 74 in.; Souls Grown Deep Foundation
The tradition of the patchwork quilt was born of scarcity and resourcefulness, arising in times and places where the shortages of cloth called for the inventive salvaging of fabric scraps and remnants. Feed, flour, and sugar sacks were commonly used to make quilt backs, as seen in this Martha Pettway quilt from the 1930s.
Martha Pettway (1911-2005) was one of the most important and technically accomplished quilters in Gee's Bend in the early twentieth century. Her most prolific period of quiltmaking coincided with her childbearing years from the late 1920s to the 1940s. Her son, Reverend Curtis Pettway, recalls that she spent a great deal of time quilting with her friends, Clementine Kennedy and Pearlie Kennedy Pettway, and it is clear that the trio influenced each other stylistically. Unlike most other quiltmakers, Pettway carefully protected and preserved a dozen or so of her earliest quilts.
Martha Pettway’s work is in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Toledo Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia.
Learn more about Martha Pettway here.
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