Creola Bennett Pettway's (1927 - 2015) quilts favor lucid geometries and frequent modulations in motif. She is a member of one of the largest families of quilters in Gee’s Bend, which includes her sisters, Ella Mae Irby and Georgiana Pettway, and her mother, Delia Bennett, who taught her to quilt.
When I first started out to making quilts, it was with my mother, Delia Bennett. And when she got her some pieces, we sot down watched her. Then we decided we would get up and get o needle and thread, too, and kneel down and look after her put her pieces together. And after she would put her pieces together, I decided I would put me some pieces together, too. And after we put them together, then we looked up at her lap—she had them laying in her lap—to see was my quilt block pieced like hers. She said, “You coming on good, girl.” And we just continued piecing, piecing, piecing, piecing, piecing.
Quiltmakers in Gee’s Bend typically design their own quilts and eschew printed patterns. Pettway 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!
In addition to quilting, Pettway sang with the gospel quartet White Rose alongside fellow quilters Arlonzia Pettway, Leola Pettway, and Georgiana Pettway. For over thirty-five years, the group performed in Gee’s Bend and throughout the South.
Creola Bennett Pettway’s work is in the permanent collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Learn more about Creola Bennett Pettway here