Early 20th Century Images
The great majority of early 20th-century Gee’s Bend quilts were made from worn-out work clothes, a palette of old shirts, overalls, aprons, and dress bottoms whose stains, tears, and faded denim patches provide a tangible record of lives marked by seasons of hard labor in the fields of the rural South. Quilt backs from this era were commonly made from used feed, flour, and sugar sacks. 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. In Gee's Bend, this recycling practice became the founding ethos for generations of quiltmakers who have transformed otherwise useless material into marvels of textile art.