I love the history of folks gathering around quilts long ago.
I wonder what kinds of stories they told, what songs they sang and I even wonder what they might have argued about.
"Stichin' and Pullin"
This illustration from Patricia McKissack's book shows the women of Gee's Bend (in Boykin, Alabama) gathering around a design made of colorful material scraps. Women who live in this area today, still gather daily to quilt, just as their great-great...grandmothers did before the civil war.
Visiting Gee's Bend
Tomorrow I will be visiting the quilters who live in Gee's Bend. I can't wait to see some of their quilts and hear their stories.
From the Texas Quilt Groups to the Gee's Bend Quilters!
For 2 weeks I've talked about Gee's Bend with my different Quilt groups. Each group wanted to make something for these wonderful women who have created these amazing works of art.
My Silverado group created a paper quilt. We took squares of colorful paper and wrote down words that came to mind when we thought about quilts and the folks who make them. We came up with 48 words...like patience and warmth.
On the back of the squares we glued squares of printed paper and then worked together to arrange all the squares.
Another group decorated butterflies for the Gee's Bend Quilters.
We talked about the designs on the wings and how they reminded us of pieces of material pieced together on a quilt.
The seniors at the assisted living center, had so many questions for the quilters. They filled folded cards with questions they hope will be answered. "When did you first learn how to quilt?" "What do you think about when you're quilting?"
Stitchin' and Pullin'
It was interesting to see the reactions of both young and old to Patricia McKissack's book. The adults were touched by the stories of the amazing strength and creativity of the Gee's Bend women.
The children were mesmerized by the illustrations. The favorite illustration of the group was a picture of the little girl and her grandmother, wrapped up cozy in the quilt.
The kids at the shelter made "quilt cards" for me to deliver to the quilters. They were very excited to know if the ladies would like their cards. "Can you take pictures of them?" They asked.
I can't wait to learn about the Gee's Bend Quilters...but I'm also excited to share with them what our non-quilting Quilt Groups do! I hope they let me take photos tomorrow!
Cinco de Mayo
You almost have to have a Fiesta theme of some kind around May 5, if you live in Texas. It's one of those you can't go wrong themes.
So I grabbed the quilt and the sombrero and headed off to the quilt groups this week. A hat and music was just about all I needed.
Posing in the Sombrero
The hat is a great ice breaker. All my groups insisted I put it on. Then others wanted to try it on and and pose for my camera.
It's amazing how much this thing weighs. I think I would rather feel the heat of the sun.
Mexican Hat Dance at The Community Center
The sombrero was the center of attention on our table. I passed around maracas and since many in my group are disabled, I attempted a seated version of the Mexican Hat Dance. As the horns and violins filled the room, we shook maracas and cheered, then clapped and kicked under the table. Then Aldele who is proudly the oldest in our group, leaned over and said a few words to me in Spanish. Then she grabbed my hand and pulled me up to dance. The others watches and laughed and cheered, until a few others who could, left the table and joined us!
Hat on the Floor
At the Assisted Living Center I attempted a similar table dance, but an employee named Maria interrupted us. She was sure we needed to learn how the dance was really done. She put the hat on the floor and did some pretty fast foot work around it, until she pulled me in as her partner. We linked arms and danced around the hat, then added some fast clapping and Spanish-style stomping. That was a very long recording and I was out of breath when Maria rushed off to get back to work.
I love it when there are kids who can join in too. They gave us an excuse to sing some silly songs like the Guacamole Song. (about a little boy who sits on an avocado)
But the most touching moment of all came about with the song Malaguena, sung by the man who made the song famous.
I fell in love with the song when I first heard mariachis singing it in California 30 years. I was eager to share the music with the quilt groups. Most had never heard the song but were drawn in by the voice of Miguel Aceves Mejia as he held onto the notes for impossibly long amounts of time.
But when I gathered with my Community Center group I was eager to see if any of the folks from Mexico would recognize it. It only took a few notes of the song and half my group was singing along! Humberto, who is from Cuba heard it from another room and rushed in to sing as well. Those of us who speak no Spanish, sat in awe of this impromptu performance. Here is an old clip of Miguel singing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdZo5EFcbcI
What I learned: Music is always a powerful force. It wakes us up, opens us up, cheers us up and sometimes gets us up out of our chairs! I was reminded that I need to incorporate more music into what I do!
For 20+ years children have called it the Magic Quilt. They've danced and pretended all over these colorful squares. I've dragged it to schools, shelters and studios where children have climbed on top to hear Magic Quilt Stories and to act them out.