African American/Gee's Bend Style Vintage American Quilts
Click on the pictures below to see more views of my African American Antique Quilts. Shading is due to lighting, not representative of the quilt. Please call for the availability or any questions.
 
About African American/Gee's Bend Style Vintage American Quilts
The first exhibit of African American quilts was held at Yale University in January of 1980. For the first time, people from all over the country could see the wonderful diversity, symbolism, and artistic ability of African American quilters. Our collection of African American quilts spans the time between 1860 and 1960. Many have names of the quilters or of their families, others have only the quilt’s location. Recently, the wonderful quilts from Gee's Bend, Alabama have been featured museum exhibits and highlighted in many magazines and television programs. These quilts are exciting examples of African American quilting, but not a separate entity. If you are interested in Gee's Bend quilts, we have many African American pieces from which to choose, many of which are similar to exhibited Gee's Bend pieces. Let us help you find the perfect quilt in this style!

In general, there are traits that distinguish African American quilting from any other North American quilting style. The use of symbols, bright colors, vertical piecing, enlarged, very graphic designs, and asymmetry hark back to African cultures and textile style. The symbols incorporated into the quilts can be traced back to religious symbols originating in Africa and adapted through generations of (religious shift forced into making) living in America. Many symbols worked into a quilt so long ago are simply unknown to us, and must remain a mystery until new information is discovered.

African American quilting also evokes emotional and visual responses similar to listening to jazz music. In the same way jazz emulates a pulsating heartbeat, African American quilts cause the eye to continuously shift from one area to the next. Our eyes can’t help but to keep moving across the ever changing design of the quilt. African American quilts are very personal, as is any interpretation of a particular piece.

I am glad to say that over the past 20 years, I have noticed an increased appreciation of this uniquely American art form. Every one of these quilts is a truly unique piece of textile art, born out of the need to be creative and the necessity of using only materials at hand. If any African American quilters would like to contribute to our knowledge about these wonderful quilts, we would appreciate your feedback - please contact us!
 
Q9014 African American Mourning Quilt
Please view the detail photos (click image above) for more accurate colors.
Q9014 African American Mourning Quilt
c.1895
approx. 65 x 74 (165.1 x 188 cm)
Baltimore, MD
SOLD

A special African American mourning quilt that is also a wonderful piece of Folk Art. It is comprised of wool and cotton probably from clothing worn by both the deceased and his family members and friends as was the custom when making a mourning quilt. The presence of birds, in this quilt the predominant raven, is thought to symbolize eternal life; the link between heaven and earth. Birds are free to roam the earth and sky and are often believed to be a messenger of the spirit world. It is believed that ravens who fly high toward the heavens take prayers from the people to the spirit world and, in turn, bring back messages from the spiritual realm. This special mourning quilt contains a stitched verse by Kitty for her friend Jimmy.
Verse:
for My Friend Jimmy
When your at the
Edge of the earth
Jumping off
May You use this quilt
Like Angel Wings
So You May Safely
Land
know that I will
Always love You
Kitty

Raven appliques with beads for eyes accompany the verse as well as a large embroidered heart , a line of rabbits, a beaded star, and a wreath, among others. There is a piece of a work shirt, which we assume is Jimmy's, in the bottom right corner that still has the buttoned pocket.

The quilt backing is blue ticking fabric. It has top ties and most of the embroidery was done using colored string and thread. The applied binding is strip pieced wools that have been top stitched to the quilt by hand. There are a couple small moth holes which we haven't touched.

A poignant work of love in honor of a deceased friend which now falls under the category of extraordinary folk art. Please ask Betsey to see this quilt on approval for private viewing.
Q8949 African American Mennonite Quilt
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Q8949 African American Mennonite Bars Quilt
c.1890
68 x 70 (172.7 x 177.8 cm)
PA or NC
$6,200

The first known work among African Americans by members of the Mennonite church was in 1886 in North Carolina. Within a few years African Americans became members through baptism of integrated Mennonite churches in communities in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Emerging in the early 20th century were 13 churches considered the earliest communities of African American Mennonites in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Illinois, California, Michigan and Ohio. Today there are approximately 57 African American integrated congregations in the Mennonite Church in the United States.

This early and graphically wonderful example of an African American Mennonite quilt contains a high level of energy as a result of the varied piece size coupled with a fabulous arrangement of hues. We had a difficult time choosing which way to hang it for presentation - each direction presents a unique perspective on this fabulous piece of folk art.

This quilt was pieced using early indigo, double pink, over dyed green, and chrome yellow calicoes set among the many stripes, plaids, florals, and mourning prints. There is a nice age range among the cottons, from 1870 to 1890, testifying to the maker's use of saved fabrics at hand. She used a second quilt for the middle layer, a common practice among many early quilters to repurpose their older quilts. Pieced primarily by treadle sewing machine there is also evidence of hand piecing, as well as a few original mends presumably by the maker or her family. The backing is strip pieced by treadle machine using two alternating cotton prints - please see detail image. Strip piecing fabric to create bars for the backing is characteristic of Mennonite quilting. There are some stains on the backing fabric that did not come out in the bath. A pillowcase edge gives a clean look with top stitching executed by hand approximately ¼ inch from the edge. Hand quilted throughout in loosely parallel lines using thin white string and white thread.

A fabulous folk art quilt that has some imperfections as mentioned which we haven't touched - it is in original condition. It would be an amazing graphic piece for your wall or equally wonderful used on a bed. Professionally hand washed by Betsey this quilt can be sent to you on approval for private viewing.

CON SP1 African American Log Cabin Quilt, with Provenance
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CON SP1 African American Log Cabin Quilt with Provenance
c.1950
79 x 84 (200.7 x 213.4 cm)
Camden, NC
$3,200

There are traits that distinguish African American quilting in the first half of the 20th century from any other North American quilting style. The use of vertical piecing, enlarged, very graphic piecing, and asymmetry hark back to African cultures and textile style. This wonderful Log Cabin is comprised of a variety of both large and medium scale patterns in a great many colors in cotton, seersucker, velvet and rayon.

The cotton backing is comprised of multiple fabrics pieced together both by hand and machine; two shades of blue with white stripes, a blue and white large scale floral, and a wonderful cotton in lime green and pink depicting a tropical scene at the beach. The backing is turned to the front and is hand stitched down with white string to form the binding. Hand quilted with loosely parallel lines using thin white string.

Purchased out of the maker's home this quilt is on consignment, with provenance to go to the buyer upon sale. Professionally hand washed by Betsey and ready to sent to you on approval for private viewing in your home.
Q8863 African American Patchwork Quilt
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Q8863 African American Patchwork Quilt
1930’s
72 x 98
TX
$5,200

This graphically appealing African American quilt is comprised of solids, prints, stripes and plaids in various shapes, sizes and colors. There are traits that distinguish African American quilting in the first half of the 20th century from any other North American quilting style and this quilt is a classic example. The use of vertical piecing, enlarged, very graphic designs, and asymmetry hark back to African cultures and textile style. This wonderful patchwork is comprised of a variety of feedsacks and other cottons from the 1930’s in a great many colors, however, it strikes a patriotic theme with its emphasis on blue, white and red.

The backing is comprised of unbleached feedsack fabric that shows the feed manufacturer’s screen printed name and various plant locations in pale blue. The backing is turned to the front along most of the quilt’s edge and is hand stitched down to form a binding ranging in width from 3 3/4” to 1/4”. A portion of the quilt’s edge has the front turning to the back to form a binding ranging from 1/4” to 1” wide on the back side. Hand quilted with loosely parallel lines using white string.

From an African American family in Texas, this quilt is a wonderful find in excellent condition. Professionally hand washed by Betsey and ready to send to you on approval for viewing in the privacy of your home.
Q8730 African American Log Cabin Variation
Please view the detail photos (click image above) for more accurate colors.
Q8730 African American Log Cabin Variation
c.1920-40
70 x 80
Atlanta, GA
Was $2,150 Now $1,900

This graphically appealing African American quilt is comprised of solids, prints and geometrics in various shapes, sizes and colors. The maker’s spirit and zest for life are displayed through her art. Similar to one adaptation of a conventional log cabin at first glance but upon closer inspection we clearly see that the strip pieced log blocks are assembled in a classic African American style. The piecing is such that fabrics of a similar pattern, in block formation, are not always contiguous.

Each pieced block is different from its neighbor in number and width of ‘logs’ with blocks varying in size from 10” to 13” wide. Solid tan sashing with medium blue connecting squares join the blocks. The blue blocks stop the flow of the tan sashing. This interruption of energy and the various sizes of pieces is intentional.

The backing is a white cotton turned over to the front forming the hand stitched binding. Hand quilting on this quilt is a combination of arc and loosely parallel lines using white string. This special quilt has seen some gentle use, yet is still in excellent condition.

This African American quilt is a wonderful find...... clean and ready to use. Quilts are always sent on approval.
Q8224 African American Bars Variation
Please view the detail photos (click image above) for more accurate colors.
Q8224 African American Bars Variation
1950-1970
approx. 78 x 86
Southern
Was $3,900 Now $2,900

This wonderful textile is representative of all we look for in an early to mid twentieth century African American quilt. The vertical piecing, asymmetry and bold, colorful fabrics with the use of intentionally random sized pieces are all traditional elements of African American quilt design and are in abundance in this lovely piece. Plaids, stripes, paisleys, florals and more dance among solid colored fabrics in this uplifting quilt. There are large gentle arcs as well as areas of straight lines of neat and functional quilting throughout.

This special quilt has seen some gentle use, but is in wonderful condition. The edges on two sides have been turned over from the back to the front, and pillowcase edged on the remaining two sides. The backing has been formed by piecing feed sacks.

This great find is now ready to display as art for your bed or wall. Professionally hand washed by Betsey and ready to send to you for viewing in your home on approval.

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Telephone - for orders or questions -
1-800-762-5940 or 1-207-363-6800
Email - betsey@rockymountainquilts.com
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York Village, Maine 03909
   
     
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