Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Quilt Gallery patches together family


Could you take a few square inches of fabric, tack it and sew it all together into a king-sized quilt over the course of three days? Six ladies from the West Perry-County Marion Arts and Crafts Association certainly can. Berdia Nelson, Eunice Hewitt, Mattie Atkins, Rosa Martin and Walta Mae Kennie use their collaborative talent to piece together the new Quilts Gallery in Nott Hall.

“I make my own patterns and sew all the time,” said Hewitt, maker of a turquoise quilt called Diamond in the Square, priced at $500. “I do all of this by hand. I can make Jacob’s Ladder, Texas Star and of course the nine-patch.”

Atkins said she has been sewing since she was 10 or 12 years old.

“I got started when I was a little girl, and people in the community would piece up quilts,” Atkins said. “My first quilt was only a 4 x 4 with straight blocks across.”

Atkins was forced to learn her trade very quickly.

“When my oldest son was born we didn’t have much and I had to make his clothes,” she said. “He was a little on the stout side, and then my other sons and daughters ended up being all different shapes and sizes as well.”

Atkins sewed clothing for her five sons and two daughters by hand. When they would outgrow an outfit, she would save the material to turn into “britches quilts,” which were made from recycled clothing.

“I have made a lot of quilts in my lifetime, probably at least 45 to 50,” Atkins said. “My absolute favorite was a yellow and purple quilt I gave to my son. It was made out of tiny flowers and formed a large fan in the middle.”

The ladies first became acquainted with members of the Honor’s College through the University Fellows Black Belt Experience, which is set up to build community relationships. Students try to get to know members of this rural community, understand their needs, and help out in any way possible.

“As part of the Black Belt Experience for Fellows, we live in Marion County for three weeks,” Director of the UA Honors Program Jacqueline Morgan said. “We feel privileged to have gotten to know these special women over the last three years in their home. It’s a pleasure to bring them into our home tonight.”

Morgan said it is fun to allow these friends to showcase their talents in an exhibit.

“I established a special connection with them immediately,” said David Phelps, a freshman majoring in engineering. “My grandma taught me to quilt when I was a very young boy, but I don’t remember it. She passed away, and these women represent something I don’t have anymore.”

Phelps explained that people in his generation are focused on efficiency and getting a job done quickly. Many would see no value in homemade quilts anymore. However, to Phelps, the quilts are symbolic of rich tradition and the special bond he once shared with his grandmother. He said he believes they should be treasured as the gifts they are.

Before leaving the gallery, the group proved they had one more collective talent: singing gospel songs. Martin stepped to the microphone and sang “Let Your Light Shine.” The others joined in and encouraged student participation.

The quilters have no problem opening their hearts and souls to others, according to Honors College instructor Chip Cooper. He said the ladies offer a blessing to all that should be cherished. Their quilts will be hanging in Nott Hall for the rest of the year, and they are all for sale.

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