Gee’s Bend at Camp McDowell

So…I decided to send my self to camp.  Quilt camp.  Four days with two Gee’s Bend quilters and 16 other quilters, in Alabama.  Ten days ago I hopped on an early morning train to Seattle,

and the next day our little girl group of three took off for the “Deep South”…leaving the northwest behind…on our big adventure.

Our eventual destination was Camp McDowell near Nauvoo, Alabama…which isn’t near anything at all…(let’s say, near Birmingham). We flew into Knoxville and Mary met us and took us home for the night to her lovely house near Cleveland, Tennessee…

FILLED with HER beautiful quilts…

and antique ones too…

and after cutting up some old clothes while Mary made supper

we “bunked in,” loaded the car the next morning

and headed south, making an ATM stop in Cullman where I spotted this window…

Camp McDowell is owned and run by the Episcopal Diocese and provided us with comfortable living space, good food, and a great work room…

The first person I met was Dudley, who is really a knitter and was making this afghan with sock wool…and so the stories begin to roll…the yarn shop, on on…a part of what we’re sewing up, as it turns out…each others’ stories.

Machines get set up (thank you Mary), fabric comes out of bags, and we’re off and running…

Of all the stories of those four days, one of the best is Cherrye’s.  She is a school administrator in Birmingham from a long line of educated woman giving back to their community.  She and her mother had agreed to make a quilt together, but her mother died suddenly.  Cherrye decided to make the quilt to honor the promise BUT, the only thing she had ever sewn was a tote bag she made in high school.  She arrived with her brand new sewing machine still in the box, and some fabric she bought on a recent trip to Ghana.  Here is Cherrye on the left, and Kim on the right (note the sewing machine box under the table…) as she just is getting started…well you can’t drop a newby quilter into a group like this without a LOT of help being offered…

with most of the help coming from our two quilting gurus China and Mary Ann Pettway…

They set up a quilting frame, produced batting and backing, and Cherrye and most of us started in quilting…in the spirit of the quilting bee …

and slowly things began to take shape.  Victoria…(sort of an energizer bunny of quilting…young and lively) made two big tops:

Mary worked with cut up clothing, new fabric and some vintage bark cloth, and added China’s suggestion of the dark green…

Nifty worked methodically trying to find the right arrangement of her creative blocks which featured her baby clothes (made by her Grammy) which she had carefully cut up on the car trip…

Tina’s Mom hovered over us too, as Tina worked hard to incorporate some fabric that her Mom had loved (the dark blue with white flowers.)  Tina’s quilt for me had real resonance both in the squares and the sashing…

My own two were small but made with great enjoyment.  Thank goodness Mary Ann came along and helped me make a bigger block before I went nuts (lower right on the blue one)!

So enough…here’s the group (with the Camp Director Sarah Nee sitting down in front) with whom we bonded in every way.  A bunch of talented and beautiful women…not to be forgotten by me, EVER.

and after seeing the Gee’s Bend quilt in the chapel,

we came to proverbial (and in this case, the literal…) fork in the road…

This time, alas, we had to take the path most traveled, and headed back to Cleveland, TN.  The spirit of the days of fellowship and delight was still upon us as we stopped at a yard sale for a few shirts to cut up…

and Nifty noticed these shoes so kicked off her Keens and rolled up the cargo pants,

for a little stylin’ (she didn’t buy them???)

My own souvenir is an 1840 Bradley County applique quilt…

plus delicious, hilarious and touching memories.


  1. Oh, what a lovely story! Can’t wait to see you and that 1840 quilt along with your designs. What a truly wonderful experience.

  2. Beautiful post, Bonnie! I can only imagine the creativity in the room with all the energy in the air.. It had to be good!
    Rose applique quilt is gorgeous! You all are so lucky to have found the treasures. I want to see more of the blues..

  3. What a wonderful camp! And Beautiful quilts, its inspiring me to start to learn how to sew and quilt! Thanks for sharing, Bonnie! See you soon….

  4. Let’s go camping again! Love your pictures and your story. I will continue to relive the good times for years to come. Bonnie, you are just the best ever!

  5. we’ve been waiting for this post & you did not disappoint! a nicely documented experience. thank you for sharing it with all of us. we’re going to forward your post to a neighbor/friend/fellow quilter as looking at these beautiful patterned quilts will be fun for her.

  6. Oh what a time we had :0)
    thanks for posting pictures of me with my eyes open and mouth shut……that doesn’t happen too often ;0).

    Happy Sewing until we meet again

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