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Coat of Many Colors Quilt

ca. 1975
Origin: America, Alabama, Gee's Bend
81 1/2" x 91"
Cotton, polyester
Museum Purchase, Dr. and Mrs. T. Marshall Hahn, Jr. Fund
Acc. No. 2008.609.11
Rectangular quilt with a design of rectangular strips pieced to create zigzag pattern. Textiles include florals, geometric prints, "dashiki" fabrics, woven plaid, gingham, and printed motto "It's the real thing" and "Coca Cola". Backed with two different pre-quilted textiles, probably reused bedspreads.
Label:Arlonzia Pettway grew up and quilted in the community of Gee’s Bend, Alabama. Arlonzia combined rectangles of cotton and silk velvets, textured polyester double knits, plain-woven cottons patterned with flowers and geometrics, plaids, fragments of a printed dashiki from the late 1960s, and a print incorporating portions of the phrases “Coca-Cola” and “It’s the real thing,” the Coke motto from 1969. The rectangles are set on angles to create a lively zigzag pattern. The quilt is backed with two different machine-quilted fabrics, and quilted by sewing machine through all the layers. Holes have been patched with pieces of red fabric.

Arlonzia Pettway was one of the founding quilters in the Freedom Quilting Bee, a sewing and quilting cooperative established in 1966 to help poverty-stricken Gee’s Bend residents earn money using their skills. Their quilts were sold in New York at auction and later at Bloomingdale’s. Arlonzia quilted for the bee during its first five years but found the requirement for standardization too confining: “Used to worry me to death trying to make every quilt just like this, just like that, but I did.”

Arlonzia learned to quilt from her mother, Missouri. Arlonzia was a teenager when she helped make a memory quilt using the clothing of her deceased father, Nathaniel Pettway. “It was when Daddy died. I was about seventeen, eighteen. He stayed sick about eight months and passed on. Mama say, ‘I going to take his work clothes, shape them into a quilt to remember him, and cover up under it for love.’ ” Arlonzia recalled tearing up her father’s pants and shirts and cutting them to shape for her mother’s quilt.
Provenance:Jim Hager.
Purchased from Shelly Zegart, 2008.