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Gees Bend: A Small Alabama Quilting Community

Gee’s Bend Quilters have been making blankets for hundreds of years.

People all around the world marvel at the artistry of these quilts. If you’ve been looking for a blanket featuring warmth and beauty, look no further. 

Today we’ll get cozy and talk about this collective’s handmade art pieces. 

Let’s hit the road!

About Gee’s Bend Quilters

The Gee’s Bend Quilters have a long history. As many as two hundred years ago, the enslaved people in Alabama began making blankets to keep warm. Due to their lack of resources, they often made quilts from leftover fabric scraps. This created a very unique, improvisatory form of quilting. By contrast, most euro-centric quilts feature carefully planned squares of fabric. 

Later, in 2003, African-American women in Boykin formed the Gee’s Bend Collective. About 50 quilt-makers own and operate the business. Each unique blanket has been hand-crafted by one of the collective’s members. We consider these beautiful quilts some of the most stunning cultural art in the United States. 

Where Is Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective?

The town of Boykin can be found in a horseshoe-shaped bend along the Alabama River. Originally the land belonged to Joseph Gee, a plantation owner. The location along the river bend and the owner’s name earned Boykin the nickname Gee’s Bend. 

If you plan to visit this location, be sure to plug Boykin into your GPS instead of Gee’s Bend. You’ll find the small town in rural southern Alabama. You can also take the ferry from Camden,

Pro Tip: If you want to take the ferry, check the schedule here.

Quilt making supplies
Gee’s Bend Collective is made up of 50 quilt-makers.

Who Made Gee’s Bend Quilters Famous?

An art collector by the name of William Arnett saw a photo of a quilt made of old work clothes in 1998. He saw immense value in the artistic blanket and eventually tracked it down to Boykin. Arnett went unannounced to the creator Annie Mae Young’s house to buy it. Young called around town, telling the other women that a white man wanted to buy some quilts.

One resident of Gee’s Bend, China Pettway recalls the experience fondly. “Oh boy,” she said, “we’re not used to having nothing, you know and things like that…a new life just opened up for me.”

Once he purchased the quilts, Arnett set up a traveling art exhibit. It started in 2002 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and received rave reviews. The quilts have since been shown at several museums, including the Whitney and the Orlando Museum of Art. 

In 2007, the women of Gee’s Bend sued Arnett stating that they hadn’t been fairly compensated for their art. The art collector had licensed the blankets’ likeness for art on stamps, visa cards, and even rugs. He ended up settling the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount and returning some quilts with sentimental value. 

How Much Does a Gee’s Bend Quilt Cost?

Today, you can buy a Gee’s Bend quilt at fair prices online. Every artist in the collective runs their own Etsy shop selling their hand-sewn items. They range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on the size and amount of sewing needed. 

Not only will you get a beautiful, hand-crafted blanket, but buying from Black-Owned businesses contributes to creating more equality in the economy. Supporting the Gee’s Bend Quilters can help close the racial wealth gap for future generations.

Gee's Bend making quilt
Buying a quilt from Gee’s Bend is a great investment for your home.

Best Recreation Near Gee’s Bend

If you feel inspired to stop by Boykin, we have some tips. Here are some of our favorite campgrounds in the area for your road trip.

Miller’s Ferry Campground

This recreation area, located just a ferry ride from Boykin, features excellent fishing. People hook bass, bluegill, and catfish along the river. If you enjoy kayaking, you can also launch from this location. Visitors also enjoy bow hunting for turkey and deer throughout the park. 

They have many amenities, including a dump station and laundry facilities. Campsites with hookups run for $26 at this location.

Isaac Creek Campground

You’ll find Isaac Creek Campground about an hour and a half south of Gee’s Bend. Bird watchers will love this location. You might get to see purple finches and swamp swallows during your visit. This park also allows both bow and shotgun hunting for wild hogs and whitetail deer. 

The watersports are the main draw of Isaac Creek Campground, located on Claiborne Lake. You can use the boat ramp for your kayak or other watercraft. Drop a line, and you might hook some largemouth bass. 

Camping at this campground costs $26, just like the Mill’s Ferry spot. It also offers similar amenities. 

Pro Tip: Take some time to explore these 5 Cool Places in Alabama after visiting Gee’s Bend.

Best Camping Near Gee’s Bend

While you can camp at Isaac Creek or Miller’s Bend, we love other spots more. The following campgrounds have a shorter drive to Boykin and more activities.

Roland Cooper State Park

You don’t need to haul your boat around because this state park offers rentals. You still enjoy the fishing this area offers, but you can rent a motor boat for just $30 daily. Don’t forget to bring your fishing pole!

The park’s 47 campsites offer water, electricity, and sewage for $32 per night. Campers love their level parking spots. You can get to Gee’s Bend in about half an hour with a short ferry ride across the river.

Chilatchee Creek Campground

This campground, located less than 20 minutes from Boykin, has 33 sites starting at $14. Chilathchee Creek has both pull-through and back-in parking. You can see which spots have which parking online. The area has a dump station and showers available. You can also hook up to electricity and water depending on which site you book.

Campers appreciate the peace and quiet at this place. It can be described as off the beaten path. If you don’t mind bringing your own kayak or boat, this can be a great place to get out on the water. You can also hunt or do some birdwatching here. 

Is a Road Trip to Gee’s Bend Worth It?

If you love fishing and art, Gee’s Bend may be the perfect destination for you. Get out on the river for some great fishing and then stop into Boykin to visit the Gee’s Bend Quilters. This art form has transcended generations.

But even if you don’t make it to town, you can visit the artists virtually on Etsy. The craftsmanship alone inspires you to do more with what you have.

Is a visit to Gee’s Bend in your future? Tell us in the comments!

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