We used a needle when we had no pen

I quilt in honor of my foremothers, who used the needle to tell their stories, to record events in their lives, marriages and births, to warm their families and to feed themselves. Quilts were used to make political statements, raise money, and identify safe places.

A seamstress was one of a few skills a person in bondage could utilize which created a pathway-a means to wealth. Clothing and home goods were highly prized in the the era with many hands employed to create enough for garments for the family.

Black women and men have used the tiniest scraps to create quilts for centuries. They have created appliqued story quilts in the West African tradition. Harriette Powers, a famous quiltmaker, born in bondage, died a free woman and told her own story as well as a Bible story in two quilts preserved by National institutional. I live in the same county where she was kept in bondage.

I quilt to honor the spirt of the needle that is encoded in my DNA, because once I started, I haven’t stopped in 25 plus years. I get grumpy when I skip studio time. After sewing since age six, quilting came easy for me and my bold use of color was mainly out of necessity: I had limited money for fabric when I started quilting. Scrap and eclectic quilts were a great solution. This is my first bed size Blue Ribbon quilt: “All Roads Lead to the Fabric Shop.”

All Roads Lead to the Fabric Shop

For eight years, when I first married, I had a 6-foot table in the corner of the kitchen, near the wood stove. It was rustic and cramped, I persisted.

Me, in the creative corner 1999

Now, I work in a large, airy space with a large design wall, cutting/ironing table and a long-arm sewing machine. I have storage for my fabric, a kitchen and a laundry area. It is liberating to have a space to create and tools to make it easier.

My quilts will be my legacy. My stitches will add just one one stitch to the unending power of the needle. I feel the urgency of Now- to push myself and share my work and my story. Continue to check back to see more of my work.

Black, hippy, quilter

Those are the words I use to describe myself. I want to share the story of racism, discrimination, and always being on the outside.


I know, I know, I don’t look Black. I justify my racial identity to most of the people that I meet. Its gets old and uncomfortable and annoying to have strangers tell me who I am. Black folks would call me “light, bright and out of sight”. I feel Blacks don’t see me as one of thier own. When I’m in a predominately white crowd, I’m always listening for racist statements.

I found a place where no one care. I started hanging out with deadheads. The Dead crowd only cares if you have an extra ticket or “a little something for the head”. I also learned to tie-dye t-shirts as a way to pay for my fun.

near San Diego, 1991

Learning to quilt at 30 helped propel me into the adult world- in a positive way. Quilter is my main identy. I quilt almost daily. It’s always on my mind and brings me great joy to create my textile legacy.

Quilt by Terri M Jarrett

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