Sew Darn Inspiring – Susanna Allen Hunter

The beautiful improvised quilts of Susanna Allen Hunter

Don’t be fooled – while these quilts could be mistaken for modern abstract quilts, they were in fact made by the wife of an Alabama sharecropper, Susana Allen Hunter, between the period of 1930 and 1970. Susana’s quilts were made using an improvisational style that was popular among the poorer, more isolated pockets of the rural South of America – you may have seen similar quilts produced by the women of Gees Bend. Although all the women making these quilts were restricted by a lack of resources, they made good use of what they did have – such as old clothing, sacks and fabric scraps.

Susanna in 1960

The quilts weren’t for show – they were to be put to good use – and yet Susanna’s quilts were always strikingly playful and interestingly composed. Her quilts are testament to her keen eye for design and innate artistic sensibility – what was once produced by her out of necessity and practicality is now admired by others as the work of a truly gifted artist.

Have you ever sat down to start a quilt and found the whole design process – from what design you will make to your fabric choices – overwhelming? One thing that we can learn from Susanna is to not take things to seriously -trust your instincts – sometimes you just have to start a quilt and see where it takes you. Embrace your ability to work freely and loosely.

These quilts wouldn’t have the same charm if they were perfect grids, with all the seams dead straight. Things don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. We’re not saying you should be slap-dashing all your quilts together, but you need to know when to ease up on yourself. Maybe have a glass of wine – please stop at a bottle though! 😉

Is there any thing that you like – or dislike – about these quilts? We would love to hear from you.

All Images from this post from pinterest

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. lenzladee

    I really enjoyed seeing this work by Susanna Allen Hunter. It seems joyous to me! Although she may not have had huge fabric choices she delighted in what did come her way and used each and every scrap to good advantage. I can relate as I too have known lean times. But her work isn’t about that. It’s about living joyously and and in beauty. Her work speaks to me in a way that frees me from artificial constraints and lets me see with gladness what a loving spirit can do with imagination, skill and determination to create beauty as well as utility. A win-win attitude to have in any life.

    1. The Strawberry Thief

      Our thoughts exactly <3 Thank you for taking the time to put together such a beautiful response!

  2. Lana Norton

    Loved seeing this, and thank you so much for posting! Before opening my shop, I taught Art History and always included the pictorial quilts of Harriet Powers. She was a freed slave and her quilts are now in the Smithsonian Museum and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Although they were appliquéd, her quilts share a similar, improvisational aesthetic. Are you familiar with her? Also worth checking out is a book called “Godhari Quilts of Maharashtra.” They also could be mistaken for modern, improvisational quilts with big stitch quilting, but are made using recycled fabric and sari cloth by women living in villages in India. I always find it interesting that we claim as “modern” what women in traditional and often underprivileged communities have been doing for ages!

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