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African American quilting guild
Naomi Henry holding her Jazz Divas quilt, African American quilting guild, 2005; Sisters in Stitches: Joined by the Cloth; Grove Hall, Massachusetts; Cotton and synthetic fabric; 45 x 60 inches; Photography by Maggie Holtzberg
Naomi Henry holding her Jazz Divas quilt, African American quilting guild, 2005
Sisters in Stitches: Joined by the Cloth
Grove Hall, Massachusetts
Cotton and synthetic fabric
45 x 60 inches
Photography by Maggie Holtzberg
Bye, Bye Baby . . . Goodbye; African American quilting guild; 1997: Waltham, Massachusetts; Cotton, denim
Earthly Woman; African American quilting guild; 2015: Worcester, Massachusetts; 24 x 36 inches
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Sisters in Stitches, Joined by the Cloth
Holbrook, MA
When founded in 1997, Sisters in Stitches was the only African American quilting guild in New England. Many of these women grew up with mothers or grandmothers who sewed. Most are from the Greater Boston area and some have roots in Barbados.

"We've become a family," says member Karen Beckett. "We'll laugh, joke, cry. I consider these women my sisters." Indeed, many describe quiltmaking as a way of relieving stress. Using one's hands and seeing something evolve creatively has a remarkable, calming effect.

Use of bold colors and textures, asymmetry, freedom from strict rules/precision, and thematic choices are some of the things that distinguish African American from Anglo American quilt making. Guild elder Naomi Henry says, "We, as African Americans, tend to utilize things that represent us; we have the history of oral tradition." Common themes in the guild's quilts reflect life experiences, including family and ancestral history, personal trauma, and collective memory.

Like many women adept in the needle arts, these "sisters" make quilts to give to family members, to raffle in support of charities, exhibit at shows, and for the sheer pleasure of creating something of beauty and utility.
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