Quilts of Gee's Bend with Loretta & Marlene
  • Gee's Bend, Alabama , United States
  • 18 hours over 3 days

Quilts of Gee's Bend with Loretta & Marlene

Experience the quilting tradition in Gee's Bend, recognized as one of the most important African-American visual and cultural contributions to the history of art within the United States, with master quilters Loretta and Marlene. Learn how to hand stitch quilts in Gee's Bend style while enjoying the slow pace of rural Alabama life and experiencing the legacy of quilt making.
  • Snacks, Coffee, & Tea


One Guest
USD $855
Additional guest(s) (max 2)
USD $320


One Guest
USD $345
Additional guest(s)
USD $345

Meet the Artist

Loretta and Marlene are notable women quilters from Gee’s Bend, Alabama. The quilting tradition of Gee's Bend goes back as far as the early 1800s and recognized as one of the most important African-American visual and cultural contributions to the history of art within the United States. According to The New York Times, it is “Some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced.”

Loretta is a fifth-generation quilter, whose ancestry can be traced back to Dinah Miller, one of the first slaves to have arrived in Gee's Bend. She started sewing at the age of five, and by the age of twelve made her first quilt – A Flower Garden – an advanced design with octagonal shaped blocks, entirely by hand. She is one of the youngest to continue hand stitching quilts in the renowned Gee's Bend style.

Marlene, Loretta’s sister-in-law, also grew up learning the Gee’s Bend quilting tradition from her mother and other family members. When her parents passed away, Marlene made 21 quilts out of their clothing, which provided comfort to her and her siblings.

Loretta and Marlene’s quilts are known for their bold colors and stay true to the characteristics of most Gee's Bend quilts made with used clothing received from family, friends and thrift stores. They believe in using what you have, and that the memories associated with the materials help you appreciate the final product even more.

Loretta and Marlene hope to share their legacy of quilt making with whomever is willing to open their minds and hearts, and to share the joy, peace and happiness of quilt making. For Marlene and Loretta, quilting is therapy, “it's like an ear that listens, listens, and listens.” “If I’m depressed,” Marlene says, "instead of running for a prescription, I run for my needle and thread.”

VAWAA Includes:

  • Learning the Gee's Bend technique of making quilts under the guidance of two master quilters.
  • Techniques for tearing and hand sewing or machine sewing a quilt using recycled fabric.
  • Visiting Freedom Quilting Bee, Gee's Bend Quilts Collective and Gee's Bend Welcome Center to learn stories of other quilters, techniques, and personal histories.
  • Option to extend accommodation by 2 days for self-guided practice and exploration of what you learnt. Studio assistance can be provided if needed.
  • In your free time, you have the option to self-explore Selma, Farmer's Market, Alabama's 1st Capital Old Cahaba, Walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Civil Rights Museum, The National Voting Rights Museum and more.
  • All tools and materials needed to create your quilt.

Stay at Loretta & Marlene's

Lovett's Place is a historic Roosevelt House/Farm Security Administration Project built in the late 1930s-mid 40's. Only 100 units were built, and Lovett's Place was number 96. The original houses included 3 bedrooms and a screen in the back which most chose to turn into bathrooms in the late 1950's. All the houses had a barn, outhouse, smoke house, chicken house and a water pump.

Lovett's Place has a total of 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, an open concept kitchen, and TVs in the den and dining room. Four of the bedrooms have 1 full size bed each, and one bedroom has a queen size bed. WiFi is also available so you can stay connected while enjoying the peaceful slow pace of rural Alabama. The entire home is solely for your use. Loretta and Marlene will meet you at Lovett's Place everyday for your VAWAA, but will not be staying there.

Explore Gee's Bend, Alabama

Surrounded on three sides by water and located in a bend of the Alabama River, Gee’s Bend is accessible by ferry from Camden and County Road 29 from Alberta. It is a place that is rich with profound cultural history, as the residents of Gee’s Bend are direct descendants of generations of slaves who worked the cotton plantation established in 1816 by Joseph Gee. After the Civil War, their ancestors remained on the plantation working as sharecroppers. In the 1930s the price of cotton fell and the community faced ruin. As part of its Depression-era intervention, the Federal Government purchased ten thousand acres of the former plantation and provided loans enabling residents to acquire and farm the land formerly worked by their ancestors. Unlike the residents of other tenant com­munities, who could be forced by economic circumstances to move—or who were sometimes evicted in retaliation for their efforts to achieve civil rights—the people of the Bend could retain their land and homes. Cultural tradi­tions like quiltmaking were nourished by these continuities.

Take the ferry to Camden, where community members went during the civil rights movement in the 1960’s to register to vote. While there, visit the Black Belt Treasures Cultural Art Center, which features the work of many local talented painters, sculptors, potters, basket weavers, wood workers and quilters found in Alabama Black Belt communities. Take a drive to Selma, about an hour from Loretta and Marlene’s studio, to walk across the historical Edmund Pettus Bridge where Martin Luther King Jr., lead a historic March in 1965, and visit the National Voting Rights Museum. The historical significance of this rural town lends itself to learning the legacy that is this incredible craft of quilt making.

Additional Details

The best time to visit Alabama is early summer and the autumn months of late September, October, and November for mild temperatures and dry weather.

This VAWAA can also accommodate up to 4 guests IF everyone has advanced sewing skills.

Loretta and Marlene's studio is not wheelchair accessible due to a few stairs leading to the front and back porches. In addition, please be advised that Loretta and Marlene's studio is 1hour from the nearest hospital with only a few healthcare nurses who work during the day locally. The area also has insects such as wasps, bees or ants so it is best to be prepared if you are allergic.

Due to Marlene’s age and increased risk for severe Covid-19 symptoms, guests must be fully vaccinated and present a negative test taken 24 hours prior to their VAWAA. Masks may be required despite vaccination.

This VAWAA can also be offered in Huntsville, Alabama.
Loretta & Marlene's Availability 3 days

Guest Reviews

  • Rebecca F., United States

    I have been thinking for days about what to say here. I knew there would be quitlmaking of course, but other than that, I did not know what to expect. Now that I am back in Los Angeles and have had time to digest, I can honestly say, this trip was a once in a lifetime experience. Marlene and Loretta are hostesses like no other. They are open, friendly and warm. It took about 5 minutes to feel comf Read more

  • Greg P., United States

    My husband surprised me with a VAWAA trip to Gee's Bend. Loretta and Marlene were wonderful. They were so kind, encouraging and generous. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the studio with them.

  • Priti S., India

    The workshop was truly an experience of a lifetime. The quilters, Loretta and Marlene really put every effort to share the knowledge they have. Working with them is an achievement in itself because they are strong in their art work and in its practice.
    They encourage the participant to the fullest. I loved every bit of my learning with them.

  • Emily M., United States

    An astounding experience filled with history, artistry, and friendship. I got so much more out of the experience than I expected.

  • Frances S., Canada

    This week with Loretta & Marlene was excellent. I learnt new quilting techniques from Marlene - who proved to be a kind and generous mentor - that allowed my creativity to flow. The Lovett's Place family home we stayed in was ideal and just a hop from the bungalow. Hearing the deeply ingrained history of the Black Belt region was a true learning experience.

  • Magx D., United States

    Loretta and Marlene are super welcoming of any level sewers. I knew how to work a sewing machine from home ec 15+ years ago and it was enough to get going!! I’m not an experienced quilter but I learned so much from these two that I will be creating momentos and working toward a bigger quilt on my own. The techniques they showed me were approachable and artistically driven.

    Additionally the si
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  • Misuk W., United States

    It’s difficult to put in words what an exceptional and unique experience this was. There’s no other way I could have had access to such accomplished artists, to learn their craft, in the location from which it originated. Loretta and Marlene are gracious hosts and patient teachers, you can truly see and feel their passion for quilting. It was a privilege to see them in their element.

    Gee’s Ben
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  • Amy F., United States

    My experience in Gee’s Bend was just incredible. There were so many wonderful things about it that it is hard to summarize. I’ll tell about three things. First and foremost, working in the studio was awesome. I learned so much about quilting and about the history of Gee’s Bend. Not only that, but the studio itself is in a big cabin with a stunning view of the Alabama River!

    Second, there is a
    Read more

  • Rhi C., United States

    My week with Loretta and Marlene was restorative and inspiring beyond what I had hoped for. Spending time in Gee's Bend with these world-famous artists was deeply moving and a true blessing. Loretta and Marlene are geniuses at what they do and were gracious hosts to show us the community of artists and the rich history of the freedom quilting bee as it relates to American history. On top of all of Read more

  • Rita R., United States

    I can't even begin to list the memorable moments - there were so many. One was when we finished our quilts we were able to have them professionally photographed by a photographer who was documenting the work of all of the quilters of Gee's Bend. Another one was our opportunities to visit with and work with some of the other older quilters in the community. We also visited a museum in Camden and ha Read more

  • Martha G., United States

    My kids gave me this trip to Gees Bend for my 70th Birthday. I had always been intrigued with their style of quilting. I brought 2 friends with me. Liz is a seasoned quilter. June is not but she always had an appreciation for Gees Bend quilts.

    We began our adventure in Pensacola, Florida, where Liz lives and from there drove the 3 hours to Gees Bend. We settled into our cozy little house on Sun
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  • Denise A., United States

    I had a wonderful experience with Loretta and Marlene. It was easy to collaborate and create a one-of-a-kind "Gee's Bend" quilt top, which I love!! The studio is located on the Alabama River providing a beautiful setting to create. Visiting Selma is a must! Definitely would enjoy a second visit to Gee's Bend.

  • Angela S., United States

    This was one of the most memorable trips I've ever taken. I went to learn about quilting but I also learned so much more about that area of Alabama and the role arts have played in the Civil Rights Movement. Marlene and Loretta are incredibly genial, welcoming hosts who are very generous with their time and knowledge.

  • Capri C., United States

    I’m better with images & don’t know that I have the words yet to describe our too-short time in Gee’s Bend but will be forever grateful for this experience. Simply can’t think of any other such phenomenon in art history in re so many geniuses over so much time. A) They’re just special, & B) they’re trained from childhood (young children are only allowed to thread needles & play under the quilts – Read more

  • Jaki C., United States

    Individual undivided hands on attention to customized each quilt to our needs, skills and wants in the Gee's Bend way of quilting. Quilting is a team sport here. The cabin was so perfect. We were on the Alabama River-gorgeous sunsets in January. Lots of rain, crisp but not freezing. Each day had an adventure to know completely about the tight-knit community. Very walkable-no trace of civilization Read more

  • Kelly M., United States

    My experience was more than I could have ever hoped for. Loretta and Marlene are incredibly gifted quilters and generously shared their time, experience, talents and stories with me. I was delighted with the entire vacation.

  • Katherine S., United States

    This was a dream come true for my sister, Madeline, my friend, Tania, and me. We each came with different levels of experience with sewing and textile arts, and Loretta and Marlene supported each of us in creating something that was the right level of challenge for us and which reflected our personalities and personal tastes - and was beautiful!

    Loretta and Marlene were beyond generous with th
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  • Halcyon P., United States

    Wow! What an incredible experience in Gee's Bend with Loretta and Marlene. We came in with no quilting experience but they were wonderful, patient teachers who guided us through the process, teaching us so much in such a short amount of time.

    We began the experience touching down in a historic home filled with love and memories. It was well appointed with many bedrooms, living room, sitting ro
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  • Heather E.,

    The Gee’s Bend Quilters welcomed us into their home. We had a schedule for quilting that would start at 10 am. We worked together, laughing and telling stories as we quilted and did other fiber arts as well. The artists where like family by the end of the week. Gee’s Bend was interesting, historical and the quilters had great pride in their home. I learned about working as an artist in community a Read more

  • Jennifer G., United States

    I was an art major in college but never learned about this amazing community of artists. I'm sure that is not a surprise to most people. However, when I saw "The Quilts of Gee's Bend" exhibit at the de Young museum in San Francisco in 2006 I was blown away. So when I saw Loretta and Marlene's experience listed on your website I jumped at the chance.

    How we created the quilt together was so spe
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  • Laurel R., United States

    I had the best experience during my week with Loretta and Marlene! Not only did I learn how a quilt is made, I got to know the Gee's Bend area. I have admired Gee's Bend quilts for quite a while so when my sister gifted me a week with the quilters, I was excited. There were no expectations, I just wanted to learn their methods and soak up the area. Loretta and Marlene are so welcoming. I felt rig Read more

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