Issue 26 | Mississippi
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It’s no secret that Mississippi is known for its legendary hospitality; it is a place where visitors are welcomed with open arms and made to feel like family. Quiltfolk found a lot of it while on the road for Issue 26. In fact, the very first restaurant we popped into, The Trusty Diner in Water Valley, was sharing our visit on their social media before we were! The people of Mississippi are renowned for their genuine kindness and warmth, and they are always eager to share their rich culture and history with visitors. From Southern comfort food to historic sites, lively music and festivals, Mississippi’s hospitality is an experience that truly embodies the heart and soul of the state.
It’s the home of one of the most defining battles of the American Civil War, the Battle of Vicksburg, where Union forces gained control of the entire Mississippi River and cut the Western states off. This would later characterize the civil rights movement’s fight for freedom and equality. The state honors its remarkable cultural contributions through hundreds of historical markers located along its Blues Trail, Country Music Trail, Freedom Trail, and Literary Trail.
Mississippi’s cuisine is celebrated for its iconic Southern flavors, from chicken and waffles and craft beer to lemonade and delectable desserts. There is an abundance of must-visit hot spots and food tours scattered throughout the state, each providing a unique culinary experience.
And of course, there is the music. Mississippi’s rich musical history speaks to generations of music lovers. The legends of the blues and country music are deeply intertwined in the state’s past—legends like B.B. King and Charley Pride. Whether you’re into blues, rock, gospel, or country, Mississippi is home to some of the greatest musicians and bands of all time.
The Magnolia State is chock-full of art, culture, food, history, and music and is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. With all that hospitality, you’re sure to find a friendly Mississippian to show you the best this state has to offer. We sure did.
Writers for this issue: Meg Cox, Mel Burke, Diane L. Murtha, Frances O’Roark Dowell, Sharbreon Plummer, Carmen Schell, Teresa Duryea Wong and Megan Patton
Photographer for this issue: Azuree Holloway
Photo Stylist: Trevor Holloway
Offset printed and perfect bound, full color on uncoated paper. Printed in the USA.
Previews From Issue 26
Charlotte Timmons admits that, at first, she was “dumb as a brick” when it came to quilting, but she eventually grew to love it and has made hundreds of quilts since. But this adventurous Mississippi gal also rides motorcycles—a trike, to be exact—and drives around in a 1938 International truck, which she repairs herself. Oh, and recently, when she decided she needed a new outdoor covered area, she built one. Then she made her own stained glass to decorate it.
Coulter Fussell digs into other people’s pasts to create her quilts. Using donated materials, she pieces together creations that explore family stories, conflict, and identity. Her quilts contain multitudes, from fabric scraps to stuffed animals, crocheted pillows to repurposed beach towels.
When Geraldine Nash took her son to Mississippi Cultural Crossroads for an art class, she had a chance encounter with famed quilter and cultural steward Hystercine Rankin, which led to three decades of prolific quiltmaking. But then, life took a challenging turn. For several years, Geraldine lost the desire to create, until a request from her daughter for a sunburst quilt helped rekindle her passion. Now, she’s unstoppable as both a quilter and quilt instructor—back at Cultural Crossroads, where it all began.
Gertrude Smith Johnson
Gertrude Smith Johnson left a beautifully hand-stitched legacy with her many quilts and other handwork. But even better is the family who truly appreciates the time and love that she put into all of it. They honor Gertrude by using and displaying her quilts as much as possible, so that younger members of the family can grow up with memories of them.
Hystercine Rankin grew up in rural Mississippi and spent years making the kinds of quilts most poor Black women made in her time: utilitarian strip quilts from worn clothing. But in later years, she became a well-known teacher and prize winner for her medallion quilts. Eventually, she ventured into narrative quilts and earned a national reputation, especially because of two quilts that depicted the murder of her father when she was 10 years old. Hystercine died in 2010, but Quiltfolk interviewed the person who convinced her to make those quilts, a process she found transformational.
Julia Heatwole Graber
One of Julia Heatwole Graber’s six sisters makes her clothing, and another one is her go-to person for longarm quilting. This big, loving Mennonite family has been gathering for annual quilting retreats since 2000, sometimes on the large Mississippi farm where Julia raised her own kids. Julia still makes scrappy, traditional quilts for charity, but much of her own quilting time is devoted to art quilts, now that she has made one quilt for each of her 17 grandchildren. Come visit her sewing room and the family farm.
Discover the colorful world of Martha Ginn, a Mississippi-based quilter with a passion for creating unique and expressive works of art. From her cozy Hattiesburg home, she works on her meticulously crafted quilts that reveal her love of animals, nature, and improvisational design. With a talent for incorporating found and natural materials, Martha pushes the limits of her work, creating textured and layered pieces that stand out.
Martha Skelton moved to Vicksburg in 1947, and two decades later, this beloved quilter and teacher became known as “The Quilt Lady of Mississippi.” She went on to make over 225 exquisite quilts in her lifetime—all hand-quilted—and she taught countless people across the state how to quilt. She passed away in 2008, the same year the Mississippi Quilt Association published her life story.
Mary Willis Mackey
Quilt Coordinator Mary Willis Mackey has worked for the Tutwiler Quilters outreach program for many years, helping women in the community supplement their income by selling quilts. Along the way, she learned how to quilt, then went on to teach her sister, granddaughter, and many others.
After she brought home the quilt her grandmother had made for her, Megan Patton became obsessed with quilting. Her most cherished piece, The Waiting Quilt, was stitched while she and her husband were in the process of adopting their daughter, Hazel. Once Hazel was old enough, Megan began teaching her to quilt too, along with all the foster girls they invited into their home.
Mississippi Cultural Crossroads
When Patty Crosby was developing the programming for Mississippi Cultural Crossroads in the ‘70s, she found there was another artistic movement happening in their own backyard—so many women were making beautiful quilts to give away to their children and grandchildren. Patty brought them all together, and Crossroads Quilters was born. Though the organization has evolved over the decades, their commitment to creativity and community remains steadfast.
Missisippi Meander Quilt
Timna Tarr knew she wanted to make a quilt of the Mississippi Meander Maps as soon as she saw them. The challenge of translating the switchbacks of the design to a different medium would inspire her future techniques and projects in surprising new ways.
Missisippi Quilt Association
For over 30 years, the Mississippi Quilt Association has connected its state’s quilting community with a quarterly newsletter and gatherings that attract quilters from the Delta to the Piney Woods and all points between, upholding their mission to bring quilters together.
Rowan Williams Haug
Rowan Williams Haug is a longtime quilter and art professor at Mississippi State University. She sat down with Quiltfolk to share her work and chat about quilting, art, and where the two intersect for her. She’s constantly trying new techniques and searching for inspiration.
Sew Every Wednesday
When Rhonda Blasingame agreed to teach a weekly quilting group nine years ago, she had no idea it would continue this long—or that it would offer so much more than a hobby. For Rhonda and the other members, Sew Every Wednesday is a fellowship of sorts, where they push one another to hone their craft and provide support during personal hardships. Membership fluctuates, and time marches on, but one thing is for certain: SEW will be there every week, no matter what.
Since 1988, the Tutwiler Quilters, a Tutwiler Community Education Center (TCEC) outreach program, has been helping local women supplement their income by orchestrating opportunities to sell their quilts. All quilts and other items are pieced by machine and hand quilted, utilizing a quilting style unique to the Black women of the Mississippi Delta region. Chandra German-Flowers, the TCEC’s assistant executive director, tells us about the history and the future of the program.
Two Mississippi Museums
In 2017, the state of Mississippi opened a pair of museums, the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, featuring a nuanced but unflinching look at some hard historical truths. It turns out that quilts are one of the most powerful means of sharing this history, and Mississippi’s official quilt collection was front and center at the opening of these museums. Come inside the textile collection storage space, where Nan Prince, assistant director of collections for the state archives, shares powerful, beautiful, and provocative quilts.
Yolande van Heerden
It’s a long trek from Durban, South Africa, to Greenwood, Mississippi, but for Yolande van Heerden, the journey brought her to this small town where she feels right at home. Through her teaching, she has inspired countless adults, children, and teens to take up sewing and quiltmaking. She is also an accomplished quiltmaker who crafts quilts to use and quilts to hang in a wide range of styles—everything from colorful and quirky to warm and subdued.