Quiltmaking is in the blood of Quilting by the Lake instructor Sarah Bond


Sarah Bond didn’t understand why, as a teenager in 1979, she felt compelled to make a quilt. “I remember my mother coming in and asking me what I was doing,” she recalled. “I told her I was making a quilt. She then asked me why, and I replied that I wasn't sure, but that I needed to make one.

“It's been an imperative ever since,” she added.

What Sarah didn’t realize then was that quiltmaking is in her blood. Her great-great-grandmother, Jane Arthur Bond, born in 1828 in Kentucky, is among a handful of documented slave quilters. The wife of Jane’s grandson Max, Ruth Clement Bond, also was a famous quilter. “She was an artist and a human rights advocate,” Sarah Bond said. “During the 1930s when Max was working for the TVA, she designed quilts that were then stitched by the wives of the black TVA workers.” Ruth Bond’s design Lazy Man was voted one of the 100 best quilts of the 20th century.

Sarah also traces her quilting heritage on her father’s side to her great-grandmother, Louvinia Clarkson Cleckley, a prolific quilter who was born in South Carolina in 1858. “I have many of Louvinia's quilts, as it is those quilts that were on the beds when I was growing up,” Sarah said.

“I didn't know, when my mother asked me what I was doing 40 years ago, why I was so fixed on making quilts,” Sarah said. “I have learned more about my foremothers since, and I think it was meant to be.”

Quiltmaking provides a calming force for Sarah. “Making quilts serves as a cure for the stresses and strains that daily life brings to us all,” she said. “I am soothed by creating order out of the chaos of my fabric stash, I am fed by the intensity of color and value coming together in a design, and I am transformed by the creative expression that quilting affords me.”

Her making process is an intuitive one, as she seldom sketches her design. Instead, she selects the elements – a series of shapes or the movement she is seeking to create – and begins arranging them. “Eventually I arrive at the endpoint of the finished quilt,” Sarah said. “Sometimes that takes a few weeks, sometimes a few months, sometimes years. I always have confidence that I'll reach a satisfactory endpoint.”

Nearly 10 years ago, Sarah attended her first Quilting by the Lake (QBL). “It literally changed my life,” she said. “Spending that time and giving oneself over to the creative process in the absence of distraction is transformative.”

She recommends that every quilter take time out of their busy lives to attend an immersive workshop like QBL. At QBL 2019, Sarah will be teaching a two-day session, Coming Full Circle, and a three-day workshop, Lone Star Variations. Sarah is drawn to reinventing traditional patterns like the Lone Star with different colors and methods of construction in homage to the style of quilts her great-grandmother Louvinia made.

“I've been on a creative journey for the last year or two, working with Louvinia's Lone Star designs and letting them inspire new variations on an old theme,” she said. “This has proven to be a very fertile furrow to plow and I'm hoping it has yet more to produce.”

Sarah Bond By the Numbers

The year Sarah Bond made her first quilt
The number of Singer 401 sewing machines Sarah owns, including one that belonged to her aunt
The square footage of Sarah’s studio in an old manufacturing plant in the Germantown area of Philadelphia
The age in years of Sarah’s Bernina sewing machine

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Photo captions:

AT TOP: Sarah Bond will be teaching two classes at Quilting by the Lake 2019, including Coming Full Circle, of which this is an example.

MIDDLE: Sarah can trace her family heritage of quilting to her great-great-grandmother, Jane Arthur Bond, who was born in 1828 in Kentucky. Jane Arthur Bond is one of a handful of documented slave quilters.

BOTTOM: Another of Sarah's ancestors, Ruth Clement Bond, designed this famous quilt, Lazy Man, which was voted one of the 100 best quilts of the 20th Century.