Stitching Ancestry: A Sew Black Live episode with Sarah Bond and e bond

0.75x 1x 1.25x 1.5x 2x 0:0000:29:30 Stitching Ancestry: A Sew Black Live episode with Sarah Bond and e bond

  • Introduction to this episode. [0:09]
    • Welcome to the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group, where Black Lives matter.
    • Thanks to underwriters Spoonflower, Moda, and Bernina
    • This is a “very special episode” because this episode is Sew Black at Quiltcon.
  • Watch word of the day. [3:21]
    • Sarah has been collaborating with dead women from her family for the last 30 years, and now she gets to collaborate with an actual live bond thanks to her collaboration with her cousin, e bond
  • Bringing the two different ways of thinking about conversation visually and not always in terms of sound to the Word of Mouth quilt.
  • Working with Lavinia. [7:25]
    • Lavinia was her great-great-grandmother
    • Three quilts from Lavinia are on display.
    • Lavinia was born enslaved in 1858 and lived a difficult life. She was making this to express something that she needed to express.
    • The audacity of a woman born to slavery.
  • Black Aliveness. [10:39]
    • In an antiBlack world, Blackness is demanded of Black people. In a Black world, being is all that is required.
    • Lavinia Unbound quilt.
  • What do you see in this piece? [12:33]
    • Sarah is now part of the collections. She will always pick a quilt that is from either Anna or Lavinia that they then remake in the fabric as part of inspiration. She gets to name it.
    • In e bond’s first collection, Glyphs, the fabric designed to represent the genius scifi author Octavia Butler, reflects the balance between data and barbed wire.
  • Jane was born in 1828. [15:19]
    • This quilt was made by Jane, who was born in 1828, and is a white glove situation to prevent oils from hands from touching the quilt.
    • Jane had two sons by Preston.
  • The moment when it suddenly occurred to me. [17:26]
    • She was there for 18 years before he took advantage of her. She had other children that she was not able to keep.
    • She made quilts together with her sister.
  • How did the quilt get its name? [21:30]
    • The quilt is a basket quilt in red, blue and white, in red and blue, and white. It is in the 1870s and was popular at that time.
    • It was a popular quilt pattern that was popular in that time, and some of the reds and blues faded out.
  • Thank you to our sponsors and audience. [24:52]
    • The podcast is a live show at Quiltcon. They are grateful to their sponsors, their audience, and to e bond and Sarah Bond for bringing an inexplicably powerful reminder of who and what Black women are capable of.
    • If you’d like to support the Stitch Please podcast financially, you can do that by supporting them on Patreon.
Read Full Transcript

Lisa Woolfork  0:09  

Hello stitchers. Welcome to Stitch Please the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. I'm a fourth generation sewing enthusiast. With more than 20 years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax and get ready to get your stitch together

Lisa Woolfork  0:46  

Black Women Stitch and the Stitch Please podcast is grateful for all the support that made Sew Black possible. Special thanks to our underwriters Spoonflower. Thanks also to Moda for generous sponsorship. Thank you Bernina for your wonderful support. Thank you also to Amtrak for partnering with us. Special thanks to those who shared resources to equip the space. This includes Accuquilt, Aurifil, Crimson Tate, Sew Easy, Ruby Star Society, Free Spirit Fabrics, Kai Scissors. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Special thanks to Focusrite for making the live recording possible through the donation of an audio interface. The Focusrite 18i8. Thanks to The Bridge PAI for the initial funding. And thanks also to the Modern Quilt Guild for their generous support. Thank you all so much for making this possible.

Lisa Woolfork  1:53  

Hey, friends, hey, this is Lisa from Black Women Stitch. And like I say every week. This is a very special episode because this episode is at Sew Black at Quilt con. And we are so grateful to be here with Sarah Bond and with e bond. e, I was wearing your dress yesterday. Everyone thought I was you. It was very weird. And they were like, "oh, you're e!" and I'm like, "No, I'm not. I'm not." Oh, Latifah Saafir is in the house, everybody. Let's give it up. Yeah. Hey, hey. Yeah, that's, yeah, Latifah, you know. I'm gonna give you some grief. That's what you get for not returning my phone calls. So yeah, I know you were sick at all. But you know, you know, I'm just gonna give you some grief because I love you. I love you. And you, you know, you make things happen. We're grateful for you-- Latifah being the founder of the Modern Quilt Guild 10 years ago. Let's give that some love and respect, right. (applause) And I am so glad to be here. And we have a very special episode, just something that came up unexpectedly. Sarah, tell us how you decided to bring the quilts here.

Sarah Bond  3:00  

Well, Lisa is such a good listener to this particular story. And I, you know, if anybody even looks like they're listening, I'm telling the story again, which is the story of the women in my family, who were quilt makers and who I think have guided me to this path of quiltmaking and who continue to inspire me all the time. And my watch word of the day today is I've been collaborating with dead women from my family for the last 30 years. And now I get to collaborate with an actual live bond. And that's very exciting for me. And the depth of that feeling has been with me a lot these last few days.

Lisa Woolfork  3:41  

I just love it. And e bond is utterly fantastic. And we had our first conversation back in March 2022. And we were talking and she says, "Oh, Lisa, you teach Black women writers, you know, I want to take your class." And I was like, "I don't know why you already have a syllabus. Every book that is on my syllabus is in your Glyphs collection. I don't know what else you could know." But welcome and tell us what is it like working with your cousin? And so like the ancestral bonds that you all have? Like, what is, what has that been like to kind of work with your cousin? There's the sweetest picture, I think I have it in the podcast, of you at 16 and you at three? 

e bond  4:19  

Yeah, I think so. 

Lisa Woolfork  4:21  

It's The Sweetest, sweetest little picture.

e bond  4:23  

I think it's really just been such a fun journey to actually get to hang out with Sara more. I mean, it took me moving 3000 miles away from her for us to finally start collaborating because I think since I moved to California, we've collaborated way more than when I actually lived in Philly with her. But it's been so fun and so exciting because she has all this knowledge about what came before. And I've just been kind of working in this silo of my own work, you know, and so then when we kind of came together, there was just this fusion.

Lisa Woolfork  4:57  

And one of the things I appreciate about all of the work that you do, is the way that you prioritize bringing the past and the present together. That you know, and this is something that Faulkner has said, you know. The past is never dead, it isn't even past. And one of the things when I think about you, and the way you all relate to each other, as well as how you relate visual images, and concepts, onto fabric.  Can you talk a little about, like, what was that like to be a surface pattern designer who is used to working in a certain way with like, with the books and with these different things that you do? And then bringing that to your work with your paper piecing? And listen, Sarah, Sarah Bond yesterday said, in class, that perfection is a tool of oppression. And I said it is and startled everybody around me but like, but how does that work for you? Like how do you bring in these two different-- they seem really different, right? Surface pattern design, that's much more about like repeats, et cetera, et cetera, and bringing that to the Word of Mouth quilt? How did how did that come about?

e bond  6:02  

Well, I think because the actual drawings started really just as drawings about the genesis of language, I was, you know, living in a space where it was already going to be this kind of conversation about language, about form, and about the beginnings of things, whether it was shapes or language. So for me, it was pretty easy to go from, like what I was already working on into, you know, into a drawing or into a surface pattern. And then just talking to Sarah about these ideas of like, me thinking like, well, this is a conversation across, not only like, visually across like shapes and forms, but also across generations. Because I'm also thinking, because I'm naming these, these fabrics from women that I've read, you know, so that's a conversation between me and Tony or me and Lucille, or me and Gwendolyn. And then there's the conversation between me and Sarah. And then Sarah and Anna and Sarah and Lavinia you know, so there are these cross these different ways of thinking about conversation, visually, and not always in terms of sound.

Lisa Woolfork  7:14  

Yes, that's wonderful. And I know you've mentioned like, sometimes you find yourself like working on a piece, and you feel like you hear your ancestors speaking to you. Can you talk a bit about that?

Sarah Bond  7:25  

Well, I spent a bit of time working with some of the quilts from Lavinia. And Lavinia was my great grandmother, and she was e's great, great grandmother. And, you know, there's a story in the family, Lavinia, my father was her favorite. And oh, I'm sorry. That was Rosabelle. So Lavinia had two children. I'm sorry, two children, Rosabelle and Bertha, and Rosabelle was my grandmother. And Rosabelle always felt that Lavinia favored Bertha. And so when Lavinia died, Rosabelle went over and got all the quilts before Bertha could get there. 

Lisa Woolfork  8:11  

Oh, gosh. 

Sarah Bond  8:12  

And so that's why I have all these quilts. And I feel like it was fate because I'm actually..

Lisa Woolfork  8:18  

Using them. Yes! Yes!

Sarah Bond  8:19  

..working with them. And I'm sure Bertha's people if they knew would be, you know, but that's alright. So I did bring a pile of the quilts. So there's three quilts here from Lavinia.

Lisa Woolfork  8:31  

Yes. Yes. And Constance is here in the audience, and she's going to hold these up for us to look at and admire. And then Sarah, then Sarah will tell us how you would want that one [unclear]

Sarah Bond  8:42  

Can you start with the stars? So Lavinia, you know, we hear the story all the time about American quilting and that all of it was from necessity, and from you know, scraps,

Lisa Woolfork  8:59  

Utilitarian quilts only. Wasn't no, no imagination just to keep warm.

Sarah Bond  9:05  

And clearly when you look at this, you can see that Lavinia-- Lavinia was born enslaved. Lavinia, She was born in 1858. She lived, you know, what, I'm sure was a difficult life, certainly in comparison to my life. 

Lisa Woolfork  9:21  


Sarah Bond  9:23  

But yes, she, you know, clearly when you look at this, she was making this to express something that she needed to express. She was doing this for her own pleasure. And let's just say for her own gratification, which she deserved to do,

Lisa Woolfork  9:38  

Absolutely. I just want to ask, I know this is a silly question, but did she make it on a sewing machine? Was there a sewing machine involved in this thing?

Sarah Bond  9:47  

I have quilts that she did make on a sewing machine. This one, I think she pieced by hand. This one she pieced by hand, and the other one-- so then then there's the other Lonestar, which I love the colors in this.

Lisa Woolfork  9:59  


e bond  9:59  

Yeah, they're beautiful.

Sarah Bond  10:01  

When you hold, I think this is the one when you hold it up, you can see  the cotton seeds in the batting.

Lisa Woolfork  10:06  

You can see the cotton seeds where? In the..

Lisa Woolfork  10:08  

In batting in the batting. Oh my gosh.

Sarah Bond  10:11  

If you hold it up to the light. So here again, here is, you know, this beautiful combination of color and in a very intricate pattern that she clearly made because she wanted to. This isn't just to keep somebody warm. 

Lisa Woolfork  10:27  

That's right. Right. 

Sarah Bond  10:29  

And you know, the audacity of, you know, a woman born to slavery making something for pure pleasure is something that I really treasure.

Lisa Woolfork  10:39  

Absolutely. Absolutely. 

e bond  10:41  

It's pretty revolutionary in itself. 

Lisa Woolfork  10:43  

It is.

Sarah Bond  10:44  

Existing is a revolution.

Lisa Woolfork  10:47  

I was just explaining one of my favorite authors, Kevin Quashie, who was at Duke University, I believe. He has a book and it's called "Black Aliveness". And it's a Black, feminist, poetic. And he talks about a Black world versus an anti Black world. In an anti Black world, Blackness is demanded of Black people.  In a Black world, being is all that is required. And what we are watching is a Black world. This is someone who, even in the midst of the most powerfully violent, anti Blackness, has has created and been able to unfurl her imagination, that slavery and enslavement did not steal the capacity for Black creation, imagination and joy. And that though, they tried to take it, is not something that, you know, the human spirit is and can be incomparable. And I look at those quilts and I see that.

Sarah Bond  11:55  

So this quilt that we're looking at now is sort of a, I guess, a 25 patch, you would call it.  Sort of a hybrid Irish Chain. I don't know what I would call it, depending. And I brought this one particularly because when e started designing fabric, and when I started working with Free Spirit, you know, promoting this, I sent them a picture of this quilt. And I told them about Lavinia and they drew up a pattern, and this pattern has been made by a number of people, and it's called Lavinia Unbound. 

Lisa Woolfork  12:33  

Oh, my! 

Sarah Bond  12:34  

And I don't know if, I don't know if they have it downstairs. 

e bond  12:37  

They do. Yeah. So I think, is it Five Little Monkey? Yeah,  redid it. And they've got it hanging. 

Sarah Bond  12:46  

And I first, Crimson Tate did it also.

Lisa Woolfork  12:48  

Oh great. Excellent. Excellent. Yeah, I saw...

e bond  12:51  

Yeah. But it's always so nice to now have Sarah be part of when the collections come out, because she will always pick a quilt that is from either, you know, Anna or Lavinia? Yeah, that they then remake in the fabric as part of the inspiration. And so and then I get to name it, you know, as part of the new, you know, the new, the new collection. So, I think Anna, one of Anna's quilts will be as part of the inspiration for the third line.

Lisa Woolfork  13:23  

I am so excited and I'm telling you Free Spirit, the first collection Glyphs I really wish they had thrown more money and energy behind that.  I really feel like they had a huge missed opportunity. We studied that fabric in my class. 

e bond  13:37  


Lisa Woolfork  13:38  

We everyone was able to choose like, you know, so okay, let's look at this piece called Octavia. What do you see in this piece Octavia that you think reflects to Octavia Butler? Where do these numbers come from? What about this this chain that looks like a barbed wire? What about the balance between da-da-da-ta-da.  Someone did another one on, you know, looking at Gwendolyn and Gwendolyn Brooks, my favorite, of course, is Zora. Zora and Phillis. And when my students looked at the Phillis, they saw repetition, they saw seeds, and they also saw that famous sketch of enslaved people being packed inside the Middle Passage. And they see all of that in there because it's all in there. You know, and it's just such a beautiful, a beautiful gift. 

Lisa Woolfork  14:25  

Sew Black is made possible by some amazing people on the Black Women Stitch team. Christina Gifford, Janelle Velasco, Latrice Sampson Richards, Naomi P. Johnson, Shawna Jefferson, Jill Bates-Moore. Nikki Griffin, Coco Springer, Alicia Turlington, and Adrienne Dent. And in full Snoop Dogg style, I'd like to thank myself for pulling this together and believing in me. Let's give it up for Lisa Woolfork. And if you want to find out what's happening next, follow Black Women Stitch on Tik Tok and Instagram and sign up for our email list. Check out the Stitch Please podcast with new episodes every Wednesday, including episodes from QuiltCon, coming out soon.

Sarah Bond  15:12  

So we have one more quilt. This one was made by Jane. And Jane was born in 1828. It's okay.

Lisa Woolfork  15:29  

I'm scared to touch it too.

Sarah Bond  15:30  

It's okay. You don't want to fling it around too much. It's delicate. It's not, It's seen a lot more years. Right. So Jane... Sure you can if you want. I don't know how many there are.

Lisa Woolfork  15:43  

This is a white glove situation. The reason they put white gloves on is so that the oils from your hands don't touch the quilt and activate things and chemicals that might dissolve it. It's really precious. And so that's what the white gloves are for. That's great to keep them in the box. I know, I know. I would not want that responsibility.

Sarah Bond  16:07  

Don't worry, you know, there are parts of it that are more, you know, held together than others.

Lisa Woolfork  16:12  

I have chills.  I have actual chills right now.

Sarah Bond  16:16  

Yeah, that's good. That top that you have, Latifah

Sarah Bond  16:19  


Lisa Woolfork  16:22  

Yes, yes.

Sarah Bond  16:24  

It'll be all right. She's been out.

Lisa Woolfork  16:27  

Oh, it's just, okay. Oh, it's-- look it. Some of the batting is falling out, y'all. Oh my god. 

Sarah Bond  16:36  

It's worth it,though. Where, where's a better place for her to take a little hit than here. Right. So this quilt was made, probably in-- the well okay, so let's talk about Jane for a minute. So Jane was born in 1828. And Jane was born enslaved. And when the daughter in the family, in 1848, was married off to Preston Bond. Jane went along as a wedding gift. And for so many years, we were told that Jane had two sons, by Preston when his wife was pregnant with her children. And the first was James born in 1863. And the second was Henry was born in 1865. And I can't I remember the moment when it suddenly occurred to me, really? Are we thinking that really, she was there for 18 years before he took advantage of her. So she, you know, I have to think there are other children that she was not able to keep that she had with this man. Anyway. After Jane left, after the war, she went back down to Anderson County, Kentucky, and she worked for actually the sister of this man. And they apparently had this cordial relationship and they made quilts together. There's a picture in this book, Stitched from the Soul that shows Jane fixing the hair of a young white girl. And it turns out that that young girl was a diarist. And she wrote about Jane, and she wrote about Jane and her quilting. And when I found that book, so I came across this book in a quilt shop. And I said to my father, "Well, this is Jane, but I didn't know she made quilts. Did you know she made quilts?" And he said, "Well no, I didn't know that." You know, because men they never know. So I wrote to the woman who wrote the book, and she never wrote back to me, but then I found out later on, because the woman who was doing genealogy on our side of the Preston Bond descendants met up with this woman on the other side, on the white side, on a on a, you know, what is it? You know, hereditary?

Lisa Woolfork  19:08  

Oh, like when you do the genealogy research. Yes.

Sarah Bond  19:12  

This is another piece that she gave us. So, anyway, the whole story is so I hooked up with, Emma hooked up with this woman who was the granddaughter of this young girl in this photograph. And I said, "All right, so now we know where the quilts are. Why are they over there and not over here?" So I got on an airplane and went down to Florida. And I met these quilts. Now, it might have seemed to her like I was, you know, trying to meet her, but I was really trying to meet these quilts. And then I invited her-- we had a family reunion in Philadelphia in 2008. And she came to that reunion. And she talked about Preston and she referred to him as the rapist, which that was good. And then she brought this quilt as a donation to the silent auction.

Lisa Woolfork  20:06  

Wait, wait, this quilt?

Sarah Bond  20:07  

Yes ma'am. 

Lisa Woolfork  20:08  

Wait, I'm sorry, wait, the same silent auction where people get gift certificates from hair salons and stuff. And you can like put money in and like, "Oh, I wanna to get a manicure or whatever." And she had this nearly 200 year old quilt and said, "I got something for y'alls silent auction, just like I bought your ancestor, my ancestor bought your ancestor. And I'm giving you this quilt back so y'all can raise money with it." The fuck.

Sarah Bond  20:34  

But I didn't say that. I said, "I will buy that." And so and I'm going to tell the truth. There were a few matriarchs, who were put out with me, because I outbid them for this. But I'm sorry, it's mine. Because I know about quilts. And I, I know the value of this, and I know what this means. And they can come and visit it if they want to.

Lisa Woolfork  20:58  

And not to buy it at a silent auction. Just the auction of it all.

Sarah Bond  21:03  

Well, look. I mean, she donated it. It's not like...

Lisa Woolfork  21:06  

Okay, okay.

Sarah Bond  21:06  

You know, she didn't get the money. Okay. Now, if that was to support the reunion. 

Lisa Woolfork  21:10  

Yes. Okay. I understand. 

Sarah Bond  21:11  

She was not profiting in this moment. 

Lisa Woolfork  21:14  


Sarah Bond  21:15  

But, you know, this whole time I was like, "Where are these quilts? None of us have ever seen these quilts. We don't know where these quilts are." So this is why we have this quilt now in 2008. Because we got it back.

Lisa Woolfork  21:29  

I am. That's really, that's just wonderful. And it's a really powerful note, we have about five minutes left. Latrice is so really great about keeping me on track. Y'all she should have to do this for the rest, she should help me regularly in regular other tasks. But I wonder if we have time for one question. If there is one question or two questions, we have time for a question. Any questions about like genealogy or about anything that this might have sparked for you all? Any questions that we can think of? I think many, I'm stunned. So Excellent! Well done, Latrice.

audience member  22:09  

That the oldest quilt [unclear] what I'm understanding that you're saying is that you find that quilt through an option? Right? 

Lisa Woolfork  22:20  


audience member  22:20  

So how do you age the quilt? Did you just take the word of the person that donated it, or is there like a special process or something that you can go through to actually age the quilt and understand how old it actually is?

Sarah Bond  22:38  

So I'm going to say, to start out that I'm not a quilt scholar, so I can't provide you with, you know, real, you know, information about that. But I will say that when I first found this book with this quilt in it, and I took it to a class that I was taking, and I think it was Liz Porter of Fons and Porter. And I said "Look at this," because I didn't have the quilt then, but I said "Look at this and tell me about this." Because if you saw the quilt, you can see that it's a little bit hard to see the pattern of it, because the colors have faded out in different places. And so we had to look at it a little bit and figure out what the pattern is. And it's actually a, a basket quilt. And it's in red and blue and white. And you have to look at all of the blocks in the quilt before you can actually see what the original pattern was. And so she helped me figure out that it was a basket pattern. And then I actually found in, you know, the states do these quilt books. And in the Kentucky book, there is another quilt in this very same pattern where the baskets are going across long ways. Just the very same pattern. And it's contemporaneous in the 1870s. This was a pattern that was popular at that time. And I'm sure that if I, you know, took it to someone, someone would tell me about the actual fabrics. I don't know if the you know, so of the blues stayed and some of the blues faded out. So I don't know were some of them, you know, chemical dyes, and some of them were Indigo, and it's the Indigo that persisted or, or what? And then some of the reds stayed and some of the Reds didn't stay. Was that matter? Was it chemical? So I don't know the the answer to those questions. And I'm sure there are people who are scholars in quilts and scholars in textiles who would know, you know, some of those things. But yeah, with looking at it and trying to figure out just doing a little bit of thinking and a little bit of reading, I was able to figure that out. And I did actually reproduce this quilt for one of the reunions in Shwe Shwe. 

Sarah Bond  24:50  

Oh, yes, you were telling us. 

Sarah Bond  24:52  

Red and white.

Lisa Woolfork  24:52  

Yes, Shwe Shwe is this really great fabric that's from South Africa and has all these different, bright colors. It's really awesome, beautiful patterns.

Lisa Woolfork  25:01  

Y'all, we are wrapping up this episode of the Stitch Please podcast. This is a live show we're doing here at the Sew Black space at QuiltCon. We are grateful to all our sponsors. And we are grateful to our audience. We are also incredibly grateful to e bond and to Sarah Bond to bring, just I mean, an utterly inexplicably powerful reminder of who and what we are capable of.

Sarah Bond  25:37  

And can I just, since we're on the topic of gratitude, can I just say how grateful I am for you, for making this space possible for everybody, for working your tail off. I don't think this woman has slept in last 12 weeks.  See, she hasn't slept. That's why she's falling apart.

e bond  26:02  

That's why she's emotional.

Lisa Woolfork  26:04  

Instead, I just cry. It's kind of like rest but, you know, stressful. I know. You honor me and I receive it. Thank you. Thank you so much. I am truly honored. Thank you all. Thank you all. Thank you.

Lisa Woolfork  26:35  

You've been listening to the Stitch Please podcast, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. We appreciate you supporting us by listening to the podcast. If you'd like to reach out to us with questions, you can contact us at If you'd like to support us financially, you can do that by supporting us on Patreon, P A T R E O N. And you can find Black Women Stitch there in the Patreon directory. And for as little as $2 a month you can help support the project with things like editing, transcripts, and other things to strengthen the podcast. And finally, if financial support is not something you can do right now, you can really, really help the podcast by rating it and reviewing it anywhere you listen to podcasts that allows you to review them. So I know that not all podcast directories or services allow for reviews. But for those who do, for those that have like a star rating or just ask for a few comments, if you could share those comments and say nice things about us and the Stitch Please podcast. That is incredibly helpful. Thank you so much. Come back next week and we'll help you get your stitch together.

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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