Beyond the Build

Local Craftsmen

Quilting to the Power of Three

If “your stitches reflect your character,” as Bettye Kimbrell’s grandmother taught her, then Bettye is imaginative, determined and enduring.

We think Grandmother got it just right.

Stewart Perry has been fortunate to know the talented Mrs. Kimbrell, a 75-year-old quilter from Mt. Olive, Alabama, for quite a while.

Over the years, she’s made us a series of three quilts. This piece called “Tree-o Ta-Li” was finished in December 2011 and is the final installment.

Beyond the initial beauty of the quilts, the intricate patterns and colors borrowed from nature are what make the pieces so special. All three quilts were designed by Bettye and her daughters Nina Harvey and Cindy Denton.

They used a method called “Cherokee leaf pounding” to color the arrangement. Leaves and plant material are taped to an all natural fabric, then pounded with a mallet. This transfers the chlorophyll from the plant to the cloth. Cherokee Indians first used this technique to decorate their tents, and Bettye carried on the tradition for us. Tree-o Ta-Li took Bettye and her daughters 8 months from start to finish.

The images above show the quilt draped over our kitchen table, just long enough to steal a few shots. As soon as we can get it carefully pressed and preserved, we will be proud to have Bettye’s beautiful art displayed in our office. The additional pieces will be loaned to the Birmingham Museum of Art.

To us, beyond our construction services, we place great value in the arts, and do what we can to support the great work coming out of our community. Big or small, what do you do to support the arts?


Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.