The Gullah Lady – Sharon Cooper-Murray

IMG_0474The Sea Island Indigo Workshop weekend* began on Thursday, September 18 at the Charleston Museum with a rag-quilting workshop and storytelling by Sharon Cooper-Murray, aka ‘the Gullah Lady‘.  Sharon is a compelling performer and interesting historian, as well as a fiber artist and writer in her own right.

Here’s a 25 second example of a Gullah tale that she told at Boone Hall Plantation recently.  If you hunt around YouTube you can find lots more! posted an interview with her here. The Gullah story that we heard was vivid, complete with foot stomping and arm gestures. Translation needed — I could tell that some urgent message needed conveying, but not exactly what (turns out the hens used to rise first in the morning, not the roosters, and the story told why).

beautiful example of rag quilt - it weighs a TON, even without backing or batting beautiful rag quilt – it weighs a TON
indigo strips provided! indigo strips provided!

Rag quilting is a no-sew method of quilting making.  Strips of fabric are poked into a loose weave base and tied on top.  We used burlap for the base and a nail for an implement.  Earlier makers used feed sacks or possibly, the loose weave fabric used to construct slave garments, osnaburg (also called ‘Negro Cloth’).  It is a resourceful means of cloth making — requiring no needles, thread, or large scraps.
IMG_0464IMG_0477Sharon brings a work-in-progress along with her, to which we were all invited to insert a strip.
IMG_5395Here is Sharon — as herself — constructing one of her Indigo Babies for the dye vat.  She sells these at fairs locally.

IMG_5475Of course once I got home, I devised a shortcut — using a tapestry needle and longer strips.
IMG_5477IMG_5480By stitching with enough slack between pokes, the strip can then be cut and tied, four at a time.

I love the back! I love the back!

This method would be a terrific way to use up fabrics that are not needle-friendly.


Next up:  visit to Avery Research Center, then two days of indigo dyeing in a pole barn!

Sea Island Indigo Workshop took place September 18-21, 2014 in Charleston, SC.  A field of indigo was grown for us by Donna Hardy, on Rebellion Farm, in Ravenel, SC.  Fiber artist Kathy Hattori, of Botanical Workshops, flew in from Seattle to co-lead the two days of hands-on indigo dyeing.  My participation in the workshop was funded by a kickstarter campaign.


17 thoughts on “The Gullah Lady – Sharon Cooper-Murray

    1. deemallon

      it was… and by the end of the weekend, we were like children, so directed and united by dunking cloth into the indigo vats!

    1. deemallon

      do you mean the rag rug on the woman? there was a hole in the rug that Sharon brought with her and one of the participants (from Columbia — the land of ponchos?) saw it as a head hole.

  1. jude

    like rug hooking with cloth. mom use to do this. gets very messy f you wash it. you can just weave the strips in. i am working on a rug like that… another small journey. soon.

    1. deemallon

      I forgot about the rug hooking tool. Of course that would make it easier, as well… and weaving, well that would be fun! Can’t wait to see….

  2. Dana

    What a surprise to see Kathy Hattori’s name as an instructor! I used to work at Earthues with Kathy and Michele Wipplinger. I’m so envious of your trip and am dying (ha ha) to hear more.

    1. deemallon

      Oh that’s so funny, Dana… she was wonderful — warm, knowledgeable, very focused. I’ll have to look up Earthues to learn more.


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