By Nyesha Stone
Quilting is not just a hobby for Ella Brooks—it’s her business, and she wants to make sure you know it. Brooks is a 72-year-old businesswoman, who back in “twenty o’ three” , sat down at a sewing machine to make her first quilt. Now, she spends an hour at a time, crafting each one.
“Quilting is therapeutic [and] it’s good for the mind,” she said. “It’s relaxation.”
Over the years, Ella’s Patch Quilts has grown through word of mouth, with a small portion coming from social media, she said.
Her age hasn’t stopped this woman from enjoying life and spreading history, as she said.
Quilting has a history in the Black community, and by teaching the ways of quilting, she’s passing down a piece of history and a skill—all in one. She provides private lessons and will conduct larger classes, under certain circumstances.
Brooks makes patch quilts, a variety of individual patches, usually the same size, stitched together to make one quilt. Back then, these types of quilts were wanted by upper-class white people, according to Womenfolk.com. African Americans quickly learned how to quilt and began to make a small profit to support their families. A 2004 National Geographic article discussed how African American slaves may have used quilts as a type of coding system to communicate. History shows how quilts are more than what they seem.
Brooks wants this type of history to be taught to the youth because you have to know where you come from to understand how to get to where you’re going.
She soon learned that the lines on quilts don’t have to be straight. Nothing has to be anything—meaning that the way a quilt looks from the stitching color to the patterns is all up the creator, and Brooks loves that.
Usually, people begin sewing on a flat piece of fabric, but Brooks likes to fold hers over one time, so it can be thicker. All her quilts are double-stitched in a zig-zag pattern. She receives donated fabric for her patches. When she runs out of donations, she heads to Walmart to get more, but most times, she said, she’s usually doesn’t actually go because she receives other donations.
She makes quilts of all sizes, with some being big enough to fit beds. Brooks doesn’t use a measuring tape or tape ruler when cutting her patterns because she wants it to be “all natural.”
Brooks is a prideful business owner who’s attained awards, recognition and features in print and online publications for her quilting work.
“It feels like I’m doing something good,” Brooks said about creating quilts.
This wide-smile, round grey afro, dark-skinned woman will leave you smiling whether you buy one of her quilts or not. She has a lot to say, and not just about her work. Brooks was born in Greenwood, MS and eventually move to Milwaukee with her family for better work opportunities.
Brooks surrounds herself with her quilts, big and small, literally. When she has a fabric she doesn’t want to use for a quilt, she then uses it for a tote, runners for doors or something else—no fabric goes unused.
And in the words of Brooks, “quilts will never be forgotten.”
For private lessons or more information about Brooks’ business visit her Facebook page at Ella’s Patch Quilts.