Preserving On A Family's Quilting Legacy - A Conversation with Tangular Irby

Hey everyone! I'm still buzzing from a video podcast episode where I had the pleasure of talking with Tangular Irby. If you haven't caught that episode yet, trust me, you need to watch and listen to the replay. The conversation was part of Quilt Conversations LIVE!, hosted by me, Geraldine Wilkins, the Living Water Quilter.

Now, Tangular not only has a background in education, serving as a Program Manager at the Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence, but she is also an author who has sold over 4,000 copies of her books since 2020. What's special about her, though, is how she managed to help keep her family's quilting heritage alive, despite not learning the craft directly from her Gee’s Bend grandmothers. Through storytelling and her passion for preserving family traditions, she is helping others do the same.

Quilt Conversations LIVE! interview

Tangular has penned two amazing children's books:  "Pearl and Her Gee's Bend Quilt" and "Charles and His Gee's Bend Quilt," aiming to ignite a passion for family traditions in the hearts of young readers. You won't want to miss all the wisdom she shared during our conversation!

Here are a few things we talked about:

1. Introduction: The Vital Role of Family Traditions

In our conversation, we explored how deeply family traditions like quilting are woven into the emotional and cultural fabric of our lives. And Tangular has a unique take on it all, especially because she learned quilting as a way to connect with her ancestral roots.

Geraldine: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background as a quilter?

Tangular: I am the granddaughter of Gee's Bend quilters who learned to quilt from a special woman here in Connecticut who knew my history and agreed to teach me.

Tangular Irby's first quilt
Tangular first quilt.

2. Tangular's Unique Approach

Now, Tangular doesn't teach quilting, but her focus on keeping the essence and values of this family craft alive is just as important.

Geraldine: When did you first start quilting and why?

Tangular: I started quilting in 2000 as a way to connect with my grandmother's legacy.

3. The Craft Itself: Cherishing the Small Steps

We all have a favorite part of the crafting process that holds special meaning. For Tangular, it's a subtle yet important part of quilting.

Geraldine: What is your favorite part of the quilting process, and why?

Tangular: I love the process of adding the binding. I tied my first quilt and learned years later that some of the women in Gee's Bend tied quilts as well.

4. The Influence of Design: Patterns and Ancestry

While many quilters use ancestral or free-form patterns, Tangular has a different approach that nevertheless connects her to her roots.

Geraldine: What inspires your designs and creative process?

Tangular: I did not learn to quilt the way that my grandmothers did. I learned to use patterns.

Geraldine: What has been your most successful quilt project, and why do you consider it a success?

Tangular: It was discovered that a quilt that I made as a member of a quilt guild is almost the exact pattern of a quilt that my grandmother made.

5. Beyond the Fabric: Sharing the Legacy

Tangular extends her legacy beyond the fabric, and she emphasizes the power of stories in preserving family traditions.

Geraldine: How do you share your love of quilting with others?

Tangular: I share my desire to continue the legacy of my ancestors by encouraging the next generation to learn. Not only in my family, I encourage children and adults to find out what makes their family special and be sure to connect that piece of history to the next generation.

Author and educator Tangular Irby

6. Looking Ahead: A Learning Journey

Tangular's goals for her future are anchored in learning, a testament to the living nature of traditions.

Geraldine: What are your goals for your future work as a quilter?

Tangular: My goal is to spend as much time as possible sitting at my Aunt Mary's feet learning from her. My next trip is already planned. Maybe I can come back and share with you again.

7. Conclusion: Defining Success

For Tangular, success isn't about grandiose accomplishments. It's about making meaningful connections and igniting curiosity about family traditions in others.

Geraldine: Finally, how do you define success as a creative, and what does it mean to you personally?

Tangular: Success to me is sharing with a group of students my story and having them make connections. For example, the kindergarten students during the pandemic who went and grabbed their quilts and blankets from their beds to share with me, the student who said he was going to go home and ask his parents about their traditions, or the student who saw the little black girl with kinky, coily hair on the cover of my book and asked me why Pearl has hair like mine. That to me is success.

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed my conversation with Tangular Irby. Be sure to catch the replay of this inspiring episode of Quilt Conversations LIVE! It's a must-watch if you're interested in preserving family traditions. Until next time, keep stitching those family stories together!

Connect with Tangular at Gee's Bend Made

Categories: quilt conversations live podcast