Betty Ford-Smith started making Pine Cone Quilts in 2004, under the apprenticeship of a 92 year old African American Women in Sebring, FL. "I saw her beautiful hand sewn quilts and they ignited my passion. My apprenticeship with Arlene Dennis, known as Miss Sue, went on for 6 years and I completed 2 quilts with her supervision, she however, completed 4 while I was with her. After she passed in 2010, I wanted to teach others how to make Pine Cone Quilts. The quilts were very unique and I had to do some research to find out more about the quilts. I then became obsessed and starting making them for show and for sale."
The Cuckleburrel Quilt was made in her lap and gets very heavy as it nears completion. Hours were spent ripping or cutting fabric into little squares which were then folded and hand sewn onto a sheet one piece at a time. The colors are arranged by mixing the pieces in a cardboard box when fabric becomes available. All the fabric is not gathered at once. Sometimes she had to wait for weeks before she could start sewing again because there were no more useful scraps in the house. She did not plan the colors but carefully selected each piece and somehow would get the colors to blend and match.
Miss Sue told the students that she was born in Quincy, Florida in 1912 and was the only girl with nine brothers. Her parents lived on a farm, but her mom did not want her working in the fields. So she helped around the house and learned to sew sitting by her grandmother’s side.
Miss Sue, as she grew up made all her own clothes and helped to make clothes for the family. The students asked her if she ever used a sewing machine and she told them she knew how, but now preferred to sew by hand.