Maybe I can create!!!

I was giving a talk one time and said “cast your mind back to 1975” and then looked around the room and realized that no one in that room was born in the 1970’s!!! But that is how this post needs to start…..

When I was in 3rd grade (in the 1960s)…..

….I had a teacher named Mrs. Brooke. I remember several things about her… the heeled pumps that she taught in every day, the way she stood with one hip jutted out, and the TALL, TALL beehive hairdo that she sported.

But my biggest memory is when she looked at a drawing that I had done and pointedly told me that “if that was the best I could do, then I would NEVER be an artist”!! Needless to say, that comment stung!!

Now, fast forward to 1979…..I was a Senior at Texas Tech University and needed ONE elective class to graduate. I decided to do a “Survey of Drawing” class….just to prove to myself that I COULD draw !! Because I wasn’t sure of that fact, I took it Pass/Fail. Surely I could at least PASS the class!!

The teacher was wonderful. He helped me to learn perspective and shading and then presented lots of different forms of artistic creation. We dabbled in pencil, ink, pointillism, and more.

For our final project, we had to take a household object and first draw it and then turn it into a 3-dimensional piece of art.

I chose a pot of ivy that had been a cutting from my M-I-L’s massive planter. I still have some of it growing in my home…..

I remember being pleased with the drawing but really struggled with how to make it 3-D. Then I thought about fabric!!

I had done very little sewing in my life but my Mom made sure that I had a sewing machine and I decided to make leaves with wire in them so that I could bend them out.

This is the only photo that I have of the project and it doesn’t really show the 3-D part, but I remember being SUPER proud that I had made something that came from my mind and not from a pattern.

In today’s world, this is nothing fancy, but for me, it represented the first step in a life filled with creativity!!

So….take that Mrs. Brooke!!

A different kind of inspiration….

Normally on Tuesdays, I talk about inspiration and, as can be expected, it is mostly quilting related. However, today I want to talk about a woman who has been an inspiration to me for the past 46 years…..

Her name is Esther Louise Arnold, she was my Mother-In-Law, and on Saturday morning she went to be with the Lord…..the place that she longed to be!!

She was not a crafty person and she was completely unapologetic for that. She told her husband that she could type when he married her and she could still type….why did he think that she needed to do anything else!!

She was fearless, once killing a rattlesnake with her shoe…..her TINY size 6 shoe. When we asked why she didn’t leave it, she said that it was heading for the pile of hay and if it got in there she would never know where it was, so she beat it to death!!

She was a fixture at First National Bank in Abilene, Texas. She treated EVERY customer the same, whether they were oil millionaires or poor migrant workers. We recently learned that they still use her as an example in their new employee training session!!

She was 5 foot, 1/2 inch tall and she was PROUD of that 1/2 inch!! She had short little legs but could walk faster than anyone I knew. I still remember her striding across the bank lobby with her heels doing a clickety-clack across the floor. One of her co-workers called her the “original energizer bunny”!!

She LOVED her grand-kids and never showed partiality to one over the other. Her favorite time to visit us was during the middle of our kid’s busy, busy sports seasons because that meant that she could see them play ball!

Probably my favorite memory of her was when Jenny was a Senior in high school and her Fastpitch Softball team was headed to the State Playoffs. When we called Esther to tell her the good news she called back about 15 minutes later and said that she had booked her flight and would arrive on Monday!! She spent the week cheering on the girls and surreptitiously slipping Jenny cash between games….

Esther had style!!!

She knew how to dress and she could make anything look good, even the shorts that she rocked well into her 90’s!!!

She was always supportive of my quilting and, if I ever told her that a quilt had been accepted into a show, she would ask EVERY time we talked if it had won a ribbon!!

She loved her kids and was always excited when good things happened for them. When Michael started doing leather work, she wanted to see exactly what he was doing…..

She taught me SO many practical things….

  • how to cut up a whole chicken so that it didn’t look like a scene from the Texas Chainsaw Masacre!!!
  • that it was okay to serve Stove-Top stuffing!!
  • that I could return ANYTHING to a store….as long as I had the receipt!!!

I would often call her when I was driving around town running errands and her standard greeting was “Where are you headed?”. After I told her she would always say “I wish I was there to go with you”!!!

Probably the biggest thing that she taught me was how to be a good Mother-In-Law. I know that M-I-L’s have a horrible reputation, but she always treated me with the greatest of respect, just as if I was her daughter. I hope to emulate that!!

She had been ill for almost two years and hadn’t been herself for about eighteen months. The last time that I was able to speak with her was over a year ago and, naturally, we talked about food. I mentioned to her that I was making her Fudge and Peanut Brittle recipes for Christmas. She perked up and answered that it sounded so good. After that, her mind was gone again….

I have missed her for the last 2 years but am happy to know that she is out of pain and is rejoicing with her Lord in heaven.

……until we meet again!!

Happy 100th!!

Today would have been the 100th birthday for a wonderful man named Grover Edward Swinson. He was my father and he passed away almost 21 years ago…..I still miss him!!

I have the cancelled check that was written to pay the Doctor who brought him into the world…..

Yes, he was paid $25 for the privilege of giving my Dad his first spanking!!!

He met my mother (Lois Frances Langston) in 1938. When I was cleaning out the house I found this stone that my Dad had engraved….

They were married for almost 60 years.

He was a sports nut, especially when kids were involved.  He coached Pony League Baseball before I was born and had photos of all of his teams. Many of those boys grew up to be men who were leaders in the area. I think that my Dad helped to push each of them forward.

When I was a kid, there weren’t a lot of opportunities for girls to be involved in sports,  but he made sure that I knew how to catch and throw a softball and that I understood all of the rules to Football, Baseball and Basketball!!! 

He taught me how to drive and I spent many weekends going with him to our farm (30 miles away) just so that I could drive.  He laughingly said that he was going to enjoy the time while he could because he knew that I wouldn’t be going with him once I got my driver’s license.  I remembered those words and enjoyed that time with my kids as well.

He encouraged me to be involved and active. When I got joined the pep-squad, he was always there in the parents section yelling for the team too.  When I played in piano recitals he patiently sat and listened even though he would much rather have been listening to Porter Waggoner and Dolly Parton.

He insisted that we take vacations each summer and, although he said that I slept thru most of the car trips, I still have some wonderful memories of those times….


He ran a gas station on a prominent corner in Abilene, Texas and many of my friends and fellow students would go by and talk to him. Michael has always said that he could be a Crotchity old guy but he made Michael feel comfortable as a part of the family. Michael says that my Dad taught him how to be a good Father-In-Law!!

He was a handy-man deluxe and I spent many, many hours in the garage helping him with his various projects.  I think of him every time I  need to pry something apart (he had a wonderful lecture on using levers), spackle a hole in the wall, or fix a venetian blind.  Most of these projects were performed while listening to the Houston Astro’s on the radio. He used to quiz me about what could happen on the next play and wouldn’t be happy until I worked thru ALL of the possible options.

He loved his farm and especially his cows which were basically just pets……

He loved his Grandkids and was so proud of them.  He loved it when they got old enough to  start playing baseball and softball.  When Brian decided to switch to Soccer, Dad immediately started to watch it on TV and learn the rules to the game.  Unfortunately, he never got to see Brian play in person, although he did enjoy a few videos.

His health deteriorated and he was seldom able to play with the kids, but he loved to watch them when they were visiting.  He always talked about the day that he told Jenny to “choke up on the bat” and then she went out and hit a home run!!

Jenny continued to play Fastpitch and Dad’s service flag was hung at Warrior field during all of the home games of her Senior Year…..


She said that it felt like he was there too!! 

He was affectionately known as “Uncle Buddy” to all of my cousins and I remember the fun that we had at the funeral home remembering all of his antics….. 

…..that is what I am remembering now!!!

Daughter-In-Law Perk

Before I start this post, let me say that I do NOT like making Tee-shirt quilts and I avoid them at almost all costs.  However, when your wonderful Daughter-In-Law asks if you will help her make one, you  say yes, smile broadly and look forward to spending time with her!!

Amber is an Art Teacher at an Elementary School in Gwinett County, just outside of Atlanta, GA.  It is a large school and she sees around 900 kids every single week!!  I am amazed with the way that she encourages them to not only learn about art but to practice it as well.   She encourages her students that  “Can’t isn’t a word” and “If you make a mistake, make something new out of it”. 

Last year she was accepted into a program called “Art 21” which works with 21 teachers from North America and it was a true honor for her to be included in this group.  She spent a week in New York City, studying modern art and learning how to include it in her curriculum and then worked with her mentors for the following year adding even more to her teaching repertoire. 

As part of her teaching, she runs an extracurricular art club to further encourage the students who have a deeper interest in art.  Over these 10 years of her teaching career the art club has had one or two tee-shirts each year with many of them being designed by her students.   These shirts were the base for our project.  We started out by laying out the shirts that we thought would fit together…..IMG_3406

We were both happy with the colors but realized that we needed a few more shirts to add some “pop” to the piece.  We added a few other shirts and were ready to go.

We had originally talked about interspersing cotton fabrics among the tee-shirts, but I had listened to a pod cast where they talked about only using tee-shirt fabrics so we decided that was the way to go.

While Amber cut the shirts apart…..IMG_3436

I started ironing the fusible interfacing to the backs…..IMG_3437

Then came the fun of cutting out the shirts and placing them on the design wall.   We started out cutting everything larger than we thought it could be and throwing them up on the wall, first just to see what we had.…..IMG_3439

And then beginning the arrangement process…..IMG_3442

There was lots of standing back and pondering…..IMG_3445

And moving shirts hither and thither……19665322_10107365049972660_4579165463506451010_n

At the end of the day we had a full fledged plan…..IMG_3456

… and the sewing started on our next day together.  Amber sewed while I tried to figure out how to put the pieces together with a minimum of Y-seams….


We started out using a 1/4 inch foot but the shirts crawled too much so we moved to the walking foot.   It was the perfect tool for the job.

At the end of the day, we had the top together and ready for a border…..IMG_3459

We had decided that a dark grey border would be perfect and Amber had offered to purchase the fabric.   Unfortunately, the only thing that she could find in the appropriate color was a super thin tee-shirt fabric.  We debated about trying to find another heavier fabric but instead decided to fuse two pieces together to make a heavier fabric and then add the fusible.   It was a bit labor intensive……IMG_3543 …..but the result was wonderful….


We made a back and now it is ready to go to a friend for quilting.

When finished, Amber plans to hang it behind her desk and use it to further encourage her students.

Several of her friends asked if I would make a tee-shirt quilt for them and she gracefully acknowledged that it was a “daughter-in-law perk”!!

I had a marvelous time spending those 3 days with Amber and hope that we can work on other projects in the future. 

She starts classes tomorrow and I wish her the best for a wonderful year!!!

Another quilter is missing from my life…..

On Friday, April 14th, while I was driving to deliver my last tax return of the season, I decided to pick up the phone and call my Mom.  She had been going downhill for the last few months and had pretty much quit answering her phone but I was hopeful that she would pick up this time.  Unfortunately she didn’t answer, but the head of the facility that she lived in did answer.  He told me that they had just found her in her room and that she had passed away.  Apparently she had ordered her lunch and was sitting at her table waiting for it to be delivered.  She passed peacefully as she waited.

Now, like many Mothers and Daughters,  my Mom and I had a bumpy relationship.  She grew up during the Great Depression and vowed to have nice things in her life.  The problem arose in that her “nice things” took the form of Victorian figurines and other frilly things.  I, on the other hand, enjoyed more organic and natural forms of art.  However, one thing that we both agreed on was the art of quilting.

Mom made her first quilt when she was 11 years old…..

   It was a HEAVY 9 patch quilt made with every fabric imaginable.  I am fortunate to own it now.

When times were tough, Mom quilted for the public to help make money for she and my Dad.   There were several other quilts that she made early in her quilting journey, including this “Friendship quilt” that graced her bed…..

As a kid, I used to love to look at the signatures and ask Mom who the people were.

However, once she and Dad left the farm and moved to “the big city” (Abilene, Texas), she started working in offices and her quilting was pushed to one side.

Then, in the 1970’s there was a resurgence in quilting associated with the Bicentennial Celebration, and Mom jumped in with both feet.  Her first decision was that I needed SIX quilts for my “Hope Chest”.  She started with a Balloon Girl that utilized fabrics from my dresses…..

She quilted her way thru a Double Wedding ring…..

……a Grandmother’s Flower Garden……

….she quilted a Bear’s Paw that her mother (my Granny) had pieced……

Next was a Broken Star quilt that she had started just after she had married but had never finished.   The white fabrics had yellowed with the years and she un-pieced it and put in new white fabrics…..

Her final offering for my Hope Chest was a gorgeous “Boston Commons”…..
All of her quilts were meticulously hand pieced and hand quilted and each took a year or so to make.  Because of the length of time it took to make a quilt, I never had any interest in making one!!!  However, Mom did teach me the joy of being busy with my hands and of being creative, so my creativity came in the form of Crewel Embroidery, Needlepoint and Counted Cross Stitch.  
When I did start quilting, Mom was so excited and she and I spent many happy hours looking thru books together and talking about the quilts that we would one day make.  These times are some of my fondest memories.
In the last 10 years, we made several quilts together, starting with “Mother-Daugher Flower Garden”…..
….and continuing on with “Flower Pots”…..

With each of these quilts, Mom did the applique and I did the setting and quilting.  It was a fun process to work thru them together.  Back in 2014, she was wanting something new to work on so I sent these blocks to her. 

She immediately did the applique and returned them to me and there they have sat.  It will be a fun challenge to work on this quilt “with her” again sometime soon.

So, I have said my Goodbyes to her body and her mind but my good memories of her are brought to my mind EVERY TIME I look at a quilt….what a wonderful legacy!!

Rest In Peace Mom……