Category Archives: Quilting projects


"Weaver's Dream" ~ the only woven wall art I own. (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

“Weaver’s Dream” ~ the only woven wall art I own. (I had to adjust the overall color to show the “mistake”–in reality it’s only slightly different in hue from the rest of the weaving.)

Mom's bird sampler quilt ~ the only quilt she ever made.

Mom’s bird sampler quilt ~ the only quilt she ever made.  (All photos by Marylin Warner)

The 2003 movie/docudrama, EDGE OF AMERICA, is based on the story of a black teacher who is hired to teach English at Three Nations High School in Utah. He’s never been on an Indian reservation, and to make ends meet he agrees to also coach the girls’ unsuccessful basketball team. He is the teacher and the coach, yet he’s the one learning many of the lessons.

One of the most important lessons is about making mistakes, and his biggest one is the demand for perfection. Based on his own experiences, he teaches the girls that out in the real world, their only chance is to first achieve perfection on the basketball court and defeat the prejudice of white players.

The tribal Wise Woman has been weaving rugs all of her life. She says that each is slightly different, leaving openings in the design for growth. This is seen as an imperfection by some, but she believes imperfections are actually spiritual outlets. “Imperfection is beauty,” she says, so in each rug she weaves a mistake…on purpose. Otherwise, “The spirit becomes trapped in perfection…”

EDGE OF AMERICA is an excellent movie; it is also a compelling clash of cultures, philosophies, beliefs and values. I dare say that many of us grew up adhering to the dictionary definition of mistakes: “actions or judgments that are misguided or wrong.” And even Einstein’s well-known comment–“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”–implies that mistakes are necessary in learning, but not desirable for ongoing intentional spiritual outlets. 

My mother’s first quilt was a series of bird patterns. It took her several years as a teen to create twenty blocks of different birds, each hand sewn with a series of basic and combination stitches. It was a training quilt, an introduction to perfecting stitches and developing discipline. When all the blocks were correct—with mistakes carefully taken out and re-stitched until the birds were perfect—then her mother and great aunt helped her piece together the blocks with pink and green accents and borders, and then quilt the design top to a solid pink fabric back.

Years ago I found the quilt neatly folded away among blankets in the closet. It was Mom’s only quilt; when it was finished, she was never interested in doing more than just assisting in others’ projects. It was later that I realized from her comments that the requirements for perfection had dulled her joy of creating. I think she would have agreed with the Wise Woman in EDGE OF AMERICA: “The spirit becomes trapped in perfection.”

I own one hand woven wall hanging. It’s called “Weaver’s Dream” and contains one “mistake.” I have no idea how the weaver accomplished it, but I was assured it was not added on, carefully bleached or altered to look different. It was woven into the pattern…intentionally. The vendor told me the “mistake” had made many buyers choose other wall hangings. I chose “Weaver’s Dream” because of it. It’s a matter of perspective, and although it may be a flaw in my character, perfection has never been my ultimate goal in anything.

Be careful what you wish for.  Personally, I wouldn't waste coins wishing for perfection.

Be careful what you wish for. Personally, I wouldn’t waste coins wishing for perfection.


One block from a quilt of "The Flying Windmill" pattern.  Turn it on it's side and it's the Nazi symbol.

One block from a quilt of “The Flying Windmill” pattern. Turn it on its side and it’s the Nazi symbol. It’s a matter of perspective.


Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, Lessons from birds, Quilting projects, sewing, special quotations, Spiritual connections



Choose your size, S-XL, and use only once.  (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

Choose your size, S-XL, and use only once. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

On February 1st, I wrote a post—“What We Learn While We Wait”—about the things I learn when I visit my mother each month and spend much of my time just sitting with her while she naps. This is Part 2 of that lesson. Now I sit with Mom in her hospital room. This is our new journey together; there are new lessons…and decisions to make. This emergency will pass, but there will be others, and I need to be prepared.

At Mom’s apartment, I’m surrounded by pictures, books and keepsakes, all of them familiar because I chose them to bring from their house to make the move here for my parents easier and more comfortable. Here in Mom’s hospital room there are no pictures on the wall, and though I’m not unfamiliar with computers and IV lines and bags and procedures, they are unfamiliar in the context of connecting them to my mother.

I look around and choose one thing to observe, to focus on and learn about, and I choose the wall opposite me, with the small, medium, large and extra large nitrile exam gloves.

All sizes, to fit all the hands of those who help my mother, the confused 95-year-old lady who has already pulled one IV line out of her arm, and whose “rolling” veins made a new line very difficult. To take blood for the most recent test, the experienced phlebotomist finally had to take it from her foot, and I had to hold Mom’s leg still and have her count aloud with me to calm her cries while the vials filled.

This is a difficult time, so as I study the blue latex-free, single-use medical gloves, I begin to think of other gloves. White cotton gloves, some with little pearl side buttons, the kind of go-to-church-or-weddings-or funerals-white gloves ladies used to wear, back in the time when they also wore hats and high heels and hose with seams.

When the styles relaxed, my mother didn’t throw her gloves away—actually, she rarely threw anything away—but found a new use for them.  When she went out to her garden to pick fresh tomatoes, beans, zucchini, carrots and lettuce for dinner, she put on a pair of her gloves to keep grass stains off her hands. On Saturday nights, when she polished her nails for church the next day, she washed and dried her hands carefully and then applied Vaseline or—get this—Crisco, coating her fingers and hands, and then she slept wearing a clean pair of cotton gloves to protect the skin-softening concoction. She’d come out in her robe, wearing rollers in her hair and gloves on her hands, and my dad would just grin and shake his head.  Remembering that makes me miss those good old days with both of them, my dad whistling and my mom blinking her eyes at us and laughing.

Now I sit with my mother in her hospital room, and she naps as I study the wall of medical DOP/DEHP-free, powder-free, ambidextrous gloves.  I watch people with their own styles of putting on and removing and disposing the gloves, and memories of my mother’s glove-wearing styles help me connect the dots and make these days in the hospital feel more normal.  Or at least the next step in what will become the next “normal” for us.

At night Mom is safe in her caregiver’s additional care, and I go back to my mother’s assisted living and sleep alone in her apartment. Downstairs in the main room, “Art Is Ageless” voting continues for the many amazing quilts, paintings, sculptures, whittled wood knife sheathes and crocheted dresses, all created by seniors in their 70s, 80s, 90s…and one 103-year old lady.

I’m so inspired that I use the only materials I have available, a pair of blue nitrile exam gloves. I blow them up like balloons, tie the tops and arrange them on the living room floor of my mother’s apartment. I title my creation “Helping Hands,” but it’s not for any contest.  It’s just for me, a way to create something and distract myself after another day at the hospital.

"Art Is Ageless" BEST OF SHOW 2014 quilt by Berniece Buell

“Art Is Ageless” BEST OF SHOW 2014 quilt by Berniece Buell


My disposable creation: "Hands That Help"

My disposable creation:
“Helping Hands”



Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, gardening, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, Quilting projects, Things to be thankful for


Hand-carved chair backs. (All pictures by Marylin Warner.)

Hand-carved chair backs. (All pictures by Marylin Warner.)

Hand-stitched dish towel.

Hand-stitched dish towel.

The sampler Mom began, and I finished.

The sampler Mom began, and I finished.

Dear Mom,

Let’s build on my assignment from elementary school. I was given the word “Home” to look up in the dictionary, and then I was to ask at least three people what the word meant to them. (For those of you who are wondering what’s going on, “Home is…” was the title of last week’s post.)

Let’s pretend that our assignment word this week is “CREATE.”  The dictionary definition is “…to generate, to bring into being, to shape or forge.”

Instead of interviewing people directly, let’s look at some examples of things created during your life, Mom.  First, in the picture above, is the hand carved chair top from your mother’s dining room set. Grandma’s dining room table and chairs now grace cousin Beth’s house in Georgia, where the “girl cousins” enjoyed our meals when we got together ten days ago.  We’re not sure who did the carving of the ornate faces, but Grandma’s chairs were a source of fascination for all her grandchildren and guests. Why have plain chairs, when you can create conversation pieces and works of art? (I always thought they looked like Old Man Wind blowing up a storm.)

While the cousins were sorting through and dividing the collectibles and keepsakes, we found examples of crocheted and tatted edges on pillow cases and sheets, plus stacks of hand-sewn dish towels. Some of the towels were hand-stitched in ornate details, but I chose the simple-stitch one of a nursery rhyme because of the creative change:  “…and the cup ran away with the…knife?”  Looks like a stitcher’s sense of humor to me!

And remember the cross-stitch sampler of your motto: My Days is Complete… I Heard a Child Laugh. When I moved you and Dad from the house to assisted living, I found the unfinished sampler tucked away for safekeeping. I got matching thread and finished it and had it framed. Now it hangs on the wall for your great-grandchildren to read and know how both of us love to hear children laugh and be happy.

This week when I came to visit you, Mom, I brought a quilt we found among the boxes of quilt pieces and handmade keepsakes. Your mother made this quilt many years ago, and the “girl cousins” send it to you with love, to cuddle beneath as you heal from your hip surgery. When I tucked the quilt around your shoulders, I thought of your “First” quilt that now hangs on a wall in our house. You were in your teens when you hand-stitched twenty different birds on twenty squares of cotton salvaged from your father’s and siblings’ white shirts and blouses. You, Grandma, and some of the aunts hand-pieced the squares with green and pink cloth, and then hand-quilted the entire quilt top to an under-side. You once told me it took you almost a year from start to finish, sewn in the evenings during the fall, winter and spring months. It was too hot to sew in summer.

Based on these and many other examples, I would add this to the definition of “CREATE”: “…to add artistic expression to the making of practical, useful necessities; to leave a uniquely personal signature on even common things.”

Maybe our blog friends will share their definitions and examples of the word “Create.”

While Mom recuperates from hip surgery, she stays warm under a quilt made by her mother.

While Mom recuperates from hip surgery, she stays warm under a quilt made by her mother.

The Bird Quilt, the first quilt Mom made.

The Bird Quilt, the first quilt Mom made.


Filed under art, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Quilting projects, sewing, Things to be thankful for


"Four legs good, two legs bad." ~George Orwell, ANIMAL FARM. (all photos by Marylin Warner)

“Four legs good, two legs bad.” ~George Orwell, ANIMAL FARM. (all photos by Marylin Warner)

"If frogs had side pockets, they'd carry hand guns." ~ Dan Rather

“If frogs had side pockets, they’d carry hand guns.”
~ Dan Rather

Last week wasn’t what we’d planned.  It wasn’t what the ducks planned either, I’m sure, but the fox made out okay.

This week we’re getting back into the swing of things.  August is “Admit You’re Happy Month,” and since it’s still August, we going to admit we’re happy to focus on animals other than ducks.

Here are some pictures and quotes to enjoy.  (Feel free to add your own quotes…but please, no recipes for Duck a l’Orange.)

“Animals don’t lie. Animals don’t criticize. If animals have moody days, they handle them better than humans do.”  ~Betty White

“People who really appreciated animals always asked their names.”  ~Lilian Jackson Braun, The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern

“If you want to test cosmetics, why do it on some poor animal who hasn’t done anything? They should use prisoners who have been convicted of murder or rape instead. So, rather than seeing if perfume irritates a bunny rabbit’s eyes, they should throw it in Charles Manson’s eyes and ask him if it hurts.”  ~Ellen DeGeneres, My Point…And I Do Have One

I always hated those classic kid movies like Old Yeller or The Yearling where the beloved pet dies. What would be so wrong with having those damn kids learn their lessons about mortality from watching Grandpa kick? Then at least the dog would be around to comfort them.”  ~Merrill Markoe, Walking in Circles Before Lying Down

“I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we’ve got to do it right. We’ve got to give those animals a decent life and we’ve got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect.”  ~Temple Grandin

Handmade alligator bench.

Handmade alligator bench.

   “A few alligators are naturally of the vicious type and inclinded to resent it when you prod them with a stick.                You can find out which ones these are by prodding them.”  ~Will Cuppy

“Platypus? I thought it was pronounced platymapus. Has it always been pronounced platypus?”  ~Jessica Simpson

“And the fox said to the little prince: men have forgotten this truth, but you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”  ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Everybody knows pottery gargoyle bells are timid animals and hide beside house plants.

Everybody knows pottery gargoyle bells are timid animals and hide beside house plants.


Filed under art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Quilting projects, special quotations


Friendship quilt on your bed; from the 1940s, when friends embroidered their names on squares and Grandma pieced them together in a quilt.

Friendship quilt on your bed; from the 1940s, when friends embroidered their names on squares and Grandma pieced them together in a quilt.

Mom's first quilt--"Birds"--she did the hand-stitched centers, the Grandma and aunts helped her piece it together. (She was 14)

Mom’s first quilt–“Birds”–she did the hand-stitched centers, then Grandma and aunts helped her piece it together. (She was 14; now she’s 94.)

Yard statue of fairy reading. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Yard statue of fairy reading. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Dear Mom,

Kansas has really scored its share of snowstorms  recently.  All across the state schools have been closed, along with interstates and main roads, with snow accumulations up to 15” in many counties. Where you are, in southeast Kansas, the total was only about 4”, but that was snow over ice.  Today everyone was digging out and enjoying the sunshine, but already the weatherman is saying there’s more snow on the way.

What a perfect time to plan for the last three days of February!  This is the kind of planning you’ll enjoy, Mom.

February 26 is TELL A FAIRY TALE DAY.  You can cozy up under one of your quilts and think of—and maybe tell—some of your favorite fairy tales. Or I’ll tell you two of your favorites: “Jack and the Bean Stalk” and “Cinderella.”  When you used to read or told us the stories, you sometimes added a twist. You’d stop in the story, maybe during a sad or scary part, and say, “What do you think should happen next?” You gave us chances to make the stories our own and give them the endings we liked.

February 27th is NO BRAINER DAY.  Seriously.  Created in 1995 by Adrienne Sioux Koopersmith, “American’s Premier Eventologist” chosen by INSIGHT MAGAZINE , No Brainer Day is a time to kick back, stop over analyzing everything, and do those things that are simple, easy, carefree and satisfying.

(NOTE to surgeons, traffic controllers, SWAT Team Bomb specialists and all high-focus, no-wiggle-room-for-mistakes people, if you want a No Brainer Day, call in sick before doing this.)

February 28th is SLEEP ON THE JOB DAY.  Supposedly, many overachievers do this regularly—they call it taking Power Naps—and they take them in bathroom stalls at work, in their cars in the parking lot, and between the stacks in the reference room or among the supplies in the janitor’s closet.  Covert Op naps; think of them as “multi-task relaxing,” powering up for the rest of the day.  Or, if you do it only on the designated day, Feb. 28th, the method is up to you.  (Same NOTE above applies here…)

These three days are for you, Mom. While it snows outside your window, stay warm under your blankets and quilts.  Dream of fairy tells that end with happy thoughts, and when you’re awake in your recliner, enjoy the simple beauty of contentment and rest.  You’ve spent a busy lifetime teaching, caring for family and friends, cooking and cleaning, sewing and reaching out to anyone who needed your help. You deserve happy naps and sweet stories with no pressures.

Love, Marylin

Our dog Maggie in the snow.

Our dog Maggie in the snow.

February snow in Kansas.

February snow in Kansas.


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Quilting projects, Special days in February