Robin Bowling




Robin Bowling




Robin Bowling


Jane Kucko

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Sandra Anne Frazier


Fort Worth, TX


Joanne Gasperik


Jane Kucko (JK): This is Jane Kucko. It is Saturday, May 18 at 3:20 in the afternoon and we're at the Trinity Valley Quilters Guild show and we are interviewing Robin Bowling, as part of the Quilters' [S.O.S. -] Save Our Stories Project. And Robin I've seen you brought a couple of pieces with you. Would you like to begin by telling us about them?

Robin Bowling (RB): All right. The first one is a baby quilt that I did for my child. She was a--course she was born. I was pregnant and I wanted to make her a quilt. But I didn't know anything about quilts, so I bought a Simplicity pattern and this was the pattern in there. So I made it. And it had the little pillow and it went with her, the bassinette.

JK: So sweet.

RB: So that's how it started [laughs.]

JK: It's a green bunny on a cream background. How did you choose the pattern?

RB: Well, I liked the rabbit and I did not know if it was a boy or a girl. Back then you didn't know.

JK: Right.

RB: So I thought with green it would go either way, because we was hoping for a boy, but we got a girl. And we were happy; I thought well, boys can be green. So that's why I chose green. [laughs.]

JK: That's wonderful. Why do you think you chose to make a quilt?

RB: Well, I love quilts, but I didn't have anybody in my family that did quilts. Because my parents are dead and my grandparents are all dead, so I didn't have any quilts, but I love quilts. And I just loved them and I wanted to make one for my daughter.

JK: That's wonderful. Where do you think that love came from?

RB: I don't know, because I don't have any. I didn't have any quilts and I just admired people's quilts and people that had some friends that had parents and grandparents that had quilts. And I always wanted one, so I thought, well if I'm going to get it, it's got to come from me, because I don't have anybody to make one for my children.

JK: You're self-taught, then.

RB: I guess. [laughs.]

JK: Yeah. What did you learn from making this one?

RB: It was fun. I had never done ruffles as you can tell [both laugh.] they're not perfect yet. Of course I was very pregnant at the time, so learned how to do ruffles and then I learned how to do an appliqué and it was a machine appliqué and you could tell I didn't – I put white on the bottom, so I learned you're not supposed to do that [laughs.] and I just barely quilted it. [inaudible.] It was fun.

JK: Yeah. What does your daughter think of this?

RB: This is in her, the cedar chest that I inherited. It's in her, in that cedar chest. So I've given it to her now. It's hers. She can pass it on.

JK: Does she have children?

RB: No, no. She's twenty. She's still at home.

JK: Yes, yeah. It's just wonderful.

RB: So that's how I started. And then I made her a stocking. Next project was a stocking. And I purchased it, and it was quilted and I added little beads and stuff to it. So that's how I started. [laughs.]

JK: That's wonderful. Now I see you brought another quilt with you as well.

RB: Yes, this is a basket quilt. We moved from Lake Worth to River Oaks and have a friend Mercy Guerrero and she is the one that invited me to quilt guild. So they were all exchanging blocks. Well she asked me to come to a bee. Well, she formed a bee really, anyway. So we were all exchanging blocks and I thought that would be a good way for me to learn different blocks. So I asked people to make me a block. So this is all people in the bee, blocks with their names on it. And some of these people are not in the guild any more. Of course Pauline Rampy was a very wonderful quilter. She's not with us any more. She helped me a lot and in fact when I started coming to quilt bee Tiff was little and she helped Tiff learn how to embroidery and me. Because I didn't know how to embroidery either. Now if you don't have anybody to teach to, so she helped teach us. She taught us how to do this.

JK: That's wonderful.

RB: Well, you know. And there's a lot of people from the in guild in here.

JK: So they all did the same baskets and signed it.

RB: And signed it. Of course at the time I didn't know you were supposed to give them a certain --like a fabric, you know, like muslin, so I didn't know you were supposed to do that, so, of course I just let them do their own thing. So I chose I could just piece or [inaudible.] and they chose their own colors. [inaudible.]

JK: Well it all comes together really well.

RB: And when I didn't make it for a long time because I was too afraid to do anything with it [both laugh.], but then I decided one day I [inaudible.] together, and I [inaudible.] together. I found some pink and blue fabric and then I [inaudible.] quilting. And then I bought when I moved out to Weatherford I bought this quilting machine, so that's when I quilted it on the machine.

JK: I see. So you've done all this quilting on the machine. That's neat.

RB: Not very good at binding. I'm still not very good at it, but-- [laughs.]

JK: How have you used this quilt?

RB: This is my therapy quilt [Jane laughs.] That's why it looks so pitiful, but when I have some health problems, so I have to lay down a lot, so this quilt is on me when I'm sick or whenever.

It's my therapy and it has my friends on it, and I can touch them, but they're not there. Most of them have helped me a lot to learn about quilts.

JK: So how many quilts have you made at this point? Or let me first ask you how long have you been quilting?

RB: Since '81. But I didn't do very many quilts, because Tiff was little and I just kind of took the class and just kind of did things like that. I'm still learning a lot [laughs. JK: Yeah.] But I do enjoy quilting. When I first started I started with templates, you know those little metal templates with the sandpaper on the back? With those. I think I brought one here. And that kind of started [inaudible.] quilt block or something. Anyway it was a Janet Mullins, it was her quilt shop. And we had these little templates that had the metal with the sandpaper on the back. And we drew around them and then you pieced by hand. So that's what I did first. And when I eventually got down to machine--

JK: Machine piece, so do you primarily machine piece, machine quilt?

RB: Yes, I do now. I do machine piecing and machine quilting.

JK: Well how do you choose the pattern, colors and all that?

RB: I don't know. I've kind of primary colors, I just love color. It was hard for me to choose colors. I took a class on; we've had a lot of classes at quilt guild. I took a lot of classes and one lady came and she had like what I have on now--the color, I like this color. [laughs.] And she said that I need to brighten you up. So she was trying to expand my color range into real bright colors. It was real hard for me, because I'm more a real light colored pastels. But it was a fun experiment and it made me grow to see colors in a way. I like wild colors. [laughs.] I have to look at it in a new light. You have to experiment. You got to get [inaudible.] down to get these colors.

JK: Are there particular techniques that you use?

RB: No. I like to use the rotary cutter now. I liked the templates. I still have all my templates. I like those, but it's so time-consuming. I don't use them and I prefer to do the rotary cutter and the strips. I love that.

JK: What do you enjoy most about quilting, quiltmaking?

RB: I guess to see the finished product and to see it from like my husband Richard says, 'Take the fabrics which you cut up in itty bitty pieces [laughs.] to make a pattern.' He says, 'I don't know how you do that,' but he's in the quilting himself now. [JK: 'really.'] He likes it. I bought a new machine and I couldn't use it because I was ill. And so--I quilt for people on machine, so he started quilting for me. So now he really loves to quilt.

JK: Well that is terrific.

RB: [laughing.] He took over my quilting machine. [both are laughing.]

JK: Now he'll quilt too. There you go.

RB: So it's been real fun to see him come from that, you know saying, 'Why did you cut that up?' to 'I like this.'

JK: That's terrific. Have you made a quilt together, or do you see yourself doing that?

RB: Yeah, we probably will. He loves log cabin. Richard loves to pick out colors and likes the bright stuff. See I'm the other end of it. So that helps me, because he wants the bright stuff and I want the light. Well eventually we'll get there. [laughs.]

JK: I think that's terrific. That is interesting. Is your daughter interested at all?

RB: Oh, yes, this quilt--she loves to quilt too. We made a quilt together, she and I, a block of the month. It was embroidered, because Tiff knows how to learn how to do more embroidery stitches. So we each, we're making one. She made one and I made one. Of course hers is finished now and quilted and mine is not. [both laugh.] So we have to bind hers. And then she graduated in 2000. And she wanted a quilt, so we were collecting 2000 prints. So she's finally chosen her pattern and it's a star. It's a square in the middle, with points on it. And she's made two blocks so far.

JK: Does she machine piece also?

RB: Yes.

JK: Same kind of technique that you do? That's exciting.

RB: It's fun -

JK: It's very exciting.

RB: - To watch her come along. [laughs.]

JK: Yes. And to keep that tradition going that you really started in your generation.

RB: Yes, it's good.

JK: Is there a particular quilt that you want to make that you haven't made yet, a particular pattern?

RB: I've wanted to make--that flower, you know the flower, it's got a--I think its octagon shaped?

JK: Oh the Grandmother's Flower Garden?

RB: Yes, yes. I've not have made one of those, because I thought it was too hard. [laughs.]

JK: Maybe some day.

RB: Some day I'd like to make one of those. And then there's this big – it starts in the middle and it gets bigger and bigger. It's a dahlia; i think it's called a dahlia. I've always loved that. I thought that was pretty. It seems like the same thing, its round, it's curved [both laugh.] and I'm like, I don't think I can handle that yet.

JK: Do you have your own sewing room? Can you tell us a bit about your set-up and fabric stash and all that good stuff?

RB: Oh, dear [laughs.] Okay. I bought, my husband Richard bought me this long table to put my sewing machines on, so I have my serger on one end and my other sewing machines--I have a--one that does embroidery, the old kind, 8000. And then I have my old regular sewing machine. So I have like three set-ups and I can just go from one to the other and sew. And then we bought this quilting machine and it was so big. It was in our bedroom. He started tripping over it [laughs.]

JK: Until now, right? [laughs.]

RB: So we bought a little house that was partially built and had it moved to our property from our neighbor. So we finished it off and set my machine out there. So my machine is out there and all my fabric is over there. I hate to say this but my fabric is all in tomato boxes or banana boxes. [laughs.]

JK: What's the story of that?

RB: Well when we moved out there [both laugh.] I had to move my sewing room because we moved from River Oaks to Weatherford [inaudible.]. And so all my fabric was stored in this little – I had a little bitty room that I had to be in, so when we moved we had to pack everything, because we couldn't get in our house for 6 weeks. Well, I went down to the store to get boxes and that's what I ended up with is tomato boxes and banana boxes. So now I have all my colors and everything in these boxes [chuckles.]

JK: That's great.

RB: You can't see them but I have them labeled, like 'blue', 'yellow' or whatever 'baby' whatever. So I have all these boxes that have all my stuff in. [laughs.]

JK: That's terrific. Now how do you buy your fabrics or get your fabrics? In other words do you have a project in mind or do you buy them - ?

RB: Sometimes I do. Like right now my oldest daughter is going to have a baby in September. So I'm looking for Raggedy Ann and Andy fabrics, so anything to go with that because she wants red white and blue in her nursery. So that's what I'm looking for now. So I'm usually looking for a project but if I go somewhere to the store or something, you know how it is, you like it you get it. [laughs.]

JK: Yes.

RB: And then it goes in my secret tomato box. [both laugh.] For that project.

JK: For future use.

RB: Yeah.

JK: For future use.

RB: So that's it.

JK: That's terrific. What do you love most about quilts?

RB: Oh I don't know. Just the feel of them, the warmth of them, I don't know. They're just fun to have. [laughs.]

JK: Are there any aspects of quilt making that you don't enjoy?

RB: The binding.

JK: The binding. [laughs.]

RB: I'm not very good at binding, but I guess the binding would be my worst part.

JK: Any particular technique that you'd like to try that you haven't yet?

RB: That, where you use the bias and make little flowers, not flowers but these generic designs, you know Celtic blocks stuff. I want to do that. Maybe, and those flowers, like a glass in a window.

JK: Oh yes, stained glass--

RB: Yes.

JK: I think they call it that.

RB: I wouldn't mind using that.

JK: What do you think makes a great quilt?

RB: Makes a great quilt? Well the color and the texture, the quilting design.

JK: And what do you think makes a great quilter? [sharp noise in the tape.]

RB: I don't know. [coughing in the background.] Based on me not much. [both laugh.]

I don't know. I think we're all friendly, loving, kind people. We want to share.

JK: Now are you a member of the Trinity Valley Quilters Guild?

RB: Yes.

JK: And are you a member of a bee?

RB: No. I guess not.

JK: But the guild--what do you enjoy most about being a member of a guild?

RB: The friendships you make [loudspeaker announcement drowns out the answer. tape clicks off, then on again.] with other quilters.

JK: Have you lived in this area most of your life?

RB: In Fort Worth? All my married life.

JK: All your married life, yes. I was just wondering if you noticed any differences in different areas that you might have lived in terms of quilt making techniques or covers.

RB: No, because I've always just lived here.

JK: It's always been--

RB: Now I live in the other side of Weatherford and it's a little bit different because they're more in traditional out there. They're getting to where they'll do--the people out there--I have an older friend and she still does hand piecing and hand quilting. I just don't have the time for that.

JK: Are most of your quilts traditional patterns or do you do art quilts or contemporary?

RB: Most of mine are just regular. I'm not into artsy stuff. I've done a few vests or things like that but nothing real elaborate. I still have one vest that we had a class for years ago and I haven't finished it. I have a lot of UFO's at my house [both laugh.] A lot of classes I've taken-- [laughs.]

JK: So you did take a lot of workshops and things like that?

RB: I love to do that, learn new techniques. They've come so far, from hand piecing to all this new stuff with the rotary cutter and it makes so much difference, much easier.

JK: It does seem like there is increased interest in quilt making, and younger people learning how. What do you attribute that increase to?

RB: I think people want to get back to their roots, back to their families maybe. Maybe grandmother did it or their aunt did it or something. I don't know I don't have that history so I don't know. But I admire people that do have that. I tell them, if they have quilts from their ancestors they really need to take care of them, because it's a precious item.

JK: Are most of the quilts that you make intended to be used or do you intend them--to use them but hopefully preserve them as well.

RB: Well, my first ones I'm afraid the girls have worn out. And I'm in the process of remaking them some quilts. So most of my stuff is utility quilts right now. I haven't made any that I would consider to last [both laugh.] unusable. Everything that's on their bed they use.

JK: Are there any trends in quilt making that either excite you or concern you?

RB: I guess the artsy stuff is a lot for me. I don't mind them putting buttons and stuff, but when they get all those beads and all this there is more art than it is a quilt. I mean it's a quilt but it's not. It's more art that would be my own--I don't know what they do with them except hang them on the wall. [laughs.]

JK: So you're concerned that maybe we'll move toward that direction?

RB: Yeah. Get too far off the--I don't know. [inaudible.] I guess.

JK: Do you attach symbolism to your quilts at all? Is there any particular message that you embed in that quilt?

RB: No, not really. If the girls want a certain pattern that's what I'll do for them. I was working on a Lone Star for my oldest daughter and that's want she likes. She just liked that big star.

JK: So they pretty well tell you which one they like [RB: Yeah.] and that's what you go and do.

That's wonderful. [RB: That's it.] Well it sounds like you have the potential of being a multi-generational [RB laughs.] you, your husband, your one daughter. [RB: Yeah.] Potentially is it a granddaughter you have or you don't know yet?

RB: We don't know yet.

JK: You don't know yet. But you have a grandchild coming. That would be exciting for you to pass down your skills.

RB: Yeah, we're excited. We're wanting a girl, but they may not [both chuckle.]

JK: We don't always have a whole lot of say [laughs.] what we get.

RB: That's right. I told her yesterday, I said, 'I want you to have a girl so I can make clothes.' I do a lot I used to sew for my girls. I do a lot of clothing too. So I did a lot of clothes. So I need to have a girl. [laughs.] I have all these patterns still.

JK: Yeah, yeah. That's exciting. It's really been enjoyable listening to you about your quilt making. Are there any comments you'd like to make or questions I didn't ask or anything you'd like to elaborate on?

RB: I appreciate you all doing this. I told them I didn't know why they wanted to ask me, but anyway. [laughs.]

JK: It's been very interesting, trust me. [RB laughs. Thank you.] I feel a connection with your family members is what's really--

RB: Oh, well thanks--

JK: And winning your husband over. That's pretty--[both talk, inaudible.] Well I sure would like to thank Robin Bowling for participating in the Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project. And our interview concluded at about 3:45 in the afternoon. Thank you.


“Robin Bowling,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 24, 2024,