Woman turns hobby into career
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer
MABANK–Quilting is as old as our nation and even older, as
housewives sewed scraps of material together, often from worn
out clothing, to make a coverlet over a warm padded filling.
Mabank resident Dee Oliver learned to quilt as a very young girl
and then took it up again as a grown woman, approximately 30
“I learned to quilt at my grandmother’s knee in Wetumka, Okla.”
“Grandmother lived about a quarter of a mile from our house,”
she said, adding she would run to her grandmother’s house every
chance she got.
She moved to Texas in the mid-80s, and has been here ever since.
Dee and her husband, Tommy Willis Oliver, have been married six
Oliver has developed her own method of quilting, allowing her to
finish a quilt a lot faster than the more traditional way.
When asked to recall her most special quilt, she responded
quickly, “They are all special.”
However, some are unique in her memory.
“I made three quilts for Alene Gibbs, using her late husband’s
neckties,” she said.
“Then for Andrea (Pickens), I made a quilt from ties she
collected from senators.
Another woman who lost her husband in the first week in July,
brought her husband’s clothing to Dee.
“Since the middle of July I have made 25 quilts out of that
man’s clothing,” Dee explained.
To illustrate her point she showed a stack of the folded,
Materials for quilts can be quite varied, she explained.
“I prefer the polyester/cotton blends, cotton and vintage
material,” Dee said. And speaking of vintage, she will also
repair vintage quilts.
Dee explained vintage materials consist of the older fabrics,
those once used to sack meal, flour, sugar and other goods, like
Monitor Photo/Barbara Gartman
The Quilt Lady, Dee Oliver, displays a work in progress, Girl in
a Sun Bonnet quilt. The huge sewing machine, designed for
quilting, rides back and forth on a bar as it quilts the
material and backing together. Shelves are full of material and
finished quilts for sale.
In the days of the old cotton sacks, the material, printed in
floral designs and other patterns, was often used to make
clothing for the family, curtains and, of course, quilts. The
plain, white cotton sacks were used mostly for children’s and
ladies’ undergarments and tea towels.
One such vintage sack she has collected held the flour from 38th
Texas Governor, M. Price Daniel’s flour mill. It has his name
Her quilt creations begin around $200 and go not up, but down.
“I don’t try to make a lot. I do it mostly for the pleasure I
get from making a quilt,” she said.
Her work area is surrounded with shelves loaded with stacks of
material. Her quilts are displayed around the approximately 50 x
150 foot room.
“My shop is not real fancy but it is set up to my convenience,”
Dee said, adding she designed the inside of the building
Another fun item she enjoys is the Internet, but it is still
related to quilting.
“I get on the Internet and go to Paradise Quilting and visit
with other women,” she explained.
One such “visit” resulted in a woman bringing a box of vintage
material to her house and giving it to her.