Boy o boy I was a real looker back then. 

 Boy o boy I was a real looker back then. 

My name is Arlene Swist and this is my story.  I come from Lithuanian and Swedish parents who met on a boat set for Ellis Island. I was born in Minnesota but spent most of my life in California. I was a teenager during a time of war. World War Two was at its threshold.
It seems as if life was simpler and yet far more complex than the times we live in now. The only things we bought at a store were molasses, sugar, flour, or the odd bandana. We grew our own vegetables and had fresh eggs, meat and dairy from local farmers. My fondest memories are those of picking fresh citrus from the orange groves in Vernon, California.

My mother taught me how to sew at a very young age. The lessons were mostly by hand until she was able to afford a Singer sewing machine.  It was never a real pleasure for me to sew until I had children of my own. Not only did I make their clothing, I also taught each of my seven children how to do it themselves. My husband and I were of modest means so it helped make ends meet. Three of my children took on to it well. 

The greatest gift I was ever to receive in my life was making clothing for their children, my grand kids. I have so many. Although they really took the effort for granted, my path took an unexpected turn--two of my grandchildren (two that didn't appreciate my gifts, especially) turned out to have quite the knack for it and wound up in the boutique fashion industry. 

Oddly enough, their work influenced this very old lady in her's. I began to research a little about their worlds and then it hit me. I decided to take old quilts and recreate the images from when I first learned to sew.  Simplicity in hand made clothing and memories from a time of war. 

It fascinates me to no end to see my two grandsons in business:  the colors they choose, the people they know, the rituals they have. I made a comment once that it seemed like a gang. One of them replied, "No, Grandma Lena, it's a mafia."

That word struck a chord with me. It meant family, it meant honor, and it meant doing anything (sometimes too much) for the ones you love. 

  Mafia? I've been part of one my entire life, I just didn't know it. 

I am proud to present my contribution to it, backed by a lifetime of knowledge and experience. This is war, this is peace. 

Made by Grandma for Mafia. 

With grandma's love and my two grandchildren's touch.