It's here, it's here!

I imagine launching a business or a website or a new quilting show online is kind of like giving birth, only there are fewer surgical gloves and less screaming. Quilty launches today, and there are no nurses or whacks on the back, but there is a feeling of joy, of fear, of expecation. 

It's just a little show. But it's our little show. And I'm very, very happy.

I hope you will all visit and to check it out. The first episode is up and the gettin's good. Be patient with us as we work out kinks in the website, here on the blog, and other items of business we haven't realized are kinked yet. Be patient with your host, too -- I'm still learning right along with you. But all those caveats are immaterial in the end. We're just going for it at this point.

I know from experience that if you've got a basic grasp of the mechanics of quiltmaking, you can open a door to a world of comfort, peace, art, and enjoyment and it can never be taken away from you. Quilty was born out of my desire to help the people in my peer group (and beyond) discover just that. Quilts are American. They are people. They are stories; past and future. They're also wildly fun to make these days, what with all the ridiculously beautiful fabric out there, and the collective body of quilt knowledge available to us today. There's never been a better time to make a quilt and Quilty wants to encourage and help anyone, everyone do that.

So enjoy! There's a new episode each week. We're already planning the next batch, and the next, and the next. I was going to post a picture from the set but I think I'd rather post another picture of me at the sewing machine with my favorite doggie in the world: Scrabble. I call her "Scrabble Doo" and she calls me "Bark! Bark!" but we both think you should watch Quilty, friend Quilty on Facebook, and stick around for a spell. 

p.s. Thank you to everyone at NTM, Fons & Porter, and QNN. Thank you to my family, especially my incredible mother -- thanks for the fabric, Mom. And to my ridonk-a-donk, stupidly amazing Quilty production team, esp. Rebecca, Jack, Josh, and Ceasar. (This sounds like I'm winning an Oscar...)


When I was growing up, there were books everywhere. I'm a reader, born to a family of readers. This was one book we had.

Do you remember it? Good ol' Tomie dePaola. 

It's funny. I'm so happy these days about Quilty launching and all the exciting things I'm doing in my career, but other areas of my life are full of stress and bad news. I came across a picture of this book recently and I got pretty sad. Things are so simple when we're little. They're supposed to be, anyway. I know not everyone has this experience. But for me, for awhile, it was pretty easy: eat, sleep, play, read, poop. Love. 

Today, if you so feel inclined, give someone a hug for me. And if you are further inclined, sew a bit. I think that energy out in the universe would probably do some good. And if you're not done inclining and you have the ability to read a book to a child, give that a shot. 

I'm sure they would love that.

I saw this sewing machine sitting outside in the freezing, freezing cold yesterday here in Chicago.

I mean, I think it's a sewing machine. It's like the skeleton of a sewing machine that sat in the attic or the basement or the bottom of the ocean for 50 years and then was dredged up to sit outside in a punishing Chicago winter for awhile until someone sees it and says, "Hey! I want THAT sewing machine!" 

As I walked away from it, I thought, "I have no desire to purchase that old, defunct sewing machine." And for a moment, I wondered if that was bad, if I should want to rehab old machines and start a collection and be all up on my sewing machine knowledge and be able to say in an important voice, "Oh, yes. That would be an original Singer Featherweight, circa XYZ and ABC and so forth." 

But the thing is -- and this is what I realized and what I share with you now -- is that I like to make quilts. I want a sewing machine to help me do that. I'm not a tinkerer. I'm not a handyman. I'm not a machine repairman and I'm not a sewing machine history buff. Not yet, anyway. I'm not a miracle worker either, which is what that hunk of metal is going to need if anyone's going to make any quilts with it. My point is that I'm a quilter, and that's what I want to be. So that poor little machine will just have to wait until someone comes along who has a love of making broken things work again. 

Me, I have a love of quilting. 

You know, that would be a great name for a show... ;)

Santa gave you $3,000, right? 

He didn't? Oh.

That's too bad, because you happened to have $3,000 laying around and nothing better to spend it on, you would definitely want to pick up this new Chanel bag for Spring 2011. It's patchworky! 


Good grief!

Greetings from our nation's gorgeous capital.

I'm here in D.C. with the husband, as I gave him/us a trip here for Christmas -- this is one of our very favorite places in the country and that's saying something, as we're pretty exhaustive American explorers. We went to the Military Bowl game yesterday, then saw a show at Woolly Mammoth, where I performed for a month last year. This morning we walked to Georgetown and I bought amazing tuxedo pants very much on sale (!) and then hoofed all the way to the glorious National Portrait Gallery, the museum that I would most want to live in year round. 

The food in D.C. is killer, and on my list to visit was Teaism, an absurdly delicious tea cafe that makes my soul delight and sing. The tea is extraordinary of course, but the food is almost better. Piping hot bowls of udon noodle soup will warm the cockles of your heart -- even the sub-cockles -- and the sweet potatoes, the seaweed salad, the seitan stir-fry... It's all ridonk-a-donk good and I could eat there every day if someone would let me.

While we were enjoying our meal, I noticed a group of happy knitters at a corner table. Indeed, they were a Ravelry group and seemed to be having fun. I introduced myself and asked if I could take a picture for the blog. They were sweet and agreed. I take it upon myself to extend the hand of friendship between quilters and knitters -- so many of us cross over, but there is more connecting we could/should do. 

Thanks, girls, for the picture and for hearing a bit about Quilty. Watch for the show to launch online here, at, and elsewhere on the web next month. And everyone should watch this space -- we'll be migrating to a new site soon. You'll be automatically taken there when you click on the Quilter's Club link, so no need to hunt for anything new. But we'll have a pretty new layout, a dedicated space, and lots of great information and lovely news for rookie quilters. Know any? 

I saw a huge -- HUGE! -- display of FAKE QUILTS at Bloomingdale's the other night.

I consider quilts to be fake when they meet any or all of the following criteria:

- they were produced in a factory setting
- they have been created in quantities over 1 (one)
- they have a tag
- they have a tag that says "Made in China"
- they are sold for under $100

There are other criteria, I suppose, but that's a decent start. Here are a few of the fakers. Log Cabin, even! Have they no shame??

I'm so sorry I've been gone for a bit. I'm sick! It's sorta like this. 

Except that I'm not an 8-year old boy and I don't have a bunny like that. But the sentiment is definitely the same. It's a nasty, nasty cold and I really don't get colds that often! I think the stress of the Quilty shoot -- we filmed on Sunday and it was so exciting, even with the hacking I did between takes -- and the season that it is just felled me in a big way. But I'm back in the saddle, and my saddle has a box of Kleenex and a bottle of DayQuil on it, so we're good. 

Merry Christmas to all and to all: Wash your hands!

The snow is swirling and curling around outside our apartment windows. Chicago is being blanketed by the beautiful white stuff and I'm feeling incredibly cozy and happy. The mountain of work on my plate is looking at me with a cocked eyebrow. It knows that my reverie won't last long. It can't. 

We're shooting the first "season" of Quilty a week from today. 

This is huge news! Here's the Quilty mission statment:

"Quilty is a weekly quilting show offered online that seeks to inform and inspire the next generation of quilters. Hosted by Mary Fons, daughter of well-known and widely respected quilt educator and author Marianne Fons, Quilty delivers great quilting instruction with humor, zest, and respect for the art of quilting.

Many of today’s newer quilters come to the craft with little to no knowledge of quilting basics; the home economics classes our mothers took were replaced by computer classes when we were in school. Therefore, Quilty will teach rudimentary quilting skills in addition to more advanced techniques, in hopes that after seeing just one episode, every viewer will be excited to make a quilt of her own. Quilty passionately supports independently owned local quilt shops.

With style, class, and a sense of humor, Quilty aims to ignite new passion for the American quilt."


As dates for the first episodes are released, you'll be the first to know. Well, I think you will be. Things are happening so fast, I think I'm probably going to be learning stuff right along with you. But I do know that the first episodes will begin in January, which is really just a few weeks away. I am passionate about Quilty and believe that it's a needed, valuable commodity. If you're reading this, you're already likely a pretty good quilter. But think of the future of the industry. Who will quilt when we're not around? We have to connect with the next generation of quilters where they are, at their level. 

Hint: They are at the computer. And they are at Level One. Maybe Level Zero. 

Here's a photo from the pilot shoot we did a few months ago. I look professional, no? Really, I'm just caught mid-sentence, looking out the window. Maybe I was looking at the mountain of work and feeling optimistic.


I write to you from onboard the M.S. Westerdam, one of the many fancy ships in a fleet owned by Holland America. This is my first-ever cruise and I’m getting quite an education.

There are about 100 ladies here (some have brought their husbands or friends along with them) for the Fons & Porter quilting cruise program. There are about 2,000 guests onboard in total. Aside from a week-long class built around a project – there were two to choose from – the quilters have gotten a big bunch of goodies, the fabric to make the quilt they chose to tackle, and lectures given by my mom. There have been private cocktail parties for us and shopping opportunities, ports of call and lots of good food, of course.

Here’s what I’m loving about this cruise:

1.     Hanging out with my mom (we’re roommates, too)

2.     The room service

3.     Meeting quilters (nicest people in the world)

4.     The margaritas

Here’s what I’m not loving as much:

1.     I’ve been pretty sea-sick most of the time (Lesson: I do not have sea legs. I only have regular legs.)

But it’s okay! I’ve got the sea-band thingies on my wrists and I’m taking the anti-nausea medicine they have onboard. Eating helps, too, which is good because there is food everywhere, all the time.

I’m doing the lecture with mom tonight and I’m excited to get up there. The internet in the middle of the ocean is pretty rickety and slow and I can’t seem to post pictures. But when I get home, I’ll post lots of them. You’ll love the class “action shots” in particular...


Okay, Quilty isn't exactly going on a cruise (yet) but I am! 

My mom, F&P's Love of Quilting editor-in-chief/friend Jean Nolte, and Jodie Davis and I are all headed to Ft. Lauderdale today because we're teaching on a cruise ship! I've never been on a cruise in my 31 years on the planet, so I'm pretty stoked. We'll be teaching and giving talks and hanging out with quilters in the beautiful Caribbean for a whole week, and I plan to do some serious project work. 

Stay tuned for lots of reporting from the open sea. Here are my goals:

- Eat something that I've never tried before, preferably Caribbean local cuisine.

- Begin my mother-in-law's Christmas quilt.

- Get even one-half of a shade more color than I usually have this time of year. (I am a pasty, pasty girl.)

- Swim a little.

- Work on the Quilty show outlines, the e-blasts, and all the other pre-launch business.

- Watch the sunrise, every day.

I'm off to the airport, folks! See you in Florida!

How was your holiday?

We had a wonderful time at the lake house. Mark, Mom, my sisters, and my husband and I all cooked and slept and ate. With all that exhausting work, you'd think there would have been no time for sewing, but we're just kinda superheroes that way. I got the binding on a quilt and Mom and I designed a quick baby quilt, too. Rebecca worked on a project -- she's going to be nipped by the bug for sure -- and everyone felt deeply happy to hear the hum of the sewing machine on the back porch. 

Even the dog. 

Here's a picture of me and Scrabble, Mark and Mom's miniature Golden Doodle. At seven months, she's still a puppy and very much a true love of mine. (Don't worry, I didn't let her get too far with the binding. She's not ready.)

Watch that little paw, Scrabble-do!

I'm inspired by antique quilts. 

The fact that the women on the prairie created, with often little more than a lead pencil, a straight edge, and an idea, these artful designs that they then crafted from cloth is something that dazzles me every time. And I'll say it because it must be said: Because they were women, I suspect, the artistry and the vision they possessed has gone largely under-appreciated. More on that later, I'm sure. 

I pore over the books I have of antique quilts and when I'm in Iowa, I look through my mom's books. She has a lot of books on quilting and because she's such a fan of Civil War era quilts in particular, there are a lot of volumes full of incredible photography that I can sit with for hours. I find inspiration by looking at books of blocks -- Barbara Brackman's comes to mind -- and then figuring out how the blocks might be combined to create a new quilt. This is how many people do it, I know. 

The block that inspired my "Emeralds" quilt is the "Rolling Stone." I saw it and I thought, "Ooh. It looks like cut emeralds." And since I wanted to work with greens, it was the perfect choice. This is what it looks like. Or what three in a row look like:

Don't you think it looks like the top of a diamond or some kind of jewel? I hope to have 40+ different kinds of green fabrics in this quilt, and it's all set with Kona cotton's "Natural" solid, which looks like muslin but has a different feel to it. 

This block isn't particularly complex, but I love the person who designed it anyway, and I love that she named it "Rolling Stone." She was way ahead of any rock n' roll magazine, way ahead of Bob Dylan, too. 

I have a pair of arm-warmers. This is not the same as a long-armer.

Arm-warmers are like detached sleeves from your favorite sweater that come down over your hands with holes for your thumbs. They look like this:

They're very helpful if you ride your bike when it's cold, which I do quite a bit. But arm-warmers are not long-armers, thank goodness, because neither would really be able to do the other's job very well. Long-armers, of course, quilt your quilt tops when you ask them and pay them enough to do so. I've heard over the years that you can quilt a top by hand, by machine, or by check. It's a funny joke because it's true. 

I just got pictures from my latest top, quilted beautifully by LuAnn Downs, my new favorite long-armer. She did my "Curved Log Cabin," a design by Blue Underground that I did in 60+ scrappy yellows and oranges, set against steel gray. Thanks, LuAnn!

 curved log cabin, quilt, mary fons, quilty, scrap quilt, modern quilt 

When we were in Houston 10 or so days ago, I was remembering being a kid with a mom in the quilt industry. 

My father wasn't around, so mom was a single mom, and when she had to go out of town, Gramma stayed with us or a quilting friend from the guild would come for the weekend. That was when we were younger. As my older sister got into her teens and could drive and be responsible enough to take care of any emergencies that might arise, we made it on our own. Mom went and taught all over the country (and then all over the world) so that she could keep us in school clothes and lunch money. 

And she went to Fall Market every year. That was one trip that was on the calendar in perpetuity. We knew that Halloween weekend, Mom would be out of town. When I was at Market a few weeks ago, I heard many people, moms and dads alike, lamenting the fact that they were missing their kids' costumes. They said that little Joe or little Suzy would never forgive them for missing Superman or the Fairy Queen, and I realized that I was a "Market Kid." 

"They'll forgive you," I reassured those who were concerned. "I never really did Halloween, and I turned out okay." 

Indeed, I think I turned out okay, but I really dislike Halloween. I don't know if I disliked it before and that's why it didn't bother me that much that Mom couldn't take us all trick-or-treating or if Mom couldn't ever take us trick-or-treating and that's why I never dress up, decline to go to Halloween parties, and skip the whole thing. It should be mentioned that I went into the theater. So I guess I did like to dress up. But I did it in a professional way, not just for kicks and a Twix bar. 

Hang in there, Market kids. I heard a rumor that the lady who owns and runs Fall Market has booked Halloween weekend for the next five years straight. 


The quilt top is finished!

Coming in at over 1,000 pieces, my Diana Vreeland quilt top is 90% done. Or is it? I need some help, quilters.

I'm not sure what to do about a border on this puppy. I sent a picture to my friends at Love of Quilting (my mom included) and several of them said that they didn't think it needed a border at all. That was surprising to me, but I like the idea. When I eyeballed a solid navy border around it, it looked way too chunky. A pieced border would be okay, but I'm kind of ready to move on. 

What do you think? Border? And if yes, what kind? Or should I got borderless? Is that like making a cake with no icing? Help!

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