Well, well, well. 

I'm home in Chicago after three long and glorious days at Fall Market in Houston. First of all, Texas isn't "like a whole other country." It is a whole other country. It feels like it, anyway. Every time I'm in Texas, whether I'm in Houston, Dallas, even Austin, I feel like there's this second America. The people walk and talk differently. Texas has its own infrastructure, its own climate. It's endless, and the hair is bigger. I actually really like it there, but it's weird to know they tried to secede because it really could happen, I think. 

Anyway, Market was pretty amazing. I met so many wonderful quilters, quilt shop owners, industry folk, designers, and saw plenty of friends. Over the years I've met so many amazing industry people and it's really cool to see them all in one place. And I need to say this: I think you'll be hearing about a kinda-sorta big project from me real soon. Here's a clue: The "Quilty" blog is a small part of the bigger picture. That's all I can say. I really, really want to say more but I refuse to count my chickens before they've been slathered in Texas BBQ sauce. You know?

I'm home and it feels so good. Market may be fun, but you really have to be "on" the whole time. The smiles are 100% genuine and the chit-chat is sincere, but it's pretty tiring to do that for three days straight while walking around an absolutely enormous convention center. My husband cleaned the bathroom and bought me a new dish rack and these two simple gestures made me fall in love with him all over again. Seriously, that's all it takes.

And what was in my inbox when I got home? Pictures from my longarmer! She's got two quilts of mine and the first one is done! Second one is almost done! Yaaaaay! Binding, here I come!

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Soo awesome. LuAnn Downs, ladies and gentlemen!


 

 

Hello, quilters. 

As time has gone on, I have done more and more co-hosting with my mom on her PBS quilting show, "Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting." For several decades now, my mom has been half of the "Fons & Porter" duo. She and Porter -- that's the other half -- made quite the names for themselves in the quilting industry. They're titans, really. Titans with thimbles. A while back, Porter decided that she wanted to spend more time with her grandchildren and play more golf. She was able to retire and chose to do so, a decision that wasn't sudden or unexpected, really. Time marches on and the woman had worked hard for years -- she earned the right to hang up her professional needle and thread.

When the producers of LOQ sat down to figure out what would be next for the show when the Porter half eventually moved on, it seemed pretty clear that:

a) I was becoming quite the little quilter
b) folks in the quilt world seemed to like me
c) mom and I had done the show together before, as I 
had appeared as a guest several times already
d) if one Fons was good, two might be completely awesome

And so it was decided that I would come on for at least a few series as the co-host of the show. I was thrilled. Mom and I love working together. In fact -- and I hope I'm not going to get in trouble for putting this out there -- Mom was unsure of <i>her</i> future with the show until I came onboard. She's kind of interested in retiring at this point too, you know. But once we started taping the show together, she was hooked. Totally. The crew, the floor director, the producers, the IPTV people -- we all have a blast working on the show and it was clear immediately that it was a new age. 

The good news is that we get lots and lots of emails and letters from quilters all over the country that say they really like the shows with Mom and me. Some of them/you even seek me out online personally and email me directly to tell me that you like what I'm doing and that you're happy to see me on the program. Really, most of the time the mail is good and it's so very, very helpful for me to hear that. Because I'll tell you, it ain't easy being the new kid. It's a lot of pressure and I have a lot to learn.

It doesn't help when I get an email that is not nice, which does happen from time to time. I got one today, which is why I'm bringing all this up. No one emails me to tell me I'm a terrible person, but one lady told me that as a retired costume designer, my clothes were all wrong. Another said that on the show she watched recently I mentioned my manicure too much -- which is true, in fact, because it was the second show I ever did and I was nervous as hell -- and several have asked me flat out when Porter would be back. That was the gist of the one today.

Quilters are wonderful people, in general. They are usually a titch more generous, kind, creative, and compassionate than the average person. But they're human. They like what they like and change can be frightening -- especially if the quilter facing change is over 65 or so, and it happens that many quilters today indeed hover somewhere around that age. Some of them won't like a young-ish upstart like me coming in and messing with their Saturday TV ritual. They'll continue to miss Porter and tsk-tsk at the Fons & Fons menu we're offering them. Some will stop watching the show and that is too bad. 

But others will start watching. I believe this like I believe in the other good things that are going to happen as a result of this change. 

Why? Because "Love of Quilting" is a really good show and I honestly think it's getting better. Fons & Porter had been doing their thing a long time. Without a change, a freshening up, a new guard to liven up the crowd, perhaps the show would've become stale as it went on. Perhaps it already was stale. All I know is that I am full of energy and enthusiasm for the American quilt and this thing is my family business, people. I'm like the next Godfather in the quilt mafia. The art form is in my blood and I feel passionately about its future, what I can contribute to the industry at large and my own community and family. I love working with my mother, I love working in Iowa twice a year, and I love to teach quilting techniques and make projects that inspire people all over the country. 

I can't be Porter. I can't be Fons The Elder, either. I can only be myself, and I will continue to be myself until my last breath, whether I'm blogging on PaperGirl, co-hosting a television show, spending the weekend in New York, making theater in Chicago, working, playing, or somehow otherwise engaged. 

Thank you, quilters, for watching the show. Keep watching.

[This was reposted, with permission of course, from a PaperGirl entry for 10-28-10 at www.maryfons.com]

 

I spent the weekend in New York City, which means that I spent too much money. Here are a few things that came home with me:

- a striped Marc Jacobs dress that was so on sale, buying it was almost like stealing
- fall shorts (!)
- lots and lots of fabric

I visited The City Quilter, a wonderful quilt shop on W. 25th St., and also The Purl Bee, a beautiful shop in SoHo. If you get to NYC often or if you'll be going anytime soon, you simply must visit these shops. The women were so helpful and friendly and the New York City quilt vibe is exciting. The projects on the walls are tre interesting and fun, and there are always delicious fabrics for the perusing.

I'll post more pictures when I get them onto my computer. For now, here's one of me - yes, in my new striped dress -- digging through little fat eighth bundles at The City Quilter. Note the awesome patchwork behind my head!

 

Did you know that the gorgeous, talented, haunted Gloria Vanderbilt went through a big patchwork quilt phase?

She did, in the late seventies, I think. New York Magazine has a nice profile of her this week. I'm not sure the pictures of Gloria actually <i>wearing</i> a crazy quilt are on the web version, but the magazine clearly shows her swaddled in patched velvet.

Ah-ha! Here's the picture of our girl Gloria, who, by the way, is Anderson Cooper's mother. 

I shall now go to yoga and then come home to continue patching my pieces. I'm having a little trouble abutting the seams, I'll be honest. I pressed toward the dark, but that doesn't actually work when you're doing the layout I'm doing. It's got to be one this way, one that way, since I'm not flipping anything upside down. Does that make sense? 

Live, sew, learn.

What would I do without my quilting mentors?

Not only do they share their expertise, their ideas, and their shortcuts, they share their scraps. Without my mom and my good friend Colette, I would never have been able to get all these glorious pinky fabrics in my Diana Vreeland quilt. It's not a complex quilt. In fact, it's all just half-square triangles. But I love it, and I love the way the blues and pinks are directional -- all the blue on the bottom, all the pink on top. 

I laid out a few of my pieces on the coffee table to show off before they start being piece together. Oh, all that glorious pink...

 


 

And there's a nice picture of my living room, too. That's the morning tea from the day I took this picture. It was really excellent. I'm a little embarrassed about the yoga towel hanging on the screen in the background, but I'm pleased with how you can't see any threads on the carpet... 

My list of heroes is short and changes every now and then, but one name that has lasted for many years is Diana Vreeland.

Vreeland was a columnist and editor in the fashion world whose joie de vivre and general gusto and panache was legendary. The diminutive woman lived large in the hearts, minds, and careers of those who shaped fashion along with her from the 1940s through the 1970s and beyond. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute owes much of its existence to her, and her name evokes class, and style, and fun. 

She is ridiculously quotable. She said things like, "Blue jeans are the most beautiful things since the gondola," and "The only real elegance is in the mind; if you've got that, the rest really comes from it." This is style, people. This is class. And when Vreeland visited the east and saw the explosion of colors in the clothes and palaces there, she exclaimed with her typical enthusiasm and joy, "Pink is the navy blue of India!"

That's the inspiration for my latest quilt. I've been collecting scraps of any and all pink that I can get my hands on and got several yards of a great Kona Cotton navy. I'm doing a big top of just half-square triangles. Half will be scrappy pink, half will be navy. Simple as that. The squares will be directional, so that the navy is all on the bottom and the pinks all on the top half of the squares, which will finish 2". 

It's been wonderful to find all the pinks. When I thought of Diana Vreeland and her "Pink is the navy blue of India," I thought that I should combine the two. If they both function in the same way to a style maven like Vreeland, they'll probably function pretty well in my quilt. I'll post pictures as they come. 

Cheers, Ms. Vreeland. You're still having an effect. 

 

I found another one!

Perusing a stack of cooking magazines this morning at my mom's house, I came upon another instance of a patchwork pattern in an unlikely place. In the January 2010 issue of Food & Wine, Top Chef judge Gail Simmons is wearing an apron printed with a zillion little triangle units. I think there's a four-patch in there somewhere, but it's hard to find the block. 

Here's a detail:

And here's Gail's perky little face in a wider shot. I didn't like her when I first started watching Top Chef, but she's growing on me. If she keeps going for the homespun, patchworky look, I'll like her even more.

The gals over at Totally Stitchin' have a very cool contest going on right now. If you could use a shiny new sewing machine -- and we could all use a shiny new sewing machine, now couldn't we? -- then check this out. 


The contest is called Frank-N-Tote, which is totes adorbs. The goal is to create a Halloween-inspired totebag that shows off your embellishment abilities. Using fabric, embroidery, beads, paints, fusible webbing, etc., the Totally Stitchin' people want to see your best work. From what I can tell by reading the rules, the more creative (and grand) you get with your project, the better chances you'll have in the contest. 

And yes, the two (!) winners will receive a brand new Grace sewing machine, which is pretty amazing. You should do this.

Click here for all the info on the contest and good luck, lil' pumpkins!

 

I'm in Des Moines taping the latest series of Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting. It's the 1700 series, chock full of fantastic content and sweet projects. Mom and I are having a blast. 

We were in the middle of filming an episode on Thursday and I had a revelation. I was holding a rotary cutter, smiling for the camera when I realized, "Woah. I get to work with my mom." Obviously, I have been aware that I've been working with my mom for several years now, but it hit me last week how truly fortunate I am to be able to do that. It's not something most people do. Mom and I get along so well and our energy is through the roof when we're together. The shows have been easy as pie and I'm excited for everyone to check them out. 

And speaking of checking stuff out, I snapped a picture of one of the unsung heroes of the TV set: The countdown clock. Without this little guy, we would have no way to determine how long we have left in the episode. It's a backstage implement that we would be lost without. 

Way to go, clock. 

 

I'm really working hard to figure out the layout of the Quilty blog. Please be patient. Me and HTML have a tumultuous relationship. 

Love,

Mary

I'm seeing patchworky designs in unlikely places -- and I like it. 

Here are a few recent examples:

This is a page from this month's Real Simple magazine. They suggest framing colorful bits
of fabric for wall decor. It's like fussy cutting on a larger scale, really.

This is one of my favorite examples. Free People, a lovely fashion label that I often wear, is using this tag on a lot of their items this fall. That, my friends, is a quilt block.

I flipped this picture a zillion times and it's still upside down. But it doesn't matter. I can spot a Mariner's Compass and pieced sashing a mile away and backwards... And on chick lit!

When my mom started quilting, the American Bicentennial was what really got her attention. I don't know if the Great Recession will do it, or if Quilty will do it (!) or if the hipster-make-stuff-with-your-hands-again trend will do it, or if it will be something else entirely, but I'm hoping the graphic artists who used these ideas and designs are inspired by quilts more often. 

My dream is that Michelle Obama makes a quilt with the girls, maybe for Quilts of Valor. If she does it, you can bet a lot of people who never thought about quilting will suddenly catch the bug. I don't think everyone is a born quilter, but I think there are a lot of nascent quilters out there who need a boost. 

How about you? Have you seen patchwork popping up in unlikely places? I'd love to know...


I had a longarm lesson!

It was awesome. Here are some pictures of me attempting this art form at American Professional Quilting Systems in Des Moines, IA. My teacher, Dawn Cavanaugh, is truly an incredible longarmer and I couldn't have had a better teacher.mary fons, quilty, longarm, cavanaugh, apqs
Seriously, you guys. This is really fun... The photo below is of my bee. (It's kind of a bee.)

mary fons, quilty, apqs, cavanaugh, longarm

Last night I sat on the couch at my mom's house, binding this quilt:

memories, quilty, mary fons, patchwork

This is a picture from back in July when I was still working on the top, of course. I hadn't put the borders on yet. Once I had it done, I sent it off to be longarmed by the truly talented and gifted Debbie Treusch. What she did with this quilt will make your jaw drop to your pumps. It's incredible, really. She took a quilt that was pretty awesome and made it a work of art. 

But the quilt ate my house, and for that I may never forgive it. It's huge. It's like 100 x 1,000 or something. Each cross block has 73 pieces in it and there are 20 of those; the setting pieces have fewer pieces but are just as big. The instructions, which I got from one of my mom's books, Fat Quarter Friendly, called for an inner border, but to be totally honest by the time I got to the borders, I was ready to send this puppy to bed. So it would be even bigger, but I ran out of juice. 

Here's a picture of me, without makeup mind you, being eaten up. Seriously, I couldn't get around it to get to the kitchen.

 

memories, mary fons, quilty, patchwork, cross block

 

I'll post pictures soon of the finished quilting and the binding, and the finished quilt, which should be done tonight*. Perhaps I'll find my missing sock? And that important file folder of documents? And my favorite lip gloss? There are all kinds of things missing since I began this little production number...

*Look for "Memories" to be featured on an upcoming episode of Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting!

So I made this little quilt. 

quilt, peace, fons, mary, patchwork, sawtooth, star

It's not little, actually. It's at least nap size, and I'd give the measurements of it except that it's folded nicely in a totebag right now, waiting patiently to be longarmed. The quilt is a simple design I got from Katherine Bell's adorable book, Quilting For Peace: Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time. I knew when I saw the pattern that I wanted to make it, and that decision -- that moment that I said, "Yes, that one, now" is a crucial moment in any quilter's life. 

For a long time, I worked with my mom on quilts for her PBS show, "Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting". The quilts are awesome, and I enjoyed every project I helped with or made, but it's not up to me to make choices in terms of content. There are people with a lot more experience figuring that stuff out. But for some reason, my passion for quilting didn't totally bloom until a year or so ago. How could that be, when I've been around quilts all my life, have worked closely with my mom for several years? 

Here's how: Every quilter needs to make the quilts she wants (or he wants) to make. 

Mom says so herself. Until a quilter can put her stamp on a project from pattern to binding, I don't think quilting can really take hold. I have happily worked on projects as a wingman for years now, but until I realized that I could make whatever I wanted to make, in the way I wanted to make it, I just didn't catch the bug. 

The quilt above is a quilt I saw and knew I loved. In Katherine's book, the quilt is done with gray and blues. I liked the Kona Cotton lipstick reds I found at Quiltology in Chicago, and the rest is history. 

sawtooth star, fons, patchwork, peace, katherine bell, patchwork

This is a test post. 

It's not trying to be anything other than a test post. It has very few desires. It just wants to work properly. It doesn't need to be flashy. It's not particularly rich in content, though there is one image. The image is of a monkey, clearly exhausted by the possibilities of the fabric under his chin. exhausted by the possibilities of the fabric under his chin.

 

This is my monkey, collapsed onto a pile of fabric. Or is he dreaming?

 

This picture of my sock monkey, Pendennis, would have a caption if I could figure out how to write a caption. I have some work to do, but this test post is, for now, doing its job. Good job, test post!

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