Tell us about how you started quilting and how you found modern quilting.
I started quilting about 8 years ago, which surprises some people because my mom is a serious/famous quilter. But as I was growing up with my sisters, quilts were not a hobby: they were Mom’s work. She would go on lecture and teaching trips, she was editor of the #1 quilting magazine in the country, she was always designing and making, etc., etc. I’ve always been creative and artsy, but it wasn’t until I was older that I wanted to make quilts and be part of the quilting legacy in my family. Getting older brings us back home, interestingly. I’m self-taught, for the most part; I learn a lot from the people who are guests on the PBS show I co-host.
I’m a modern quilter only if you take “modern” to mean now. I think that word actually can’t be used in this way, however, because of the genre we have. So I consider myself a “contemporary” quilter but in every other way a quilter can be modern today, I am. I used social media and video to do a lot of work; I lecture and teach and all that business (booking, promo stuff, blog posts, ticket sales, etc.) happen well and quickly because of the Internet. I see fantastic projects that I file away for the future, too.
What does it mean to you to be a modern quilter and a modern woman?
Before I was a quilter, I could imagine that these two could sit next to each other. For me, quilting has always been alive because of my mother’s career. It wasn’t something my grandmothers did, it was something that my single mother did to put food on the table. Mom has always been so capable and was independent for the majority of my younger life (she remarried 15 years ago but I was out of the house by then) so I’ve had a terrific role model for the duration and I don’t take it for granted. I’m single, too, and though I don’t have kids — nor did I ever plan on working in the industry as much as I do — I have an example ahead of me that helps me navigate. So indeed, being modern, independent, creative, and quilt-making all jibe. Very cool.
Which quilt that you have made represents you and why?
I really love Little Black Dress.
My theory is that if you use only fabrics that you love — with thoughtfulness, of course — they will always look great in a single quilt. I’m not always a fan of quilts made from a single line. It’s like decorating your house: too matchy-matchy and your home lacks a bit of soul. When you pick what you love, what you really love, the eclectic mix is usually pretty good because it reflects you.
Little Black Dress is made of Cracker Jack blocks. I use traditional blocks in my quilts exclusively; I like modern quilts very much but don’t make them myself because the antique quilts are what make my heart sing. I use an updated palate, though, and that’s key: I’m not making reproduction quilts. My quilts, then, are modern in that way. Anyway, in LBD, each block is made of a fabric I wish I had in a dress; that’s how much I love the fabric: I’d wear it on my body. The setting is black and red because what goes with any dress, ever, on Earth? Black Louboutins, of course — the black shoe with the red sole.
It makes me feel like a sexy quilter.
I think I’m surprised that the size I made it is exactly what it should be. I like bed-sized quilts the best, but I think more “dresses” would lose the concept. It’s best at 60 x 80 and I think that’s interesting that here, less was more.
How do you connect with other modern quilters? What does it mean to you to have this sisterhood of modern women?
I belong to the DC Modern Quilt Guild and I’ve lapsed my Chicago MQG guild membership, but I’m moving back to Chicago next month and will re-up. I travel so very much for work (several times a month) so unfortunately I am frequently gone for the meetings; I wish this were different and I think I’m going to pull back a bit on travel, so hopefully this will change. I love sewing with chicks.
I share this craft with my mother and friends– and I’m so happy that this is true.
Want to connect with Mary?
To warm the heart, soul, and bedroom, this how-to book, Make & Love Quilts with Mary Fons, features a stunning collection of 12 quilts specifically sized to fit beds (queen and king). Constructed from Mary’s favorite fabrics for a modern aesthetic, the quilts are classified as scrap quilts and have an undeniable beauty. These quilts may take time to finish, but can be completed by any quilter who has passion for sewing no matter what her skill level. So go ahead, make a quilt for someone special because few things say I love you more than a handmade quilt.
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