Free Quilt

posted in: Confessions, Work 43
This is a perfect quilt. Display in Cherokee Heritage Center, Oklahoma. Image: Wikipedia.



It’s not always obvious. But there do come times when you know you’ve broken from something.

For example, you know you’re leaving a job you have your last day. You know you’re breaking from something. When the calendar hits that day, you’re like, “Okay. I am no longer living that particular life.” It’s pretty weird; it’s hopefully good. Another example: You finish school. Or you have your first baby. In these cases, it’s like, “Woah, I just became not a student after being one for X years” or, in the case of the baby, “Woah, I am no longer a person who does not have children.”

I know that was a lot of double negatives up there, but I’m trying to drive home the “I’ve broken from something” point more than the “I feel like I’m starting something new” point.

Well, I have broken from something. And it has to do with quilts.

The moment I decided that I wanted to make a quilt, I became part of the quilt industry. This wasn’t at the urging of my mother. The company that owned my mother’s company were the driving forces behind getting Fons The Younger into the game. I was excited to be a part of it all, make no mistake. I’m not pillorying anyone; it made sense that a Fons daughter who wanted to get into quilting would be fun to bring onboard in a public way. It was fun, most of the time. I made a lot of work I’m very proud of and I built many valuable relationships as a result of my hard work over the years alongside my mother and her former company.

Regardless, my life as a quilter has been one lived under extreme creative pressure. Every quilt I ever made, for almost 10 years, was made for public consumption. My quilt, whichever one it was, was made for a magazine; a show on TV; a show online; my book, etc., etc. I made quilts that I loved, absolutely, and I developed a certain Mary Fons aesthetic, but I only made quilts that had a deadline. I made quilts not purely for love or for fun; not purely for just giving. I made quilts for patterns or tutorials. Always, the questions: What are the learning objectives in the quilt? What fabrics did I use? Did I use a special tool?

That is now over.

I’m making the first quilt I’ve made in two years. (Grad school kept me pretty busy.) My quilt is ugly. It is gloriously, gorgeously unfit for television. It is not acceptable, this quilt. It is mine. It is not for you, and in saying that it is not for you, I hope you can understand that that is the highest honor and praise that I can give you if you are a quilter: You know how important a quilt like this is, you know how important it is to sit at a machine and stitch and let the world fall away. I am making a quilt that will never be on television. It will not be in a magazine you’ve heard of. I’m making a quilt that is simple and perfect and ugly.

I have never loved a quilt more in my life. It is perfect. May you all make a quilt not ready for prime time.

43 Responses

  1. Ann Marie Ott
    | Reply

    The best kind of quilt! Good for you.

  2. Kelly Ashton
    | Reply

    Way to go!! I am really happy for you!! Liberating, isn’t it?!?!? ❤️

    • Mary
      | Reply

      I love you, Kelly Ashton. Thank you. x o x o

  3. Annette Hannah
    | Reply


  4. Cindy
    | Reply

    Yes. Just yes.

  5. Janet
    | Reply


    This makes me think of when you first began cutting up fabric and sewing those bits back together to make new bits. Terrifying and freeing at the same time.

    Thanks for making me smile. Now get back to the fun! 🙂

  6. Debra White
    | Reply

    Love, love, love that you are creating a Quilt for you. Many of us have made quilts for just us so we definitely know what you are sewing for right now. My first Quilt was for pure joy and a gift to my sister. I did not know about a true 1/4” seam; I did not know about points matching; and, I did not do either of these. But, I also didn’t know that some people stress over these factors. Good to not know. To this day, I am grateful to my instructor of that class that made me feel like I created a masterpiece. In my heart…I did.

  7. Judy Hart
    | Reply

    Oh, good for you, really great for you. I’m so happy you can make just you happy.

  8. Carol Bank
    | Reply

    You go, girl! Love you!

  9. Susan
    | Reply

    I have many quilts I’ve made for ‘us’, before my husband passed away he wouldn’t let me give quilts away unless I made them specifically for a person. So I’ve had at least 60 quilts in the house. Since he has been gone for five years I am slowly giving some away, not the special ones tho. And when I pick out fabrics for new quilts I still lean toward his colors. And I have ugly, scrappy ones too.

  10. Laura_H
    | Reply

    Excellent choice! Be crazy free with it. I started making a ‘why did I buy this fabric, get it out of my stash’ quilt and was going to donate it. But then I named it The Ugly Duckling. I’m keeping it because of how much I like it now.

  11. Liza Alton
    | Reply

    How fun! How delightful! Happy creating and happy seeing!

  12. Rachel
    | Reply

    Yay! I’ve always dreaded the idea of my making quilts turning into “work”. Out would lose the joy of creating.

  13. Jen
    | Reply

    This is so good! Yea you! It made me cry a little :,) I’m with you!

  14. Judy Forkner
    | Reply

    I hope you’ll post a Show & Tell picture when you finish it–we quilters love Show & Tell!

  15. Barbara S.
    | Reply

    Have made many quilts for many people, many local quilt shows, many occasions and for charity (which I truly love making). I think it’s time to make one for myself….thank you for your inspiration!

  16. Liz Flaherty
    | Reply

    I’m doing that right now, because no matter how I try, nothing seems to fit on this quilt–yet I love it. Although I realize–I AM an adult–that I didn’t need anyone’s permission to go ahead, I’m still doing it. I hope we both enjoy them.

  17. Kerry
    | Reply

    I always remember Eleanor Burns saying if you drive past the quilt at 30mph and you don’t notice the mistakes – it’s good enough. I also remember Jenny Doan saying her quilts aren’t perfect and they are for family – not for shows. There’s Angela Walters who also makes them to enjoy them and not for perfection. I think we judge ourselves too harshly – we see perfection and makes us feel inadequate, until we see people who openly admit to being more relaxed and therefore happy with whatever the outcome – if it’s perfect then yayyy – if not, it doesn’t matter!
    It is supposed to be a fun thing and something to enjoy and not to fret over a mismatched point – says the person who has OCD about matching things – but learning to let go and finding the more relaxed she is, the better things turn out.
    So welcome back to the yippee I made one I like with all it’s faults and nobody even noticed brigade!

  18. Jane Brown
    | Reply

    There are no ugly quilts!

  19. Susan
    | Reply

    Congratulations!! I am still waiting for my “not for prime time quilt moment”.

  20. Susan Skuda
    | Reply

    Oh Mary how do you always know exactly what to say? I am a newish member of an art quilt group. I absolutely love their creative energy and enjoy being among them…they make me stretch my wings quite gloriously. But my heart is in creating and giving quilts. I always say when asked about what kind of quilts I make that I quilt hugs. I’m currently taking a break from more artistic pursuits to make a quilt for a friend from her late husband’s oxford shirts. It is far from artistic, not remotely perfect, but I know it will be loved. Talk about quilting a hug!

    • Anne Davies Sommerville
      | Reply

      LOVE , “quilting a hug!”

  21. MJ Snyder
    | Reply

    Amen to freedom girl! I’ve made plenty of those… Enjoy the letting go. You’ll be surprised what you come up with next. Here’s to you

  22. Melinda Seegers
    | Reply

    I totally understand. quilters often spend most of their time making quilts for other people—a quilt for a new baby, a quilt for a graduation or a wedding. It never seems to stop. So I made a rule a long time ago; every year I take rime to create one just for me. It really helps, I get to be creative and when that one is finished, I go back to making quilts for others. This is the perfect time to do something for yourself, Mary! Enjoy every stitch!

  23. Terry
    | Reply

    I understand! I am in some quilt block exchange groups, and when I am making blocks for those groups It is so stressful! Usually those blocks do not turn out as good as the blocks I do for another group. The last group we keep the blocks for our own quilt. By the way, I love reading your blog!

  24. Melanie
    | Reply

    I’m the “opposite” of you……MOST of my quilts have been for myself. I’m a relatively new quilter, 2-1/2 yrs, and I have made five quilts for others. I start a quilt because I like the colors and/or the pattern and that means I want to keep it! Happy Breaking Quilt Day to you!

  25. Mary Beth Nissly
    | Reply

    I don’t know you personally but I’m glad you took this huge step in your life. Life is worth living to the max..another step for you. Enjoy and don’t forget to share. It will bring joy to so many others

  26. Sue Slottke
    | Reply

    I am extremely proud of you for striking out on your own path. You will be awesome! GO, MARY!!!

  27. Anne Davies Sommerville
    | Reply

    I hope you are truly enjoying the process. I am a relatively new quilter, in the past 2 1/2 years I have made 28 quilts (with a few more on the way), all for beloved family and friends. I love and am empowered by the “can’t tell from a galloping horse” “finished is better than perfect” etc etc etc. Although I appreciate the art and perfect quilts, I adore the warmth and connection of a pretty quilt made with intention and love.

  28. Glenda
    | Reply

    I’ve been teaching quilting and sewing or 12 years. I quit teaching quilt classes because of the forced sample making. Not the fabric I loved in projects I loved. It stopped being fun. Then I could barely look at my machine so I all but quit teaching the machine classes. I am just now getting back to working on “stuff” just for me. So I wholeheartedly understand what you are saying. Beauty, love and pride is in the eye of the beholder.

  29. Tami Von Zalez
    | Reply

    Every quilter needs to make an ugly! A quilt only a quilter would love. I have made two of them (at least). My current one has a backing of My Little Pony combined with a pineapple print flannel. So beyond kitsch it is cute.

  30. Li
    | Reply

    Long overdue. It will be so much fun.

  31. Karen Morrell Johnson
    | Reply

    Enjoy it, my friend! Another page in the next chapter of your life!

  32. elizabeth a hinze
    | Reply

    It’s funny that you are writing about your ugly quilt. I’m also working on a ugly quilt. It’s going to be KING sized ugly. It’s going on our bed. It will never be in a quilt show. I’m not working on it in my small quilt group. My best buddy has heard about it but she will never see it…
    I’m using only scrap out of my bin… ONLY!! The pattern block has large pieces so I’m scraping together pieces for the pieces. It’s pathetic but I love it!
    I say UGLY Quilts unite!

  33. Judith Coates
    | Reply

    How perfectly stated. It’s so freeing to just sew, to just quilt, to just make yourself smile at what has been accomplished. Thank you Mary for making me remember just that.

  34. Alyce
    | Reply

    Good for you! I quilt only for my own pleasure and enjoy the entire process although parts of it could definitely be improved. Right now I am into scrap quilts and have made several. I guess they could be considered ugly but I think they are beautiful! Carry on!!

  35. Gail S Sevilla
    | Reply

    Great observations! I enjoyed a visit by you to our guild. You are such a warm, lively person. Glad you can take the time to peacefully, and maybe slowly create something of your own. No judgment. Love it!

  36. Cheryl Haupt
    | Reply

    I’ve found that, when my hobbies become my ‘work’, it drains all the joy from them. Happy that you have re-discovered your “bliss”!

  37. Rita Stone
    | Reply

    So freeing and hopefully it is the first of many that you will make for your own enjoyment. And maybe once in awhile you will share. I tell people that I make quilts to be used and loved not for show.

  38. Jan
    | Reply

    Good for you!

  39. Judith Fairchild
    | Reply

    Good for you Mary. Keep going in what you love for yourself and others. May the joy of just doing a quilt return to you. I like what Susan Skuda said she quilts hugs. That’s a great description of my quilts. I do my best but they are hugs for people I love.
    I enjoyed your mother’s show for years she taught me a lot.

  40. Judith Fairchild
    | Reply

    I enjoyed watching your show but I understand burnout when you’re always under pressure to produce. I know I couldn’t do what you’ve done. I’m glad you’re going back to quilting for fun. Enjoy what you’re doing

  41. Cindy
    | Reply

    I have been quilting for almost 50 years tho many i made were displayed at ben franklin store none have been shown and judged
    They are treasured by so many dear friends i have some no one understands why i dont compete but they are only because i needed to make them judging is out of the question
    Yes they are beautiful but they are only shared when i want lol you are so right to quilt your way

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