Something pretty cool happened last week: I got to talk to Ken Burns about his quilt collection.
If you got to talk to Ken Burns about his quilt collection, what would you ask him? After you asked him, would you hang up the phone and fall over on the floor and replay every second of the conversation in your mind to recall moments when you sounded like a dork or loser? Upon discovering that you probably did sound dorky at least at one point, did you console yourself that at least you interviewed Ken Burns??
That’s how it went for me.
Last weekend, Team Quiltfolk went to the Ken Burns quilt exhibit in Lincoln, Nebraska and we have worked tirelessly for the past 7-8 days (yes, I worked on it while working on my thesis) to bring you this free — FREE! — Quiltfolk Exclusive. It’s a 28-page, online-only PDF that you can by clicking this link and friends, it is very, very good. It’s been making the rounds on social media, but if you don’t use it much (like me), I hope this blog post gets to you.
Ken Burns was so nice. And the quilts are so beautiful. And Quiltfolk is so cool. I want this kind of wonderful experience all the time, this kind of blissful story to cover, but I know better. Some days, you just like, eat toast and you have to work on less-fun stuff.
We have to, have to call our members of congress and tell them to save Net Neutrality. As your favorite blogger, as your buddy, as Pendennis’s mom, I beg you to read this and make that call.
Right away, you must understand that saving Net Neutrality is not a political issue. Saving Net Neutrality has nothing to do with who you voted for for president. It’s got nothing to do with tax cuts, gun control, or the election in Alabama today.
Saving Net Neutrality is about saving ourselves from very, very big businesses that do not care about us. They do not care about me. They do not care about you. The only thing these fat cats care about is making money — all the money — and we have to stop them. At least on this, at least today.
“Mary,” you say — and you’re so annoyed because I promised to talk about the shampoo I found for my wimpy hair — “I’ve heard about this Net Neutrality thing but I’m sorry, I don’t totally get what it is or why it’s a big deal.”
I know. I totally know. This stuff is so complicated. I didn’t get it at first, either. Let me try to break it down in my own words.
Net Neutrality (sometimes called “network neutrality” or “net equality”) is the principle that internet service providers like Verizon or AT&T — governments, too — should treat all data on the internet equally. It means that pages/content won’t load faster or slower because someone decides it should. The neutrality of the net also means that if you want to find information, you’ll find it eventually. No one is blocking you from seeking and finding things if you really want to find them. We all take this access for granted because it’s always just been like this. The internet was designed to be free to roam. Think buffalo.
Let me make it practical. You don’t have to pay more to load Facebook than you do to load PaperGirl. Me n’ Zuckerberg, we load at the same speed. That’s important. All websites, like people, are created equal — or they should be.
Let’s get more detailed, though, with a different example. Let’s say BigCrafty decides to offer longarming services. Well, right now, BigCrafty can’t pay Verizon to load faster than your friend’s longarming website, because — wait for it — the net is neutral like that. It’s a level playing field. Yeah, BigCrafty can buy ads and do pop-ups, but you know you’re being advertised to and you know how big BigCraffty is, that they can afford to get all up in your bidness. A neutral, level playing field means is that your friend can, in theory, compete with BigCrafty because this is a great country. This freedom your friend has to make her longarming business a success (from her freakin’ basement!) is what makes this country great, again and again, every day.
Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced plans to dismantle Net Neutrality. What that means is that powerful, huge, “too big to fail” internet providers like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T will have free reign to slow down sites they don’t like. Just because. They will be able to totally and completely block stuff out of your google searches, just like that. Zap. It means that these icky-poo companies that do not care about us will be able to slice and dice the internet into slow and fast lanes. Why? Because that would make them so, so, so much money. Because we would then have to pay to play, like we do with cable. And your friend’s longarming business? Forget it. It’ll load slower and slower and people will just go with BigCrafty because BigCrafty loads instantly. Because BigCrafty’s in bed with Verizon. Because a guy knows a guy at the FCC. Because the more little guys they squish, the more people see BigCraftsy, faster, and then the fat cats get their bonuses because the bottom line starts looking terrific. Better than ever.
You and I won’t make that money. Verizon will make it all. They will not share. Do not, under any circumstances, get that twisted. Not now. The stakes are too high on this.
I hope I explained it okay. There’s a lot more to it, I know, in terms of ramifications and how it all works. But these are the basics and you know — you know — I have come to you with “issues” so rarely. So this must be really important, right? Right. It is. I care about the internet because the internet is how you and I know each other, day in, day out on the ol’ PG. It’s just a blog. But it’s us. I don’t want Comcast’s grubby fingers all over my monkey, you guys, and I don’t want them getting in the way of what we have.
Find out who your representative is with this great little website: https://callyourrep.co and get their phone number. Then call them. Today. They’re supposed to vote on this thing on Thursday. We gotta get ahead of it. When the office of your rep picks up the phone, just tell them “Save Net Neutrality” or “stop the FCC from dismantling Net Neutrality,” or, “Save Net Neutrality or the monkey dies.”
Anything. Say anything. Whatever you do, save the internet — now.
There’s so much pain right now. All over. On our shores. In our backyard. Buy a quilt and send your love and energy to a place where it’s darker than where you are now, maybe. And if it’s dark where you are, hang in there.
All the info you need should be in the auction, but I’ll do my very best to answer questions.
Wow! Setting up an auction is a lot of work. But it’s exciting. It’s actually one of the most exciting things I’ve done in a long time, I have to say. Helping feels great. (It sure feels better than doing nothing.)
In case you missed it: I’m going to sell ten quilts to raise money to benefit those down in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who have had their lives turned upside down as a result of Hurricane Maria. I’m donating all the money raised to Americares.
And this post is going to serve the same purpose: to give more details. Instead of rushing through this and going off half-cocked, I’ve decided to start the auction at 7:00 p.m. CST, October 2, 2017; I will post the link to the auction here on the ol’ PG at that time! The auction will last two days, until October 4, 7:00 p.m. I’m hoping it won’t take that long to sell off quilts for hurricane relief, but who knows? Maybe no one wants homemade quilts by Mary Fons with help from Pendennis and simultaneously help their brothers and sisters in need… Cough! Cough!
A few more important things:
There’s a quilt I’ve decided to auction that is one of those should-I-or-shouldn’t-I situations. But I’ve decided on “should.” There’s a quilt I have called “Memories.” It was one of the first quilts I made. We featured it on Love of Quilting (Episode 1709), which some may remember because I talked about how I had actually lost three of the blocks from the quilt! I made this quilt 10 years ago and… It’s gorgeous. It’s really, really gorgeous, y’all, and it’s huge, at 90 x 90. Dawn Cavanaugh longarmed it and it’s just truly phenomenal, almost show quality.But… Well, it’s time. I want to help people and share the love of this quilt more than I want to have that quilt on the back bed, sitting under other quilts, you know? It’s done what I needed it to do for me. It’s given to me. Now, it can give to you, and give to other people. This one is a take-a-deep-breath-and-go-for-it quilt. It’s scary to give till it hurts, I gotta say!
I’ve decided that all the quilts will have a “Buy Now” price in case someone is really freakin’ out to get one. I don’t think this will happen (Jinny Beyer/Nancy Crow I am not — and they command higher prices than that!!!) but I figure there could be someone out there who wants to help people and wants a quilt and why not give the option? Can’t hurt, I guess, but I set it super high so that it will encourage people to bid and have fun with this.
Will you spread the word? I know, I know: The more people know about this, the more people you’ll be competing with to win! But remember: The point is to raise the most money possible, so please share about this auction on social media and on your various phone trees? We can do this together, and the lights are still off in Puerto Rico. They need us all.
Texas. Florida. Mexico. The Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico. There have been so many devastating weather events lately, I spend a good deal of time feeling depressed and frightened and useless when these reports come in. And I feel guilty, too, because what can I do? Does $25 to the Red Cross really help? Should I go to Texas, to Mexico and try to sandbag or something? But how does that even work and won’t I just be in the way? What if I make everything worse and what if I put myself in danger on top of everything else? You probably recognize at least some of this unhappy thinking which, sadly, is 100% ineffective in all directions.
This morning, after clicking through the (more bad) news, my brow furrowed and I sank onto the couch with a groan. Our countrymen and countrywomen in Puerto Rico find themselves facing a humanitarian crisis that could threaten the stability of the region for a long, long time. It’s chaos down there and can you just imagine being a little kid down there right now? How scary it must be? All of a sudden, thinking about that, I just got fed up. I decided that nope, not today, no more stewing, no more gnashing of teeth and groaning and doing nothing. Today, I decided, today I would act, I would do an actionable thing to help someone out there on that island. That’s a U.S. territory, dammit, and more needs to be done.
I have come to understand that what is very helpful in a crisis situation like the one in Puerto Rico, the best thing for me to do is to send money — but I simply do not have extra right now. So I thought, “How could I raise some money?” Walking to and fro on my carpet, sipping my tea (I’m back on tea, coffee’s for the birds, at least in the morning), I remembered that I’ve been needing to make good on something I say to hundreds of people all over the country: Quilters who make lots of quilts should give lots of quilts away. “Don’t keep your quilts in a stack in a closet,” I say, sometimes even shaking my fist. “Give your quilts to people who want or need them! Go make more quilts! You will, anyway! Give it away, people!”
“Mary, Mary, wait a second,” you say. “Calm down.” And then, scratching your attractive head, you ask me why I’m on about quilts when I said I wanted to send money to Puerto Rico.
Wait for it!
Despite my fervent “Give away your quilts” message, which I do stand by — fervently! — I find myself with a quilt surplus right now. Some of these quilts are from my book, Make + Love Quilts, available at fine quilt shops everywhere; some are from the days of Quilty magazine; one or two were “just-for-funs”; one is a sample I made for the fabric line. I’ve given away other quilts over the years but somehow I haven’t yet given these quilts away and you know what? It’s time to turn them into money for people in need.
I’m going to auction off ten (10) quilts tomorrow, October 1st, 2017, and all the money will go to Americares to benefit victims of Hurricane Maria. This is going to be fun and awesome. Ten people will get their very own Mary Fons quilt and hundreds of people will get at least a little bit of help down in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico! And I’ll have more room in my house! This is great!
All of this will go down tomorrow. No, I don’t know exactly what time. I have homework to do and I have to set up this online silent auction thing. All will be revealed, don’t get antsy. Actually, no: Do get antsy! Be excited to buy a quilt from me and help so many people! But because I know there are burning questions, here are a few details for now:
Where’s the money going?
I spent a lot of time looking at which organization I want to send money to and Americares wins. They recently air-lifted $1.8 million in food and medical supplies to the Virgin Islands, and that was just another day at the office, if you will. Their website says: “Hurricane Maria: Emergency Relief Fund; For every $10 you donate today, we can provide $200 in aid — that’s the power of giving to Americares.” Think of the math, you guys: If I sell ten quilts at a minimum bid of $100 and no one bids a penny more, that’s $1000! By Americares’ math, we’re raising $20k, y’all! We can do it!
Will you be offended if I ask you how we know you’ll donate the money and not just spend it on candy corn pumpkins for Pendennis?
Nope, I won’t be offended. I actually have thought of this already and am going to make this part really fun: I’m going to make a video of me writing the check and sending the donation to Americares! Pendennis will come with me and Sophie will probably film it. (Sophie, will you please film the video?)
I don’t live in the U.S. and am wondering if this matters?
I guess I’d better limit participation to folks in the continental United States. But actually, if you want to pay the shipping of a quilt to your homeland, go for it! But you gotta pay shipping because that will eat into the donation.
What size are these quilts? And what else can you tell me about them?
The quilts are all lap- or queen-size. All the measurements will be listed on the silent auction thingy I’m going to try and make tonight. All quilts will have a label on the back that gives the date and says that I made it, you bought it, and together, we did something to help our brothers and sisters in the human race.
Is my payment tax deductible? I’m not a 501(c)3, so I think…no. I’m not sure, but I think what’s happening here is that you’re simply buying something and instead of me taking your money and spending it on candy corn pumpkins for Pendennis, I’m giving it away!
But what about this and that and how does this work and Mary Fons!!!
I have never done this before and I don’t know what I’m doing. Please do not get mad at me if I screw something up. We are doing this together. This is not about us, it’s about helping people who have lost everything, everything. That said, I’m going to try and make this easy and fun. Gulp.
HOT TIP: If you don’t subscribe to this blog, I highly, highly recommend doing that now. Because when you subscribe, you get an email in your email box whenever I post a post. Like, instantly, you get an email when there’s a new PaperGirl and that means you’ll instantly know when this whole thing goes live tomorrow. Your email is safe with me; even if I wanted to “sell” your name, I wouldn’t have the first idea about how to do that. Sell what? To whom?
If you have never plopped down on the chaise lounge or settee of your choice and watched a Ken Burns-Lynn Novick documentary, I hereby give you the rest of the summer to watch as many/as much of them as you can.
The first film that made me do it? Ken Burns’s The Civil War.
If you don’t believe a 10-hour historical documentary from 1990 could possibly be as gripping as the lastest Netflix click-bait series, you haven’t seen The Civil War. It’s one of the most exceptional documentaries ever put to film and, I think, one of the most exceptional films ever made, period. The scope of the project, the genius editing, the way the director brought the material out of myth and into reality to show how that the truth, the facts, are far more agonizing and beautiful and surprising than the myths could ever be — oh, The Civil War just a masterpiece!
And all the Burns-Novick films are like that, they really are. (The whole team has won Oscars, Emmys, Nobel Prizes — I think? — and on and on, so you don’t have to take my word for it.) From Baseball to The Roosevelts to Jazz to The Central Park Five and all the dozens of others coming out of Florentine Films, these documentaries tell the story of this nation. I, for one, am interested in all of it.
This is all coming up because I was doing some research and realized that the next Burns-Novick doc — which I have literally heard about for years — is finally dropping on September 17, 2017 on PBS stations nationwide. That’s just over a month from now! The topic and the title of the film?
This picture has been 10 years in the making. Ten years. Guess how long it is? Eighteen hours. Eighteen! I can’t wait, though saying “I can’t wait to watch the events surrounding one of the most painful times in my country’s history” sounds wrong. But I know I’ll learn so much, that I’ll cry, that my faith in humanity will be reaffirmed. Burns said in an interview that war brings out the worst in people, but that it strangely reveals the best, too.
Check your local listings. All the early reviews say it might be his best film yet. Oh, and become a member of your local PBS station! I’m a member of Iowa Public Television and the WTTW affiliate here in Chicago. When I donate to PBS, I really do help cool quilting shows (heh) and docs like Vietnam get made.
Dear (specifically Illinois and maybe upper Indiana as well as lower Wisconsin) Friends:
We need to hang out. Good thing for us, this can happen on Thursday night if you come over to Wilmette.
“Wilmette?” you say, scratching your elbow. “I’m not far from Wilmette.”
Well, back by popular demand — hurray! — I’m giving a lecture for the devastatingly talented and almost painfully beguiling Illinois Quilters (IQI) in Wilmette, which, as you rightfully point out, is not far from you. The guild meeting begins 6:30 p.m.; my lecture starts at 7:00 p.m. It all goes down at Temple Beth Hillel, 3220 Big Tree Lane, Wilmette. It’s a lovely venue.
There will be quilts. There will be a lecture called “10 Things I Know About Quilting & Life (I Think.)” It’s one of my favorite lectures to give and I’ve refreshed and updated it specifically for this gig. I love those IQI ladies and I fully intend to give them — which is to say you — a terrific evening full of tips, stories, laffs, and maybe even some tears. Me, I like to run the gamut: If you haven’t gotten misty and then laughed through the mist at one of my lectures, I have failed. And I’m simply not in the mood to fail. So there you go. I shall give Thursday evening my dead-level best. Guaranteed.
“But surely this is astronomically expensive, this Mary Fons event,” you think to yourself, and you consider going into the kitchen for more ice cream to assuage the pain of feeling left out and low on cash.
Well, get a load of this, Eeyore: Admission for non-members is just 10 bucks! This is because the IQI ladies are awesome, obviously. You can’t afford not to hop in the car and listen to a good book on tape and then hop out at the venue and be entertained by a fake blonde with a sewing machine.
I’m bringing books to sell and would love to autograph one for you. We can take pictures, shoot the breeze, talk quilt turkey — which would be Turkey red, amirite?? Hey-o! (Just a lil’ quilting joke for my hardcore quilters out there, no big deal.)
I heard about my 20th high school reunion through the grapevine.
Plans have been brewing on Facebook but I’m not on my personal Facebook page often enough to have seen about it much — not enough, anyway, to think deeply about going. It’s not for an interest or even an excitement; it’s just an out of sight, out of mind thing, you know?
But yesterday, my oldest friend on this planet, Sarah, who knew me before we could speak literal words, emailed me to ask if I was going. Then, my sister Rebecca sent me a Snapchat. In it, she said, “You should go. I went to my 10 year and it was super fun!”
I do not have a good excuse to stay away. And I have an ever-mounting pile of reasons to go. So I’m gonna get an Amtrak ticket to Iowa. And I’m going to my 20th high school reunion in Winterset. It’s next weekend. I can’t wait.
In a few minutes, here, I’ll walk up the real-life Michigan Avenue to the real-life Tribune Tower to sit in the real-life spinny chairs in the real-life ground floor radio studio and be a real-life guest on Rick Kogan’s radio show!
The “real-life” qualifier has to be stuck in there to keep me from thinking I’m dreaming because the following things are beyond dreamy to me:
The Tribune Tower
Spinny chairs (well, this one isn’t that special but still special!)
Being a guest on a radio show
Rick Kogan is a Chicago broadcasting legend and I get to be on his show tonight. The show is from 9-11 p.m. I’m not sure when I’ll come on, if I’ll be on for a little while or a long while. But I’m gonna talk about quilts and stuff and if you want to listen, WGN is at 720 on the AM dial. I think the show will be streamed online but I don’t know how so I can’t link you! It might get posted later.
It has just occurred to me that I don’t know if I will get a copy of this after it’s over. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’ll just be a dream come true and then I’ll wake up.
Tune in if you can. See ya on the radio!
Postscript: Here’s the link to the show. It was so, so fun. I adore Rick Kogan and you’ll see why. Looks like he’s gonna do a follow-up article and have me back real soon. Hurray!
I met with my Fiber & Material Studies professor to discuss my research project — and she loved it. My research is good enough to be entered into the Textile Resource Center’s database! I’m over the moon about that. I’m a contributor to the study of patchwork at the School of the Art Institute! How cool is that?? And yes, I’m looking into how I can post my investigation as a free download; it’s got too many moving parts to just post as a blog entry. Talk about a good feeling.
Okay, it’s event announcement time.
Guess what’s happening next month in my very own town? Why, International Spring Quilt Festival, that’s what! Yes, on April 6th, 7th, and 8th, the fine folks at Quilts, Inc. will descend upon the Windy City and bring all manner of quilt gorgeousness, classes, exhibits, vendors, and friends to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. The venue is out by O’Hare; it’s a nice place, the food is actually pretty decent and.. There was something else that I was going to tell you about but I just can’t rem — wait! I know what it is!
I’m going to do two book signings and two tours! Of the “Beauty In Pieces” scrap quilt exhibit that I co-curated! I knew there was something. Here’s the scoop:
On Friday, April 7th and Saturday, April 8th, I’m going to do a book-signing and meet n’ greet from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Then, at 1:30 (both days), I’ll lead a little tour through the “Beauty In Pieces: Scrap Quilts for the 21st Century” exhibit. The tour will run 30-45 minutes, I imagine, but as I’ve never done it before! That sounds about right.
As to where this will be, I’m pretty sure the table for the books and things will be inside the quilt show part of Festival, but I know for sure that your show program will tell you exactly (and any of the helpful show people will help you find me, too.)
Will you come see me? I’d love that. This lil’ Quilt Scout will sign a book for you, we’ll take some selfies. And load up your phone with pictures of your quilts because I love to see quilts on phones. Seeing quilts on phones is like, my favorite thing. I’m 100% serious. Quilts are perfect for modern technology.
Maybe I’ll even bring Pendennis! Woah. He’s never come with me on something like that… I’ll do it. It’s a local gig. He can handle the trip. And if a cloth monkey can get his tushie to Festival, certainly you can, too.
My bag is being packed for my trip to Berlin and I said I was going to tell you about some of the mail that has started to come in, but I realize that I need to do this first!
This year, I have the distinct pleasure of speaking this year for the kinda-sorta legendary Creative Living Lecture Series in Woodstock, Illinois. I’ll be there next week, January 19th. There are 400 seats in the theater and I have learned that they are almost sold out for the show! But there are still tickets left to come see me next Thursday, so if you can make it, get yourself a ticket and let’s hang out. Here’s where you can get the ticket online, or you can call or go here:
WOODSTOCK OPERA HOUSE BOX OFFICE INFORMATION Phone: (815) 338-5300 Hours: Monday – Thursday, 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM,
Friday and Saturday, 10:00 PM – 6:00 P.M. and 2 hours before performances.
(Visa, MasterCard and Discover accepted.)
The phenomenal Creative Living Lecture Series has been running since 1964 and is organized by the Woodstock Fine Arts Association. Reading through the history of that group is to read the story of incredibly passionate, dedicated people who had a vision for their town and also for the historic opera house where the series takes place alongside lots of other terrific productions throughout the year. The opera house is on the historic register and guess who performed there once? My husband across time and space: Paul Newman! Did you know that I am actually single because I am and have always been and will always be married to the most perfect man who ever lived on the Earth, Paul Newman? Orson Welles also performed at the Woodstock Opera House but I am not married to him. Just Paul Newman.
Creative Living has featured incredible speakers over the years, including: Dr. Temple Grandin, Maya Angelou, Billy Collins, Charlie Trotter, Beverly Sills, Martha Stewart, Dr. Joyce Brothers, Rick Steves, Studs Terkel, Joseph Epstein (one of my favorite writers!), Ann Patchett (one of my mom’s favorite writers!), Rick Bayless, Bill Kurtis, Gene Siskel, and so many other people that are amazing that I can’t believe I’m going to be a part of such a neat event. I get to breathe that air, man! Wow.
My talk is about my journey in quilting and I will also speak about the history of the American quilt and about designing fabric. I’ll have quilts to show, of course, and there will be books for sale that I will happily autograph.
Come to Woodstock! I can’t wait to be there and see you.
This week, between classes and going to press for the third print issue of the year for the school paper, I’ll be making a quick trip to Iowa to help raise funds and excitement for the absolutely, positively, most-beautifullest hometown quilt museum in the world: The Iowa Quilt Museum.
The Iowa Quilt Museum is in Winterset, IA, where I was born and raised. In fact, the Museum is about a two-minute walk from my house! Where my mom and stepdad still live! (No, I will not tell you which house.) The Iowa Quilt Museum opened earlier this year and it’s gotten great reviews, lots of visitors, and is two doors down from Pieceworks Quilt Shop! Pieceworks took over the old Fons & Porter quilt shop space and is expanded, fully stocked, and fancy, fancy, fancy. You can get all of my Small Wonders fabrics there and so much more. Special guests are doing extraordinary talks and demos all week. Sandy Gervais will be there!! I love Sandy Gervais!!!!
If you’re within sane driving distance (sane = less than 400) or you have so many frequent flyer miles you just need to get rid of them for heaven’s sake, why not take a trip over to Winterset this week? You can see the new John Wayne Museum, which also just opened. You can see the covered bridges of Madison County, as Winterset = Madison County. You can take a peek at the movie theater Mom bought and is rehabbing and renovating with my brilliant younger sister Rebecca. You can eat at the Northside Cafe opposite the Quilt Museum where they filmed scenes for the movie “The Bridges of Madison County” and where I had my very first job in life as a waitress at age fourteen. Betty and Vicki taught me how to smoke cigarettes and make a good pot of coffee at Northside. It’s the real deal. It’s Americana, straight up. Also, great beer and great pie.
If you come on Thursday, you can hang out with me all day at the Museum while I do demos, sign stuff, and get to know you; I would love this. Then, that night, when you’re full of Northside Cafe biscuits n’ gravy from, roll yourself back on over across the square to the show that night at the Quilt Museum! I’ll be giving my “10 Things I Know About Quilting & Life” lecture, which is really funny and also inspiring. I made a lady name Gretchen cry in VA this weekend during this lecture and it was before 10am! Just think how teary-eyed you’ll get after dinner and a beer! That’s such a good feeling. This is reason to take a trip to Iowa. The gorgeous leaves changing are 1000 trillion other reasons. (Note to self: How many leaves are there in Iowa?)
“Mary,” you say, hesitant. “I really want to go.”
“Yes,” I say, nodding my head so vigorously you are slightly concerned about my neck. “You do want to go. You should. Why are you hesitant?”
“Well, it sound wonderful. But I wish I would’ve known about it sooner. I mean, I could still come. But it would’ve been good if you had told us about this earlier.”
I take your hand. I pat it. Then I do something strange and I actually start patting my own head using your hand. Because I need you to pat me.
“You’re right,” I say, enjoying your sweet, gentle, loving patting, how you’re smoothing my hair and calming my very soul. “I should’ve told you before. But I am drowning in things. I should set a reminder on my phone for next time. Please. Don’t stop patting my head.” Now I’ve sort of slumped into you and you have no choice but to put your other arm around me and say something like, “There, there. It’s okay.”
I suddenly realize what’s happening. “I’m sorry!” I say, jerking away, embarrassed. “I apologize for not letting you know about it before!” I begin to gather all nine of my totebags and head for the door to my next meeting, apologizing on the way out the door.
You are wide-eyed as you reach for you phone and dial your husband. “Honey?” you say, when he picks up. “Do we have anything going on on Thursday? No? How about a drive to Iowa?”
October 15th, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p. m. Meet n’ Greet + Light Breakfast Books Signing + Trunk Show Lecture: “10 Things I Know About Quilting & Life (I Think)”
Workshop: No-Fear Partial Seams! I’ll take you through the darling “Sweetpea Star Block” and you’ll learn partial seaming, which is not hard at all, contrary to popular belief. Partial seams give you such interesting shapes in your patchwork; this block is awesome and you’ll get the hang of partials in a jiff as you make them.
Here’s all that info and more. I have so many friends in VA; I hope to see some of you there!
Here’s what the Humanities Council says of this program:
“Our Road Scholars Speakers Bureau invites Illinois authors, artists, and scholars to share their expertise and enthusiasm with people in communities throughout our state. It also enables local nonprofit organizations to present compelling, free-admission cultural programs to their communities at little cost to them.”
How cool is that?? This is a tremendous opportunity because it does exactly what I was talking about yesterday: It gives me an opportunity to answer the question, “What can a quilt do?” for an entirely new audience.
The lengthy application was due in June and I only heard yesterday evening that I got in. Apparently, the competition was extra fierce this year and stuff just takes a long time. I pitched a talk called “Quilts: America’s Greatest Creative Legacy” and now I get to do it! For money! At venues that will be packed (hopefully) with both quilters and non-quilters who will see quilts in a new light. Maybe those people will be inspired to make a quilt of their own; maybe those people will at least find new love for the quilts and quilters in their lives. There is no way under the sun this Roads Scholar Speakers Bureau is anything but a win-win-win-win for all.
Thought I’d share the good news. And for all my friends in Illinois, I think you can request me? I’ll be doing orientation and on-boarding stuff in the coming weeks. I’ll see you on the Road!
Yesterday, around one o’clock in the afternoon, after a standard-issue (more on that in a moment) labor and delivery, dear, healthy Julia Diane was born to Heather and Sam and to all of us, really; as members of the human race, we can all be happy today that Julia is here.
When Heather asked me to be her second-in-command on the big day, I squeaked. I had no idea what it really meant, though. I had no idea that she was giving me such a gift. In fact, I feel a little embarrassed I didn’t freak out and burst into tears and fawn and do a backflip when she asked me; if I knew then what I know now, I would’ve.
I could fill a book with my impressions from yesterday, there’s so much. This post will be in at least three parts; I like to be sensitive to your time and I also need a shower.
I want to begin by telling you that when I was summoned to the hospital, I brought a book, a snack, and an almost neurotic sense of propriety. I was there to do Heather wanted/needed, but I figured I’d leave the room when things were gettin’ real-real. I had zero intention of being awkwardly there as two people welcome their child into the world; if there ever was a moment not about me, that would be it. Heather did want me there, though, to be present for both of them for the duration — and I think I hit the right note. I sat at the side, helped with ice chips, helped with some washcloths, did some light back patting and arm squeezing. None of the doctors ever glared at me and I’m 100% sure the glasses of water I got Sam and Heather after the whole thing was over were the best glasses of water they have ever had in their life. All I’m saying is that I could possibly do this professionally.
Heather is a strong, brave, beautiful woman. But I had never seen her look like a lion until yesterday. It happened when the baby’s head crowned and pushing had to get really, really intense. With her carnal, ancient task before her, my friend was so powerful and gorgeous, she looked like the strongest animal in the kingdom, doing the bravest thing that can be — must be — done. She was ferocious, focused, and utterly natural. It helped that her loose ponytail was all messed up and her hair was all over the place; Heather’s got awesome red curly hair and it’s generally mane-like, anyway.
But then, just after she’d been a lion, my friend would sink back into the bed in between those major contractions and whimper. She wasn’t crying; these were plaintive sounds of pain and exhaustion. All the strength she had for each round of pushing seemed to entirely vanish when she stopped; then, impossibly, she would find new strength and go again. I thought of the Rudyard Kipling poem, “The Female of the Species Is More Deadly Than The Male.” The poem examines why women will always be more lethal than men because we are the ones who give birth. Look at this:
But the Woman that God gave him, every fibre of her frame Proves her launched for one sole issue, armed and engined for the same; And to serve that single issue, lest the generations fail, The female of the species must be deadlier than the male.
She who faces Death by torture for each life beneath her breast May not deal in doubt or pity—must not swerve for fact or jest. These be purely male diversions—not in these her honour dwells— She the Other Law we live by, is that Law and nothing else.
Heather did her duty to the generations, if you will, and in witnessing it, I understood Kipling’s poem far better — and I’ve known the whole thing by heart for a long time. As I saw a woman endure childbirth, as I watched “She who faces Death by torture for each life beneath her breast” groan and whimper and gasp, I was deeply moved. I’m just not around this stuff very much. The last time I saw a brand new creature was when one of our cats had kittens. I was six.
I’ve written and rewritten this post three times. It’s too special, I’m too excited, and as a result, nothing is coming out right. That’s ironic, because the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) thinks I’m good enough at writing to let me into their Writing MFA program this fall. By then, I’d better have my act together because I’m officially enrolled.
It’s been terrible keeping this secret; I got my acceptance letter in March. Claus was here, and when I opened the envelope and saw the good news, it was like I had a rocket pack on. Claus caught me and spun me around and around.
I waited to tell you because I wanted to share this properly. It’s a big deal, and not just because the SAIC is one of the finest educational institutions in the world, which it is. It’s a big deal because my life is changing with this. I engineered it that way, really; one day last fall when I was in Iowa to film TV, I burst into tears in the middle of my mother’s kitchen and admitted to myself that I wanted to study writing. I couldn’t deny it any longer and I began to research grad programs that very day. It became clear right away that the SAIC was the only school for me. I didn’t apply anywhere else.
So, the Art Institute of Chicago is the big, famous art museum downtown with the cool lions out front. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago actually started first, way back in 1866. The art the founders collected for students to study became the museum.
At the SAIC, a grad student can study textile art, performance, art therapy, art restoration, sculpture, painting, arts journalism, art history, interior architecture, writing — there are other departments I’m not thinking of. What’s extraordinary about the SAIC (one of the many, many extraordinary things) is that they encourage interdisciplinary study. They want performers to take sculpture classes. They want writers to take textile arts classes. They are legendarily good at educating creative people because they understand how creative people learn (i.e., by doing, usually by doing many things that appear unrelated.)
I submitted portfolios to Writing, Textile Art, and Performance. I had all the materials for each program because my entire life is interdisciplinary. But I wanted writing. I decided that if I got into textiles or performance, I wouldn’t go. Even if I could take writing classes while technically studying fiber arts or stage stuff, it wasn’t enough. I wanted to be a Writing MFA candidate. From there, I could study my other loves. And I got my first choice. So now, I can.
The School has a longarm in the Textiles department. What will my quilts become, now that I’m going to be in art school? What might it mean to use quilts in, say, a one-woman play? Will I write a quilter’s memoir? Will I create my own poetry magazine and if I do, will there be patchwork quilts on the cover? I’ll tell you that if I make a poetry magazine, there most certainly will be quilts on the cover. These are the sorts of synergies that are sure to occur when I begin school. I cannot wait. I am counting days.
My job is not one you quit — and I have no intention of doing so. I’ve got teaching and speaking gigs scheduled into 2018. New fabric is coming out in a few months. The Quilt Scout is going strong, I’m making quilts like crazy, I’m working on a pattern project, I’m curating a quilt exhibit at Spring Quilt Festival, I’m on the board of the Study Center. My career in the quilt world isn’t going anywhere — but it is changing (you’ll see me less on TV, for example.) But you watch: these changes will be nothing short of wonderful. You’ll see it all happen, right here. (Psst: it’s all for you, anyway.)
I’m scared. It’s so expensive. I’m taking out loans. It’s two years. It’s gonna be hard. But if I don’t do it now, when?
That’s right: I’m teaching at QuiltCon in Savannah in 2017!
Today, the Modern Quilt Guild folks released the course catalog for the big show in February and if you’re like me, you pounce on these kinds of things and dream up the kind of person you will be when you get to February and take Amazing Class A and Incredible Class B and sit in the audience for Mind-Blowing Lecture Q. What color will your hair be? Who will you be dating or married to? Isn’t it all so delicious??
I’m happy to tell you that I’ll be teaching two blocks of my all-day “No Fear Partial Seams” class: one on Thursday and one on Friday. The quilt I’m making is shaping up to be extremely beautiful (it’s a red-and-white.) Then I’m doing my spankin’ new, essential lecture: “Standing On The Shoulders of Giants: A Brief History of the American Quilt.”
The QuiltCon 2017 course catalog — with full class/lecture descriptions and info about registering and so forth — can be found here. Let me make something very clear: if you have questions about registration, when stuff opens up, how to pay, etc., you’ll have better luck getting an answer from your cat. I don’t know about that part: I’m only the talent. The MQG people are running a really slick show, though, so use the helpdesk over there; they’ll get you squared away.
Hollywood film legend John Wayne was born in Madison County, in my hometown of Winterset, IA in 1907. Wintersetians take this seriously. If we had to choose between being known for the covered bridges or being known as the spot on the globe where The Duke took his first breath, we’d suck on our collective teeth and shake our collective heads and have to take the latter. Then we’d ask you for your delicious cookie bar recipe and hold the nation’s first presidential caucus.
This weekend was John Wayne birthday celebration weekend and I was here for a particularly exciting part of it: an outdoor screening of John Ford’s classic The Searchers, starring John Wayne in one of the most important roles of his career. The screening took place on the town square, right on the lawn of the courthouse. This was the first time a movie had ever screened there, birthday weekend or no. Who do you suppose orchestrated the event? My sister and my mother.
My mother, as many of you know, purchased the movie theater in Winterset when it went up for sale some months ago. The restoration project is well underway; seven trips to the dump emptied it of garbage, rusted stuff, rotten boards, etc., and every day that passes more wonder is discovered in that old movie house. One of the treasures is the screen itself. It’s in great shape. And it was the Iowa Theater’s very own screen that was put up by our beloved contractor, Steve, for the movie last night.
Families came. A few teenagers came. Old folks came. There’s a film crew making a movie of the restoration project and they were there. My might-as-well-be-my-cousin cousin Will played his guitar and sang folk songs to the audience as we waited for it to get dark enough to start the movie. The air was sweet. With the music and the sun slowly sinking down the sky — the rain that was predicted never even threatened to fall — an eventide spell was cast. The Chamber of Commerce sold candy, soda, and popcorn from a popcorn cart. I can’t confirm or deny that I had a bottle of Stella Artois in my hoodie pocket, nor can I confirm or deny that anyone else had a go-cup of anything similar, but doesn’t that sound nice? We’ll never know.
My sister Rebecca is the head of the entire Iowa Theater restoration project; she’s writing the grants, touching every logistic from projector to neon marquee rebuild, doing strategic planning — everything. She was the engine behind the outdoor screening, too, and my brother-in-law ran the projector. Before the show began, Mom and Rebecca gave a speech about the future of the theater, how 95% of the work being done is being done by locals, how the goal is to make a space the town loves and uses and grows for a long, long time.
About thirty minutes into watching The Duke search for Debbie, I gave into the desire for popcorn. I went over to the Chamber kiosk.
“Hi! I think I’ll get some popcorn,” I said.
The person who scooped some up for me was a bubbly, attractive woman named Heather. She handed me a modest sack of popcorn and I was surprised at how happy I was it was not a tub as big as my head. Heather shook her head. “This is just amazing. Just amazing. You’re Rebecca’s sister, right?”
I said I was and we talked for a minute, geeking out with happiness at the scene before us: people outside, together, enjoying their town, their town’s history, tasty snacks, and a movie, all on a long Memorial Day weekend. We agreed this needs to happen every year, if not more often.
“It just makes me happy,” Heather said, looking out at the one hundred or so people in lawn chairs. “I guess it’s America, right? It’s good. It’s good that kids can come here and it’s safe. You know?”
My mother and I are embarking on a New Endeavor. It’s big. It’s bold. It launches this week.
Mom doesn’t need another project. I don’t either, but at least I’m not renovating a movie theater. But we can’t help adding another worthwhile project to a stack of others because we’re people who love to do stuff that sounds exciting and we love to make things that feel good to make. We find room.
I can’t tell you what it is just yet, but I’ll tell you very soon. And when I do, you should have your phone in your hand. Most of us have our phone in our hands all the time, so that won’t be hard. “But wait,” you say, scratching your head with your phone, “Why would I need my phone for an announcement? Are you guys on American Idol?** Do I need to text my vote?” I think the only way to handle this until I can tell you is to play Mad Libs.
“This week, Mom and I are launching a [NOUN]. We’re sure that our [PLURAL NOUN] will love it and will [VERB] every week. We’ve been working very [ADJECTIVE] for many months on the [NOUN] and feel ready to announce it to the [NOUN] on Thursday. The best way to learn what the [ADJECTIVE] [NOUN] is? Read PaperGirl and check in on Mary’s Facebook page and get ready to [VERB] and [VERB] and [VERB]. See ya later, [ANIMAL]!”
Anything worth announcing to the public should be put through a Mad Libs process first. Not only does it get people actively involved in the event, there’s no way the actual announcement won’t be received well. If your work with the passage above looks like this, there’s no way you won’t be relieved when you learn the truth:
“This week, Mom and I are launching a FROG. We’re sure that our POTATO CHIPS will love it and will DROOL every week. We’ve been working very STUPID for many months on the UMBRELLA and feel ready to announce it to the BOARD OF TRADE on Thursday. The best way to learn what the STINKY BOOGER is? Read PaperGirl and check in on Mary’s Facebook page and get ready to CHOKE and WORK and SUFFER. See ya later, DUCK!”
*I’m sure this is a) not how American Idol works; b) hilarious because American Idol was canceled six years ago or something; or c) extremely offensive because American Idol is run by a fascist dictator. I assure you, I don’t know.
Well, the announcement of a Canadian adventure was released and what do you know? The effervescent and shamefully gifted members of Montreal’s Loose Threads Quilt Guild contacted me about coming by to give a lecture when I’m in town. It’s like a pop-up shop for quilters — with a lecture!
And so, my Kute Kanadian Kwilting friends, if you’re in the area, you’re invited. The event will be the evening of March 2nd in the scenic village of St. Luc. The exact time and venue are being worked out, but the girls are on it. There will be an admission fee; again, check with the gals at the guild or watch my Facebook page for more details.
I know I have not given you a ton of information, but this is all I know for now. Mark the date if you’d like to hang out, and sit tight for details. I have an email address for the events coordinator who contacted me and I thought about posting that here, but I haven’t asked for permission and seeing as we don’t have an actual contract yet, I’d better not do that. I might find myself swiftly uninvited to give a lecture in Montreal. Again: if you want to join, just mark the calendar and I will update with info as soon as I can.
March 2nd is Claus’s birthday. He said, “It appears I spend my birthday among quilters.”
I told him he doesn’t know how good he’s got it. When a guild hosts a special evening, cake is de rigeur. Like, there will probably be cakeat the event already. Birthday cake is covered, I told Claus. Everyone in America knows that if you go somewhere on your birthday and there is cake there, that counts as birthday cake.
“Cake,” I said to Claus, with a slow nod of my head. “You’ll see.”
Well, I’m in Arizona right now. But next weekend, I’ll be at shop of (sweet and successful) Kelsey: The Sewing Studio in pretty Maitland, Florida. It’s not too far from Orlando — that’s the airport I’m using — so if you’re around that area or if you’re within spitting distance, or if you’re willing to drive a patch, guess what awaits you? You can, in any order:
– shop for fabric
– have a tasty lunch
– listen to excellent lectures (well, they are!)
– hangout with me (there’s always time for this — I’m there all day)
– learn stuff
– hopefully snag a new BabyLock because you know you want it
– take a selfie with the machine you want to send to Santa’s Instagram
There you have it. Maitland next weekend. I’ll be speaking at the Quilt Guild of the Villages on Monday, but that’s a club thing. So we meet at Kelsey’s and have snacks.
On Thursday, I’ll be getting in an airplane and flying to Denver. That evening, I have the pleasure of giving a lecture to the Denver Modern Quilt Guild. I can’t wait to meet you all.
Then, on Friday and Saturday, I’ll be at Above & Beyond Sewing, frolicking among the BabyLock machines, doing lectures, demos, and a robust trunk show. My friend Bari said my life sounded glamorous, flying from here to there, working on a stage, flying through TSA pre-check. I corrected her and I’ll make sure you know: I love doing these events (love) but the glamour factor is pretty low, at least regarding the travel part. I wheel multiple suitcases full of quilts and often an extra duffel bag of them. I have to keep track of receipts, so when I pay for a coffee, I pull out a big, pink plastic envelope. The Starbucks guy is surely thinking I’m either a hoarder or a serious cheapskate. And I know the insides of a lot of Courtyard Marriotts. Which are actually really nice, but I like a Holiday Inn Express a little better.
Whatever the hotel, I’m thrilled to go on this trip and look forward to meeting all the Colorado quilters I can meet in the three days I’m there. Come on down; let’s hang out.
Did you know Colorado has an average of 300 days of sunshine every year? Did you know when I get back from Denver I have 1.5 days to finish packing before Claus comes to help me move to Chicago? Did you know I tried to hire an army of lilliputians to help me but they were booked?
I love small-scale prints. Large-scale prints — the splashy pink flowers, the blooming leaves, the giant birds, the wide damasks — are often very beautiful. But when you cut them up into small pieces for patchwork, they can cause trouble. If you take a 2 1/2” square from a print that has a 5” repeat (an awning stripe, say, or a big-boned paisley) the integrity of the print is gone-zo. You get bits of red, other squares are all-white, some have a leaf on them, some do not, etc. You get the picture.
But the small-scale. The darling teensy-weenies. The tossed daisies. Wee doggies. Ditzy prints, shirtings, the perfect polka-dot. These are the fabrics that make my quilts sing, the prints I buy obscene quantities of at fabric stores because frankly, they ain’t so easy to find. Until now, of course.
I’ll tell you more about the process later so this doesn’t get too long. I’ve been working with Springs Creative, a dreamy company in South Carolina, for a couple years on this. That story is one you’ll sink your teeth into. For now, I’d like to share a few of the prints. I could only scan a few of them before leaving for the airport an hour ago.
“Small Wonders” is the umbrella under which many lines will come. The first line is “World Piece.” I designed and curated groups of small-scale prints for the following countries: the Netherlands, South America, France, India, China, and the USA, of course. There’s also a line of 108” backings; if you’re a quilter, that may have made you squeak just now.
The PaperGirl Pledge says that I only ever include one picture per entry. Rules are made to be broken in extreme situations. Today is an extreme situation. And the next few days will be Small Wonders Central on the ol’ PG. If you’re not a quilter, I guarantee you will not be bored. The fabric is only one part of the Small Wonders empire! So much more to tell. Until then, enjoy the fruits of many peoples’ loving labor.
That’s it for now, my little sewing mice. Stay tuned and start calling your quilt shops now and say, “Have you ordered in the Mary Fons Small Wonders fabric line? WELL, GET ON IT, MISSY! I got quilts, small projects, garments, and Other Fabric Items to make!”
What could it mean? You’ll see very soon. I leave for Quilt Market Thursday. The sneak peek “Schoolhouse” sessions and the insane “Sample Spree” both happen Friday. The big, multi-pronged, gorgeous Thing will be revealed Saturday, bright and early, when the Market opens.
It’s getting more and more uncomfortable having to keep the secret now that the launch is so close…. Okay. Forget this. I have to tell. Damn the consequences. Ready?
For the past four years, I’ve been training mice to sew. No, no, that’s not the surprise. Everyone knows I’ve been training mice to sew. The real surprise is that I’ve developed a sewing machine that runs on olive oil. No, that can’t be it: corn oil make a superior fuel. Fine! Enough pulling your leg: I bought Quilt Market. I own it. The whole show. I just woke up one day and was like, “I want to buy a trade convention worth a bazillion dollars after I eat a bit of yogurt.”
Just kidding. We’ll both have to wait just a little longer for the truth.