Today is Small Wonders Wednesday, and that means there are parties happening all over the world, many which begin at dawn and last for three days. The Small Wonders festivals draw 100,000+ people at a time and there are vendors, concerts, and dozens of food trucks. None of this is true, but we’re working on it.
Nope, Small Wonders Wednesday means giveaways, contests, prizes, things like that, all related to a beautiful line of fabric featuring archival prints from the Civil War-era to the Depression-era, from the 1870s to the 1970s and back. The line is Small Wonders: all small-scale prints that are as irresistible as that bag of Dove chocolates in your desk drawer. The first group is “World Piece” and features tiny icons and prints representing those continents/countries on cotton fabric. You can get the fabric at your LQS or online at many fine online fabric retailers.
All the fabric in the world won’t do you much good if you don’t have a beautiful sewing machine, though. Well, you could win one. We’re in the first month of the Small Wonders BabyLock Quilt Contest. A BabyLock Lyric is yours if yours is the winning quilt — and you get a bunch more really, really great prizes for that 1st place spot. But if you’re runner up, you’re still showered with prizes. The 3rd place winners get goodie bags, too, so there are opportunities for winning all over the place. Entries opened January 1st and will close March 31st. Entries are coming in, but you’ve got plenty of time to whip something up. Win or not, you will have a great time playing with the fabric and you’ll have a quilt at the end of your efforts.
As excited as I was about getting my BabyLock here in New York, cold, hard reality smacked me upside the head the moment I took that glorious sewing machine out of the box: there’s about as much room for quilt-making in this apartment as there is for woodworking or ballroom dancing, which is to say there is none. What to do? To make patchwork is to live — and I am not ready to die.
Well, it just so happens that I have lovely friends. And those friends have lovely friends. And the majority of this collection of people, we make things with our hands. There exists a kind of code, or a kinship with us: no one is going to let anyone die from art/craft-related complications. You need a 1/2 yard of a Kaffe Fassett print from 2006? Baby, I’ma hook you up. Fresh out of sequins? I got this! We trade binding for quilting, piecing for yarn; we share scissors, gum, patterns, rides to the airport to go to the shows. We help each other because we’re human and humans (mostly) help each other, but we go extra miles for makers because we are also makers.
And so it was that on Friday, a kind and virtuous friend (let’s call her Susan because her name is Susan) was in New York and wanted me to meet someone. She wanted me to meet Tavy, co-owner of The Yarn Company on the Upper West Side. For all the quilters out there who are also knitters or yarnfolk, you may have just squealed with delight. The Yarn Company is a legendary yarn and knitter’s shop. It was the cradle of the knitting craze that began in the 1970s, the craze that has stayed with us ever since, waxing and waning over the decades a bit but mostly waxing. When celebrities in the 1970s were in homemaker magazines with their crochet hooks, they got them at The Yarn Company. When knitting got hot again with the so-called DIY’ers in the late 1990s, The Yarn Company was right there, packing its slender rooms on the second floor with crazed, “I must knit nine more scarves immediately!” people who flocked to yarn mecca.
Tavy and her brother Assaf bought the shop in 2011 and breathed new, needed life into the place. These days, it’s all warm wood and great light and big, broad tables. The yarn surrounds your very soul when you walk in: there are colors and textures of yarn that defy description, they’re so beautiful and soft. If yarn could melt in your mouth — if that were something that you would want to have happen — you’d get that yarn at The Yarn Company.
But it ain’t just skeins over there. The shop likes sewists and they love quilters, too. They have a gorgeous collection of yardage, though it’s modest at the moment. They teach sewing classes. When Tavy and her brother bought The Yarn Company, their vision from the start was to incorporate more makers than just the yarn people.
Enter The Yarn Company’s first-ever Quilter In Residence: me!
The good people of The Yarn Company have extended an invitation to me to set up my machine in the second room of the shop so that I can cut, sew, press, design, and hang out there. (I plan to learn to knit by osmosis.) I’ll be able to talk to knitters about quilts and why they should make them. I’ll be able to have a little design wall, something not possible in the apartment at all. I can answer patchwork questions if they come up while I’m there during business hours and I can sew late into the night! And there’s amazing vegan food across the street! Not that I’m vegan! But still! Vegans! Sewing blocks! Upper West Side! Yarn people! City quilting! Oh, the humanity!
This is gonna be really fun. My thanks to The Yarn Company in advance. Watch this space for news about events and things because they’re sure to occur. Tomorrow, I’ll go to the shop and set up my Elissimo and my cutting mat (thanks, Havel’s Sewing!) and I promise to post pictures on Facebook of what’s being made.
Just get out of bed in the morning. That’s all you have to do. Life transpires.
Most people assume I have been making quilts since I was small. My mother, Marianne Fons, is a famous quilter, so it makes sense that she would’ve taught me how to sew from an early age. If I had shown more interest, she most certainly would have. We made a few doll quilts and a few quilts for friends of mine, but my creative pursuits took me to writing stories, putting on plays, singing…and creating and editing a magazine for my junior high school called TRUTH, the name of which I got from a film strip we watched about Russian communist propaganda newspaper, PRAVDA (translation: “truth”). I hired my best friends as columnists and we put out six issues with zero ad support. True story. Have I mentioned I didn’t have a boyfriend till my senior year of high school?
I started making quilts about six years ago. In my lectures to quilters, I talk about the reasons why:
I realized I didn’t have to make quilts that looked like what I saw in contemporary magazines or books; my quilts could look like ME, with solid black fabric, and teeny-tiny prints, and washed out shirting prints, and zero rick-rack
it was no longer uncool to be like my mom — in fact, it struck me as the coolest thing ever to be a part of my family’s place in the world
I got really, really sick and I needed non-medicinal healing (hello, patchwork)
the timing was right, age-wise. I was in my late twenties and ready to sit down for five seconds
And so I became a quilter and making quilts has brought me untold joy ever since. I’m not sure how many quilts I’ve made; it’s dozens, and they’re all kinda huge. Mom has always told me to make quilts that cover people, since that’s what quilts are for. The Fons women don’t do table toppers, though we support anyone who does. We support quilters, period.
A sewing machine with my name on it arrived in New York City yesterday. The fine folks at BabyLock are loaning me an Ellisimo while I’m here, and I carried that huge, glorious box 2.5 blocks and up 2.5 flights of Manhattan walk-up stairs with huge smile on my face. Anywhere I hang my hat for more than about four minutes simply ain’t a home unless I’ve got a sewing machine nearby. Making patchwork and making quilts isn’t just something I do: it’s something I am. The craft, the gesture, the sense-memory of the process is in my DNA, now. I quilt, therefore I am a whole person.
I have absolutely no idea where I’m going to put this thing. Seriously.