My Lyric Arrived! (A Very Good Day.)

posted in: Day In The Life, Paean, Quilting, Work 0
Goodbye, cruel world. I'm going to sew, now. Photo: Me
Goodbye, cruel world. I’m going to sew, now. Photo: Me

Yesterday the FedEx man brought me a new sewing machine!

Oh, BabyLock. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways: My two (2) Melody machines, my Symphony, my Tiara, and now my Lyric. This post would’ve come yesterday but I had to check with the BabyLock peeps to make sure I could let the cat/machine out of the bag. This this is hot off the truck! I dropped everything and set her up immediately, and I have been sewing on it for basically 24 hours straight. She’s a real beauty, guys. Friendly, intuitive, a great machine for beginners, for taking to classes, and for petting in general. Rides like it’s on rails. Smooth like a chocolate shake. I could go on.

And while we’re on the subject, let me tell you something about BabyLock real quick. Yes, I do promotional work for the company but I do that work precisely because of what I’m about to say, so you needn’t feel like this is some advertorial. It’s not.

When I pitched Quilty, the project was green-lighted but it wasn’t funded. The parent company who gave me the initial “yes,” told me that if we could get sponsors, we could do the show. No sponsors, no Quilty. And let me tell you: just because I was Marianne Fons’s kid didn’t mean I had it easy. Working with the ad seller for the media company, we got rejections. A bunch of them. I was an unknown quantity. Revenue streams for online video were still being understood/explored at the time (this was 2010) and besides: everyone with a project wants sponsors. Most of these companies’ budgets are tapped out before they finish their spreadsheets every quarter.

BabyLock believed in Quilty. By extension, they believed in me. I remember pitching the idea to them at Fall Quilt Market ’10. I was so scared during my spiel I think I actually stuttered once. The two women who were subjected to my pitch were intimidating and very pretty. These days they’re two kindred spirits in my life — really — and they’re still at the company, still believing in me. Most of the people who work at Tacony (BabyLock’s parent company) have been with the company for decades. My friend Pam? Thirty years with BabyLock. This says a lot about BabyLock.

So yeah, the pretty ladies took a chance on Fons 2.0 and that would be reason enough to be loyal to them but then there’s the little matter of the sewing machines being actually, truly, genuinely fantastic. The embroidery machines are like, the best in the biz, but full disclosure: I’m not an embroiderer (say that word out loud) so I don’t play around much on them. I don’t have to. It’s all good stuff, whatever your stitch may be.

I’ve got two quilt tops going. I like them both equally, so I just keep switching back and forth between them. If I had enough room in my apartment, I’d leave my Symphony up on one table and my new Lyric would be on another table. A girl can dream.

Thanks, BabyLock.

Taste-Makin’, Makin’-Taste! Photos Post-Renovation.

From the most recent Neiman Marcus catalog.
In the most recent Neiman Marcus catalog, a Scalamandre bonanza.

See that Scalamandre red wallpaper with the zebras?? Yeah, I see it too! Every day! In my bathroom!

Looks like I was a touch ahead of the crowd on the Scalamandre zebra wallpaper, friends. Neiman Marcus has licensed the print. Now, a person can get pillows and dishes with the motif and be black, white, and red all over. Just like me! The wallpaper was the highest-ticket item I purchased in my renovation, relatively speaking, and I love every crimson inch of it. Those zebras move, sistuh.

I’ve taken lots of pictures of both my bathroom and my kitchen with the intention of sharing them, but when I get to the “insert photo” moment here on the PG, I balk. I get letters from guys in prison, you know. That gives a girl pause when she’s about to post photos of her bathroom mirror, especially because she’s fully aware 99% of all nutcases and stalkers are not currently behind bars.

Plus, as stunning as my Scalamandre bathroom is and as drop-dead gorgeous as the navy blue subway tile and floating shelves are in my kitchen (it all turned out perfectly, almost gross in its awesomeness to me) isn’t it better to imagine these things than be even slightly let down when you see (for example) a bag of Stay-Puft Jumbo Marshmallows on my counter instead of leftover osso buco? What if you think I have a huge, ginormous house? I like that! Keep thinking that! When you see my galley kitchen, you may have to go find another fantasy and no one has time for these things.

You see, I cannot possibly post the pictures of my home on this blog.

Instagram is completely different, however.

On Patchwork.

String quilt blocks for "Majesty."
String quilt blocks for “Majesty.”

I have so enjoyed sewing at The Yarn Company over the past few weeks. I’ve nearly completed my latest quilt for Quilty, a string quilt I’m calling “Majesty,” due to all the royal purple fabrics. A string quilt, if you don’t know, is a quilt made by sewing long strips (“strings”) of fabric to paper foundations. You sew, trim, and then tear the paper off the back of the units you’ve sewn. You sew the units together to make blocks, and from the blocks, you make the quilt top, and so on. 

There is a myth that quilters are patient. It’s the opposite. We are extremely impatient. We must forever be doing something with our hands. We finish a quilt and immediately start the next one (many of us, including me, begin our next project before we finish what we’ve got going.) We look for efficiencies everywhere. We strategize. There is no meandering, no lackadaisical approach. We make patchwork and quilt quilts to calm ourselves down, not because we are some breed of serene creature with nothing better to do than sit around and (slowly) make “blankets.”*

I’ve calmed myself down in the middle of Manhattan by working on “Majesty” at my sewing machine. If I could’ve spent hours and hours more doing so, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten sick. (A more optimistic way to frame it: I might’ve been sicker had I not enjoyed many hours of sewing.) The whirr of my Babylock, the snic! of my scissors cutting thread; these are the sounds of patchwork science that have soothed my cerebrum when it’s been burnt crispy by the sirens and the subway. There are dishes to do, always, and dinner and cookies to make for myself and Yuri. There are phone calls and emails and fires — all of it important, none of it more important than anyone else’s phone calls, emails, and fires. All of this is laid down when you sew. You really can’t do much else when your foot is on that pedal.

My mom likes to say this:

“When I was a young mother, working on my first book, it seemed crazy to make quilts in my ‘spare time.’ But I loved making patchwork and quilts because they stayed done. The dishes didn’t stay done, the laundry didn’t stay done. There was always more homework, there were more bills… But a quilt block stayed done. You could say, ‘I made this’ and enjoy it forever.”

Chicago will see very little of me; the remainder of March is all we have together. I go to Cleveland, Iowa, Florida, Lincoln, and somewhere else before coming back to NYC in early May. Nothing stays done. Plane tickets don’t get framed. Suitcases don’t stay packed or unpacked. Kisses are like matches. Sandwiches are consumed. But “Majesty,” when it’s done, will stay done. And someone will cover up under it one day and see the Quilt Charm on the back. It will read, “Made by Mary Fons, NYC, 2014. Done.”

*Don’t call them “blankets.” Your CB2 knit throw is a blanket. We make quilts.

“Quilter In Residence” at The Yarn Company!

posted in: Day In The Life 5
Feel like making something gorgeous? Yeah, me too.
Feel like making something gorgeous? Yeah, me too.

Something magical has happened.

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.


Home Is Where the Bobbin Is.

"Northbound." From my forthcoming book, "Make + Love Quilts: Scrap Quilts for the 21st Century." Pre-order now at
“Northbound.” From my first book, “Make + Love Quilts: Scrap Quilts for the 21st Century.” Available nationwide May 15th.

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.