Some People Get All the Cool Jobs.

posted in: Day In The Life 1
Beyonce performing in Barcelona, 2007. Photo: Wikipedia
Beyonce performing in Barcelona, 2007. Photo: Wikipedia

I was walking along yesterday, looking down at my feet and the brick sidewalk underneath them when out of the clear blue, I thought: “Someone is Beyonce’s lawyer. That’s their job. When someone asks them, ‘So, what do you do?’ that person actually says, “I’m Beyonce’s lawyer.'”

This thought kept me occupied for at least forty-five minutes. I had to go to CVS. I decided to get a hamburger. I almost went in to the library to renew my library card but decided that was too much work. But all of these activities took place in the background of my brain as I thought about someone whose job it is to be Beyonce’s lawyer. It was bitterly cold, so I had my wool hat pushed down low and my big scarf wrapped around twice and pushed up high, so all I was was a walking puffy coat with two eyes blinking out, thinking about Beyonce’s legal team.

It’s a team for sure: there’s definitely more than one lawyer servicing Beyonce. I googled “how many people on Beyonce’s legal team” but nothing turned up. There’s got to be at least twelve: two senior attorneys are in charge of contracts, probably, and they both have at least two assistants. Another guy leads the team fielding all the lawsuits against Beyonce, Inc. from serious ones to wack-a-doo ones; another pursues lawsuits Beyonce, Inc. is filing against other people (probably legit) — and they’ve got their own assistants, too. And maybe there’s just one lawyer who serves as her advisor only; Beyonce’s consigliere, whispering in her ear.

The more people the better, I thought, because then there are more people on the planet who can say, “Oh, I’m Beyonce’s lawyer” as they take another cheese cube from the snack table. If I was the one who asked that person, “So, what do you do?” and they said, “Oh, I’m Beyonce’s lawyer,” then I would say:

“Wow! Seriously?? That’s amazing! Wow! Beyonce’s lawyer. How about that. Do you like it? I mean, that’s a really exciting job description!”

He (I don’t know why it’s a he, here, but it is) would shrug and say, “Well, it’s a job. I mean, long hours and the usual stuff like anybody else, I guess.”

My eyes would get big and I would say, “No.”

“No what?”

“You are Beyonce’s lawyer. Beyonce. You are her lawyer. That is amazing. You help Beyonce. You help her live. Beyonce is your boss. She pays you money. You have Beyonce as your boss. You’re a lawyer for her.”

The guy would stare at me and swallow his cheese cube before he was completely done chewing it. “Y-yeah, I mean… It’s definitely cool. Absolutely.” Then he would say it was nice to meet me and lift his glass as he took off. “Cheers, nice to meet you.” He would move quickly.

Then I would stab a strawberry with a toothpick and eat it, shaking my head. “Jerk,” I would think. And, just to be petulant, I’d use the same toothpick to stab another strawberry but I wouldn’t eat that one.

Swinging From Metal Vines.

The 11 train, NYC Metro. Image: Wikipedia
The 11 train, NYC Metro. Image: Wikipedia

There was a time not so very long ago when I had moved to Washington, that I figured out a few slick subway train transfers within the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which is called “WMATA” for short, which sound’s like something Tony Spaghetti’s big brother says to the pipsqueak who’s lookin’ at him funny:

“Ey, yew! Yeah, yew, kid. You keep lookin’ at me and my brotha like that, I’ma wamata ya right in ya gavone face. Capishe?”

Anyway, there I am in Washington, and I’m stepping out from the Red Line to Shady Grove to the Gallery Place/Chinatown station because I need to transfer to the Green; you can catch the Green Line there, as well as the Yellow Line. As I did that, I recalled how I know the NYC Metro 6 line pretty well and the Q, and that I used to take the 1 train up to the Upper West Side to get to The Yarn Company to sew because there was no room to sew in the tiny, tiny, I-hate-you tiny apartment I was living in with Yuri.

A few weeks after the WMATA moment, thinking deeply about two cities’ subway systems, I was in Chicago for a weekend and, wow, I know the train system here like the back of my hand, which, after at least thirty years (do two-year-olds consider the backs of their hands?) I know pretty well.

All these train maps in my head and the solid knowledge I have of navigating them came together and I felt like a monkey swinging from one big vine. Shoop! The L train in Manhattan that crosses the Lower East Side over to the west side. Shoop! Down from Cleveland Park in DC to get the Orange Line to Eastern Market. And then, that first, peaceful ride on Chicago’s Orange Line to go to Midway to catch a flight, knowing I’d be coming back on the same tracks.

The other day, though, I went down into the lower level of the Chase building because I thought there was a post office down there; I realized when I couldn’t find the post office that I was thinking of a post office in the basement of a building in Penn Quarter in DC. That was weird.

Life Made a Pre-Washer Out of Me, Part I.

posted in: Chicago, Quilting, Small Wonders 1
If Small Wonders fabric was pretty and sweet before; washed and dried, it's angelic.
If Small Wonders fabric was pretty and sweet before; washed and dried, it’s angelic.

For PaperGirl readers who are not quilters, you are about to learn that quilters are a divided people. We are locked in a brother-against-brother conflict so deep, so indelible, generations of quilters from now will bear the weight of our differences. And it all comes down to how a quilter answers this question:

“Do you pre-wash your fabric?”

When a quilter gets home from the quilt shop or opens the UPS box, she has a choice to make: will she pop that cotton into the laundry first or will she just take it all to her fabric stash and just pull it out when she’s ready to use it? There are strong cases to be made on either side. What’s most important to know now is this: if you pre-wash some of your fabric, you must pre-wash all of it.

That’s the hard and fast rule. You can’t be a little bit pregnant and you can’t be an on again-off again pre-washer. This is because pre-washing pre-shrinks. If you make a quilt with some pre-shrunk fabric and some that isn’t, you are in danger of ruining your quilt. Stretching, pulling, snapped threads, rippling: fabric stitched together that shrinks at different rates wreaks havoc. If you care about what you made — which of course you do — don’t cross the streams.

Here’s the pre-wash argument: pre-washing gets rid of fixative chemicals from the factory; it obliterates any fear of dye bleed when the finished quilt is washed; you’ll use fewer pins because pre-washed fabric sticks together way better; if you use fabric softener it smells amazing; best of all, it feels incredibly soft and nice and it’s fluffy.

The non-pre-wash argument: you have to be insane to do more laundry what is wrong with you; any fixative used on the fabric is negligible; no one wants to wait to use new fabric; you’ll endure Thread Hell from unraveling edges; fabric from the dryer is super wrinkled and you have to press everything. No way.

It is a rare, rare occurrence indeed when a quilter leaves her team for the other. It’s like a Confederate soldier joining the Union Army. A Packers fan with a Bears jersey in his trunk. My friend Susan switching to Pepsi from Coke. (Never!) Aside from the convictions held by quilters on their respective side of the aisle, it’s a really, really big deal to stop or start pre-washing. Either you start in and pre-wash all of your stash one day, or you have to give away/donate all of your pre-washed fabric and resolve to not wash any fabric you bring into your home from here on out.

But I switched.

Right now, at this very moment, six washing machines in my building’s laundry room are sloshing and swishing yard after yard of fabric. Right now, four dryers in that room are tumbling, fluffing the material that I use to make quilts.

I’m doing it. I’m pre-washing my entire stash. I’m switching teams. I’ll tell you why tomorrow.

Enlightenment: Easy

posted in: Chicago, Paean 1
Note bouquet of flowers and candle on large box. It's the little things when your house is full of cardboard.
My living room. I’ve actually made a lot of progress, if “a lot of progress” means making my bed. Photo: Me.


In the course of getting my undergrad degree, I took a class in Indian Buddhism. A lot of undergrads at Iowa did because it sounded cool and fulfilled the Eastern Studies requirement. I’ve forgotten the impassioned notes I scribbled next to passages in the textbook that summer, but I remember a little about Buddha’s enlightenment. Enlightenment is the Western translation of bodhi, which means “awakening.”  Wikipedia says what the we understand enlightenment to be is “sudden insight into transcendental truth.”

I always imagined Buddha becoming enlightened in this searing, brilliant, sunshine-y moment, when he suddenly saw the world for what it is: temporal, finite, and indescribably beautiful. He saw that every single one of us is born and every single one of us must die, and every single one of us is important, and we hurt ourselves over and over and over but we don’t have to. I imagined him seeing the brilliance of roses and commuter trains and coffee cups and bad haircuts. Basically, it was all really intense and beautiful and made him the Buddha.

Being back in Chicago after all this time, after thousands and thousands of miles, I swear I know at least 1% of the enlightenment experience.

Because I walked out into the alley behind my building this morning and the oil on the cement, the rumbling el overhead and the pigeons flapping away as it came, the smell of fresh dough coming from Lou Malnati’s, the crisp pre-snow air, the Columbia kids walking to class, the beep of the parking garage security bar going up across the street, the skyscrapers to the north, painted there just for me, all that metal and glass and the whole city was there, right there, and I was no longer in exile. I saw Chicago, my real home, as it really is: alive, temporal, suffering, perfect. I never knew pigeons could vibrate.

Words can’t express my joy. God, I missed you so much. I tried to do that thing where if you tell a lie long enough it becomes true. But my heart was buried in that alley the whole time I was gone and I had just enough honesty left to come back and scrape it out. Telling the truth should be so easy — but we cover it up, roll trucks over it, let snow fall on it, bury it. For what? Appearances? Fear? Impatience, I think, in my case.

Surely, there’s something better than what I’m doing now, I said to myself last year. Surely, I thought, there’s something else to see than this. Surely, if I don’t put down roots, I won’t grow moss. If I don’t admit I love this place so much it feels like part of my body, if I lose it, or if it rejects me, it won’t hurt as much. That’s what I said when I thrashed and burned and left Chicago. But I’m home, now.

The definition of suffering in Buddhism is “being in one place and wishing you were someplace else.” For one second — and for the first time in a long time — I couldn’t possibly tell you what suffering feels like because there is nowhere, nowhere on Earth I’d rather be than here.


Small Wonders Fabric : The Story Video

posted in: Day In The Life 0

Here’s the story, you guys. Small Wonders Fabric, coming to a quilt shops and fabric stashes everywhere in November. If you’re at Quilt Market, come to booth #622 and we’ll squeak together.


Announcing Small Wonders Fabric Line from Mary Fons + Springs Creative

posted in: Art, Small Wonders, Work 6
My excitement is the opposite of small!
My excitement is the opposite of small!

For years, I have had a dream for fabric.

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.

Bunnies. Seriously. A 108'' backing print.
Bunnies. Seriously. A 108” backing print.
The Peruvian horses. Llamas? Who cares! From the South America group.
The Peruvian horses. Llamas? Who cares! From the South America group.
Majong tiles. Wanna play? From the China group.
Majong tiles. Wanna play? From the China group.
I knew you wanted more China right away. Little Rickshaw Dude is here to help.
I knew you wanted more China right away. Little Rickshaw Dude is here to help!
They're in love! In love with their love! From the Netherlands group.
They’re in love! In love with their love! From the Netherlands group.
Ever been to India? Me, neither, but now we can put it in our quilt. From the India line.
Ever been to India? Me, neither, but now we can put it in our quilt. From the India line.
Doesn't this just make you think of a pretty blouse hanging on a line in Provence? From the France group.
Doesn’t this just make you think of a pretty blouse hanging on a line in Provence? From the France group.
The stripe in the USA group. There are stars, too.
The stripe in the USA group. There are stars, too.

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!”

The Transparent Designer/Quilter.

posted in: Art, Quilting 1
My sewing table, about two minutes ago. Its state has not changed. Photo: Mary Fons
My sewing table, about two minutes ago. Its state has not changed. Photo: Mary Fons

I hung out with my new friend Carla last night at a cafe where everyone was way, way cooler than I will ever be. Carla and I were jamming on quilt world trends and interests. Carla is a proficient quilter and, in my view, has her finger squished squarely on the pulse of the Internet as it relates to quilts, quilters, and quiltmaking in America in 2015. I am not good at keeping up on all this because I am not good at keeping up on voicemail, let alone what hot UK designer is doing with partial seams. I’m not proud of it, but at least I know who to ask.

The conversation turned at one point to my own position in the quilt blogosphere. (I didn’t bring it up, please note!) It was uncomfortable to hear that in Carla’s estimation, I could do a lot better with sharing my quiltmaking process, the projects I have going, the day-to-day life I have as a person who regularly works with fabric and thread.

“It does seem that your projects sort of emerge when they’re done,” Carla said, munching a pear from her salad. “People like to see process. They want to know you better as a designer, I think, as a fellow quilter.”

Thus, a picture of my sewing table. My sewing table is also my table-table. I have no other table in this furnished apartment and it’s a good thing, too: to have a second table just for breakfast, say, I’d have to stack it on top of this one and then where would I put my washer and dryer? What you’re looking at up there is a fresh crop of fabric purchased in Kansas City; materials from the class I taught at the DC Modern Guild a couple weekends ago; my sewing machine; a candle that should not be there; flowers from my friend Jason that are very nearly dead but so beautiful I can’t toss, yet; and under all that, my mat, seam ripper, rotary cutter, a pattern I’m drafting, and previews of art for my upcoming fabric line.*

My design wall is directly behind the table and there are several things happening there, too. If PaperGirl were a vlog and not a blog, I would show you a full tour of my sewing area, but PaperGirl is not a vlog, will never be a vlog, and while we’re on the subject, I will never say “vlog” out loud, nor will I ever write it, ever again. Humans are capable of making good choices, as it turns out, and not allowing “v*og” into the vernacular is proof of this.

In the months to come, I plane to do a bit more curtain-drawing in this manner. There are big projects afoot and I’m champing at the bit to share about them. But don’t be surprised if one of these days “PaperGirl Too” pops up and Pendennis and I take you through how to make the quilt perpetually on my mind.

*Oh, you just wait. Oh, yes.

“You In Trouble Now, Son!”

posted in: D.C., Day In The Life 1
Roses for sale. In Germany. Same thing. Photo: Wikipedia
Roses for sale. In Germany. Same thing. Photo: Wikipedia

Out running errands today, I stopped on the corner of U St. and 16th when the light turned red. I had a heavy bag of groceries and was bummed I missed getting across the street, but then I was glad that I hadn’t.

On the other side of the street, a man in business attire was holding a huge arrangement of red roses. Two dozen, I’d wager. It’s incredible how the eyes just zap! right to a bouquet of red roses. Everyone on all the four corners of that intersection caught sight of the flowers and of the guy.

So he’s waiting for the light, too — he needs to come across the street from the other side. And while we’re all waiting, he’s being totally accosted by the men who were standing on his corner hanging out.

“Oooooh!” one of the men laughed, “You in trouble now, son! What’d you do? C’mon! What’d you do? Somethin’ bad, man — that’s a lotta flowers.”

That man’s friend shook his head in mock anguish. “She’s mad, man. What is that, two dozen roses? Damn, dude — I hope it works, I honestly do. Good luck! Good luck, son.”

The man holding the flowers was as red as the roses themselves. He was smiling, embarrassed but shaking his head like, “Yeah. That’s pretty much what’s going on.” I put my hand over my mouth to hide my giggling. The flower guy knew the entire world was watching him get razzed, but I didn’t want to make it worse. The light changed and everyone crossed paths. As I passed the guys who were joking around, I gave them a big smile.

“He’s gonna get it,” I said, “Even with those flowers.”

“She knows what’s up!” one man laughed to the other. “Get it, girl!”

(Gentlemen, I plan to.)

To Those On The Fence (Or, “Tree Of Life”)

posted in: Paean, Quilting 0
The Tree of Life quilt block, currently up on my design wall.
The Tree of Life quilt block, currently up on my design wall.

Here was my day:

I woke up. I wrote for a few hours. I drank tea during those hours, tea with probably too much cream and honey. I don’t want to live in a world without pots of tea with cream and honey, so there you have it.

Errands were run. Dry cleaning. Grocery store, because I needed cream and honey. I didn’t get to the post office and I feel bad about that. I didn’t go on a walk to no place at all and I feel bad about that, too. I took a brief nap.

I did work. Emails, proposals, thinking-cap sorts of things. Correspondence. Invoicing. I called a friend of mine, I tidied the kitchen, I received a UPS box. It contained a quilt that has finally come home after a year of being out for editorial, or a show, or because it just needed to go find itself.

And at the end of all this, at the end of myself, what did I want?

I wanted to sew. I wanted to touch fabric. I wanted to turn on my iron to the hottest setting she’s got. I wanted to slice and dice the selected fabric and stitch it back together again, paired now with other fabrics, paired now with other patchwork in order to create a more perfect union. After looking at quilts, talking about them, reading about them, being steeped in the whole thing most of the day — more than anything in the world, I wanted to try a quilt block because I have wanted to try “Tree of Life” for about a year.

Isn’t it marvelous? Making quilts?

The hum of the machine as it sews is something close to maternal. The snip of thread scissors does something important in the brain. The steam that rises from the iron, if I may be a little woo-woo, is purifying. And the thing about the process of making patchwork is that it’s fun and engaging and satisfying, but at the end of your efforts, you have a quilt. You don’t have a puzzle that needs to be scooped up and put back in the box. You don’t have a model airplane, the function of which is now to collect dust on the top of a bookshelf in grandpa’s office. A quilt wraps around a body. A quilt is functional art. A quilt is for you, and for me, and forever.

To those on the fence or those who are stumped; to those who are searching for something that will make it all better — or increase the joy factor in an already wildly fun existence — I strongly recommend making a quilt. It works for me.