A Super-Secret Mission!

posted in: Work 7
"Animal locomotion," Plate 156. Eadweard Muybridge, 1887
She’s kind of like a ninja?? (Image: “Animal locomotion,” Plate 156. Eadweard Muybridge, 1887. Courtesy Wikipedia.)


It’s been hard the past few days to touch base because I can’t tell you where I am!

It’s true: I’ve been in [REDACTED] for the past couple few days because I’m on assignment for this magazine and I can’t let the cat out of the bag about which state Quiltfolk’s Issue 05 will spotlight. Not me, Satie! No way, Monet!

And while it’s fun to be a lil’ ninja and fly under the radar, it’s also the pits: I can’t write to you about all the things and I can’t even do any Instagram stuff! Believe me, I’m in a very cool place with crazy-good photo opportunities. The Instagram stuff can wait, but it’s torture to not write up what I’ve seen and the things I’ve experienced since getting here yesterday morning. I just need you to help me download things, you know? Downloads of the mental variety. This is something you help me with.

Agh! Okay, one thing:

It’s been so horribly hot in Chicago; we broke records all week last week with temperatures in the low- to mid-90s. I hate a summer that stretches into October, and of course it’s all just very anxiety-provoking and confusing and frightening, all this extreme weather.

Anyway, I experienced a fall moment today and it took my breath away, honestly. There was a quicksilver chill in the air and when it whistled through me, my entire life-in-autumn flashed before my eyes. Autumns of my childhood (the sharpened pencils, the trick-o-treats); the autumns of my young adulthood (the cigarettes outside the bars, the late-night rehearsals); the autumns more recent (the leaves downtown, the frost on the windows of the cabs in the morning.) But in that moment when you first feel the fall air, all the autumns blend together and it’s just your life, in technicolor, in a sweater.

You will love Issue 05 of Quiltfolk.

I’m Lecturing In Wilmette on Thursday Night, So Come Over!

posted in: Work 2
My view from the stage, Irvine, California, last month. Image: Me oh boy
My view from the stage, Irvine, California, last month…before they started adding chairs in the back! Yeah!! Photo: Me oh boy


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.)

Anyway, come over. Quilt-geek out with me.

Sioux City, Distilled.

posted in: Quilting, Tips, Travel 3
"Bing" is for bing cherry, by the way. Photo: Internet
“Bing” is for bing cherry, by the way. Photo: Internet

Greetings from fabulous Sioux City!

When’s the last time you were in Sioux City? Yeah, me neither, but I’m glad I’m here. Sioux City is pretty cool. The downtown makes a good first impression as you roll in with its copper-colored bricks, clocktower, and a few tall buildings. I consulted the oracle* to learn a bit about this town that is almost in South Dakota and almost in Nebraska.

Here are 5 notable things I’ve learned about Sioux City:

1. In 2010, Money magazine named Sioux City one of the best places to live in the world. I can’t find the article but that’s a very nice thing to say, Money, and I’m sure you had your reasons.

2. There is a creek here called Bacon Creek. Not Beacon. Not Macon. Bacon.

3. Try as I might, I cannot stop laughing over the fact that the airport code for Sioux City is SUX. It’s just not fair. Someone, please do something about this. It’s time.

4. The Twin Bing candy your ancestors ate? Made in Sioux City. It even says so on the wrapper. I feel like the Twin Bing is primed for a comeback via the post-hipster set. I can see a three-Michelin-star restaurant in Chicago working a Twin Bing foam into the pork chop dish; I can see an all-natural cosmetics company making a Twin Bing exfoliant.

5. Guess who was born here? Pauline Esther Friedman and her twin sister Esther Pauline Friedman, better known as Abigail Van Buren (“Dear Abby”) and Ann Landers, respectively. Yes! The advice columnists known for the sassy, brassy advice they gave the American people for over two centuries. Did you know those two women were sisters? Twins, even?! And did you know they hated each other and though people said they reconciled their bitter competition at some point, they totally did not? You can’t write this stuff!

And I am falling asleep in this chair, proof that you can write this stuff, but not anymore tonight.

*the Internet

From The Land of State-Sponsored Television

posted in: Day In The Life, Quilting, Work 0
Seeing Bert and Ernie chopped in half and placed under glass is making my inner child hysterical and traumatized, but at least they're the real mccoy. Photo: Wikipedia
Seeing Bert and Ernie chopped in half and placed under glass is making my inner child hysterical and traumatized, but at least they’re the real mccoy. Photo: Wikipedia

There are ribbons tied to my fingers; some go from there to this keyboard and some flutter out and lay in the pages of my journal. This is clearly annoying and counter-productive if I’m doing anything but sitting at my laptop or writing in my journal.

It’s TV taping time. Yesterday, I filmed three fantastic shows with Mom. I feel okay saying that the shows are getting better every time we do this. It’s not a new job anymore. I got this. And I like it, too.

On the set, doing this job, the ribbons have to be tucked away. Frankly, it’s kind of a relief. It’s good to be around the crew that I love, good to have those hot lights on me, good to meet the guests and do the job, which I see as simple: make the other person look good. That’s it. And so I can take all the focus off me and shift it to the other person. No brooding, no decisions to be made outside of what patchwork unit we need to teach next.

And there’s a Bert and Ernie in the lobby of the Iowa Public Television! This is the best place to be today.

The Snow Twilight Zone!

"Maslanitsa," by Boris Kustodiev, 1918. Stick Rod Serling's face in there somewhere and you've got it.
“Maslanitsa,” by Boris Kustodiev, 1918. Stick Rod Serling’s face in there somewhere and you’ve got it.

I remember exactly one Twilight Zone episode out of the dozen or so I saw accidentally as a kid. The one I remember, not surprisingly, is the one that scarred me for life. I was about eight when I saw it and I think about it whenever life presents an obvious twist of fate.

In the episode, a pretty lady is driving a car one night and she gets into a bad wreck. The cosmos, God, fate, etc., had determined that she would die as a result. Like, it was written in some big ledger in the sky that her time was up and she was supposed to die that night. But then she doesn’t. There is a wrinkle in the time-space continuum or something and she survives without a scratch. She’s happy about this until zombies.

These way-too-scary-for-an-eight-year-old people-creatures who, looking back, were totally zombies though I didn’t know what zombies were at the time, began appearing in this woman’s world. They weren’t everywhere at first but as she went through her life in the next few weeks, these people-creatures would pop up and like, grab at her.** Their goal was to take her to the other side, the side she was supposed to be on. She was in the living world, but that was wrong. She was an escapee from the natural order of things, a rogue moment that had to be corrected because… Well, because it made for a great Twilight Zone episode, I guess.

NOTE: To all the brilliant, gracious, attractive ladies in my lecture and class outside Richmond, VA, thank you for a wonderful day today and please do not in any way think that I am connecting you with zombies from the Twilight Zone. 

That said, tonight I’m totally the lady from the other side. Because I should still be in Richmond. It is written that I should be giving my second lecture right now to a large group of quilters at the fabulous Sew Refreshing shop. But I’m not there. There’s been a wrinkle in the time-space continuum and I am home. In my pajamas. AAAAAGHHHHH!

It’s because a snowpocalypse snow storm is bearing down on the east coast. Richmond, a city that owns maybe 1.2 snow plows, both made in 1946, is expected to get a foot of snow tonight. Terri, my host and owner of the shop picked me up this morning and said, so sweetly, “Mary, ah… Well, I’m just wondering about the lecture we added this evening… Well, we’re going to get about twelve inches starting this afternoon and I just don’t know that the ladies should be driving in the weather…” I knew what she was suggesting and was 100% onboard, sad as it is to cancel an event. Truth was, I wasn’t so sure about doing the evening lecture after I heard the weather report.

“Terri, absolutely. We should cancel the evening program. I’ll look at the train schedule.”

And so it was that after my morning lecture and the 1,000 Pyramid class — such a good class! — I went to the train station and got the 4:00-ish #80 Amtrak back into Washington. I almost got off at Fredericksburg because I’m a Civil War nerd and I’m dying to check it out, but I figured with the blizzard and all and not knowing a single thing about Fredericksburg other than it being an historic battle site, I should wait.

I should be in a smart outfit with a laser pointer, but instead I’m drinking juice. I’m on my couch. There are no zombies in the closet, though. I know because I checked.

** Please remember that I’m describing a Twilight Zone episode I saw once when I was like, eight. If some of you know the episode well, forgive me for butchering (!) it. I’m only recounting what scarred me for life, not the mise en scene or the actress in the title role. I only remember death.

Can You Panhandle It?

In Florida. Photo: Wikipedia

America is big and wide and I’ve seen a fair amount of it.

Before I gigged around as a quilter, I gigged around as a theater performer, and before that, I gigged around as a poet, if you can believe it. I’ve couch surfed in Massachusetts, I’ve lugged a duffel bag through California, I’ve been on stages in Maine and in all the major Texan cities (I think.) When you add in drive-throughs and personal, non-work travel experiences, it appears I’ve gotten on and off airplanes or in and out of cars in all the continental United States except Montana, Delaware, and West Virginnny. Oh, and Rhode Island. Always piping up to be counted, little Rhode Island.

SIDENOTE 1: May I remind readers residing in these last four (attractive, well-governed) states that I am available for booking and can be contacted via the booking form on this website? Wouldn’t it be fun to check these states off the list together? As for the Alaskans and the Hawaiians… Surely there is an over-achiever among you who would like to inaugurate me into the All Fifty States Traveler’s Club. You get me to where you are and you will be richly rewarded, bonus prizes for everyone if we can find a way to book Juno and Honolulu back to back. Think of the PaperGirl posts!

I write to you now from deep in the Florida Panhandle.

For the next couple days I’ll be working here, meeting and greeting and communing with quilters. The location itself is remote to be sure: the Pensacola airport is an hour away from the town where all this is taking place, and I was informed the dirt roads in the area were only recently paved with gravel. The simplicity of the area belies the commerce taking place within it, though; there’s a whole lot of sewin’ going on down here, and I’m looking forward to the action.

SIDENOTE 2: I am compelled to admit that until (very) recently, I never knew that the Florida Panhandle was named for the shape of the region. I knew it was geographical, the term, but I didn’t realize people were being so adorable about it. The stick part of the shape of the state of Florida looks like the handle on a pan! Could you die? No, you’re saying, I don’t want to die in or because of the Florida Panhandle. And you’re also saying, “You didn’t know that? But everyone knows that.” But that’s not true. There’s a lot everyone doesn’t know about the Florida Panhandle and a lot of other things. 

II also hope to see an alligator from far away. I also hope to eat fried chicken. I am 80% confident at least one of these things will happen on this, my current American adventure.

Tips For The Beginner Quilter In All of Us (A Diagram-Chart-Schematic-Graphic)

posted in: Quilting, Work 6
Everyone likes shapes. That's Grandma Moses, by the way.
Everyone likes shapes. That’s Grandma Moses, by the way.

I’m in Cleveland at the Original Sewing and Quilt Expo show. I’ll be teaching today; tomorrow, I’ll teach again and then give a lecture. If you’re in the state of Ohio, you should do the following immediately:

1. Eat a buckeye
The candy, I mean! Not the sports fan, tree, chicken, or passenger train that also use the term “buckeye.” Eating a passenger train… What’s wrong with you??

2. Drive to the OSQE show.
It’s at the I-X Center. I don’t know what I-X is for, but is there any better place for us all to find out than in the actual I-X Center? Clearly, there is not.

3. Come find me!
I’m wearing pants, shoes, and a top. And earrings. And a necklace. And bra and underwear, naturally, and I’m deodorized and flossed. Can’t miss me. Shouldn’t miss me, really. We can rap about the tip sheet up there. It’s full of good information for beginner quilters of all ages and stages.

4. Gimme one of those buckeyes.
I smell peanut butter on you. You’re holding out. C’mon, man, hurry up… No, just do it quick! Just be cool! Aright, aright. Now we’re talkin’… Mmmm…

:: munch munch ::

The End.

Make + Love Quilts: Scrap Quilts for the 21st Century

posted in: Art, Quilting, Work 5
Dat dere's muh book!
I, libros.

I don’t have any children. But I have written a book. Because of this book, I feel I understand a thing or two about parentage and stewardship, about hard work and real fear.

(Before we get too far along, if you don’t have time to read the rest of this, I completely understand and you can just jump to pre-ordering my book right here and thank you, darling, you look exceptionally handsome/gorgeous today!)

Let’s break down the [MOTHER] is to [AUTHOR] as [CHILD] is to [BOOK] analogy:

CHILD: A moment of conception must occur (i.e., orgasm.)
BOOK: A moment of conception must occur (i.e., great idea.)

CHILD: Blastocyst = cluster of cells formed early in mammal development
BOOK: Outline = cluster of ideas formed early in manuscript development

CHILD: The expectant mother may experience extreme tiredness, mood swings, carpal tunnel syndrome, nipple tenderness.
BOOK: Expectant author may also experience all of the above. WELL SHE CAN, OKAY??

CHILD: Needs a name.
BOOK: Needs a name that will sell.

CHILD: Though each woman’s labor varies, nearly all experience degrees of severe pain in labor and delivery.
BOOK: Author labor varies, but nearly all experience degrees of severe pain throughout the editing process and delivery of manuscript.

CHILD: May arrive diseased and malformed through no direct fault of the mother.
BOOK: Totally on you.

Let us leave the analogy, then, and let me tell you about the book coming out this spring from C&T Publishing. This is not the official book blurb, this is just me, PaperGirl, talking to you.

I wrote Make + Love Quilts: Scrap Quilts for the 21st Century is my book to delight readers, artists, and quilters. There are patterns for twelve original bed-sized scrap quilts, designed by me. There is instruction that takes you through the quiltmaking process, start to finish. There are tips and advice for creating good patchwork and a good life. There are quotes on love from all kinds of folks from Nietzsche to Montaigne to Marilyn Monroe. There is stunning photography of the quilts (gorgeous style shots as well as front and back flat shots of each), the fabric used, and the Quilt Charms I had engraved and stitched on the back.

The art direction is killer. When I was on a phone meeting with the book team in California, I reached for the sky: I told them to “make this book the most beautiful book you have ever made. Ever.” I promised them I’d do my part — and they held up their end of the bargain, I assure you. The book is more beautiful than I even imagined it would be. I’ve cried several times and I haven’t even seen a bound galley copy, yet.

The book costs $22.95 and you can get it right here.

I’ll share more soon. I’m so excited. I think I made a good baby.