Trunk Show: Marianne Fons – To Honor With Quilts

Marianne Fons
Marianne Fons

Marianne wears her devotion to Quilts of Valor® on her sleeve… Almost literally! She is rarely seen at a quilting function without her Quilts of Valor® pin!

Love of Quilting has developed a deep library of patriotic patterns for one specific reason: Marianne Fons found out about the Quilts of Valor® Foundation. What started out as interest developed into a full-blown passion for her, one that she worked to ensure the quilting community knows about. We’ve carried on the tradition of publishing at least one Quilt of Valor®-friendly pattern in each issue, and showcasing one of those patterns in each TV series of Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting. Here, she shares how she grew so connected to the Quilts of Valor® mission, and presents the most popular patriotic quilts from the Fons & Porter archives. —Vanessa Lyman

Marianne Fons, cofounder of Fons & Porter, didn’t grow up in what could be considered a “military” family, though her father and brothers all served. Instead, her interest in Quilts of Valor® was first caught by the sheer size of this subset of quilters.

“I met QOVF founder Catherine Roberts when the foundation was still in its infancy,” says Marianne. “When I became involved, QOVF had recorded around 40,000 Quilts of Valor® awarded. I multiplied that number by $250—as the approximate cost of materials for one quilt—and got $10 million. I felt my industry needed to know about this.”

Having built a quilting business from the ground up alongside Liz Porter, Marianne knew just how significant this was for the quilting industry. So she agreed to serve as liaison for QOVF within the quilting community, spreading the word not only about the foundation’s mission, but its contribution.

Her heart truly became committed, however, when she awarded her first quilt.

Marianne Fons

“The central eagle was from a historic quilt in the International Quilt Study Center collection,” says Marianne, who taught this quilt on the 1600 series of Love of Quilting TV. This quilt was the first Quilt of Valor® Marianne ever awarded, and still the most poignant.

Valiant Eagle was a really beautiful quilt, if I say so myself. I awarded it to Dan Collins, a Vietnam veteran exactly my age who had been severely wounded just before he was to ship out for R&R. I met him quite by chance. I had never given a quilt to someone I didn’t know,” says Marianne. When she visited him a few weeks later to get a photo, Collins told her that he napped under his quilt every single day. “He said to me, ‘I’m always cold, because of Agent Orange, and this quilt is nice and warm.’ That was maybe a decade ago, now. I like to think of Valiant Eagle as well worn, but holding up nicely for Dan.”

Since then, she has awarded maybe 20 or so quilts. “Some quilters in the QOVF community have made 50, 100, even 200, so I’ll never catch up!” She even knows some quilters that travel with an extra quilt in their car, just in case they encounter a veteran who has not been awarded.

Marianne Fons

As she mentioned on the 2900 series of Love of Quilting TV, Marianne knew this quilt was going to a sailor. “If a person knows the recipient, it’s totally okay to customize the quilt for that person,” she says. But if you don’t have an intended recipient, avoid branch-specific prints or designs. “Try to award an ‘Army’ Quilt of Valor® to a Marine and you’re in big trouble!”

What accounts for this passion amongst quilters? “It’s simple,” Marianne says. “Quilters who have been quilting a long time have made quilts for every member of their family, maybe even the raffle quilt for their guild. When they make and award a Quilt of Valor®, the impact on the recipient is often obvious, far greater than that of any quilt they’ve given before. An enjoyable hobby becomes a form of national service, and quilters are moved to make and award another, and another, and another!”

Generally, Quilts of Valor® shouldn’t be too complex. While they should use 100% cotton and be well-made, they are not for competition. They are meant for the awardee’s use. “The recipients are generally non-quilters, so a simple star is just as beautiful to them as a Mariner’s Compass might be.”

Marianne Fons

Diane Tomlinson’s In Honor Of design is a pattern Marianne sees frequently at QOVF award ceremonies, and for good reason. Diane Tomlinson designed the quilt to be easy-to-make “so that as many people as possible can make a Quilt of Valor®.”

In fact, Marianne confesses, she used to be a ‘snob’ about pre-printed panels, but has come around to them after seeing the reaction of the recipients. “The designs that fabric companies have created in recent years are gorgeous, and there’s no quicker way to get a quilt started. When these quilts with eagles and other imagery are awarded, there are always ooh’s and ah’s from the audience.”

Ceremonies to present Quilts of Valor® are encouraged, and there are tips on conducting ceremonies found on their website. There is also useful information and inspiring stories in the QOVF’s newsletter, THREADS, which Marianne occasionally writes for and still proofreads. It’s good to subscribe to keep up—the mission of the Quilts of Valor® continues to grow and expand.
“The first QOVs were for young soldiers wounded in Iraq. The mission then broadened to Vietnam War combat veterans, then all combat veterans, and now to all who have served, which makes our mission rather daunting, but appropriate, in my opinion.”

Marianne Fons

Tony Jacobson’s Three Tours was inspired by Tony’s nephew, who served three tours of duty—two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan—as a member of the Iowa National Guard. The quilt was featured on the 2100 series of LOQtv.

As of press time, more than 230,000 quilts have been awarded to service members and veterans and military service members. “If every man, woman, and child would make and award just one Quilt of Valor®,” says Marianne, “think of the impact that would have!”

Our top QOV patterns all have accompanying video! Hear the stories, learn the techniques, make—and award—the quilt!

This article originally appeared in Love of Quilting September/October 2019.

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