Since I’ve been home from my whirlwind tour of Winterset, Iowa, with Marianne, I’ve realized how many, many quilts she has designed … and shared, either as patterns we can make ourselves or as actual quilts, shared with real people. I can’t get my head around how many … or the hours invested … or the satisfaction of having carved out such a wide swath of beautiful quilts, quilts we can (mostly) all make ourselves. Hundreds, for sure.
I remembered the day I spent with Marianne, she was working on a new design, and I was the designated stitcher (what a treat, she did all the cutting and pressing!). It eventually turned out to become a Quilt of Valor pattern (Red, White and Gratitude), once it had a little twist incorporated to generate a background design not apparent while it was being pieced.
And so I had to ask her about how Darling (the quilt she designed for the 2018 quilt retreat At Home with Marianne Fons) came to be, and how she looks at quilts these days. After hundreds and hundreds of quilts, is it still fulfilling?
Here’s what we talked about…
Q: Can you tell us a little about the retreat quilt you’ve designed? You’ve named it Darling, which begs the question …. is there a background story?
A: Darling is made from fellow Iowan Linzee McCray’s collection, FEED SACKS – TRUE BLUE for MODA. I combined a limited number of prints (just ten) with three solids I bought from Tony at Piece Works Quilt Shop, and everything just worked.
My daughter Mary Fons helped me come up with the name. We kept looking at the quilt top on my design wall, trying to come up with the name. “It’s darling,” she said, and I said, yes, “totally darling,” and she said, “You should just call it Darling.” I’m thrilled Linzee McCray herself, author of FEED SACKS, published by UPPERCASE, will be with us on Friday night at the quilt museum to do a little trunk show!
Your Design Approach
Q: How do you approach designing a quilt? Is there a difference in your approach between one you design for yourself and one that’s designed to become part of the Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting portfolio?
A: I always try to create something “magazine-worthy,” with techniques that are TV-teachable. I’ve been doing it so long I don’t think I could approach design any other way. I feel many designers are more original than I am, but I know I have a knack for spotting something special about an antique quilt and adapting it in a fresh way that works. My goal has generally been to design a quilt anyone with basic skills could make.
Tricks of the Trade
Q: Darling is a big quilt — and has lots of pieces. I’m sure you have tricks you’ll share so construction is streamlined and fun. How have you learned so much about making quilts? When is the last time you picked up a new trick? Did someone show you, or did you simply come upon “a better way” while you were making a quilt?
A: I admire designers whose focus is show quilts, but for me, personally, the true purpose of a quilt is to provide beauty and comfort, so I almost always make large (people-sized) quilts. From a design standpoint, I want enough space for broad brush strokes, and smaller quilts rarely provide that. Many, many people are cleverer technicians than I am. When I’m piecing blocks for a quilt and I figure out that “better way,” it’s usually when the top is over half made. I think, “now why did I have to make 100 of these before I figured that out?”
A Love for Quilts
Q: Diane Tomlinson will be joining us at the retreat, with a quilt she designed and has taught many times — it has a little trick she’s going to share, one every quiltmaker should know. I’ll be interviewing her, too, for another blog post. What’s a question you’d like me to ask her?
A: Something I have in common with Diane is a very deep, general love for quilts. I wonder where hers came from.
Grow your love for quilts when you join Marianne in Winterset Iowa for the quilt retreat At Home with Marianne Fons. Explore the quilting destinations you’ll visit during your quilting escape when you check out the quilt retreat itinerary.
Stay tuned for more of my conversation with Marianne!