Marianne Fons

(Originally published in SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW #74.)


Marianne Fons and her dog, Scrable.

Many know Fons & Porter as a how-to show on public television and a wildly popular magazine. But before Fons & Porter became a well-known brand in the quilt world, they were two young women living in rural Iowa, learning how to make quilts.

We asked Marianne Fons to go back to the beginning . . .

When Liz and I met in our mid-twenties, we were two college-educated young women living in an area without many jobs. We met in a beginners quilting class and sort of accidentally wound up team teaching. We both had young kids and were both married to husbands less ambitious than ourselves. We needed diaper and milk money and were thrilled to able to bring in cash doing something we liked. From the beginning, our personalities complemented each other. We were both list makers, both very conscientious.

We published a first book in 1982, CLASSIC QUILTED VESTS, but got a huge break with the opportunity to write QUILTER’S COMPLETE GUIDE for Oxmoor House (1993), just reissued by Dover in November of 2019. At over half a million copies sold, QCG is one of the best-selling quilting books of all time.

Marianne Fons at her sewing machine.

In the mid-1990s, we had the idea for a different kind of public television quilting show, two buddies sewing together instead of a guest-host format. The show was instantly popular, picked up by PTV stations nationwide. In 2001, we bought our magazine, Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting, from Oxmoor House. We grew the circulation from 40K to 300K, making it the most widely circulated quilting magazine in the world.

We sold Fons & Porter in 2006, when it was at its most successful and most visible. The sale required us to do TV for three years. After that, Liz was totally burned out and shortly moved from Iowa to Texas. She loves it there! My daughter Mary Fons had dipped her toe into quilting and was convinced to join me on TV, so I continued, hosting with her.

Mary was a true beginner, and some people complained. As she will be first to say, learning to quilt in front of millions of people on TV is not fun, but she did it, and I had the joy of watching her become a fantastic quilter. As a designer, she’s far more original than I am.

Mary Fons is now a quilt world celebrity in her own right, editor in chief of Quiltfolk magazine. I’m so proud of her!

Marianne Fons has to feel pretty good about what she’s accomplished. But, she is a woman who does not rest on her laurels. Maybe the word rest is not in her vocabulary, as she is most happy when working twelve hours a day. When asked to name her favorite quilt, she says, I always think of my latest as my greatest. . . . She prefers big quilts, and calls herself a serial monogamous quilter, because she makes one quilt at a time. Each quilt is like a love affair with fabric and design.

Click HERE to read the rest of the story at

Speak Your Mind