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.

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Mary Fons – A Writer Who Grew Up Under a Quilt

Mary Fons

Mary Fons

Mary Fons refers to herself as “a writer who grew up under a quilt.”  She co-hosts Love of Quilting on PBS alongside her mom, popular quilter and educator Marianne Fons.

a-aQuilty-LogoIn 2010, Mary created Quilty, a weekly online program for the beginner quilter (New Track Media, now F+W Media). Today, there are over 200 episodes of Quilty  available at, as well as a bi-monthly magazine. Quilty magazine, of which Mary is the editor and creative director, is available nationwide at bookstores, quilt shops, and via auto-ship and digital subscription at and www, Each issue has more than a dozen projects aimed at the beginner quilter.

a-aMakeLove_Final_LowResCoverMary’s quilts are frequently featured in Love of Quilting and Quilty. She lectures and leads workshops across the country, has written her blog, PaperGirl, since 2006, and her first book, Make + Love Quilts: Scrap Quilts for the 21st Century is out now from C&T.

So, who is Mary Fons? What inspires her? In a recent PaperGirl post entitled “The Question Must Not Be Asked,” Mary writes:

“I will always prioritize writing. Always. If I’m not writing here, I’m in my journals. If I’m not in my journals, I’m reading, the other half of writing. There’s time every day for one part of this endless, bizarre, oft-fruitless, occasionally ecstatic process of mine and I refuse to be told there isn’t. I can’t help it. I actually can’t. Without the writing thing in my life, I feel nothing short of impoverished. And when I feel like that, well, no one gets anything at all — not on time, not late, not anything.”

Born and raised in rural Iowa, Mary lived in Chicago for twelve years where she worked as a theater artist and freelance writer, writing for books, magazines, syndication, and educational companies. This summer, she moved to the heart of New York City, “for love,” as she says in her blog, found at

Mary started quilting in earnest seven years ago while recovering from a life-threatening health issue. Though she started quilting when the modern quilting movement was beginning, Mary’s quilt style is not modern, but “traditional with an updated palette.”

When buying fabric, Mary applies what she calls “the Dress Test.”  She asks herself, “If this fabric were a dress, would I wear it?” If the answer is no, the fabric is bypassed.  She loves every fabric she buys, therefore, no fabric sits long. Mary makes big quilts and tries to use as many fabrics as possible in each. She does not use just one color of pink, but rather twenty shades or more, as in her Pink Waves (2010) quilt. Mary loves to make scrap quilts and likes to add a rogue fabric or color just for the thrill.

Mary with mom, Marianne Fons.

Mary with mom, Marianne Fons.

Having an influential mom in the quilt world has been a mixed blessing. While certain introductions were made more swiftly as a result of her last name, Mary’s struggle has been to establish herself as distinct from her mother’s style and name while showing the sincere respect she has for all her mother’s contributions and for the art of quiltmaking as a whole. What has never been in question: the love and true camaraderie she and her mom have with each other. “You can’t fake that,” Mary says of her and her mother’s rapport on public television. “We really do love each other and love working together – always have.”

a-AColorMeQuilter-logoMary recently started a monthly webinar series, Color Me Quilter, where each month, she examines using a different color in your quilts. Webinars continue to gain in popularity for quilters who want great instruction from the comfort of their own homes. Mary’s series is attracting fans already for its fun, engaging approach to selecting fabrics for your next project. Go to to purchase a “ticket.” You can watch the webinar live as it happens or buy it later as a download to watch at your convenience.