A Quilt In The White House

Hello, my fellow Americans!

I’ve been turning over an idea in my brain for a long time. Wouldn’t it be cool (read: incredible, amazing, v.v.v. good) if The First Lady made a quilt with Sasha and Malia? Wouldn’t that be amazing?? I’m betting there are a few quilts in The House already, but I’m betting they’re either stored deep in the archives or under glass, maybe on a wall in some guest room.

I think there should be a quilt in the White House. I mean, look at this family:

There needs to be a quilt on that couch, darn it! (And by the way, those girls get more and more beautiful every day, do they not?) I am hereby volunteering to travel to Washington, with my Baby Lock, if needed, and teach the family and any of the gal’s friends to make a quilt. Or maybe a group of us could go! How will this work? What should we do?

A petition. I think we should start with that. Until I figure out how to make an online petition, just let me know if you think this is a good idea. If the First Lady made a quilt, it would be good for her creative spirit. It would be learning a new skill, one rooted deeply in her/our American heritage. It would be amazing for the quilt industry, because a lot of media people would say, “Hey, that’s neat! Michelle Obama is making a quilt!” so there’s that. And it would be cool because I have a lot of respect for MO and she real pretty, too.

Thoughts, gentle readers? Petition? Do we make a quilt and send it as an extra incentive/attention-getting device?


Here’s the petition! You can sign it!

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Hey Quilty Blog
Mary Fons

About Mary Fons

Mary Fons hails from a prominent quilt mafia family. A professional writer and performer, Mary co-hosted the nationally-airing PBS program "Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting" along with her mom, famed quilter and educator Marianne Fons. In 2010, Mary began hosting Quilty, an online show offered weekly on QNNtv.com. In 2012, Mary became editor of Quilty magazine. She holds a Theater Arts BA from the University of Iowa.

72 thoughts on “A Quilt In The White House

  1. LOVE the idea, /I agree, they need a quilt and need to learn to make one. Just think how many people would be inspired if the first lady did make one. I am in!!

  2. Not a fan of the idea. She has more important causes than the quilt industry. Would be a great way for you to get a personal tour of the White House. Just my opinion but good luck should you pursue it.

  3. ABSOLUTELY!!! This is a fantastic idea! You’re right that couch is missing a quilt. Should be a new tradition in the White House. What a better way to honor tradition and the American Woman. Count me in!! I’m available if you need a travel companion!!!! 🙂

  4. The thing about Michelle Obama is she is all about “get up and move” and quilting can be sedentary, perhaps we could focus on basting, that is one of the more active quilting activities, which brings up the question, hand or machine?

  5. Love it! Michelle Obama is already into gardening, and gardening and quilts go together like peanut butter and jelly, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (Abbott and Costello?), or baseball and apple pie. Also, Michelle is a big proponent of education, and think of all the great math skills that quilting can teach! Quilting’s ties to American history, veteran’s affairs, and art all come into play too. Isn’t amazing how one small quilt can represent so many things? Again – Love it! 😉

  6. Great idea! I travel to DC several times a year and have a collection of ‘inspiration’ photos from around the capital that I keep thinking would make great quilt designs (some doors, tile floors, lots of cool stuff…) I’m happy to help make this happen in anyway you need!

  7. Mar,
    There are those of us who think they are the worst thing that has ever happened to our country and our White House . I am so sorry you came up with this really stupid idea. I have enjoyed your mom’s show and now your’s but will just remove myself from the whole thing at this point .
    A former Marine , Mom of 5 , grandmom of 15 and a true patriot as I have headed up a QOV group that has made over 600 quilts for our Wounded Warriors , a devoted quilter as you can see , Stick to what you know ! You surely do not know what is best for our beloved country . Helen Faulstich

  8. I think it should be a quilt that represents one of MO’s causes, like
    a big veggie garden, or something for a veteran. That might get her attention…

  9. I’ve got it! A signature quilt, that represents the Obama years in the White House…and all the White House staff can sign it. A keepsake for when they depart the White House!

  10. We need to focus on quilts for our veterans and soldiers coming home from deployment overseas. We already make quilts for wounded warriors, lady heroes, and families of deceased soldiers; but we need a national focus on quilts for all military personnel. Regional projects could be combined to make a major national impact on our support for our military.

  11. Have sewing machine and PJ’s…will travel….What a marvelous idea!!!! Every woman needs a form of relaxation and an outlet from their busy schedule…Wouldn’t it be fun to teach basic quilting skills to any staff member along with “the Obama girls”…..Sounds like a plan to me….

  12. What I like most is the thought of making a quilt with meaning beyond – not merely decoration of the couch. Tough times have created the greatest of quilts. There are african american quilting traditions also that could be referenced and President Obama has some other cultural sources that could be plumbed. Mrs Obama has certainly understood and been sensitive to the touch times message when it comes to sourcing and re-using fashion. But there are also causes that go beyond the whitehouse and beyond politic that could do with support via quilting, Again beyond the needs of a couch that seems to be doing what couches should do. It would be great – but not a stunt. It needs substance and purpose and I don’t think you need to look too hard in any direction to find a purpose beyond mere decoration.

  13. I think it’s a great idea. With Mrs. O’s mother there also it could be a 3 generation project. Nothing could be better. We could introduce her to the Quilts of Valor project that goes along with her focus on the military families.

  14. I agree with Lesjes…… even though we may all love quilts all over our houses…. it doesnt mean that the obama family would like one… also… with all the problems this country is facing right now…. they have much more important things to do than make a quilt… but good luck to you… should you decide to go forward with your idea.

  15. What a wonderful idea! Remember the First Lady’s mother (First Gramma??) also lives at the White House, and bet she would love to be a part of this too! Plus the next generation of quilters coming up in their lovely daughters! love it 🙂

  16. Love all the responses. Just shows how diverse a group we quilters are. Perhaps starting with a project such as QOV or Linus project would appeal to MO and her girls should she include them. Or how about starting with the girls and let them teach her. Go forward with your dream

  17. Great idea and I’d be honored to be part of the teaching/helping team!! Quilting incorporates so many ‘layers’ from creativity to learning so many, many things that go beyond fabric.

  18. I think it would inspire more new quilters and spark the flame in veteran quilters. New quilt shops would pop up all over, more jobs. Great idea for the job market!

  19. What’s wrong with the idea. There are all kinds of ideas out there and quilting could be one of them. I’m too old to be traveling, but would be there in spirit !!! Have them look at blocks and let them decide a theme.

  20. Quilting has a very deep and rich history in the United States. A nation Michelle Obama was not even proud of for the first time in her adult life, until February 18, 2008.
    Now I respect that women of every demographic quilt- but to be honest, as long as we are talking about quilting with the first ever black First Family….maybe we can address why quilting expos are generally caucasion dominated events.
    I am willing to bet, black woman and white woman have not shared time working on the same quilts together since the civil war or prior.
    I am not a fan of the Obamas– but I would submit that an undertaking like this would have far more meaning if it were to promote warmth, acceptance, peace, diversity and inclusion between two races of women.
    This is a very divided nation right now, mostly by class warfare which Mr. Obama promotes in order to get re-elected. Quilting Expos are an exhibition in Quilting as a “Rich White Woman’s Sport” at this point in history. You really have to ask yourself, is this something Michelle Obama would even respect within her world view?
    The old saying is: The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.
    If we as American woman, are demographically divided in the persual of one our nations most treasured feminine cultural traditions…..how then can we as American women, help stop precisely what it is that is partially to blame for what is pulling our country apart….

  21. Sorry, I agree with the lady who wrote they are the worst thing that happened to this country!
    With all the organizations, read QOV, Wounded Warriors, churches and all the other organizations that help the military and their families, the increasingly large numbers of homeless and those others living at or below the poverty level, you want to make a quilt for someone who has repeatedly stated how wealthy he is?
    Shame on everyone who is so willing to donate time and or monetary goods for such a project. Please give to those who need it.

    Mary,Why not admit it’s all about calling attention to YOU?
    Just for the record I no longer watch Fons & Porter on PBS since you replaced Liz Porter.

  22. I am the same Maryann from post 44.

    Because of this discussion, I spent some time google-ing “black women who quilt.” It amazed me how many black and afro-centric quilting qroups there are out there. 1.6 Million black women quilt in the U.S. But you know what….I have never heard about any of them….I live in Washington State and attend the Sewing n Stitchery Expo at Puyallup every year. This is one of the biggest shows in the nation. I also attend the Pacific Northwest Quilt Show in Tacoma every year…..and yet at no time at either of these events have I ever come to learn about the Pacific Northwest African American Quilt Guild. This Guild has existed for roughly 12 years.
    Further searching reveals African American specific Guilds in Delaware, Philadelphia and Louisiana. Have I ever seen any of these featured in mainstream quilting publications? And mind you, I am not black….I am simply begging a couple of questions:

    1. Why are we self segregating in 2013?
    2. Why would Michelle Obama want a bunch of fat old retired white women who are tapping their 401K plans to the tune of 4 Billion dollars a year in support of the quilt industry– to teach her and her girls quilting, when any number of unsung, unheard of Afro Centric Aesthetic quilting guilds could do so?

    That leads to the next question:
    3. Are the so called “Modern Quilts” really modern? or are we just bastardizing the Gees Bend aesthetic? Why are these so called “Modern Quilt patterns” not simply called “Gees Bend Revival patterns?”

    As one who is conservative in her politics- I also have been very tempted to stop doing business with liberal business people. Not unlike the poster above who said she has watched your mother for years and now you, but would at this time remove herself “from the whole thing.” I do not want to “remove” myself from enjoying your quilt exploits, because I do believe you are genuinely interested in the answers to the very questions I have raised– and you are trying to help bring this wonderful art to a younger demographic.

    Just seeing you and Ebony Love quilt together — could be the start of a new and more diversified/yet unifying quilting genre…

    In response to Discusted above, I have no problem with making a quilt for a wealthry person or a dignitary– but the issue is, do our values coincide, not whether our bank accounts coincide.

  23. Elaine, I hope you’ll read my blog post reply to the initial post. The first comment you sent me wasn’t posted, as I mention in the new entry, but this one is online. I do welcome and respect dissenting voices, and of course I can’t make everyone happy. It is hurtful, however, when I read comments like yours. Please remember that folks on the other side of a computer screen or TV are actually, you know, folks. I’m a person, and you hurt my feelings.

    I’ve learned to let things roll off me — if I didn’t want to deal with this sort of thing, I’d have continued my life as a writer and performer and not gotten into the family business. But I fell in love with quilting and now work very hard to bring my own ideas, perspectives, and joy to the community. Some people say, “Oh, you can’t listen to people who say negative things,” but I find it tough to do. How about you?

  24. I am not going to spend my time to make THEM a quilt. I’m sure good president’s before him have had quilts and left them in the White House. The Obamas’ probably disposed of them.

  25. I mean by my statement, that by the looks of the type of furniture they have–a quilt wouldn’t fit in. They can buy their own–don’t waste your time doing a loving, time consuming thing with them–they aren’t the type to like quilts.

  26. My goodness, some people can be so mean and nasty while behind a keyboard and computer screen. Ms. Fons, please know that not everyone is like this and those that do this sort of thing are probably unhappy with themselves and want everyone else to share in their misery.
    I completely see that you were just wanting to share your love of quilting with the first family and in doing so perhaps shed a little light on the art and tradition of quilting to the nation. It seems that teaching the first family how to quilt and perhaps using that opportunity to focus a bit more attention on Quilts of Valor would be nothing but good for everyone involved.
    And that’s my two cents. 🙂

  27. […] on a regular basis, but just in the past month. The bitchyness appeared in two different places here and a discussion of a separate incident here in which bloggers who were not at all being snarky got […]

  28. Forget the naysayers. This is a great idea. It’s for the WHITE HOUSE, the PRESIDENCY, the COUNTRY of which we should ALL be proud of no matter what our personal politics are. For those that slam the Obamas, shame on them. They are our first family. Haters are haters. Ignorance is ignorance. They have no idea or personal knowledge of what would be liked or not but they have to get their hate out there. I thought quilting was about community. Keep up the good work.

  29. Not interested at all. I was laid off my job in 2008 & have been unemployed/underemployed ever since. I have struggled every month since they have been in the White House and disagree with most of what they believe in (like partial birth abortion for starters). Sorry if that upsets you, but this is reality. I have been a board member in my quilt guild and helped create many charity quilts for Ronald McDonald House, preemie babies, police chaplains, , nursing homes, etc., but have not sewed a stitch since 2008 because without steady employment and losing my good credit standing, I’ve been too depressed & busy jobhunting, trying to beat 500 other people out of every secretary job opening, cannot feel creative if my basic life foundations are crumbling. I don’t care if the O family has a quilt or not. They are worth millions. If they want a quilt, they can buy one at a quilt show.

  30. Response to Storm a Brewin,

    I come in peace– and intend no bitchyness.

    I think Mary’s originalpost was intended to be innocuous, but the potential fall out should have been fore seeble. The Bush White House also stirred major contention between the citizenry. I am sure many many quilters would feel the same in the opposite direction if that were the case. So who knows? Maybe political family’s shouldn’t be considered a marketing tool. ????

    According to a study conducted by Quilting In American in 2010, here is some of what the Industry knows about the customer base:


    If 72% of of quilters have at least some higher education, is it too much to invite them to have a relevant intellectual discourse about some of the less attractive things going on in the quilt world as a direct result of our current culture and economic downturn?

    T. Ferrant (above post) is a prime example. Read the study– with objectivity and an open mind. In 2010 Industry profits were up 9% in spite of a shrinking customer base. The industry flourished because fewer quilters were willing to pay 27% more. These are statistics a Quilting Industry commissioned study found. I didn’t make this up….I don’t want to be nasty or hateful, but there are realities we should not shy away from because someone might call us a bad word, hater, too serious…etc…

    In Mary’s other thread (which sort of re kindled the fire of this one)– Joan Burns writes “….. now I am so ashamed of this groups hate towards blacks Mexicans.” Racism is shameful.

    Sooooo— if quilting is becoming less affordable, and quilters truly have Cross Cultural/Multi Cultural hearts…..then we have two serious questions to ask:

    1. If the customer base increased could it keep prices down?
    2. Should the mainstream quilting industry begin to more aggressively market across the cultural divide? eg. Spanish Language quilting magazines, featuring more people of color in publications, putting out open calls for blacks and latinos to join guilds that are not “Cultural Specific”— (and I believe this new “Modern” movement is sort an attempt at this, on industries part for the sake of it’s own survival– but they should be more open about it)

    Black Blue Green and polka dot people all quilt…and someone said it wasn’t “Red or Blue”—- no….it’s ALL…..right? It really is ALL of those, because WE are all of those– the industry and mainstream quilting world ought to fairly reflect this. It would be good for the industry by hopefully keeping it affordable.

  31. I came from the projects, I’m Mexican-American rised on walfare. But my mother taught me to respect everyone. I’m 64 and I just started guilting six month ago. Thank you Fons & Porter for your shows that really got me started. I also think it’s a great idea! I’ ll Hope that fight as well. Good Luck!

  32. Listen very carefully to what is going on in this Country. Hopefully we can keep our Constitution in tact. You are young and impressionable, but you won’t like it when your rights are taken away. There is so much all quilters and others can do for those in Need. Going to the White House and making a big splash isn’t the way to do it. I hope you will reconsider. You could lose a lot of people who now support you.

  33. I have been a member of Quilters Club for a year. I thought watching the videos would be great and the Easy Quilt magazine would be a good way to use up my stash. I also get Fons and Porter Magazine and watch your show every Sat, if possible. It amazed me when someone commented, why do people make this political? Well, your project is political. However, you have many, many members who are conservative and do their quilting quietly and don’t get involved in this stuff. They just walk away. I normally wouldn’t have seen it, because I don’t look at the blogs, etc. Don’t have time. I did last night, because, I was looking at the site to see what I get with membership, so I could decide whether to renew. The reason being, is what I thought I was getting, I wasn’t able to do. I just gave up. Now it is time to make a decision and I see this. I have made comments and told what is in my heart. I love this country and grew up with many of the Greatest Generation and learned our great history and how they all fought to keep this country and others great and safe. Unfortunately, young people aren’t learning this in schools. Not even Cursive. We lost a lot of lives at that time. I am very Patriotic and don’t want anyone talking us down. The lesson I see in this is, keep all mention of politics, etc out of your business. However you vote, whatever you do, is none of our business. I am sure you love this country too and hopefully you will fight to keep it as our founders meant it to be.

  34. It amazes me that some of you don’t know that black women quilt, or have their quilt groups, or join white women quilt groups. Where in the world have you been? We have plans to join in with the black women’s quilt group for get togethers when we can. They are no different. Great and talented women. I live in the South and as far as I am concerned, color doesn’t make one person more talented than any other color.

  35. Mar, after reading all the posts, I wanted to let you know that the whole of the Obama family has received quilts. They didn’t make them but our ministry provided a quilt made for each of them in 2011. I say ministry because we don’t call ourselves a guild but we serve as a ministry in our church.

    Over the last 14 years, we have provided thousands of quilts that “share the joy of Christ, warming hearts with quilts”. Given the context of our ministry, the recipients over the years have been non-denominational, non-political, saved and unsaved and we have not cared. Our projects have included quilts for people living with HIV and AIDS, children in the local neo-natal units, new homeowners through Habitat for Humanities, women who live in our transitional housing for homeless women (and it’s theirs to take when they find permanent housing), veterans, Project Linus, Red Cross disaster relief, local Dialysis center, local Senior Day Care center, children living in an orphanage we support, children from South Africa and numerous quilts to the elders (80 years and above) in our congregation. Our projects this year include Ronald McDonald House residents, more quilts for the Transitional Housing facility and for international college students who come to our community with just 2 suitcases and a new and foreign culture to adjust to.

    Reading all the posts, an idea well intended took the joy of quilting out of the idea. It’s a craft that I assume we all love and we love sharing. We share our joy with others and nothing is more rewarding when a family writes to thank us for the gift to their loved one or in one instance to see the quilt we gave one of the seniors tucked in her casket as a symbol of how much she appreciated it. My personal experiences included having the oldest member of our church be a recipient of a quilt during Christmas in 2001 or 2002. At age 105, she sat on her bed and stroked the quilt and talked about how she made string quilts as a little girl or the second senior I delivered to who, from her nursing center bed, asked me to put it across her because she was cold the night before.

    If we approach this idea within the context of sharing our gifts and our love of quilting with the first family of our country (and maybe others who will hear about it), we add to our community and our ability to give to others. We might inspire quilters who’ve put their needle down to pick it up. We might have quilters who have fabrics they aren’t using give to those who may be unemployed so they can continue to share their gifts.

    We are African American quilters in an African-American church that welcomes all and we share with all. We have been to many of the national shows and are often in the minority but we’re present to learn and to grow and to find new ways to serve others. We rarely see diverse quilters at these shows or in the magazines or the online sites. We educate ourselves, share our skills and have sustained this ministry for almost 15 years.

    Prayerfully, this community of quilters can come together on a simple request and not make it a political statement but one of sharing and warming hearts with quilts.

    P.S. We have the thank you letter from President and Mrs. Obama and a second letter from Mrs. Obama that thanks us for the beautiful quilts. I hope they are enjoying them as much as we enjoyed making them.

  36. Here here, Penny! It’s unfortunate that so many people use the anonymity of the internet to give their opinions in the most unkind way possible. Mary was not making a political statement. She values the grand tradition of quilting in the United States, and believes that should be reflected in the home of the President. That is all.

    Saying “they aren’t the types to like quilts” is just veiled racism.

    I think it’s a great idea. I signed your petition, and if I didn’t think it was a good idea, I would have just chosen not to sign it and moved on. And thank you for everything that you do, Mary. It is appreciated by many, many people.

  37. Curiosity drew my attention to this blog. I am not even a quilted with any skillset however of all the comments offered, I appreciate Dee’s thoughts the most.
    Jenny Doan of Missouri Star QC explained the beautiful spin of quilts, starting with making one for oneself to making one for family, then expanding the quilt idea to friends. And before you know it, quilting transforms to a gift of service to others.
    While we all may not agree with one another, and I am sure not everyone would agree about fabrics, contrasts and threads, it is not a surprise to see the various responses to an idea of this nature.
    Mary, please continue with your enthusiasm and passion of quilts and teaching people like myself how to love this wonderful craft.
    Dee has beautifully emphasized the true joy of life, service to others, no matter their status or position. Thank you Dee for reminding me what the gifts of the Spirit are.

  38. Dear Mary,
    I was pleased to see your request for input for A Quilt In The White House. There were many quilters/non-quilters who offered many ideas. I was also, saddened to see that, in spite all we as a country have recently been though, there are people out there still using the “blame” game card.(Pres. Obama and the 1st Family). I was glad to see, that even though the many quilt groups are not diverse , your readers are and therefore there is hope for us all. I suggest you present the petition and let the 1st Lady and Family decide. Perhaps ,there are more “good” ideas, forth-coming. Best of Luck. Dolores Follins (former “sewer”/”hoping” to be a Quilter)

  39. Maryann you can’t please everyone so don’t worry about it just do what you want to do and I love the ideal wish I could go and I bet the Obama 1st family will like it .Hey I loved your TV show can’t get it any more.

  40. I am not the best quilter but I belong to the DAVA unit 62 here in Missouri. One of our yearly projects is making lap robes for the veterans at our VA hospital in Columbia and our VA home in Mount Vernon. These lap robes are hand tied by members and their family members all together at our DAV hall followed by a tea for our Gold Star Mother. This excites our Juniors to do wonderful things for all our veterans both active and retired. These activities bring comfort and relaxation to all who participate. I think that if the three generations of Obama ladies a willing to get the opportunity to learn from you, Maryanne and any one else willing to help I think it would be invaluable to their comfort in the face of always being in forefront in the press. They are always scrutinized and misinterpreted. They were elected our First Family and deserve respect and support.

  41. I’m a relatively new quilter. I found Fons and Porter on Youtube and then found my way to this blog. I’m sorry to see it had to be political. Sort of like, “I liked that singer until she started talking about her political preference. Now I don’t listen to her music anymore. She ruined it for me.”

    I’ll also find myself another quilting blog, website, face book page to learn from. I don’t knowingly support those that support the obama administration.