Big Business + Quilts

Do y’all remember the movie Big Business?

It’s one of my all-time favorites and my sisters feel the same. We watched Big Business over and over again when we were kids. The movie stars Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin…and Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin. It was made in 1988 — a great year for both these women, career-wise: Tomlin was all over Sesame Street and Beaches came out that year for Midler. Oh, those 80’s female stars. The comediennes of The Era of The Shoulder Pad. I love them so. They shaped my personality in many ways, to tell the truth.

The movie tells the story of twins separated at birth with a “city mouse, country mouse” theme. Hilarity ensues, partly because the special effects available in ’88 were…rudimentary, compared to what folks do today. So you get Tomlin and Midler interacting with weird, flat-ish mirror images of themselves superimposed on film. But it’s great.

Anyhow, guess what makes several appearances in Big Business? Quilts! Twice! And one scene gives a quilt center stage. I never realized it before, but I watched the movie the other night (while I was sewing, I’ll have you know) and took some screen shots to prove it. The first moment is when Sadie and Rose are in Jupiter Holler at a fair. Look at ’em all!


And the second appearance is when Rune (!) comes to find the country girls in the big city. He brings a quilt to the hotel — he’s gotta have a quilt with him on the trip, of course — and the mercenary wonks who work for the OTHER Sadie and Rose see the quilt and ogle at it. One says to the other in this moment, “Look at the workmanship!” It’s awesome.


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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 In 2012, Mary became editor of Quilty magazine. She holds a Theater Arts BA from the University of Iowa.

15 thoughts on “Big Business + Quilts

  1. It would be great to put together a list of movies that feature quilts. There’s “How to Make an American Quilt,” of course, but what else?

    I watch movies on my laptop when I sew, too. When I’m actually on the machine, I used closed captions, so I’m reading and sewing at the same time–multitasking! Right now I’m watching “Brideshead Revisited.” Haven’t seen any quilts, but it’s to die for anyway.

  2. I loved this post – and I loved that movie. Since I began quilting about 8 years ago, I have become very aware of quilts in general, but I find that I notice them more – on TV, in movies, in books. So fun to be watching a movie and see a quilt with a familiar pattern on a bed or a couch. I recently started working part-time in my favorite quilt shop – my dream retirement job!

    Love your blog and your magazine!!

  3. I love that movie, too, and I’m glad someone else gets as excited as I do when they see a quilt in a movie! There are several in another 80s classic, Baby Boom. I’d love to work with set designers in the movie industry to make quilts for them…wouldn’t that be a cool job? (Not as cool as yours, but still!) 🙂

  4. There is a movie ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’. It has quilts and even quilted dresses! I think the back cover says it was made in 1954. It’s a musical, and fun!

  5. The spy couple at the heart of the new TV show The Americans have a great big quilt hanging behind their bed as sort of a dramatic headboard, and I find myself watching it as much as the scene whenever they shoot something in their bedroom.

  6. I remember the quilt in “Baby Boom” her NYC apt had a big quilt as art on the wall and the same quilt in the country house. As a former NYC girl, all I wanted from the apt. was the quilt.

  7. let’s make a movie about quilts, without Hollywood knowing it is ALL ABOUT QUILTS!


    The Chocolate Lady, drippin’ with thoughts

  8. How about a Quilty Show on adding borders correctly? I don’t measure, cut then sew a border on. I sew together strips, then just sew them on then cut off the excess. I guess that’s a no no? I always worry about running short if I measure the exact length.

  9. There is a triangle quilt in “Sleepy Hollow” that I want to make. I’m in the process of collecting fabic for it. It’s just a simple scrapy quilt.