Quilts are needed, no matter what. (Re: White House, etc.)

I was walking north on Michigan Avenue the other day and I took a picture. Here’s the picture:

I had given this man some change on my way past, partly because I do that when I feel like I can. Living in a big city, you just can’t give to every person begging on the street because there are so many of them. This is true in downtown Chicago, anyhow. But I gave some money in this man’s cup because he was covered in a quilt and it pulled my heartstrings, obviously.

The responses that came from my post about teaching the First Lady to make a quilt really surprised me. A lot of people thought, “Hey, that’s a great idea!” but there were more than a few that really…didn’t. The responses that were anti the concept varied from “Michelle’s got better things to do” to “There are people who need quilts more” to even one lady, who thought I was suggesting a quilt in the White House for my own benefit. Her post was so mean, so full of vitriol and insults, I didn’t approve it. Sorry, lady, but that was pretty gross.

The idea came from a love of quilts in America, plain and simple. As my mom has always said to me, “As long as people are making quilts, that’s a good thing.” She says this a lot, because that sentiment seems to need to come up a lot. If a traditional quilter looks at a modern quilt, an art quilt, etc., and says, “Well, that’s not a quilt” or when a more modern quilter or art quilter looks at a new, super traditional log cabin quilt, sniffs, and says, “Ugh! How unoriginal!” then it’s time for my mom’s point to make an entrance. That’s how I feel.

“As long as people are making quilts, that’s a good thing.”

The idea that a group of quilters, white, black, blue or otherwise — and whether I was part of that core of teachers or not — might visit our nation’s capital for a one-on-one lesson with the First Family (and as many other people as we might invite!) to teach the art of quilt making, well, I just think that’s groovy. Whether you agree with the politics of the people there or not, well, I just don’t think that matters. Are quilts Democrats? Republicans? Do they vote? No, they just make people happy and they are part of our history.

There are many charitable organizations that need quilts because there are people in the world who need comfort, care, and attention. I suggested a fun idea I had about the White House and would sincerely love to help make something like that happen because as long as quilting keeps being important in this country, I suspect that all those charitable groups will keep being able to make quilts for all the people who need them. Period.

Like this guy.

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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.

53 thoughts on “Quilts are needed, no matter what. (Re: White House, etc.)

  1. I love this post. Sometimes I feel a little guilty about my addiction to quilting because I spend the money, the time on the projects, and I usually keep a lot of what I make. But I like this post because it reminds me that quilting is worthwhile for all sorts of reasons and it IS important.

  2. It really surprises me that you received so many negative comments. Unfortunately these days, people seem to read so much into things, dwell, and look for the negative. Can’t we see the good in things, the beauty and want to share it? I still think it was and is a great idea. Keep your chin up!!

  3. I love your idea to teach Michelle and her daughters to quilt! I think it is a lovely idea and personally I want to see it happen. And you are the perfect person to teach it! I commend you for putting such a fun idea out there. If folks don’t like it then they don’t have to participate. I am behind your efforts 100%.

  4. It’s so sad that anyone would have anything negative to say about your idea to share quilt-making with the first family. It’s an American tradition, and such a wonderful thing to give… I received a quilt when I was homeless and I still have and cherish it because it reminds me that someone was thinking of me when I needed it most. No amount of spare change will ever equal that.

  5. I’m sure if you broached the idea as a friendship-block type quilt that it might get approval as a project for Mrs. Obama & her daughters. It could have their family signatures, or White House staff (for them to remember everyone by). Maybe one with patriotic blocks & fabric, 50 state birds/flowers, or one just about Washington, DC monuments. Maybe it should be a simple modern design and they each pick a color or fabric, with the end result going to a charity. I think it is great to want to attract more people to quilt. The man with the quilt: either that is all he has left of his former home/life, or he got it from some organization that donates quilts to the homeless. Either way, he is demonstrating that it means something to him. I would have noticed it as well.

  6. I too have gotten quite an education from reading blogs and responses to blogs. Even in my Quilt Guild I have heard conversations that make me cringe. Life is short. Don’t hate it causes bad karma. Try to be open minded. Politics and quilting do not mix and I don’t think they were ever meant to. Love the magazine!

  7. Mary, keep your focus on the heart of quilting/quilters. I grew up around quilting women/Church guilds. I will add for me this hobby has humbled me, taught me so much about benevolence and giving me a purpose every day. It has changed me in a very positive way.

  8. I have learned that you can not make everyone happy, and there are people who will not be happy, no matter what you do. Your motives were good and pure and came from a loving place. So, poo-poo on the rest. 🙂

  9. The Obamas are great advocates for MLK day being a day of service. Perhaps we could tie into that for next year and the service is that we are making quilts for charity or quilts of valor for our service persons for Memorial or Veterans Days. Maybe we could include our congressional representatives in our quest. At least I will be writing to my senators to see if there is something we could do. Imagine, “The Million Quilt Sew-in” or at least a One Hundred Quilt sew in!

  10. I too am not a fan of the administration. That said, I would like to know that they wanted to be involved in the process from start to end and do some of the work of cutting and sewing. I feel that this would give them a sense of what it is all about. The care that is put into each quilt. the love that is put into each quilt. A quilter (black, white, or purple) puts a great deal of love and effort into each quilt. I would like for the first family to know of this kind of love that is in each quilt and treasure such a quilt for the love that is in each quilt. just going and showing them how it is made and not having them do it, is a waste of time. it is not just about the money it is about the love. I have loved reading stories about women in the news who were seen out buying sewing machines and fabric as they start on their quilting journey. And it is a journey of learning and love. I applaud everyone who wants to share their love of quilting with others. I just don’t want to see those women disappointed with a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the recipients. That hurts when you spend so much time and energy and get “that’s nice” in response to your gift. I would so like to see some eager desire for the women of the first family want to learn and help in such an task. I love your focus and desire to teach others to quilt. I have loved watching your mother in the same way. I have tried not to be too negative in this post, just realistic.

  11. I write pysanky eggs, and I quilt. I loved your comment about the traditional vs. the modern quilts. This is always an issue in every pysanky group that I have joined. I admire them all. Your Mom gave sage advice.

    While I am not completely up-to-date on the White House post – this administration has changed all things in American tradition (they did not have a pysanky artist at the WH (that I know of)since Obama took POTUS, again this had been a half a century tradition. Quilting (like pysanky/egg art) should be esteemed and valued for its culture, its creativity, its meaning, you name it. Keep asking, Mary, but you may have more success in four years. The art form of quilting is much too traditional, historical, and engaging for this administration…chin up!!

  12. I’m sorry you had to read someone else’ intolerance. It’s a shame that some people feel the need to bring politics into every conversation. I personally don’t care how you voted – as long as you voted. Teaching the First Family to quilt would be a great opportunity to “market” the art and charitable causes of quilting to millions of people. I’d love to help.

  13. Mary, I, too, was disappointed in the negative responses you received on your post. In fact, I was so disappointed that I decided not to comment at all during the time of that post. However, after reading your reaction and the positive comments made today, I’m once again encouraged that most people ARE positive and supportive of one another and that we should carry on with our ideas in spite of the negative few. Your idea was awesome and I hope it comes to fruition. Those above who previously commented offered many wonderful ideas and any of them would be most fitting. I sincerely hope that you will have the opportunity to teach the First Lady and her daughters the art of quilting as I feel that no one could do it better. Thank you for the time you give in teaching and sharing. Hats of to you and your mother!

  14. I have read your original suggestion on this subject. It seemed like a wonderful idea and undertaking. The idea of the First Lady actually having time to do this; to me would be surprising. She would seem to me to be the type of person who would really like to be able to do this project with her daughters. (in other words have an interest in it). Yes, I too am so astonished that some persons could be so terribly negative towards your idea. That’s really very sad! You do such a wonderful job of creating your programs etc. I really enjoy them so much! Thank you!

  15. Mary–
    I cannot BELIEVE all of the negative comments to this!! I like to think of my quilting hobby as an escape from all of the hate and nastiness in this world.
    However, I was pleasantly surprised when I learned how many African-American quilters there are in our country. Maybe one of you talented ladies(or gentleman) could offer to teach a class on Craftsy.com or one of the other educational media. The rest of us would love to hear what you have to say!!
    Also, there is a growing number of international quilters who I am sure who would like to hear everyone’s quilting point of view!!
    As for the White House project, I think it is a wonderful idea!!

  16. Mary, Love your idea. You have a dream! Such a nice idea. The negative folks have lost any sense of humor or whimsy. So sad. I did not for one second think you were making a plug for yourself. Is there an app to delete negativity posts before you have to read them? Somebody needs to work on that!

  17. I have read both posts and I have to admit I’m a little shocked at the attitude that a) you shouldn’t follow up on your idea because the Obamas can afford to buy their own b) that they wouldn’t appreciate it and c) Republicans ‘understand’ the ‘traditional’ arts better. I would like to remind everyone that it was JOAN MONDALE, a democrat, who brought the traditional folk arts to the White House. It was Michele Obama that has had a craft Christmas Tree in the White House for the last few years. You can disagree with this administration but to act as ‘quilt police’ or ‘furniture police’ (what was THAT about?) is just silly and goes against what quilting is or should be. A sense of community with your fellow quilters. EVERYONE enjoys a quilt. Rich, poor, homeless, black, yellow or white.

  18. I think the obama’s would love this idea. I don’t see this as a political issue. The first lady seems to be very real She surely appreciate s the quilts of honors. I wish our manners would rise above our political views and treat others as we (or a child, loved one our grandmother..whoever we respect) would like to be treated…

  19. I think the Obamas would love to meet some quilter’s right from their own hometown of Chicago during this adventure. And what luck…you are in Chicago…and how easy would it be for you to introduce these women to the Obamas, and then to us through your Quilty Magazine:


  20. This is a P.S. to post #19–

    Mary….a quilt may not know if it is a Republican or a Democrat, but it does carry the DNA of cultural history. It carries the heart of it’s creator, the fiber of that creator’s personal convictions whatever those may be. Politics and Quilting have been going together since quilting began- their is plenty of documentation that bares this out. Now a lot of these ladies who have posted here would like to have their high tea and finger sandwiches and gloss over anything that “feels icky”— but the reality is:

    1.6 million out of 21 million American Quilters are black. The First Lady does not need to be exploited to “market quilting” (Ref: post of Leslie, above)

    If the American mainstream quilting industry would recognize and educate the 19.4 million non black quilters in the U.S. to the fact that quilting is a Historically African American Tradition as well– Then maybe Michelle Obama would have a home made quilt over the back of that sofa already….and quilting bees would happen at the white house already …..instead of assumptions being made that it would be un-appreciated. You know…quilting is not like Psanky Eggs….it’s not UKRANIAN…LOL….

    Mary Fons— you may not like being in this position, but you are now in this position. You are the Right Woman, in The Right Place at the Right Time to use your new found good fortune to break some barriers and help change the trajectory of the culture of American Quilting.

    And just for fun..you might enjoy this:


  21. Mary,
    Why would someone give you a hard time about sharing something you love? It’s beyond comprehension that people can be so petty.
    I love the guys quilt.

  22. Quilting is part of our colonial heritage – the quilt codes where unique to the Underground Railroad – quilts were a necessity and the beginning of reuse & repurpose. I am a self taught quilter and LOVE the variety and learning possibilities of quilt design/blocks. Love “Quilty” and your zest for the craft – Keep going and quilters will follow!

  23. You GO girl…… I think its a wonderful idea……I do bunches for PROJECT LINUS and it is such a good feeling to know you may be helping someone to get through whatever comes into their path every day. I would think most ladies, esp those in high positions, would be happy to contribute to the good causes that we, as quilters, always seem to find. We have a gift being able to create these quilts, and most of us love to share with both the ones we love and the ones we don’t even know personally.

  24. Twenty four years ago I immigrated to what I thought was the most beautiful country in the world. America helped so many countries
    that needed help and never gained a acre of space for themselves.
    Since I am a FOLLOWER of JESUS I loved my new country.Since
    Mr. Obama ran for President I have seen so much hate in my life.
    I basically considered myself a Republican but now I am so ashamed of this groups hate towards blacks Mexicans and yes
    Christians against non Christians.Has anyone read God’s Word.
    Dont people know that GOD hates people like this.We need to
    examine ourselves and see if you loved anyone today.More importantly did you hate somebody/Lets change our ways and
    then God will heal our country.

  25. My goal this year is to be positive! Do you know how hard that is? We are so fortunate but we, too, are so negative!! I Believe I can make a change this year! Can you? As a quilting friend, will you join me? And if this idea needs my support…..count on me! I think it’s awesome!

  26. I thought it was a fabulous idea, and I am so sorry that you had to deal with such unkindness! I think you are are an amazing person, and an inspiration to us all. Thank you for being you, and do not worry for every rude, mean spirited person, there are tons more positive kind ones. Keep up the fun and interesting work!

  27. Kudo’s to you Mary! I think your idea is wonderful amd I love the the show as well as your blogs. Quilting to me is about creating something personal and sharing the talent you have with another, regardless of their race, religion or political beliefs whether it is teaching them to quilt or giving them a quilt as its from the heart. It’s a wonderful way to keep tradition and history alive for our children and the following generations.And as a person who thinks the glass is half full, it would be even more wonderful if it stimulates someone who isn’t a quilter to learn an art we all love.

  28. Mary – – You go girl!! I met you last week in Shipshewana Indiana, and you are an inspiring and energentic person. There are always people that are negative and see the worst in others. Don’t let them get you down.

  29. Mary, I just can’t understand some people. Why do they go out of their way to make such a fool of themselves by printing those sort of comments. I don’t want to play the violin but I don’t condemn those who do. I feel this is much the same. My grandma told me, along with a lot of other things, If you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything.

  30. Great idea, I support your efforts. Quilts are for all ages, races, income, profession. We all can use the comfort and love that comes with a quilt. Love to be part of such an endeavor

  31. I kind of wonder if maybe your original idea had been presented to us, your loving fans, in a more bi-partisan fashion (as in “I’d like to teach every First Lady to quilt”) if politics might have stayed out of the ensuing discussion?

  32. Hi Mary, I loved your idea from the beginning and I think it would be so much fun. Most people seem to assume that the First Lady has no knowledge/interest at all in quilts. We might all be surprised perhaps finding out that she likes quilting or handwork of some sort and quite interested in doing such a project. Let us know where this leads.

  33. I’m sorry so many people were offended by your comments. My mother was not interested in crafts of any kind and my grandmother died before she could teach her grandchildren to quilt. You are blessed that your mother taught you to quilt. Almost everything I know about quilting I had to learn on my own which is why I consider myself an experiened beginner. I think your idea is a great one. It is a wonderful idea to teach someone about a great craft while passing on a little history. Keep up the good work.

  34. Mary, I would love to support you in your quest. My sister used quilting in her classes to teach about life and charity and on the side reinforcing math abilities. This could be promoted as a practical education experience including American History. Quilting has an international and ancient history but it is strongly associated with America’s founding and expansion. It contains the memories, struggles, love, and care of unsung women facing the unknown and trying to support both their families and communities. It should be promoted as a well honored tradition. Mrs. Obama may be able to promote the ideals contained in this tradition by learning the skills and passing it along to other generations.

  35. I believe someone who would project such a biased and negative opinion of such a positive gesture of goodwill doesn’t really have the heart of a true quilter. You keep going girl. You are the future of our craft and what it represents.

  36. I think teaching the First Lady and her girls how to quilt is a wonderful idea. Women of all colors have quilted for centuries. I know they would appreciate the craft of it and pending the time together. Besides maybe it will keep Mrs Obama off the Oscar. Being a quilter is one thing. Bing an actor is another.

  37. I heard this morning, for $500,000, you get 4 nights at the White House, with time with the President, sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom. Maybe you can work our a deal where you can spend time teaching quilting to the First Lady and the girls. The nights probably aren’t consecutive, but that would work.

  38. I wrote on the other blog and will add to this one. Black women quilt and are very good at it. It almost sounds like some don’t know that. Black women join our quilt groups, and they have their own. They are very talented ladies. We have been working getting their group joining ours from time to time for a meeting once in a while. The problem is, theirs is a night group and ours meets during the day. But hopefully some will be able to come. And we have one black lady in our group. Our group is an inspiration quilt group and we do Bible study, related to the block of the month. We try to keep it a small group, but we don’t refuse members. Had hoped for 12, but now have 17.

  39. The wonderful quilters from Gee’s Bend in my State would want to take a few folks to the woodshed. Quilter’s come in a variety of colors, much like their fabric stashes. That said: another wonderful project for quilter’s looking for yet another reason to make a quilt – Wounded Warriors has lots of hero’s who would love to have one. They all deserve it.

  40. I bought the recent edition (is it the first edition?) of Quilty magazine and enjoyed it very much. It was nice to read in the article on batting that another quilter doesn’t pre-shrink fabric or batting because shrinkage is desirable. I think the author’s name is Emily but the magazine is at home so can’t check. I look forward to your next edition.

  41. Mary, I am just following up on my last post. I have not seen anything recently concerning this project. In the meantime, I have found many historical quilt blocks showing that quilters were quite political. From “Lincoln’s Platform”, “Little Giant”, 54 40 or Fight, to the “Vice President’s” block, quilts have been made to support causes. There are hundreds of blocks that would be appropriate for the White House that could be used for a quilt or a sampler. Keep up the good work and hope to see more on your blog.

  42. We all have different gifts and talents that ought to be shared and appreciated., that is why we are given them, isn’t it? I think having a First Lady and daughters supporting and learning (and promoting) such a great American traditional family past time is a great idea. It doesn’t matter what side of politics anyone is supporting, quilting is as American as Apple Pie and Baseball. Thanks for sharing your talents and inspiration… Don’t let anyone rain on your parade!

  43. 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.

  44. A few years ago I gave my daughter all she needed to knit – she gave it all back with a smile and very sweet, and wise comment ‘Mom, it’s just not my rhthym”. Perhaps quilting is not every one’s ‘rhthym’ and that’s OK. Suggesting any First Lady might learn to quilt is only a suggestion but cannot be assumed that they (or any family member) has an interest and that’s OK. Being unkind to anyone for an idea or suggestion is never OK… Let’s teach the homeless, the school children, those in retirement centers who never had time or money to begin, the first ladies, last ladies, paupers & princesses – if and when they are interestd and provide them with all they need to get started from our stash! But only as they are interested, have time & consider it their own personal rythmn. Good suggestion Mary – no harm done!

  45. I love this post. Mary, love your idea. You are so correct in pointing out that quilting does not belong to any political party. Nor is it wrong to extend the joy of learning a Very Lovely Craft to our country’s first family. I sincerely hope you get a chance to take quilting to the heartbeat of our nation: D.C.
    (I Love the D.C. area)
    Keep up the good work!

  46. I do like the manner in which you have framed this specific difficulty plus it does indeed present us some fodder for consideration. On the other hand, through everything that I have experienced, I basically trust as the actual remarks stack on that folks continue to be on issue and don’t start upon a tirade of some other news of the day. Anyway, thank you for this superb point and whilst I do not go along with this in totality, I value your perspective.