When Liz Porter and I joined forces in the late 1970s to team-teach beginning quilting classes in Winterset, Iowa, we didn’t have fame in mind. We had no idea we were part of a revival of interest in quiltmaking that was just getting under way, fueled by the American Bicentennial and the “back to basics” trends that also inspired hippie culture. We were young mothers in need of milk and diaper money.
The same quest for household income inspired us to write our first quilting books. Oh, we loved patchwork and quilting, but neither of our husbands-at-the-time were as ambitious as we were, and the kids needed shoes!
One quilting book led to another, and another, and another, eventually to QUILTER’S COMPLETE GUIDE,* published in 1993, a gorgeous reference volume that was an instant huge hit. The success of QCG (over half a million copies sold) opened the door to other opportunities—or perhaps I should say Opportunity continued to knock, and Liz and I were always not far from the door, ready to open it.
In the mid 1990s, we pursued the idea of a how-to program on public television, thinking we’d be paid to host it, only to discover we had to raise the production money ourselves via national sponsors, and did so. Our presence on PTV stations nationwide for over a decade took us into millions of quilting households, delivering thousands of fans to our growing brand. Eventually, we owned and published the largest-circulated quilting magazine in the land, ran a mail order business (one of the first online vendors in the quilting industry), and developed a quilters’ product line.
Our celebrity—though both of us understand how we earned it—still surprises us: the fan hyperventilating when we shared an elevator at Quilt Market, the quilter who recognized me on a corner in Boston and asked for an autograph, the homeless man in Portland who stopped Liz on the street to say he watches the show in a shelter whenever he can. Believe it or not, most quilters would rather meet Fons & Porter than the Kardashian sisters.
We know the Quilters Hall of Fame in Marion, Indiana, is not as high profile as the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, or the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, but being the 2019 inductees is sweet enough for us. After the induction ceremony July 20, our photos will take their place on the wall with greats we admire like Bonnie Leman, Jean Ray Laury, and Karey Bresenhan, women who helped transform quilting into a multimillion dollar industry that enabled a couple of English majors from Iowa to put their kids through college and pay off their mortgages simply by teaching millions of people to cut cotton fabric into little pieces and (joyfully) sew them together again.
To everyone who took our classes, bought our books, listened to our lectures, subscribed to our magazine, and watched us on TV—to all our customers over the years, thank you for your business, your kindness, and your remarkable loyalty. If you happen to be in Marion next week (or anywhere, anytime), don’t hesitate to ask for a selfie!
*QUILTERS COMPLETE GUIDE will be reprinted later this year by Dover Publications. Subscribe to my website, and I’ll let you know the moment it is available!
Congratulations on this well deserved honor! You are both so inspiring!
Thank you, Rachel!
Congratulations! Well deserved!
You have been a true inspiration to me. I watched all of your pointers which led me to teach. I have introduced many people to get bit by the quilt bug. I have made many friends through quilting including your brother and sister-in-law. You deserve this and you both have earned it. Congratulations 🎈🎉🎊
Thank you! Looking forward to seeing Dave and Barb in Marion.
Love your shows . I’m not a quilter but love to watch the process. I have learned many tips about sewing. My sewing was and continues to be for children and missions . Mostly I make dresses, a simple pillowcase style for OCC, and for friends to take on mission trips. Thank you for sharing your gift to all of us. I miss seeing you both together teaching. I continue to watch and learn.
Congratulations to you both!!! I enjoy the Love of Quilting show and hope you make ‘guest’ appearances often.
So well deserved! I’ve loved you both since the first time I saw you!
Congratulations! The honor is well deserved! Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us through the years!
Thanks so much.
Pamela W Weeks
Well earned acknowledgement. Wish I could be there! Fondly, P
Congratulations to you both!
My Quilters Complete Guide was the first quilt book I bought, and it is well used. Congratulations!
Thank you, Sandra. My personal copy is well-used, too!
Happy to hear about the celebration in your honor. Congratulations on this achievement well deserved.
Love your tv quilting programs–they are recorded automatically on my DVR–so that I don’t miss any.
Enjoying your magazine and getting many tips, how to’s, and quilting designs. Thank you for all of this.
Please let me know when the Quilter Complete Guide will be available.
Valerie, I will definitely post about it here!
Congratulations! I still have the book I bought and the vest I made from it!! Even though I do not wear it I cannot throw it out! I have always loved you guys and been inspired. I still treasure memories of Liz coming to Washington, Iowa, to graciously give a program for the 4-H fundraising for a new building on the fairgrounds!!! It has served many in Washington. Best wishes to both of you!!!
Liz has always been a supporter of 4H. This is great to know.
I loved watching your shows through the years when I could. And while I’m disappointed that I can’t be at your induction, I’ll just be glad to see your smiling face around town, and give you hug when you pop into our office to say hi! Who knew that looking for a way to make diaper and milk money would take you both so far??!! CONGRATULATIONS on this well-deserved honor.
PS: Marianne, anyone in their right minds would rather meet Fons and Porter instead of the Kardashians!!!
Congratulations! Your induction is a well deserved honor. I still refer to the Complete Guide on occasions. Always liked the quilts that were in it and made a few over the years. Looking forward to a newer copy as mine is very worn at the spine. That was before quilters even thought of spiral binding a book.
Thank you in advance for buying our book twice!
Dear Liz and Marianne ,
I am so thrilled for you both! I have so many fond memories of the years of the magazine and your show.
I cannot think of anyone who deserves this more !
Thank you, Glenda!
Congratulations on the honor. You both have worked so hard to earn this place in history. Meeting you, your daughter Mary, Eleanor Burns, and Alex Anderson in Des Moines a few years was a highlight for me. All of you have brought great training and fun into our quilting lives.
Your time to shine!!
Thanks for these kind words, Becky.
Congratulations Liz and Marianne. Your love of quilting and willingness to share are largely responsible for the quilt maker I am today. Rarely a day passes without some kind of needle and thread in my hands, and I thank you for awakening this within me!!!
Quilting is the best therapy!
You two deserve every accolade you read and hear. You are two of the best examples of Iowa women making lemons turn into golden lemonade! I hope to see other Iowa women quilt entrepreneurs up on the walls next to you soon!
Congratulations on the honor you will receive on July 20! Thanks for the heads up on the book reprint. I will be in the queue to purchase it! I’m hoping to pass it along to my oldest granddaughter. I saw you at the quilt museum in Winterset, IA during the chilly day of the quilt airing. I was too shy for a selfie.
Don’t be shy. Ask me next time!
Can’t wait to honor both of you for your contributions to the wide, wide world of quilts.
See you soon, Sue!
Congratulations to both you and Liz, Marianne!! A well-deserved honor for you both!! 😃
Congratulations! Way past due! On our travels over the last 20+ years, I have really enjoyed the comments from quilters who are our fellow travelers. They are so impressed when they learn we are from Iowa and hear the “yes” when they ask if we know Marianne Fons!
Hi Bobby. I miss seeing you! Thanks for these kind words. We must get together!
Congratulations to both of you!!!!! You two did so much for so many of us, it is good to see you get honored.
Thank you, Liz.
James Lee Graham
Congratulations to you sister Marianne and also to Liz, your friend and partner for those many years. You certainly deserve the recognition you earned in the world of quilting. Your work introduced the joy of quilting to many. It made people happy and creative. Enjoy your induction to the Quilting Hall of Fame!
From your brother, Jim Graham
Very well deserved. Will you get statues like the Oscars? A little hand with a needle pulling thread perhaps?! Lol? So glad to see you both get star recognition. Throughout the years I’ve written you both and always you both answered my wacky questions seriously and I so appreciated that. My best to you.
Hmm, I don’t know that there’s a statuette. 🙂
I commented this AM on your site about lost subscriptions to your magazines. Easy Quilts just showed up in my mailbox this afternoon. Not only famous but a miracle worker….I’m a happy camper!
I had nothing to do with it but that’s excellent news!
You can count me as one of the many quilter fans who followed you ….and I guess still follows you! Quilters Complete Guide was my first quilting book and I watched your show every Saturday afternoon (sometimes while making and serving lunch to my family). I still watch the show, still love your magazine and have made more quilts from the patterns featured in it than I can count. Being inducted into the Quilters Hall or Fame is well-deserved (and possibly overdue!). I hope you enjoyed your career because I loved it!
Marianne (what a pretty name!), yes, definitely I enjoyed my career in the quilting industry! Thank you.
A well deserved, and possibly overdue honor! You can count me as one of your many quilter-fans. Quilters Complete Guide was my first quilting book. I started quilting around the time your show started and watched it every Saturday, often while making and serving lunch to my family. I still enjoy your magazine and have made more quilts from its patterns than I can count. I also enjoyed reading first StoryTorch and now this blog. I hope you and Liz have enjoyed your careers as much as I have!
Look forward to seeing you and Liz Porter in Marion.
Connie L Dake
Congratulations!!! I used to live in Winterset and took quilting classes from you in the early 80’s. My husband’s company transferred us to Texas so I had to give up your classes. I did follow your growing fame and subscribed to your magazine as well as buying your book. Well done!!
Congratulations! I have been a fan and dedicated student from the beginning.
Congratulations, Marianne and Liz!! You are both fabulous and deserve the award. I’m now on Washington Island at Sievers this week. This is where I first met you when I was just learning to quilt in 1996. I’ve been back every year!!
Thanks heaps, Mickey!
Dear Marianne, I am so thrilled for you and Liz. You have both earned your place in The quilter’s Hall of Fame. I have followed both of your careers through the years since you were just starting out. Do you remember those Cabin Fever Workshops you guys did for the Prairie Rose and then the Keepsake Quilters in Cedar Falls, Iowa. I was always there in the front row. Your knowledge and expertise went all the way to Egypt with me where I helped women learn to quilt. Thnk you so much and please pass on my congratulations on to Liz. Regards, Debbie Fetch
Debbie, thank you for your kind words!
Fantastic!!! I look forward to seeing those pictures, and to your continued success! I also think it is a fantastic story of hope for a great number of women and men! It is always fun to watch and follow you!
elizabeth a hinze
You are my quilting hero : )
Thank you for all you’ve done for
a hobby that gives me great joy…
( I will be the one asking for a selfie!)
Marianne, you and Liz really deserve this honor. Thank you for all your hard work to make the quilting world easier and more accessible for so many! It is also an honor to know you (and I call you a friend). Thanks also for all the efforts you have put into the Quilts of Valor Foundation. I really appreciate that.
Stephanie, thank you!
It truly was our pleasure to host both you and Liz in July. You both are a great representation of two ordinary women can accomplish when you do what you’re passionate about.
I just want to add a personal note/ you did a great job raising a super daughter! I enjoyed speaking with Mary so much. She continues to grow in her own way, and that is a joy to see.
Proud to know you Marianne. Thanks for your love and devotion to quilting and Winterset. I have the book and it is a treasure. Honored to have worked with you with Quilts of Valor.
Mary ni C
Marianne and Liz,
Belated congratulations on your award.
Six years ago I decided to start teaching myself quilt making. My first quilt was a queen size, and my third quilt was Flower Bed, your pattern, Marianne.
The reason I decided to make it is I saw you on one of your videos, talking to your daughter about it, and I laughed when you said you drank a lot of coffee whilst studying the original. I immediately went online and bought
the magazine I was a little daunted when I saw it was classed as challenging.
I’m now planning on making Emily’s wedding quilt designed by Liz, making it in autumn colours.
Thanks to you, Marianne, and your daughter Mary. I’ve learned a lot from your videos and magazines.
I’ve tried very very hard to get people here interested in patchwork but to no avail. I’m not giving up despite being on the wrong side of 50.
There are a lot of good and bad things about social media. However I wouldn’t be able to learn patchwork, and I wouldn’t be commenting all the way from a small island off of the far western coast of Europe.
Thank you both for sharing your expertise, Marianne and Liz, enjoy your well deserved award you’ve truly earned it.
Wanted to share our granddaughter, Layne Ewing’s 10th yr 4-H project 2019 from Fons & Porter pattern “Hometown Pride” There are 2 more sections (folded back) Heritage quilt with fabrics from her Great Great Gma Bertha, Great Gma’s Shirley & Lucy, Gma Lorraine, Mother Meagan, & her choice of new fabrics. Blessed to be by her side as she learned the love of sewing & quilting 😍
Sorry couldn’t figure out how to post picture here.
Thanks much for this sweet report!