See Fons & Porter Quilts in Winterset

The induction of Fons & Porter this summer into the Quilters Hall of Fame prompted the Iowa Quilt Museum (IQM) in Winterset, Iowa—the little burg where our brand was born—to mount a retrospective of our work. Almost thirty pieces (all but two of them large) are on view through early January.

Of course I’m biased (!), but honestly, the gallery at IQM has never looked better. While Liz or I occasionally designed a wall quilt or table runner for publication, what we both love to create are quilts with square inches numerous enough to make a design point worthy of our patchwork hours. In Winterset, strong design is evident on every gallery wall; several quilts measure over 100″ on a side.

Back in 1977, I was a twenty-something mother of one toddler (two more, eventually) when I marched into the Iowa State University Extension Office in Winterset on a mission. The American Bicentennial hoopla had included images of quilts, and I wanted to make one. I had been plying my needle in the farmhouse out in the country, embroidering on feed sacks and bluejeans with wimpy cotton thread. The broad design strokes I saw on quilts fired my imagination. Right away, I could see how much better it would be to make something big, and for a bed—instant decor!

Sharon Johnson, Madison County’s ISU Extension home economist back then—now retired and living in Nebraska—traveled to Winterset to speak at our retrospective’s opening in early October. She told of crossing paths not long ago with a quilter while traveling in Australia and mentioning Winterset. “Ooh, Winterset,” the person responded. “Fons & Porter!” Sharon waxed eloquently at our reception on the huge economic impact Liz and I created in our career. From basic education we received in a small Midwestern town, we became a worldwide household name. Sharon also revealed it was nonstandard for Extension to offer citizen-generated programming rather than content from ISU down.

Quilters and art lovers, head to Winterset ASAP and feast your eyes on our best quilts, the ones we’ve never parted with, all of them bold and intricate but makable by any quilter able to sew a quarter-inch seam. We’re the gals who put Winterset on the map not for Covered Bridges or John Wayne, but because we fell in love with America’s #1 folk art icon—the patchwork quilt—and ran with it all the way to the top!

Click below to listen to an Iowa Public Radio interview with Iowa Quilt Museum director Megan Barrett.



7 Responses

  1. Terry Johnson
    | Reply

    It was an honor to attend the reception for the opening of the Fons & Porter quilt exhibition. You have inspired and influenced my quilting journey through the TV show, magazine, working on an event together and now through Quilts of Valor. Thank you!

  2. Linda Duff
    | Reply

    I’m SO GLAD I can say that I know you!! You are amazing, and along with Liz, did some really great things for all kinds of industries …. thanks for going on that march into the Extension office, and thanks, too, to Sharon Johnson, for putting the rest of the wheels in motion and making the quilting world into a whole new arena.
    Loved the events with you and Liz .. loved being on the IQM BOD with you, and still pleased when you pop your head into our office just to say HI!
    You ladies deserve every award you’ve ever been given, and then some! See you around the square soon!
    Linda Duff, Winterset

  3. Elizabeth Pierson
    | Reply

    Wow Marianne, how exciting. I hope to make it down there to see it. Liz Pierson

  4. Ester Mae Cox
    | Reply

    Yours is such an inspiring story…. thank you for sharing it…. and for all the great work that you do all the time! You are a mainstay in the Winterset community – and your continuous generosity and sharing and community work (lots and lots of volunteering) are a marvel and a present to us all.

    • Bill Hathaway
      | Reply

      You should be so proud of all that was accomplished. I will definitely get there to see it.

  5. Susan Ritchie Voegtly
    | Reply

    I would have read and enjoyed this sooner but I was recovering from a bug by sleeping under my great love – a flannel Westwoods Weathervane I made in a class with Liz in a class in Cincinnati about ‘89. It was so much fun to make- I made another! And, realizing how long I’ve loved this one… I think I need to make another!!! Wish I could attach a photo. Will post it on your FB page. Thanks!❤️

  6. Rachel Gilbert
    | Reply

    What an honor!! I would love to see this in person! congrats to you both, you are truly icons in the industry!

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