This month we’re back with an Up Close Quilting profile about Liz Porter, the other half of the dynamic quilting duo behind Fons & Porter.
Liz began quilting as a young mother and quickly turned her hobby into a highly-successful career as an author, host of the Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting TV show and publisher of Love of Quilting magazine. Having recently retired, she is now living in Texas.
Q: Thanks for your time, Liz. You began to quilt in the late 1970s. What sparked your interest in quilting?
My grandmother and great-grandmother were both quilters. As a result, quilts have always fascinated me. When I found myself alone on a remote farm with two small children, I began quilting as a way to occupy myself with something other than changing diapers and picking up toys.
Q: How did you learn to quilt? Did you take classes, or did you take more of a “trial by error” approach?
I am largely a self-taught quilter. I grew up knowing how to sew, so patchwork was just an extension of that. My first pieced quilt was a LeMoyne star. I made the patchwork templates from a Pampers disposable diaper box. All other patchwork since that time has been relatively easy since I started with a fairly difficult project.
Q: Do you remember what your biggest challenges and fears were when you first started quilting?
My biggest challenge was learning how to hand quilt. I did not find the typical instructions for hand quilting – “Make a series of small running stitches through all three layers” – to be very helpful. So, I invited our elderly babysitter and her even more elderly mother over and watched them quilt to learn how to make the stitches.
Q: Did you ever imagine that you would turn your quilting hobby into such a successful career as an author, TV host and magazine publisher?
I began quilting as a hobby and it developed into a more progressively demanding career as my children were growing up. One of the highlights of my career was writing Quilter’s Complete Guide with Marianne Fons. It became one of the best-selling quilting books of all time and it opened the doors for us to do television and began our involvement with our magazine.
Q: Do you still find time to quilt?
Yes. In fact quilting is now a hobby for me again. Because the weather is so nice in Texas all year, I end up doing most of my quilting at retreats. I enjoy the social aspects of quilting.
Q: When you quilt, what inspires you?
I continue to be inspired by antique quilts. I enjoy combining elements from different quilts into a quilt.
Q: Together with Marianne Fons you’ve written hundreds upon hundreds of pages of quilting instructions. What was your favorite book to put together and why?
The most exciting book was our first book Classic Quilted Vests, which featured a how-to guide for making vests, along with lots of other tips on appliqué, assembly, designs, binding and more. It really launched our careers as national quilt teachers.
Q: The Fons & Porter TV series has been a huge success. What are some of your favorite memories from the show?
Because of the cost of TV production, Marianne and I used to be very nervous when we did programs. One of the funniest times was during a live pledge event when I could not remember how to finish the ends of binding – something I have done about 100 times. After a couple unsuccessful tries with thousands of people watching, I finally gave up and said it was just not my day. Everyone had a good laugh about that.
Q: Hand quilting was still the norm when you began quilting in 1976. When did you begin using an APQS machine to quilt?
I first began using an APQS machine around 2000. I think machine quilting has had a dramatic impact on the quilting community in general. It has made it much easier to go from just quilt tips to completed quilts. As a result, it’s stimulated the making of many more quilts than if we still relied solely on hand quilting.
Q: Your involvement in quilting has spanned over three decades and you’re known to quilters across the world. What do you hope will be your legacy to future quilters?
I hope that over the years I have conveyed my enjoyment of quilting and encouraged others to become involved. It continues to be inspiring to introduce someone to quilting and guide and educate her as she makes her first quilt. I have enjoyed watching the excitement of my 14-year-old neighbor girl as she makes her first quilting projects.
Q: What does the future have in store for you? Are you working on any quilting projects at the moment?
I am enjoying my retirement in Texas where I have again made quilting my hobby. I quilt, knit, play golf, swim, and enjoy spending time with my four grandchildren.
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