May I introduce Mary M. Hogan? Mary is a quilter, teacher and author. But she is also like your favorite neighbor. She actually could be a neighbor, because she lives nearby. But she is this kind of person you just want to hang with. And very generous with her knowledge and time.
I mentioned in my first post about Mary that she does great things at The Quilting Season. On her webpage, you can find instructions on how to sew turtles. These turtles are used at a local children’s hospital for families with terminally ill children. Mementos can be placed in the pockets in the shell and the turtle back. Click here for turtle instructions.
Mary developed a simple pattern for dolls and clothes like gowns and pants for them to be used for medical education. The hospital staff members use them to explain the procedures or surgery the child will have. The children use these dolls to play out what is happening to them. This helps them to gain mastery over the situation. The dolls are plain-faced, to allow the kids to draw their face on. Mary also coordinates the activities at The Quilting Season to make these dolls.
And all through 2020, I followed her instructions to sew masks and more masks.
Mary’s first book, String Quilt Style, was published in spring 2016. I wrote here about the classes I took back than through GAAQG. The next book, Fast-Fold Hexies, was published in spring 2017. Number three, Classic to Contemporary String Quilts, followed in 2019. And just now, the fourth book, Fast-Fold Hexies Quilting, hit the market. All available where you usually buy your crafty books.
While I am writing this (January 2021), Mary should be somewhere between Jamaica and the Caiman Islands, teaching at a quilting cruise in the Caribbean. Sigh. Well, at least good for us that she is available to teach another two classes for us from her home.
How, when and why did you start quilting or sewing?
I started sewing as a young person, I was probably less than 10 years old and made clothes for dolls. I started sewing clothes for myself before high school. I sewed a lot. I also loved to make dolls and other stuffed toys. I learned and did other crafts also, especially knitting and crocheting. Quilting finally came into my life when I was 45. I purchased a “Learn to Quilt” book and picked out one of the patterns, made 12 blocks and put them together with sashing. It was hand pieced and hand quilted. That was my first bed-size quilt. I never looked back and began to make quilts regularly.
And the sixty-four-thousand-dollar-question: Modern, traditional, contemporary, art quilting: what does spark true joy? And why?
I like to make things up as I go, so I’d call myself an improvisational quilter. I lean towards contemporary or modern quilts and fabric, rather than traditional. I do like my quilts to be functional objects, so I prefer them to be bed sized. I have little interest in pillows or runners, except to use as a class project when I am teaching. I’m all about abstract designs. No cute puppies for me. I might enjoy them but wouldn’t make one.
I never select and follow a pattern exactly. I like to use as many different fabrics as I can in a quilt. I like to get an idea or see something and figure out how to do it. Often, I’ll start a quilt with a vague idea or a pile of fabric and won’t know what I’m making until I’m some way into constructing it. For example, recently I saw a picture of a small quilt and thought that I might be able to make something like that. I began to experiment and what I’m doing seems to be working.
In addition to quilting for my own enjoyment, I love to teach and design. By the end of 2020 I will have had 4 quilting books published. I enjoy exploring a topic or technique and explaining it in a book with examples of projects that could be made. I enjoy design opportunities. When it became clear that the coronavirus was upon us, I decided it would be useful to design a simple facemask. I made a few and wrote instructions that are on my website. During spring 2020 my directions were referenced by a local quilt shop as a source for a facemask pattern. Currently, I want to make a face mask with a zipper. It would be easy to unzip so that I could a drink through a straw. I’ll figure out how to make this face mask and enjoy writing up the instructions to share.
Let’s get personal: Who is you, Mary M. Hogan? Tell us a bit about you. What should we definitively know about you? Will you reveal your best cherished quirk or your most beloved pet peeve?
My life story so far: Born in Illinois, I was the fourth child in a family of 10. I’ve spent my entire life in Illinois and Michigan. Education was important in our family. I found school pretty easy through high school and liked science and math more than other subjects. I met my first husband in college and married at 21, a few months before finishing a degree in nursing at Loyola University of Chicago. I worked as a nurse and had two children, Christine and Brian. At age 30, I started graduate school at the University of Illinois in public health nursing. By age 34, I’d finished my degree, gotten divorced, met the love of my life and remarried. At 37 I took a position teaching nursing at the University of Michigan. A year later I started working on my PhD at the School of Public Health, while still teaching. Five and a half years later, I’d completed my degree. After 10 years at the University, I left and had several other positions before retiring. I retired at the end of 2011. After retirement, I spent more and more time quilting. It was 2014 when I decided to start writing a book and started teaching. My first book, String Quilt Style was published in 2016.
What do you do when you’re not quilting? What does a perfect Mary-day look like?
A perfect Mary-day begins by waking without an alarm clock. Then I’ll sip coffee and read for a couple hours, sometimes knitting at the same time if I’m reading on my iPhone. I walk and chat with a friend three times a week at midday. When sewing I also binge-watch Netflix or Prime. I’ll pick a TV show I enjoy and watch the whole thing from the beginning episode to the end over several weeks. I like to do more than one thing at a time; sewing and watching movies or TV, reading and knitting, etc. At times I’m actively making quilts with a book idea in mind. At other times, I may be putting together a specific book proposal or writing and editing a book. I also make a lot of what I want to make that is not book related.
My life is fairly relaxed because I can choose when and what to teach, and I can choose when and what books to propose. If a proposal is not accepted or a class is not filled, I’ve already enjoyed making the quilts and making notes on construction.
My life outside of home has been limited during 2020. Before that I’d typically teach a class about once a month at a local quilt store and do a lecture and class with a quilt guild about every other month.
Back to quilting: What part do you like best about the quilting process?
I like the variety of activities, including developing ideas, finding fabrics in my stash, testing the elements of my idea to find out what is working and what is not, cutting, sewing, ironing. All of it is great fun. Because I have projects in every stage of completion, I can switch tasks easily by picking up another project for a while.
I would have to say that the start of a project, i.e., developing the idea and seeing it take shape at the beginning, is the most exciting part for me.
At the moment, I’m very much enjoying hand sewing and quilting. I find hand sewing relaxing and soothing. I’ve always enjoyed sewing down binding by hand. I’ve made a few small pieces in the last few months and these are heavily hand quilted with big-stitch quilting. A current passion is making Siddi-like quilts which are sewn completely by hand.
Would you show us your favorite quilt?
A current favorite is this one. I finished it in late August 2020.
How do you beat creative blocks?
I haven’t had blocks until the coronavirus lockdown. That threw me and I made masks for a while, but didn’t get my creative side back until July. Now I’m filled with enthusiasm and ideas.
Do you share your coolest trick, best practice, lesson learned – quilt related or not?
See my books on Fast-Fold Hexies. This is a technique that I developed.
Are you a member of a quilt guild? If so, what would you tell someone who does not even know guilds?
I’m a member of the Greater Ann Arbor Quilt Guild. I’ve learned a lot through guild presentations and classes. Guilds are not all the same. Check out more than one if you live in an area with more than one.
Why do you quilt? Can you explain the magic of quilts?
Why do I quilt?
I don’t make quilts as gifts or to keep warm or to enter in a show (although those things might happen to any quilt). For me, any particular quilt “simply must be made.” I find that hard to explain. I’d like my quilts to be beautiful, exuberant, joyful and offer some surprise, though some are deliberately more sober and thoughtful.
Magic of quilts? I’m not sure about magic, but …
I’m delighted that quilts are beautiful functional objects, are handmade, and that the maker’s ideas, time, and skill are part of that object. I’m thrilled that I can enjoy the development and production of this form of art. I very much enjoy sharing and helping others develop skills and confidence in themselves.