FARMINGTON In Marilyn Landry Toone's view, there are two kinds of quilts: those that get worn out and those that become heirlooms.
In her more than 40 years of quilting, she has made both. "I love the kind of quilts that get daily use, that my children and grandchildren get rolled up in, that get hugged and loved to pieces. Of course, the first ones of those that I made are all gone by now."
But that's OK, she says. The love that is stitched into those kinds of quilts is meant to be used. It's an intimate, warm emotion that deserves to be kept close.
A different kind of love goes into her quilts that are meant for show on the tops of beds or hung on walls. It's a love of creativity, of the challenge and process of quilting. It's a feeling that's meant to be widely shared. That's why Toone sends a lot of those kinds of quilts to various quilt shows around the state.
Her work wins a lot of ribbons at those shows, and that's always fun, she says, but that's not why she does it. "I like the sharing of ideas and projects with other people who are interested."
That's also what is fun about local quilt groups, she says. "I love taking my projects to our meetings. They try to figure out why I did this or why I used those colors or why something works. And I do the same with theirs. It's so fun to share those things with people who really get it."
For a long time, says Toone, "I was a 'closet quilter.' I learned to quilt by myself, and I worked by myself. It was so neat when I found other quilters, when I found someone that talks the same language."
Since then she's been involved with a lot of them. She will be president of her local Crazy Quilters group this year, she has served on the board of the Utah Quilt Guild, and she participates regularly at quilt days at Colonial House in Salt Lake City.
Like many quilters, Toone started off as a seamstress. She grew up in Ontario, Canada, where "my mother was a seamstress. But she would not let me touch her sewing machine." When Toone was 15, however, "my mother spent three weeks in Utah, and I spent those three weeks using her machine." The interest took hold.
She went to school at Brigham Young University, "and I took sewing classes, but I didn't like them. I took one econ class and ended up switching my major to history."
She taught history in school for a number of years, but she also did a lot of sewing for other people, tailoring suits and making coats and wedding dresses. She made her first quilt when her second daughter was born. She and her mother worked on the quilt, and that was it, she says with a laugh. Quilting took over, became her passion.
Although she is adept at all kinds of work, her quilts of choice are bed-size ones that are hand-quilted. "I love art quilts, but I'm too much of a traditionalist to do them." She loves taking traditional patterns, such as a double wedding ring, for example, and giving them her own spin.
Lucky for her, she jokes, "I managed to marry an aerospace engineer, and he does all my drafting for me. Of course, when we got married, I had no idea I'd be a quilter," but it was fortuitous planning anyway, she says.
Say she starts with a medallion piece in the center of a quilt, as she did the a quilt called "I Love Pink" that won Best of Show at last summer's Springville Art Museum quilt show. Then she adds border after border of different designs. Her husband, Warren, drafts the pattern to make sure it fits her parameters.
Say she starts with a center panel set on point (a square that is tipped diagonally) and wants to fill in the corners with a sunburst/compass design, as she did with a quilt for the Utah Quilt Guild's annual meeting last fall. Warren to the rescue again, drafting the design so it will fit in the corner space.
But, she says with another laugh, "Do you think I can get him to pick up a needle? No way. Few men do. But a lot of them enjoy that computer aspect of design."
She enjoys the stitching, which is why she does it by hand. "I do three things. I piece, I applique and I quilt. The quilting is my favorite."
She has had some of her quilts machine-quilted, but she pays a friend to do it. "And I piece by machine. That's easy because of my sewing background. But I prefer to quilt by hand."
It's easy to look at Toone's quilts and be impressed by the work that has gone into them. But she doesn't see it that way. They aren't made to impress. "I'm like an artist who paints what he likes. I don't care if anyone else likes it, it's what I like to do. I like working with my fingers and with needles. If I didn't enjoy the creativity, if I didn't enjoy the process, I wouldn't do it."
She's like an artist in another way, she jokes one who can't put down the paintbrush. "I always have three or four projects going at the same time." She is currently working on an applique quilt with a grape/flower design. It has 1,600 appliqueed grapes. Each square has used a full skein of embroidery floss in leaves, stems and curlicues and such. It will have a sculptured border one of her favorite techniques and one she often teaches in classes. That quilt is now on the frames being quilted.
But she and her daughter are also working on a quilt that incorporates some stitchery that her daughter did as a child. And there are other things in various stages of work and design.
"I always have what I call a 'pocket project,' something I can take with me wherever I go and pull it out and work on it when I have a few minutes. I always take something on trips, when my husband is driving. I take something to classes, so I can work on it while the students work, so I don't make them nervous by just watching them. I just always have it with me."1 comment on this story
Usually, it is something to be appliqueed, because she prefers to do the quilting on large frames. A lot of people do lap quilting, but she is fortunate, she says, to have a room in her basement where she can leave her frames up all the time.That's where she goes for peace. "I can listen to classical music. I can listen to talks on tape. I can watch football or a DVD." If she is feeling stress or frustration, all she has to do is pick up the needle. "Quilting is soothing to my soul."