Q & A with icon Jo Morton + a fresh batch of little favorites (giveaway!)

Jo Morton fans, today is your day: she’s back with the third book in her “Jo’s Little Favorites” series!

Jo's Little Favorites III

The 15 lovely little quilts in Jo’s Little Favorites III were available only to her devoted club members—until now. We got ’em, and we guarantee you’ll want to stop everything you’re doing right now and sew ’em!

For the first time, Jo invites you into her charming 1920s-era bungalow to share how she displays quilts in her own home. What a rare treat! You’ll gather oodles of ideas for showcasing small quilts, along with Jo’s favorite techniques for making them.

From Jo's Little Favorites III
Start one of these beautiful quilts right away with Jo’s wise approach: if you want to make them all, make them small!

We asked Jo to answer a few pressing questions we had about her quilting life—read her answers below.

Jo MortonStitch This!: This is the third book in your best-selling “Jo’s Little Favorites” series—what inspired book #1?

Jo: The first book was (Martingale’s Chief Visionary Officer) Jennifer Keltner’s idea. I ran my Jo’s Little Women Club from 2003 to 2017, and I discontinued each club when a new pattern collection was available. The clubs were run only in quilt shops, so many of the designs weren’t available to latecomers or to those not near a shop running the JLW Club. Jennifer’s concept of bringing those patterns back seemed like a win-win to me.

ST!: What’s your typical process for designing quilts, and where do you find inspiration?

Jo: I’m always inspired by antique quilts, no matter the size. I love looking at the color combinations and blocks quilters used in the past. I decide what size of block I want to make, and I work with fabrics from my lines with Andover (previously) and Moda Fabrics. In many ways it’s hard to actually “reproduce” an antique quilt—making a version of an antique quilt is how I think of it.

Brown Sugar quilt
Brown Sugar

ST!: How did you start quilting?

Jo: I took my first quilting class in 1980. Everything was traditional then, and there was little access to cotton quilting fabric. What was available seemed to almost fade in the sack on the way home. Quilt shops were really small, with very few books and patterns. I also started quilting before the rotary cutter was invented.

Back then it was Jinny Beyer who showed us that we could draft and design our own quilts. Her book was one of the early ones I purchased. We focused on skills! We hand quilted, and on larger quilts we would use quilt-as-you-go techniques a la Georgia Bonesteel. Nothing was fast, but we loved the process. And I still love the process.

I am not a power sewer at all. I like to play with fabric, have the option to change my mind midstream, and not have a bunch of fabric cut and not used. Yes, I am ancient.

Pineapple Table Runner
Pineapple Table Runner

ST!: It’s obvious that you love reproduction fabrics; what is it that draws you to them over other fabrics?

Jo: I made my first “new” quilt that had vintage appeal in 1985. I was smitten with the antique quilts I would see at area quilt shows. Back then, guilds also hung antique quilts to fill a show. We have a cannon-ball reproduction bed in our bedroom, a walnut wardrobe, and a pine pie safe for clothes storage. I live with antiques and wonderful reproduction items and it all just feels right to me. Happily my husband, Russ, loves it all too!

ST!: You must have many, MANY little quilts—how do you use them? Do you display them all, rotate them out?

From Jo's Little Favorites IIIJo: I do have lots of little quilts. Many are nicely stacked inside an antique jelly cupboard from Pennsylvania. Others are under a small chest and in the bottom of an antique dry sink. A small group of quilts is folded in a candle box that has two small shelves (see right). You’ll find quilts under a lamp and under a small rocking horse purchased at a folk-art show. I also have a wall of small quilts in my studio, while other quilts are folded in a stack in a bookcase. I drape quilts out of baskets and on doll beds or cradles. There are probably more I’m forgetting to mention.

One of the things I love most about Jo’s Little Favorites III is that most of the photography was taken in our home and in my studio across the alley, which is a 1954 small ranch, just 854 square feet. It’s a perfect commute. The move about 12 years ago helped me get my sewing out of our 1100-square-foot home. Russ and I have lived in our home all our married life. It will be 47 years this July.

Keystone Medallion quilt
Keystone Medallion

ST!: What do you love about being a quilter?

Jo: Being a quilter, one never has free time. There is always something to work on, including prepping take-along handwork projects. I can stitch in the car on a trip, hand piece blocks, work on a hexagon project, or hand quilt a small quilt without a frame. Appliqué is not easy for me to do in the car, however—it’s homework, so to speak.

ST!: Finish these sentences for us!

From Jo's Little Favorites IIIOne reason making smaller quilts is so fun is: They don’t take much time. I’ve always been drawn to antique small quilts and doll quilts, and I’ve always made small quilts that looked old or had vintage appeal.

If I had a three-word quilting mantra, it would be: Enjoy the process. Look at the fabulous antique quilts in museums—they aren’t perfect, but you can see fabulous workmanship, colors, and design . . . and they ended up in a museum. Sometimes perfection loses the made-by-a-human aspect.

My best tip for new quiltmakers is: Perfection is overrated, but do your best work. The more you do, the better you get.

Before I begin a quilt, I must have: The fabrics I want for the quilt—and I do have a really nice fabric collection. It’s NOT a stash. Anything that costs that much is a “collection.” For some reason I don’t care for the word “stash” because it sounds like something that should be hidden. My fabrics are folded on shelves and sorted by color because I need to see my fabric to use it. Who can remember a pretty pink in the bottom of a bin in the closet? Not me.

Basket Parade quilt
Basket Parade

If I had a quilting superpower, it would be: I really don’t know what to say to this question. Quilting isn’t a hobby for me. It’s something I need to do. I like the way I make my quilts. I love playing with blocks on the design wall, playing with setting fabrics, finding the right fabric for blocks and borders. I think quilting is in my DNA.

I went through a lot of hobbies before finding quilting. I remember Russ kind of rolling his eyes—“here we go again”— with another new hobby. I told him that I loved making quilts so much that I would do it for the rest of my life. Thirty-eight years later, I’m still loving it. I  have a list of quilts I still want to make. I’ve been involved in several block exchanges and I haven’t had the time to do something with the blocks, so that is on my agenda this year.

Jo, thanks for indulging us, and congratulations on your gorgeous new book!

Jo’s a pro when it comes to piecing small quilts—check out her “clippy trick” for making little blocks lie flat:

  Reading this post in email? Click here to view the video.

Jo's Little Favorites IIIWe’ve got a copy of Jo’s Little Favorites III to give away to one lucky winner today! To be automatically entered to win, tell us in the comments:

If I made a quilt from Jo’s Little Favorites III, I would:

  • Display it in my home like Jo.
  • Give it as a gift to someone I know who loves everything repro.
  • Finish it and then make another!

Good luck, everyone! And if you’re ready to start sewing with Jo right now, you can purchase Jo’s Little Favorites III and instantly download the eBook for free.

Also by Jo Morton:

Jo's Little Favorites II Jo's Little Favorites Jo's Floral Album Simple Friendships


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