Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bonnie Leman

Bonnie Leman died last weekend.
I worked for her for many years, and I wouldn't be a writer without her.

In 1971 a friend gave me a subscription to Quilters Newsletter Magazine. A magazine devoted to quilting, what a concept.

Me and Merikay Waldvogel
at the Southern Quilt Symposium in 1982

I was a kindergarten teacher who made quilts and loved quilt patterns. I started thinking up ideas.
I sent them to Bonnie, the editor on the masthead.
She told me what she liked and what she didn't, and accepted a few of my pattern history articles.
I was a published writer!
She invited me out to see the plant near Denver.

The Lemans in 1972

I was surprised to find the average age of the staff was about 10, and work really didn't get started till after school. The three-year old on the premises had no job but it seemed like everyone else did.

Matthew, born the month the first issue came out.

Pretty soon she'd upped the average age by hiring my friends Louise Townsend and Marie Shirer, who moved to Denver.

Louise in 1995

She hired a lot of other competent people too.

I was their roving reporter with the title Contributing Editor. I liked to say, "Last year I couldn't spell Contributing Editor but now I are one." She taught me what to write and how to write it.
The new office in 1978

I traveled a lot to quilt events and told them what was going on. Bonnie stayed home and put out an ever-improving magazine once a month.

Art Quilts on the cover!!!!

Bonnie was shy, quiet and extremely observant. She knew exactly what she wanted in that magazine.

When we went to quilt trade shows she'd ask me to trade name tags with her. Nobody knew who I was and she could be anonymous wearing my name tag. We could see what quilters were doing, what they were buying, what they were talking about and figure out what the trends were without anyone knowing who we were. Quilt detectives, so to speak.

This was all a long time ago. I still write for Quilters Newsletter (they've dropped the word Magazine from the title) but only once a year instead of once a month.

I have every issue up to about 2005.  (I have started giving them away when done with them as a person does NOT need a complete run of a magazine for 40 years or 50---but I do love looking through them and remembering.)

See Karen Alexander's blog post about Bonnie at the Quilters Hall of Fame blog.

Daughter Mary writes that they'd appreciate your leaving a message there. "It would be a comfort to the family to see that she is remembered fondly."

Many of the photos here are from the Alliance for American Quilts pages on Bonnie. See an interview and photo gallery here:


  1. Thank you for sharing these memories.... it adds to my history of Quilters Newsletter Mag. and Barbara Brackman.

    I am sad to hear of Bonnie's death, she sure opened a wonderful can of worms with her publication.

  2. A beautiful tribute to Bonnie. Thank you so much for this post. Bonnie will be sorely missed.

  3. I often think of people who impact our lives one way or the other and Bonnie left quite an impact through the magazine.
    Thank you for sharing your journey with Bonnie.

  4. Some time in the early to mid 70s I took my first quilting class at the local school. The teacher, who freely admitted she knew little more than the students, came to class one day with a great discovery - There was a quilting magazine! We all ordered a subscription, plus some back issues, and a whole new world opened for us. I have been quilting ever since, in no small way due to the pioneering efforts of Bonnie Leman. I hope her family knows how many of us are thinking of Bonnie today! Mary Lou

  5. Thank you for this post about Bonnie - it prompted me to write a post on my own blog (I'd be honored if you checked it out...). Bonnie was a wonderful pioneer and has greatly influenced my life as well as the whole quilting world.

    I really appreciate your blog, as well as all of your books on my quilting library shelves.

    In stitches,
    Teresa :o)

  6. Thanks for sharing your story and Bonnie's story. She sounds like a remarkable woman. I enjoy reading of stories of women who have accomplished so much in their lives and really make such an impact on the world.

  7. Thanks for sharing that story. Bonnie inspired me.
    (I hadn't realized when I met Merikay at the 1982 Southern Quilt Symposium that you were there too.)

  8. It's the end of a grand era and I'm sad. QMN was the first quilting magazine I subscribed to in 1987 and then I collected as many back issues as I could find. Bonnie and the rest of the Leman family created a wonderful magazine and I still find treasures in my back issues. The quilting world has suffered a great loss, but Bonnie will be remembered forever.

  9. What wonderful memories. Our library carries them, so I get mine there. I never knew the history behind the magazine, thank you for sharing.


  10. I remember years back when I had first started quilting, anxiously waiting for the next issue of Quilters Newsletter.

    What a wonderful full life Bonnie had and what an extraordinary contribution she made to the worldwide quilting community.

    Kate from Sydney, Australia

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