Meet Mary Tabar
San Diego, California, USA
All photos courtesy of Mary Tabar.
Click on quilt
photos to enlarge.
Hi Mary. When did you start
find this question hard to answer, because I have been sewing and
drawing since the age of 6. I feel the hand arts are such a
mixed medium and most quilters/artists have always done some kind of
art for many years. I started making lap and wall quilts about
10 years ago.
Who taught you how to quilt?
Martin was a Community Education teacher in San Diego, CA. and I
took her classes with the encouragement from Lee Olson, a friend of
mine. I thought quilting was the only hand art that I did not know,
so I took these quilting classes weekly for about 5
Do other people in your family
In the Midwest during 1880-1950 most all women sewed as a
basic skill. So blankets were made for utilitarian
purposes. Many women in my family made quilts. My own
mother did not quilt, yet she made every kind of item in our house
that was made from fabric.
Tell me about your family. What do they
think about your quilting?
I have two daughters that are supportive of my lack of
computer skills, by answering all my questions, making CDs and even
helping with my web site. They both sew and love many needle
arts. My husband works very hard to support all of the women
in his life! I always ask my family their opinions on designs
Do you live in the United States? Which
part of the country?
Southern California, with a Midwest influence.
Have you ever quilted in another country?
I lived in Northern Lebanon eleven years ago, for one
year. I sewed only clothing then, and had not started
quilting. My husband is Lebanese and he had a job in Saudi
Arabia so my daughters and I lived with family members. The
hand art there is crochet and knitting, so I did a lot of these two
arts while visiting relatives. Sewing supplies are very
expensive and most of the population does not have the income to
quilt. I did meet fabulous tailors, both men and women.
What other hobbies do you have besides
I do all kinds of art daily and walk around a huge
lake. I like to read books and art, quilting, and crafting
magazines. My daughters and I also enjoy photography. I
have combined some of our photos into my art quilts through piecing
techniques and photo transfer.
Did you study art in
college? Do you ever wish you would have?
I have a degree in Industrial Technology, with a minor in
Graphic Arts. I did not study fine arts; I’ve decided that is why
you send your children to Art Colleges!
Do you belong to
any art quilt groups?
I belong to Visions Art Quilt here in
San Diego. I have been a member for four years. This year I am
on the board for Children’s Education. I also belong to Quilts on the Wall--this
is a group of fiber artists that display their work in galleries,
libraries, quilt shows, and quilt shops. This year I became an
active member of SAQA, Studio Art
How much time per day do you typically get to spend
creating quilts? Do you squeeze in your work around other
things or does your quilting get its own block of
My only job is teaching quilting and surface design, so I
spend about eight hours every day doing something that has to do
with quilting. I have just started a business making hand bags
with my dyed canvas fabric.
Where in your home do you quilt?
I have a spare bedroom for my dry studio, and a garage for
dyeing fabrics. Sometimes my dining room is full of material
if I am working on a large project!
What is your favorite part of the
I like to think about the next quilt for many weeks.
Then I draw it out. I enjoy cleaning up after the previous
project and starting the quilt. I must say finishing is the
hardest part of quilting.
What inspires you creatively?
I like to look at industrial areas that are under
construction, urban areas, and interesting buildings. Of
course, quilt shows and meeting other quilters is also
inspiring. Plus I find my students to be a source of
inspiration...they come up with new designs and new fabric
combinations that I would have never imagined.
Whose quilts inspire you?
I think antique, traditional, and contemporary quilts all
help inspire me to create new and different textiles.
What is your favorite season?
Here in Southern California the year is very mild. Many
times I have to stop and think what season we are “In”?
How many quilt projects do you have in progress
I really try to work on one project at a time, but with
teaching I am always making class samples, and then I have my own
personal art quilts I try to work on.
“If you can imagine it, you can do it.” by Martin
Do you quilt your own projects? By
hand or machine? If not, who quilts them for
I try to
quilt my own quilts. I quilt all my art quilts by
machine. My first few
classes I only enjoyed piecing tops together. Then when I
started to quilt my own quilts I found a new art. I have
a lot of students that do not do their own quilting; I am always
trying to encourage them to actually quilt.
Linda Kamm has quilted four of my quilts and
three of those quilts went to AQS in Paducah, AQS Nashville, and
Pacific International Quilt show.
Tell me about a project that you are
working on right now.
I have been working on using photo transfers and piecing to
make art quilts. I just finished a quilt for “New quilts from Old
Blocks” for AQS Museum. The block challenge was Rose of
Do you prefer to piece or appliqué your
My quilts are about 90% pieced…I also like to machine
appliqué raw edge and turned edge.
What is your favorite brand of fabric? Do
you ever hand-dye your fabric?
This answer could go on forever; fabric is my main medium and
I use any kind to produce art quilts. For class samples I use mostly
cottons. Hand dyeing fabric is almost a second job. I dye fabric
almost every day. Lately I have even been dyeing canvas and
home dec fabrics and then using them for hand
mentioned entering quilt shows…How was that
I started entering quilt shows two years ago. And probably
enter some kind of exhibit every other month. I have seen my quilts
hanging in shows and it feels a bit embarrassing. Maybe after
several years a quilter and artist can look at their
Have any of your quilts won awards or
been published in a book or magazine?
I have a quilt traveling in “My Culture, My Country” with Quilts.com.
I have two other quilts traveling; I always wonder where they
I also have quilts in two of Peggy Martin's books:
Strip Paper Piecing (goes to Amazon) and Paper Piece
the Quick Strip Way.
ever teach classes? What is your favorite class to
I teach for two Community Colleges in San Diego. I also teach
at quilt shops. In the summer I have been teaching young
students at a sewing shop. It is rewarding to teach young
students how to sew on a machine and make projects to use around
With getting to teach so much, I hear all
kinds of stories from students describing how they stash their
fabric...every place from the dryer to a dog house in their
yard! I like to design quilts to help them use up some of
those material possessions!! I also teach a fabric dyeing
class where my goal is to have my students make more fabric by
dyeing their own stash!
Do you use any tools or gadgets to
achieve a ¼” seam allowance?
I do like a ¼” foot for my sewing machine. It has a bar that
keeps the fabric straight. Ask your local sewing shop, and take your
sewing machine in with you to the store, there are so many machine
Do you sell any of your
I have sold a few quilts, but because I teach and lecture
surface design classes, I like to keep all of my work. But sometimes
I think it would be great to sell more quilts.
How has your quilting changed over the
I feel more confident to try new techniques and waste more
fabric. I use mostly hand-dyed fabrics and any other medium that is
So, are you wondering what else I learned
about Mary? I found Mary to be sweet and kind, and very modest
about her abilities and the fabulous quilts that she creates.
I would have to guess that Mary's classes are wonderful for not only
learning to quilt, but also for growing as a quiltmaker.
Thank You so much for sharing your story and your talent
with us, Mary.
Here is a link to Mary's website if
you would like to find out more about her:
So whom do you want
for the next Real Women Quilt Featured Quilter?!! I'm always
open to your suggestions.
and let me know.
Quilter Achives!! sort of like our own
little Hall of Fame!!