Eleanor Levie HomeAboutEditorial ServicesBooksGallerySpeaker TopicsWorkshopsRetail ShopsFree StuffLInks Contact Me

Inspiring Quilting: Elly's blog to boost your creative IQ

Painting with Flowers

April 16th, 2014

Be still my heart, when one art form or expression is interpreted in a different form, and the1cassat-duo results bring honor to both:

*A religious prayer  as expressed in classic east Indian dance

*The myth of Pygmalion, where a sculptor falls for his creation, as expressed in the musical, My Fair Lady

*American blues, gospel, and work songs translated into the opera, Porgy and Bess


So you can imagine my rapture when the husband and I went to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for PAFA in Bloom. Floral designers were challenged to do an homage to a work of art, and the result was exhibited beside it.


Baby on Mother’s Arm, Mary Cassatt, 1891


Linda Lord, Gloucester, NJ









The Skaters, Gari Melchers, ca. 1892
Kristie Lynn Borchick, Allentown, PA



Girl in a Plaid Scarf, Susan Macdowell Eakins, ca. 1880-1885
Michael Haschak, Philadelphia, PA



Warning, Jimmy Ernst, 1960
Dierdre Gross, Medford NJ


Jefferson Market, John Sloan, 1917
Carol English, Cranford, NJ


North Shore, Charles Prendergast, 1939
Cathy Hozack, Philadelphia, PA


Promenade, Maurice Prendergast, ca. 1915-1918
Darcie Garcia, Allentown, PA


















Ariadne Asleep on the Island of Naxos, John Vanderlyn, 1809-1814








Peicha Chang and Rachel Berkowitz, Philadelphia, PA












I could go on and on!

There were more than 40 such pairings, with wide ranges of interpretation, from the literal–like the ship of orchids paired with a tall ships scene, to the metaphorical, like a Peaceable Kingdom interpreted with a variety of flowers, from the very raggy and wild to the tight and symmetrical.

Is this not exciting stuff?!!

Similarly exciting is the wonderful online class I’m taking with the extraordinary quilt/folk artist Pamela Allen of Canada. The first lesson asked us to translate a celebrated painting. No, not in flowers, but as a fabric “sketch.” Like many of my classmates, I chose a piece from that exuberant colorist, Henri Matisse. This one is called Anemones in a Chinese Vase, and it’s from the Cone Collection at the Baltimore Museum of Art:


 Here is my fabric sketch, tweaked in just the right way by Pamela:



And here I’ve used the same fabrics to translate another lively scene–the wine and seder plate at our Passover celebration.



Hope this blog post has sparked your creativity, encouraging you to find a fine art masterpiece that inspires you to “paint” with flowers or fabric.


4 Responses to “Painting with Flowers”

  1. So inspiring and so creative! Thanks!

  2. Marsha says:

    Hi- I am in the class too!
    I once saw a flower/painting exhibit like thistoo. It was alot of fun and very interesting and inspiring.
    Thanks for posting this.

  3. Beautiful, Eleanor! Thanks for sharing this story!

  4. Flower boxes in this particular collection look the
    same as wood – however, unlike natural wood these rot-proof Cellular PVC composite
    window boxes are made to give you a lifetime of maintenance free
    flower box enjoyment. A pot with no drainage results in standing water and
    soil which cannot dry. Raised beds can be built as high as
    you need them and what better way for the disabled gardener to enjoy their favorite hobby than by using raised beds
    to plant and grow their garden.

Leave a Reply

Guilty Pleasures, Quilty Art: Part II

March 25th, 2014



Hurray! Art Quilt Elements (AQE) 2014 opened this weekend at the Wayne Center for the Arts, just west of Philadelphia. This biennial juried show of 43 works–chosen from hundreds of entries–commands the well-deserved respect of the quilt world, and SHOULD command the respect of the comtemporary art world. Let me share my snaps, which in no way represent the grandeur, the texture, the tactile delight. Note that I’ve linked each artist’s name with her website–go and learn more if you have the time. Above, my picture of the Best in Show, Zeitgeist (fondly nicknamed Grumpy Cat), by Kristin LaFlamme. I think it’s got a real pop art meets 70s vibe meets anime, with a bit of Missoni stuck in. About 7 feet high, so it commands the space. Click on Kristin’s name above, and check out the personal musings, including her response to winning Best in Show, plus her thoughts on the Snyderman Works show which I reviewed in my last blog post.

On to other highlights of the show. There are MANY, and I don’t want to test your patience, and will also limit this show ‘n tell to those works of artists  who were present and granted me permission to share. Again, let me urge you to click on the link of anyone whose work resonates with you, and get to know these amazing and innovative talents a little better.


Marianne Burr explains her lavish use of hand-stitching and layering, as evidenced so richly in “Eleven 3 Thirteen,” above.

Below, Cynthia L. Vogt, “Otaru Winter” is elegance incarnate, with an Asian accent. Silk log cabin blocks set off the lines that represent Japanese rooftops peeking through in the snow.



















Quite possibly the largest piece in the show: Elizabeth Brandt‘s Random Thoughts,” 130″ x 81″. Part of her Karma series, and for me, the karma is abstract expressionist art that rivals any work at MOMA. BTW, her improvisational process is followed by lots of free motion stitching –  on her regular sewing machine. Did I mention the dimensions–130″ x 81″? Rolled into the harp of a regular machine?!?

I took a day off to bask in the community of my creative betters, having signed up for a Studio Art Quilts Association (SAQA) symposium. Fascinating to see how quilt artists work fiber into their lives, peering by way of PowerPoint into a few studios to understand how they live and work. It was such a nurturing environment of artists who share the results of their struggles, experiments, and relentless journeys from perceived failure to success. I am absolutely in awe of those who make it their business to make art.

Joy, joy, lucky me, I got to sit at a table of uncommon women, all whose work has been celebrated in major shows:

  • Dianne Koppisch Hricko, the mistress of transparency
  • Amy Orr , the high priestess of used credit cards and other post-consumer ephemera (see my post about FiberPhiladelphia 2012–which Amy directed, and specifically my visual rave of her House of Cards)
  • Katherine Knauer, whose art quilt, “Fracked,” went deep to make a powerful environmental statement
  • And the tres charmante Benedicte Caneuill — her piece in the show, ”Jungle Fever,” had me begging her to teach a workshop where I, too might drag combs, rubber styluses, and trowels over wet painted cloth, then cut it up, trade with other students, and compose away. She is waaayyy too humble.




AQE and SAQA events fill my head with inspiration and aspiration. Why am I blogging….and cooking and cleaning and catering to loved ones and doing volunteer work and…..when I could be playing with cloth? How do you set aside the mainstays of living for art as a pastime, and find the time to create? How do you lose the guilt to quilt?

And who am I to kvetch, when I get to see such glorious creations up close and personal, and meet the unique talents behind them?!

3 Responses to “Guilty Pleasures, Quilty Art: Part II”

  1. wish I’d been there! I am not able to come up this time, but appreciate you reviewing the show for me.
    LeeAnna Paylor

  2. Elizabeth Rosenberg says:

    Hi Elly!
    I so enjoyed reading your review; it was almost as good as being there! So glad you got to meet Benedicte, one of my most favorite people on the planet. I hope all is well with you. I’m plodding along here on the north fork of Long Island, trying to convince the art quilting muse to visit — no luck yet, but I’m keeping an open heart. Stay well and be happy,

    • Eleanor says:

      Still getting raves on your Skewed Heart Wall Hanging and bag in presentations where I present the projects from Quilt Blocks Go Wild! Dress your muse in zebra prints and just play. Miss you!

Leave a Reply

Guilty Pleasures, Quilty Art: Part I

March 24th, 2014

Hold onto your soft, cushiony seats, folks. Over the next  month, Philly is a contemporary quilt-lover’s paradise, but if you cannot get here, I’ll guide your armchair-travels via this blog post and the next one.

Here, I’ll share three of my faves from the Fiber Biennale, now showing at the Snyderman Works in Philly. Think fiber is a  field for females? Think again. These pieces are all by men, and each is a legend in his own time.



I’ve never seen a John McQueen that wasn’t a shapely vessel. But this sculptor/basketmaker bar none has created a comparatively flat piece from poplar, pine, and birch bark. For me,  I’m reminded of a contemporary applique quilt…just not soft. “After Dark Comes Calling,” 2011, 36″ x 42″




Warren Selig, professor in the Fibers/Mixed Media program at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia–who calls Rockland, Maine home– insists on redefining textiles.  Just as quilting stitches produce a play of light and shadow, so do the stainless, intersecting rods with clear acrylic spheres that extend 5″ from the wall. Titled “Shadow Field/Crystal Path,” it extends to 83″. Gallery co-owner Ruth Snyderman stands alongside for a sense of scale.

selig w Ruth

selig detail

Finally, no show, no collection of top-tier quilted art could be without a piece from Michael James. Professor in Textiles at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, James gives a nod to the traditions of cloth, piecing, and quilting stitches. Yet he soars by using digital textile printing to play with pattern in ways that reference dreams and memories. What a calm feeling washes over me as I study “Lands End: Quiet Hour,” 2014, approx. 51″ x 54″. Full view and detail:




Neither my photos, nor the greatest, most professional photography can come close to seeing these pieces “in the cloth”…er, or steel, or bark. Go to snyderman-works.com for more info. I must caution you, seeing only makes you want to touch, and you can’t touch–unless you buy. And these masterworks will cost a pretty penny. And why not? For all their humble materials, these pieces, and dozens of others in this extraordinary show that is always two years in the planning, represent the best contemporary art. The fact that it’s categorized as fiber art doesn’t make it less worthy of our esteem as any of the fine arts. In fact, for me, it holds a much greater interest. This show will challenge you to question what is fiber? What is art? And leads to that perennial discussion (and my next blog post) of what is a quilt? Man, oh man, oh man, we’re having fun in Philly.






Leave a Reply

Simply Flowers

March 6th, 2014

There were dozens of dazzling, grand-scale arrangements at the Philadelphia Flower Show this year:

P1010675   P1010678

P1010683   P1010679

P1010778   P1010779


P1010784  P1010787

P1010680  P1010682

Of course the aromas and the views of these wow’ems from all sides add a whole lot to the horticultural spectacle…sometimes to the point of stimuli overload.

Maybe that’s what makes me gravitate to the small, simple designs. Call me a minimalist, but I defy you not to fall in love with the following charmers. Just one type of flower–and fairly common, affordable ones at that:



Add just one more floral element, twigs, a leaf…



This next one’s gigantic, but it’s only roses and pussy willow, inspired by a future installation at Storm King Arts Center:


A pairing of two common houseplants…but a closer look  reveals a very uncommon placement of buds at the base of the philodendron (?) leaf. Can anyone id either of these plants for me?


By now, you’ve got me pegged as a sucker for singular simplicity. It’s always been that way, I think, even guiding the choices of quilt designs I’ve put into my books.  My “Ttableleaf-rev (2)able Leaf,” from Skinny Quilts & Table Runners, shows how just one  leaf can be quite striking.








In Skinny Quilts & Table Runners II, check out how Jane Davila’s appliqued “Las Hojas” or  Frieda Anderson’s pieced “Blushing Aspens” make one type of leaf in multiple dance across the background.


C-37 BlushingAspens

Or how about a single type of flower, like “Wisteria Lane,” by Melinda Bula, or “The Dahlia is a Diva,” by Julie Popa of Sunflower Hill ?

C-29-Dahlia   C-48WisteriaLane

After working for months on a big, spectacular, multi-block queen size bed quilt or tour-de-force wall hanging, who wouldn’t want the simplicity of a skinny slice of a project, one with just a fewer patterns, ease of assembly, a chance to just dip into a playful, new technique. But what is it about simplicity that makes a design, whether with florals or fabrics, cause our emotions to burst into bloom?

Tell me your thoughts about simplicity or florals in quilts or whatever this blog post inspires you to write in the comment box below. You could be the lucky winner of autographed copies of both Skinny Quilts & Table Runners and Skinny Quilts & Table Runners II!  The Philadelphia Flower Show runs thru Sunday, March 10, and I’ll choose a winner from among the comments at the end of that day.







4 Responses to “Simply Flowers”

  1. While I love the flowershow so much, this year’s theme was especially exciting. However many reviews of the show and the interpretation of the theme were disappointing at best. Oneof the aspects of the show this year encouraged artists to mix plants to make them look like a single plant. I think your photo shows a philodendron and a zebra plant potted together and accented with –dare I say– pink silk buds.

    • Eleanor says:

      You win the books, Barb. If you have them already, let me know how to autograph them. Also, email your mailing address to me–not here, via my email address–elevie@comcast.net–and while you’re at it, tell me what you’ve been up to! Also, if you feel so inclined, subscribe to my blog, and write a nice little review about any of my books on Amazon. By now you’re wondering who’s getting the best out of this deal! At any rate, please tell the husband I said hi!

      Thanks for identifying the zebra plant by its common name, which is good enuf for me! I looked really closely, and could swear those pink petals were botanically, actually, definitely attached to the bases of that philodendron’s leaves…

  2. I’d like to come up for this one year… not this year so I’m glad to see your review. Maybe it’s seeing a picture instead of the multi-sensory experience but the first arrangements are very fussy with no focus. I love the pussywillow and rose explosion. In other art, I enjoy both the simplistic glowing one leaf look, and a fuller arrangement but do not enjoy looking at trad, a flower every 4 inches in regular placement kind of quilts. Like the yards where you see an ornament every square foot, covering the whole yard, there is no respite from stuff. Wish we were just a bit closer so we could do these things together!
    LeeAnna Paylor Not Afraid of Color! lapaylor.blogspot.com
    email address is leeannaquilts@gmail.com

    • Eleanor says:

      LOVED your comments, as always. Just playing fair, and spreading out the gifts. Any chance you’re close enuf to come to my programs for the Quilting on the Line in Fawn Grove, PA Mar. 25 in the evening? I would be thrilled to see you there!

Leave a Reply


March 4th, 2014

Horticulture inspired by the arts–that’s the theme of  the 2014 Philadelphia Flower Show.


Picture frames invite you to see the floral designs as art forms.


At its most exciting (for me), the floral arrangements immediately call to mind the work of specific celebrated artists. For example, spheres of blooms may appear as  Seuss-ical celestial systems. But step directly in front of the frame, and Wassily Kandinsky is in the room.



Bet you can guess whose work inspired the following vignettes…

3   3a



5a  5b





For some reason, I’m not quite sure why, the priceless fine art masterpieces cannot be exhibited alongside the arty horticulture. I do think that showing printed images of signature artworks would help folks make the parallels, give this show many teachable moments, and make fine art accessible to a new crop of viewers! After all, you might go Mmmm at these compositions, but the satisfaction is so much greater if you are familiar with Mondrian, Monet, Matisse, and Magritte.

So how great is it when the actual painting that inspired the floral design can be and IS exhibited alongside it. Paintings by students at PAFA–the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts have mood and color palettes picked up by the floral designer. Sooo cool.



As always, I loved being at the Philadelphia Flower Show–especially just after yet another snowfall and with wind chill temperatures dipping down to the ridiculous.

In a future blog post, I hope to point up with my pics how floral designers in this show successfully use the elements of art: color, texture, line, rhythm, balance, unity, and so on.

But I can’t sign off ’til I touch on quilting! Don’t wanna get into that timeworn debate of quilts as art vs. craft. Except to opine that taking a traditional craft form and infusing it with all the elements of art takes it to a different realm. Whether your palette is paint, or flowers, or fabric, all you need is inspiration!

Do add your comment! I’d love to hear how ART is at the heART of what you do, and if you draw on fine art as inspiration for your quilting.


5 Responses to “Art-i-culture”

  1. Eleanor, thanks for the eye candy! This is how I feel about the Rose Parade (a couple of miles from my house). We usually go – because the floats are truly original works of art, in the ways that they convey texture and meaning. Also, there’s something about being in the presence of large amounts of greenery and color that’s intoxicating!

  2. Kullie Mellor says:

    You certainly made a great choice of the visual delights at the Flower Show for your blog.I agree that a great teaching experience was missed in there being so few explicit links between the gorgeous creations and the artists who inspired the exhibit. It was an amazing show—how can I find anything wrong with it?? What a thrill to have so much space and easy viewing from my wheelchair yesterday!And how great it was to see you and to introduce you to some of my great family.

  3. Maggie Winfield says:

    Elly, thanks so much for sharing those amazing photos of the flower show. I also enjoy flower shows and those colors and beauty were amazing. Very inspirational. Maggie

  4. Sue Andrus says:

    I so love to get to the Philly Flower Show! I always find inspiration in the flowers and wonderful displays…. but then I am a total plant and flower geek with my degree in floriculture… I have always loved seeing displays where floral designs are inspired by paintings, fashion, and more…

  5. You sure look spunky and artsy posing there! I am doing a two year challenge interpreting the great art masters, so I like seeing them in flowers and am going to link you to my group so they can see.
    LeeAnna Paylor

Leave a Reply

Gifting Personalized Miniatures

December 21st, 2013

I have a passion for little things in life. Dollhouses, tiny dolls, miniature villages and train displays, demitasse cups, bonsai, newborn babies—who isn’t captivated by these wee charmers?

mini-fini 2 (2)

For personalized gifting: my mini cactus garden

Those were the words that introduced my book,  Marvelous Miniatures, part of the Rodale’s Successful Quilting Library Series. And years before that my first book ever came out: Great Little Quilts: 45 Antique and Doll-size Quilts with patterns and Directions (Harry N. Abrams). Another book I authored is Creations in Miniature: 101 Tiny Treasures to Stitch & Craft (published by Krause). See a little trend here?

Yup, I love quilting and crafting miniatures…especially when they are quick. As gifts, they can be very personal. And no risk: unlike a big quilt, they can be displayed anywhere at all.

Here are three gift minis that arose out of creative playtime. The first one is quite recent:



1. Mini Cactus Garden

This year’s Christmas gift for dear friends who travel and therefore cannot water houseplants regularly and who adore their springer spaniel.


Cactus pot from my local Lowes, tiny jalapeno peppers, black heavyweight thread, two old paintbrushes, iron vintage look dog figurine, engraved and plain polished stones.

How-To Tips:

Thread peppers onto black thread, making knots to keep them separated. Tie ends onto paintbrushes and insert into pot. Set figurine and stones in pot.

cactus (2)    pepper-stringing (2)

peppers,strung2 (2)

mini-fini -detail2 (2)


2. Alice-in-Wonderland Treasure Chest

For a wonderful, witty, and fabulous BFF, a Lewis Carroll fanatic and a high-powered NGO advocacy leader in Washington DC, who lives an adventure filled with comic characters, changing scenes, and strategic challenges.


Small wood chest/jewelry box, photocopies of illustrations from Alice Through the Looking Glass, vintage-look tissue paper, decoupage medium, mini, 3-legged “table” to keep a box lid off a pizza, green leprechaun’s hat from a St. Patrick’s Day cupcake, a playing card, plastic miniatures–dresser with mirror, perfume bottles, Alice doll,  playing card, Happy Birthday confetti, bits of lace, ribbons, ribbon rose, watch works, stickers, glue dots and hot glue.


alice-3 (2)


Note: That special Lewis Carroll quote I printed must surely resonate for my friend, and for all of us:

“It would be so nice if something made sense for a change…”

How-To Tips:

Different adhesives performed different jobs in this assemblage. Brushing decoupage medium under and over photocopied illustrations–torn or cut–and tissue paper, I decorated the insides of the lid and box. Using tweezers to keep fingers from getting burned, I hot-glued the heavier playing card, plastic figurine and other assorted items in place. Glue dots came in handy for the tiniest items, and stickers stuck as expected.


alice-4 (2)

3. Box in a Box in a Box

This gift was inspired by a niece who’d just received her PhD in archaeology. After wrapping a piece of jewelry by a local artist in a small box, I incorporated the gift box into a larger, personalized scene. Invited the hubby and son to add their congrats, then packed it off, well-padded, in a slightly larger box.


A cigar box (chosen as my niece’s name is part of the brand name), text pertinent to Marcie’s dissertation, which concerned pottery in ancient Greece, typed and printed out on old, scroll-look paper, hand-made ceramic buttons, ribbons and twine, currency, an engraved stone, and a Playmobil figure with relevant accessories.

How-To Tips:

As described above with number 2, various adhesives did the necessary securing of objects. The little gift box, wrapped in the same text document as the background, was too camouflaged to be seen. That’s why I had to direct attention to it, with a little OPEN ME post-it.

Marcie-PhD-box 1 (2)

   Marcie-PhD-box 4

Marcie-PhD-box 3 (2)

Marcie-PhD-box 2 (2)


Last-Minute Friendly?  Not so much!

Stay on the lookout all year long for inexpensive little items that speak to a loved one’s interests. Neighborhood tag sales and garage sales nearly always include minis, from Happy Meals to games with only some of the playing pieces. Buy polished rocks with a little saying at museum shops and gift stores.  Whether you send handmade gifts,–whether it’s quilty or crafty, or just participate in the packaging and wrapping of gifts…it’s an impressive show of love. Keep it fast and fun. And make it  personal. Such touches make these gifts that will be kept and cherished!

Please leave a comment before the year ends, telling me what you pursue in the miniature creative realm. I’ll award a copy of my book, Creations in Miniature, to each of three lucky mini-lovers! Be sure to subscribe, and you’ll get wind of new postings—approximately two per month.

Hope your holidays are hugely enjoyable, and may all your problems be miniature ones!



2 Responses to “Gifting Personalized Miniatures”

  1. Very cute! I love cacti so I have quite a few tiny cacti and succulents in my window sill. (http://thevegankat.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/succulentwindowgarden.jpg) I also love quilting in miniature and made a series of tiny and intentionally irregular log cabin quilts. I enjoy working on small scale quilts because you can get them done quickly and try out new techniques. Plus they make perfect wall art!

Leave a Reply

Prize(s!) announced!

December 13th, 2013

Announcing the winners of my purple comment challenge! I’ve listed them below, and replied to them individually below. Please send me your addresses (so I can get your prizes off in the mail) via email:



Honestly, I was struck by the winning qualities of every single comment.  You showed me that people are reading my blog. And since that “literary form”– if you wanna call it that–is a one-way street, you made it fun to check my inbox all week long for your points of view.

On to the prize winners:

For inspiring me with her courage in the face of adversity and her rhapsody for the Purple…er, Blue Ridge Mountains, the big stash of purple fabrics goes to….drumroll, please…. Robin. BTW, because you made yourself absolutely unforgettable, I will be throwing in a complimentary copy of my book Unforgettable Tote Bags.

For tickling my fancy…er, my funnybone, a copy of my Quilt Blocks Go Wild! plus one purple fat quarter goes to: LeeAnna Paylor. And she didn’t even mention her  quilt inspired by the famous poem, “When I am old I shall wear purple!”

For Sue Levin, who is so passionate about purple she uses it for walls and ceilings of her home, as well as in her quilts, a copy of my Skinny Quilts & Table Runners II book….plus a purple fat quarter.

For Kristin Freeman, who paints landscapes with her words, a copy of Accidental Landscapes, by the amazing Karen Eckmeier, and edited by yours truly, plus one fat quarter (with purple and earth tones!).


3 Responses to “Prize(s!) announced!”

  1. hey, Ellie, here I am!! waving hand in the air
    LeeAnna Yea!! I won!

    Thank you lots. I can’t find your email addy, but here’s mine

  2. Kristin Freeman says:

    Eleanor, what a most delicious piece of news to receive this day as I am making my altar for the Solstice time here in my home this Saturday. I have sent an e-mail with my address to you. Thank you for the surprise prize.

  3. Robin says:

    Holy COW! What a great surprise! I’m actually a bit embarrassed by your wonderful words about my post. I am truly a purple nut – my neurologist always asks me to close my eyes and then describe my clothes that day – he knows I must love purple, because it is ALWAYS purple clothing.
    Thank you so much for choosing my post – I usually don’t ever win anything, so this is new territory for me.
    My husband and I prefer to not post our address in public, so if it is possible, could you give me an email address to reply to? Thank you again! What a delightful end to this Friday, the 13th!!!

Leave a Reply

Let us all praise purple

December 6th, 2013

On last night’s Project Runway All Stars, the challenge was to give Marge Simpson a new dress—for the very first time!—to wear on a date night out with Homer. The purple color of the winning dress was the perfect complement to blue hair and yellow skin. And the designer, Irina Shabayeva recognized Marge’s cute figure and comfort level in featuring a strapless dress that showed some leg and could be belted or left to fully swirl.

I adore purple for the way it partners with yellow, chartreuse, and yes, even orange. Purple represents royalty, piety, the pathway for bridging Republican Red and Democratic Blue. The Purple Heart is given for courage. And purple grapes can ferment so deliciously. The Beatles have their White Album. Here’s my Paean to Purple:

News flash! The fashion and decorating color experts just announced ORCHID as the color for 2014. Close enough.

Leave a comment, telling me how you prize The Color Purple in your quilting. I’ll award a bag of scintillating scraps from my stash of purple fabrics to the one whose comment most captures my imagination or tickles my fancy. Friday the 13th at 12 noon (EST) is your thriller-diller deadline. Don’t think pink. Think purple.

PS–I just put together the purple prize. Some pieces are indeed large scraps, but others are 2 yards. Total is more than 8 yards. Worth winning, wouldn’t you say?

purple prize

23 Responses to “Let us all praise purple”

  1. Ann Kovalchick says:

    I will be making a quilt for my granddaughter in 2014 for her high school graduation. Her favorite color is purple so I need purple fabric. :)
    I always make the quilt gear to the personality not just an ordinary traditional quilt.

  2. Kristin Freeman says:

    Purple is one of major “go-to” colors in the palette of fabrics often called, my stash. Purple is in my gardens and the flowers I recreate in fabric for quilts, purple is in the beautiful Montana skies ans sunsets, particularly in late spring and through the summer and is found in many of my landscape quilts. Purple is in the feathers of birds that visit my feeders as they migrate along the Clark Fork River flyway just blocks from my home an a place where journal sketches and photos bring images to be expressed in quilts and fiber sculptures. Purple is a perfect color to use with any oranges, clear or burnt, and always sings a great song when places with browns and tans. Purple feeds my artistic muse, rather like a bowl full of Concord grapes feeds the hungry summer snacker. How much fun 2014 will be when shopping for fabrics to add to my purple collection.

  3. Wilhelmina Jaffe says:

    Purple is the healing color, I worked as a clinical social worker for Samaritan Hospice, where our logo was in purple.

  4. Linda Smith says:

    Oh I just love these colors seems to me that Purple is me lately.. Good to see you last month at guild.

  5. Sue Levin says:

    There IS no other color than purple. My first car, 1970 Duster, was purple. My whole house now is purple – kitchen, family room, living room, laundry room. Just had the powder room painted – stone for the walls and purple for the ceiling.

    My quilts in my house (100+) all have some purple in them including one of my faves – Passionate About Purple Pinwheels. I have so much fabric in my stash and guess which color dominates !

    Just got back from Hawaii where I visited Quilt Passions. Their batik wall was a sea of purple. Guess
    where I’m retiring. Cannot think of any other color than purple that inspires me and ignites my quilting
    passions. It’s the most gorgeous color ever conceived and created. Thank you for letting me emote.

    Regards, Sue Levin

    • Eleanor says:

      You get an honorary mention, Sue, and a special prize! See my newest post and send me your address!

      • Sue Levin says:

        Thank you so very much !!
        P.S. The next time you are at a NCJW and Judy
        Fried is there, check out her 70th birthday present
        from me. Yep, a tote bag using 50 shades of
        purple !!! She loves it.

  6. HelenMarie Marshall says:

    I am not a purple person. I am a yellow-orange-green person. But I feel I owe it to my stash to be well rounded, and I just finished a tee shirt quilt using lots of purples-to-teals! So…my purple shelf has become depleted! I would welcome an infusion!

  7. I have never made a quilt, but I have been weaving cloth for 53 years. I totally adore purple, so this would be the perfect opportunity for me to create my first fabulous quilt. I am rather quiltish in my approach to weaving though.

  8. Lisa Ellis says:

    I have always been a huge fan of purple. When we moved into our current home, twenty years ago, I convinced my husband that our bedroom should be purple and we choose a purple carpet. I love my purple bedroom to this day – it’s been re-carpeted once and painted a couple of times and the shade has changed slightly.

    For ten years we had a purple mini-van. I was sad to see it go – it was easy to find it in the parking lot.

    I feature purple in my quilts frequently and my purple stash is one of the largest. (Black and Whites are big too since I like to make whimsical stuff).

  9. Marilyn in Alberta says:

    I have 2 favourite colours – purple and blue. I heard that purple is the colour of optimism so I surround myself with in since my DH is a pessimist about nearly everything. Purple keeps me sane….almost.

  10. carol d. says:

    Purple is the new lime, :>)
    really it is a staple in our home
    due to my eldest daughter and SIL graduating
    from the first Cornell ( Iowa).

  11. what did the green grape say to the purple grape?
    Breathe, you idiot, breathe!

    Okay, purple has been my fave color for so long, that my dh bought me a purple camera, (not the brand I asked for), just BECAUSE it was purple. I had a purple phone, but they no longer make them. Purple promotes creativity and spirituality, so if one surrounds themselves with it, they might get extra help making quilts. I use purple a lot, it’s in my trio of lime/fuchsia/purple in almost all quilts. I like purple/and my neutral lime together sooo much.
    There, I’m out!
    Lee Anna Paylor

  12. Diane says:

    You say Purple, they say Orchid! Let’s call a spade a spade: If you add some blue to any red, you improve the color immeasurably. My granddaughter has graduated from pink to purple as her favorite. I consider that a step to maturity; perhaps some day she will be as smart as her younger brother who follows me in adoring green. In any case, the cupcake fabric is the winner in that bunch and sets the theme for a wonderful quilt. I hope I win cause I’m about ready for another challenge – but no rush… you can mail it after the holidays. (big grin)
    http://yarngoddess dot wordpress dot com

  13. Michele says:

    Love purple! The last quilt I made for my daughter was a combination of black and white with yellow and purple. I made it because she loves the combination of yellow and purple (previous project for same daughter was a purple and yellow crocheted pansy afghan!) but it really grew on me as I put it together – many shades of purple from lavender to dark, and yellow from pale butter to gold. It’s still one of the favorite quilts I’ve made.

  14. LynDee says:

    Purple is plummish, fragrant flowerish, and a stain from delish wine…what’s not to like about purple?

  15. Donna Barnhill says:

    It seems you have a Package of Unusual Regal Pacific sunsets Labeled Ebullient.

  16. Robin says:

    I’m 61 now. A child of the late 60′s, early 70′s — therefore, a hippie! I wear long skirts with embroidered tops, my hair is past my waist and I usually wear it braided. The color purple defines me. My clothes are usually purple. And my biggest color stash of fabric is purple.
    I met my husband 37 years ago, and we celebrated our 36th anniversary in September. At the time, I had my beloved VW Bug, like all good hippies!! LOL But, it eventually got sold. Finally, several years ago, I found the VW Bug of my dreams – old and purple – yes, a purple BUG. Loved that car!
    I have completed a quilt top of blocks of purple stars. All are different, as this came from a swap. My own star block is the weird one – I found a pattern for an off-centered star. Beautiful! It is next to be quilted.
    Right now, I cannot drive anymore. I have Parkinson’s Disease, and it is progressing. Like I said, I can’t drive so my husband has to do the driving if I want to go anywhere. Of course, a trip to the quilt shop (about an hour away) would be nice, but my husband would be lost. So, I continue to stay at home. I can no longer do hand-quilting, something I thought I did pretty well. So, I will quilt by machine.
    I have not been to the quilt shop in at least a year. I would love to have some new purple fabrics.
    Thank you so much!

    • Robin says:

      I’m replying to my own post – LOL

      I forgot to tell you that we live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. From our home, we can see the PURPLE mountains – I am up early in the morning, and get to see the sunrise. Try to imagine the magnificent beauty that is – a slight lightening in the deep blue of the sky. The mountains are purple, as slowly the sun rises – first some dark orange and then more light comes.
      I could write a poem about it – but you can write your own. Pure beauty. PURple.

    • Eleanor says:

      You’re the big winner, Robin! See my newest post, and send me your address!

  17. Nancy Vase says:

    I love purple. I have lots of purple fabric, purple quilts and even purple shoes. I once painted the bathroom Grape and sponged it with pastels. I voted for the purple Jeep when we shopped for a new vehicle but lost out. Darn. I watch for purple flowers, purple butterflies (score 2), and have a purple collar and leash for my dog. Where we live there are often purple clouds and in the right light the snow can look purple. At night when the clouds are low the city lights make a pink-purple reflection which is wonderful. I’d really like more purple in my life. Can’t get enough.
    Purple is soothing and healing for me. I find it’s restful and helps me to recharge and come up with new ideas for more quilts.
    Thanks for making this offer so much fun.

Leave a Reply

I Kit You Not

October 15th, 2013


A tug in opposing directions has characterized my quilt publishing career through the years. On one side, I am pulled by the needs of a broad range and huge numbers of quilters who lack the confidence to create their own designs, and so they look for designs they love to reproduce. In books, patterns, and kits, the quilting industry is set up to cater to these folks.

On the other side, I can’t deny a tepid feeling about a copycat quilt, one that’s perfectly faithful to the original. Even when the original is an amazing antique classic that has entered the public domain.

Maybe that’s unfair. After all, when I made the table runner pictured at the top of this post, I certainly started with inspiration: an ancient Sephardit design that originated in Spain or Portugal. The Etz Chayim—Hebrew for Tree of Life—is a symbol for Jews’ most sacred object, the Torah. It also represents family, growth, and strength.

I fully expect folks to start with an existing design–you have to start somewhere! This is exactly why I produced the book Quilt Blocks Go Wild!, which allows you to take a classic block and do something exciting to it, to make it your own. I simplified the tree for a second rendition, offered as a workshop for the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needleworkers.












For the first time in my teaching career, I was tasked with providing kits to the participants. With a little reluctance, I took orders for a honey, natural, or lavender linen-blend fabric. But I drew the line at including any other specifics, and merely set out stacks of different-color felt for tree trunks and piles of fabric fat quarters and scraps for leaves. I explained to the class my discomfort with straight copying, and my hope that they would each apply their own a personal stamp or different color palette, a unique perspective on the project. Students went well beyond my expectations, and I had the privilege and fun of helping each participant ensure a good contrast, balance, and the injection of her own personality. The resulting quilt tops present a varied grove, a treasure trove of uniqueness. Check out the fabulous, fused appliques below. Kudoes to those who cut an unusual, chunky tree, added a “carved” heart on the trunk, a bird’s nest of eggs, or unusually shaped leaves.

  P1010183 P1010185 P1010186 P1010187 P1010188 P1010189 P1010191 P1010194 P1010197 P1010199 P1010200 P1010201 P1010202

By the way, the how-to’s and the actual-size pattern for the Tree of Life pillow—no kit available! is on my website’s free & fun link; click here for that. But the Pomegranate people let me know they planned to use their designs for wall hangings, tabletoppers, challah covers, and other applications.

What do you think? What’s your take on patterns and kits? What inspires your creativity?

6 Responses to “I Kit You Not”

  1. Susan Rose says:

    Hi Ellie,
    Great to see our ‘works in progress’ from our workshop at the Pomegranate Guild Convention. I came home feeling very inspired and excited to take on many more projects. Your guidance with this design as well as the many other tips you shared has me looking at my needle crafts in a whole new way. Thank you!

  2. Eleanor says:

    Thank YOU, Susan–for the feedback and validation! Better than Roses, and beyond rubies!

  3. Donna Laing says:

    I have the same feelings about exact copies of a quilt, or making a kit. I’m not so interested in that. For me, half the fun is coming up with an idea and the other half is sewing it to see if it comes together the way it looked in my vision.

    • Eleanor says:

      Coming from a brilliant, award-winning designer, your comment has to be taken with a grain of salt. Did you at least start out by making cookie-cutter quilts?

  4. Sandy Ottenberg says:

    I am finishing my tree of life today. Had to buy the special foot and
    muslin. Now I am on my way to finish. the new foot is real cool wish I
    knew of it before. my question is do I put muslin in the back of the pillow
    also. this looks so nice think I will make a larger version and make a
    family tree out of it and hang it some place. Thank you for teaching both classes I learned so much from you.
    Sandy Ottenberg

    • Eleanor says:

      I personally do not care about the inside of my pillows…but an extra layer of muslin along the back would give it a bit more stability and polish for anyone peeking inside…not important to me, though!

      Thanks for your words of support, Sandy!

Leave a Reply

A Little Luck

October 9th, 2013

Whether the topic is creativity, genius, or success, the formula is often quoted to be 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration. The first–inspiration–like breathing in fresh air, involves listening to your heart, keeping an open, free-range mind, and just pure luck. The second–perspiration — means doing the work: hands-on, facing challenges, problem-solving, trial and error.

Hamsa is a Hebrew word, with the initial h pronounced with a gutteral sound like chutzpah. The semitic origins of the word Hamsa mean hand, five, and the iconic shape represents the Creator’s protective hand. It’s usually depicted as a hand with two thumbs and three fingers in KitchenHamsa-EL (2)between. But the Hamsa presents a handy, creative opportunity to everyone, even those who claim they are all thumbs.
The use of the Hamsa is part of Jewish and Israeli folklore and superstition. A Hamsa  is an ancient yet still popular amulet for magical protection from the evil eye. It has nothing to do with religion! But who doesn’t want a good luck charm, just in case?!

I recently had the good luck to teach a group of women from the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework how to create a little good luck wall hanging using my favorite media–recycled coffee and tea bags. I gave each participant a shrinky dink Hamsa — cut on an Ellison die cut machine at my synagogue Sunday school — to use as a template. I showed them my sample, but encouraged them to personalize their creations to fit their style, their personality, and their decor…which they did in spades!  Take a look at their work in progress:

P1010179 P1010172


P1010173 P1010174  P1010176 P1010177 P1010178    P1010181



Anyone wanting to put your Hamsa…er, hand to quilting with recycled packaging? The instructions for my design are up on my website now, on the Free & Fun link. Foil-lined packaging means you can hang this good luck charm in your kitchen, and just sponge off any grease or dust. The shine of the material means it’s nearly impossible to capture these recycled art Hamsas in a photo that does them justice. But like a quilt top vs. a quilted piece of fabric art, adding a background/filler/backing  plus quilting stitches to draw the three layers together really makes the piece a success. Two layers of felt and design lines in thread depress the plasticized foil surface into little hills and valleys, giving depth and definition to the piece.  I can’t wait to see the finished projects, and hope these “Poms” will complete their projects and email me a jpeg—with a little luck!

Leave me a comment, and do share your thoughts about your favorite good luck charm, the power of amulets or recycling, how I should photograph shiny surfaces, or what quilting outside the box YOU are doing. Oh, and do click on the subscribe button to get alerts in your email in box when I have a new quilting blog post. Look forward to hearing from you!

3 Responses to “A Little Luck”

  1. Dale Flashberg says:

    Looking forward to seeing your Poms completed projects. I think I will start collecting and keeping my bottle tops and coffee and tea bags. Where do you get the pattern for the Hamsa?

  2. Eleanor says:

    Hey Dale, I used a commercial die designed for Ellison machines. However, you could google Hamsa, choose any shape, and enlarge it to 4″ in height.

  3. Toni Mitt says:

    Thanks for the awesome post on Purple. My younger daughter works at a place called The Purple Store–where they sell all things purple online and in a shop–including a beautiful purple velvet sofa.
    I don’t use a lot of purple in my quilts right now. But I may have to incorporate more in them.
    –Toni in Milwaukee

Leave a Reply