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

Tea Rex

March 28th, 2015

TeaRex, detail

Word play is often a part of my art quilting, so my riff on T-Rex shouldn’t come as a surprise. And like other pieces in my ReUse, trash-stash series, this piece is made of tea bag envelopes, coffee bags, and other foil-lined packaging. And yeah, it’s a “green quilt,” as in the term coined by Susan “Lucky” Shie, representing an effort to use what’s on hand and upcycle, to do our part for the planet. Of course, the citrus net bags, vintage fabrics and trims, buttons, beads, and rickrack are here partly because, as my hubby bemoans, I never throw anything away.

Yes, I began with an appealing pun, a Barney-like dino and an Alice-in-Wonderland tea party set up, with a funky vase made from my grandmother’s well-worn, embroidered neck wrap, and the vase is filled with—what else?—tea roses.


Here’s where the word play wandered into sword play, quickly and quilterly lunging into the more politicized rooms of my mind. Didja notice the space ship and volcano out that window?


How about the tsunami rushing in, the blazing sun, the meteor hurtling towards earth? It seems our titan of leisure is cluelessly indulging in conspicuous consumption. Our Tea-Rex is denying inconvenient truths, such as global warming and waning resources for those lower on the food chain. Instead, the arriving guest invents wild fabrications…and invites extinction. A cautionary tale? A parable for our time? Obviously, this Tea-Partier is way out of date.

Tea Rex, by Eleanor Levie, 32″ x 57″, March, 2015

One Response to “Tea Rex”

  1. Everything about this is utterly great. oooo, I just noticed the stuffed metallic teapot! Is that a coffee bag?

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Volcano Season!

January 8th, 2015



The Slow Stitching Movement: So. Not. Me.

This is me: Scraps on the floor after another obligatory project is due and done. Restless rumblings. Silk, rayon, and frenetic free motion stitchery building, colliding, bursting, erupting—all in the course of one intense evening—just don’t ask me how I define “evening.” Ideas surge and flare, drowning out the inner mom trying to guilt me into cleaning up before starting something new, the urges to check the computer screen one more time, the calls from the hubby to come to bed. This is how I do my best work, imho. If only this brief season of volcanic creative activity would strike more often than once in a blue moon!

But opportunity may strike for you! Here’s how:

1 Day (Feb. 4) — 100 Artists (I’m one of ‘em!) — 100 Patrons (You could be one!) — $10,000 for the American Cancer Society.  My 8″ x 10″ art quilt, which I call, “Volcano Season,”  is one of the amazing 100 art quilts that could be yours. Mark your calendar: Wednesday, February 4, 2015, at 10 a.m. Central. The first 100 people to contact Virginia Spiegel at her website, VirginiaSpiegel.com will be given a link to donate $100 by credit card directly to the American Cancer Society through Fiberart For A Cause. Somebody gets my piece. But oh, you gotta check out the talented quilt artists–lots of big names–who are also among the 100 contributing artists. This site shows you a bunch: http://www.pinterest.com/…/the-100-fundraiser-to-fight-can…/ You’d contribute to the ACS anyway, right? Be on time, and the bonus is gonna be bodacious in your abode.

What about you? Do your brainstorms erupt suddenly? Or build quietly over time?


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Quilt-scape Album

January 2nd, 2015

Sad but true: We never print those photos anymore. Whaaaa. We are captives of our electronic world. And a captive audience for anyone who shoves a smart phone in front of us to thumb, er, swipe through a batch of pics. Fight back, quilters! Just as folks enthusiastically welcome your quilted table runners, pillow covers, and tote bags, they’ll love looking at your vacation pics in a handcrafted format, and they’ll be overjoyed to receive their very own brag book with a cover handmade by you. Here’s the how-to lowdown:

1. Get a plastic photo album that holds about the number of 4 x 6 photos you want to include (12, 24, 36). Dollar stores have ‘em. For a dollar.


2. Open the photo book out flat and measure across the back cover, spine, and front cover, then measure the length of the spine. Make a little quilt (or quiltlet) 1/2″ larger all around than these dimensions. By my book, 11″ x 7 1/2″ were the final dimensions. OK, woooo, that sounds like a Star Wars commercial, the “final dimensions.” I was inspired to borrow from Karen Eckmeier’s techniques explained in her Accidental Landscapes book (which I was privileged to edit and which you can get from her website) and also in the masterpiece “By the Sea” which Karen contributed to my Skinny Quilts & Table Runners book).  I started using her layered/topstitching method,  pressing edges under and topstitching them to a background— you’ll see that below where the sea meets the sky, for a crisp horizon line, and in the sand of the foreground. Then I threw caution (and patience) to the wind. I abandoned pressing edges under and just tore fabric. The raggedy fringes suggest frothy waves, as do couched ribbons and lace (Karen’s ideas).


3. Pin a looped strand of elastic to the middle of the left side edge. From fabric, cut two rectangles the same size as the little quilt made for the cover. Set one aside for the backing. Cut the other crosswise in half (along the spine). Then fold each crosswise in half again, and place on top of quiltlet so raw edges are aligned at top, bottom, and sides. Pin to hold in place temporarily.


4. Place the backing on top, with right sides facing. Stitch all around, 1/4″ from edges and leaving a 4″ opening at the center of the bottom.


5. Clip corners, and pull the quiltlet through the opening. Use a pin to pick out the corners. Turn the edges of the opening 1/4″ to the inside and stitch them closed. Insert the covers of the photo book into the side pockets.


6. Stitch a button to the front cover to correspond to the loop.


7. You might want to knot a length of ribbon to the elastic loop — for decoration, or to wrap around the photo album.


Eh voila! Nice, old-fashioned way to capture vacation memories, latest escapades of the grandchildren, or hilarious costumes you forced your pet to wear.

Do leave a comment: what images and techniques would YOU showcase on a photo album cover?



One Response to “Quilt-scape Album”

  1. HelenMarie says:

    Love your beach-y cover but would do mountains and flowers like so many of the Colorado photos I have but don’t print! Would be fun to do one with the Chihuly bubbles done in crystals and circles of lame!

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Ode to 2015

January 2nd, 2015


It’s here: the year MMXV
Ushered in with jubilee
Ball drops and fireworks on our screens
To welcome in two-oh-fifteen.

The hub and I had a vaca Caribbean
Enjoyed adventures near-amphibian
Took warmth from sun and sand and sea

Spending, tipping, napping, touring
Eating, drinking, smorgasbording
You’re on vacation, just indulge!
Never mind the tummy bulge!

Never mind expense and guilt!
The unsent cards, the un-made quilt.
Now back to productivity
To Mac/PC captivity.

Back on the wheel, one of the cogs.
New lesson plans, new posts for blogs.
News and views, make ‘em halfway clever!
Offers to guilds for gigs wherever!

Back to eating healthily,
Chemical pesticide- and hormone-free.
Neither vegan, heathen nor yokel be!
(Though nothing’s fresh now locally.)

Back to winter chill and freeze
Nowhere outside reached with ease.
Forced marches grimly to the gym,
Feign that claim to vigor and vim!

Oh woe is me, my vaca’s over.
There’s bills to pay and I’m cold stone sober.
I’ve muscles that ache, and rashes that itch.
…Can you believe I’m such a bitch?

I’m fortunate as all get-out!
Got NO excuse to rant or shout!
My life ain’t perfect, but my deal’s hardly raw,
One can’t avoid hassles or prevent Murphy’s law.

Any Crazy Quilters still following this thread?
Then I wish you a bright patchwork year ahead.
No Spider’s Den, no Rocky Road,
No need to have stitches ripped out or re-sewed.

May you grow the techniques in your repertoires.
No whine, all Roses, all Pinwheels and Stars,
May your Shadows be brightened by lots of Sunshine,
And may your aggravations be as minor as mine.

All the best for 2015!

2 Responses to “Ode to 2015”

  1. bonnie says:

    I am inspired! A lovely way to end the first day of the year. There are a lot of quilters in Missoula. How can we get you here to teach. Since I am a virtual quilter, I am happy to ask around about how to pay you to come out here to teach.

    • Eleanor says:

      That would be terrific, Cousin, cuz I would love to visit you, but it does not look like the quilt guild there would be able to cover my travel expenses and modest fees, and alas, they don’t bring in speakers in the summer when I am freer to put together itineraries that would spread the costs over several guilds…Absolutely LOVE and appreciate that you support me with comments and FB likes, and I am invariably impressed with whatever you choose to share!

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Walking the Boards

November 25th, 2014


November 24, 2014, and temperatures in the 70s. With cold–and even snow expected in a couple of days, the hub and I wisely decided this was NOT a good day to stay in and work…or go to the gym. He had a destination in mind: the newly-built “Boardwalk” on the Schuykill (River, that is). Here’s the professional shot:

Boardwalk on the Schuylkill

My pics, while not so panoramic, showcase far prettier sunshine and shadows, if I say so myself…and I just did. The light mid afternoon was spectacular. I felt as if any one of my photos could inspire an art quilt. Which one do you think makes the best composition? Which one would translate best to fabric?



“Wood-grain” cement floorboards, with shadows…and I can picture this one with black lines of quilting, can’t you?


Some photo editing took this scene into a more fantastical, if not Peter-Max-imum realm:


Writing this blog post certainly inspired me to learn to spell Schuylkill correctly. Going Dutch, like the 17th century Europeans from the Netherlands as well as Sweden and England, gives us the translations of schuylen and kill to mean “hidden creek.” Perhaps since the mouth of the river was “discovered” by these explorers hidden behind dense vegetation at Delaware River’s League Island.

Along the boardwalk, runners, bikers, strollers (like us, but the kind with babies on board, too) all make tracks.


To one side of us, the glorious Schuylkill River, the dreaded Schuylkill Parkway (where traffic is almost always at a crawl), and beyond that, West Philadelphia. On the other side,  the scenery was equally EPIC. Train tracks, trains, construction sites, scrub brush, texture and movement.















Yup, today’s walk was such a good idea…which is invariably the case when following this guy’s train of thought:


OK, we’ve reached the end of the line!


3 Responses to “Walking the Boards”

  1. LOVE all the photos! I can feel your WONDERFUL day in the sun . . . by the water . . . just having a JOY filled day.

  2. Alice (allen) Kolb says:

    Such fun to find you. Love your creative spirit. May blessings be to you and your family,

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Iceland Rocks!

October 8th, 2014



In a trip to Iceland this past August, the husband and I took mini-bus tours out to the rocky coasts, where cliffs, hillsides, and beaches bore the vestiges of  volcanic and glacial upheaval.

P1012937 - Copy - Copy

I’m so lichen this interplay of ground and sky.


Landscape or still life?


Like a man-made mesa, with a walking path high up just on the other side of this wall.


If I were a rock climber with all the right equipment, if I were not so scared of heights, if I never had to descend, and if I never looked down, then maybe…


Green green, grows the grass on the far side of the hill. Which is why the names for Iceland and Greenland should be switched.


Rocks + water = Gorgeousness, no?


Arc-i-texture! (with a tip of the cap to Carol Taylor for the caption title word-play)


Gully, but this cliff is terrif.


Natural stadium seating.


Don’t mind taking a seat myself.

P1012935 - Copy - Copy

Patch of colorful life.



Wildlife sighting: a colony of puffins.


p1013755 (2)

Don’t mind saying that while life has its ups and downs, our marriage has never been what I would call rocky. The husband is my rock, and a rolling stone who propels us on these adventures.


Out of the Dark, Esterita

A favorite quilt artist who really rocks the heck out of color, shade, and perspective. “Out of the Dark,” by Esterita Austin.

Into the Light, Esterita

“Into the Light,” by Esterita Austin. Check out her workshops! http://esteritaaustin.com

I confess, these days I’ve hit rock bottom in terms of time, energy and motivation for creative fabric play that’s just for fun and personal enrichment. However, as far as seeking inspiration and dreaming about quilt projects to come, I’m leaving no stone unturned! How do you rock your quilts…or your quiltmaking regimen?


One Response to “Iceland Rocks!”

  1. Sue Levin says:

    Beautiful, Elly. My friend just got back from Iceland and encountered a lot of cold rainy weather. Love Esterita Austin’s patterns. Have that one shown above. dont know if I possess enough artistic license to interpret it like she did. It’s definitely on my bucket list, though. Best regards, SL

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What if?

September 16th, 2014


Yeah, what if?

What if I crowdsourced an arrangement of elements on my blog (see my last two posts!)?


What if I took all the suggestions to heart, and kept going?

What if I continued the graphic lines in the fabrics into the quilting?

What if I curved the side edges?

It’s my modus operandi, the “what if” way of working. Try this, take a look or take a picture, then try something different. With digital image reminders, I can easily go back to a previous rendition. Anyone else use this “making it up as you go along” method?

The result, called “What If?,” natch, is about 28″ at its widest x 36″ — if memory serves.

Furthermore, much as I enjoyed the process, I see all that could have been—a simpler, stronger, less belabored piece of work. Out of my sight for a while, I’ll return to look at it with fresh eyes and a more accepting attitude…I can only hope. But here’s another thing about the way I work with fabric art: I am never totally pleased with an oeuf…er, oeuvre. But even working in a series, it’s almost impossible to make something that’s just slightly different, with just minor readjustments. And the next word play art might just be Just/Readjust!!

As the adage goes, “Done is better than perfect,” and I won’t be redoing this puppy. OK, maybe minor revisions. But what if I were to apply your points of view to my next piece? I’d get to be a better fabric artist, wouldn’t I?

In the meantime, what if any of you are  going to the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza in Oakes, PA, this Thursday thru Sunday? If so, look for it in the Spirit! exhibition group.

Whether you go by these images of the full piece above and detail below, or whether you get a glimpse of it in the cloth, let me know what you think in the comment box below. Remember, no hoops to jump through, no weird characters to copy to prove you’re not a robot. Your constructive criticism, easily keyed in, is always appreciated.







2 Responses to “What if?”

  1. HelenMarie says:

    You are an inspiration! I love to stitch by the seat of my pants, and hope to have more time to do that. Soon. I get to do a bit tomorrow with Newtown Quilters! They have Victoria Findlay Wolfe coming for a 15 minutes of play workshop. And Donna Laing found out they had an opening! Why is it I feel compelled to take everything AND the kitchen sink along? Hope to see you and your quiltlet at Oaks.

    • Eleanor says:

      OOOOH, what fun! To play with HelenMarie, Donna Laing, and the Newtown Quilters….let along Victoria Findlay Wolfe. Wish I could play too. Actually seeing my mother-in-law off to her heavenly rest…should be imminent. What if everyone could enjoy a long life of meaningful activity and loving friends and relatives as she has had?!

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Are We There Yet?

August 7th, 2014

A new day, a new perspective. Up to now, grid-like horizontals and verticals have ruled—and enforced a sense of static, grounded, cityscape or Easter Island kind of construction.  Now at least one errant angle provides some sense of movement. For this paradigm shift, I have to thank my resident critic—my DH. And yeah, he is also a wonderful supporter of my work. He’s been looking at the images I shove under his chin, occasionally glimpsing my design wall, and agreed, up til this point, that this art quilt-wannabee has not yet arrived.

I’m gonna keep the previous numbering system from previous blog posts. (In reality, the number of candidates I’ve arranged and photographed approach a hundred.)











The hubby just stopped in to turn his work break into a short play-date. See what resulted:


#23–See someone flailing?


#24–the start of my what IF series…



C’mon now, leave a comment. I really need, if not a crowd-sourced solution, at least a vote of confidence for one of these fabric sketches, or your advice for an old or new direction! Thanks!





16 Responses to “Are We There Yet?”

  1. Carl says:

    #25, #26 or #18

  2. Judy says:

    No. 25 is the one that appeals most to me. Very eye-catching.

  3. Sammie says:

    #25 or #26 but I’d like to see them larger so I can really tell. Frustrating not to be able to click and make full page.

    • Eleanor says:

      I appreciate what you’re saying, but for my purposes, it’s better you not get caught up with the details…just judge the overall design. Thanks, dear friend!!

  4. Christina says:

    I have to agree…#25 is the most Eye-catching to me also. I like the way the negative space plays an important role in pulling this piece together. What did Your resident art critic say???

  5. Lynn Kunz says:

    I just don’t like that medium gray. It distracts my eye from the colors you are highlighting. Sorry.

  6. Carol says:

    On #20, I’d replace the gingham and the solid white with solid purple. Then straighten the bottom piece to vertical, along with the piece on top of it. This would give it balance and fix the “busyness.” (in my opinion anyway.)

  7. I was leaning towards #20, but when I studied #25 it began to grow on me. I have to take a look at yesterdays again. There was one there I really liked (but didn’t comment)

  8. Laurie says:

    I like #7, 14 or 15 . I would probably add some more blue and/or purple, pulling from the colors in the fabrics you already have. I think the white is too stark but a light contrast is needed…? Maybe a very light grey or beige? Will be interested in the final choices. Good luck!

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Auditions are Ongoing (Arghhh)

August 7th, 2014

Dozens of renditions for this puppy…or perhaps I should say dog of a project. I’ve lost all perspective. Really. I can’t get back far enough, I just keep slapping (various elements up on the design wall) and snapping (pics to crop and consider). Tell me if any are getting close! The numbering system continues from the last post.









#10–the quilting will provide the interest…


#11–maybe without that yellow piece top center…





Lucky 13??









Do not worry if you don’t like any of these (I don’t!). Clearly I am not there yet.  Tomorrow I’m going to try angling a piece or two, and working from the center outward. I may be driven to abstraction–in both senses of the term, but I’m not ready just yet to go back to pictorials!

2 Responses to “Auditions are Ongoing (Arghhh)”

  1. I like #8, but I am just that kinda gal. What is the size of this, by the way. It would make a difference.

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Opposing Forces = Art

July 30th, 2014

Looking for a zen-like, meditative haven? How about an intense and heady tour of some of the most riveting and revolutionary sculpture ever created? I found both experiences at the Isamu Noguchi Museum in Queens, NY.  You will, too.


Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) was one of the twentieth century’s most important and critically acclaimed sculptors.

I am struck by all the opposing forces in his life, which found expression in his work:

  • His mother was a Scottish-American writer; his father was a Japanese poet.
  • Noguchi spent most of his life and had studios in both Japan and New York.
  • That East-West tug on his identity made him fully comfortable in neither place.
  • He was inspired by the lyricism of nature, and the boldness of Brancusi’s reductive, powerful forms.
  •  Noguchi created huge stone monoliths and delicate paper lampshades, mass-produced furniture and fine art, public gardens and theatrical set designs.
  • He said,”The best is that which is most spontaneous or seemingly so.” He also said, “Brancusi made me realize that what I had learned previously – the quick ways of doing things – was all wrong. It is a search you have to enter – into yourself.”


































In my art-making, I am constantly struggling with opposites:

  • I want to produce work that is both subtle and bold.
  • I covet simplicity but I want to convey complex ideas.
  • I strive for the sophistication of abstraction but always seem to end up with pictures–still life, landscape, recognizable figures.
  • I admire the purposefulness of working in a series, yet I flit — from one sort of style, group of materials, and type of end product to another.
  • I know I should put in the time, but I am, at heart, a quick-and-dirty worker.
  • I seek popular success for my books and patterns and presentations and workshops, but I think it’d be awesome to be accepted into the lofty echelons of the serious fiber art world.

My sewing room, aka my studio, reflects the dualities. I have two sets of projects calling to me:

Baby banners, pillows, and Skinny quilts/table runners for gifting and patterning for my recently launched EllyLdesign line on Craftsy and Etsy (another dichotomy, as I haven’t committed to just one quite yet).

trio (2)









Psst–You can check out my Craftsy Shop or my Etsy Shop.  I’m proud to say that the instructions are 100% reliable and user-friendly and full of how-to photos –just like my books. Let me know, in the comment box below, what you think!




OK, the commercial message is over, so let me switch over to the other side of my brain. That is focused on the constantly evolving arrangements on my design wall.  Here are a few of the iterations. Once again, I welcome your comments: Which one appeals most? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6?




























I definitely dig Noguchi’s aesthetic. He was lucky to have good critics and great supporters — he hung out with Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, and a lot of other abstract expressionists. He found ways to nourish and bridge the different aspects of his identity and to address many different interests, putting the tensions of opposing forces to work in his favor. 

Me, I often feel like Dr. DooLittle’s pushmi-pullyu, that crazy, two-headed unicorn gazelle, trying to go in two opposing directions. Still, I’ll get there, wherever there is, somehow, sometime! Thank YOU for the criticism and the support. Heck, thanks for reading this!


5 Responses to “Opposing Forces = Art”

  1. Thanks Elly, I enjoy reading your blog.

  2. Janice M cK says:

    Number 6!

  3. Diane says:

    #3 is the one I like best.
    Interesting post. I suffer from many of the same yes-no balancing acts. I took a class in working in a series and blocked at the third week. Now I find I am working on some samples that fit into my series… great, huh?

  4. Sherrie S. says:

    I just found your REALLY fun site through your quiltart post. I suffer the same pulls — I want to make big, important, fabulous pieces of serious art, but I also really enjoy making little crafty projects. I used to fight it, now I just figure I’m well balanced! I have some of your books and love your work.

  5. Susan S says:

    No. 2 really appeals to me. Things are to dark by no. 6. I tend not to make gifts for people as they are rarely appreciated.

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