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

Art = Play

June 24th, 2014


      The Contemporary Arts Center –a highlight of a long weekend in Cincinnati, was as fun for my almost 4-year old great nephew as it was for his mom, my DH, and me.  An ultra-colorful and creative current exhibit is titled, “Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? Painting, Parody & Disguise.” Defining the Parody part, curator Michael Stillion mentions, “Taking serious art not so serious and making it hilariously serious.” With that insanely in mind, Zachary Herrmann describes his installation, with its special appeal for us young and old viewers, using other opposing concepts, so that “cultural cues, symbols, and sensual stimulation…project into a more loosely structured space where fictions about beauty and repulsion, violence and humor, mortality, transparency, and psychology are at play.”


detail,fools-houseMark Fox, A Fool’s House Fulfilled–A broomstick — among lots of debris–is a clue as to the scale. P1012102


Upstairs at CAC is the UnMuseum. There, Casey Millard’s character, Shark Girl, is not having a good day. She hides behind a shark head, because that is the animal she feels like. What animal do you feel like? I am a clingy Labrador retriever, Marcie is a kangaroo mother, and Norman is a curious little monkey.



Ryan Mulligan created the most beautiful, free-play putt-putt course–no clubs; you use your feet to guide balls into holes…or send them down the clever chutes…or maybe you simply roll around in the balls like a little Ikea ballroom. It’s called The Dinosaur Says Moo.



P1012115 P1012113 P1012114P1012108 P1012112











I think I’m ready to be more playful with my quilting…how about you?






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Not for Mother’s Day Only

May 13th, 2014

Listen To Your Mother---detail

Two days late for Mother’s Day–but two weeks early for the deadline of the annual Quilt Alliance contest, exhibit, and auction. Not too shabby. I especially grooved on the theme this year: “Inspired By…”

The organizers originally presented a few classics from the pantheon of patchwork and applique masterpieces, and one of my faves was there. So even after the contest was opened up to “Inspired By…” ANY of the quilts on the Quilt Alliance’s Index and S.O.S. (Save Our Stories) sites, I couldn’t get this one out of my mind:


The maker of this silk screened quilt, made in 1997, was Jean Ray Laury. For almost 50 years, Jean was a pioneering, rule-breaking heroine to quilters. The gentle humor behind her folk art gave special resonance to her messages. Who doesn’t hear her own mother echoing from the nine patches of Jean’s silk-screened Listen to Your Mother? Or recognize the love behind such neurotic exclamations?

I offer a Not for Mother’s Day Only lecture–and am often invited to present such fare at an April or May quilt guild meeting. I invariably show an image of this quilt, and read the panels out loud to the audience:

  • What will the neighbors say?
  • If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
  • I’m telling you this for your own good.
  • Change that underwear! you might get hit by a car.
  • Get out of that tree! you’re going to fall down and break your head!
  • Watch out! You’re going to poke somebody’s eye out with that.
  • Put that down! You don’t know where it’s been.
  • Uh…is that what you’re going to wear?
  • Stand up straight! Keep those knees together! Pull your tummy in! And can’t we do something with your hair?


Forced to choose only one universal mother, I borrowed Whistler’s:



I directed her admonitions just to quilters. Typed and photo-transferred onto white cotton, these are the rules our quilting fore-mothers passed down to us. Equally well-meaning as the teachings of Jean Ray Laury’s universal mothers, these statements tell of how one is supposed to quilt.

And out of laziness or rebellion or time constraints, these are the quilting rules I frequently break!


  • It takes how much guilt ‘til you finish that quilt?
  • What about the label?
  • The baby is due any day! How are you going to get that thing done in time?
  • Pull up that bobbin thread! You’ve got little nests all over the backing.
  • Better needle-turn; you don’t know what fusible web will do after 50 years.
  • What?! You didn’t preshrink before lumping that new fabric in with the others?
  • Get those new rotary blades while your coupon is still good.
  • If you’re not going to quilt, then you should be cleaning your house.
  • You’re going to use that for the binding?
  • Move that needle position back to center! You’re going to break that needle!
  • Check your tension! Loosen up! Go faster! Keep to an even pace! Relax! No pressure!

What “rules and regulations” do you ignore in your quilting? Please leave a comment to let me know what to put on the next quilt! Whatever it is, you know that wonderful, inspirational rabble-rouser, Jean Ray Laury, will be smiling down from heaven!

PS–The deadline for the Quilt Alliance’s challenge in June 1, the size of your “Inspired By” must be 16″ square, and your piece should have 3 layers stitched together. Some rules you gotta follow–it’s for a good cause!


6 Responses to “Not for Mother’s Day Only”

  1. HelenMarie Marshall says:

    “PRESS! Do not IRON!”
    “There are no mistakes in quilting; there are only design opportunities.”
    “It’s Only Fabric.”

  2. TX Creatrix says:

    Your stitch is not too big unless you can catch a toenail in it.

  3. Amy says:

    If you want it to last forever, make it out of polyester.

  4. Jeanie Ray Laury was a huge inspiration and source of information to me, too. Thanks for posting this beautiful tribute. As for the maternal quilty advice I dispense, there is, “If I ever see you cutting paper with my fabric scissors again, I will have to kill you.”
    And, speaking of demise, “She who dies with the most fabric in her stash wins.”

  5. Nothing quilt related from my Mother as she doesn’t even sew but my quilt guilt is from my first quilting teacher, I hear her voice every time I sew over pins and it makes me feel like I’m a naughty, little girl! Now I teach quilting I tell students the ‘rules’ but that they’re made to be broken and also that they can do what they like in the comfort of their own home with no-one else watching – there’s no quilt police (unless you’re entering a competition) and no-one’s even going to know. I love your piece, your process and how you’ve executed it. I work at The City Quilter in Manhattan and I look forward to seeing it at Quilters Take Manhattan :D

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Whoop-TEA-doo! It’s Earth Day!

April 22nd, 2014

In honor of Mother Earth, I just added a new piece to my ReUSE series.


tea rose-detail


I don’t know how long I’ve been stalking the idea of a Tea Roses piece, that is, roses made out of tea bag envelopes. Last year, I took lots and lots of pictures at a rose garden in Florida. Then, meaning to get rid of one horrid picture of me, I mistakenly deleted all my shots. That’ll teach me to put on my glasses when reviewing my shots!

Starting again, I found a photo of a yellow rose that I cannot now find–I think it is one of Sammie Moshenberg’s lovely images. I traced the picture, numbered the pieces, and prepared to do a cut and glue sort of applique with tea bag envelopes.





The “kit” of materials I assembled sat by the TV for months. Turned out this method that was waaaay too complicated for me. I’m more of a slap-dash kind of quilter.

Last week, an online quilt class taught by the extraordinary Pamela Allen of Canada featured an assignment for a fantasy fabric garden. That was the impetus to go back to my Tea Rose project once again, and substitute my trash stash for fabric prints to dash off some flowers. Following the lead of my sister students, I cut petals freehand, and worked in rounds. In this series, I simply adhere shapes with glue-stick over patchwork. White bags that once held ground coffee gave me bigger pieces and a quiet background, too.  I cultivated plots of assorted tea bag and coffee packaging to sort of fence in my garden.


tea rose 1


Due to the foil-lined packaging that holds a crease, I was able to fold back some of the petals like a real flower. But even with the silver backing peeking up, the flower heads looked too dense, and the petals weren’t readable as separate shapes.

Back to the drawing board, I tried out an open design, like an arts & crafts style stencil or stained glass design.


tea rose 2


Better! Then on to layering over woolfelt (wool and rayon blend), preshrunk for a thick, sherpa-like quality.  Quick quilting and trimming with passementerie and ball fringe gets everything sown so I can reap the rewards before Earth Day ends!




tea rose-EL


My garden is a bit messy, and even though the bottom edge is angled, the whole thing should still hang straight and true. Not the case, not even close. But as they say, DONE is better than perfect.

Hope everything’s coming up roses for you! And that you ReUSE, RECYCLE, and REPURPOSE trash or found objects to REDUCE your carbon footprint. Oh, and RECONSIDER the many ways of creating quilted art!



4 Responses to “Whoop-TEA-doo! It’s Earth Day!”

  1. Marsha says:

    Good for you to finish this…I really like the striped borders on the left and bottom! And I really like the angled bottom edge.

  2. susan says:

    Love it….I use kids coloring books to get idea….and I used to recycle tea leftovers by just placing the grounds in the soil, but lately I forget. But I do recycle. Susan

  3. Mary Ann says:

    I love how this turned out. Great idea to back it with the felt.

  4. Genius! I love the slant – it’s the icing on the cake! And the danglies! I think this could be another kit/class!

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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.


5 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. This is so after my own heart, Eleanor. I just absolutely love it. This could return me to quilting full-time! It is fantastic. I remember years ago, I made a quilt, Wabi Sabi, out of used coffee filters and other recycled things. It was one of my all-time favorites. I guess I HAVE used recycled or repurposed things in my art over the years. This really inspires me to get back into it again. Keep up the great work and do please keep me on your mail list. You can inspire me ANY day! Annie

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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!

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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.






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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!

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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

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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!

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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!!!

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