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

Let It Flow

October 24th, 2015


Ahoy there, mateys! Just picking up from my posts of June 29 and July 1. Seems like I row row row my boat, get off of it, get back to it, and row some more. Isn’t that how everyone courses through their bigger projects?

Please excuse the metaphors, if they don’t float your boat. Always thinking of my son and his fiancee as they about halfway through their one-year trip sailing the Great American Loop, which you can read about on their blog, sailbatic.al.

To refresh everyone’s memory, including my own, the wind beneath my sails is a challenge from Quilts for Change, titled Water Is Life. See this post for info, and this post for my launch of the project.

The weavings came together, with lighter and darker sections cut in curves and overlapped, as shown above. Then, I added stream of consciousness phrases with free-motion script:

  • Justice
  • transparent governance
  • wellsprings of knowledge
  • flow of info
  • ponder policies
  • unclouded judgement
  • funding streams
  • wo/mandates
  • fathom the depths

After that, some dense quilting in wavy lines. Then appliques to lighten some areas, tone down others, add interest and contrast and texture.



The finishing was a whole ‘nuther trip around the bend. One rust binding all around wasn’t enough, so that became an inset with a pieced binding.


Still not enough. So I auditioned several different sizes and colors of rickrack. Aqua, white, yellow, blue and gold…

DSCN2893     white rickrack

Opted for a yellow green to add light to the whole. Or, as a mutiny against spending more time and angst over this piece. (I’m ready to set sail on a new project.)

Yes, after months, I have finally reached the shore and completed my art quilt today! And submitted images, a bio and a statement.

Title: Let It Flow

Water is a deeply complex issue, swirling with interwoven challenges of safety, security, social justice, and access.

Only transparently clear, progressive, democratic governance can ensure a good flow of information and funding streams.

As the traditional water gatherers who understand what is best for their communities, women deserve a place in discussions and decision-making. When mandates become “womandates,” results are life-affirming.


Done! And 9 days before the deadline: a record for this captain of last-minute industry. Making art and quilts is usually a lonely, isolated journey, so comments and constructive criticism are always very welcome! 

Let-It-Flow,ELevie – Version 2


2 Responses to “Let It Flow”

  1. I LOVE THIS! Big congratulations on getting it done on time. I have never entered an international exhibition that required mailing on my own because I have NO clue how to do it. This is a very poignant theme. I think the exhibit will be WONDERFUL. What really sealed the piece, IMHO, is the inner border + the pieced outer border + + + the rick rack which really made it shine! Sometimes, MORE is MORE is the needed finish. This is an absolutely GREAT piece.

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Give me a hand…

July 31st, 2015

KitchenHamsa (2)

Seems I have a hamsa series going. Often called the Hand of Miriam by Jews, or the Hand of Fatimah by Muslims, this middle-eastern symbol features three fingers and two thumbs. Don’t ask me why. A good luck charm, it’s said to ward off the evil eye…cast by those who would be envious of what good fortune you may have. Lots of folks wear a hamsa as a talisman around their necks. But since bad luck can occur right at home, frequently in the form of cooking disasters, I recommend a household hamsa —especially in the kitchen. Done in foil-lined, plasticized packaging like coffee bags and tea bag envelopes, the resulting art can be wiped clean of cooking grease, sprays from spills, dust and grime. I teach this class as a workshop for trash-stash quilting, using the sample shown above, or for a westernized version, the hand-in-heart motif below.


Hand-in-Heart folk art, by Eleanor Levie, 2015, approx. 8″ x 10″


First time I ventured into hamsa territory was for a 2011 Quilt Alliance challenge; lots of shiny packaging made it impossible for this amateur photographer to capture a good representation.


Tahrir Square, by Eleanor Levie, 2011, 16″ x 16″

Recently, I answered another challenge with Eyes Wide Open as the theme. Right away, I thought of a hamsa with an eye, done out off coffee and tea bag packaging to reference the caffeine that literally opens my eyes, and the need to reduce and recycle that informs my trash stash quilting. Two other inspirations guided my creative pathway. First was  an article in the Summer SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc.) Journal referencing the keynote speaker at the SAQA annual conference. Namita Gupta Wiggers is an art historian, and director and co-founder of Critical Craft Forum. She pushed for art quilts to take a place of power. Art in and of itself, instead of simply as a reference to the older, more traditional form of a bed covering. To do that, she encouraged breaking out of the rectilinear picture plane, and redefining the medium through the use of materials other than cloth. Hmmmm.

Another inspiration from a few years back was Pamela Allen’s Black-Eyed Susan art quilt, where plastic doll eyes peeped out from the centers of a bouquet of blooms.

Thus was born my Black-Eyed Susan Hamsa!


Securing top layers to bottom layer of black felt.


















Couching satin cord over felt edges.











Black-Eyed Susan Hamsa, by Eleanor Levie, 2015, 14″ x 24″ ?





















Photo by Carl Harrington, who is angling to get out of the photo business!

3 Responses to “Give me a hand…”

  1. Mary Ann says:

    They are all wonderful!

  2. Love, love love it! The danglies! The eyeball! The buttons! It’s all great!

  3. Vivian Lewis says:

    Your creativity is inspiring!

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Best in Show

July 15th, 2015

Can’t make it to the Dairy Barn in Athens, OH, where the incomparable juried venue for art quilts, Quilt National 2015, is on view. (dairybarn.org)  But got the catalog, and immediately fell in love with the quilt on the cover.


I’ve got extraordinarily good taste: the piece, shown below in its entirety,  justifiably won the Best in Show award.


Girl in the City with Blue Hair, by Karen Schulz 32″ x 59″

As any quilt lover will tell you, an image is a far-distant second to seeing a piece in the cloth, aka up close and personal. So I was thrilled to take a road trip to the Black Rock Art Center in Germantown, MD (near Rockville and Gaithersburg), where I could see several pieces by Karen Schulz. This one commands the space:


Out the In Door, by Karen Schulz 58″ x 66″



Out the In Door (detail), by Karen Schulz

Also from Karen’s Schapes—er, Shapes series, are these somewhat smaller pieces:


Beckoning 1, by Karen Schulz 50″ x 40″



Beckoning 2, by Karen Schulz 47″ x 47″

Sorry if the spacing is crazy in this post–I’m struggling with technology here! Derry of Gloderworks will no doubt come to my rescue.

Getting back to the important spaces: Notice how vibrant color blocking in one work is followed with subtle, sophisticated hues in the next. No matter the color palette, the hand-dyed fabrics are warm and rich. The shapes are monumental, angular, powerful. Quilting patterns—whether thin lines or free-motion zigzags alternately on the horizontal and on the vertical, deliver  smart, modern textures that perfectly complement the shapes. And taking the minimalist work to another level entirely:  A counterpoint of comparatively delicate, sketchy lines–couched, embroidered, or quilted. A lyrical dance on a stage of massive columns and platforms. Or, as Karen describes her her process on her website, “I am drawn to the tension created by the simultaneous holding of opposites. Circles and squares, stasis and movement, light and dark, the flat plane and three dimensional space; each is needed to highlight the other.”

Here’s the third one of the series, all of which certainly beckon my attention:


Beckoning 3, by Karen Schulz 40″ x 27″


Beckoning 3 (detail), Karen Schulz

Beckoning 3 (detail), by Karen Schulz [The blue shown in this photo is really off!]

Smaller pieces that rock my core:


Stonehengeish, by Karen Schulz 28″ x 48″



Stacked, by Karen Schulz 26″ x 20″



Bend, by Karen Schulz 45″ x 25″

The title of this last piece aligns with the fact that the artist is a clinical social worker who only recently gave up her private psychotherapy practice treating children, families and adults to devote full time to her art. Bend, as in, stay flexible, be willing to change and grow. Or, as in, that Eleanor Levie is really ’round the bend. Just kidding.  No really. Well, I am crazy about Karen Schulz’s current body of work. If you are, too, mark my words:  Given recent awards, this art quilter’s prices should surely be on the rise. Art collectors, this is the finest in contemporary art… in the medium of quilting. In my book, that means all the rich color of painting, and all the rich texture of sculpture, plus all the rich associative evocations conjured up by fabric, thread, and quilt history. Would one of these works by Karen Schulz look good in your home?

Yup, Karen Schulz is my new favorite artist. And that’s before I saw her picture on her website, www.karen-schulz.com. Wait: I know this person! She was in a Sue Benner class with me at QSDS many years ago. She was warm, composed, quick to laugh, yet determined to apply what she learned to composition with expert crafts(w0)manship. And clearly, in the intervening time and with the same deep integrity, she has learned to bend shape and line into extraordinary, masterful compositions. I’m proud to know her, and to have this opportunity to rave about her art quilts!

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Woven Water

July 1st, 2015

Getting right down to it. Here’s today’s progress:


Warp laid out



Plain weave—over one, under one, with the lighter values of fabric and ribbons


Medium tones woven in a basketweave or twill pattern, passing over 2 strips and staggering the next



Getting ready to weave the darker section.

What? Not looking like water? Will wash away intensity with sheer fabrics, and balance the angles with curvy quilting lines…That’s the plan, anyway. Not that I ever stick to a plan!

One Response to “Woven Water”

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Letting Concepts Flow

June 29th, 2015

No matter what the crisis or social issue, there’s a warm and multi-layered response from the quilt world. As a quilter who’s passionate about advocacy and fabric-play, I am salivating and drooling to participate in a challenge by Quilts for Change. The theme this year is:

Water is Life: Clean Water and its Impact on the Lives of Women and Girls around the World

A challenge quilt exhibit to debut at United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland in March 2016 to commemorate UN World Water Day. Organized by the United States Mission to the United Nations in Geneva in partnership with American Exchange Rome and Quilt for Change.

Quilters are invited to create and submit art quilts that address the issue of clean water and its impact on the lives of women and girls. Participating quilters can highlight any aspect of water – for example, how access to clean water can effect women’s daily lives, health, safety, the environment, mobility, income and development or any other aspect related to the theme, including women’s relationship to water, such as fishing, acquaculture and even transport.

The call for entries is here:

http://quiltforchange.org/quilt-for-change-exhibits/water-is-life/, and the deadline is Nov. 1, 2015.

Planning this work has meant 3 stages so far:

Idea collecting:

*Images of women with water containers on heads and yokes…which has been done so much, and to which I have no personal connection.

*Vessels–a symbol for women, bulbous or with sinuopus curves, vases or urns with handles that mimic the uterus with fallopian tubes, and vessels that call up containment in the sense of being held, of safety and security…and again, presume the womb!  I return to this image again and again in my work:


Wedding gift for Archaeologist Marcie Handler and Classics Instructor Mark Atwood


for my mother

Gift for my mother, a wonderful potter, upon her 80th birthday

the vessel-detail-vase (2)

Detail of The Vessel


Vessel (a completely different title, right?)



Stage 2: Panning for Gold! I read all the articles cited by the challenge orgs and more to better understand the issue. I googled images of microbes for typhus, river eye blindness, and more. Reviewed some great watery-art quilts and images used to illustrate the problems of water. Wishing well graphics would find their way into my piece…

Stage 3: Advice from the experts! Answering my calls for help, uber-advocates Janet Goldner and Sammie Moshenberg pointed me toward insightful articles on the subject, focusing on sub-Saharan Africa and Colombia.These readings illuminated the bigger problems, above those of purification, draught and pollution and access and climate change. It’s not just about good, scientific solutions to the problems of purification and access. That’s solvable. It’s corruption at the top, a lack of good governance. Funding for local wells, well-kept-up pipelines, and the technology for safe water and sanitation practices rarely reach those in poverty who need them most.

No question about it, WATER is a complex, many-layered problem, with interwoven aspects. Think I’ll do a woven piece and let it evolve…


Waking Up, Down the Shore in process



Surprise Party of Color, detail


Text is the only way I can think of to get across the sophisticated concepts. So I’ll layer areas of organdy, printed with words or phrases. Try to express the GAP of Governance, Access, and Policy. The importance of Power and Justice, Funding streams and the Full-on Flow of Wealth, rather than trickle-down realities. I’ve been pooling together other expressions: Pollution and Poison,  Poverty and Powerlessness—but these are all polarizing negatives. No one wants to see a PO (pissed off) attitude displayed, but a clear POV (point of view) seems essential.

What other words or phrases concisely speak to this issue? Could a top-down ordering of concepts in text be used to show the hierarchy of problems? Or differences in font size? And apart from using curves, spirals, teardrop shapes, and vessels, how to communicate the role of women in all of this? I’m struggling in the water…who wants to throw me a lifeline? Comments extremely welcome!








One Response to “Letting Concepts Flow”

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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

4 Responses to “Tea Rex”

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

    • Eleanor says:

      Yup, it’s a coffee bag–the inside. Creamer and sugar bowl are swirly designs on Starbucks coffee bags a friend gave me. None are stuffed, but sewn to felt, with lots of free motion designs, then sewn onto quilt, but just around the edges.

  2. Julie Domenico says:

    I love the whimsy and imagination that have gone into this quilt. Many details – making it so much fun to look at!

    • Eleanor says:

      Thanks, Julie! But so much time went into it, it is not fun for me to look at…right now. Fortunately, I don’t have to: it’s on view at a gallery.

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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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