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


April 25th, 2024

It’s a wonder I was able to submit this art quilt on time for the call for entry into Art Quilt Elements 2024 at the Wayne Art Center. It’s a wonder my piece was juried into this very pretigious exhibition which runs from March 24 to April 27. I am even more amazed–absolutely gobsmacked! — that my piece, “Entangled,” was given the SAQA award, for being”compelling, dynamic, and innovative,” according to Bruce Pepich, one of the jurors.

I almost didn’t get it in: Days before the deadline and just before leaving on a plane for the Netherlands, I stayed up most of the night to finish the piece. In the morning I’m ready to do the photography. My good camera falls off the tripod and breaks. Cell phone camera is sub par–only good for FB and Insta. So, I took the art quilt with me in my suitcase. The owner of a camera store in Leiden, where my husband and I were staying, said he could do “product shots” for me, but not until the day after the deadline.

My saving Graces: I had made a date to meet Marijke Van Welzen, a masterful wearable art talent. She and her husband Isaac gave Carl and me a terrific guided tour of Rotterdam, then took us back to their home. Marijke helped me shoot the art pieces with her Iphone Mini 13, and Isaac photo-edited the shots to my liking. Late that night, hours ahead of the deadline — but only because we were in a much later time zone! — I submitted.

Happy dance! I learned that my piece was accepted!

On March 24, 2024, I arrived for the opening reception at Wayne Art Center, in Wayne, PA. Felt so good to be in-person with many art quilters I know and follow and whose work I adore. And to have my art quilt hanging alongside work by the best quilt artists of our time.

See the artwork in the show here: https://artquiltelements.org/aqe-2024-online-exhibition/

Really cannot believe I won the SAQA award–one of 4 given out, chosen from out of 50 stunning works.

Here is the info and my artist’s statement, as submitted and as printed in the catalog:



21” x 44”

It starts from a calm base: an organized plaid and two slim bands of verdant mini dots. From there, my composition ascents to an upholstery fabric remnant, over-printed and stenciled with intertwined brambles that spill out over the top and sides. Even in a bright spot, circles of abaca and plastic mesh seem to unravel in spiraling thread tails. This jumble of layered entanglements epitomizes much of my quilt art and captures the terrifying complexity of today’s world. Politics deteriorate, war decimates, global warming seems unsolvable. I am lucky to find stress relief in surface design and thread play, my art therapy, meanwhile hoping that all may find more bright spots in our lives.

3 Responses to “Entangled”

  1. Carl Harrington says:

    Well deserved. It’s a great quilt. Clearly the best one in the room it’s in at the show! And it shows better than it looks in the photo.

  2. Kim Moll says:

    What an inspiration! Your work is amazing.

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And all that jazz

May 25th, 2022

After following the dazzling techniques Pat Pauly taught me for printing fabrics and creating strong compositions with them, I feel pretty proud of my latest art quilt.

This piece started with a fabric that featured yellow-gold leopard spots on a white background. In Pat’s Glorious Prints class, I added visual texture by stenciling, squeegeeing, and “drawing” big, black arcs with a squeeze bottle. For maximum kickiness, I brought in black fabrics stamped by the Textile Workshop and discharged by Lisa Reber of Dippy Dyes, plus graphic black & white commercial fabrics–a large checkerboard and little polka dots. One of my husband’s worn-out pin-stripe shirts and a batik gave me more contrasts in pattern and scale. Here, I’ve done a bunch of cutting and piecing, improv-style.

I composed with units in various ways, and asked my Facebook friends to help me decide on the strongest composition.

A was the clear winner, especially since that version got the votes of not only Pat Pauly, but also Elizabeth Busch–another brilliant art quilter. Rather than voting, my buddy in Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) for Pennsylvania, Camille Romig, wrote “Jazz” in the comments, naming the piece perfectly for me.

The composition went through some further finicky piecing as it came off the design wall…

…and then I rotated it, added a border along the top, and carved out a couple of chunks from the bottom. My feeling is, since my art quilts aren’t going on stretcher strips or into a frame, they are free to diverge from the rectangle.

For the quilting, I reunited with my HQ midarm, which hadn’t gotten much use in way too long a time. Was quick and so much fun. Here’s the finished art quilt:

Jazz, by Eleanor Levie

It’s actually one of the very few art quilts I’ve made that I don’t wish to part with! And I cannot wait to use this method again of composing with a combo of my hand-printed fabrics and bold commercial fabrics.

#artquilting #quiltart #printingwiththickeneddyes

6 Responses to “And all that jazz”

  1. Pat Pauly says:

    Well, I thought I recognized this ! It reminds me of a medieval banner. The form is great.

  2. Donna says:

    Love this piece! Great job. So dynamic!

  3. Marnie says:

    This is great Eleanor. Love your fabric choices. This gives me ideas.

  4. bonnie says:

    Your work is a true inspiration! I love how you keep growing and challenging yourself. BTW did you know that Elizabeth Bush was a college chum of mine?

  5. I love it, I’m seeing shiny gold jazz trumpets, saxophones and trombones, emitting dancing black musical annotation! I especially love those black loopy loops!

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Crested Cranes, Part II

July 6th, 2021

The skinny quilt is finished! I sure hope my Kenyan collaborator Meryline Ingaso likes it, and that folks out there will want to bid on it when the Advocacy Project holds its auction of art quilts later this year, which will raise funds for services that will benefit Meryline and her Sister Artists.

But first, here’s the skinny on African crested cranes: thanks to storyteller.travel for this info and video!

1–The African crested crane is quite the looker: light blue eyes, bright red neck, and gorgeous plumage on its head. It stands at over 3 feet tall and from wing-tip to wing-tip can measure over 6 feet. Despite such a wingspan, the adult weighs less than 8 pounds. Hollowed out honeycomb-like bones means the bird is light enough to take flight.

2–It’s the national bird of Uganda (right next door to Kenya) and featured on the Ugandan flag. The marshes and flat grasslands of both Kenya and Uganda offer the birds everything they love in a habitat. Rather than migrating, crested cranes tend to stay in place throughout the year. However, their habitat is slowly being depleted, due to over-use of water for irrigating fields of crops. So, the population is declining and the crested crane has been designated as endangered.

3–The Crested Crane is quite the omnivore gourmand, eating leaves and seeds from a variety of plants, as well as insects, worms, and frogs. These birds have also been seen eating small fish, snakes, and various aquatic eggs.

4–Romance is in the air: Crested cranes choose a partner early on, and mate for life. The only cranes to nest in trees, they build nests that are high up, safe from the reach of predators. Females typically lay between 2 and 4 eggs in a clutch, and the eggs are ready to hatch in about 30 days. They are then ready to breed when they reach 3 years of age, and given their long life-span — about 22 years, they have plenty of years to find a mate and lay lady lay.

4– Not just for courting and breeding, crested cranes love to dance at any time of the year. Young birds often join in the dancing.

Moving on, I think I managed to combine the three sections — raw-edge applique landscape, Meriline’s embroidery, and a woven expanse — into a cohesive whole, 12″ x 48″. The quilting certainly helped integrate and tame the disparate elements, especially the warp and weft strips of the bottom section.

Facings along the long side edges kept the piece from feeling too circumscribed and hemmed in. African fabric for a top border, and a bottom border of batik couched with ribbon was, to my thinking, just enough definition.

And here we are!

2 Responses to “Crested Cranes, Part II”

  1. Gill Rebelo says:

    Hi Eleanor,
    I’m Gill Rebelo, a quilter from from Kenya and I work with the group of embroiderers in Nairobi. I was thrilled to see the quilt you made with Meryline’s beautifully embroidered Crested Cranes. You captured the essence with your inspirational choice of fabrics. Thanks so much for helping us.

    • My apologies for the late reply. You are very welcome, indeed. It was my honor and privilege to frame this lovely embroidery in an art quilt as long as the legs of the crested crane! I hope Meriline Ingaso gets to see her work as I have glorified it, and approves!

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Crested Cranes of Kenya

June 28th, 2021

Let me introduce you to my most recent art partner, Meryline Ingaso, who lives in Kangemi, an under-served neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya. She writes:

Hi! I was born 17/12/1996. I am an orphan, a mother of two kids, all girls. The first, 6, is in baby class. The second, 3, is not yet in school. I earn a living as a mentor. I do voluntary work to empower girls on how to protect themselves in this pandemic. There have been a lot of challenges e.g. buying food and paying rent. But I get a little support from washing cloth to people. That’s how I survive.

Beautiful, inside and out. Hard-working. Creative. Caring. Nurturing. Meriline has joined with forty other “Sister Artists” who under the auspices of the Advocacy Project and during the height of the pandemic, produced beautiful embroidered blocks depicting Kenyan wildlife.

I answered the call to choose a block and incorporate it in an art quilt, and Meriline’s “Crested Cranes” called out to me. The finished piece will be auctioned off to fund services that benefit Meriline and others like her. Maybe you’ll become the proud owner for the completed piece, or another featuring a Sister Artist and a quilter?

By the way, two years ago, I participated in a similar project celebrating the creativity, in embroidery, of young women in Mali. That time, security issues surrounding these women who were victims of sexual violence prevented me from knowing the artist’s name. Nevertheless, I was proud to support the cause and create a Mali Medallion around the charming village scene. Read my story about the making of that art quilt here.

This time, the plan is for a Skinny Quilt. If you know my books, Skinny Quilts & Table Runners and Skinny Quilts & Table Runners II, you’ll be aware that this long narrow slice is my favorite way to compose. And that I love to weave with a variety of textiles. I decided to elaborate on the cranes pictorial with a new, l-o-n-g weaving easily composed on my Big Board. And on top, I added a little UFO — a landscape I threw together long ago in Sue Benner’s exciting Composition Quartet class. My goal is to integrate the three sections so they are cohesive and hopefully flow together.

In addition to my usual weft of commercial fabric and assorted ribbons, I’ve included trimmings from my recent art quilt made with fabric I printed or discharged, and strips cut from upholstery samples. Always keeping Meryline’s charming pictorial close at hand, I tried to bring out the colors she used.

Stay tuned for the quilting and finishing!

2 Responses to “Crested Cranes of Kenya”

  1. Totally love what you do! Brava!! We really need to meet up virtually. Inspiring! xoxo, Bonnie

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Take a class, for goodness sake

March 11th, 2021

No excuse not to refresh your skills, broaden your outlook, and fall in love again with fabric when there are so many great instructors teaching on Zoom these days.

No better teacher (in my book) for sharing how to advance and enhance your skills in improvisational piecing and composing than Pat Pauly. I had the pleasure of taking her new class, “Make It/Break It” this week. My fabulous classmates, all FOPs (fans of Pat) were attending live and online from Germany, Canada, and different parts of the USA. Because in this day and age, we can do that.

Pat puts her mark on her work by exclusively using her own printed fabrics, almost all with large-scale designs.

And we FOPs followed suit, either using fabrics we printed in Pat’s Glorious Prints classes, or with half-yard purchases of Pat’s creations.

Here’s my design wall, at the end of Day Two. I’m getting somewhere…

The husband passed by and remarked, “It’s certainly different than most of your work.” That’s a good thing; I am quite pleased to be setting off in a different direction. It’s like hitting a refresh button. Boosting confidence in your design skills and aesthetic sensibility. Honing your critical eye while you give yourself permission to play.

Take a class, or a workshop. Try a new direction…something different, or beyond your comfort level. Just google a subject that intrigues you and see what opportunities present themselves.

2 Responses to “Take a class, for goodness sake”

  1. Pat Pauly says:

    Oh, gosh, glad you shared this class to “the world” but not just how we make such dynamic works. Whit 10 people working away, each was so strong and different. Your work is still yours, no question. But I know we all did a lot of reconfiguring how to use improv better. And yes — get out and take a class! I do. Thanks for your kind thoughts.

  2. Marnie Mascioli says:

    Loved the class and your Blog Eleanor. Can’t wait for our reunion.

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Trees with Human Traits

March 2nd, 2021
“Aurora,” by Libby Cerullo

Standing upright, their branches like outstretched arms, certain trees certainly take on the spirit of a human being. Quilt artist Libby Cerullo has a really lovely series of trees in diaphanous frocks. Here’s how Libby works–and I trust she will correct me if I’ve got this wrong: A photo she has taken gets transferred to fabric, using a service like Spoonflower. A following stage involves dressing her subject with appliques of chiffon or organdy with a translucence that allows the photo to show through. Makes me want to dance until dawn!

On a recent trip to Denmark this winter, my family and I got many chances to commune with the trees. Covid lockdown prevented us from going to museums or shops, so hikes to various woods and sculpture parks proved to be the cure for our cabin fever. In the cold, damp environs, many of the trees wore skirts of moss. Such wearable art gave the man-made art some stiff competition:

Makes me want to sew and wear a green velvet midi.

Other trees were gnarled and burly, like an old village elder:

Many a tree sported facial features:

These trees resemble a couple who have grown apart…or two people with different outlooks on life:

Human relationships, as expressed with trees, brings us back to two more exquisite works by Libby Cerullo:

“Mother/Daughter,” by Libby Cerullo
“The Lovers,” by Libby Cerullo

How have you engaged with trees as if they were people?

2 Responses to “Trees with Human Traits”

  1. Thanks for including my work in your exploration and connections with the trees in Denmark. For me, trees are companions, and my reactions to them become self portraits. I am on to making more, but the next ones show another side. Wait and see. And there are some planned that (so far in my mind) are just play. We’ll see. Cheers to spring!! The trees will let us know when it’s time!

  2. Kay Hamman says:

    I love the idea of clothes on trees! I am going to experiment with doing that to some applique trees that I want to put into a quilt top.

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Line, contrast, form

February 17th, 2021

No, not quilts this time. But I just have to share the sublime work of Cheryl Levin which I caught on the last day of her exhibition at Da Vinci Art Alliance on Valentine’s Day.

Here’s the description on DVAA’s website: “Forms for a Continued Life is an exhibition of ink drawings by Cheryl Levin shown alongside sculptures and fragments by her late husband, metal worker Robert Phillips (1962-2012), and their son, Electrical Engineer and Generative Artist Aidan Phillips. This visual art exhibition contrasts weight and form to investigate impermanence, collective grief, and emergence of life from loss.”

Heavy, right? I met Cheryl a few years ago, when she worked alongside her friend DaVid Harari to paint our balconies. DaVid is a highly skilled housepainter; the tall, dark, and handsome Israeli has a flip side: musician and music lover. Cheryl is a warm and gracious, humble, petite and pretty woman who sometimes joins DaVid for some house-painting jobs, and offers custom faux finishes and murals to clients. And, she’s a highly conceptual contemporary artist. I’m dazzled by her backstory of partnering with her late husband in creating big works of public art and the ways she evokes very quiet, private emotions in the work of this exhibit. Learn more about her many dimensions — including her very colorful paintings — on her website: http://www.cheryllevin.org

I’m posting to share my own reaction to this exhibit of tightly curated works. And since this is my quilting blog, I’ll take the privilege of citing the elements I savored which echo the ones that get me jazzed about art quilts:

1–Fine lines (like dense, hand-driven machine quilting)

2–Contrast of delicacy and strength (In contemporary quilts, I’m talking about pinstripe stitching paired with monumental shapes and dimensions.) Oooh, those fine lines hand-inked with a pen in rhythmic repetition vs. the weight of the substantial, seemingly solid forms they fill. And, of course, the absolutely huge contrast of her meditative drawing with the often craggy and robust steel sculptures of her late husband.

3–How being at the exhibit in real life allowed me to interact with it: Moving through the spaces. Seeing how the light hit at different angles. Avoiding the inevitable glare from the glass but occasionally tickled by how spots of track-light reflections occupied the margins. Unknowingly casting my shadow on it, and thereby becoming a part of the art. (OK, that was presumptuous and vain of me).

How fortunate I am to be a member of Da Vinci Art Alliance, which allows me to visit during Covid closures elsewhere — albeit by appointment, masked, with only the executive director of DVAA and my husband present. Kudos to all the people and places that allow us to interact with art and artists in the only ways possible during the pandemic. I’m surfing the net, Zooming with other artists, watching lots of different PowerPoint presentations.

But aren’t we all starving to visit museums and galleries IRL–in real life, to be alongside teachers and students in art classes, workshops, and live crit sessions? There’s just nothing like seeing art — and art quilts — up close and personal. There’s nothing as great as getting together in person, unmasked, with the talented makers, critics, and art lovers to share our stories and perspectives as well as what we make.

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Art in Aarhus

February 2nd, 2021

Because we have a son and daughter-in-law and baby grandson living in Aarhus, Denmark has graciously allowed us to visit — with all due process of Covid testing, natch. Denmark is on lockdown, with only grocery stores and pharmacies open. Even so, walks in icy, mostly gray January and February weather yield lots of cool sights re: architecture, design, and art. And plenty of inspiration for quilting, I daresay.

The above mural continues, as shown below. It occupies the wall of a driveway leading to a parking lot.

Believe it or not, the “gallery” below takes up two facing walls of another passageway to a parking lot:

Murals aren’t nearly as numerous as in hometown Philly — dubbed the City of Murals with a Mural Arts Program that has made it the largest public arts program in the United States. Still, art finds a home in Aarhus on many a vertical space, no matter how odd-shaped, narrow or wide it may be:

The next photo depicts tagging more than street art, and comes with a message of protest:

Look down to find pure pattern:

Then, look up: specifically, at the ceiling under the library. I hear that Penn Station in NYC adopted this upside down design idea for a ceiling as well. Has anyone seen it?

In the windows of what I take to be an art school, I gather the instructors have presented some pretty cool assignments.

Finally, at least for now, our son’s latest art project in his spare time: 3-d printed photos. The thinnest areas allow the most light to penetrate, the thickest are almost opaque. Result, a really detailed image. Of the grandson, of course. Which we’ll hang in a window when we get home.

3 Responses to “Art in Aarhus”

  1. Sammie says:

    Remarkable! Eager to see how this translates into fabric.

  2. Thanks for sharing these examples of street art. I love the scale and radical nature of art on buildings. And sometimes, just very well planned and executed artwork. Youthful stuff; not going to see (too many) old codgers on those lifts! I took my stepmom on a tour of the Philly murals years back. So great to be near a town that embraces it, many more towns are doing the same now. (but I ramble)
    Have a great day, L

  3. Thank you for sharing Eleanor. Always nice to see a city through someone else’s eyes!

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The 12 Days of Quiltmas

December 17th, 2020

Yes, friends, The 12 Days of Christmas meets The 12 Days of Quiltmas

You undoubtedly know the old English Christmas carol that enumerates each day by the gifts given on each of the twelve days of Christmas.

In London, in 1909, Frederic Austin popularized the arrangement of the song we know today.

In Philadelphia, in December of 2020, Eleanor Levie fiddled with the lyrics for the Village Quilters of Catonsville, MD to perform on Zoom. (Appreciate your sharing — non-commercial use only–with credits for me and Frederic.)

Click Download in the gray oval above to enjoy — and share with your quilting buddies!

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Mother’s Day Art Quilts

May 8th, 2020

If anything good has come out of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s been that 1–forced to stay home means more time for quilting, and 2– a good kind of pressure to share online. Just in time for Mother’s Day weekend, let me present some of my favorite, funniest quilts about Mothers…

First, Psycho Moms Bake a Cake, by Katherine L. McKearn and Diane Muse. A real oven mitt and apron give you an idea of scale. The fire in the untended oven reveals the truth: that getting together and schmoozing with a chum is more important than successful productivity.

Psycho Moms Bake a Cake, by Katherine L. McKearn and Diane Muse

This quilt by Amy Stewart Winsor reads, If you want to see me, come over anytime. If you want to see my house, Make an Appointment! (Cuz God knows I’ve got lots and lots of cleaning to do.)

Make An Appointment, by Amy Stewart Winsor

Mrs. Noah, by Pamela Allen honors the woman who obviously did all the cooking and cleaning aboard the ark…yet in a literary injustice of biblical proportions, she doesn’t even get her name mentioned.

Mrs. Noah, by Pamela Allen

Most quilters could easily identify their own mothers — and more horrifyingly, themselves — within Jean Ray Laury’s famous quilt, Listen to Your Mother. Each of its Nine-Patch silk screened panels contains a cartoon bubble with the text of a common maternal maxim, such as, “Change that underwear! You might get hit by a car!” or, “Put that down! You don’t know where it’s been!” Who doesn’t hear her own mother’s voice?

Listen to Your Mother, by Jean Ray Laury

Inspired by Jean’s iconic piece, I borrowed the image of Whistler’s Mother, and directed her criticisms to quilters, to wit: “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!”

All rules I frequently break!

For more inspiration and entertainment around Motherhood, see some charming story-quilts by Bodil Gardner in my blog post here. And my Tribute to Moms from way back in 2012 here.

Happy Mother’s Day, to everyone who is a mother, grandmother (me, finally!) godmother, aunt, mentor, teacher, nurse, nanny, child-care provider, or girlfriend…of any gender. That is to say, anyone who mothers others! We need you!

9 Responses to “Mother’s Day Art Quilts”

  1. Heidi says:

    What a fun post. One of your best. A gift to quilters and non-quilters alike. Happy Mother’s Day to you! Do you have a grandmother name yet?

    • Eleanor says:

      I’m Gramma…as opposed to Nanna and Grammy on my daughter-in-law’s side! Though as the only Jewish influence, I would answer to Bubbe!

  2. Thank you for the short but delightful tour of distinctive mother-related quilts!

  3. Maggie Winfield says:

    Thanks Eleanor for a fun blog posting. Made me smile and made my day. Maggie

  4. This was a very enjoyable post to read! Perfect time for a laugh as well. Happy Mothers Day to you and all your readers!

    • When I wrote Happy Mother’s Day to anyone who mothers others — in a good way, not the intrusive way! — you come to mind! And here you are, continuing to encourage, support, and praise. You rock, girlfriend!

  5. Linda Vola says:

    You don’t have to be a quilter to enjoy these quilts, or your wonderful sense of being a Mother, which must come with a sense of humor! Thanks for sharing Bubbe!

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