A Couple Finishes

These cold snowy days are long and it’s a good time to finish up those UFO’s .  Many of you probably don’t even know who Mary Ellen Hopkins was but I attended several of her retreats in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  This was one of the projects I made way back then and I just got it quilted today.    Now that’s persistence – ha!

This next project was a reject from a book manuscript that I just laid aside in that pile of projects that seemed too good to get rid of and sure enough after I quilted it, I liked it a lot.  Millie had help posing with Deano on the table with the somewhat droopy poinsettia.

This is Jackie who used to be the quilt shop cat.

And here’s the other black cat, B.C. – you might remember him as Barn Cat.


34 thoughts on “A Couple Finishes

  1. Judy Linn

    Just thinking and reading all these comments about Mary Ellen makes for current laughter. It was my good fortune to work with Mary Ellen when she printed the first “It’s OK..” book with Yours Truly and “took-her-show-on-the-road.” You should have seen the looks on the hotel management when we wanted to book a “quilting seminar!” For years that fiery little Lady fired up quilters across the nation and eventually around the world! Her antics to keep our attention kept us in stitches for sure (sorry for the pun.). And hotels would have ballrooms filled with quilters with sewing machines and threads were all over the hotel as hard as we tried to contain them. At first the hotel management would disregard the request for extra electrical power. How much power could a couple dozen quilters use! But they were not laughing when irons would heat up and the power would go out! Then the seminar would be “the talk” of the hotel and all the staff would want to come in to see why there was so much laughter and why we were having so much fun! Mary Ellen would tell stories from her life and she would touch our hearts deeply! She developed her techniques and perfected her skills enough to teach other quilt shop owners and quilting instructors that they could be successful and she was instrumental in the quilt industry success! In remembering attending a talk given by one of the fabric company’s leaders, he said the quilt industry back then was not quite a million dollar industry. He was forecasting that it would become a multi-million dollar industry! People only had to come to Houston to Quilt Market and Quilt Festival to see that his predictions were accurate! Yes, Mary Ellen was an extra special Gift – a Real Treasure!
    Thanks to everyone for their comments and this walk down memory lane! I still have my It’s OK quilts and even a few UFO’s.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Judy – I just today was reading over some of my notes from one of those retreats and they were so funny I think I’ll have to post them for everybody.

  2. Donna McCormack

    I love your quilts large and small. But my reason for writing this is how much I enjoy your love of animals. They look so happy and relaxed in all the pictures.

  3. Susie

    Mary Ellen Hopkins was one of the best. I was able to attend several of her lectures and weekend retreats. Her philosophy of quilting should fun and quilts should be used still endures.

  4. Charlene sexton



  5. Lois Palmisano

    Hi Mary, I always enjoyed Mary Ellen Hopkins with Alex Anderson, they both inspired my beginning quilter. (yes, you CAN sit on my quilt). Ilove how yours turned out, they mellow with age, just like us!. And so does the warmth and the joy of finising things! Best to you always. I love seeing all the animals that you welcome to your home, 2 legged and 4 legged! Your long distance, Friend Lois Palmisano, Omaha

  6. Margie

    Loved your tribute to MEH. I started out as a hand piecer back in the 70’s, then MEH entered my quilting life and changed everything forever! Long live Mary Ellen, a true pioneer! She made quiltmaking so much FUN. And even made MACHINE piecing acceptable and doable. Her books and methods will live on forever.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Margie – everybody who ever knew MEH would agree with everything you said!

  7. Betty Klosterman

    Put me on the list for loving the quilts, cats and Mary Ellen Hopkins. I got to see her on PBS. She was really a hoot and completely loved life. It is easier to rip out a seam when you’re laughing. Humor is so wonderful and makes life so much easier. Of course, the cats are great. Were all the dogs in the quilt shop when you were taking these pictures.
    And what happened to the cat you took in earlier that you just shut in a room? Is it getting friendlier?
    Winter is really a time of getting some of the stuff that has been waiting to be finished for years, especially when you can’t do anything else. We are supposed to get to at least 60 today.
    Yes, your emails are such fun all about stuff we all like — quilts, cats, dogs, etc…….

  8. Nikki Mahaffey

    As always love the quilts! Mary Ellen Hopkins..blast from the past..many good memories..several workshops and lectures..such a hoot! Love finishing UFO’s even if from another century..now I don’t feel so bad, and kow there is hope for me after all…

  9. Launa

    Mary, I’m an old MEH’s Quilt Circle quilter, too…….she was fabulous and kept an audience entertained if not rolling off our chairs with laughter. A true CRAZY LADY and FRIENDS who understood math so well. I had to laugh at the close up of your MEH quilt as I had the same red waves and the reversible blue…floral on one side and stripes on the other.
    I so enjoyed seeing your finished UFO’s….need to work on a few of those myself.
    Such lucky cats…. Millie, Dino and I would hardly classify your quilt as a reject!! Love the color combos you selected. Stay warm……..we’re hitting 74 here today.

  10. Vikki W

    I was able to take a couple of all day workshops with Mary Ellen in the 90″s and what a hoot!!!! The It’s Ok to Sit on my Quilt Book was the first quilt book I ever purchased. I am finishing up several projected from 1982 also!!!!!! The fabrics are quite a trip down memory lane 🙂

  11. SuzKuhns

    Love your cats! I remember Mary Ellen – I still own “It’s Okay If You Sit on My Quilt” – she was a wonderful teacher and had a fantastic sense of humor.

  12. Connie Olson

    The finished quilt is just beautiful and we can see the dogs in the background. Your cats are so neat. I just love hearing from you and you have such phenomenal projects!! Thank you so much!!

  13. Karen Graham

    I am admiring your Mary Ellen Hopkins quilt close up photo and I’d like to know how you make your quilting lines so straight and perfect. I need your advice and tips before I try do this. Thank you.

  14. Marilyn

    I DO remember Mary Ellen and have several of her books. I attended an all-day lecture wondering how I would stay awake all day listening to one person talk………wow! was I impressed with her information, delivered in humor, walking the stage from one side to the other and never missing a beat. She showed quilt after quilt illustrating what she had just discussed. And, of course, books ready to sell, discounted for the one-day only price. In my opinion she revolutionized the machine-pieced technique of sewing together block after block making the fabric do the work of the design. Still I can hear her talking about a technique when I open her books. She was great.

  15. Marian

    Hi Mary: Your quilts are beautiful, so nice on the chair–the first one. And, I love the table quilt with the kitties! Your cats are beautiful; in fact, Jackie is my desk top beauty for THIS day! It is so cold that I am hoping my Phoebe will cuddle with me while I do some handwork! Oh, Mary, I think I look forward to your messages more than anything else in my mailboxes–keep ’em comin’!!!!!! You do such a splendid job.

  16. bernadette

    Love receiving your updates re happenings at your farm. The quilt with the kitties on it is a beauty. Thx again for sharing, Mary.

  17. Diane

    HI Mary–Both of those quilts are lovely. I watched MEH sometimes on Alex Anderson’s show. I do love those kitties. It’s evident that the “twins” your Millie and our Squeak have the same traits. Squeak sits on my sewing table and “helps” me. She is VERY happy to have us home. Our kitty, Fluff, lived to be 22 yrs, used ALL 9 of her lives, and once was gone two weeks–we think snowed in someplace. Came back a little wild, but all ok.

  18. Mary Adams

    Love your blog, enjoy looking at all your finished projects, makes me energized to finish some of mine!

  19. Carol

    So, 30 years later, I LOVE your colors! So rich looking! Sounds like I missed a jewel of a teacher. Your kitties provide nice contrast to your projects! That’s their job, to sit on everything soft and leave those things with a touch of fur!

    So many quilts/kitties/quilts,

  20. Elizabeth

    I love that tabletop quilt! The cats sure do show it off nicely. I thought I was the only one with old UFOs!

  21. Eileen Mele

    Mary Ellen was the best! I think she was a genius at piecing quilts. Funny woman! A roomful of quilters would be rolling off their chairs in hysterics when she lectured. Very popular Quild speaker.

  22. Louise

    I really like the piece on the table….the one the kitties are parked on..love the colors! Re: Mary
    Ellen, her store was a lot of fun to visit and she did serve Oreos..what a lot of fun she was.

  23. Dot

    The Mary Ellen Hopkins project brought back memories. She had great ideas, and was a kick to listen to. And all the fabrics in that quilt are still in my stash somewhere!

  24. Rose Mikulski

    One of the first quilt books I purchased was MEH’s You Can Sit On My Quilt Book and Quilting owes a big debt her her. I still have not quilted my Cowboy wall quilt (1998?) which I made the day after Roy Rogers died using one of her patterns. Love you straight line quilting and I think it looks great with the traditional fabric. I love the table topper and love the fabrics/colors.

  25. Ann from NC

    I love all the sweet kitty pictures!! One of my kitties, Midget, has been missing for 13 days/nights and
    tonight when I drove into my house–she was waiting for me. I’m so happy to have her home!!!!

    1. Carol

      Oh my gosh, two weeks without your kitty! I was frantic for a whole week when my Kitty (her creative name…she’s LuluBelle but doesn’t care, she only responds to Kitty!), got out. She has no front claws so little defense (we adopted her that way, someone else did the cruel deed). I was in tears 24 – 7. I even asked Mary for prayers! And she showed up on our patio on Mothers Day morning, but wasn’t sure about coming in. I had to show her her hairbrush and wait patiently with the door wide open at 3in the morning for her to take a tentative step in, and then I grabbed her and slammed the door. Like an errant teenager I wanted to holler at her and hug her at the same time! Phew, these kitties can age us as much as teenagers! Who knew?

    2. CountryThreads Post author

      Oh Ann – how wonderful! She worried you for quite a long time, I’d say, and now I’ll bet she’s just so happy to be home. Stories like yours give hope for all future lost kittiy stories.

  26. Mary Says Sew!

    I definitely know Mary Ellen Hopkins! She called rotary cutters “whizzy whackers” and said, “All reds clash nicely together.” Her humor and attitude were inspirational, and her books were among the first ones available for during the quilt revival of the 1970s and 80s. I have several of them – they were a great help then and I still refer to them. I’ve shared them with my quilt group as recently as a few months ago. She was a treasure. How wonderful you got to do retreats with her.

    Congratulations on finishing some well-aged UFOs. About a year ago I finally had a top for about the same time quilted and got it bound. It took me a good bit of digging to unearth a fabric for the binding that played nicely with the fabrics in the quilt, but a purple cat print from Benartex (black outlines of cats on solid grounds, came in several colors; you may remember it!) worked. Fortunately, I had just enough to fit the quilt.

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