What is a Mary Ellen Seminar? 12-8-22

Do you remember this book?

I attended three Mary Ellen seminars – 2 in Las Vegas and 1 in Portland, Maine. For 4 days our group sewed new patterns from Mary Ellen all based on this book. She was hilarious! After our early afternoon class Mary Ellen left us to work on our own while she went to the casino. Haha! You gotta love a quilter who loves to drink and gamble, right?

I sent out a bunch of patterns today – watch your mailbox. I think about how casual these patterns are compared to our nice patterns years ago but then I remembered they cost only $5.00. I’m too old to go back into production with color photos so this is how it has to be. Oh, the limitations of old age!

I’m starting to put my Bitcoin rows together – yikes! I thought I sewed with such accuracy but sadly I do not according to the way these rows are fitting together. Not to worry – this quilt isn’t going to the State Fair!

The tumbleweeds looked great with the heavy frost this morning.

Reader quilts:

And Keeper and Three love each other!

59 thoughts on “What is a Mary Ellen Seminar? 12-8-22

  1. Sandi

    Beautiful quilts from your readers!! I am always so impressed with the quilts you post. I hope your doing well. Hugs,

  2. Helen

    Oh my! I’m loving that Be You quilt. Is that a collection or just different fabrics? Also, pattern name? Love it and know just the granddaughter that would too! Thanks! Whoever made and sent this please give us that info. Thanks, Mary.

  3. Donna Sproston

    I love Mary E. who shares her life and pets and enjoys a beer and basketball. What a wonderful quilt show tonight. Keeper and Three are what’s right with the world.

  4. Marie C

    Beautiful pictures today. I just picked up that quilt book at the used book store a couple of weeks ago. Some of the older books have great information in them.
    Love the tumbleweeds. I’ve been lucky enough to see bald eagles that are hanging around our place.

  5. Helen

    I forgot to say that I remember watching Mary Ellen Hopkins on the early quilting shows with Fons and Porter and Alex Anderson and other quilters and she was a hoot! Loved her quilt blocks and instructions too. That goes pretty far back to the beginning of sharing their expertise with the tv world. Fun memory!

  6. Mary Says Sew!

    Not only to I remember this book, but I have a copy, along with a few other of Mary Ellen Hopkins books. They’re some of the books I refer back to when i need inspiration, and it’s amazing how her quilts still look fresh, not dated.

    I also saw her on the quilting how-to shows and she was definitely a hoot!

  7. Vicki Ibarra

    Wonderful quilts and I find the black and white ones to be quite striking. My grandson would love the animal one. So much artistry in today’s quilts. I love the tumbleweed pictures and the Keeper and Three picture makes me smile.

  8. Elizabeth

    I went to a Mary Ellen seminar the early 90’s. She was a hoot! I learned so much from her. Her patterns stand the test of time. Loved how you could find her sitting at the bar at the end of every class 🍷

  9. Sharon

    I have the book too,I’ve made many quilts from it.I took a class taught by Mary Ellen in California and she signed my book.It was such a fun class,then she had a trunk show,showing her quilts! I miss those good old days!

  10. Jo In Wyoming

    I’ve got that book. The show today was shocking!! Mary drew the color 8 days ago and look how many UFO’s are done.

    For those of you who wonder…I teach quilting at our county jail. I’ve been doing this for about 6 years and love every minute I spend with the girls.
    We have lots of fabric donations and old sewing machines. The inmates are very hard on the equipment as most have never seen a sewing machine. I try to fix as many as I can, some are too far gone. They also repair the center’s uniforms too. New machines that are threaded the same way, same bobbins, etc. will be so much easier to train on, maintain, and learn from.
    Learning a skill and having an activity to help pass the time is good for them and the outside community. Most of their quilts go to first responders, nursing homes and homeless shelters. They are so proud of the quilts they show me for show and tell.
    In the past several readers have sent supplies for the program. That has been received with great appreciation.
    Our current sheriff is retiring in January and a new one has been elected. My hope is he will allow me to continue volunteering. That is unknown at this time. I’m sure some changes will happen, I just don’t know what.
    Thank you all, especially Mary, for this blog where we can share with each corner of the globe the wonderful work we all do. Thank you for your interest.
    This is long…sorry. Have a great weekend and stay warm.

    1. Mary Etherington Post author

      Jo in Wyoming – no, it isn’t too long! I’ll bet most of the readers didn’t know that quilting was alive and well in the jail – thank you for your volunteer work, Jo – when these gals go back into the community I hope they’ll take the joy of quilting with them.

    2. Diane, Squeak, and Buddy in Central Ohio

      Jo, would you be able to get a donation from someplace? We have a county foundation that gives donations and one of the local gas companies will give up to $1,000.00 to a worthy cause. Just a thought. Great reader quilts again. Sometimes I feel like a slug with my little table runners or doll quilts! I am hoping to get more finished this winter.

    3. Colleen in Oregon

      Would love to see pictures of some of the girl’s quilts if that’s possible Jo!

  11. Jeanne in Colorado

    I too have this book and was lucky enough to attend one of Mary Ellen’s talks when I still lived in Iowa. Quilting is supposed to be fun and she made it even more fun.
    I’ve been without my sewing machine for the last week while it was was being serviced. I had gotten the bobbin case stuck in the machine and couldn’t get it out. Have you ever heard of that before? Evidently some threads had gotten caught in the mechanism behind the bobbin and that’s what caused the bobbin case to be too snug. It was an easy fix and the machine was overdue for cleaning so I killed two birds with one stone. I decided since I couldn’t sew, it was a good time to bring out all of my leftover scraps of flannels and print fabrics that are left from all the baby quilts that I’ve made for grandkids (10) and great grandkids (16) and for babies of friends. So I’ve been a “cut up” all week. I have tops cut out for 6 scrap baby quilts (about 40” x 62”). Also have two cheater panels that will be big enough if I add a couple of borders to them. I think I have enough flat minky and white flannel with colored polka dots that I can use for backings. My daughter has offered to help sew the nine patches and will then quilt the finished tops on her long arm. They will be given to one of the charity groups here in town. It was fun deciding what blocks to make and how to lay them out. Smallest pieces I cut were 3” x 3”, the smaller scraps than that went back into a scrap bag until I decide if they are worth saving. And i did get one box out of the closet, so that’s a good feeling too.
    Have a blessed Christmas season everyone. Jeanne

    1. Mary Etherington Post author

      Jeanne – wow! You have been very productive in your “down” time!

  12. Sandra McPherson

    Hi Mary, Mary Ellen taught me so much from her books, would have loved to be in her classes! Love the tumble weeds, Three and Keeper and the quilts.l hope Diane in Maryland is enjoying the company of her grand daughter and fiance from New Zealand and the big excitement of the wedding! I am still ironing 2 hours a day while l watch Blue Bloods and Major Crime!Luna helped me decorate the small Christmas tree yesterday, then l re did it! Take care everyone, best wishes from Sandy

  13. Montana Kathy

    I was lucky enough to attend several talks when Mary Ellen visited our quilt group in California and then again when living in Wisconsin. When 2 gals in the quilt shop in Wisconsin went to attend the Portland Maine workshop, the other three of us who worked part time in the shop decided to fly out to join them. While we couldn’t attend the workshop, we were allowed in to visit with everyone. They all were having such a good time. I wonder if that was the workshop you took, Mary? It was funny because while visiting with everyone there, someone called out my name. It was the owner of the Modesto, California quilt shop where I worked before moving to Wisconsin. It was wonderful to see a familiar face so unexpectedly! Anyway, it was a great trip and we got to tour around Maine, New Hampshire and some of Massachusetts.(We rented a car and I was the designated driver since I was used to driving on freeways in California.HaHa!) Mary Ellen was such a character and a great speaker and teacher. And I still have her book, very used and worn now.

      1. Montana Kathy

        Sorry, Mary but my memory isn’t what it was. I’ve never been good at remembering names and this was in the late ‘80’s or early 90’s if I recall
        and I worked in several quilt stores over the years. If it comes to me, I’ll let you know.

  14. Paula Kay Hagg

    I attended one of her workshops way back when. It might have been one of the very first I went to. She was hilarious. I came out of there much braver and more relaxed in my quilting. So fun

  15. Margie in CA

    ah me, BME (before Mary Ellen) I was a dedicated hand piecer. Then along came Mary Ellen Hopkins,
    and I followed her all around the country. It’s OK to MACHINE quilt — YES !!!! my boxful of her books are
    good as gold, still. Bless you, Mary Ellen !

  16. Connie

    I saw mary Ellen at quilt market where she was releasing her first fabric line. It was some nature theme with trees and leaves. She was a l little bit of a thing and the room was filling up fast so it was almost impossible to see her. Next thing we knew she had climbed up on a chair any was tossing fabric leaves into the air yelling “it’s the leaves. You can’t see the forest for the leaves “ so funny , she knew how to entertain

    1. Mary Etherington Post author

      Connie – I, too remember her on a chair – as well as her kicking her leg up in the air! She was a character.

  17. Barbara Forde

    Think the Okay to Sit on my Quilt was one of my first quilt books! Thanks for the memories!

    1. Cynthia from SW Minnesota

      I agree, I had not heard of Mary Ellen before yesterday’s mention of her! I will look up her YouTube presentations too, she sounds like a trailblazer in the quilt-world! Thank you so much for talking about her, I truly appreciate it!

  18. Pattie from PA

    Love the black and white quilts. I often end up using a lot of black and then I struggle as it is so hard on old eyes.Lol.

  19. Lynette in Orlando

    Mary — I still have that book!!!!! One of the first quilt books I purchased (many) years ago when I started quilting! I often see it in thrift shops or resale tables at local quilt guild shows. You really made me smile! Made me think — we all have those stories and memories of how we came to quilts and how we learned. One of my favorite memories is as a small child (like 7 or 8) and sitting under the quilt frame as my grandmother and her friends quilted a quilt. :-). Have a wonderful day!!!!

    1. Mary Etherington Post author

      Lynette – you’re so fortunate to have those memories! I had only an elderly great aunt who quilted – my mother hated sewing?

  20. Wonda Myers

    Keeper and three know how fortunate they are to have you take them in.
    Love the beautiful quilts today.

  21. Sally J.

    I enjoyed several classes Mary Ellen taught at the Ice House Quilt Shop in Grayling, Mi. She sure made learning fun!!
    Wonderful quilts today!!

  22. Kathy in SW PA

    Thank you, Mary, for enlightening me about Mary Ellen. Several years ago one of the quilt bloggers that I follow mentioned the book and I bought it. Nice to hear about Mary Ellen. Gone but not forgotten!

  23. Jeanine from Iowa

    Such beautiful quilts today. The orange/yellow/purple quilt is striking. Great job whoever made that. It really catches your eye. I guess I missed out on knowing about Mary Ellen somehow. I will have to watch for one of her books now. Thanks again for the wonderful quilt show. We didn’t get any snow in south central Iowa last night. Thinking about all of you up in northern Iowa. Have a great day.

  24. Ann in PA

    Oh my, Mary Ellen Hopkins! She was one of the professional quilters I contacted when I was program chair at our quilt guild many years ago. I wish I kept her correspondence, but in in essence her “requirements” : no staying in private home with a guild member. Mary Ellen wanted a hotel, smoking friendly, and with a bar! lol Unfortunately, our guild budget was limited to professional quilters who lived in surrounding states within reasonable driving distance. (No airline costs or hotels- we have some nice B&B but no nice hotels in our rural area). A large international quilt show was withing an hours drive but I believe they had a clause preventing teachers from booking engagements outside of that venue. Sadly, we never got to enjoy Mary Ellen in person. I don’t always get to reply but I really enjoy your blog, your furry family stories, reader’s quilts, and you! xxoo

    1. Mary Etherington Post author

      Ann in PA – now I remember those requirements – when we traveled, we also insisted on a hotel. It’s hard to be “on” when you stay in a private home. I remember another nationally known teacher who require a certain number of bottles of a specific brand of water!

  25. Kathleen Wood-Kaiser

    That has always been one of my favorite quilt books. I need to re-read it!

  26. Kathy in western NY

    A wonderful quilt show. I do look forward to seeing what everyone is working on and how their lives are. Jo, thanks for the update and hard to believe it’s been 6 years now you have volunteered at the jail.. Good life skills program cause busy hands, happy heart, I say,
    I had a yearly eye appt and gosh the eye drops really did me in for the afternoon with dizziness and could not focus for awhile trying to walk. I have Macular degeneration but still in early stages so next year more tests needed to keep it monitored and I don’t look forward to them if I felt like this after the stinkin exam. So it was a take out pizza night for a treat.
    Thanks again Mary for providing us such entertainment as darling pets like Three, Hazel and keeper today and all the great quilts created..

  27. terry cortez

    I too was fortunate to have attended a Mary Ellen presentation at my quilt quild in So. California. She was such a colorful and talented quilter and speaker. To this day I cannot make a log cabin quilt without remembering her rule to ALWAYS use 1 1/4 size strips, although I have strayed a bit. Thanks for the memories. Terry

  28. Bernie

    I had that book, loaned it to someone ( forgot who) and never got it back. I saw Mary Ellen at a convention in Minneapolis. I went out to my car and Mary Ellen was outside smoking and they had announced a tornado watch. She told me ” a tornado, how exciting. I have never been in one”

  29. Sue in Oregon

    The black quilts are wonderful and so many! Wow I’m still thinking about mine. And, Sandy K in Texas, I love your quilts, especially the Weiner dog one. So cute!!
    I saw Mary Ellen on a TV quilt show long ago, and nearly fell out of my chair laughing. She was explaining the widths you should cut your strips for log cabin blocks. If you cut them too wide, you would have to go across the street to finish them. I think she also climbed on a chair.
    Keeper and Three are so cute together.

    1. Susan K in Texas

      Thanks for liking my quilts. The wiener dog one was a kit I made for my grandsons. They have two wiener dogs so I had to make it.

  30. Jackie in NY

    Wowee- I’m loving those black quilts!! Your bitcoin quilt is looking great as far as I’m concerned!

  31. Helen Jane (Tx)

    Hi Mary…my first quilt books were Mary Ellen Hopkins and Eleanor Burns. Neither were hardback. The four of us drove to Tyler, Texas years back to listen to Mary Ellen. She rode into the bldg on a motorcycle. I later learned a few of her requests were shop for cowboy boots, go dancing at the Yellow Rose and booze. She kept us all laughing. Two in our group were not too far into quilting and didn’t follow her system called “connecting up”…she also said “red is not dead” meaning get over stressing about red fabric combinations. I liked her fun approach. Thank You Mary for your blog and “keeping the quilting interesting”…

    1. Mary Etherington Post author

      Helen Jane – she really was a character and all those things you mentioned are typical ME. She also said every quilt needed a bit of black and a bit of purple – her opinion, not mine. My original book is ragged – the one I showed was purchased recently at a used book store.

  32. Carolyn Barnett

    Loved Mary Ellen Hopkins! Such an inspiration. Took a two day seminar at Road to California and she was so fun and a bit of a scamp! For those of you who did not know her, her techniques were groundbreaking and you are probably using her techniques in your sewing today. One of her groundbreaking techniques was called” snowballing “, This is where you mark a center line on the diagonal of a small square and with right sides together with a large square next to the feed dogs you sew on the line. Fold this fabric back and press and you have what looks like a triangle sewn onto a square or rectangles. This was WAY ahead of most designers in concept. What is fun about her books is how she looks at the individual pieces of the quilt and simplifies the construction! She used to rollerblade on the sidewalk of Santa Monica in her late 70″s

  33. Sherrill

    I think that was one of my first, if not THE first, quilt book. I love those bitcoin quilts but knew my stitching wasn’t up to matching all those seams so didn’t even attempt it. Keeper and Three are so cute together.

  34. Marcia

    I spent a weekend retreat w/ Mary Ellen at a hotel in Bowling Green, Ohio during a windy, cold January🥶 She would lecture and share then disappear to the bar in the hotel to drink and smoke. She chose to be left alone. She was very knowledgeable and entertaining as a speaker. Her book makes so much sense to be a guide not a pattern.

  35. Susan K in Texas

    I never had her book but I knew of her for years. Back in the day I had no money and hardly any time for quilting like I would have liked. Three young boys and as a stay at home mom the budget was tight. I used to watch all of the quilting shows on our local PBS station if I had the time. I checked out the quilting books from the library and studied them over and over. I know now that all of that reading and watching is paying off now. I learned so much.
    I like the black and white quilts today too. They give me ideas of how to use the black and white fabrics I’ve collected over the years. The bright stars quilt is very striking. Star quilts are always beautiful to me. Is the wallhanging one cross stitched? And I like the striped triangle quilt too. Another great quilt show.
    I like the bitcoin quilt. What a great way to use color and scraps. The tumbleweed makes quite the photographic element for winter. The birds love it. The frost looks great on it.

  36. Jeanie S, Central Illinois

    Thanks for a great post, Mary. The finishes are beautiful, and the stories abt MEH were fun. I think I bought that book, used. Now I am eager to find it.
    Take care and stay warm. 🥰

  37. Dee

    Loved to hear Mary Ellen!! Have most of her books still. I remember her saying your quarter inch was what you made it to be.

  38. Helen

    I posted the first comment of this post with a question but don’t think I ever got an answer. I am wondering if the black and white Be You quilt is a pattern or did the quilter make it up? I don’t know who the quilter is so cannot ask her directly. Thanks for any injo on this beautiful quilt. Would love to make it for my granddaughter. She’d be thrilled! Thanks Mary for sharing all this and your wonderful, fun-filled, informative blog! Always something useful and fun. Helen

    1. Helen (Tx)

      Hi Helen…if you haven’t received your answer to the black/white quilt…(I did an online search as I know nothing about it myself)…it appears to be a charm panel or made up of maybe 3 panels. There were several pictures of the quilt. One being the Pastryshopquilts.com another moda. I’m not sure of where any of the quilt shops are located. Anyway it appears you can order online. Maybe you can get the inf you need if the maker hasn’t responded (by an online search or maybe a call to one of the quilt shops)

      1. Helen

        Well thank you. I tried looking for the panel and wasn’t successful. Will try that link. I live in the middle of nowhere so I need to order online all the time. Thank you so much for your help. I just love that quilt!

  39. JustGail

    I have that book, plus a few others that came after. I never got to attend her classes and only “know” her from TV. She was quite entertaining, sticking a big old scissors through the mindset of quilting being something done by only by prim and proper grandmas. I liked her personal measurement unit philosophy in place of the common “you MUST cut and sew within a gnat’s *** of this measurement”. I should pull her books out and read them again.

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