A memorial service is planned in Santa Monica on 10 August for quilting teacher, author and fabric designer, Mary Ellen Hopkins, who died a week after suffering a stroke, on 9 July in California.
I wish I could be there, but I am sending my best wishes on a wing and a prayer wherever she is.
David Hopkins, 946 Woodgrove Drive, Cardiff by the Sea, CA 92007.
Those who knew Mary Ellen knew that her age was a big secret, and because it was a secret we wondered all the more. Now, in her passing, the secret is revealed – she was 81 years old. Mary Ellen was born in Peoria, Illinois and lived in a number of Midwestern cities while growing up. During her lectures I recall her telling us that her family were circus people, I suppose that is where she got her sense of ‘theatre’, that fabulous sense of presentation and antics that she used to embellish her lectures and seminars and even her daily life!
She and her then-husband, Bill, and their four children moved to Santa Monica, California, in 1963. Mary Ellen opened Crazy Ladies and Friends Quilt Shop in Santa Monica in 1977.
In 1982 she self-published The It’s Okay If You Sit on My Quilt, which she called an ‘attitude adjustment quilt book’ and Quilters Newsletter described as, “Great for beginners – takes quilts out of the realm of preciousness and encourages just jumping in and doing it.” MEH went on to publish more instruction books, including her ‘Connector’ series.
She didn’t teach hands-on workshops, preferring to regale quilters with hilarious stories about her ex-husband, funny stories about her shop customers and a fond story or two about the favourite men in her life. In between these entertaining stories she weaved the magic of practical information in six-hour ‘lectures’ that many quilters chose to sit through time and time again.
Her first book was a how-to on machine-pieced Double Wedding Ring, in 1980. After she published her Its Okay if You Sit on My Quilt Book she started to teach 3–5 day workshops to shop-owners who wished to teach her methods through their own stores.
My mother, Lorraine Moran, was embarking on her own rotary-cutting-quick-piecing journey around the same time, and when she met Mary Ellen in America in late 80s their mutual passions for practical, fast, easy, non-fussy patchwork created an instant opportunity. Lorraine, who at the time owned and operated a wholesale/importing business on the Gold Coast, was the first wholesaler of Mary Ellen’s books.
In order to help quilters and shop owners to get their head around MEH’s methods Lorraine and I started organizing MEH seminars and lectures in Australia, we continued through to when Mary Ellen decided to manage the appointments herself, when she engaged a local Australian quilter who had experience with her methods.
She produced numerous fabric ranges – the first in the early 1990s and the Mary Ellen Collection II was produced by Kona Bay Fabrics in 2006.
She gave up her public life in the quilting world around 2010, preferring to live in a retirement community (playing and winning bingo, crocheting and knitting), near her eldest son, David and his family in California.Mary Ellen’s books were books of quilt concepts. Through her guidance, and practical approach, she encouraged quilters to make quilts their own individual quilts, without the need to copy anyone else's.
Double Wedding Ring – 1980
The It's Okay If You Sit On My Quilt Book – 1982
Hidden Wells #3 –
Baker's Dozen Doubled – 1988
Connecting Up – 1990
Continuing On #4 1/2 – 1990
A Log Cabin Notebook #5 – 1991
Even More Well Connected #4 7/8 – 1995
Kansas Connections #4 9/10 – 1996
Connectors Collection #4 11/12 – 2000