Eleanor Burns – The Most Famous Quilter of Our Time

(Originally published December 2019 in SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW #72. Article written by Rita Farro.)


Eleanor Burns, SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW #71

Eleanor Burns is, arguably, the most famous quilter of our time. Eleanor has taught thousands of students, written over 100 books and her unique quilting methods revolutionized the quilting industry. She has received every accolade or honors any professional quilter could hope for, including being inducted in the Quilter’s Hall of Fame.

Her business, Quilt In a Day (QIAD), is an American success story . . . but it didn’t just happen.

After college, Eleanor became a Special Education teacher, a job she loved. She taught for six years in the Pittsburgh, PA area. She married her college sweetheart, and they moved to California so her husband could attend law school. They had two sons, Grant and Orion. Those were some lean years, and Eleanor needed a job. She didn’t have a California teaching certificate, so she went to the Parks and Recreation department and offered to teach a Stretch & Sew class.

That wasn’t possible because Stretch & Sew was a trademarked business, and their techniques were proprietary. But it was 1976, and it seemed everybody wanted to make a commemorative quilt. Parks and Rec asked if she could teach a quilting class.

Eleanor eagerly said, “YES, I’D LOVE TO.” She had never actually quilted, so she immediately went home and made two pillows. That’s when Eleanor’s experience in writing Special Ed curriculum came into play. She broke the daunting, complicated quilting process down into small steps. Her directions were concise and easy to follow.

Although she didn’t know it then, Eleanor Burns was about to revolutionize the modern-day quilt industry.


(Click HERE to read the rest of Eleanor’s story.)

Quilt Alliance – Document, Preserve, Share

(Originally posted October 4, 2015)



The mission of the Quilt Alliance is to Document, Preserve, Share . . . and their motto is, “We’re saving your place in quilt history.”  So . . . what is the Quilt Alliance and what does it mean to you?

In 1993, recognizing the need to centralize information about quilts and quiltmaking, four women joined forces to create Quilt Alliance. Their mission is to inform, educate and connect people everywhere with America’s rich quilt heritage.

The Alliance founders gathered a distinguished group of quilt scholars, artists, experts and enthusiasts to develop a vision for gathering the great body of information about quilts and quiltmakers.  They document and preserve the history, the art, the people and the culture surrounding American quilts.

To make this work accessible to teachers, enthusiasts and historians — the variety of Quilt Alliance projects are ongoing and ever-changing. For example:


Maybe you own a quilt treasure like this, but what is the story? Who made it? Was it your Great-Grandmother? Who was she? Who did she make the quilt for? Could the next generation figure it out?

Maybe you own a quilt treasure like this, but what is the story? Who made it? Was it your Great-Grandmother? Who was she? Who did she make the quilt for? Could the next generation figure it out?

Quilters’ S.O.S. is a key element of the Quilt Alliance. They created a downloadable manual so that anybody can conduct an interview and make the transcription available at the Library of Congress American Folklife Center.  Hundreds of interviews are archived at the Center, where they are available for research. Click HERE for more information.

00aGTIlogo_800pixwideGo Tell It at the Quilt Show! — A new oral history project designed to capture the stories of quilts where quiltmakers gather. The formula for Go Tell It! is  simple:  one person talking about one quilt in front of one video camera for three minutes.

Label your quilts!

Label your quilts!

Unlike our Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories project where the interviewee must be a quiltmaker, the Go Tell It! interviewee profile is much broader.

00TheQuiltIndex_LogoAThe Quilt Index is an on-line repository where tradition meets technology head-on, allowing you to use your computer to see and study more than 54,000 quilts from four centuries. This archive is unique:  nowhere else can a journalist, researcher or quilt enthusiast have access to so much information about American quilts.


In a recent post on the Quilt Alliance blog, Amy E. Milne, Executive Director of the Quilt Alliance, shared the history of this 1886 Crazy Quilt. This is a good example of how the Quilt Index documents American quilts.

00Quilt_IndexSue Dee Grainger Brown of Houston, Texas made this stunning hand pieced, embroidered and embellished Crazy Quilt in 1886. The Quilt Index record states, “Family history on this quilt states that it won first prize at the St. Louis World’s Fair.” Brown’s family members documented the quilt during the Texas Quilt Search. The quilt is included in the book Lone Stars: A Legacy of Texas Quilts, Vol. I, 1836-1936, by Karoline Patterson Bresenhan and Nancy O’Bryant Puentes (Austin: University of Texas Press) and was included in an exhibition by the same name in the Texas State Capitol Rotunda, Austin, Texas, April 19-21, 1986.

View this quilt on The Quilt Index:


Read about its history, design and construction. Be sure to use the zoom tool for a detailed view or click the “See full record” link.


Jodie Davis

Jodie Davis

Mark Lipinski

Mark Lipinski

World class quilter, Jodie Davis, is on the board of the Quilt Alliance, and her hope is that you will be inspired to tell your own quilt story . . .  NOW, while the information is still available.  Jodie says,  “American quiltmakers were anonymous and unacknowledged.  Our mission is to document the history of American quilts.  If you have a quilt in your family, do the interview — Share Your Story.  Who made the quilt? How was it passed down in your family? What is the meaning from the maker to the receiver?”

Mark Lipinski is also on the board of directors — and his message is, “Please, please, please — label your quilts. Quiltmakers do not understand the power of their own artistry.  If you label your quilt, it can be passed down from generation to generation — and your story will live.”

What’s the Quilt Alliance message? Label your quilts! Look for our in-depth interview with Mark Lipinski in the coming weeks.  You might be surprised by where he thinks American quilting is heading.  You can always count on Mark to bring a very different point of view.


Lauren Taylor – Lladybird

(Originally posted September 20, 2015)


00headshot1Lauren Taylor of Nashville, Tennessee, is the beautiful young woman behind the popular sewing blog, lladybird.com.  Mood Fabrics invited Lauren to become a Mood Sewing Network blogger because her garment sewing is impeccable and creative. Lauren has a passion for sewing, a gift for writing, and an irreverent, joyous attitude about life.

When asked about her current sewing, she said, “Right now, I’m focused on transitional pieces that will work for the wishy-washy Tennessee weather — leggings, long sleeve t-shirts for layering, light jackets, and knit dresses. The weather in Nashville can change from below freezing to pushing 70 degrees in the matter of an afternoon (and we’ve got the tornadoes to prove it!). I’ve also started planning my summer wardrobe — mostly in the form of happy day dreams 🙂 — I’m thinking lots of breezy lightweight cotton dresses and linen shorts. “

In her adult life, Lauren has mostly worked non-sewing jobs.  She spent six years answering phones at an ad agency and now works as a personal assistant for a female entrepreneur.  She also has a small part time job helping a local clothing designer with assembling piece work for her line (she LOVES that job). Lauren would like to teach sewing classes in her local area.

Lauren modeling her Fabulous Birds dress.

Lauren modeling her Fabulous Birds dress.

Birds often serve as Lauren’s inspiration. At one time, Lauren had a local clothing line, LLADYBIRD, so that’s what she named her blog. Ladybird is a nickname people gave her because of her bird tattoo.

Her lifetime favorite garment is her Fabulous Birds dress.  Inspired by a vintage pattern from the 1940s — she chose a silk georgette by Marc Jacobs from Mood Fabrics. Making the dress was a true labor of love — from the initial muslins (and the fact that her pattern was lacking its original instruction sheet!), to learning how to handle the 00quotefabric. “SCHMETZ is my sewing machine needle of choice — and the 70/10 Microtex needle makes perfect stitches in fine silk. The most important thing when working with silk is to always start with a FRESH, new needle.” After the whole dress came together beautifully, she pulled out the big guns and made a bias cut slip of 4 ply silk to wear underneath. The end result is perfection and she can wear it for pretty much any occasion that comes her way.

When sewing on knits, Lauren loves to make hems using the SCHMETZ Stretch Twin 4.0 needle. Her special tip is to use Wooly Nylon in the bobbin — which gives the finished hem some nice additional stretch.

When asked what sewing brings to her life, Lauren thoughtfully replied, “Sewing brings me PATIENCE. It forces me to slow down (sometimes I feel like a hummingbird, the way I race around all day!) and focus on the small parts that make up a whole. It gives me a wonderful creative outlet and a reason to be a perfectionist at something. It also challenges me and forces my brain to think outside the box when faced with an issue. Oh, and it gives me some pretty sweet clothes.”

Lauren with fellow Mood Sewing network bloggers in New York City.

Lauren with fellow Mood Sewing
network bloggers in New York City.

Lauren recently went to New York City to meet up with some Mood Sewing network bloggers. “Fabric often inspires me. I bought a gorgeous piece of silk in vibrant colors of blue and purple, and every day I think about that fabric. I don’t know what it will become. But I am obsessed . . . .”

Lauren is lucky because she has a big, bright, inspiring, dedicated sewing room. Her landlord even agreed to paint the room her favorite shade of turquoise. She has space for her sewing machine and her serger so each has their own table and work space. She has room for a cutting table and ironing board, and lots of storage for fabric, books, and patterns.

Like every busy woman, Lauren has the problem of TIME.  “Whether it’s getting up early to do a little bit of sewing before work (part of my ~power hour~ in the morning, yeah I know that’s dorky!), or sneaking in 10-20 minutes when I can find it . . . I always find a way. If you want to do something badly enough, you will find the time to make it happen.”

Lori Van Maanen – Girls in the Garden

Lori with Girls - and boys - in the Garden.

Lori with Girls – and boys – in the Garden.

(Originally posted September 6, 2015)


In the summer of 2006, Lori  Van Maanen stumbled upon a few sewing and decorating blogs, which led to many hours at the computer.   She was hooked on the format, and she thought blogging would be a great way to keep track of her sewing projects.  She could look back on her posts and use the information to improve her next garment.

Lori lives and works on her Missouri family farm, and is very involved in the family’s agricultural business.  She works full time at their livestock market — so time to sew can be an issue.  And she had to think long and hard about making the commitment to writing her own blog.

She knew her area of blogging would be mainly sewing, but didn’t want to limit herself by putting sewing in the title.  One day, while weeding her flower garden with her daughters, she looked at them and the name of her blog came to her:  Girls In the Garden.  As the mother to four girls, it was perfect — close to her heart.

Although Lori does all kinds of sewing  — her passion has always been fashion sewing.  With so many girls in the house, there is always an occasion or event requiring a new outfit.  Lori is inspired by fashion magazines, fashion blogs and Pinterest.  Once she gets an idea for a garment, she likes to search Pinterest for variations and details to make it her own.

aMood_Sewing_Network_LogoLori is fortunate to have a dedicated sewing space — but it’s in an unfinished basement, tucked under the plumbing pipes and behind the furnace.  She doesn’t really have a “stash” of fabric (maybe 10 yards on hand at any one time).  When she is inspired to make a garment,  she goes online to buy the fabric.  The Mood Fabrics website is her favorite place for fashion fabric — so it was a huge honor to be invited to become a part of the Mood Sewing Network in January, 2013.

When asked about her favorite sewing inspiration, Lori said,  “When the twins were babies, I took a smocking class.  My favorite magazine was Australian Smocking and Embroidery and each month I would find at least one dress to make.  One issue had these smocked black corduroy coats with leopard faux fur — and I was hooked on those coats.  It is a wonder I didn’t wear out my magazine just looking at them.  AS&E offered kits with everything but the pattern, so I checked the kit price and the exchange rate.  With four young girls, money was tight and it  took me a week of debating if I should buy not one but two kits.  In the end, I did order the coats and never regretted the purchase.  I made the coats a bit bigger and since the shape was flared, the girls were able to get three winters’ wear.

Leopard Trench Coat

Leopard Trench Coat

The most recent thing I was inspired to sew was my leopard trench coat.  I saw several leopard trench coats on Pinterest.  I found the perfect fabric at Mood and had the perfect Vogue pattern.  I have worn this coat many times, it just goes with everything and it is one of those ‘feel good’ garments.” 

Your best sewing advice?

Whenever I am having a problem, the first thing I do is rethread my sewing machine and change the needle.  That solves the problem 90% of the time.  And don’t forget to change the needles in your serger, too!  My go-to sewing book is Sandra Betzina’s  Fabric Savvy.  It is an excellent reference book and I often refer to it.  I only use SCHMETZ needles, and I ALWAYS have a good supply on hand.”

What does sewing bring to your life?   

I cannot draw or paint but I can take a piece of fabric and turn it into a garment.  Sewing is my creative outlet and it gives me such fulfillment and joy with each garment I make.  Sewing has also brought many friendships with women both near and far.”

Lori’s blog:  www.girlsinthegarden.blogspot.com/

Mood Sewing Network:  www.moodsewingnetwork.com

Rhonda’s New Year Re-SEW-Lutions!