Tuesday September 2nd 2014

We Remember Mary Ellen Hopkins

It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Mary Ellen Hopkins. Tiny, feisty Mary Ellen was full of life and certainly marched to her own drummer when it came to quilting. In the AQS office, stories like “Her class was the first class in quilting I ever took,” or “It’s Okay if You Sit on My Quilt was the first quilting book I bought. I can remember sitting there with graph paper and colored pencils, imagining the possibilities.” Mary Ellen gifted the quilting world with a refreshing approach to patchwork and to life.

Mary Ellen opened the Crazy Ladies and Friends Quilt Shop in Santa Monica, California in 1977. She often recalled, “The customers came in more for the fabric than for the sewing and the classes were more lectures than hands-on. Students did the work at home. From that point on, I began receiving invitations to do lectures. Getting up on a stage and talking without interruptions was great.”

After 20 years, she sold the shop and devoted all her time to teaching and lectures. In 1982, she started her own publishing company with her first book, The It’s Okay If You Sit on My Quilt Book, which many quilters still have in their libraries. It was later revised. Mary Ellen was also the author of Baker’s Dozen Doubled, Connecting Up and its follow-up …Continuing On, Connector’s Collection 4 11/12, and A Log Cabin Notebook.

Mary Ellen is probably best known for creating the connector and perfect piecing triangles concepts and the PPM – Personal Private Measurement.

A memorial service is being planned for later this summer with the time and place to be announced. Thoughts and sympathy cards for Mary Ellen Hopkins can be sent to her son at this address:

David Hopkins
946 Woodgrove Drive
Cardiff by the Sea, CA 92007

A Reflection by Kevin Britton, a friend of Mary Ellen and the designer of three of her books


“My memories of Mary Ellen Hopkins are of a small bundle of energy urging people to get over their hurdles, ¼” seam allowances for one, by kicking down those hurdles, ignoring the rules, and making up their own “Personal Private Measurements.” I worked with her on the design of her books. We took the messages she expressed in her entertaining lectures and translated them into fun books which gave a visual foundation to her lesson – even if the reader hadn’t seen the lecture. We did this over the phone and through the mail, so we hadn’t met when the first book had gone to the printer.

“Shortly after that, she gave a lecture at a local quilt shop, Quilt Quarters in Indianapolis. The shop owner and Mary Ellen’s friend Kaye England invited me to the class to surprise her. As Mary Ellen gave her comical presentation she would make suggestive comments about the tall man in the back, and Kaye would tell her, “that’s Kevin.” Mary Ellen would continue talking about the subject matter and throw out more comments about getting chocolates and wine, then mention the tall guy in the back again, Kaye would remind her it was “Kevin.”

“After the lecture was completed and people in class were asking their questions, Kaye brought me up to Mary Ellen, who stood about to my chest, and introduced me as “Kevin.” She said she remembered my name, and then Kaye said, “Kevin, the guy who worked on your book.” She looked up at me, then grabbed me, laughed and hugged me saying she thought I was just some man in class she was flirting with. Mary Ellen had given a hilariously motivating speech, made me feel part of her family, and had created a warm memory to remember her by with a smile.”

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29 Comments for “We Remember Mary Ellen Hopkins”

  • Peg G. says:

    Mary Ellen was a beautiful person through and through with just the right combination of sugar and sass. She was the scheduled speaker at my guild meeting on the day that I happened to get laid off from my job. I was at a very low point and was going to skip the meeting, but decided to go. Mary Ellen was such an upbeat person and passed along so many wonderful stories that I was laughing out loud by the end of the evening. We are diminished by her loss. I hope there is an afterlife ’cause I’d surely like to hang out with Mary Ellen there.

  • Margie says:

    RIP Beautiful lady. My sympathy’s to her family and friends.

  • Margie Hays says:

    How sad to hear about MEH’s passing. I was privileged to attend a couple of her lectures through my former guild in SoCal (Camarillo Quilters’ Assoc.) and loved her wit, intelligence, humor, and genuine artistry. We have truly lost a fine person from the quilting world. My heartfelt sympathy to her family and friends.

  • Ann Sines says:

    Mary Ellen was one of the lecturers at the first quilt show I ever attended in Minnesota. She spoke for 6 hours without notes. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much in one day. I also knew I wanted to be able to capture an audience like that, without notes, and now I can. But not like Mary Ellen. She was without peer.

  • Linda P in IL says:

    I was privileged to hear Mary Ellen Hopkins speak at MQS in 2000 or 2001. I can truthfully say I have never laughed so much in my life. Isn’t that a wonderful way to be remembered! Heaven is richer for having Mary Ellen there.
    She was one of the quilt pioneers of our time. I am thankful for her life and all she did for others!

  • Jan Knight says:

    Such a sad day in the world when we lost MEH. I was lucky enough to attend one of her lectures on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia back in the late 80′s. Her wit and wisdom was infectious and I will always remember her with awe. RIP Mary and sure you’re organising everyone in quilter’s heaven!

  • Marjorie Collis says:

    I have a small collection of her books, and have loved the thought that it’s YOUR quilt, YOUR rules. THAT is the best inspiration for a quilter. I hope there is a special place for quilters, and that I meet her there. Never was able to meet her in person, but she’s one of my favorites.
    Margie

  • Teresa Golding says:

    Vale Mary Ellen. I attended one of her lectures in Brisbane Australia – this little pocket rocket of a person comes bouncing into the room, and before long we all resolved to use our PPMs and ignore the quilt police!! and we all laughed so much. Her OK if you Sit on my quilt book is still very handy, and now if I see a pattern that looks too complicated I mentally overlay a grid pattern on it….thank you Mary Ellen. I’m glad I had the opportunity to see you in person and learn from you.

  • Virginia Koster says:

    Mary Ellen came to Hobart Tasmania Australia in the early 90′s and gave her fabulous talk at our local quilt and craft show. She totally freed me of my fear of the Quilt Police, and I still have the sample of her “loose goose” she gave to every audience member that day. She will be missed.

  • Betty from CA and now MI says:

    I recall watching Mary Ellen on ‘Simply Quilts’ with Alex Anderson and thought what a wonderful approach to quilting. She brought so much to the quilting world. My condolences to her family.

  • Carol Butzke in WI says:

    Mary Ellen’s suggestion about what to do about your UFOs (especially those that didn’t turn out so good): Find the most beautiful white garment box (like the ones that Marshall Field’s used to have), add new tissue, iron the UFO and fold neatly in the box, cover, write on the end of the box “For my son’s wife”, put on a closet shelf and forget about it.” After you have passed on, your family comes to clean out the house, your son finds the beautiful box and its not so beautiful unfinished project, hands it to his wife, who is rolling her eyes, and says, “but mother left it for YOU.”
    Mary Ellen was a treasure that left her mark on so many of us. I will remember her fondly.

  • Sharon L-S says:

    I had just Googled Mary Ellen’s name on 7/9 to see what she was up to these days. It is sew sad to learn of her passing. I
    was in several of her classes and lectures during the years there was a Quilt show at the Indianapolis Convention Center. She was a hoot. RIP Mary Ellen.

  • Rosemary M says:

    Of all the lectures I have attended over the years, Mary Ellen Hopkins remains the most memorable and the funniest. I made it a point to collect all of her books and practice my own PPM. Thanks Mary Ellen for the education and laughter.

  • Glenda Mitchell says:

    From the very first time I say Mary Ellen I was hooked on her. She was a very special lady that was so very talented. The way she smiled and her energy was infectious, she had spirit like no other. She will be greatly missed. The quilt world is a better place for having known her. My sympathy goes out to her family.

  • s.d.sisco says:

    She is the quilter I most wanted to meet.

  • LINDA MCGOWAN says:

    watching mary ellen on tv. is what inspired me to be a quilter, she made quilting fun…. i could not wait to see her on simply quilts, i never got a chance to meet her but she was an inspiration to many of us quilters we all feel like family..she will be greatly missed ….see u in quilt heaven mary ellen ……..

  • Esther J says:

    I am so sorry to hear of Mary Ellen’s passing. Her book, It’s Okay If You Sit On My Quilt, is one of the first quilting books I bought. Last night, I pulled it out of my now considerable stash of quilting books and had fun looking through it. Thank heaven for quilters like Mary Helen.

  • kaholly says:

    I am very saddened by this news. As others can claim, Mary Ellen was very inspirational in my early quilting days. May she rest in piece.

  • Jeanne B. Brophy says:

    I first saw Mary Ellen on Simply Quilts with Alex Anderson and she opened my eyes to quilting. She gave me permission to be me and not follow all the rules of a pattern.

  • Norah McMeeking says:

    Mary Ellen will be missed by leagues of people–not only quilters I am sure. She’s a perfect example of “they broke the cast when she was made.” I was so lucky to hear her speak early in my quilting “career”and found her approach so down to earth and empowering. She was a bundle of energy and wit. She gave so many of us the gift of laughter. Our ranks are diminished with her passing. I fully expect to see patchwork clouds off the coast of California.

  • Jeannette Iacono says:

    I was so shocked to hear this sad news!!! Have no idea what happened??? I met Mary Ellen some years ago at a quilt show in Long Island N.Y. I was outside taking a break and she came out and actually came over to talk to me! LOL ..we had such a great chat.
    Now I’m living in Pa. and joined a quilt guild, Last year or the year before at my request the guild co-ordinator tried to have Mary Ellen visit us.
    My heart goes out to her family and friends she was a warm, funny wonderful lady.
    Jeannette

  • Ruth S. says:

    I would not be a quilter today were it not for Mary Ellen’s techniques, which I learned in the second class I ever took. She was a delight in her lectures and a very freeing teacher. I have used her techniques in my nearly 20 year career teaching quilting, whether the pattern uses her techniques or not, She really revolutionized quilting for all of us. Mary Ellen lives on!

  • Susan says:

    I remember seeing MEH at R2C and was told that it was going to be her last lecture. I was lucky enough to get to sit in the front row for this wonderful lecture. At one point, I turned around and the whole room was packed and was standing room only. I think everyone that was at R2C that year, was in that lecture room. I purchased all of her books and have learned a lot of techniques. I have applied her principal of PPM to many of my students in helping them learn how to quilt. She was a hoot and will be sadly missed :(

  • JaneCPD says:

    The world has lost a woman who single handedly changed the quilting world…PPMs, whizzy wackers (rotary cutters), connectors, and reminding us that we need the ugly colors and fabrics to make the others Pop….you changed the way I quilt and I will always treasure the many weeks we spent in Las Vegas together – you’d get us so jacked up that we would only sleep 7 hours over the 7 days we were there…no gambling, just sewing our brains out and laughing…I will always miss my favorite ‘crazy lady’….I also remember that at her store you could get a 7-Eleven bag if you wanted to ‘hide’ your purchased to get them into the house. LOL You were in a league of your own…JaneCPD

  • Mary Sprenger says:

    One of my first small quilts was made with a fat quarter if Mary Ellen fabric as the focus fabric—I heard someone say the fabeic had movement—sounded good to this novice so I bought it. My first teacher was Ruth Alexander in Las Vegas who was a believer of Mary Ellen and quoted her often. I went to her shop just once. RIP

  • Darlene Joyner says:

    Mary Ellen changed my quilting eyes. With her PPM I was
    able to free my self and do wacky quilts .
    She will tkae over the sewing room in Heaven…

  • gypsybarron says:

    i remember mary ellen hopkins i got to see her once on a tv series simply quilts and i loved her humor she talking bout making triangles and how u dont ever cut off the little ends if ur triangles dont match simplely use them to contiue for the next one and her little silly way she made u laugh she really made quilting fun i will never forget her ….. she is and always will b in my thoughts when i quilt i can still hear her laughter and her funny little quirts and sayings she had she will sadly b missed thats for sure …..

  • Elise Dee Beraru says:

    I just read about MEH’s death in Quilters Newsletter. I spent many hours at Crazy Ladies and still have some of Mary Ellen’s signature fabric that finds its way into my projects. I took classes from her and had many discussions about her way of making patterns next to patterns work. I have her books and use many of her methods when I make pieced quilts. She was the first world famous quilt teacher I knew and will always hold a special place in my heart. May her memory be for a blessing.

  • Sandy Hagins Valeri says:

    I knew Mary Ellen many years ago, when she first opened her store. I already knew how to crochet, and she patiently helped me begin my first ambitious knitting project. She was a wonderful,warm and supportive crazy lady. For some reason I was curious to look up her old store, and was sad to learn of her passing. But I wanted to leave my thoughts here for her family and close friends. Her reach was far and wide. And her kindness was known to all who knew her.


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