Entry into hall of fame caps quilter’s career
Quilt educator and living legend Eleanor Burns may be most known for her cavalier habit of tossing leftover fabric scraps over her shoulder while working at her cutting table.
Thousands of today’s avid quilters have watched Burns teach her Quilt in a Day techniques on public television, laughing at her humor while honing their skills. With her career spanning nearly 35 years, Burns found her niche by applying easy assembly line sewing to traditional piecework.
When quilters meet her at public appearances, they most often ask, “Who picks up your scraps?”
“I do a lot of the picking up myself,” Burns answers with a laugh from her Quilt in a Day headquarters in San Marcos, Calif. This comical gesture is to let viewers know quilting “is not rocket science,” but a hobby and passion to enjoy.
Since starting the business in her home in 1979, Burns has authored more than 100 quilt instruction books, been a TV host more than 22 years and designed scores of patterns and many popular fabric collections.
A grandmother of five who will turn 67 on July 3, Burns also teaches at venues across the country.
As an industry role model, Burns will celebrate a career high point July 21, when she’s inducted into the Quilters Hall of Fame in Marion, Ind. The honor recognizes her accomplishments and outstanding contributions to the world of quilting.
The 2012 celebration runs July 19–21 at the historic landmark home of quilt designer Marie D. Webster in Marion, where workshops and lectures by industry professionals, a quilt contest and other activities are scheduled.
Burns herself will offer two lectures, “Just Ask” and “Tales of First Ladies.”
The latter is the title of her latest publication, a sampler quilt book with blocks dedicated to early women who inhabited the White House.
Having built her reputation on historical research and traditional quilt designs, Burns says she made the 12-inch and 6-inch blocks of reproduction fabrics, mostly Civil War-era, and put them in a unique setting based on an antique quilt.
As Burns prepares to enter the Hall of Fame, she recalls the many “good things that have happened” during the years and says she never tires of sitting at her sewing machine, designing quilts and writing books.
She also is grateful to have family members involved in her business. One son, Orion, is general manager of Quilt in a Day.
Burns also dotes on her grandchildren, the most recent, Zoey, born June 10. With five in five years, Burns says she immediately purchased a car that accommodates five car seats.
“It’s a true grandma car,” she says proudly, adding that the grandchildren all live within 2 miles of her.
Limelight frequently falls on Burns, whose resume boasts a wealth of other prestigious awards, including the 1999 Michael Kile Lifetime Achievement Award for her support of the quilting industry and her work for the advancement of quilting.
In 2005, she was voted one of five All American Quilters through an online survey sponsored by the American Quilter’s Society.
She was pleased to be chosen Quilting Legend 2011 by “The Quilt Show” co-hosts Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims.
The online program featured a visit to Burns’ log home in Julian, Calif., and filmed her quilts there.
And the list of acclamations goes on.
As ideas and new projects keep coming to Burns, she turns them into reality with a fervor matched only by the acceleration of her machine’s foot pedal.
In 2013, she’s releasing a fabric line from Benartex called Ellie Ann. Burns describes it as “truly romantic” with large florals and fussy cut designs that are old-fashioned but imbued with fresh colors. Filming of new television shows are in the works, too.
On her website, http://www.quiltinaday.com, Burns offers a Media Theatre with free videos, as well as a block party from “El’s Kitchen” that’s filmed with a live audience (each pattern relates to food).
BUCKET LIST QUILTERS
She’s also a member of an old-fashioned quilt gathering called The Bucket List, in which each person chooses 12 quilts to make before her life ends.
“It’s another name for UFO (unfinished objects),” Burns says. Meetings involve potluck meals, sharing of ideas, support for finishing quilts and a drawing for $100 at the end of the year “so one member can go out and buy more fabric.”
Burns recently shared cherry jam from her own kitchen with the group.
Through the years, she’s seen many changes in quilting — from tools to styles — and notes the Modern Quilt movement going on today.
“The look has changed so much, with large scale of fabric patterns, bright colors, large blocks “even as big as 36 inches square” and easy, fast techniques,” Burns says.
So much happens through the Internet, such as block exchanges and blogs with tutorials, for example.
“I really hope that traditional quilts won’t be lost,” she says. “I want quilters to go beyond (the Internet) and go to quilt shops, take classes and enjoy the friendship of others as in times past.”
Besides quilting, Burns admits to two other passions: “I love dark chocolate and coffee.” Her weak spot is Chocolate Bliss candy by Dove, the wrappers printed with maxims, similar to fortune cookies.
For June 15, Burns’ message was “You are exactly where you’re supposed to be,” which succinctly wraps up her attitude on life.