When I invite people to share the pattern that changed their life I always make it clear that I’m open to things beyond patterns – whole books or classes are certainly capable of changing our creative lives just as much as single pattern if not more so. I’m excited that Cheryl Arkison’s life-changing experience was a workshop!
Cheryl is a quilt designer, writer, and teacher. Her newest book, You Inspire Me To Quilt, is in stores now. Check out her online classes on Craftsy and CreativeLive. Cheryl lives with her family in Calgary, Alberta and blogs at Dining Room Empire.
Here’s Cheryl to share the story:
One of my first quilting friends was a woman named Meredith. We met in an online chat group for quilters. Although she lived three hours away she drove up to take me to see a Mary Ellen Hopkins lecture. I’d only been quilting for a year or so at this point, and had, frankly, never heard of Mary Ellen Hopkins. The event, however, seemed like a good idea to get out and be quilty for the night.
Long story short, the evening blew my mind. For one, she was funny and vibrant. Even though I was out of the norm as a 24-year-old woman in the room (at least half of everyone else’s age), I had a stereotype in my head of what all quilters were – old, staid, boring, traditional. She was anything but boring and traditional! She made us all laugh, told stories about her quilts, and opened my eyes to so much more.
I remember two lessons she taught in particular. First, use what you think is an ugly fabric. More importantly, we need to look at fabrics off the bolt, cut up, to appreciate what they can do in our quilts. My fabric selection changed immediately after this and there are always pieces that I doubt, but throw in anyway. And they always work. It also got me using 5 fabrics when 1 will do, something I still do.
“2+2=4” by Cheryl Arkison. About this quilt she says, “2010 was a rough year and this quilt was one way to put it behind me. Named for the number of pregnancies and miscarriages at the time. Inspired entirely by a random handful of crayons my daughter placed in my hand.”
And second, she was very big into something she called Private Personal Measurements. It made me realize that you can do your own thing, all the time, and the finished quilt won’t care. As a teacher, it also reminds me – frequently – that people read a ruler, sew a ¼’’, and press differently.
Now, as I deliver trunk shows and classes I’ve come to truly appreciate what she was doing then. She was entertaining as well as inspiring. I didn’t know it at the time, but now I see that. She called herself a performer and that is indeed true. It is a good lesson for this industry. People are giving up time and paying money to see me and my quilts, I owe them a show. And I think back to Mary Ellen Hopkins frequently and the show she gave me that night.
Most modern quilters, especially if they’ve come to this world in the last decade, have likely never heard of Mary Ellen Hopkins. But likely you’ve sewn with techniques she is given credit for inventing, like adding triangles to the corners of a rectangle or square to get a flying geese block or basis for a star or otherwise. This technique has been adapted for improv and seems to be a standard for machine piecing now.
It is so important to acknowledge and remember the quilters, the women, who paved the way for the rest of us in this industry. For me, Mary Ellen Hopkins was it. I am so glad I was convinced to go out that night, it really did change my life.
A workshop by Mary Ellen Hopkins changed Cheryl Arkison’s creative life, helping to open her eyes to what it was to be an engaging and compassionate quilting teacher.