If you were quilting in the late 1970s and 80s, you were lucky to have Eleanor Burns; she made quilting easy. She pioneered the use of time-saving devices like rotary cutters and specialty rulers, and showed you how to make a quilt in a day. And if you didn’t start out with Eleanor, she’s still someone you should know about because she’s still going strong. If you want to see Eleanor in action, join The Quilters Hall of Fame Virtual Celebration 2020 and watch her video on July 17th about log cabin quilts.
I’ve made a few log cabins in my day: a pair of flannel ones that cover our couches in the winter, the one in my profile picture using my hand-dyed fabric, the straight furrows setting I showed in the post about Jean Wells, and this top.
But, even though this is a basic block, I’ll bet I can learn something from Eleanor, so I plan to watch the video. She will probably demonstrate the use of her log cabin ruler which is on sale now through Connecting Threads (link below)
The log cabin block is a fitting subject for Celebration; Eleanor launched her quilting operations with “Make a Quilt in a Day: Log Cabin Pattern” published in 1967. She went on to write 125 quilting books including several more in the Quilt in a Day series, and she named her business Quilt in a Day. Here are some of the titles still available, from the original to the 6th edition.
Eleanor is also known for her early promotion of strip piecing—another way to make a quilt easily. Many of her students are proud to say, “Eleanor Burns taught me to strip”, and some have the t-shirt to prove it. If you’ve been to Quilt Week in Paducah, you know Eleanor for great shopping—the year I went, she had three locations around town, including one in tents where she offered sales on a different color every day. You can still shop with Eleanor virtually (link below). There are 240 different rulers and template sets; I came away with one for Winding Ways that has helpful registration marks—I’ll post if I ever get something made with it. And a nice feature of the fabric store is a link to other fabrics in the same line; if you see something on sale, you can check whether companion fabrics are available.
But although she is an energetic and successful quilt entrepreneur, Eleanor Burns is a teacher at heart. With her BS in Ed (same as me, a long time ago), she has the perfect background to know how to reach and motivate students. And she’s generous with it; you can find dozens of videos and free patterns on her website—if you want a really rowdy, fun time, try the block party series. Or, check out some of the episodes on the playlist below. Why didn’t I find these at the beginning of shelter in place? If I had watched a video once a week, and tried the techniques Eleanor demonstrates, imagine how much my quilting repertoire would have improved!
And in her spare time, she has designed several fabric collections for Benartex, Inc., including “Eleanor’s Anniversary Florals,” “Rainbow Florals,” “Yours Truly, Eleanor Burns,” Yours Truly Holiday,” Magic Vine,” “Victory Garden,” “Ellie Ann,” and “Zoey Christine.” .” Below are samples from her recent Garden Party Collection (from the Benartex website). I think I could make a quilt out of this line—it’s so fresh!
It’s no wonder that Eleanor Burns is a Quilters Hall of Fame Honoree. But look at this list of other awards and recognition:
- Primedia Awards of Excellence, 1992, 1994, 1998, 2003
- Business Advocate Award for San Diego 1993
- San Diego Book Awards Association Certificate for Outstanding Accomplishments 1993
- Michael Kyle Award of the San Diego Book Awards Association for outstanding accomplishments in “How To” books
- American Quilter’s Society All-American Quilter 2005
- Michael Kile Lifetime Achievement Award given by Quilts, Inc. (host of International Quilt Market)
- Spokesperson for Elna sewing machines and for Baby Lock Quilters Dream machines
With all those accolades, you might wonder if Eleanor Burns has a swelled head—no such thing! She’s the most down to earth person around. She’s been described as a “scream” and a “hoot”, and she’s not afraid to dress up and have a little fun. These photos are from the Quilters Hall of Fame archives, but you might also see her like this in Paducah.
Eleanor’s designs are well-represented on the Quilt Index. This sampling shows not only to her popularity, but also her ability to teach so many. None of these quilts is flashy or modern, but each one is a reminder of the impact Eleanor Burns has had, and continues to enjoy, on the world of quilting.
Top row right: West Pasco Quilting Group. Trip Around the World, Eleanor Burns. 2010. From Florida Quilt Project, Florida Quilt Project. Published in The Quilt Index, http://www.quiltindex.org/fulldisplay.php?kid=53-9E-197. Accessed: 07/13/2020 was in Navy retired – wanted patriotic.
Middle Row left: Bayle, Inez G.. Basket of Everlasting Blooms. 2002. From Michigan State University Museum, Michigan Quilt Project. Published in The Quilt Index, http://www.quiltindex.org/fulldisplay.php?kid=1E-3D-202B. Accessed: 07/13/2020.
Middle row right: Franco, Janie. Been under too long. 2010. From Florida Quilt Project, Florida Quilt Project. Published in The Quilt Index, http://www.quiltindex.org/fulldisplay.php?kid=53-9E-18C. Accessed: 07/13/2020
Bottom row left: Gallagher, Virginia. Pioneer Quilt. c. 1995. From Western Pennsylvania Quilt Documentation Project, Beaver County Historical Research and Landmarks Foundation. Published in The Quilt Index, http://www.quiltindex.org/fulldisplay.php?kid=58-99-5B1. Accessed: 07/13/2020 I saw this quilt on an Eleanor Burns TV program.
Bottom row right: Raschka, Gladys. Simply 30’s Sampler. 2005. From Minnesota Quilters Inc., Minnesota Quilt Project. Published in The Quilt Index, http://www.quiltindex.org/fulldisplay.php?kid=49-7E-1184. Accessed: 07/13/2020 Egg Money Quilts by Eleanor Burns.
So, how was that for eye candy? If you want more, Eleanor has a Facebook page, Quilt in a Day and Eleanor Burns, and you can keep up with her there.
And one more reminder: check the Quilters Hall of Fame website for details on Eleanor’s Log Cabin video on July 17 during our Virtual Celebration (https://quiltershalloffame.net/).
Your quilting friend,
Connecting Threads site: https://www.connectingthreads.com/quilt-in-a-day-log-cabin-ruler/p/82595
Quilt in a Day shopping https://www.quiltinaday.com/shoponline/
Free patterns https://www.quiltinaday.com/freepattern/
I’m Anna Harkins, and I volunteer on the Collections Committee at The Quilters Hall of Fame. What else would you like to know about me? Married, no kids; one old horse, retired, and live in a western suburb of Chicago. I’ve been quilting for about 20 years (I wish I could say I learned from my grandmother, but some of us come to this later than others), and I’m a quilt history dilettante, “a person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge.” There are real scholars among you, and I have no pretensions to that level—hats off to you! But I am interested, especially in the people who have made up the quilt world here in the US, which is why I’ve agreed to blog for The Quilters Hall of Fame. I plan to write every week, and I hope you’ll join the discussions.