In Memoriam: Gutcheon, Hopkins

In the past few weeks the quilt world has lost two important figures, Jeffrey Gutcheon and Mary Ellen Hopkins.

Jeffrey Gutcheon

Longtime Quilters Newsletter columnist and Quilters Hall of Fame inductee Jeffrey Gutcheon died June 23 in New York. An architect by training, Gutcheon taught architectural design at MIT and practiced in a firm before leaving the field and pursuing a career in music. His ability to play keyboards in different styles enabled him to work steadily as a studio musician in the 1960s and 1970s, performing and recording with artists such as Gladys Knight, Willie Nelson and Ringo Starr. He released an album in 1972 with his own band, Hungry Chuck, that has earned cult status among rock music fans. He continued to work periodically as an architect designing recording studios, including the Hit Factory, and was the original music director for the Tony award-winning musical Ain’t Misbehavin’ in the late 1970s.

Gutcheon grew up around textiles thanks to his father’s business and his mother’s interest in needlework. When in the early 1970s his then wife, Beth, learned to quilt and started adapting traditional designs, Gutcheon designed a pattern for her to make and soon learned to sew on his own. He illustrated Beth Gutcheon’s first quilt book published in 1973, The Perfect Patchwork Primer, the same year the couple started their own fabric design company. Ten years later Gutcheon Patchworks started manufacturing its own line of fabrics, the American Classic Line.

His regular column, “Not for Shopkeepers Only”, first appeared in the July/August 1981 issue of Quilters Newsletter and offered a behind-the-scenes look at the quilting industry over the course of 12 years. Gutcheon authored or co-authored several quilting books and was inducted into the Quilters Hall of Fame in 1990.

Mary Ellen Hopkins

Quilting teacher, author and fabric designer Mary Ellen Hopkins died July 9 in California. Hopkins was born in Peoria, Illinois, lived in a number of Midwestern cities while growing up, and attended Drury College and Missouri University. She and her husband, Bill, and their four children moved to Santa Monica, California, in 1963. Hopkins worked from home for a few years making men’s shirts before opening the Crazy Ladies and Friends Quilt Shop in Santa Monica in 1977.

In 1989 she self-published her first book, The It’s Okay If You Sit on My Quilt Book, which she called an “attitude adjustment quilt book” and Quilters Newsletter described as, “Great for beginners – takes quilts out of the realm of preciousness and encourages just jumping in and doing it.” Hopkins went on to publish more instruction books including her “Connector” series. After 20 years of quilt shop ownership, Hopkins sold her shop to teach and lecture around the U.S. and internationally. Her topics included quilting seminars for teachers and shop owners and neighborhood-shop seminars for consumers, all delivered with her trademark high-energy, humorous style.

The staff of Quilters Newsletter wish to express their deep condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of both Jeffrey Gutcheon and Mary Ellen Hopkins.

[Corrected from an earlier version that gave the date Mary Ellen Hopkins died as July 10.]

About Mary Kate Karr-Petras

Mary Kate is an associate editor at Quilters Newsletter. If you ask her what type of quilter she considers herself, she'll answer, "Slow." Favorite techniques include hand quilting, both traditional and big stitch, but she also loves her walking foot and keeps meaning to get better acquainted with her open-toe embroidery foot.
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9 Responses to In Memoriam: Gutcheon, Hopkins

  1. Tricia Mosser says:

    I was fortunate to see Mary Ellen Hopkins in person. She entered the stage area on a motorcycle, it was the best lecture I ever saw. She was truly a quilt maven of her own kind!!

  2. Aileen Elgie says:

    I am so sad to learn about Jeffrey Gutcheon’s death. I attended a 3 day workshop on Long Island back in the 70s when Beth and Jeff were still together. Their presentation was generous with quilting knowledge spiked with such humor that they made fans of all of us that weekend. He was a man with many talents who influenced the world of quilting in thoughtful and distinctive ways and I feel a little lonely knowing that he has gone from us.

  3. Linda Stokes says:

    I am so sorry to hear of Mary Ellen’s passing. It was her book, “The It’s OK ….” that freed my quilting. Until I stumbled onto her book, I thought I had to follow exactly the directions and colors on any quilt pattern I found, which led to a lot of frustration. With this book, she showed me I could also design my own quilt and use a pattern as a jumping off point. I still have her books and refer to them when I get stuck while working on a quilt. My condolences to her family.

  4. Susan says:

    Mary Ellen spoke at the quilt show in 1989 in New York City. I remember her well, speaking of the greatest invention of the century, the Whizzy Whacker (aka rotary cutter). She was truly one of a kind! May light perpetual shine upon her, and grant her God’s peace. My condolences to her family.

  5. Lena Frost says:

    Along with these two, we also mourn the passing of Pat Campbell whose life changed so drastically after her aneurysm. I was in an applique workshop taught by Pat not long before the aneurysm that happened just weeks before her wedding. The class was filled with tips and techniques for applique – not just for beginners but for those who had appiqued for a long time. I remember her saying that she didn’t hold back on sharing tips that made her applique shine but rather preferred to share everything she knew to help us all become more proficient. That had a profound effect on me and I seek to follow that as I now teach applique years later.

  6. I wish I could have had the opportunity to attend one of Mrs. Hopkins’ workshop. I was thinking of her just the past week. I enjoyed everyone of her television appearances on the different quilt and sewing series that I fortunate enough to see. See had a unique brand of humor with her teaching.

    My deep sympathy to her family and friends

  7. Susan says:

    I remember attending a weekend workshop here in Australia and it was so much fun. She had such enthusiasm for her quilting and it was certainly catching. I’ve wondered about her in the last year or so and saw about her passing on a blog. I’m glad to have met her.

  8. Both these quilters influenced my work, I love the fabrics Gutcheon designed and still use techniques of Mary Ellen’s, especially for Log Cabin designs. Two pioneers in the modern quilt movement.

  9. Joanna Brooks says:

    Mary Ellen was my Quilt Guru. I first saw her, when as a very frustrated new quilter, she spoke to our guild. It was like a bolt of lightening to hear her simplify and remove all the do’s and don’t's that had been pounded into my head. I always said that Mary Ellen was a stand up comedienne who happened to be a quilter. She was so fun to be with and learn from. Mr. Gutcheon was a dear gentleman. I had just opened a quilt shop and wanted his solids in my store so badly that I called him and told him I would wear pajamas made of his fabric it was so nice to touch and work with. He got a kick out of that and remembered it when we later met in person. The quilt world has surely lost to quilt angels and I just wish ME had been honored by the industry that she gave so much to.

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