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.]

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