Eichlers Make a Splash in the Quilt World

Mickey Beebe's Eichler-themed quilt has won acclaim from fans of modern quilting. This detail shows her attention to, well, detail. Quilt photos by Marty McGilivray.

Why should this be a surprise? The 'largest modern quilting show of its kind' has just awarded a first prize to a quilt that illustrates Eichler homes.

“Probably my top pick of the show," writes Sam Hunter, a fiber artist and canny observer of the quilt world.

“The magic in this quilt is all in the details,” he writes. “Check out the echoed outlines on the houses, complete with little details like TV antennas. A perfect homage to the illustrations of the era.”

The creator of the quilt, which won first prize this February at QuiltCon West in the Triangle Challenge by EZ Quilting, is the very modest Mickey Beebe, who lives in a Cape Cod Colonial in the woodsy town of Bonnie Doon, in the hills above Santa Cruz. “It’s definitely not a modern style,” she concedes of her house.

Beebe, who grew up in San Carlos, remembers seeing Eichlers during her childhood, when she and the family would cruise past homes and talk about them. Plus, a cousin lives in a ‘Likeler’ in Hayward.

Mickey's Eichler quilt uses white space and simple asymmetric designs, which are characteristic of modern style quilts.

“I like architecture,” she says. “I like the Eichler houses.”

To come up with imagery, she drove around the Eichler homes of San Mateo Highlands and didn’t even pull out a camera. “ I just looked at [the houses], and I kind of memorized them.”

When she began making the quilt, she intended to enter it into a different competition, whose theme was 'mid-century modern.'

“In the history of quilts,” Mickey says, “there are the series of cornball house quilts, a repeated house. I kind of had the idea of doing a modern house because the idea for the division was mid-century modern.”

Although she didn’t get the Eichler quilt done in time for the first show, when “a totally modern quilt show,” QuiltCon West came up in Pasadena, she entered it. “It is kind of hard to win something. There is a lot of competition,” she says, adding, “If you enter something in a show, it has to be unique, something people have never seen before.”

“I would see the people who really liked the Eichler quilt,” she says. “Architects really liked the quilt.”

An image of the quilt was used on a banner outside of the convention center, Mickey says, adding, “There was a $1,000 prize they say I will be getting.”

The Eichler quilt is now on the road, traveling with other winners to quilt exhibits and events throughout the nation.

San Mateo
Mickey Beebe cruised past homes like this in the Eichler subdivision of San Mateo Highlands to draw inspiration for her quilt. Photo by Dave Weinstein

In a way, maybe it’s surprising Mickey won such an honor. “The age group [of most QuiltCon quilters] is not me,” she says. “It’s younger women who didn’t like the older style of quilting.”

But Mickey has always been a sort of maverick quilter. “You know how trends come and go? If some trend is going on, I don’t do that.”

She also considers herself to be a “a modern quilter.”

“I started out as a traditional quilter. But the modern is what I’m moving toward. It’s something different,” she says, adding:

“Traditional quilting, you do the same block and repeat, repeat, repeat. Modern is more asymmetrical, and tends to have a white background.”

Although she studied art years back, she didn’t take to quilting until 1997, when she joined the Pajaro Valley Quilt Association.

Since then she has created between 50 to 60 quilts, many for her grandchildren, friend’s children, and for use around the house. But 20 or so have been designed for quilting shows.

Quilting for Mickey is not a career, but an avocation – though she does pull in royalties from a design she created for quilted 'BB Bags.' She rarely sells her award-winning quilts, especially those she really likes, those she has not tired of. “I do like that Eichler quilt,” she says. “I’m going to keep that for a while.”

Over the years Mickey has won a number of awards for her quilts. “In 2009,” The Pajaro quilting association bragged about Mickey, “her quilt graced the cover of the program for the International Quilt Festival in Long Beach. Mickey and her quilts have also been published in Quilter's Newsletter.”

But the career changing moment for Mickey came just in the past few years.

Another of Mickey's modern quilts, Churn Dash Boogie-Woogie, suggests the jazzy nature of her designs.

“What turned my career, in 2013, I saw a thing, ‘Please submit quilts to ‘500 Traditional Quilts,’ a book from Stash publishing. So I sent in five pictures, then forgot about it. About a year and a half later I got an email. They were going to run three of them in the book.”

“Then a really large quilt show wanted two of them for the show,” Mickey says. “It seems like, ever since then, like now, suddenly people like my quilts.”

She’s also getting some publicity through the upcoming  International Quilt Festival in Chicago, which is using one of her quilts as the festival’s signature in its ads, on tote bags, and on programs. The ad ran in every quilt magazine.”

“It feels good,” Mickey says about the attention. “It’s fun.”

Modern Amish
'Modern Amish II' was created, the artist says, for an exhibit, 'The Amish: the Modern Muse," at the Museum of Quilts and Textiles in San Jose

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