Ellie Fellers works on a quilt Thursday at her house in New Gloucester. Fellers is an avid quilter. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

NEW GLOUCESTER — When longtime quilter Ellie Fellers was 61 and diagnosed with breast cancer, she did not even know how to thread a needle on a sewing machine.

But she needed a hobby.

When a friend took her to a quilt show in Brunswick, Fellers was bitten by the fiber arts bug.

“I said to my friend, ‘I think I can make one,’” Fellers said in a recent telephone interview.

She bought the necessary supplies — a ruler (“everything has to be kind of perfect”), a rotary cutter and a mat — at an Auburn craft store and crossed the river to get fabric at Marden’s Surplus and Salvage in Lewiston.

“My friend became my mentor,” she said. “I started making quilts using a fence rail pattern.”


Ellie Fellers holds up one of her favorite quilts Thursday at her house in New Gloucester. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Fellers, now 84, made these quilts for years, gifting her four children and others “because I didn’t know if I was going to die.” She also worked as a contributing writer for the Sun Journal.

She was free within 10 years of the cancer that had attacked both breasts. Seven years ago, she was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that is slow to develop.

She feels good and is still quilting, having learned new patterns.

“My cousin in Massachusetts finally said, ‘Ellie, you need a new pattern, you need to expand,’” Fellers said. She learned how to make log cabin style quilts, and then she signed up for a quilting class in Auburn. She attended for 15 years.

“I went every week and learned how to make other styles,” she said. “I discovered that I like color a lot and I like fabric a lot.”

She belongs to Maine Modern Quilters and an online quilting group, the Magpies (so named because they have been accused of talking too much), which has members from the United States, Canada, England and Australia.


Before the COVID-19 pandemic, she traveled to quilt shows in Chicago and Texas.

One of Ellie Fellers’ quilts features the Statue of Liberty wearing a mask. Fellers sewed a number of masks at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Quilting has brought her many friends. She recently hosted two visitors from Texas. Among their top goals for their Maine stay: lobster rolls and (No. 1) fabric shopping at Marden’s.

“It’s the friendship that really has evolved through that craft called quilting,” Fellers said. “As a widow I’ve been on a journey.

Francis Fellers, a pediatrician, suffered from “that awful disease” Alzheimer’s. Dr. Fellers died in 2008, but “he was gone for a long time before that because of the dementia,” his wife said.

Over the years, her house has become a studio. One of five sewing machines sits on the kitchen table and “fabric is everywhere,” she said.

She is thinking about her next project. Over the past winter, she made five quilts, plus a blue and yellow runner in homage to Ukraine. She kind of has a dog in that fight.


Her grandmother had fled the pogroms in Odessa in 1900 “with two babies under her arms,” Fellers said. “I’m here in this place because of her.”

It is a good place, Fellers said.

Ellie Fellers works on quilts Thursday on her kitchen table at her house in New Gloucester. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Her four children have moved back to Maine from California, Massachusetts, and Oregon. They all live in Cumberland County, near their mother.

In addition to quilting, she belongs to a knitting group and a book club.

She stays busy and no longer gets lonely.

“I’ve reached the point where being here alone is fine,” she said. “I don’t mind that.”

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