Ludlowville quilter to be featured in showcase

Tracy McLellan trims a thread on a quilt in her workroom in Ludlowville. She will be the featured artist at the Tompkins County Quilters Guild’s 2019 Quilt Show.
Tracy McLellan trims a thread on a quilt in her workroom in Ludlowville. She will be the featured artist at the Tompkins County Quilters Guild’s 2019 Quilt Show.
Photo by Matt Montague

Tracy McLellan of Ludlowville will be the featured artist at the Tompkins County Quilters Guild’s 2019 Quilt Show to be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 5 and 6 at the TC3 Field House in Dryden.

The show will feature McLellan’s vibrant tropical bird quilts alongside hundreds of other quilts, wearable art, soft sculpture and special exhibits.

There will be a vendors’ mall, workshops, a silent auction, books and magazines and gently used quilts and clothing for sale. Admission is $6 for adults, and children under 12 are admitted free.

McLellan’s family is from Tompkins County, but she spent her first decade or so in Corning. Her family moved to Ithaca as she entered seventh grade, and she attended Boynton Middle and Ithaca High School before attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for her bachelors and doctoral degrees.

Following a postdoctoral appointment at Harvard University, McLellan moved around the county and then the world. She settled in Johannesburg, South Africa, when a three-month field trip turned into a 20-year university appointment working in population genetics – plants and then people.

Quilting was a sometime thing until she moved back from South Africa in 2010.

“I headed to Ithaca and then this place in Ludlowville, which I love,” she said. “I love this old house and I have wonderful neighbors and a waterfall just down the street. And it’s quiet.”

Though she learned to sew in seventh grade and began quilting in grad school as a reaction to “the male world of science,” McLellan’s current work in the art began with a volunteer stint at the Sew Green store in Ithaca.

“When I moved here in my retirement, I planned to work with fabric, but dying and not quilting,” McLellan said. “Then I met a woman who dragged me to the Quilting Guild meetings.”

There are about 120 people in the guild, and the flurry of talks, workshops and bi-annual retreats on Lake Owasco soon resurrected her quilting skills.

“There is a lot of camaraderie,” McLellan said. “You are doing something together that has substance. We do charity projects – quilts for babies, teens, cancer patients. We have a lot of creative energy – so what do we do with it all?”

What about the tropical birds?

“When I moved here, I had not seen a real winter in quite some time,” McLellan said. “I tolerated it but then I had to go to the south where it is warm, green and humid. So I went to Costa Rica that first year and, when I got there, I looked for a plants book. There were no plants books but there was a bird book.”

She became an avid birder and began working pictures from her annual trips to Central and South America into her quilts.

“The first one was a hummingbird from Costa Rica,” she said. “I had a photo of this tiny bird. I dyed the fabric in colors to match the bird, and I drew a line drawing of the bird and enlarged it so that I could figure out how to piece it. I figured out the feathers and then did quilting on top for detail. I used metallic threads, and it ended up being a really big bird.”

McLellan has a pile of bird quilts ready for her exhibition, with a seven-foot parrot yet to arrive.

“I do everything by machine,” she said. “My grandmother made quilts in the 1930s and 1940s and she hand pieced them, cutting each part out individually and sewing them, and then she put on the binding by machine. Today, we make the whole quilt by machine and the only thing done by hand is the binding.”

Her workroom upstairs takes up the front part of the house, with a vertical board where McLellan plans her patterns, a worktable with dozens of spools of thread and a high-end sewing machine.

“The process of making a quilt, the dense stitching, is very meditative,” McLellan said. “I don’t think at all – I start and then suddenly been three hours and I realize that I should eat or at least feed the cat.”

At a workshop in July, McLellan said she met a woman whose work is very political and all about the people of Africa and feminism.

“I told her that my work doesn’t have an agenda, but she said ‘you are showing people how beautiful the world is,’” she said. “I like the beauty of details in living.”

For more information about the quilt show, go to

In Brief:

“Play with Pride” Match

The Lansing High School Boys Soccer program celebrate diversity and inclusion during their matches on Sept. 17 and 19 by wearing rainbow laces in their cleats in support of LGBT players, coaches, support staff, referees and fans.

Watch Fire

The 29th Annual National Prisoner of War and Missing in Action Recognition Day Watch Fire will be held Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. in Myers Park.
This is also an opportunity to properly dispose of worn American flags, and guests are asked to bring wood if possible. For more information, call Gary at 315-730-7726 or Harvey at 607-898-3507.

“Girls Who Code”

Are you a Middle School or High School student? Want to change the world with your fingertips? Come join us and bring your ideas to life with the power of coding!

Women in Computing at Cornell (WICC) has partnered with Girls Who Code and Accenture to bring the Girls Who Code program to Ithaca. Students will be able to attend free weekly workshops where they will get the chance to learn the basics of computer science by using hardware and software to create their own projects and tackle real-world problems. The class is open to all genders, and no experience is necessary.

Classes begin Sept. 22 – learn how to register by emailing; go to for more information.

Lisa’s Run 

The eighth annual Lisa’s Run will be held Sept. 21 at 9 a.m. in Myers Park in Lansing.

The 5K run/walk, in honor of Lisa Ann Sweazey Topoleski, will take place at 9 a.m.; registration and check-in will take place from 7:30-8:45 a.m. at Pavilion B. The race covers a flat, fast course on paved and dirt roads around Myers Park and Salt Point, starting and finishing at Myers Park.

Proceeds from the event will benefit The LAST Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance to local families battling cancer and scholarships to graduating Lansing High School students.

For more information, contact, or call Jenn Suwara at 592-6705 or Melinda Sweazey at 592-7822.


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