Since the summer of 2020, Elizabeth has shared her passion for quilting with others by teaching classes at Material Things in Monroe, owned by Joyce Sims.
article by ALANA WAGNER | photography by KELLY MOORE CLARK
Creative is the term Elizabeth Prine feels best describes her. She will tell you plainly, “I don’t like the term artist because it’s not self-expression for me. I just like to make things pretty.” Yet in her quilting, Elizabeth has learned not to focus solely on the end product and to enjoy the process of getting there. In a time of chaos and change, this has been an invaluable lesson for her.
Elizabeth grew up in Bastrop, Louisiana, an only child. Her father works for International Paper, and her mother sells real estate but taught full-time during Elizabeth’s childhood while sewing children’s heirloom clothing on the side. “She always had a sewing room in any house,” Elizabeth recalled. She also remembers joining her mother as she attended the local quilting group, a skill that would go on to feature prominently in both of their lives. “My mom would pin the pieces, and I would sew.” By the age of three, Elizabeth had made her first quilt.
The creative influences in Elizabeth’s life expanded when she was twelve years old. Her mother opened up a flower shop, and her grandmother opened up an antique shop at the same time and just two doors down. Much like Elizabeth’s mother, her grandmother had a “hobby room” in her house where she painted china. Elizabeth’s mother had her work in the flower shop “because Mom didn’t trust anybody else to do what she was doing. It was new and different.” While there were times when Elizabeth wished she could have her Saturdays free, she still loved working in her mother’s shop.
She was also involved in her grandmother’s shop, going with her to markets to “help make decisions” or when she had her own booths. Attending flea markets and malls with her mother and grandmother is an especially fond memory for Elizabeth. Every Friday night was auction night. “We had reserved seats,” Elizabeth said, joking about times when her mother and grandmother got so competitive that they would accidentally bid against each other. Elizabeth still stops in an antique store, thrift store, or flea market any time she finds one.
Sewing had become a hobby for Elizabeth by the time she enrolled at the University of Louisiana at Monroe to study interior design. While in college, she became roommates with Kayla Lee, who also had a love of sewing. Following her family’s traditions, Elizabeth set up their dining room as the sewing room, where they would stay up all night. She enjoyed having someone her age who loved sewing as much as she did, noting her mother was only twenty-two years old when she joined the quilting group and must have looked out of place.
While in school, Elizabeth married Cole, her husband of thirteen years. Cole is also a creative, working in videography and media production. “He was the guy in town,” Elizabeth said of Cole’s seven years as a wedding videographer. He currently works on production for several podcasts for the Roberston family, most popularly known for their television series Duck Dynasty.
After Elizabeth graduated, she worked in Monroe, first at Fabulous Fabrics for one year and then at St. Frederick High School teaching home economics for two years. In 2013, she decided to stay home with her two children, Clementine and Huck.
It was during this time that quilting came back into view for Elizabeth. She attended the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas, with her mother. Part of the festival was dedicated to displaying quilts, part to vendor space. “I fell in love with seeing all the vendors and seeing the modern fabric that was coming out,” she said of walking up and down the rows of booths. She purchased some fabric with raccoons on it that had caught her eye. Because she was only sewing small pieces at that time, the fabric sat for a while before she began quilting. Once she was ready, her mother decided to start quilting again with her.
Flowers also made an unexpected reappearance in Elizabeth’s life. Her friend Kayla had been working in a creative field, too, becoming the visual manager at Anthropologie, a women’s apparel and lifestyle store, in New Orleans. She had also been working in weddings, and she asked Elizabeth for help with a wedding that would heavily feature flowers. “We had always wanted to work together in something creative. It started with me coming in to help; then, we realized this was it and went, Okay, let’s do this.” In 2014, Elizabeth and Kayla began their floral design service We Are Gathered.
For six years, We Are Gathered provided wedding florals that incorporated fruit, paired unexpected and unique colors, and offered Elizabeth and Kayla a creative outlet. However, the majority of their clients were in the New Orleans area, so those six years also included long travel days and multiple weekend trips in one month. Adding to all of this, Elizabeth’s children were very young: Clementine was two years old, and Huck was just one month. “I would be holding a bouquet in one hand and a baby in the other,” she said of the lengths she went to meet her clients’ needs and the standard she and Kayla had set for We Are Gathered.
Her husband’s support was key in getting through these years. Elizabeth was grateful that, because Cole is also a creative, he understood what it was like to push through to meet the deadline even when the inspiration wasn’t there. She could also count on him for anything from taking care of their kids for the weekend to helping her set up the venue. “Sometimes, I would tell him, ‘I need this, but I don’t know how that’s going to happen,’ and I could come back and he would have exactly what I needed,” she said in warm praise.
ALL OF THIS BUSTLE CAME TO A SUDDEN HALT in 2020. The outbreak of the coronavirus led to heavy restrictions on large group gatherings, particularly in New Orleans where the spread of the virus was devastating. A wave of wedding cancellations and an ongoing air of uncertainty left Elizabeth and Kayla at a standstill for much of the first half of the year. But they soon noticed that they felt relieved more than anything else; the busyness of the weddings had partly eclipsed the fun, creative outlet they provided. The two decided that it was the right time to be done with We Are Gathered.
This unexpected ending afforded Elizabeth the opportunity to evaluate what she truly wanted to do and what she felt like she needed to do. “The pandemic helped me realize this pressure to always do something. I learned that I don’t have to be doing something all the time,” Elizabeth said. She had been quilting for seven years but never had the time or energy she wanted to devote to it. “Work kept me from doing it as much as I wanted. I used all of my creativity to make a bouquet.” Encouraged and supported by her husband, she decided to give quilting her full attention.
Elizabeth also realized that she could be creative simply because she wanted to. “It can just be for fun. I don’t always have to figure out how to make money with my creativity.” While she is willing to sell her quilts, she does not make them on commission. “I’ve made custom quilts in the past, maybe ten, but it always caused me stress.” Having a deadline to meet and wondering if the customer will like the finished product were worries that she didn’t want to have. “I freed myself from that,” she stated proudly. Instead, since the summer of 2020, Elizabeth has shared her quilting with others by teaching classes at Material Things in Monroe, owned by Joyce Sims.
Bringing her interior design background into her quilting, Elizabeth emphasizes color theory and patterns. “For me, that’s where the art happens. It’s pairing together unexpected colors and mixing modern fabrics with vintage fabrics.” The fabric is her starting place. Sometimes, she finds a fabric that she immediately knows she wants to use, and next is figuring out what she wants to do with it. Those fabrics can be modern, “fresh” colors or vintage linens, napkins, or aprons, a particular favorite for Elizabeth to collect and try to incorporate.
Another design aspect that Elizabeth enjoys in planning her quilts is creating a mood board, a collection of colors and images that give a visual representation of the style of a design. “I love making mood boards. It’s what I did 90% of the time for wedding clients. It helps me figure out what I want to do.”
Technique is just as integral to Elizabeth’s process. She prefers traditional methods like needle turn applique, a process where a piece of fabric is applied to another piece and the raw edges are turned down and hand-stitched. She learned these techniques from Australian quilters, most notably Jen Kingwell, from whom Elizabeth had the chance to learn in person. “They emphasize using what you already have, doing it by hand, enjoying the process rather than thinking, How many can I make this week?” This practice of learning to enjoy the process rather than focus on the product has been the most important takeaway for Elizabeth.
Elizabeth has also learned how to incorporate her faith into her quilting. She attended QuiltCon in Austin, Texas, and heard from the Gee’s Bend quilters, a group of women in the isolated black community of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, whose ancestry traces directly back to men and women enslaved on the local Pettway Plantation. These women did not place too much importance on their product but, instead, used it as a way to talk about God and their personal faith, which Elizabeth admired. She joked that she will sometimes get odd looks for her attempts to share her faith in her groups, but she appreciates the opportunity to share herself. She tells people to “come for the fabric and stay for the friends” because her goal isn’t just providing a great shopping experience but providing a community, as well.
Elizabeth is glad to see that other people are also taking time to slow down, enjoy what they are doing, and even learn new skills like quilting. “Quilting is completely attainable. Anyone can learn,” she wants people to know. And she wants people to enjoy the process, as she has learned to do. “It’s not about the finished product. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. It’s about savoring every stitch. Enjoy every step.”
Elizabeth’s quilts can be seen on her Instagram, @threadintheclouds. She teaches at Material Things, located at 2305 Forsythe Avenue in Monroe, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. You can follow the shop on Instagram @material_things_haberdashery to see her upcoming classes and reserve a seat.