Marti's Silver Star Friendship Quilt by Patti Bachelder

We kept it secret for almost a whole year!

Updated April 2009 - Click here to see close-up photos. If you don't see your block in this photo, it's on the back with several others.

Quilt Size: Approximately 118" x 90"

Marti Michell's Silver Star Friendship QuiltAt the beginning of 2004, Marti's husband, Richard, asked Kathy O'Meara Magnuson and me (Patti Bachelder) to brainstorm in his office about ways we could celebrate Marti's Silver Star award, to be presented later that year. A friendship quilt quickly came to mind, and about nine months later, Marti was (genuinely!) surprised with, not one, but three quilts at the Silver Star Banquet in Houston!

The fact that the quilt is so beautiful is a happy accident - we had no plan for what the friendship quilt would look like when we started out! We just knew we'd use a diagonal set and nine-inch blocks, so we could use as many blocks as possible on the front of the quilt. We contacted Marti's quilting friends and family members via snail and e-mail, and a few more people through the grapevine. I apologize to those we missed, but we couldn't ask Marti for addresses! (And I'm so grateful to Bettina Havig and others who helped me find addresses or knew of someone we didn't.) Contributors were offered the choice of making a star block or sending a signed "brick" with a scrap of fabric for the border. Marti loves scrap quilts, and we thought that would be a great way to get a wide variety of fabrics into the quilt.I did "secretarial duties" whenever Marti was out of town teaching, and envelopes containing blocks were quickly slipped into a box under my desk so Marti wouldn't see them in the day's mail. We worried that Marti might get wind of the quilt with so many people as co-conspirators for so many months!

On an early August morning, Kathy and I got together with Marti's good friends Jennifer Kay (of The Quilting Solution) and Ellen Rosintoski in Ellen's spacious sewing room and began counting blocks and bricks, and trueing-up all the pieces.

Squaring up the signature patches

Stacy Michell brought over a lovely lunch and remarked that Marti would have loved being there!

Jennifer, Kathy, Ellen and Stacy

Assembly line

Now, we knew we had 72 blocks and at least as many signature bricks... The diagonal set would accommodate 51 blocks, and the rest would be used in the border with the bricks, whatever the border would be... We groaned about how the next thing we had to figure out was what to put where on the design wall, and Stacy joked, "Let's just arrange them alphabetically!"

Jennifer and Stacy at the design wall

Well, that sounded like as good a place to start as any, and it worked out perfectly! Can you believe how well the colors and designs are balanced? We sewed the top together and made the Stacked Bricks chevron units for the border in 2 days, then everything went home to SC with Jennifer, who planned to do the machine quilting in the two weeks prior to Quilt Market.

At some point, Ellen said, "I have those fabrics... [or] I made a block just like that" and we realized we'd accidentally picked up three old blocks that were just hanging around Ellen's sewing room! Jennifer removed and replaced them as latecomers arrived, but the general rhythm created by alphabetizing the blocks still works. Therefore, we highly recommend the Alphabetical Block Arrangement method of quilt designing!

Press and perfect! Can you believe how well they went together?

By the day of the banquet in Houston, Market and Festival had been going for 8 or 10 days, and we worried right up til the last moment that someone would pass Marti in an aisle and ask if she'd gotten the quilt yet! But we all pulled it off! The quilt was hung on poles and covered with black drapes in a front corner of the banquet hall, where Marti hardly noticed it. The event was attended by 500 people, including Marti and Dick's children and grandchildren, siblings and spouses, longtime friends and former employees. No one had seen the quilt yet, except the four of us who put it together.

Everyone at the banquet was presented with a copy of Marti's Scrapbook, which will be online soon so you can enjoy it, too. To see some photos fromMarti's Silver Star exhibit click here. Below, Marti is shown sitting at the dais during the banquet. Karey Bresenhan is speaking.

Silver Star

Marti gave a terrific talk and then sat down because she thought the event was over - and then Stacy went to the podium and a bunch of us went to the quilt poles to pull the drapes off at just the right time. Marti was genuinely surprised and everyone applauded when the long-awaited surprise friendship quilt was unveiled.

Then Dick took the mike and presented Marti with two more quilts! It was the first time a quilt had ever been presented at the banquet, muchless three! Marti's friend Carol Porter had missed the deadline to send a block, so she made Marti a whole quilt! It's a lovely watercolor heart design. Then Dick brought out the final quilt: his first quilt, one that he designed and made himself, with a little technical help from Stacy and Kathy. It features a variety of the old fabrics from the Yours Truly days, and photo transfers of the Michell family during the those days. After the banquet, several quilters told Dick that everyone at their table was crying, they were so touched.

Marti & Dick

Marti was touched, too. She has said many times that that weekend in Houston was one of the best times of her life. She enjoyed seeing the exhibit retrospective of her career; hearing from showgoers how many of the products she's designed over the years got them started in quilting, like the Woman's Day Log Cabin Quilt back in the 1970s; and spending time with people she loves and has known "forever." Marti has spent hours looking at all the blocks and signatures, all of which have deep personal meaning for her, and she doesn't hesitate to show the quilt off at a moment's notice.

Thanks, to everyone who helped make such a special, well-deserved friendship quilt!

 

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