Inducted into the Quilter's Hall of Fame in June, 2020!
In 1991, Marti received the first Michael Kile Award of Achievement, the highest award in our industry, given for commitment to creativity, excellence and long-lasting impact on the quilting industry. Marti received her Siver Star award in 2004. And, we are happy to announce, Marti will be inducted into the Quilters Hall of Fame in 2020!
Here's a staff picture in front of Marti's Silver Star Friendship Quilt. From left to right: Super-sewer Harriett, customer service rep Kathy, Richard and Marti, graphic designer Patti, customer service rep Helga, and Sherry, who is our bookkeeper. Marti's terrific secretary, Anne, was absent the day the photo was taken.
The quilt, which was a surprise given to Marti at the 2004 Silver Star awards banquet, features blocks and signatures by Marti's friends and family, including many "famous" quilters that Marti has known throughout her career.
The Story Behind From Marti Michell
Martha G. Michell was born and raised on a farm near Des Moines, Iowa. Known then as Martha Glenn, she was taught to sew by her mother and it quickly became a favorite pastime. Buoyed by her 4-H training and awards, she decided to major in Textiles and Clothing and Home Ec Journalism at Iowa State University. At Iowa State, that is the one in Ames, she became known as Marti Glenn. (You can learn more about what Marti's been up to on her blog.)
Richard Michell was raised in a western Chicago suburb and chose Iowa State for his college career. Dick and Marti were married during the Christmas break of their senior year. Richard's first job after graduation took the young couple to Wisconsin for a six-month training course and then to Wichita, KS. In Wichita, Marti was a Home Economist for The Dairy Council, and she and Dick became parents when their son Jeffrey was born. A few years later, a job transfer took the Michell family to Ohio and the family expanded with the birth of daughter Stacy. Marti did some part-time teaching and lots of volunteer work during their five-year stay in the Cleveland area.
Another transfer caused the Michell family to move to Atlanta, GA, in 1969. With both children in school, Marti decided to start a small sewing school. At the same time, she had been doing some patchwork projects and had become curious about quilting. While her sewing school classes were supposed to teach dressmaking skills, it wasn't long before the students insisted on patchwork and quilting classes.
Doing more patchwork led to doing some craft shows and a small craft shop with several friends. It didn't take long to discover that people were not prepared to pay much for hand quilting. However, they were curious about how "to do" patchwork and wanted to know where to get fabric and patterns. At that particular time, polyester double knits were the rage and it was very hard to find 100% cotton fabrics.
Soon, Dick, Marti and the kids began to cut and package kits to sell at the craft shop. The next year, 1972, they decided to offer the kits to other stores, and the company Yours Truly, Inc. was born.
The Yours Truly Years, 1972–1985...
In 1972, $1000 was a big deal -- for one thing, it was 4 house payments! That first year Marti and Richard worked out of the basement, cutting fabric on the ping-pong table and shipping from the garage! Richard helped on weekends and evenings if he was in town. Everyone helped, even Marti's parents. By year end, Yours Truly did $50,000 in business. The next year they hired 6 people for 6 weeks and all but one stayed several years; 2 were valuable employees as long as the Michells owned Yours Truly. That same fall, they were needing more help from Richard, and one day when that company had a "black Friday", a door closed and another one opened -- Richard was now full-time at Yours Truly, too.
One night in 1975, Marti said to Richard, "Let's eat out. I have an idea for a Christmas ornament. I don't think it will take more than an hour and if I don't have to cook tonight, I can get it done." She made the prototype for a little Christmas wreath that became Yours Truly's best-selling ornament of all time. It went on a curtain ring and the rings were ordered 50,000 pieces at a time! Richard thinksover a million of them were sold by mail order, under the name Ginger Snap Station, which quickly grew into the first mail-order quilting catalog.
1977 was an especially big year. Machine quilting was still a no-no (can you believe that?!). On a Monday, Marti had a meeting scheduled with Woman's Day magazine; they were working on something with the Shelburne Museum Collection. When Marti called to confirm on Friday, the editor at Woman's Day jokingly said, "bring me something exciting." Marti had been thinking about doing Log Cabin using a stitch-and-flip / quilt as you sew / by the block technique on the sewing machine, so that's what she brought.
It turned out to be the biggest offer Woman's Day had ever made and it held the record for many years. In fact, they offered it in 5 different color combinations. Very few of the Yours Truly records survived the change of ownership, but some personal notes show that, while Yours Truly would do $750,000 in 1977 with normal business, it did an additional $500,000 with the Woman's Day offer.
From 1976 to 1981, Yours Truly grew like mad. At the time it didn't seem like much, but looking back, Marti believse they truly had an amazing influence on quilting. Yours Truly had started with kits because it was a real service, with cottons so hard to find. As a great variety of fabric became readily available, quilters wanted to make their own choices, so Yours Truly began offering patterns and introduced the 5-1/2 by 8 inch pattern in a plastic bag.
They started "converting" fabric (designing custom fabrics). Marti wasn't happy with the batting available at the time, so Richard sourced a company that would make batting and Yours Truly developed sizes that fit beds.
Many people who were familiar with the mail order Ginger Snap Station visited Atlanta and expected to find a Ginger Snap station shop, so Marti and Richard opened the first quilt shop in Atlanta.
In those early years, notions distributors didn't want to deal with quilt shops (they wanted the dress shops who ordered zippers, buttons, etc.), so Yours Truly became the first distributor to cater to quilt shops.
In 1976 there were just over 2 dozen quilting books available -- a whopping improvement from the 3 that Marti found in 1969! But generally those books were only available through book stores. So, in 1978, Yours Truly became the first publisher of quilting books solely for direct sale to quilt shops. In the next few years, several other people began publishing quilt books, too, and when Quilt Market began in 1979, that was the target date for new books to be released. Most people who were quilting then had a temporary feeling that they could own every quiltilng book -- it was exhilerating!
Through the publishing of books, Yours Truly provided the "coming out parties" for a number of the current stars of the quilting world. Marti had a nose for talent; the most famous names are Mary Ellen Hopkins, Jean Wells, Harriet Hargrave, Liz Porter, Marianne Fons, Susan McKelvey and Cheryl Bradkin. Several of them were single mothers for whom these career opportunities meant everything. It is hard to remember how limited real career opportunities were for women as recently as 20-30 years ago. At Yours Truly's peak, we employed 175 people, and one of the things the Michells are most proud of is that Yours Truly empowered people, and not just the famous.
The Freelance Design Years, 1985–1995
The From Marti Michell years, 1995 to present