Posted by: cindydyer | January 15, 2010

Butterflies are Free Quilt

Shell Lake, Wisconsin, USA—A year ago, in January 2009, the Sit and Chat Quilters of Friendship Commons Senior Center began stitching a butterfly quilt as a fundraiser for Happy Tonics, Inc. The nonprofit 501(c)(3) environmental education organization and public charity implemented a Monarch Butterfly Habitat on city land in 2007. Right: Quilters Mary Olsen, Marian Brincken, Myrna Atkinson and Mary Rachsler

The elders wanted to donate a quilt for a fundraiser to help maintain the habitat. The restored remnant tall grass prairie boasts native wildflowers and grasses for pollinating insects including butterflies, moths and bees.

The quilters celebrated their one year anniversary this month. It is hard to believe that the ladies are about halfway finished with the project. They meet weekly and work on the quilt for three hours at a stretch. Can you imagine having the patience and diligence to work on a project with this time requirement? I am amazed by their dedication and persistence. Left: Mary Olsen shares the history of the fabric used in the quilt.

I visited them yesterday, January 11, 2010. I asked where the fabric came from. Mary Olsen looked up and said, “We brought in fabric from our homes and matched colors we wanted in the quilt.” Each butterfly has a story of course because each has a fabric history. Nothing goes to waste when one is thrifty. The quilters have lived through the depression, recessions and the booming 90s. They know the value of sustainability and raising milkweed for the monarch butterfly. The quilters surely know the value of not throwing things away.

Curt Atkinson drives Myrna to the center each week because his wife doesn’t drive. He helps her unload the frame each week and then the frame is setup by the quilters. Myrna explained that the long boards for the frame were donated by Angie Klopp, a quilter up to a few years ago. No longer able to get about, Angie now resides at Terraceview Living Center in Shell Lake. Even the frame has a story. Above: A long wooden frame holds the quilt

Myrna called me last night to say, “The quilt is 93 inches x 103 inches. There are 42 big butterflies in the middle and 28 little ones around the edge.”

Stay tuned. The Butterflies are Free quilt will be auctioned off after it is completed. Happy Tonics members and friends will have an opportunity to help support the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake with an online auction in our eBay store. Be sure to visit the Happy Tonics store where we sell milkweed seed, books, and clothing that supports our mission.


  1. I love the butterfly quilt.
    I made the very same one for a commission.
    The gentleman wanted it for his grandaughter

    • Hi Susan,

      Thank you for your comment! May I ask how you found the Happy Tonics blog?

  2. Hi Cindy,

    Sandra Wolf is a member of Happy Tonics. We met in New Mexico at the Tesuque Pueblo Native Food and Sovereignty Conference in 2008. I am very interested in her bee work.

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