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Depp to Liz, quilt is star material




One lucky animal lover could end up in bed with a celebrity like Johnny Depp or Betty White, thanks to local quilter Melissa Felts.

Felts spent two years and a few hundred dollars assembling a quilt bearing the autographs of 20 celebrities.

The quilt is being raffled on Labor Day to benefit Rikki’s Refuge, an Orange County shelter that provides a home to animals that would otherwise be killed.

“I needed something different to do,” said Felts, a member of Virginia Star Quilters guild.

That’s what led her to the idea of creating an autograph quilt—she wanted to do a quilting project unlike those she’d done before, one that would be unusual enough that people would want to bid on it.

Felts sent almost 120 letters to celebrities in September 2010. She said she looked for those with different specialties, including sports, music and acting.

She got 20 signatures back, which was a perfect number for the quilt.

Those who put their mark on a piece of fabric for the project include actors Anjelica Huston, Cloris Leachman, Betty White, Raquel Welch, Martin Sheen, Johnny Depp, Matt Damon, Tim Allen, Sally Struthers, Kiefer Sutherland and the late Elizabeth Taylor; musicians Usher and Dolly Parton; NASCAR driver Ryan Newman; poet and author Maya Angelou; animal experts Victoria Stilwell and Jack Hanna; comedians Bill Cosby and Whoopi Goldberg; and retired game-show host Bob Barker.

“I thought it would spark interest in different people” to have so many autographs, Felts said.

It took Felts about a year and a half to transition from her initial idea to completion.

Felts looked up the addresses of various celebrities, purchased fabric for them to sign and mailed it out along with self-addressed, stamped envelopes for the return journey.

Waiting for famous people to mail their autographs back gave her plenty of time to figure out what kind of quilt design she’d make, she said.

“I wanted to make a beautiful quilt, and I didn’t want the signatures to take over,” Felts said.

Once she chose the pattern and the fabrics, Felts started sewing the top of the quilt. She said the initial sewing took a month and a half.

“A dozen of us quilters go to the beach for the week every summer and quilt,” Felts said. She said she finished about three-quarters of the center of the quilt’s top during last summer’s beach week.

But once Felts completed the center of the quilt, she had to figure out how she’d add the signatures.

She did the math to put an extra border around the quilt and make the signatures fit symmetrically.

Then Felts called in a helping hand to finish the quilt off. Her friend Jo Ann Cooper, who lives in South Carolina, put the batting (middle filling) and back on the quilt using creative embroidery.

Cooper also added the binding and orange piping. The quilt was finished this April.

Raffle tickets are $1 each or $5 for six, but Felts said a professional quilter appraised the value of the quilt at $2,450.

Felts wants to raise $10,000. So far, she said she’s raised about $3,000 since April.

Felts is giving all the proceeds from the raffle to Rikki’s Refuge. The $1 price of one ticket covers upkeep for one animal for one day.

Kerry Hilliard, the executive director and founder of Rikki’s Refuge, said the 384-acre property currently houses 1,287 animals.

“We just took in veal calves, so we need to build a new barn. That’s something we desperately need,” Hilliard said.

By buying a raffle ticket, Hilliard said, people “would help save somebody’s life.”

Felts, who used to manage a fabric store, started v0lunteering at Rikki’s Refuge two years ago when she retired.

“I fell in love” with the charity, she said.

The refuge takes animals that other shelters won’t.

Felts said she didn’t mind spending her own money to make the quilt, and she hopes the raffle raises a lot of money to support the animals she cares so much about.

“You’re not going to bring in big money without big effort,” Felts said.


A handmade quilt with the autographs of 20 celebrities—ranging from Johnny Depp and Elizabeth Taylor to Bob Barker and Maya Angelou—will be raffled on Labor Day to benefit Rikki’s Refuge, a nonprofit animal shelter in Orange. Tickets $1, or $5 for six. For more information or to buy tickets, visit, contact Rikki’s at 540/854-0870 or

Liana Bayne: 540/374-5444