Creating Quilts of Valor

Published 9:20 am Friday, January 15, 2010

Millie Westland sums it up this way: “The fun is ours and the work is theirs.”

She was one of 10 quilters gathered Thursday at Calico Hutch in Hayward to sew quilt tops, bindings and pillowcases for the Quilts of Valor Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to make wartime quilts to comfort the wounded. Completed quilts are sent to soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.

The area quilters call themselves “Will Work for Food.” They only need to bring their sewing machines. When they arrive on the pre-appointed day, quilt blocks are already cut. A morning snack and coffee have been prepared, as has lunch.

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“That’s the least we can do,” said Carolyn Matson, owner of Calico Hutch, who provides the site, food and fabrics.

“It’s all for a good cause.”

The quilt shop is also a drop-off site for individuals who make Quilts of Valor on their own.

Thursday was the third time the quilt shop hosted the Will Work for Food group. Another session is set for Feb. 11, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Matson said she and the quilters started making Quilts of Valor because there was a need and because they wanted to do something worthwhile.

Westland, of Hayward, said she had previously picked up a brochure on Quilts of Valor while on a trip. “I wondered if they really go where they’re supposed to,” she said. “They do.”

She said she’s gone online to the Quilts of Valor Web site and has read the soldiers’ stories about what receiving a quilt has meant to them.

“When they come into the hospital, they have nothing,” Westland said.

Westland said taking part in the project simply feels good. “The soldiers give up all their time to protect us,” she said. “I can give up one day.

“And where else can I go and have people talk the same quilt language?”

The quilters put together blocks in the pattern called “Turning Twenty.” It’s so named because 20 blocks are put together to form a quilt top.

Matson said they chose that pattern because it’s one the quilters can stitch together in a day, along with the binding and pillowcase.

“They’ll finish. Some will do a second one,” she said.

“Quilters are so giving and so nice,” Matson said. “They give most of their quilts to family, friends, charities and strangers.”

Calico Hutch staff and other volunteers will do the actual machine quilting of the blankets, Matson said.

Kaye Klukow of Conger was at her third “Will Work for Food” session. “I like the idea of doing charity quilts,” she said, adding she’s been quilting for 20 or 25 years and got interested in it after going to the World’s Fair in Seattle and seeing a hands-on demonstration.

Linda Christianson of Blooming Prairie said a day never goes by when she doesn’t sew. It was her first time sewing for the soldiers, and learned about the group because she belongs to Calico Hutch’s block of the month club.

“It’s a fabulous pastime, but I’m afraid we don’t get enough made for all who need them,” Christianson said.

Lonnie Forland of Northwood, Iowa, was there for her second session of “Will Work for Food.” “It’s for a good cause,” she said. “I feel like I’m doing something for the troops.”

Pat Bangert of Albert Lea has been quilting for 40 years, but has done the majority of her work in the last 10 or 12 years. “It’s very calming,” she said of the hobby.

“If you can do some little thing, it helps,” Bangert said. “Knowing they (the soliders) will be nice and warm helps, too.”

Jolyn Olson of Blue Earth was helping the sewers lay out their blocks on the floor before stitching them together.

“I’m one of the addicts,” she said of her love of quilting. “But I don’t want to be cured.”

Sue Hansen of Albert Lea is also a member of the Austin Quilters Guild, which has been making Quilts of Valor for a few years. “We’ve sewn hundreds there,” she said.

In 2003, Catherine Roberts of Seaford, Del., started the Quilts of Valor Foundation when her son and his 630th MP Company were being deployed from Germany to Iraq for one year. She was thrown into a group of other Americans who send their loved ones into harm’s way. She started the group by appealing to both quilt-toppers and the longarming group to volunteer their fabric, their talents and time to make wartime quilts to comfort the wounded.

The mission of the QOV Foundation is to cover all wounded and injured service members from the War on Terror, whether physical or psychologically, with wartime quilts called Quilts of Valor.

Her own nephew is on his fourth deployment in the Middle East, so she feels she is doing something to help by sewing these quilts. She also saw a number of war-related injuries when she worked at the Mayo Clinic.

“You can’t even come up with words on how much these are appreciated,” Hansen said of the quilts.

Sewers also came from Pine Island and Mazeppa Thursday.

There is no charge to come and sew with the “Will Work for Food” bunch when they sew Quilts of Valor, but Matson asks that people call 377-1163 to reserve a spot.