One night, a couple of months ago, my husband and I were watching the evening news. About halfway through the program, a feature was presented about medical evacuations of soldiers from Afghanistan to military hospitals in Europe. I don’t really remember the gist of the whole story; but they did interview a soldier who was injured and getting ready to be evacuated. He was injured enough that he needed to be evacuated, but he was able to stand and walk.
As the story progressed, the cameraman focused on injured soldiers being loaded onto a transport plane. The injured, covered with the usual drab green blankets, were being carried in on stretchers. Then the young man that had been interviewed earlier followed them up the ramp. I thought how fortunate he was to be able to at least walk up the ramp while so many others had to be carried.
Once inside the dark plane, the same soldier found a place to sit—either on a low bench next to the stretchers of injured men, or he may have been sitting directly on the floor of the plane. As he prepared for take-off, he reached inside his bag and pulled out a beautiful quilt in red, white, and blue!
At that moment, I stopped hearing the reporter and his story; and through my tears, I watched as that young man pulled the quilt around himself to guard against what promised to be a long and chilly flight.
This news feature had nothing to do with the quilt. No mention was made of the quilt, and the
cameraman only focused on this soldier for a couple of seconds. I knew that there was a “Quilts of Valor” program in this country, and I knew that they collected quilts to send to our servicemen. But still, I was caught by surprise.
So why did this have such an effect on me? I’m not sure. It could have been the stark contrast between the ugly darkness of the transport plane and the warmth represented by this gorgeous quilt. It might have been the reminder of the frailty of these young people that we send off to fight our battles. Most likely, I was feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude that he had one small thing from “home” that he could use to protect himself from the cold.
Whatever it was, I decided then and there that I would be making at least one Quilt of Valor, and a stack of fabric was chosen from my stash just for this project. But then I realized that I knew practically nothing about the Quilts of Valor organization.
It was time to hit the Internet for some information. One of several things I learned from the Quilts of Valor website, www.qovf.org, is that this organization has high standards for the quilts they award our soldiers and veterans. And that’s a good thing! None of these standards are more than what we, as quilters, already hold to ourselves. They just want the quilts to be created with good quality fabrics and workmanship.
The quilts are awarded at hospitals to our wounded soldiers. They are presented to soldiers returning from war. And they are given to veterans of past wars, as well. The goal of QOV is to award quilts that will “both heal and comfort those who have been touched by war”, and these quilts are cherished by the recipients for a lifetime.
QOV looks for people to make quilt tops or even just blocks, long-arm quilters to do the quilting, and sewists to construct Presentation Cases (simple pillowcases) for the quilts. The website has some free quilt patterns if you want to use one, and it even carries a block pattern specifically for 2014. The organization is divided into regions, and the regional coordinator for our area of the Pacific Northwest is Maureen Orr Elder. As of today, the home page of the website is featuring returning Oregon soldiers and their quilts.
After navigating through the QOV website, I still needed answers to a few questions. So I made a quick call to one of our guild members, Carolyn Bahrman.
“Carolyn,” I whined, “I’ve been to the QOV website and I know what they want in a quilt, but I still don’t get the logistics. Let’s say I put together a top, buy the batting and construct the backing. Then what?”
“Bring it to us,” she said.
How easy it that?!!
Carolyn then went on to explain that George (her husband, and the current vice-chair for our guild) will long-arm machine quilt it and give it back to me to bind, label and launder (with a fragrance-fee detergent). Once I’m done with all of that, I can take it back to the Bahrmans and they will see that it gets to our regional coordinator.
Carolyn confirmed and further enlightened me about what I had read on the QOV website. They want good quality fabric in reds, whites and blues, and touches of gold if you like. The fabric, especially the dark blues and reds, needs to be pre-washed to guard against color-bleeding.
You can use any pattern you want EXCEPT a flag pattern. When asked why not a flag, the answer was, “because that is what’s used on caskets.” Ok. That makes total sense. A quilt that abstractly depicts a flag with stars and stripes or only resembles our flag in some way is okay. But if it is a flag or an exact replica of a flag, it will not be accepted.
QOV wants the batting to be low-loft and the quilting to be sturdy. It can be hand or machine quilted, but no ties. There are size restrictions for the quilts: Minimum—55” x 65”, Maximum—72” x 90”. They need to be labeled in a certain manner, and you can easily find the labeling instructions on the website.
Carolyn and George will even take single blocks and put the tops together themselves. George has challenged other quilters to make 18” (finished) blocks put together with smaller sized blocks using as many different piecing techniques as they would like. Then he will take the 18” blocks and put them together for a quilt top. This sounds like the perfect project for a small group…
The Bahrmans are our experts on the Quilts of Valor program and we are fortunate to have them as guild members. I, for one, appreciate the many hours they must put into this organization!
If you are reading this as a member or even a non-member of our guild and would like to make a quilt for QOV, you may contact the Bahrmans at email@example.com and they will gladly answer any questions you have. Or you can go to the QOV website at www.qovf.org and find your regional coordinator.
Well, my free pattern is downloaded and it’s time for me to go upstairs and start cutting strips…