Quilters sew for America’s defenders

Posing with the Quilts of Valor sewn by members of the Women’s Fellowship of East Orrington Congregational Church are (from left) Carol Small of Orrington, Linda Weinmann of Orrington, Beverly Richardson of Orrington, Marie McSwine of Brownville, and Brigitte Schoen of Bucksport. McSwine is the Maine regional coordinator for the Quilts of Valor Foundation. Absent from the photo are quilters Jean Brown of Hermon and Brenda Pelletier of Bucksport.
Posing with the Quilts of Valor sewn by members of the Women’s Fellowship of East Orrington Congregational Church are (from left) Carol Small of Orrington, Linda Weinmann of Orrington, Beverly Richardson of Orrington, Marie McSwine of Brownville, and Brigitte Schoen of Bucksport. McSwine is the Maine regional coordinator for the Quilts of Valor Foundation. Absent from the photo are quilters Jean Brown of Hermon and Brenda Pelletier of Bucksport.
Posted May 25, 2012, at 2:13 p.m.

ORRINGTON — Quilts sewn to honor America’s defenders drew much attention during a quilt show held Saturday, May 12 at the East Orrington Congregational Church.

The quilt show featured some 75 quilts, including “some that are more than 100 years old,” said Carol Small of the Women’s Fellowship, which sponsored the show. Popular with attendees were the Quilts of Valor sewn by Women’s Fellowship members.

According to Marie McSwine, the Quilts of Valor are sewn “specifically for those touched by war,” especially soldiers wounded in combat or homeward-bound from foreign battlefields. McSwine is the Maine regional coordinator for the Quilts of Valor Foundation.

Catherine Roberts of Seaford, Del. launched Quilts of Valor after sewing a quilt for her son, Nathanael, who had served in Iraq. According to a QOV brochure, Roberts wanted “returning warriors” to be “welcomed home with the love and gratitude they deserved.” Roberts and other quilters could accomplish this goal by sewing “wartime quilts” that “are stitched with love, prayers, and healing thoughts,” the brochure indicated.

“There are a lot of individuals, a lot of quilt groups” sewing Quilts of Valor in Maine, McSwine said. Each quilt involves “a piecer [who] provides the top and the backing” and “a long-armer [who] provides the batting,” she said. A piecer, also called a “quilt-topper,” typically uses a standard sewing machine; a long-armer uses a long-arm machine that sews intricate patterns into a quilt.

“Over 66,000 [quilts have been sewn] to date” across the United States, but “we’re still falling short of the quilts we need,” McSwine said. Shipped overseas to Afghanistan, Germany, and elsewhere, Quilts of Valor often arrive when most needed.

“A lot of them (wounded soldiers) are being wrapped in them (quilts) as they’re lifted right on the helicopter on the way to the [military] hospital,” McSwine said.

Each Quilt of Valor must meet certain requirements:

• A minimal size of 55-by-65 inches and a maximal size of 72-by-90 inches;

• The borders must be cut to fit center measurements, and the color and fabric selected for the backing must be appropriate for the quilt’s top. The backing must have trimmed seams and ends cut square.

• The binding must be “straight cut diagonally seamed unless the edge is scalloped,” according to the QOV brochure.

• A Quilts of Valor label must be attached to the backing.

• Each quilt must have a presentation case, either a pillow case or a tote bag, into which the quilt will be placed before being shipped.

According to McSwine, a presentation case also contains “a letter or a journal from the quilter, a letter of encouragement for the person receiving the quilt. Those letters mean so much to them.”

Quilts of Valor has attracted national attention, McSwine indicated. “Moda Fabric put out a challenge for 1,800 star blocks” for Quilts of Valor, she said. “They ended up getting 10,000. They handed the extra star blocks to the regional [QOV] coordinators, who have passed them along to quilters.”

For more information about Quilts of Valor, contact McSwine at (207) 965-8819, email her at mariem@qovf.org, or log onto www.qovf.org. The Web site contains detailed information about Quilts of Valor and how to provide them for America’s returning heroes.

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