Something In The Making

Washington, United States
Quilts and memories make the world a warmer place.
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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

American Hero Quilts

Over a week ago I found this blog within one of my Webrings. I have returned to the blog everyday reading every word. Finally I sent my husband the link so he could read it. Then I shared my idea, my plan.

This project means enough to me I am going to donate fabric to this group. The quilting group is located on Vashon Island, WA. The quilts are given to the military at Madigan Hospital at Fort Lewis, WA.

Here are my challenges:

  • To send yardage in red, white or blue combinations as they have specified. I will send at least one a month.

  • The big challenge for me will be to complete a lap quilt top by September to send to them to complete.

  • I challenge my online quilting friends participate at least once.
Here is the story which grabbed my heart. Or you may use the link.

VASHON ISLAND, WA--The story of 100 quilts begins with two hands and one tragic tale.
The hands belong to Sue Nebeker.
The tale belongs to a stranger from east of the mountains, Ken Dennis, a 22-year-old combat rifleman who came home from Iraq a troubled soul. "I just don't want to see 23 after all this," he told his parents.
Nebeker, 53, read the story of the young Marine -- abandoned by his wife, haunted by scenes of war -- in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Aug. 13. Dennis hanged himself March 21, exactly one year after the first combat Marine deaths in Iraq. "It almost killed me, it made me so sad -- for someone not even 23 to feel such despair, such hopelessness," Nebeker said.
She cried. She railed. She lay awake at night. And then she took action -- action that comes full circle today when Nebeker and husband Clark deliver 100 red, white and blue quilts to Fort Lewis' Madigan Hospital. Officers there will distribute the quilts to injured soldiers returned from Iraq.
Call them crazy quilts. Call her obsessed. Her quilting friends do as they gather round the dining room table in her airy home overlooking Tramp Harbor.
She's determined, they say. Driven. First she caught them up in the story of the rifleman, fired up their passions, then put them to work.
"We have to do this! Have to do this!" said Katie Plucinski, 62, retired from The Boeing Co. "It's a personal way to reach out to these young people."
"Our young people," said Joyce O'Connor-Magee, 47, pastor at Vashon Island United Methodist Church.
"Our kids!" said Barbara Jansen, 65, also retired from Boeing.
"Our grandkids!" chimed in several.
Nebeker's first action was to call military hospitals to ask how she could volunteer.
Nebeker, former co-owner of a Seattle social-service agency and now partner in a long-arm quilting service, has multiple sclerosis, tires easily and has weakness in her legs. "It turns out I'm useless, except I can quilt," she said. She thought of the warmth, physical and emotional, quilts might bring to the war-wounded, who arrive in hospitals with nothing but pajamas and robes.
What she didn't think of, at first, were the sheer numbers of soldiers injured in Iraq.
Although statistics on war dead -- 1,067 as of yesterday -- are almost daily news, the number of injured is not. The latest toll is 7,531 Iraq coalition soldiers wounded in action.
And at Madigan Hospital, an average 10 inpatient soldiers arrive each week.
That's a lot of quilts.
In no time, Nebeker was calling in the girlfriends, putting up posters all over the island, activating phone trees and organizing a quilt-a-thon. The women -- coupon-clipping bargain hunters -- hit fabric stores all over the Puget Sound area, buying up clearance red, white and blue fabrics left over from the Fourth of July.
"My husband gave me a Visa card and tried not to twitch every time I charged something," said Nebeker, who would heat up the plastic with more than $1,000 debt by the project's end.
On Sept. 10-11, more than 80 people gathered at the island's Methodist church and set to work -- some on old, broken-down machines Nebeker's husband, another Boeing retiree, had refurbished.
It was Noah's Ark of volunteers. There were old and young, male and female, abled and disabled, rich and poor, liberal and conservative, and everything in between.
"You could go out in the parking lot and see the Nader car parked next to the Bush car next to the Kerry car," said Nebeker.
Organizers asked everyone to leave their politics at the door. And in the busy-ness of needles and thread, squares and batting, ironing and tying, one man's death became community salve for a war that's dividing a nation.
"It was the most amazing thing. The way people were together, and all they were thinking about was making the best possible quilt they could," said Nebeker.
Some couldn't sew, so they ironed. Some couldn't iron -- so they bought food for everyone.
One young woman came into the church and handed Nebeker a $20 bill. "She said she'd been crying ever since she heard about the quilt-a-thon. She said, 'I've just been called up.' All I could think is, 'Man, I hope I'm not making a quilt for you,' " Nebeker said.
On the evening of Sept. 11 -- three years after the World Trade Center towers tumbled in New York City -- the stitching ceased, and 85 quilts were stacked on tables ready for Nebeker to machine stitch, pack up and take to Fort Lewis. Another 15 quilts would trickle in later.
There were two sizes of quilts: small ones for wheelchairs, large ones for stretchers.
The reds were rust to rouge, and the patterns emblazoned with stripes and stars and phrases: "Land of the free" and "We the people." Some had appliques of Uncle Sam, eagles, flags. Others exploded in red, white and blue fireworks -- complete with sparkles.
On the back of each was a label that reads: "You are our hero. Thank you! The people of Vashon Island, Washington."
This week, as Nebeker's circle of friends looked at them one last time before the trip south, they grew quiet. Yes, they said, they will do another quilt-a-thon. How could they not?
"There is so much love ..." Plucinski said. "... in every stitch," said Nebeker.
"A little prayer said over every one of them," O'Connor-Magee said.
~SeattlePI, October 8, 2004M.L.Lyke, Reporter

Here are fabric requirements. Or you may use the link.

There are many ways in which an individual, club, church, neighborhood, or business can help with this project. Much of the help doesn't require the skill of quilting.

Here are just some things you can do to contribute to this project, as well as our American Hero Quilt standards:

  • Donate fabric
    Fabric must be 100% cotton. It should be washed and ironed before donating. All quilts are made in a patriotic theme, so all fabrics should be red, white and blue. Fabrics may be plain or patterned. The colors can be primary, bright colors, or the more muted Americana colors of burgundy, navy and off white.
  • Requirements for back of fabrics:
    Please see below under "Standards" for fabric requirements
    Fabric for quilt backs should not be white or light colored as some of our injured have open wounds which can cause stains.
    For fabric up to 45" wide, need is 5 yards per quilt
    If fabric is 90" wide, need is 2 1/2 yards per quilt
  • Long Arm Quilting
    Long arm quilters are desperately needed to donate their time to finish quilts.
  • Cash donations are appreciated and can be used to purchase thread, batting, and other necessary supplies. We are a 501 (c)(3) (non-profit) and ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of all donations go to buying products to produce the quilts, or to quilt them.
  • Tell your friends, neighbors, and business associates about this project.
    Gather friends and family for your own day of quilting. Encourage them to bring fabric. Each person can help iron, cut quilt pieces, sew the tops together, coordinate the backs and the bindings, and send off to Blueberry Hill Fabrics to be long arm quilted.

Please call or e-mail us if you wish to help in any way. Please see below for the standards for these gifts of "hugs" to be presented to our injured troops when they arrive at Madigan ~ any one of which could be your own son or daughter.


Peticelul Romanesc said...

This is such a great story! Thank you for sharing. Corina

Susan said...

Fabulous! I hope lots of your readers take up your challenge. I have been sewing for this group for the last two+ years, and the need keeps going up and up. I have the site on the sidebar of both my blogs, and this is the group that gets all those quilts I post on my quilting blog. Thank you so much for posting this message. The more people find out about it, the more tops and quilts and fabric will come in. Sue has some Marine Moms who sew and some who bind, but they need fabric and tops - and quilters!

Renea said...

That is great news Sue. I just found them when I was going through web rings.

I was excited about this because Vashon Island and Fort Lewis are in my area. It really hit home for me.

Our son, who is in the Navy, is due home from Baghdad about May 24th. It was his second tour. They are traveling on the Ike right now. To my Knowledge, the ENTIRE Squadron is returning home safely. Except the CO, who has been in the news. They sent him to the STenis during an investigation. I am more than sure his career is over.

Gail said...

I was just reading about what your doing for AmHero. I found out about them a year ago and now do some of the quilting, I feel it is the least I can do for our troops. I am so glad you have join the mission.