Quilts of Valor a gift of comfort

Story and photos by Janna Virden

One Tuesday a month the “Conway County Piecemakers” come together at Catherine’s Discount Fabrics in Morrilton to create beautifully pieced quilts for local veterans as a way to say, “Thank you for your service.”

The group of quilters has been meeting since last fall in order to get 50 quilts ready to be presented to veterans at a July 4th celebration at the Walk of Flags located in front of St. Vincent Morrilton.

While the national Quilts of Valor campaign was started after Blue Star mom Catherine Roberts wanted to honor her son’s year-long deployment to Iraq, the members of the Conway County Chapter are making quilts to be given away to the oldest veterans in the area first and then working their way to more recent service.

“These quilts are an act of love given to our veterans,” said Susie Kendrick, state coordinator. She said the women spend countless hours working and designing each quilt, which all have a patriotic theme either by subject matter or by color. While some of the women are experienced quilters, for some this is the first time they have ever tried their hand at making a quilt.

“I do this to honor our Vets,” said first-time quilter Mary Velazquez. “I think they fight for our country, and we need to show our appreciation.”

Amy Stanton, whose husband just became a veteran, said, “Now that he’s a veteran, I wanted to continue to show my support for the military.”

One of the recipients of a Quilt of Valor is Fannie Linn, who was a Navy nurse in World War II. Linn, who also is an amazing quilter, said she received her quilt last fall at the Veterans Day celebration at Morrilton High School. “It really surprised me, but I was real proud.”

Linn, who is in her early 90s, joined the Navy as a young woman and became a Navy nurse. As with so many young men and women from the area, it was the first time she had left the state of Arkansas. She said she wanted to help out in the war efforts so she joined the W.A.V.E.S.  (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). Members of the W.A.V.E.S. were a division of the Navy and subject to the same military discipline and received the same rank and ratings, as well as the same pay, as their male counterparts. However, their service was based in the United States.

To ensure quality, the quilts must meet certain specifications set out by the national foundation. Each lap-sized quilt is a minimum of 55 inches by 65 inches and uses high quality 100 percent cotton quilting weight fabric and binding. The quilts are also personalized with the veteran’s name and when and where they served. They can either be hand stitched or machined stitched. Everyone pieces together their own quilt tops, creating their own patterns, but then most send their tops to member Carolyn Chapman, who uses a professional quilting machine to finish the gift. It takes a day and a half for each quilt to be completed. Besides quilting for others in the chapter, Carolyn has made six quilts herself to be given away. She has pieced and quilted a red, white and blue quilt to be given to a family friend who is a Vietnam veteran. She intends to surprise him on July 4th with the gift. “I will be thrilled for him to use it.”

Catherine Pruitt, owner of the local fabric store, said she loves having the women use her store as a base for making the Quilts of Valor. She said seeing the reaction of the veterans who have already received a quilt is so touching. They have told her, “You don’t know what this means to me.” She said, “It is just a wonderful feeling to give back.” The women said they hope to be able to give the gift of a comfortable quilt to each veteran in the area as a simple token of their appreciation.

To submit the name of a veteran that needs a quilt or to make a donation to help buy material needed to make a quilt, call Catherine’s Discount Fabrics at 501.215.3326 or visit the store at 1604 East Harding St. in Morrilton.