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Patchwork Hugs for Wounded Troops posted: 6/22/2005
by *See Article* Printable Page
Category: General Method: All Series: In The News
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Photo Credit: The News Journal/CARLA VARISCO
Catherine Roberts of Seaford sews a border on a quilt that will be sent to a wounded soldier. More than 500 women across the country have helped make 786 quilts for soldiers in Roberts' project, Quilts of Valor.

Seaford woman's project sends quilts around the world
By MIKE BILLINGTON / The News Journal

April 11, 2005
Reprinted with permission from The News Journal

Some work alone, at home, in the quiet of an afternoon.

Some get together in VFW halls, chatting and sewing over three-day weekends. Others gather a few times a month in stores to cut and stitch.

Women from around the country and from as far away as Australia, Germany and Israel are making quilts for wounded soldiers in 21 U.S. military hospitals around the world.

The project has been in operation for about 18 months and is the brainchild of Catherine Roberts, 55, a Seaford resident who wanted to meld her desire to support U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with her love of quilting. The project was born when her son Nathanael was ordered to Iraq, where he is now nearing the end of a tour with a military police unit.

"I started this in November 2003," said Roberts, 55, a nurse-midwife. "I began by going to the Internet, to quilting groups on Yahoo, and asking people if they wanted to get involved."

In those early days of the project she has dubbed the Quilts of Valor, Roberts was specifically looking for "long-armers," slang for quilters who use machines to attach the designed tops and bottoms of quilts to backing and batting - the stuffing that makes a quilt more than just a fancy blanket.

Connie Frick was among the first to answer her call.

"I saw this posting by Catherine," said Frick, a Buckley, Wash., resident, "and I thought what she is doing is so special that I got in touch with her because I have a machine."

Frick didn't think she was expert enough to attach other people's work to backing and batting, but she told Roberts she'd make a quilt of her own.

Photo Credit: The News Journal/CARLA VARISCO
Roberts sews the edge of a border for her quilt. She started the project a year and a half ago with a call she put out over the Internet.
"I actually made two and from there it just sort of snowballed," Frick said.

She has now made and sent 15 quilts to wounded soldiers. In addition, she's organized a small group of quilters that meets regularly at a local VFW hall for three-day-long quilting bees. All told, she and her quilting partners have sent 58 quilts to military hospitals.

The project started slow, Roberts said, but has built up some serious momentum in recent months. Today, she has 403 women who design and make quilt tops and bottoms. Another 143 "long-armers" are also involved in the project, she said. So far, they have sent 786 quilts to wounded soldiers.

The quilts go to soldiers wounded in battle, those injured in non combat situations and to those who have been wounded emotionally, Roberts said.

"Not everyone who gets injured in Iraq or Afghanistan gets a Purple Heart," she said, "but everyone gets a quilt. We call them our 'Granny Purple Hearts.' We don't distinguish between injuries."

The first quilts went to Walter Reed Hospital near Washington, D.C. Roberts called there and was fortunate to speak with the senior chaplain - Army Major the Rev. John Kallerson.

Kallerson, whose wife is a quilter, encouraged Roberts to send him quilts so he could distribute them to soldiers.

"Our patients and their families absolutely love the quilts," Kallerson said.

Kallerson helped set up the contacts with chaplains at other military hospitals, all of whom were eager to receive quilts for their patients.

Mary Ellen May of Fort Worth, Texas, learned about the project in November and started making quilts in January. A mother with a son in the Air Force, she has made and sent four quilts. She has two others that are waiting for long-armers to attach backing and batting to and another on her sewing table.

"When I heard about this project, I thought it was just perfect for me," she said.

May has also organized a small group of quilters. They meet monthly at The Cabbage Rose, a quilting supply store in Fort Worth, to sew. The son of the store's owner is a helicopter pilot on his second tour of duty in Iraq.

Photo Credit: The News Journal/CARLA VARISCO
To make this quilt, Roberts sent fabric, paint and brushes to the men in her son's company in Iraq to print images of their hands. She stitched the pieces together, hands pointing to the center square dedicated to a soldier from the company who was killed.
Evelyn Callia of Baton Rouge, La., has been involved in Quilts of Valor since January. Her son is also a helicopter pilot who is just winding up a year in Afghanistan.

"I found out about it last year and it took a little while for our group of 25 ladies to get organized," Callia said. "We set a tentative goal of making 25 quilts."

So far, she said, the ladies of the Patchwork Pelicans have made 15.

"I'm very excited about that," Callia said. "I really believe in this project and, of course, with a son in the Army, it's really close to my heart."

The Patchwork Pelicans, she said, are pretty much of one mind about the reason for making these quilts every Friday night at a local fire hall.

"We want these soldiers to know there's someone out there thinking of them," Callia said.

Contact Mike Billington at 324-2761 or
2005 Mike Billington and The News Journal
Reprinted with permission from The News Journal
The News Journal
P.O. Box 15505
Wilmington, DE 19850

FYI: To learn more about the Quilts of Valor project, visit the Web site at or call Catherine Roberts at (302) 629-5398

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