Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Marianne Fons: Quilts of Valor

Earlier this year, I sneaked a little hint in about exciting things coming to The Fiber Nation this year. I wrote to Quilts of Valor, in hopes of getting information to do an article on the project. Imagine my surprise when I was at the gym on a machine, and saw an email come in that said it was from "Marianne Fons." I think I nearly fell off the machine I was on! 

Marianne is what I would consider one of the founding mothers of the current quilt movement. She and Liz Porter gave the quilt world Fon's and Porter's Love of Quilting the PBS quilt show, as well as the Love of Quilting Magazine. How many new quilters can imagine a world without the rotary cutter and mat? These ladies started out like those that quilted generations ago - with templates and scissors - and quite frankly at the time fabrics were not at all what we know as quilt fabrics today!

I'm very excited to say that Marianne Fons has put together a post about Quilts of Valor. Even more excited, that she will be a guest writer on The Fiber Nation throughout the year, sharing some of her personal writing on her thoughts about quilting. Enjoy, and watch for future articles by Marianne!

Thanks, Stephanie, for inviting me to contribute to The Fiber Nation. BTW, your interview with my daughter, “Quilty” host Mary Fons, February 11 was terrific. I applaud Mary for creating a quilting product specifically for new, young quilters and delivering it in exactly the packaging they want (YouTube), and I applaud you for connecting her with your readers!

I look forward to writing about some of my favorite locations on the quilting planet and sharing a little quilting philosophy over the next few months with The Fiber Nation readers. Our first stop is the Quilts of Valor Foundation.
                                                                              Marianne Fons

Quilting = National Service
by Marianne Fons

Long ago, during overseas armed conflicts that occurred before any of us were born, women did things like roll bandages and knit scarves to send to military hospitals abroad. During World Wars I and II, Americans were encouraged to grow “Victory Gardens” in their back yards to reduce pressure on the public food supply, as well as boost their own morale. National service in time of war was an everyday activity.  

National Service is being revived and updated by American quilters who make comforting, lap-size quilts for combat veterans. To date, the Quilts of Valor Foundation, www.QOVF.org, has coordinated the presentation of almost 40,000 of these quilts.

I met QOVF founder Catherine Roberts at Houston Quilt Festival in 2009. The foundation which she chairs was born in 2003 during her son Nat’s deployment in Iraq. Catherine, a retired nurse-midwife (and quilter), remembered the terrible treatment many Viet Nam war vets received when they came home. She wanted service members like Nat to experience a different reception. In a dream, she saw a soldier awake in the middle of the night, battling unspeakable war demons, but comforted by a quilt draped around him.

Catherine made a quilt and gave it to a soldier. One quilt led to another, and another. A chaplain at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington DC worked with her as the Quilts of Valor project grew. His own teenage daughter volunteered during several summers, rolling a cart stacked with quilts through hospital wards, allowing recuperating injured soldiers to choose a Quilt of Valor. The red, white, and blue ones always went first.

Now, Quilts of Valor Foundation is a 501C-3 charitable foundation with a board of directors, regional coordinators, and volunteer longarm quilters who turn quilt tops into comforting quilts that say “Thank you for your service” to service members touched by war. Presentations have expanded to include soldiers from previous conflicts, including Viet Nam. To see with your own eyes what receiving a QOV means to a person who has served under fire, watch an interview with Dorsey Winfrey at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J13UBp8-Yyw

I don’t know why the Quilts of Valor movement in particular grabbed my heart. Maybe it allows me to balance my distrust of war with my love of country. As a basic pacifist, I appreciate the message on the QOVF web site: “It’s not about politics, it’s about people.”

So far, I’ve made two Quilts of Valor, and I’ve succeeded in mobilizing a group of quilt industry vendors to support QOVF. Nine top fabric companies (Andover, Clothworks, Marcus, Moda, P&B, Quilting Treasures, Red Rooster, Timeless Treasures, and Windham) each recently launched collections of American Valor Fabrics. Shop owners at Fall Quilt Market 2010 bought the fabric groups like crazy. Actual fabrics ship this spring. The Quilts of Valor web site information will be on the selvage of each print. Info about the fabrics is at http://www.qovf.org/content/uowfabric-companies.html.

With Catherine Roberts and other QOVF volunteers, I’m helping craft a program called Under Our Wings which allows anyone, whether they know how to sew patchwork or not, to participate in national service by making just one quilt, a Quilt of Valor. I’ll be sharing more information about Under Our Wings in a future guest post right here at The Fiber Nation.

In the mean time, happy stitching!

I would like to offer a special thank you to Marianne for taking the time to share information on this very worthwhile cause. I hope many of you readers will get involved. I've done three quilts for QOV - will you do some? -- Stephanie Forsyth  

1 comment:

  1. A great post - thanks for the QOVF information! I enjoyed the interesting history behind the quilt making movement that is so much a part of many guilds charitable activities.