Homemade quilts comfort soldiers

BLUE EARTH – A home-made quilt can make all the difference when you’re injured and in a hospital, said Linda Bakken of Blue Earth.

“A soldier gets shipped to Landstuhl in Germany and they come with nothing so they’re presented with a quilt that was made special for them,” she said.

That is the purpose of Quilts of Valor, a volunteer movement with about two dozen local people who make lap quilts to donate to military men and women around the world and right here at home.

“For the most part, our quilts are staying in Minnesota,” Bakken said.

Since 2008, the locals have made between 50 and 100 quilts.

The volunteers work on the quilts on their own and there’s a group that meets at Michele’s Sewing in Blue Earth. The Blue Earth Valley Quilters are contributors, as well.

Quilters can use whatever pattern and color combination they like. The finished quilt should measure at least 50×60 inches and no larger than 72×90 inches to make a good-sized lap quilt. All quilts are washed and folded into a pillowcase, which can be handmade to match the quilt, before they’re sent to the soldiers.

Bakken has received donations of fabric and quilt blocks, but stressed the fabric should be 100 percent quilt-shop cotton because it will stand up to wear and washing. Using the same fabric helps keep the quilts to a uniform quality so soldiers get comparable quilts. Right now, she will only accept red, white, blue and tan fabric.

Monetary donations are always welcome because the quilters need to buy batting and backing for the quilts. Minkee or quality flannel work well because they are soft.

“Veterans organizations have made generous donations toward quilt batting and backing,” she said.

“One of our biggest supporters was a Vietnam veteran who worked at our school because he really knew what it meant to be forgotten,” said Bakken, who teaches at Granada-Huntley-East Chain.

“In 2010, we sent 21 quilts to Bravo Troop in Fort Richardson, Alaska,” Bakken said. “These soldiers were recently returned from a year-long deployment to Afghanistan.”

One of those soldiers was Bakken’s son, Matt, who chose each quilt for all the soldiers.

“That was pretty fun for us,” Bakken said.

Bakken had a special reason to get involved with Quilts of Valor.

“I got started because my husband (Steve) was deployed to Afghanistan,” she said, “and I needed to do something in support of our servicemen. This is something I love to do and it was a way to say ‘Thank you.'”

The movement was begun in 2003 by Catherine Roberts, whose son was in the military. Being a quilter, she wanted to help out with her sewing skills. When she couldn’t find any outlet, she started calling people and found a chaplain who suggested the injured warriors might want a lap quilt to keep them warm and ease the pain of their amputations. Roberts made contact with military hospitals and veterans groups to facilitate the donations.

The Quilts of Valor Foundation’s motto is “Quilting to Comfort and Honor Our Wounded.” It has a website at qovf.org and includes notes from those who have received quilts.

“The first time I went online and read the tributes from the men and women, I sat and cried,” Bakken said. “They are very touching.”

For more information or to donate, call Bakken at 507-525-1530. To work on quilts, contact Michele’s Sewing at 507-526-3295 or 120 N. Main St.