Travelling Veterans Quilt for Central Oregon Veterans Ranch

Sometimes it's overwhelming, the many things that need attention and fixing and assistance. What can I do? How can I use my talents to help? These are questions many of us ask. This is the story of our Travelling Veterans Quilt; how the seeds were planted throughout the years that grew into ideas; and how we pulled together, using our talents, to help in our own little way.

Many years ago, when my friends were still in the baby growing stage, my friend Pam would organize the making of a baby quilt for a pregnant friend. She would select the fabrics, cut them out, and give each of us a square to embellish as we saw fit. Then we would all gather for a baby shower, where we would spend the day sewing the quilt together. What a beautiful memento for that special mom and her precious new child. Seed planted.

Five or six years ago I became enchanted with Alabama Chanin: their style; the meditative quality of slow stitching by hand; the sustainable repurposing of t-shirts, taking something old and breathing new life into it; and the myriad of beautiful examples of finished clothing and home accessories, including their flag quilt. Seeds planted.

I remember reading an article about the Central Oregon Veterans Ranch and doing some research about it. Something really resonated with me there. I felt it was a brilliant idea, and a wonderful opportunity for our veterans to spend time in nature, learn a new skill, and help each other while helping themselves. Coincidentally, I was speaking with my friend Annette about the Ranch. Annette knew the founder, Alison Perry, and confirmed that it was indeed a worthy cause. Seed planted.

Last Fall there was a call to artists. They were searching for a workshop that embodied how art affects the community. Political upheaval was weighing heavy on our minds, and I kept thinking we all need to pull together, because no matter our differences, we are all humans that live here in our one great nation, the United States of America. The symbol of the flag came to mind and what it embodied; then a flag quilt, each piece a little different from the next, each one made by different hands, each set of hands with their own life experiences, background, religion, history, views. Yet each of these unique pieces, when stitched together, would create a symbol of unity, freedom, resilience, community. Seed planted.

Following the guidelines and measurements for the flag as closely as I could, and getting inspiration from the beautiful Alabama Chanin flag quilt, I made my own pattern and a class plan on how to create a community hand sewn flag quilt, then proposed my workshop. The workshop was not chosen, but I couldn't get the vision out of my head. The seeds planted, nourished by need and desire to help, had flourished into an idea. So I asked my Sit N Stitch group if they would be interested in gathering together their old red, white and blue t-shirts; cutting strips; stenciling patterns; stitching swatches; and assembling an American flag quilt to then donate to the Central Oregon Veterans Ranch to help with a fundraiser. There was a resounding "YES!" And we were off.

For our first meeting everyone brought their old t-shirts and some jersey yardage. None of the t-shirt colors exactly matched, some faded, some bright, but that made it all the better. Together we cut our strips. A couple days later a few of us gathered and stenciled a variety of patterns onto those strips.

Next meeting I gave a tutorial on how to stitch and sew the  reverse applique technique.

The swatches were passed out to about a dozen women. Each woman took her swatches home and hand stitched the pattern, each hand a little different from the next. Little by little swatches started coming back, and more were given out. I delighted in how subtly different each person's swatches were, and enjoyed the extra personal flourishes added.

About a month later all the swatches were complete. Many hands really do make light work!

On this swatch we all signed our initials and stitched them with the year and Bend sign. You can see it tucked into the lower right-hand side of the finished quilt.

This is a shot in progress of fitting designs and sizes of swatches together.

For the blue field I chalked a grid onto the fabric, then stitched diagonally through the whole rectangle. Then I whip stitched the stars on.

It was time to hand stitch the entire quilt together, all 100" X 60". We first stitched our individual rectangle swatches together to make stripes.

I checked and double checked measurements, especially since we were sewing stripes that needed to line up and not go all wobbly. One person's 1/4" may be a little different than the next person's 1/4" and so on. With many women working on the same project, I thought it best to chalk the seam lines in advance to ensure all the seams were even. This did take quite a while, but it was worth the effort, as the flag came together beautifully!

We finished the quilt edges off with the blanket stitch, and I added a sleeve along the top to facilitate hanging.

While everyone was busily stitching the flag, the fundraising aspect needed attention. It was decided a raffle would be the most profitable way to raise funds with the flag, but when and how could we best advertise our raffle? We would let the flag speak for itself, and display the flag in various establishments around town, a week or two at each location. The businesses that hosted the flag would all sell raffle tickets, as well as COVR, and us makers.

Our debut of the Travelling Veterans Quilt is this Friday, at Cowgirl Cash in Downtown Bend, for First Friday Art Walk, May 5th. The final showing and raffle will be held on Friday, July 7th, at Lulu's in downtown Bend, again at First Friday Art Walk.

Travelling Veterans Quilt Calendar
May 3 - May 21 - Cowgirl Cash
May 23 - June 1 - Ginger's Kitchenware
May 31 - 3:00 Central Oregon Daily Show (Click to see the segment)
June 2 - Quilt Works
June 3 - 10-12:30 Pomegranate French Flea Market
June 14 - Central Oregon Veterans Ranch
June 15 - June 24 - Atelier 6000
June 25 - July 7 - Lulu's

If you decide you'd like to make your own community quilt, here are a few tips that might be helpful.

1) Pre-wash your t-shirts to ensure there is no odor or color bleeding. Put color catchers with the red fabric to make sure there is no transfer of color.  Don't use t-shirts that are too thin, worn, or stretchy.

2) Measure twice (or three or four times) and cut or stitch once.

3) Instruct all the sewers on the basics of hand stitching, emphasizing tight, double knots, longer stitch length, and 1/4" seaming. Pre-chalking the seam lines or using 1/4" quilters tape helped keep the seams even.

4) I pinned a note on the right-hand side of each stripe denoting the color, number of the stripe, and it's length to help keep track of things; then safety pinned together all the swatches in their order in one stripe.

5) To make allowances for easing and sizing when stitching the stripes together, I noted swatches with an inch or two of blank space at the edge, and stitched those last. That way if the stripe needed to be shortened, you could easily cut off excess fabric from these blank areas instead of cutting into embellished, already stitched areas. The blue sticky notes are my "ease" areas.

Look for an article about The Travelling Veterans Quilt in the Cascade Journal early this summer by Penny Nakamura. Penny just happens to be one of our stitchers.

Please visit Central Oregon Veterans Ranch web page for more information about their organization.
Alison has done a simply amazing job of orchestrating and bringing to life her vision that is now Central Oregon Veterans Ranch. In the short span of two years they have attained non-profit status; procured their 19 acre property; remodeled the existing home; are now adding a working green house; and soon will offer four beds for end of life care. And Alison's visions don't stop there! Her future plans are nothing short of brilliant. All this while offering an inviting, peaceful, safe place for veterans of ALL ages to visit.

COVR started with zero funds. Alison and her group have worked tirelessly through fundraising and grants to build COVR to what it is today. Please help them reach their future goals and support them any way you can. A $5 raffle ticket is about the same as a large coffee or a happy hour drink. You may purchase your raffle tickets online here, or purchase your tickets from Cowgirl Cash, Lulu's or one of the ladies in helping.hand.made. COVR are also holding their 1st annual Red, White and Blue Ball on June 3rd. You can purchase tickets for the ball here. (The Ball is SOLD OUT!! Thank you supporters! Please look forward to next years event.)

Will we do this again? A resounding Yes! We have formed a group called helping.hand.made - women gathering together to hand make items for donation or sale with proceeds being donated to a worthy cause. Our hope is to do at least one project like this a year. I have so many ideas whirling around. I've added a new page at the top of my blog where I'll post updates on any project we're working on. Any and all ideas, suggestions are welcomed. We want to make a difference, whether small or large, in our own little way.


  1. Oh Patti, that is wonderful and so beautiful! KUDOS to you nd all your helpers!
    XOXO Debbie

    1. Thank you so much, Debbie. Miss you already.....