Beginning in 2001, two things converged to inspire a large and sustained quiltmaking effort: first, the United States’ involvement in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and, second, the simultaneous explosion of quiltmaking for charitable causes. As a result, by a conservative estimate, American quiltmakers have donated over 100,000 quilts to comfort and honor soldiers and their families since the wars began. Groups have made quilts for children of deployed service members, for service members who have been wounded or “touched” by the wars, and for families with loved ones killed in action. Some groups have expanded their scope to give belated honor to veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
Due to the Internet and digital tools, quiltmakers can join virtual groups and contribute to quilts for soldiers and families they have never met. Sue Scheri, a coordinator for Marine Comfort Quilts, commented that the anonymity hasn’t been a hindrance: “Every quilt sends … a part of everyone who’s got a square in that quilt, no matter whether they just signed their name or wrote a whole poem. You send a piece of yourself with it that says, ‘I care and I will not forget.’”1
The American quilt industry also participates. Fabric companies have created new patriotic fabric lines expressly for these projects, quilt shops sell quilt kits and pair experienced quiltmakers with novices who want to make soldier quilts, and quilt magazines spread the word to their readers.
Lastly, probably inspired by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—The Wall— that honors individual soldiers by name without regard to rank, American artists and quiltmakers have inscribed fallen service members’ names on quilts made as lasting memorials, such as the Lost Heroes Art Quilt, conceived and created by Julie Feingold, and now residing at Arlington National Cemetery.
1. Jonathan Gregory, “Meanings and Messages: Quilts to Comfort the Families of America’s Fallen in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars,” Masters Thesis (University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2007).