Warmth and healing for veterans, one quilt at a time

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NORWAY — On Feb. 3, Barbara Daigle, owner of Sew Orchid Design on Main Street will be holding an “sew-day” in the town office community room.

Much more than a simple sewing circle, Daigle is gearing up for an event to cloak veterans in large, warm, patriotic and hand made quilts.

One veteran will be honored that day with the spotlight on them and thanked for their service on Feb. 3 with a quilt that has already been finished by Daigle and her volunteer quilters, including members of her own group of quilters and sewers, the “Orchid Angels.”

Daigle and her shop have partnered again with the Quilts of Valor, a national organization seeking to show its appreciation for veteran’s sacrifices with something to provide comfort that took considerable effort to produce, a quilt.

Daigle’s effort, the event preparation and quilting itself, “takes a lot of work, a lot of process, and a lot of it is just done out of love for our veterans,” she said. The organization’s mission statement, “to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor,” is well represented in the Pine Tree State. According to Donna Brookings, the QOV coordinator for the state, 125 quilts were awarded to veterans across the state in 2017, along with the presenters’ thanks for their military service.

In total so far 180,236 quilts have been made by QOV hands and presented to former service members all around the world. The foundation was founded in 2003 by Catherine Roberts; her son, Nat, had deployed to Iraq.  One night Roberts said she dreamt about a soldier with a visably fettered mind, suffering war conditions, until a quilt had wrapped itself around the soldier, heralding respite for the servicemember.  According to Roberts, it literally came to her in a dream.

Brookings says that Daigle, “has been my biggest supporter. Barbara has done more than any other shop in the state of Maine for the Quilts of Valor.” Although QOV is active internationally, Daigle emphasizes that, “There is no big company involved here, it’s us, each one of us, whether it’s the time that were donating, or its our fabric stashes.”

The “top quilt,” or decorated face of the quilt that is often hung upon a wall for its aesthetic qualities, is comprised of smaller segments of fabric. There are required parameters for a quilt to be a Quilt of Valor — size, construction and presentation procedure. Daigle takes a loss on the quilts she produces for the QOV in regard to labor and material, even on the kits she sells so that others can make quilts for veterans as well.

Daigle said,“If you’re paying for a kit that has everything you need for the quilt top, it only costs a percentage of what the material actually costs. I purchase fabric from my vendors and cut it for the kits that include everything for a quilt top [big enough to be a Quilt of Valor]. If I were to charge full retail for the kits they could be a pretty high price, $80 to $100. I charge a minimal price so I’m taking on a good portion of that [cost], and the customer will have all the material for the quilt tops we do.”

The cost reduction is tendered with the hope that purchasing customers will use them for the purpose of presenting a finished product to a veteran. Daigle acknowledges that although there is a tacit understanding to the intent of the kits, “I don’t know 100 percent that’s what happens, once it leaves my store I take it on faith.”

Mainers have come some distance to contribute to the offering of warmth and admiration, with one quilter driving out from Bangor at the last sew-day.  Operating off figures of $250 per quilt requiring 100 hours of labor offered by QOV, in 2017 they quilted for 2.4 million volunteer hours fabricating quilts valued at $6 million. Daigle encourages interested people to, “come from anywhere! We have food, we have games, we have prizes.  We make it a fun-filled day that people can enjoy while giving back.”

Inquirers planning on attending to help honor and warm veterans or who are curious to learn quilting will be paired with an experience quilter if they are a novice.

Contact Daigle with inquiries by phone at 739-2065, email via contact@seworchiddesign.com or stop in at Sew Orchid Design at 316 Main St., Norway, Maine.

abrown@advertiserdemocrat.com