Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a day to honor the men and women who lost their lives while serving in the armed forces. Throughout their history, quilts have been used to remember, comfort, and honor servicemen and women and their loved ones. From quiltmaking projects that gift quilts to grieving families, to quilts that capture the history of military sacrifices, today we’re sharing a few stories of quilts as memorials to those who served.
Dianne Higley shared her experience making quilts to comfort families who lost loved ones in Iraq:
I did a quilt for the Home of the Brave project too that the DAR did or is doing… I think it was maybe last year or the year before they did that project, the Home of the Brave. They asked each of the chapters to donate quilt squares or quilts and they would go to the families of the young men and women killed in Iraq, as a memory quilt. They used what is called an Album pattern where they had a little white square in the middle where the people could sign their names and the ladies in our chapter put their names in those little squares before we sent it in. Back during the Civil War where this pattern came from, they would have the family members sign their names and then they would send the quilt off to war with their soldier and a lot of these soldiers carried those quilts all the way through the war, but not many of them survived. When a soldier was killed, he would be buried in his quilt. Quilts have come a long way. Back then they were made out of scrap fabric what was left out of clothing that could no longer be worn, but now we go to the store and we buy fabrics and make them.
Carole Lyles Shaw created a quilt to honor African-American servicemen and women. This quilt is part of a series of quilts and other mixed media art work that I am creating to honor the memories of ordinary men and women who served in the American Armed Forces, particularly in the early part of the 20th Century and most of the work features images and documents and so forth from 1960 or earlier… I happen to have been born in 1948 so in my lifetime literally we moved from a legally segregated army to a desegregated army although for many years there was still lots and lots of discrimination and limitations of roles that African American men and women could play. I downloaded the first page of Truman’s executive order and I superimposed over that these words, ‘They fought and died for American freedom before they had their own’ and those words, those are my words and to me it just captures once again the honorable service that African Americans have given since the Revolutionary War obviously, even though at the time of the Revolutionary War we were still enslaved legally. Following the Civil War we were legally free but not full citizens. That took many, many more years to happen, and now we have an African American supported by Americans of all colors and walks of life…
Making quilts can also help heal the grieving. Sandra Branjord shared a quilt that she made 10 years after the death of her son, who had served in the US military.
My friend Kit a fellow quilter lost her son. She commemorated his life by producing a book for his children to remember him by as they were just six and eight. She found the process cathartic, many tears were shed but she got to remember so many things about her son and passed those treasured memories on to his children. I am so pleased to hear the making of your quilt healed you in the process. Thank you for sharing this personal quilt with us fellow quilters – With love and Best Wishes Chris