Quilts for veterans

People often ask me which of the causes in the book I feel most strongly about. It’s an impossible question to answer. Is global warming more urgent than homelessness? Theoretically, yes. Every day when I encounter actual homeless people, no. But the issues I feel most personally worked up about at the moment are the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the problems so many veterans and their families face when they come home. The number of veterans of the current wars who are unemployed equals the number of troops currently deployed. (The unemployment rate for vets is higher than the general population, and for returning servicewomen it’s even worse: 16%) A third of those returning face serious mental health problems like PTSD and depression. A third of homeless men are veterans, and the number of homeless vets from the current wars has increased dramatically recently. I’ve spent quite a bit of time with veterans and people working on veterans issues in the last year or so, both because of the book and because of a project I did for work. I’m also part of a group of advisors to a new social networking website for vets. I’ve heard numerous stories of young soldiers and marines reenlisting after multiple tours of duty because opportunities for work are so scarce and they feel like the only place they’ll be understood is in the military.

In the face of injury, PTSD, homelessness, joblessness, and despair, a quilt may seem like a small thing. But I’ve heard over and over again from quilters who make quilts for veterans and from veterans themselves, it’s a small thing that makes a real difference. So start a quilt top for Quilts of Valor tonight!

Make bags with me in NYC

I’ll be in New York next weekend for three crafty events I’m very excited about. Please come! I’d love to meet you. I’ll be showing how to make the 30-minute shopping bags from the book (pattern by the brilliant environmental activist Claire Morsman, founder of morsbags). Here are the details:

Saturday, Nov. 14, Noon to 6pm: DIY Design Day
PerkStreet Lounge @ 303 Grand St. , Brooklyn, NY 11211, L train to Lorimer // J train to Marcy
Lots of other fun projects besides mine. I’m excited to learn fabric printing with Heather Ross, author of Weekend Sewing. Also, free beer. RSVP here.

Sunday, Nov. 15, 9:15am to Noon: 30-Minute Shopping Bag Workshop
Purl Patchwork, my favorite fabric store @ 147 Sullivan St, New York, NY 10012, (212) 420-8798
The store is tiny, so you’ll need to call to reserve your spot.

Monday, Nov. 16, 4pm to 8pm: Etsy Labs Craft Night
Etsy Labs @ 55 Washington St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
I have never been to Etsy Labs. Totally excited.

Join the Quilting for Peace campaign

Moda fabrics, my publisher STC Craft, and quilting guilds and fabric stores across the country are joining together in a national Quilting for Peace campaign to support charity quilting efforts and raise awareness about the long American tradition of quilting for social causes. To join in, just make one quilt – or one quilt block or a recycled shopping bag or a softie for a kid or a mini-quilt for a shelter dog – donate it, and convince your crafty friends to do the same. (If you’ve never quilted before this is a really great way to learn.) If you’re more ambitious, we’ve put together a Quilting for Peace kit to help you organize your own Quilting for Peace group, including info on how to get started, a customizable flyer, and a press release you can use to publicize your efforts and attract volunteers. And last but not least, enter to win one of 15 fabric packs from Moda by uploading a photo of your quilt here. I can’t wait to see all the pictures!

Teal is the new pink

I heard on the radio yesterday — four days before the end of the month — that September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Ovarian cancer doesn’t get nearly the attention breast cancer does — did you know, for example, that teal is ovarian cancer’s pink? Though far more women are diagnosed with breast cancer (an estimated 192,000 in the U.S. this year, compared to 22,000 who will be diagnosed with ovarian), the number of women who die of each are much closer (about 40,000 this year for breast, 15,000 for ovarian). That’s because it’s so difficult to diagnose ovarian cancer — only 15% of cases are caught in stage one, before the cancer has spread. My mom survived ovarian cancer five years ago. She was incredibly lucky to be in that 15% — her gynecologist found the tumor during a regular yearly exam and told her that if her appointment had been six months earlier she probably wouldn’t have noticed it, and if it had been six months later it would have been too late. (If you don’t have regular exams, you must start!)

Not surprisingly, quilters are working together to raise both awareness and money for the disease. The Ovarian Cancer Awareness Quilt Project is based at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas. In 2002, women in the center’s ovarian cancer support group made a quilt that was displayed at the that year’s International Quilt Festival in Houston. Since then hundreds of volunteers — mostly from Texas but from as far away as New York — have donated quilt blocks and quilts to be auctioned off to raise money for the center’s ovarian cancer research program. The second annual online quilt auction will take place next month from the 14th to the 28th.

Teal blocks hanging on the ceiling at Sunflower Quilts in Houston
Teal blocks hanging on the ceiling at Sunflower Quilts in Houston

Here’s a video about the preparations for this year’s auction and here’s the line-up of quilts. Last year the project raised $11,440 for research — it looks like it will raise much more this year. If you want to make a block (it can follow the teal ribbon pattern or not, as long as it includes some teal fabric) or donate a whole quilt, here are the instructions.

Catching up on quilts

Now that the book is done, I’m catching up on gift-making. I need to make quilts for two babies: Luka, who belongs to my friends Meg and Flo, and whose birth I witnessed all the way back in January, and Hunter, born on my birthday last month to one of my oldest friends. A couple of weeks ago I went to my favorite fabric shop, Purl Patchwork, and bought some fabric. Here’s a combo I think might make a lovely baby quilt, though I’m not sure it feels right for either of them.


I’m also working on a miniature quilt for my friend Matia, who is eleven and obsessed with horses. I’ve never pieced by hand before; I’m learning with the excellent instructions in Japanese Quilt Blocks to Mix and Match.

Here’s what I’ve managed so far:


I love how portable hand-piecing is. I can do a little at a time and work on it anywhere — on the train, watching Top Chef, waiting at the car wash. It has all the advantages of knitting, but it’s so much more fun.