A quilting group based in Linwood, Kansas, recently presented Citizen Potawatomi Nation veterans with handmade quilts to honor the veterans’ military service.

Peggy Pistora, Navarre family descendant, is a member of the Linwood Community Library’s Quilts for Veterans group. She helped organize the Oct. 8, 2022, quilt presentation at the Rossville, Kansas, CPN community meeting.

Receiving quilts were CPN veterans Max Kennedy, U.S. Marine Corps; Lyman Boursaw, U.S. Army; Paul McGuire, U.S. Marine Corps; Bob Brown, U.S. Army; Joe Wulfkhule, U.S. Air Force; Mike Martin, U.S. Marine Corps; Dave Stadler, U.S. Navy; Neil Petticord, U.S. Air Force; and Jon Boursaw, U.S. Air Force.

Quilting and socializing

“The group meets monthly at the Linwood Community Library,” Pistora said. “In total, we have nine members in our little group.”

Jean Brown, Deb Cantrell, Kathleen Meyn, Sandy Morgan-Cockrum, Sarah Morris, Bonnie Purkeypile, Kathy Rapp and Virginia Tummons comprise the group’s members. However, anyone is welcome to participate, whether they have sewing skills or not, Pistora said.

“We have people who iron the fabric or cut the fabric. You don’t have to know how to sew,” she said. “We get together just to socialize.”

The Linwood Community Library Quilts for Veterans group was formed in 2015 to make quilts for both active duty and retired members of the military, honoring those who served in recent or past conflicts.

“We wanted to recognize that being deployed overseas changes a person and often has repercussions that last a lifetime,” Pistora said.

While they take honoring military service members seriously, the group enjoys the social aspect of their meetings as well.

“We originally got together just to enjoy each other’s company, to learn quilting techniques from each other and to create quilts to honor our local service men and women,” she said.

Quilts for Veterans is currently in their sixth year of crafting and honoring veterans. The Rossville event marked the presentation of their 25th to 33rd quilts, each with a letter that read:

“In appreciation for the service and sacrifice that you and your family have given for our country, we have made this special quilt for you. We have made it with much love and respect, in the hopes that it will provide you with comfort and remind you that your sacrifice and service and very much appreciated.

“Thank you so much for all that you have done to keep our country safe and free. It is our sincere hope that you will enjoy this quilt and let it serve as a reminder that you are appreciated, valued and respected. We hope that you will feel this appreciation, not just today or on Veterans Day, but every day of the year.”

A man wearing a brown plaid flannel shirt stands holding a folded red, white and blue quilt. The inscription panel with a message honoring him for his service in the U.S. Air Force is visible.
Neil Petticord, U.S. Air Force, received a handmade quilt to honor his military service. (Photo provided)
Quilting popularity rises

As a craft form, quilting is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. According to a Craft Alliance survey, there are now 85 million “active creatives” in North America, meaning people who have completed at least one creative project in the last year. There are currently 10 to 12 million quilters in the U.S. In 2020, there was a more than 12 percent increase in the number of new quilters.

Putting a quilt together can be either simple or very complex, depending on the design, Pistora said.

“Most of our quilts are fairly simple. They are made typically out of cotton fabric. First, we select a quilt pattern to make, then we normally ‘team’ together to make the quilt. By that, I mean one person may cut the fabric, another may sew the fabric pieces together, another person might press the sewn pieces, so they lay nicely when the new pieces are sewn to it. Finally, we have quilters who use their long arm sewing machines to make the final product,” she said.

They then bind the quilt around the edges. After completion, the quilt is washed in cold water to prevent the fabric from fading. They label each quilt before it is awarded to a veteran.

“Depending on the complexity of a quilt, one quilt may take our little group anywhere from a few months or a year to complete. We typically have four to five quilts simultaneously in progress,” Pistora said.

Respect in each layer

Pistora said each layer of the quilt conveys the respect the group has for veterans.

“The top of the quilt with its many colors, shapes, and fabrics, represents the communities and the many individuals we are,” she said. “The batting is the center of the quilt and provides its warmth. It represents our hope that this quilt will bring warmth, comfort, peace, and healing to the individual who receives it.”

“Finally, the backing is the strength that supports the other layers. It represents the strength of the recipient, the support of his or her family, our communities and our nation. Each stitch that holds the layers together represents the love and gratitude of its makers and of our fellow countrymen and women.”

Veterans who received the quilts were deeply moved by the gesture.

Jon Boursaw served in the U.S. Air Force for more than 24 years and retired at the rank of colonel. He was among the veterans who received a quilt during the presentation.

“Very simply said, I had to grab a nearby chair to steady myself when the blanket was unfolded,” he said. “The blanket is absolutely beautiful. It is now displayed in our home on a wall at the end of the hallway that leads to our bedroom. The ladies in the quilting group did beautiful work on all of the quilts that were presented to our veterans.”

After the Rossville CPN veteran presentation, Pistora said she was happy the group was able to honor a veteran from each branch of the U.S. military.

“I am humbled to be with the veterans who have served our country, performed their duty and fought for the freedoms we enjoy,” she said.