The Camo Quilt Project
Before her death in the Fort Hood massacre, SSG Amy Krueger had requested quilts for her entire unit. The Camo Quilt Project completed 46 quilts and a Plymouth, WI company had them delivered to Fort Hood before the unit deployed. Here the 467th Medical Detachment, headed by Major Laura Suttinger, is shown holding what they call “Amy’s Quilts.” Photo reproduced with permission of The Camo Quilt Project.
- To distribute (persons or forces) systematically or strategically.
- To bring (forces or material) into action.
While we usually think of the word deploy in military terms, its definitions could also be used to describe the efforts of Wisconsin quilter Linda Wieck and the remarkable undertaking she calls the Camo Quilt Project. Over the past five years, the project has delivered almost 14,000 specially designed quilts made from camouflage fabric to members of the Army, National Guard, Air Force, and Marines.
It all started back in 2006. Linda had quit her job and begun babysitting her grandkids in order to help her children save money. Her son-in-law, Sergeant First Class Todd Richter with the Wisconsin Army National Guard, was getting ready for his first deployment to Iraq.
Knowing that the hot and cumbersome sleeping bags issued by the military took up valuable real estate inside the enlisted person’s backpack, Richter asked his mother-in-law, a longtime needlewoman and self-taught quilter, to make him a special quilt that he could use instead. He wanted the quilt to be made from the same camouflage fabric as his uniform.
He wanted it to be small enough (45” x 72”) to fit on an army cot, lightweight (with cotton batting), and capable of being rolled up and tied to the outside of his backpack so that there would be room inside for other necessities.
Linda got to work and made the quilt to Richter’s specifications. When he arrived in Camp Shelby, Mississippi prior to leaving for Iraq, his fellow soldiers saw his quilt, immediately recognized its benefits, and asked him if his mother-in-law could make one for each of them as well.
Forty-eight quilts later, Linda thought that she was finished. Articles in area newspapers about what she had done, however, stirred up so much interest, that those first quilts turned out to be not the end, but rather the beginning of what has come to be known as the Camo Quilt Project.
The owner of a banquet hall in a community not far from Linda’s hometown of Plymouth saw the article and offered to donate his space for a workshop so that Linda could teach others how to make the quilts. She took him up on his offer, and the workshop proved so popular that it wasn’t long before other workshops were scheduled.
The Camo Quilt Project became an official project of the Franklin American Legion Post 387 in Plymouth. People who learned how to make the camo quilts from Linda taught others. Meanwhile, as word of the quilts spread among deployed soldiers, airmen, and marines, requests for them increased. Demand and supply continued to grow.
As the project kept on expanding, more and more people got involved. The Lutheran Women’s Missionary League adopted camo quilts as one of its Human Care Projects. A local business in Plymouth, Glacier Transit and Storage, donated one of its warehouse buildings, including utilities, to the Camo Quilt Project. The facility provided a large, safe, well-lit space for volunteers to work. “The warehouse has made such a difference for the project,” said Linda. “It includes a loading dock and we have access to a forklift and a winch, which we use when 400-yard bolts of fabric are delivered.”
Linda orders American-made camouflage fabrics, which are different for the various branches of service, from a supplier in North Carolina that gets them directly from the mills. The fabrics are seconds that have been rejected by the military for various reasons, so Linda can get them at a reasonable price. They are delivered by truck on pallets that can contain up to 2500 yards.
Linda estimates that each quilt costs about $25 to produce, although all materials and labor are donated. “People really want to do something to help our military, but most of the time they don’t know what to do,” she said. “The Camo Quilt Project has jobs for everybody. We have volunteers of all ages, from kids to senior citizens, and both men and women. Men usually do most of the cutting, trimming, and inspection, while women do most of the sewing. Elementary and middle school students make cards to accompany the quilts, and we have a Boy Scout troop that helps us clean up. Several quilting clubs and the Sheboygan County Quilters Guild do a lot. In fact, the whole community has gotten involved.”
When Linda isn’t busy making camo quilts, she can often be found speaking to churches, homemakers’ clubs, senior citizens centers, college classes, or anyone who asks her about the project. She spends at least 40 hours a week on the Camo Quilt Project.
“I tell my son-in-law that this is all his fault,” laughed Linda. “But it has been so rewarding. I really I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing!”
If you would like to learn more about the Camo Quilt Project or make a donation to the effort, contact the group via its website: http://camoquiltproject.blogspot.com
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Column 52: True Confessions: First Quilt
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