Meet Pattern Designer and Quilts of Valor Regional Coordinator Alycia Carmin of Alycia Quilts

Posted by on Nov 6, 2012 in Quilting | Comments


Our Quilts of Valor Mystery Quilt-a-Long was so popular that we thought everyone would want to learn more about the designer behind the mystery quilt, Alycia Carmin of Alycia Quilts. Alycia shared with us how she got started quilting, how she came to be involved in Quilts of Valor, and why all quilters should support this great organization. If you finished your Mystery Quilt, sign up for Kimmy Brunner’s Craftsy course Quilting with Templates to learn how to quilt it!

Quilts of Valor with Alycia Carmin

First, Alycia shared her unique and touching story about how she got into quilting.

My dad is a firefighter/EMT and a fire chaplain. When the Twin Towers were hit on 9/11 he was called in to work with the firefighters and coordinate services. He was instrumental in the memorial services as well. In the fire department it is a tradition to trade department patches, and with all the various departments on scene he came home with about 40 patches.

He brought them to me and said he wanted a quilt made out of them. I had never made a quilt before, so I went to the store and bought Log Cabin Quilt in a Day by Eleanor Burns and got started. The patches are approximately 4 inches, making the center of each log cabin at least 5 inches. This ended up giving us a 120 x 140 inch quilt (you see where this is going, right?). Next I had to quilt it, and I tried under my tiny little machine. I then decided there had to be a better way, and instead of driving to town (30 minutes away) and asking the local quilt shop, I bought a quilt magazine and convinced my husband I needed a longarm quilting machine.

Of course, I was right, but at the time that quilt became awfully expensive! I now do machine quilting as a business, so it was a great investment in the end.

She also told us about where she finds her inspiration for her patterns, and how veterans influence her designs.

The first couple of Quilts of Valor that I made were patterns of other designers. I love love love the way that Atkinson Designs are explained, so the very first pattern I designed (the Not So Top Secret Project) was designed to be as simple and as easy as I perceived some of her patterns to be. It got its name because my kids tease me that I can keep secrets for millions of years, so I had better start sharing this pattern before I was done…

Now for my designs I see elements that I like and try to figure ways to combine them into simple, easy patterns. I think I have that Quilters ADD – if something takes me too long, I tend to forget it exists. So for me, I need to make them do-able in a shorter amount of time.

The rail fence is obviously not my original design. However, I wrote a simple “how to” for a 5-rail quilt based on 5 yards of fabric after I had spent a day with my veterans. When we can, we like to let the veteran pick their Quilt of Valor. Sometimes there is one that really speaks to a veteran, and I like that they can feel the love from it. That day, it happened that the five vets I was with all chose a variation of a Rail Fence quilt. I want to share that sometimes simple quilts are what speak to others.

Alycia is the Regional Coordinator for Quilts of Valor in Colorado. She shared more about how she got started with this amazing organization and why she loves it so much.

I first got my long-arm right about the time that Quilts of Valor was getting started, so I thought that since I now owned a long-arm I could help do some quilting. Two months later I was asked to speak to a group of 5th graders on Veterans Day about modern-day vets (Operation Iraqi Freedom Vets). So I went in and talked about our Quilts of Valor program. A boy in the back asked if they could make a quilt. I promptly thought, “No! You’re 10!” but I told him “Of course”… and we made quilts! 10 of them to be exact. 

We were honored to be able to present our quilts to the chaplain at the local post in our state. We met an injured Veteran and presented him a quilt. It was my second time ever to be involved in doing this, and the stoic nature of that vet was quite impressive. He accepted our quilt with gratitude and humility, yet never batted an eye. I got to walk with him back to his room, and he broke down crying. He was lonely for his family, he was angry at being injured, and most of all the thought he had been forgotten. To know that our simple act of giving him a quilt let him know he was remembered, and could offer comfort – tore me up.

I am of the age that a lot of the people we hang out with were and still are called to duty, and many of them for more than one tour. It brought an awareness to me that there is much more to this war than just being called to duty. I watched a dear friend struggle with PTSD and was honored to be able to help in that healing process with a “hug from home” in the form of a quilt. It is compelling to me that something as beautiful yet simple as a quilt can be one of the most important forms of healing for these men and women.

Quilts of Valor is a grassroots organization. It is not funded by a large group, but by the love and hugs of many quilters. Every once in a while we get a sponsor to help cover the costs of batting, but mostly it is quilters making the donation in the form of a quilt. There is a place for every quilter – we have toppers, quilters, binders, pillowcase makers, the whole deal. And it works. To date we have been able to cover over 69,000 veterans. 

I asked her what was her favorite part about Quilts of Valor, and she found it difficult to choose just one!

Absolutely everything!!  Seriously, the first part that I love is that you don’t have to do it all yourself! The way it it organized allows you to get involved in making quilts at the level of experience you have with your favorite step. Second, I love that we are doing something tangible for our troops. I love that they have something to wrap around them and snuggle under that is proof they are not forgotten.

I also asked her how the Craftsy community can help the Quilts of Valor organization, and she had great suggestions for all skill levels and specialties.

How can your community help? Oh let me count the ways!! First off there are a bunch of local groups – a lot of them are registered on the Quilts of Valor website.  You can join in there if you would like.  Make quilt tops or finish a quilt top that you didn’t have anyone in mind for. We need our quilts to be between 55″ x 65″ and 72″ x 90″. Get the finished top to a volunteer long arm quilter (again, you can find them on our website). Got a finished quilt that fits the size requirements? Go to the website and request a destination. Follow the instructions and cover a veteran (I say that because it covers all of our military branches – we cover army, navy, air force, marines, Seabees, etc).

If you want – start a group! We started one here with three of us,  and it has grown to over 25 every month. We get together and sew and cut fabrics, assemble tops, bind quilts and eat chocolate – it’s a grand ol’ time… and the more the merrier.

My own personal blog is filled with ways to help. I am the coordinator in Colorado, where we have one of seven Warriors in Transition Battalions. We house up to 700 soldiers at one time, and lately we have been in-processing between 10 and 40 newly wounded per week. That equates to roughly 100 quilts per month, and so far we have not missed one! Right now we are doing a block drive. QOV as a whole has made contacts overseas at Landstuhl, (a hospital that most of our wounded go to for beginning treatments) as well as field hospitals in Afghanistan, and this block drive is going to help ease those requests.

As someone who is constantly making quilts to give away, I wondered how often she quilts for herself versus quilting for others.

When I first started quilting, of course the first quilt I made was for my dad, but I have been enchanted ever since. The second quilt was for my youngest son, and then I made them for my other two boys, and of course, their dad needed one too!

I think I probably make one or two a year for us, my family, and the rest are really to be loved by others. I really love to share the joy of quilting, and the joy of creating with others. I also love knowing that a little part of my love is out there hugging someone.

Finally, I asked Alycia if there was anything else she wanted to share with the Craftsy community.

You can do it!! Whatever it is – really, you can. I love to let people know that anyone can learn and enjoy this form of art. I did not go to school to do this. I went to school and majored in Ag Business and Animal Science, and I used to work with ranchers, and vets, and sales reps, and was truly the farthest thing from teaching kids and art. Yet here I am… and I have loved every step of getting here, and love seeing where it will take me.

Alycia, thank you so much for telling us your wonderful story and sharing your beautiful pictures with us! I am so moved by the work Quilts of Valor does for our veterans. If you are equally moved, consider participating in some of the ways Alycia highlighted above.

Comments

  1. Cindy Stowe says:

    Thank you Alycia for the pattern for the QOV quilt. I learned about this from Kimmy Brunner’s blog & can’t wait for Craftsy to bring her class online. As all the male members of my family have been Veterans, QOV is my being able to support them. Thanks for such a nice quilt!

    1. Alycia says:

      You are so welcome! Thank you for participating!!!

    2. BarbaraHeuer says:

      I have also signed up for Kimmy’s class and have order the QOV fabric pkg. from Craftsy. I need the pattern – please help me find it. I know it’s a mystery quilt but seems that the mystery is finding the directions. I have been as topper for QOV for two years, but have not made the tops for them. I’m excited to do the complete project start to finish and us Kimmy’s class for the free hand directions. Thank you for your help.

      1. Katie says:

        Hi Barbara!

        You can find the steps to the quilt-a-long here: http://www.craftsy.com/blog/tag/mystery-quilt-a-long/

        Thanks!
        Katie

  2. Nancy Williams says:

    You are so amazing Alycia!!! What a beautiful, inspirational story!!

  3. Judy Howard says:

    How can I contact Quilts of Valor in the Birmingham, AL area?

    1. Katie says:

      Hi Judy!

      You can find out more info about Quilts of Valor at their website, qovf.org. Go here for the direct link for the Alabama chapter.

      Thanks!
      Katie

  4. RUTH SANBORN says:

    How do you get a pattern?

    1. Katie says:

      Hi Ruth,

      You can find all the steps here!

      Thanks!
      Katie

  5. Alicia says:

    Awesome article … awesome group. As a veteran, wife of a veteran, daughter of a veteran and mother of two active duty soldiers, I salute your hard work and support of Quilts of Valor. Keep up the good work!! (Still working to finish my first QOV quilt.)

  6. RUTH SANBORN says:

    How do you get a pattern? Have quilted for over 10 years and this is something I am interested in as we are retired Air Force people.

  7. Holley Downs says:

    I so enjoy making the QOV…our Guild makes about 6 a year! Your quilts are awesome! Thanks for sharing and taking care of our veterans!

  8. Enjay says:

    On one day this summer I heard about QOV on a PBS quilt show in the morning and then read the Craftsy mystery plan from Alicia in the afternoon. I was hooked and finished my QOV quilt top with short work each week. It is at the long arm quilter’s now and I can wait to get it back to bind it and ready the presentation pillow case. Thank you, thank you, Alicia. We are trying to interest some other quilters here in Ohio, since we are very close to Wright Patterson AFB and a VA hospital in Dayton. You are an inspiration and I am humbled to do a small part. Thank you.

  9. Donna Matthews says:

    I received one of the quilts of Valor for my Dad! He is a WWII hero and now in a nursing home. He covers himself with his quilt every day and night. It’s a very special quilt to him and I. I was told of QOV from my Dad’s best friend that he served in WWII with. His daughter had gotten one for him. I can’t tell you what a great organization QOV is. I want to give back also and will be investigating how I can do that. I live in RI. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your heart warming efforts!!!

    1. Alycia says:

      Wow! Thank you for that…. hug your dad for us and tell him Thank you!! Hugs!

  10. Grannie Annie says:

    I am interested in your site – i have material i want to make into blankets for Wounded Warriors, and other Vet organizations…

    1. Katie says:

      Hi Grannie Annie,

      Check out Quilts of Valor at http://www.qovf.org for more info about Quilts of Valor and how you can help!

      Thanks,
      Katie

  11. Susan says:

    Beautiful! my cannot even begin to say how I feel for you are thank you thank for all your hard, and many many hours of love, you have put into all your quilts

    Susan
    Proud Marine Mom ofVeteran Lcpl Sam

  12. Bridgette Stein says:

    Awesome write up there!!!! And I have to say this girl gives it her all! I”m so proud to do QOVs and get so much inspiration and information from this woman right here! She’s a wonderful asset!