The American flag appears to be waving in a slight breeze, its stars and stripes rippling just so. But this quilted flag isn’t strung up on a pole. Instead, it stands framed behind glass, the latest donation to the Redmond Airport and a symbol of local cohesion during a divided time.
Mounted on a wall at the airport’s main entrance, the handmade flag, which is ample enough to cover a king-size bed, is the sewn-together creation of 18 Central Oregon women. Ruffled lace lends the quilt a wind-rumpled appearance, and its raffled sale has benefited the nonprofit Central Oregon Veterans Ranch to the tune of $3,000.
Bend resident Patti Calande, 54, who organized the flag’s construction, said she came up with the idea for the patriotic quilt as a way to stitch some goodwill into a politically split country.
“After this divisive election season, I wondered, ‘Can’t we all get along?’” Calande said during the ceremony.
Calande’s sewing circle assembled the quilted flag in the hand-sewn Alabama Chanin tradition.
The quilt comprises more than 75 red and white swatches that feature many floral flourishes. The flag’s stripes are made of secondhand T-shirt fabric.
Volunteer Mary Wallace and Calande bedecked the felt, navy-blue square with 50 hand-cut stars. Calande has taught hand-sewing classes for three years at retreats throughout the Northwest and hosts a monthly sit-and-stitch group at local bookstores and coffee shops.
“The social aspect (of sewing circles) is huge,” Calande said. “We talk about everything, such as where the best place is to buy a certain item, or someone wants a doctor recommendation, a new recipe. We also exchange ideas and techniques for projects.”
Did they delve into politics while piecing together the flag? Not so much.
“We didn’t talk specific politics,” Calande said. “We talked about how it’s really sad the way people are reacting to the politics and how the American population was breaking apart. There is so much tension and aggression (after the presidential election).”
By creating this flag, Calande and others strove to stitch it up.
“We were trying in our own little way to shed light on the idea that we are all one,” she said.
Calande came up with the idea for the quilted flag as the presidential election wound to a close. Early this year, she put the idea of quilting the flag to her sit-and-stitch group, which was enthusiastic. She created a splinter faction for the project, christening the group helping.hand.made. The plan was to raffle off the finished quilt and donate the proceeds from the $5 tickets to veteran’s outreach.
Debbie Seibert, 62, is one of the 18 participants who stitched the flag together. Seibert met Calande two years ago through the sit-and-stitch. She was one of several quilters who opened her home to others for the numerous four-hour quilting sessions, which she hosted on her kitchen’s large center island. Any potential staining agents were kept away from the nascent flag.
“We had a rule — no wine, no beverages until we were done for the day,” Seibert said with a laugh. The abstinence warded off spills and crooked stitches alike. After the unveiling, Seibert pointed to where she stitched a Magdalena pattern on the flag.
“I think this one is mine,” she said, pointing to a red, shoebox-sized panel that featured floral flourishes. While she has cross-stitched for more than 30 years, the Alabama Chanin tradition was new to her. Her favorite panel is a white one in the lower right corner that features the Bend logo and the stitched initials of the 18 women who contributed to the flag’s creation.
Though no wine glasses came close to the fabric, Calande said she had an “oh, crap” moment when, after washing the finished quilt, a couple swatches’ colors rendered some of the white stripes pink. Calande cleaned up the runny stripes by adding a color-absorbing sheet to the flag in the washer.
Seibert, throughout the flag’s creation, was the most vocal about her wish that the raffle winner find a public home for the flag.
“All the girls were in agreement that we didn’t want the flag to end up somewhere where the public wouldn’t be able to see it,” Seibert said. “We didn’t want it to end up on eBay.”
A bit of confusion ensued when Calande called the winner in July.
“She called my husband, Rick, and said, ‘I don’t know if you remember, but a while back you entered a raffle for a quilted flag, and you won,’” recalled Seibert, who bought $100 worth of raffle tickets. “Rick told her, ‘Well, you better talk to my wife, Debbie, about this.’”
Debbie was dumbstruck.
“It felt really good (to win the flag),” she said. “It was kind of shocking how it played out.”
Rick suggested they donate the flag to the Redmond Airport where several other patriotic works are displayed. Located to the immediate right of the airport’s main entrance, the flag is a bold salutation to the nearly 1 million visitors who pass through the corridor each year, according to the airport.
“The flag will be here forever,” said Erin Shaw, the Redmond Airport’s office assistant who oversaw the installation. An airport maintenance worker who is also a veteran situated the quilted flag in a rustic frame. “This is a permanent piece.”
Alison Perry, the founder of the Central Oregon Veterans Ranch, said at the unveiling ceremony that the collaborative flag is a great example of how communities support not only veterans but nonprofits. The donated $3,000 comes at a time when the veterans organization is working to move terminally ill or aged veterans into its licensed, four-bedroom adult foster home, Perry said.
As for upcoming projects, Calande said helping.hand.made will repurpose old pillowcases into reusable shopping bags and distribute them to 10 local shops to give to customers.
Pixie Newcomb and her husband, Jack Newcomb, who is a Vietnam veteran, attended the unveiling. Jack and his wife, respectively, are the past commander and past auxiliary president of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4108 in Redmond. They were impressed by the local elbow grease.
“The flag is beautiful,” Pixie said. “When you put it all together, there is a lot of heart and love there. The community works three times as hard to help our veterans.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7816, firstname.lastname@example.org