News: Sewing their way back home
Every Sunday evening, in a quiet back room of the Contingency Operating Base Speicher Morale Welfare and Recreation South facility, you will find a group of Soldiers. They are not gathered to play cards or watch TV (that's the next room over), but instead, they surround a group of sewing machines, diligently working. They are quilting.
Every Sunday beginning at 7:30 p.m. a group of six or eight Soldiers and Airmen meet for Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Scancella's quilting class. The first couple of weeks, Scancella said he taught the students the basics of quilting. Some students in the class, such as Chief Warrant Officer Eric Olson, a National Guard Soldier in the 136th Signal Battalion, had never used a sewing machine before, but that did not deter them.
"I got excited when I saw Sgt. 1st Class Scancella's flyer for the class," Olson said. "I had always been interested in quilting " my grandmother and some of my cousins made quilts, so I wanted to learn how they do it."
The class started in January, and has been running strong ever since. Scancella said he has about eight regular students, although probably 15 have attended a class, before moving to other bases, or quilting
"I was talking with one of the officers in our company and it turned out she had brought her sewing machine with her," Scanella recalled. "She encouraged me to put on a class, and I said if anyone was interested, I"d do it."
Before beginning the class, Scancella needed to make the preparations for it. He contacted his wife and had two sewing machines sent over, as well as some supplies.
"The machines are not the best, so if they get damaged it won't be as big a deal," Scancella said.
When Scancella's class began in January, he had five students. Together, the students started a class quilt, which Scancella said they plan to finish before the deployment ends. The quilt is a twin size, 9-patch pattern quilt. After that, the students branched out and took up their own projects.
Olson is a working on a baby quilt for his new granddaughter, who will be born shortly. He is constructing the quilt in a 9-patch using soft and colorful material.
The class" two Air Force students, Staff Sgt. Francine Littlebull and Tech Sgt. Lynn Vosler, both of 557th Redhorse Expeditionary Squadron, decided they would make big baby star-patterned quilts for the unit's seven newest additions. The quilts require that the star is made the right size with the points sewn at the correct angles.
"I am impressed with the way that the class jumped right into making their designs," Scancella said. "A lot of these patterns they selected are pretty tricky, they're not necessarily beginner's quilts."
Vosler's wife, Tina, sent the directions for the big baby star quilts over, along with donated boxes of materials to include fabric, batting for the inside of the quilts, see-through rulers, rotor-cutters (rotating material cutters), Puzzle mat cutting mats, and threads, pins and needles. Tina works at a quilting store, Quilts in the Country, where the Vosler's reside in Bosnan, Mont. Tina also sent various other designs with her hand-written directions and notes to students in the class. When the class leaves at the end of the deployment, they said they plan to donate the materials to the incoming unit to continue the class.
Scancella is working on his second quilt. He made one out of the material that is used in the new digitized Army Combat Uniforms, before the brigade executive officer, Maj. Christopher Albus, approached him on making a quilt with the brigade logo on it. The quilt is an appliqué design. Scancella took a digitized picture of the logo and used a projector to enlarge the design. He then made a template for each of the different pieces.
Spc. Valeria Flores, of Company B, 96th Aviation Support Battalion, a newcomer to Scancella's class, is constructing an appliqué quilt, or a quilt where patterns and designs are sewn directly on the quilt itself.
So how did a U.S. Army Soldier also become a quilting teacher? Scancella recalled how he started quilting 10 years ago.
"I was cross-stitching a /calendar and it needed to be sewn. "There was a soldier in my unit who had a machine and I asked her if she could help me out. She said I could borrow the machine, but I had to sew it myself. After sewing the calendar I knew I wanted to do more sewing so I ended up buying a machine."
Scancella said his interest in sewing and quilting just grew the more he did it. He said he made his first quilt for his sister who had cancer and was in the Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society.
Scancella estimates that by now, he has made 30 quilts. He said that people from throughout Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq, have asked about buying the quilts. The students in the class said they take that as a compliment. Apparently, they are beginners no longer.