Andrew Lee, of Combat Quilter, is a relatively new person to quilting, but his story is fueled by love and resiliency.
Andrew Lee is a U.S. combat veteran who discovered that quilting helps him cope with his symptoms of PTSD. It also allows him to create quilts for other veterans, through Quilts of Valor, who have been touched by war.
He is currently being featured in the AccuQuilt gallery. Join us as we learn more about this quilting servicemember.
Interview with Andrew Lee
AccuQuilt: We’re so excited to feature your work in our gallery! How did you choose the pieces to send?
Andrew Lee: It honestly was a struggle to gather enough quilts to send. As most of the quilts I make are for quilts of valor. The others I make are gifts for family. I had to ask my mother and mother-in-law if I could borrow a couple from them.
AQ: Is there anything we should know or think when we view your gallery?
AL: As a new GO! Getter, I only have one quilt in the gallery made with AccuQuilt. Had I found it earlier, I probably would have more completed quilts.
AQ: How did you find quilting?
AL: My wife one evening said “we don’t do enough together.” I wasn’t sure what that meant - as we were remodeling a house, building a fire pit area, landscaping our yard, visiting historic landmarks, and exploring breweries and delicious food trucks and restaurants.
A couple of days later a flyer from a local quilt shop arrived in the mail stating a 2 for 1 deal on a table runner class. I thought this would be a great opportunity to make one for my mother, she could make one for her mother, and we could do it together. What I didn’t anticipate was it becoming my productive escape from PTSD.
AQ: Tell us a little about your first quilt.
AL: In that same flyer was a raccoon quilt. I knew I couldn’t do something that advanced, but the colors were appealing. I chose a simple 4” finished stair-stepped effect.
After it was finished, it had too much purple in it, and I gifted it to a friend - conditional that he would never sell it. It was supposed to finish as a throw quilt and ended up being a hair smaller than a queen.
I used the same fabrics for my second quilt, which is hanging in the gallery, with the around the world pattern. Quilted by a great friend Terri from Michigan.
AQ: What are you working on now?
I am currently working on a pixelated quilt of the picture of the flag-raising on 9/11 by the three firefighters. It will be 22,400 pieces of ¾” finished squares and stand just over 11 feet high.
I also am selecting the fabrics for a civil war log cabin and constructing four Quilts of Valor.
AQ: From where do you draw inspiration most often?
AL: My inspiration mostly comes from attempting to create something that will impact others in a positive light.
Quilting is my therapy. It just so happens that the byproduct of me making quilts is awarding Quilts of Valor to other veterans - which I hope gives them a little warmth and comfort.
AQ: Prior to starting to use AccuQuilt you created a lot of great projects using squares. What was your motivation behind creating such ambitious projects?
AL: After winning the Novice award at the Smoky Mountain Quilt show, I knew the following years I would have to create something jaw-dropping to compete with folks who have been quilting for many years.
As an artist, I knew pointillism and pixilation were a method to get a picture-like quilt - without using applique.
AQ: You used to quilt while being a trucker. How did you keep yourself organized while in such a small space?
AL: Quilting is my escape. I knew I needed it - especially in my semi-truck. I used small totes, and project boards to help keep things organized.
Having a full-size ironing board was tough at first. But after a few days, it became a necessity to eliminate getting up and down from my seat and twisting and turning.
AQ: Where are some of your favorite places that quilting has taken you?
AL: My Iwo Jima quilt was on display in Houston at Quilt Festival. That was an amazing experience. I was interviewed by the amazing Alex Anderson and met many great people.
AQ: Who or what influences your art most?
AL: My high school art teacher Cheryl Borchert has influenced me most of all. Every time I look at color, I think of the knowledge she has shared in class regarding the color wheel, tint, tone, and shades.
AQ: What are you most excited to be working on in the next year or two?
AL: I will be creating and selling computerized long arm pantographs. I feel the Quilts of Valor needs some more patterns - as well as more manly designs.
I also have an Abraham Lincoln Art Quilt planned, that will showcase my artistic ability for thinking outside the box.
I hope to roll out my own website at the beginning of next year.
AQ: Is there anything we missed that you want the world to know?
AL: Yes, I encourage people to create; the therapeutic value of making something, provides an unmeasurable amount of healing.
Don’t be so hard on yourself, and please don’t allow your own critical thoughts to get in your way of creating something extraordinary.
Rapid Fire Round!
- Favorite project you’ve worked on: Iwo Jima Quilt
- Favorite time to work: Anytime after being triggered by something
- Favorite quilting snack: Peanut M&M’s
- Favorite thing to listen to when quilting: Norah Jones, Adele, Idina Menzel
- Favorite way to unwind: Sitting in front of a fire with my wife
- Favorite hobby outside of quilting: Visiting historical places
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