Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Simply 16, Simply wonderful

Time to share some exciting news.  

Earlier this year, Caroline, one of my longest serving Aussie Hero Friends, approached me about a way to raise the profile of Aussie Heroes whilst she was selling her new product, the new small profile quilting machine, the Handi Quilter Simply 16.  The idea was that every time she was demonstrating the machine at shows she was have an Aussie Hero quilt loaded so that anyone who came along to try the machine out could be quilting a little bit on an Aussie Hero Quilt.  The first time Caroline did this was at a show in Sydney in March this year. I went along and spent the day with her to talk about Aussie Heroes to anyone who was interested.  I had a bit of a play with the machine and then told her in no uncertain terms that I was not having another play with it as it was too easy and I was absolutely not going to buy one!  

That was at the beginning of the day.

Famous last words!!!

All that day I sat there watching her demonstrate just how easy it is to use… how easy to maintain and how easy to manipulate the quilts around it.  

By the end of the day I was sold… as much as I had been determined not to be.

The reality was that with the new group of ladies working with me in Sydney we were in danger of creating more quilt tops than we could get quilted.   I know most people quilt their own quilts, but here in Sydney, we take on the requests that come in at the last minute or which other quilters are not able to make for some reason. We put BOMs (Blocks of the Month) together and also receive donated quilt tops. We get far more quilt tops than we could keep up with if we had to quilt them on our domestic machines so I could see that this machine would solve that problem.

So how could we afford it?  The machine costs $11000.  There was no chance of a second hand one as they are brand new hot off the press.  There was not point trying to beat a charity discount out of the company as the product was being sold as fast as they could bring them into their country.  We had to raise the funds.    Blessington were terrific. They gave me time to do some research and see if we could raise funds and still let us have the special show price.

We had money in the Aussie Heroes account that could go towards the machine and still leave enough funds for running costs.  We still needed to raise some funds though so I put a call out on my personal facebook page. These days I have quite a few Aussie Hero quilters and recipients on my page as well as some wonderful friends.  My fall back plan was that my husband and I would make up the shortfall until Aussie Heroes could pay us back.  Eventually, thanks to the generosity of my friends, recipients and quilters we had the required funds.

At last, in late May, Shane from Chatswood Sewing Centre delivered the nice bright shiny machine and set it up in my home.  It was a beauty.  I could not play with it too much as I had to head to Canberra and then came back to finish preparations for our display at Government House on the 12th of June and then our concurrent displays at both Government House and the Sydney Quilt and Craft Fair later in June and early July. 

You can probably guess what came next.  

In the wee small hours of the 12th of June my home was destroyed… my home, my office, my sewing machines, my laptop and all my AHQ fabrics, records, mementos and ….. the brand shining new Simply 16.  

You can not imagine how I felt…. Devastated would be an understatement. 

Losing my personal belongings was bad enough but to lose everything for Aussie Heroes was unimaginable.

Still, when something like this happens there is so much to do and so much to get a handle on that worrying about replacing the Simply 16 was pushed to the side for the time being.

Within 24-48 hours of the fire I received a phone call from Chaplain Richard Quadrio of HMAS Darwin checking up on myself and my family.  Such thoughtfulness and support was amazing and so appreciated and just the very start of what was to come….. I really cannot tell you how much all the support I received from defence members and the quilting community meant to myself and my family.  

Among other things Chaplain Quadrio told me that the ship’s crew had been fund raising already for Aussie Heroes but he said as soon as they heard about the fire they upped the ante…  At that time the total was around $4000…. Amazing!!!   I won’t tell you how much the eventual total was as in coming weeks I will be visiting the ship to be presented with a cheque and I will save the good news til then.

Suffice to say that the funds they raised were an amazing boost to the Aussie Heroes coffers and made me feel immediately comfortable with replacing the Simply 16.

I never made it to Government House on the 12th of June…. Thankfully my car was full of the quilts and laundry bags that we had planned to display and that meant that we had enough quilts saved from the fire to display at Government House a week later and also at the Quilt and Craft Fair.

I made it to both of those events on the last day of each.  When I went to the Quilt and Craft Fair the lovely people from Blessington gave Caroline the job of delivering the most exciting news. They had a Simply 16 available for us and whilst I cannot tell you how much they gave it to us for, please know without question, they went above and beyond to demonstrate their support to Aussie Heroes and looked after us!  

It was amazing. 

Not too long after that Shane from Chatswood Sewing Centre was calling me to ask when I wanted it delivered. I had not even had a chance to pay him a deposit but he said "don’t worry, pay me on the day."
And so a brand new shiny Simply 16 came to live in AHQ Headquarters. 

It took a little while to get time to devote to her but at last things have settled down enough for me to be able to use her. 

She is awesome!!!

I am not really big on using Aussie Heroes to promote products but I believe in loyalty and in repaying favours and let me tell you I have absolutely no problem in singing her praises. 

She is fabulous!  

So easy to use, so easy to load quilts on and off and so easy to maintain. 
The best thing about her is that we can be so much more productive. I still struggle to keep up with the quilts that need to be quilted but that will improve as more people become comfortable with her use. Everyone is a little intimidated at the thought  of using a “longarm” to quilt at first but this machine is a dream. 

So why is she so Simply perfect???

First she is small, only five feel wide, she fits snuggly into a corner of the Aussie Heroes space and she is the ONLY quilting machine that I could fit in.  There is no other machine in her size range.

Secondly, she is like a bit embroidery hoop… crafty ladies will know what I mean.   Quilts are clipped on to her in a similar manner as an embroidery hoop and can be easily loaded on and moved around as needed to be able to quilt whatever area needs doing. 

In actual fact, our Aussie Hero Quilts are the perfect size for her and I find them so easy to do.  That said it would also be easy to quilt a much bigger quilt if I wanted to (but I only sew for Aussie Heroes so I won’t want to) and there is no limit to how big you can go… not that I can see anyway.

Thirdly, and possibly most importantly, I think for novice quilters, the machine has a stitch regulator.  One of the hardest things to learn when you first start free motion quilting, is to keep your stitches the same size…. ie regular.  Having a stitch regulator means that this is not a problem. If you are slow and tentative the machine reacts accordingly. If you are more confident and want to speed up the machine also reacts accordingly.

I had done a little bit of free motion quilting on my personal machine before but found it difficult because  I have arthritis in my hands but also it is challenging and takes some practice to get the “flow” right.   You are responsible for how fast or slow you move the quilt around and you need to develop a nice even movement… that is not always easy to do. I hope I am explaining this clearly. 

With the stitch regulator on the Simply 16 you do not need to be so worried about having an even movement or “Flow”.  I practiced for only one hour before I felt comfortable enough to leap into quilting an actual Aussie Hero Quilt… now I have done about six and I just LOVE LOVE LOVE this machine.

To all our wonderful long arm quilters who donate their time and energy and in some cases, batting and backing, please do no think this will make you redundant… no way!!!  

We still need your help. 

This will just enable myself and those that work closely with me here in Sydney to make more quilts and finish more quilts that otherwise might not have been possible.
One of the first quilts I quilted was a last minute request from HMAS Perth. We pieced the top during a sewing day last Friday, layered it and I had it quilted and two others by the end of the weekend.  Amazing!!!

I am calling the new Simply 16 the HMAS Darwin machine in gratitude for the funds they raised.  I have referred to the machine as “her” throughout this article as that is just something I do…. And I have named her appropriately.

Her name has a distinctly HMAS Darwin flavor.... 
If you are not aware, the name of the Darwin’s Flight Section is the Phoenix… what a perfect name for our new Simply 16… could there be a more appropriate name after the first manchine was lost in the fire and this one has more or less, risen from the ashes.  

I think not!

I hope you don't get tired of me saying it but a huge huge thanks to all of you who donated to the Go Fund Me Account and straight into the Aussie Heroes bank account as you have made it possible for us to not only pick up where we left off but to move forward even more strongly that before.

Till next time......keep spreading the word and happy stitching!



  1. Wonderful news! What a fantastic effort on all involved, Love her name too.

  2. Fantastic news. Go go go girl. A deserving pressie for a deserving cause for a deserving coordinator xxx

  3. What a wonderful story and welcome to the family Phoenix