Thursday, 16 February 2017

Arthur's Story

I have been asked by JM to write an article on taking up quilting for AHQ. I’m afraid I’m not, and never have been, a good story teller. I can but hope that the following little story is what she had in mind.

It was in 2013, if my memory serves me right, that my wife Lynn listened to an interview on the radio. Ray Hadley was talking to a lady by the name of Jan-Maree Ball. Lynn was quilting at the time but….there are only so many quilts one can make for the family.
Following the interview Lynn contacted JM and started quilting for AHQ. Initially, with Lynn being a non-driver, I would help by driving her to the various shops to purchase materials etc.

Over the next couple of years the quilts Lynn was making became a little more involved and I was able to help by researching badges, photographing them and running them through photo shop to enable enlarging and printing onto material for the quilts. I was also able to help by sketching enlargements of various flags etc. to meet the requested quilt design.
The more we became involved with AHQ the more we heard how grateful the personnel receiving the quilts and laundry bags were.

Although I was helping, I felt there should be more I could do, but what?

We were invited to a day at Richmond but unfortunately I was unable to attend so Lynn went with my sister in law. Some-time later we were invited to a Christmas dinner and this time we were both able to attend. Meeting many of the recipients gave me further insight into the recognition and admiration and the value placed by them on the work done by AHQ.
It was whilst at the Christmas dinner at HMAS Harmen after chatting with the personnel, the quilters and listening to the speeches that I guess I fully realised how much AHQ means to everyone. That being all the people associated with AHQ and all the military personnel.
Late in the evening I was talking with Lynn and I mentioned to her that I would like to increase my assistance by starting to sew for AHQ. Lynn’s initial expression was questioning to say the least. I guess it took her a bit by surprise. I assured her that I was serious and we then set about discussing where and how to start.

When we had returned home and I convinced Lynn that I was not joking we dug out an old PFAFF sewing machine. It is a machine that Lynn had made thousands of dance costumes on for what was our local dance schools many years ago.

I was given some technical sewing jargon to learn plus an explanation of ¼ inch seams, the correct way to hold the material, what a selvedge is etc. etc. How to use and not use a rotary cutter, fabric stretch, bias cutting and sewing –the difficulties of and…..whoa a minute…I’m beginning to suffer a little bit of overload.

Finally we set up the machine and I was given some pieces of material to join together. I think Lynn said it was practice at sewing a straight line. That wasn’t quite as easy as I had thought it would be. Then came practice at sewing a ½ inch seam. Yep ½ inch. Mainly because the old PFAFF didn’t have ¼ inch foot and my straight line sewing still wasn’t 100%. I finally passed my initiation and I was given the task of making ‘Wonky Blocks’, a good choice for a beginner.

Finally I completed the required 14 blocks and then I was told I had to join them together and then ‘nest’ them. Are you serious?? That’s what birds do. Now I know quilters do as well.

Well after many hours of sewing, ironing, sewing, pinning, sewing, more ironing, joining and nesting I ended up with a ‘Wonky Block’ quilt.

The PFFAF was, and still is a great machine but I was enjoying myself and I wanted to be able to help more and seriously, not have to wrestle with the make do setup I made up for the PFAFF. Lynn and I discussed our options and we finally decided upon a Bernina 570 QE with the embroidery attachment. With the facility for me to be able to embroider would save Lynn time by not having to change over her machine if and when embroidery was needed.
When I started to do some practice sewing on the Bernina it was like driving a Rolls Royce, pure heaven compared with the PFAFF, and that is a good machine. Lynn finally decided I was ready to try my first request quilt. I chose an Essendon Bombers request and then Lynn taught me how to make up a bordered square. I also learnt what fussy cutting meant.
Then the work started on the Bernina. Notice the instruction manual on my left…lol.

Preparing to sew the sporting squares for the Bombers quilt. Note the intense concentration.. lol.

Little by little the squares start to take shape.

The first hanging of the blocks on the ‘wall’ to enable them to be organised aesthetically.

Joining the blocks together.

Blocks have been joined and now I’m ironing…..again, as each row is joined.

More ironing.

And – finally my first finished request. Very satisfying…..

My lovely teacher thought I had done a good enough job to enable me to choose what layout I would do next. I gave it a little bit of thought and decided I would like to try a Log Cabin with Aussie centre squares.
This one looked okay but….I assembled and sewed in the wrong direction. But unless you knew I don’t think anyone would notice….

I then made a start on the next request. This one has special meaning to me as it is for a RAEME LCPL. Made by me, an ex RAEME Craftsman, who just happens to love the colours.

And then came another request. This time it was for a RAAF FLTLT.  The theme was, Australian Flag and ANZAC Remembrance.
And so onto my first applique.

If you are thinking this is the end of my little story I’m afraid you are very, very, wrong. It may be the end of the written story but it is only the beginning of something I am enjoying more than I could of imagined and….the most important part…I have finally found what I was looking for. Hopefully my quilts will also bring a little bit of home and comfort to someone I don’t know who is serving our wonderful country and making the world a little safer for all of us.

And here are the quilt tops that Arthur has made since our dinner in early November... 
 (except one that is too specialised and might spoil the surprise......

Way to go Arthur, very proud to call you an Aussie Hero Friend...
and yes, this means that at this year's dinner you can have a name tag too
(only those that sew for us get them!)

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

Jan-Maree  xx


  1. Good lord Arthur you sell yourself short, you are a wonderful story teller and an amazing quilter....well done you ;o)

  2. Wow way to go Arthur, your quilts are fantastic.

  3. Arthur you are a whizz. To learn to make a quilt when never having used a machine or the accompanying skills is a wonderful feat. Your blood is worth bottling.......and your story telling is excellent , too.

  4. What a wonderful storyteller you are Arthur. I absolutely loved reading your story and seeing the lovely quilts you have made. Congratulations on your quilting journey.

  5. Wonderful story, wonderful pictures, You are wonderful Arthur, thank you for sharing and welcome to the club!

  6. Arthur, you are a champion and an inspiration to all. Little did I know when we first met ( post AHQ HQ house fire) what hidden talents you had. ...setting up the Government House quilt display so aesthetically should have been the clue! Congratulations!!!

  7. What a fantastic story. Arthur has a new life. He may just take over Lyn.

  8. Thank heavens you found quilt making, Arthur!your quilts are great & they are sure to be a hit with the recipients. You & Lynn sound like you've found a way to share a common cause without getting under each other's feet. Well done!

  9. Welcome to the world of quilting Arthur, now you have the bug there is no stopping! So appropriate that one who has served, can serve again.