Thursday 28 February 2013

This time last year ...

Looking back to Feb 2012 - the blog was just one month old and the practice of including a monthly tally of quilts and laundry bags hadn't begun, but Feb did start with a lovely thank you message  "I don't underestimate the effect your quilts and crafts have on the guys over here. It's lovely to realise that so many Australians are thinking of the troops."

At last a central distribution address was organised which meant the AHQer's could finish their quilts and laundry bags and post directly. This helped to spread the load.  Jan-Maree finalised the labeling of boxes and quilts and kept the blog up to date.  She opened a facebook page and overnight gained 30 followers - many of those were new to Aussie Heroes! This grew to 50 followers in two weeks.  I'm sure you'll agree, lots of steps in the right direction. Janine C

February 2012 orphan blocks
Orphan blocks came in - blocks quilters had left over or parts of quilts they had never finished. The orphans were included in new quilts.


The first of the Block of the Month blocks arrived. These 9 patches look wonderful and quilters will understand how exciting those days would have been.

Group sewing days were organised by Jan-Maree and quilts by the dozen were layered, pinned and quilted.  Jan-Maree had AHQ labels printed for the dozens of boxes that would take the dozens of quilts.   

Box of batting

* An email from Karen announced donated batting in the mail - enough for up to 50 quilts.  Jan-Maree's response was  "I can't tell you how exciting it is to get an email from someone I don't know at all, offering support."

* Nutex in NZ donated 10m of each of the Aussie fabrics used with the AHQ quilt labels. 
Aussie fabric
* Kay Rodriquez, of "The Tea Towel People" sent 30 Aussie tea towels, which were quickly featured in new quilts!
Aussie themed tea towels

More mail from Feb 2012
A thank you,  "I have just returned to my office from lunch to find two parcels on my desk. As you can imagine, getting parcels at the best of times is exciting, but getting them whilst over here, where the temperature is -2 to -10 and the hot water has been turned off for the past week (so far), resulting in cold/no showers, no laundry facilities and outdoor portaloos, is a thousand times more exciting!!!!


Thanks so much Janine!  I am just going to add a few of my favourite memories from February. Pauline sent me these great quilts - still love these for an simple idea.

And Tarnyia sent these fabulous quilts and a bunch of blocks and a top which were finished off and sent.

I also received these photos of some of our laundry bags in action.  I still haven't given up hope that I will be able to get some updated photos of the same area if it exists.  All I know about these photos is that they were taken in Tarin Kowt.  If any of you can arrange an updated picture that would be great.

WOW I hadn't realised that was 12 months ago- we had barely sent 40 -50 laundry bags at a guess by then.   Haven't things changed!

Another thing that has changed is that we now send quilts and laundry bags for those that are on Peace-keeping Mission in South Sudan  Kylie heard from one of her South Sudan recipients recently -

Dear Kylie,
Thank you so very much for the laundry bag you sent me. I really appreciate the time and effort you have spent in making it. Not only does it colour up what can only be described as a bare room, but it means I can stop trying to fit my washing into plastic shopping bags!
I love the Australiana on it as well. Once again, thank you very much, it is humbling to find support from strangers who do so unreservedly. Proud to call myself Australian. Thanks.

As usual - if your name is not on the list below and you have sent a quilt or laundry bag this week please email me asap - I need photos in tonight preferably or by midday tomorrow at the latest to be included in this weeks' Quilts of the Week post.

Christine C (WA)
Jenny and Gale
Judy C
Karen B
Liz B
Liz J
Stephanie D
Tess (NSW)

One last request - would anyone consider sending me a Cairns teatowel?  I want to make a special laundry bag but I need a teatowel to do it with.  Would love it if someone can help - just a bit far for me to go - sadly!

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

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Happy Mail

Welcome to Happy Mail.  I have had some lovely parcels in the mail this week.

First up you gotta love family!  

My sister-in-law, Julie sent up these three quilt tops this week with my husband the courier.  Julie lives in Melbourne, my husband goes to Melbourne most weeks for work so we arrange a hand off at his office as required! and this week we scored!
Three gorgeous quilt tops

And four gorgeous BOM blocks.

Not content with taking ten quilts home to quilt from the Penrith Sewing Day Stephanie sent over two BOM blocks as well.

And this marks the reappearance of one of our regular BOM contributors from America - welcome back Lisa.

This top was also in the mail - by Miriam from Perth.  You will see another of Miriam's quilts on Friday night for Quilts of The Week.  I extended it a bit with some flag fabric and it has gone off to its new home and looks great!

Karen B sent up these five BOM blocks.  Hmmm, looking forward to putting this quilt together.

and four last January BOM blocks

Karen also sent two great quilt tops. 

Love an Aussie girly one!

I thought I would share with you another sort of happy mail.  People often ask how I find the time to do what I do.  It is more a case of all things that I choose not to do since starting Aussie Heroes but I am not complaining.  Someone today said that they suspect that I spend more time on admin and less on sewing and that is definitely true but it is the regular interraction that I have with the gorgeous heroes and heroines out there thta makes the "job" so special.  It is kind of hard to share some of the interractions and still let you feel how I feel.  (not sure if you can see what i am getting at but i will plough on)  the follwing is an email conversation that I have had with a would-be recipient over the last 24 hours and it is the sort of thing that makes my day.  There emails are in blue and mine in red.

Hello There, 

                        My name is XXX and I am currently serving in the Middle East onboard HMAS Toowoomba. My boss (real name removed to protect the innocent) was today showing me a quilt that he had made for him by Aussie Hero Quilts. I think that it is amazing and was wondering if I could trouble you for some contact details of someone who I would be able to talk to about the possibility of getting one of these really awesome quilts

Thanks and Regards,

My name is Jan-Maree and I am the coordinator and founder of Aussie Hero Quilts.  You have come to the right place.  If you send me your full postal address with PM Keys numbers I can put you on my list for a quilt but I can’t promise what it will look like as that is up to the quilter.  I can guarantee that it will be made with love though. Looking forward to hearing from you. 


Hi Jan, thank you for responding to me so quickly. From the work that I've seen from the quilter, and the looks of excitement I've seen from my fellow workmates, I don't doubt for a second that it was made with love.
My address is,

Blah Blah Blah

I don't know if I'm supposed to tell you what I like or if the quilter just picks something completely random, but I love Rugby League. So  if they could incorporate that into it somehow that would be just brilliant. If not, I love surprises anyway. You've got to in this job! So hit me with whatever cause I'm sure to feel the love and warmth from it regardless. Thanks again for responding to me so quickly. 


A Sailor in the middle of the ocean awaiting her quilt. 


I have been thinking about your quilt.  We have so many requests underway at the moment that I am not likely to be able to arrange a specifically rugby quilt for you but I am wondering if you have a favourite team and maybe one of the quilts that comes up might be in the team colours or close to.  Can you tell me your team colours, or just your favourite colours.  Still no promises but it might help.

Hey Jan,

I have too many teams to support so thats fine. But I love every shade of blue and fluro colours.  Hope that's a help.   Again, anything you send to me I'll be grateful for =)

Thanks again.



Thanks for that.  Well, I will see what comes up and surprise you.

I love surprises. Cant wait!! =)


Now wouldn't that just make you smile too?

And one more for good measure.

Could you please put my name down on the recipient list for one of your wonderful quilts, and laundry bags.  I have really admired the work and dedication of your team and would be greatly honoured to receive one of your masterworks. I've never had the patience for craft and needle work and admire anyone that has the talent and skills. 

I am currently deployed to Al Minhad Airbase, UAE and travel into Afghanistan frequently.  The quilt would make a beautiful keepsake to show my kids on my return home. 

Yep, sometimes, oftentimes, these emails make my day!

Debra received her prize for the Australia Day Laundry Bag Challenge and so did Louise so I can now reveal them to you in order - 


 and Louise's.  You can't see it here but Louise's scarf is green.

Now a message for Wendy who left the following question in the comments last night. 

Evening everyone, just a quick question about fabric..... I am a sewer not a quilter but am hoping to do a quilt soon..... Does the quilt have to be made with 100% cotton or can you use a blend? 

Hi Wendy, firstly, did you realise that you are  a noreply blogger?  that means I can't email you with an answer.  If you check out this post and scroll to the bottom you will find instructions to remedy that situation.

Now to your question.  Some people do quilt with fabrics other than 100% cotton but usually for a specific purpose.   For Aussie Hero quilts I ask that all quilt fabrics be 100% cotton please.

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

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Quilt Refresher

Again, with new friends looking at the blog, and even for some of our old hands it is a good idea to have a bit of a refresher and cover some info about the quilts.

I think you all know the size of our quilts - 42" wide and no shorter than 70" long.  I would love to make the quilts wider and maybe even longer but it just isn't practical as we need then to fit in the boxes and I know myself that sometimes that is a bit of a struggle.  Fitting a laundry bag in as well can be a bit of a challenge.

In addition to how hard it can be to get a bigger quilt into the box remember that these quilts eventually have to fit in to the luggage to come home and sometimes the troops are moved around over there.  We don't want to make things hard for them by giving them something that is too hard to move around.

Please use only 100% cotton batting or a 60% wool/40%polyester batting. Both these types of batting have been trialed in country and we know they do the job.  The climates where these quilts are going vary from tropical to below freezing so these quilts need to be versatile.

We don't send RAG QUILTS.  They just are not practical in a country that is so dusty and also can you imagine if a luckless soldier put his rag quilt in the laundry with his uniform - oh it doesn't bear thinking about!

Every quilt must have and Aussie Hero Label on it as follows:

This is an
 made for an
Aussie Hero
serving OVERSEAS
with gratitude for your service.

I would appreciate it if the wording remains the same but feel free to add in who the quilt was made by etc.   I would like all Aussie Hero Quilts to be easily identifiable as such so that they become recognizable and widely known.  Both the blog name and the email address must be on the label so that the troops can find us.  Some can't email a gmail address and others don't have access to much internet but hopefully with the blog up and the email address they can get in contact if they want to.

Labels can be printed on printable fabric or hand written.  If you would like help with your labels you can check out the ones that Hilary has volunteered to make here.

I always encourage people to make whatever they want when sewing for us but if someone asks me what I would like them to make my answer is always the same.  I prefer gender neutral quilts as the bulk of our recipients are male but, of course, we also get requests from girls.   If you want to make a girly quilt you are welcome to but there may be times when you have to wait a bit for me to find a recipient.  Numbers of girls on the list tend to vary from time to time, sometimes I have several like now and sometimes I have none.

My second request when asked is that you keep it simple.  I love the fancier or more heavily pieced quilts as much as anyone but the reality is the whatever we send is loved because we have taken the time to make it.  Simple quilts get the same response as the fancier ones so do not ever feel that your quilt is less valued if it is a simple strippy quilt.  

When you are deciding what quilt to make feel free to make anything you like, however please bear in mind that it is really difficult and quite time consuming for me to try and match a special themed quilt with the "right" person.  There are only two ways I can do it.  The first is to put a picture of the quilt on the Facebook page and ask if anyone knows someone this will suit.  This has not been particularly successful in the past.  The second way is to individually email those who have requested quilts and ask if a particular theme appeals to them.  I am sorry but the second method is just too time consuming to do.  It is also fraught with danger because if I go to someone and ask if they like a particular theme and they don't they often come back with "but I do like ........"  

So, please, feel free to make anything you like but please also understand that it is often the luck of the draw  as to who it goes to so quilts that will appeal to a broad range of tastes are best.  Additionally, it is actually really hard to get quilts to specific job types such as cooks and dog handlers.  My contacts over there are usually really busy and I really don't like to email them with requests to find a home for special quilts on a regular basis.  

If you want to use up your themed fabric think about mixing a few themes up and making an adult "I Spy" quilt as those have been really popular or make a quilt that is predominantly colour based and throw your themed fabrics into it based on colour.  Quilts made with a sporting theme, one sport or multiple always go down well, regardless of whether the recipient is a particular fan of that sport.  Just some suggestions anyway. 

This does not mean that I won’t find out specific likes and dislikes if you want to personalize a quilt for a person.  I can easily and quickly send off an email asking what their interests etc are – that is one email (assuming I have an email address of facebook contact of course!)  To chase multiple people to see if they like a specific theme is far more time consuming.  I need to spend my time wisely.

If you are looking for inspiration for a quilt don't forget that we have a few tutorials for the following quilts on the blog - just under the heading you will see a list of pages that you might find handy.  The following tutorials are available and we always love more if someone wants to write one.

A couple of final words about quilts.  Over the December January break we have relaxed a bit and allowed longer for quilts to be made but now that we are getting back into a normal routine we really need to try and get back to a four week turn around.  if someone requests a quilt on 1 March, and we take four weeks to get the quilt into the mail then that is around 28 March.  If the quilt then takes 2 weeks to get to its recipient it is not too bad but if it takes 4 weeks which is highly likely that is almost two months and I think that is long enough to wait.  That is just another reason to use simple patterns.

Finally please don't take it personally if you get an email from me (such as lots of you have received today) asking for an update or progress report on your current quilt.  I do that to make sure there are no issues I need to know about - no unforeseen circumstances that have prevented you from completing the request.  We have had all sorts of "life experiences" happen over the last 12 months and we will no doubt have  a few more this year.  If there is a problem I need to know about it as soon as possible so I can maybe do something to help (and that usually means relieving the pressure on you) and still get a quilt to the recipient in a timely manner.

Also please don't take it personally if you get an email from me checking that the quilt/laundry bag has actually made it in the mail.  I never assume it has actually been posted til I have had confirmation.  I have learned the hard way that that confirmation is essential.

And just before I go - to amplify what I said about the importance of laundry bags in my post on Sunday read this email that Melissa received today.

Dear amazing Melissa,Your beautiful and thoughtful present made me feel very special. Thank you so much for all your hard work, I absolutely adore the laundry bag! I will cherish it and will always remember the stranger who made a gift just for me and brought my kids here :)
Your little Holly sounds just adorable, I hope she knows what a wonderful mum she has. I know how hard it is to work with little ones, there's no easy answer but things do get easier when you have a routine established. 
I never thought that I would do anything like this but I know of the dangers and I'm here because I want to support the young men who have given up a chance of a normal life because of the scars they carry from the job. 
They are the real heroes.
Gifts like yours are like medals of honor. 
Thank you :)

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

Monday 25 February 2013

FOTW 25th February 2013

I'm guilty of not posting this FOTW sooner....I thought I'd already used all the ones I had up my sleeve, until Debra saw my Friend of the week (FOTW) post last week, and thankfully she contacted me to remind me about hers, so thank you Debra, muchly appreciated....I think all this heat we've had in SA of late has caused my brain to be even foggier than usual.

Anyhoo, enough about that, and onto the excitement of getting to know Friend of AHQ, Debra S

Who are you and where do you live – if not in a house in suburbia please share some more info – farm etc. 

I live in Roma Qld in a normal suburban home with hubby, 2 boys, 2 dogs & 3 fish.  

Tell us a bit about you – family, occupation, other hobbies.
I am a stay at home mum & part time Admin assistant for the local mortgage broker.  I have dabbled in most crafts and fell fully into patchwork about 12 years ago.

How far to the local shops and how far to the nearest quilt shop  
The local shops are ‘just down the road (1km ish) and our nearing “quilt” shop is in town, however it is a shop that does not fit any usual quilt shop criteria.  Some folks from SE Qld come to Roma just to ‘experience’ Ace Drapers.  It sells EVERYTHING.  90% of the time you can’t get to the quilt fabric you have to ask for what you want.  Even scarier, he knows where everything is.  (I would include photos, but I don’t want to scare anyone)

Favourite local quilt shop 
My LQS is 1 hour away on a farm in Dulacca, Qld.  Cow Paddocks Patchwork.  Owned and run by Julie & Jeff Latcham it is a ‘granny flat’ behind their house.  It is homey and Julie will source whatever we need as well as stocking many of the latest MODA ranges and Accucutter.

(Colleen D of Blackbutt, Debra S of Roma, Sue P of Injune)

Favourite online fabric shop
Now that’s a hard one.  Probably whoever has the best sale (ha, ha) but seriously, I do shop where I can find what I need.  Wrapped inFabric  & IddyBiddy Cottage  probably take most of my money,

Where you got your last fabric bargain (and what it was)  
My last fabric bargain was over the Christmas holidays while visiting family.  I happened to be in Spotlight for a 30% off day & purchased some end of bolts of Aussie Fabric, when the lady asked what it was for & I told her Aussie Hero Quilts, she ‘threw’ some in for me for free and the rest was at drastically reduced price.

Whether you machine or hand sew binding
For AHQ I machine sew, for myself I hand sew my bindings.

How long have you been sewing for AHQ
12 months.  I discovered AHQ not long after it started.

How did you find out about us?
 I honestly don’t remember.

Do you have any connection to the services
I am the daughter of a Vietnam Veteran and have a cousin currently in the Navy, based in Perth doing submarine training.

What are some of the things you have sewn for AHQ 
When I started I would only sew quilts (I was scared of the laundry bag pattern), however, now I sew both.  So far 4 quilts and 8 laundry bags

Why do you sew for AHQ
I wanted to sew for a cause that didn’t require you to be ‘sick’.  (I have nothing against making quilts for sick people, but I wanted to make a quilt to give hope in another way).  It is a great way to demonstrate patriotism to my boys and to let those soldiers know that we care.

Do you have any clever or useful tips to pass on?

  • Have fun with it.  If you don’t like deadlines, make your quilts and then tell Jan-Maree you have them ready to go, then you are not panicking to finish the quilt, it is already done.

  • Ask non-sewing friends who want to assist to donate fabric or funds for fabric – my parents decided this was a way they could help me to make quilts.
Thank you so much Debra, it was great reading about you....and you have a few tips there that we could all put into practice.....such as the deadlines, or getting non-sewing friends to donate some fabric.

Until next time, stay safe and happy