Sunday 10 February 2013

Merida's Quilt

Sometimes with Aussie Heroes I get the opportunity to do something a little special.  This is the story of one of those times.  To make it easier to tell this story I have decided to give the defence member it is about a pseudonym and I am going to call her Merida because she reminds me of the lead character in the movie "Brave" in some ways.  

So, on with the story..... 

Way back in the beginning of September I received an email from a female civilian.  She asked if I could send her  a quilt and although we hadn't up to now sent quilts to civilians  her email prompted me to do some research and change that policy.  

She included some photos and some more information that I cannot share but the package was enough to make me re-evaluate including Defence civilians in the Aussie Hero Program.  A little more research and I decided that it was a must.

Coincidentally in her first email, Merida told me the area where her family lived.  As my address doesn't appear on the blog anywhere she had no way of knowing that her parents and I were in the same neighbourhood!  I decided that it was just too much of a coincidence so Caroline and  I just had to have a hand in making Merida's quilt BUT I thought it would be nice to find out what she really likes.  So......I  thought let's see if I can find her parents. 

Piece of cake!

One phone call later and I was chatting to her mum and asking her what sort of colours etc Merida likes.  Mum, Elinor (name also changed to protect the innocent) , was really interested in what we were doing and so I invited her to come by the next day while Caroline was here so that she could help up pick out the fabric for her daughter's quilt!  

Merida's Mum said she really wished she could help out some way, and I always say that if you can sew a straight line you can sew a quilt, so the next time Caroline and I got together, Elinor came over with her sewing machine and helped us to put Merida's quilt top together.

Once the quilt top was together we sent it off with the wonderful Carol for quilting.  In the mean time we gave Elinor some homework.

Merida had also encouraged a friend to request a quilt, or maybe she requested it for him.  This friend wasn't really sure that quilts were for him till he saw one of Liz's quilts.

There was no way I was going to copy someone else's quilt, but I decided that we could pull colours from Liz' quilt and see what we could come up with, but we had to work with what we had.  So Caroline and I pulled some fabrics and we cut out a bunch of 6 1/2 inch squares for big nine patches.   We arranged them into groups of nine and sent Elinor home with them for  homework.  

Once they were all completed Elinor came back and we cut the blocks into quarters for Disappearing Nine Patches and then put them up on the design wall to arrange them.  Again Elinor went home with homework - this time to sew all the blocks into rows and all the rows into a quilt top.  At this point I just have to tell you Elinor is very fussy!

If her points were out by one mm she was not happy and OH MY GOODNESS she did not like some of the kangaroos being upside down!  The centre of each of the nine patches is that pale kangaroo fabric and with a disappearing nine patch there is no way that all of them are going to be the right way up - poor Elinor!  LOL

All the time that this was going on I was writing emails to Merida telling her about the "novice quilter" that we were teaching;  how fussy she was, how she would be unhappy if her seams were out by 1mm and how she would get upset because some of the kangaroos were not the right way up.  Hee Hee.  Merida later told me that my description of the fussy novice quilter made her think of her Mum!!!

I appliqued a few kangaroos on the quilt top and apparently I put them on the wrong end as that meant even more of the original kangaroos were now upside down - OOPS!!

 Once the quilt top was together for Merida's friend, we had to take it to Carol so that she could quilt it.  Elinor wanted to see what happened in the quilting process too, as Carol had quilted Merida's quilt which was all ready for us to take home.

Once the quilt tops were made, I cut out laundry bags for Merida and her friend.  I appliqued the initials on them and handed them over to Elinor to sew.

She did a great job and still Merida had no idea what her Mum was involved.

At last the day came to pack everything up and send it on its way.  Several photos were included of the process along the way and that would be the first time that Merida found out that her mum was at all involved.   This is the photo that I had to have taken. 

As Merida is about as girly as any girl could get we decorated her box with a whole bunch of pretty butterfly stickers.  Merida had been receiving quilts to pass on to other people as well as laundry bags so I thought that seeing as she was finally getting her quilt her box should look a little different!  More obligatory photos followed, this time an action shot of Caroline.

Along with the usual contents of the box we included the obligatory letter - but it was printed in hot pink!

It started off something like this -

I hope you have got time for a read because I have a good story to tell.  When I got your very first email you told me you were looking forward to coming home and seeing your family in (my neighbourhood!)   I just had to make sure that I made, or at least had a hand in, the making of your quilt.  I love to make my quilts appropriate for whoever I am making them for so I thought I would see if I could find your folks, after all, how many "XXXXX" can there be living in XXXXX?  Heehee.

I went on to explain how her Mum had got involved and pretty much everything you know up till now.

All the time things were underway here I had been emailing with Merida and slipping in little bits and pieces that would become relevant once she knew the full story.  I explained some of them in the letter - for example 

Your poor mum.  You have no idea how hard it has been for her when she skypes with you and you talk about AHQ.  After I bumped into your mum and lovely grandma at the  supermarket one day (remember I said there was a chance that would happen. :-D) you skyped and all through that call your mum was convinced that you would wonder why Your grandmother was looking at your mother so intently - LOL!

We have all had to work hard to not put our foot in it  -remembering what we were supposed to know and what we weren't - what Merida had told us and what we had shared between us.  We just kept thinking what a kick she would get out of it all when she knew.  All this time Merida was trying to convince her Mum to learn to make quilts and laundry bags and Elinor was being a little evasive or vague.  

We were so pleased to know that that particular quilt had arrived.  Phew!  What a relief!  No more keeping secrets.  Finally we got the email that we were waiting for.

Dear Jan-Maree, Caroline Deputy-Nut and Mum!!

What a wonderful surprise I got tonight when I opened a particularly girly box to find the most beautiful quilt I've seen yet. I opened the letter and saw lovely pictures of JM and the quilt and Caroline then my Mum, wait, MY MUM???? I read the letter and saw the pictures and unfolded the quilt and then promptly balled my eyes out. I can't believe you did all that for me and I had no idea! The laundry bag with my initials, it is all just too lovely for words.  Well thank you so much to all of you. Each night I go to sleep I will feel all of that around me. I love that it has the beautiful bright pinks and greens and the oranges too.  

I still can't believe that here I was trying to convince Mum to come to learn to quilt with me when I got home, and she was doing it all along. You all must have had a giggle about that. I just want to keep looking at it, it's so special. 

I have had lots more email chats with Merida since then.    She has been working very hard as our unofficial Aussie Hero Liaison Officer over there and has loved it (or at least that is what she is kind enough to tell me!)   I am really excited to say that when she eventually comes home I will be able to chat her!  Can't wait!  I am sure there will be lots of laughs to share and lots of stories.

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


  1. Absolutely Brilliant! I have read this over and over, One of the best stories I have read!

  2. That's a wonderful story, Jan-Maree. I think it will put big smiles on many faces.

  3. ohhh such an amazing story - good on you Jan-Maree and happy there is one more quilter in the world!

  4. What a great story Jan-Maree. It will be awesome when Merida & her Mum can make a quilt together for AHQ.

  5. Gorgeous story JM. I really enjoyed reading it! What a giggle you must have all had.