Chickens at Sea

Written by AHQ

26 August 2013

Tonight I have another quilt story to share with you.  We gets lots of requests for football themed quilts – Broncos, Essendon, the Maroons (where are the Blues fans?) to name a few.  Lots of requests for hobbies like fishing, cycling, motorbikes, even cooking.  Then there are the requests that have a military theme -tanks, RAEME and just simply “army”.  And then we get the requests that make you think………what on earth?

This is the story of one of those requests.

The request list came through from HMAS Newcastle and one of the officers had down as his preferred theme Chickens and Chicken Coops”. Not your normal run of the mill request I must say.  My girlfriend, Louise, put her hand up for that one as she had some chicken fabric in her stash (why???).  Before too long she had stitched up the quilt top.  It was then dispatched to Stephanie T for quilting and finally packaged up and sent to the ship on the 24th of June.   

and the matching Laundry Bag.

Where possible I email the recipient and let them know that their quilt is on its way.  That is part of the fun of Aussie Heroes for them…..the wait, knowing it is coming.

Under the subject line of “Your Clucking Aussie Hero Quilt – and no I am not being rude!” I sent off my email.

“Your Aussie Hero Quilt is winging its way to you as fast as it can having been posted today from Cherrybrook.  I just have to ask……why chickens?  Louise who made your quilt top and I are dying to know – and yes we are nosey.
Please can you let us know when it has made it to your roost safe and sound.”

Perhaps a little corny but such is life.  I did wonder if it was something I said as weeks went by and no reply back but all things come to those who wait and at last we had our explanation.

“19 July

Hi Jan-Maree and Louise
Thanks for your email, sorry for my tardiness in my reply. I had set your email aside until I could  get some photos to accompany my email, and as happens something always crops up and steals my time away from me before I could email you a reply. (I know just how he feels)   I didn’t want to rush it so once again my apologies.

I still haven’t received the quilt, but sure that it won’t be too far away. Mail has been slow – I only received a few weeks ago, biscuits  that my daughters sent on ANZAC day. They still got to me and I’m sure the quilt will too. 

As for the story behind the design – I started to build a chicken coop after recently moving into our home in Canberra in Apr last year. 

I hadn’t taken into account how cold it would get and also as I had a shore posting at the time, I made a project of it and was going to take my time building it, planning to have it finished in November in time for young chickens about to lay. 

Unfortunately at the end of June, with little progress made (partly due to the Canberra cold)  I got nine days notice to join the Newcastle based in Sydney. I ended up spending few months away from home (due to the influx of boat refugees late last year) and then took my ship through a refit and then, before I knew it, it was Christmas. 

We only had ten days off before once again, we were “working up”, getting mission ready for our Operation Deployment – so over the next 4 months I had 7 weekends at home, but managed to have a week off before we deployed. Since joining the ship I had spent less that 40 days at home from Jul, 9th 2012 and Apr, 21 2013. 

My Chicken Coop progress, or the Taj Mahal Project as my fellow officers and men of my department like to call it, was the focus of Monday morning discussions – seeing how much I got done over the weekend. 

When you take into account that I wouldn’t get home till late Friday night and would commute back to Sydney late on Sunday afternoon, time was a rare commodity. 

Fortunately, time building the coop allowed me to unwind from work and spend time with my two beautiful girls  who would come out and talk to me and lend a helping hand. 

The Coop was a family effort and we got a couple of pullets (Thelma and Louise) the weekend before I sailed. This was the impetus to finish the project. The photo at night was my last night in Canberra before deploying.

It was taken at 9pm, I was building the Egg Box just a couple of hours before I bundled the family into our car and drove to Sydney for work on Friday Morning before sailing on Sunday. 

Well Thelma and Louise are on the lay now and have been joined by a couple more ladies. My wife now gets 3-4 eggs every day and my girls have been baking treats – so I hope that I get them and your quilt very soon. The hens  progress is always a  talking point with my girls.

(Now here he talks about some coincidences – bear in mind that his quilt top was made by Louise and my PO Box is in Cherrybrook!)
Louise, for another coincident, not only is one of the hens called Louise, but our house that we own in Sydney is on Cherrybrook Road in XXXXX. We probably bumped into you a number of times at the local Woolworths. 

I’ll be sure to email you as soon as I get the quilt and once again sorry for not getting back to you sooner. “

So now we had our explanation and waited for the quilt to arrive.

“14 August
Hi Jan and Louise

Recently pulled into BahrainXXXXX after a long stay at sea and was rewarded with my beautiful quilt and minties. It looks great and colours after so vivid – it has brighten up my bunk.

In Dubai, I got the matching laundry bag  biscuits and lollies – you both have really spoilt us.

Please pass on my thanks to Donna (quilting) and Donna’s friend (binding) for all of their efforts, it is greatly appreciated.

I’m sure with the cold winters in Canberra, that this quilt will not be used just for this trip and will be a fond reminder of the good works that your organisation did for sailors and officers of HMAS Newcastle.
When I get home, and I show my wife and daughters the quilts, you never know – they may join your league of quilters.

Once again, many thanks”

So that is the story behind the “Chicken Coop Quilt”.  

Whenever I receive a request I am always sure to tell people that the quilt they request may bear no resemblance to the quilt they receive though we do try.  Not only in this case did we try but I think we got it right!  😀  And I am sure that Thelma and Louise would approve.

The new Mystery Quilts

We have two new Mystery Quilts underway.  Here are the details in case you missed them the first time around. One for a male and one for a female. 

The masculine quilt is for a Cronulla Sharks fan,  Here is the logo and also a photo of the fellows in their team colours just to give you a starting point for colour.

There is no need to include the shark logo or sharks at all  but what I am looking for is star blocks in mostly blues with a bit of white.  Try and make sure there is some contrast in the star points but lets see if we can avoid aquas.   Unless the fabric features sharks please try to avoid novelty fabric etc.   I plan to add black corner stones to the stars and also black bindings.

We still need a few more volunteers to make the blocks for this one.  So far we have 4 our of 11 needed blocks promised.

The female quilt will be a bit of fun – another star quilt but this time in the colours of aqua and purple.  

The theme for this quilt is ELEPHANTS.  I have said star blocks but if you have an elephant idea that does not fit into a star block, or would like to applique an elephant for example, then please make a 14.5 inch (inlcuding seam allowances) block in any form you like.

(source) Note – this was taken by one of our past recipients on HMAS Toowoomba!  Thanks mate!

All the blocks for this one have been offered but if someone would like to put their hand up to complete this quilt top that would be great.  I already have a quilter lined up.

Once again need 15 blocks per quilt and to make sure that we do not get too many blocks for each quilt please register with me before making your block.  All blocks to be in the mail and on their way to me no later than Friday 6th of September if possible please.  That gives plenty of time for the blocks to be put together and the quilts completed in time to send them off.

Finally here is a reminder about the latest sewing days coming up.

Penrith Patchwork – Sunday 8 September – 10am till 2pm
BYO sewing machine and lunch

At my home – Monday 2 September – 10am till 2pm – as above.
At my home – Wednesday 18 September – 10am til 2pm – as above

Please let me know if you can make it to either day so I can be prepared.

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

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  1. Janine C

    What an amazing chicken quilt story and what a lovely family – would love to see the daughters reaction to the quilt… and they might get to see the photos. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Dasha

    Love the stories you post. Really brings the troops to life.

  3. Jeann of Melton

    Loved the chicken coop story…and the quilt and laundry bag.
    The officer's story and photos make you realise how much time they spend away from family.


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