It was with a huge grin that I read the request by a serviceman on the Aussie Hero Quilts (and Laundry Bags) Facebook site. He wrote to Jan-Maree,
I have just been told that you are the contact for the amazing quilts that I have seen over here.
It would be fantastic if I could get myself one without having to steal someone else’s……
you can save me from a life of crime.
I would love one with an Australian flag on one side and the UAE flag on the other if possible.
And please let me know how I can make a contribution to help keep you guys going.
A myriad of ideas soared through my mind as to how I might tackle a quilt and laundry bag for this cheeky Aussie Hero. Immediately I was compelled to think outside the square and his words just begged me to be a little mischievous back.
The chaos of the end of year, Christmas looming and some family challenges were reasons I would normally hesitate on taking up the challenge of making a quilt and laundry bag in December.
How could I resist this playful soul? Not only did he make me smile, he displayed some of his character in asking, even though it is he who is serving overseas away from his loved ones, what he can do for Aussie Hero Quilts (and Laundry Bags). No excuse of being time poor could make me ignore his request. Within minutes I had messaged Jan-Maree and taken on the challenge.
Time was at a premium and I’m NOT a super-quilter! My daughter’s quilt was 10 years in the making and my son still doesn’t have one!
How could I save this Hero from going to the Dark Side??? I can’t tell you how much joy I had in creating DD’s laundry bag. I set to work on finding an appropriate theme for DD. An awesome vintage ‘Waltzing Matilda’ tea towel was for sale. “Great,” I thought, “an iconic thieving Swagman that most Aussies know.”
Disappointment erupted as the realisation that he already had a swag and didn’t need to flog someone else’s quilt; he just needed a feed. The search continued.
Eureka! An ‘Aussie Dunnies’ vintage tea towel was ideal. DD was certainly going to end up in the #%*! if he stole someone’s quilt!
The most iconic Aussie figure I could think of to illustrate to DD that crime doesn’t pay was Ned Kelly so the reverse side was now decided, Ned Kelly and DD’s initials.
Breaking normal tradition, I sent DD his Laundry Bag (LB) in a separate package. Ned had those wobbly googly eyes so they could follow DD and keep an eye on him whilst he waited for his quilt to arrive. I know they are impractical for a laundry bag but I couldn’t resist and figured that Ned’s eyesight just needed to survive until DDs quilt arrived. Alongside Ned (I chose a version similar to the great artist Sidney Nolan – basically because of the simplicity of his Ned and I love his work) I added my recipient’s initials.
In my letter to DD I expressed my anxiety and reasons why I sent LB first. He needed to know that he was clearly on my mind and that there was no need to steal someone else’s quilt as one was being made just for him. As a gentle reminder I included some extras in his package … some dry biscuits (prison food); Lego Policeman and thief (complete with handcuffs – totally impractical to a deployed serviceman but made me laugh); some toilet paper (I’m sure I don’t need to explain that one); and some positive treats that all good, non-thieving fellas can expect. Fingers crossed it would be enough to deter any light fingered activity.
For DD’s quilt I kept to the brief. Immersing yourself in all things Aussie is an uplifting and cementing experience. I made every attempt to make DD proud to have his quilt on his bunk, or for him to want to wrap himself up in it. Quilts, for me, can provide a tangible way for an Aussie Hero missing loved ones at home, or Aussie soil under their feet, to wrap themselves up and know that many people are thinking of them, including me. It can provide warmth in many ways. When I make a quilt or laundry bag, every stitch is created in gratitude, respect and thanks. I’m sure I’m not the only quilter who feels strongly about what we do.
For those of you who may be reading this wondering if you should become involved with Aussie Hero Quilts (and Laundry Bags), DO IT! Creating something uniquely special for a worthy recipient is a very rewarding experience. There is no doubt that the saying ‘it is in giving that we receive’ is true. There is an immeasurable intrinsic value in giving and I personally have gained more than words can express.
On Christmas day, with a full belly, I sank into my couch and hand-stitched the binding of DD’s quilt and then wrote a letter to him. I can’t think of a more fitting activity to do on such a special day. Boxing Day saw the final touch of a label added to the now complete quilt for DD.
I began to sew a ‘Ned Kelly Helmet’ to add to DDs package. Ok, I know, I have a warped sense of humour. Here I was, just about finished when it dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, there may be another Aussie Hero who could have more fun with this than DD.
Remember I said the request begged me to be cheeky? I contacted JM and asked for help. Could she find someone who would have some fun with DD where he was deployed? Surely, that would cure him of ever wanting to steal someone else’s quilt.
Eureka! Contact made. An additional package was then posted with Ned’s ‘Helmet’, a Ned Kelly pencil case I found on eBay, some goodies for those ‘helping’ and another special inclusion.
I dropped into a local police station with a special request. I explained that I had made quilts for Aussie Hero Quilts. The policeman knew they were for deployed service personnel so word must be spreading. Having a cheeky serviceman and some willing colleagues working with him, I hoped Vic Police could assist with some police tape to mark the crime scene. After checking with superiors he came back with an envelope with police tape enclosed and warmly added, ‘Send our best wishes and regards to them all.’
Package ready and off she goes … fingers crossed only joy will come from my mischief and DD will finish with a smile and will be warmed by his quilt, in more ways than one.
I waited. No news of the arrival of LB …or the quilt. Eventually I heard from my contact, M
I have the parcel, the atrocity of missing quilts will have to wait for (DD’s) return from holidays. The “cops” are on side and the scene is set, wait out for photographic evidence……..”
At least I now knew that my parcels had arrived. Then M made contact again –
Apparently the excellent quilt that you sent to (DD) has gone missing………expected to be recovered by ADFIS (ADF Investigation Service) soon (lots of fun had by the Kelly gang member too).”
I’m sure you can imagine the smile that erupted when reading this. I hoped those on the other end, including DD, were enjoying it as much as myself (and Jan-Maree). More waiting ensued.
ADFIS has allocated it’s most experienced Investigator to “Quiltgate” and he is hot on the trail of the suspect, DD should have the missing item shortly…..photos to follow.”
Well, got to love M … she has a way with words. And then … photographic evidence of the crime! I’m sure the pics speak for themselves. I’m quietly pleased that DD is smiling. Oh, and if you’re reading this DD, remember your original request? You did ask what you could do for Aussie Hero Quilts (and Laundry Bags). I think giving everyone a smile goes a long way to supporting the organisation.
I am proud to be an Australian. I am proud of our Aussie Heroes. I am proud to be a part of Aussie Hero Quilts (and Laundry Bags). Just quietly, I am proud of what I create. I’m not a perfect quilter but I quilt with love, respect and gratitude. You also don’t need to be an award winning quilter to become involved.
I have nothing but admiration for the Aussie Hero Quilts (and Laundry Bags) organisation in helping our service personnel.
To our Aussie Heroes, thank you. To Aussie Hero Quilts (and Laundry Bags) organisation, thank you for allowing me to be a small part of your team. To those of you wondering if you should do something – PLEASE DO IT! You don’t even have to sew to be involved. Talk to Jan-Maree, she’ll help with ideas. You never know how your life and that of others may change.
Special thanks to M for all your efforts, the Kelly Gang Member, ADFIS, the Victorian Police (Bairnsdale) and all those behind the scenes. You’re an amazing group of people! And an extra special thank you to DD for being just a little bit cheeky and a good sport (I haven’t received a ‘what were you thinking?’ email from him!).
Now I sit, patiently waiting (and a little nervous) for the next instalment … last email from ‘M’ …
Ned was supposed to be hung, following an Australia Day kangaroo court in true military style. They had way too much fun to get off free felt M but in the end they were saved by the arrival of a VIP so all traces of Ned were swept under the carpet.
Thanks everyone! Still smiling here Jenny S
And a big thanks to Jenny for making the effort to go the extra mile and
give us all a bit of a laugh!
Till next time………………keep spreading the word and happy stitching!