Hi there, I have been blown away by the amount of support and the wonderful comments that have come through already.  I copied some of the encouraging comments and emailed them (minus identifying bits) to Afghanistan as I think it is great for them to know how much support there is out there.  I can’t thank you all enough for jumping on board and for all the offers of help.  This is largely a one woman show.  My quilt group helps with the sewing but I do all the admin so bear with me if I slow down a bit, though so far I have been able to keep up.

Time to tell you the next part of the story.  Once the laundry bags were under control we decided to make quilts for each of the 15 soldiers.  Did you know that it gets down to MINUS 25C over there at Christmas time!!!  There are 14 males and one female that we were sewing for.  All the guys will receive quilts similar to this.
Our one female soldier received a more girly quilt – more on that later.

We ended up making extra quilts purely by accident.  First I spent a couple of days coming up with a really simple quick pattern that did not need planning or forethought.  It isn’t my own design but a couple of our girls had made similar quilts for the Queensland Flood Relief Drive and thought it was the best way to make a really quick scrap quilt.  I am a great believer in the charm  of scrap quilts.  Somehow they always seem to work.   I decided we could do something similar.  Everyone started cutting strips of fabric 6 1/2 inches wide.  Nothing hard about that.  All you had to do was choose anything that was not remotely girly!  No pink and no florals anywhere.  
Then I became a stripper!!!  
Not that kind of stripper!  I started sewing strips together end to end.  Not all strips are cut width of fabric which is good as it makes for more variety in the finished quilt.  I ended up with two over flowing washing baskets of strips – over 250m of 6 1/2 inch strip in total.
Next came the sewing bee!  We set up two ironing boards – one at each end of my kitchen table. We put a big cutting mat in the middle of the table and then two girls ironed and two cut! And once we had enough strips cut two girls started putting the strips together in groups of eleven – enough for a quilt.   It took ages to get all the strips cut into 42″ lengths and then we stopped for a quick lunch. After lunch all efforts turned to putting all the strips into groups of 11.  

Audrey and Cynthia worked lay out 11 strips on the ottoman 
Sharon, Lyn and Cynthia worked on the air hockey table
Eventually there were 24 groups of 11 strips!  As the cutting finished as groups of 11 strips were assembled I started sewing.  Someone else was probably sewing too but I can’t remember.

At the end of the day a bunch of quilt tops were completed and the rest were divided up among us to be completed over the next few days.  

Another sewing bee was scheduled for a week’s time. In the intervening week lots of preparation was done.  We needed to make the labels.  Another Gumnut, Andrea, came up with idea of printing the labels which saved us a lot of time and resulted in a better label I think.  Then they are all bordered in Aussie fabric.  I just love them!

  Then all the backings had to be found and readied.  Some needed piecing too. Each label was fused to the back and stitched down and a plain patch was added so that the guys could write their names for identification. This is just some of them stacked and ready to go.
We needed lots of binding so we collected up all our bits of left over binding – anything not girly and I sewed them end to end – about 100m or so but in the end we needed to make more binding as well.
Then it was time for the next sewing bee!  All the pieced quilts tops returned and began to be layered. 
 Once the first one was pinned and ready to go I started quilting.  While some layered quilts, others made more binding, another cut lengths of binding for each quilt so that they could be finished off later.  
We finished one complete quilt that day and quilted and made the binding for all the rest.  Phew did we work hard and boy were we tired – but we were so happy with our efforts.

Our lone female soldier received a special quilt.  We were all set to make her something but then I remembered that I had this quilt top completed, had the backing, and just hadn’t decided on its final home. This seemed like a good place for it to go so I quilted it and bound it and it was put aside.

Next came packing day but I think you need a bit of a break before that story.  

Now, as I have had so many offers of help, I thought I should summarize some instructions on how to make the quilt tops.  Ours are 42″ by approx 66″.  The size in important as we need the quilts to fit into the post boxes so we can post them for free.

Cut 6 1/2″ strips.  I can’t tell you how many to cut but if you cut width of fabric you need 11.  We tended to have long and short strips to break up the quilt and give it more variety.  Sew all strips end to end then cut into 42″ lengths.  Arrange these in a pleasing order and then sew together to give you a quilt top that is 42″ by approx 66″.  I am not a pattern writer so please bear with me – email if you have any queries!

See you next post for the story of packing day.  If any of this touches a chord within you and you would like to get involved please email me or leave a comment.

Till next time….happy stitching!