When Jan-Maree asked if I would take on the task of summarising the activities of AHQs first year, my first thought was, ‘ I wasn’t part of it back then’.  But, I went back to the beginning and read all the early posts including posts on Cherry Red Quilts and began to understand these creative, hardworking, lovely ladies who saw an immediate need and just kept filling it – with no idea of where it would take them or the people and stories they would collect along the way.  Janine C

   This time last year ….

         we saw the launch of the                  
In January 2012 AHQ had only just begun. The previous October, after hearing that Defence Force personnel serving overseas needed easy to identify laundry bags, Jan-Maree started sewing and organising help through her Quilt Group the Gumnuts.  The aim was to supply 15 laundry bags for a Warrant Officer, the husband of another quilt blogger, Posie Patchwork, to hand out to his men.

Some of the original AHQs laundry bags
It was winter in Afghanistan, and snowing, so the ladies decided to send quilts as well, enough for the Warrant Officer’s men plus a few more to give to those who didn’t receive mail from home. By mid December they’d made and packed 15 laundry bags plus 25 strippy quilts and a stack of care packages. They even printed labels for the quilts, calling them Aussie Hero Quilts.

In January 2012 this thank you message arrived, “…the quilts that you provided now sit in pride of place on our beds. Your support encourages us to continue in our mission, particularly over the Christmas period when we are separated from our loved ones.
Jan-Maree‘s response to that message was,  ‘Recently I have been thinking about how to proceed with AHQ given the fact that batting is the biggest expense and the hardest thing to get donated.  I had been trying to decide if I should phase out the quilts and concentrate on laundry bags….but this letter has confirmed that we need to keep doing both…’

The NEED in January 2012:  
Losing all your clothes – which often happens in a laundry full of identical bundles of washing –  is a huge inconvenience and frustration.  The AHQ laundry bags do a wonderful job of helping our boys and girls keep track of their washing, plus the variety in colour and pattern offer some brightness in a bleak, often monotone, landscape. The aim of AHQ was to send as many laundry bags as possible – hopefully to everyone who needed one.
Suddenly Jan-Maree found she was running Aussie Hero Quilts and Laundry bags.

The ISSUES for AHQ in January 2012: 
– Finding a way to distribute laundry bags and quilts, beyond the initial contact with the lovely   WO, possible solution – Jan-Mareeinfiltrating the workings of the Department of Defence!,

– Labelling boxes so they reached the intended person, and 
– the expense of batting for quilts made by the group.

The HIGHLIGHTS of January 2012: 
Tarnyia contacted everyone she could think of resulting in the donation of a huge box of large pieces of batting from Victorian Textiles.

Other bloggers found AHQ and started donating blocks and quilt tops.  Parcels of binding, cut strips, backing fabric, pre-cut laundry bags and blocks arrived in the mail.

In January 2012 the blog also included the first photo of a recipient with his quilt – approved by the ADF for publishing. What a handsome smile, and what a great quilt label! And he is holding one of the original, very effective, relatively easy to make for all sewing levels, strippy quilts. 

So, what is a strippy quilt?  Jan-Maree explains, “Basically we just sewed 6 1/2 “ wide strips of fabric together into one long strip – cut that down into 42” lengths and 11 of those made one quilt top. Quick and simple – utilitarian but I still think they looked cool and the guys that have received them so far love them.
I discovered an interesting little story about that day in December 2011. While the ladies were busy packing boxes of laundry bags and quilts someone counted up and discovered they had one B2 box left over – empty. That just wouldn’t do. Fabric was pulled from the donated stash and they set to cutting and sewing strips, ironing, pinning, quilting and sashing until, 2 hours later, they had a quilt for that empty box. That is enthusiasm.  See below.

Quoting Jan-Maree from the AHQ blog  Hopefully as we get more and more people on board making quilts we will be able to spend a little more time on each quilt and make them fancier … but at the moment the priority is to get quilts over there.  Even then I will always consider the strippy quilt to be the original Aussie Hero Quilt.’

AND THE BIG EVENT of Jan 2012 … TAA DAA  – introducing the Block of the Month.  

The Plan was that each month AHQs would present a reasonably simple block that everyone could make. They would be collected, stitched into tops, backed, bound and quilted.

BUT, the MOST EXCITING HIGHLIGHT of January 2012 was this blog entry

only 29 days into the year …

29th January 2012 –  SENT SO FAR THIS YEAR

Quilts – 14     Laundry bags – 28

A final January 2012 quote from J-M…’I can’t believe the response we have had to our efforts.  To say they have been appreciated would be a massive understatement!  It has just driven me to keep going and grow this project.’

Showcasing some of those quilts posted overseas in January 2012

BELOW: The star quilt top made by Celia, Jan-Maree and Debbie, sent with 4 other quilts to be distributed to female soldiers. It’s so bright and cheerful, I imagine it is still doing its job of lifting the mood of the day, for someone.

BELOW : This Bold Star quilt was donated by another quilt blog, the blocks all stitched by the blog members. 

BELOW: A stack of quilt backings and the labels.

BELOW:  Quilt top of glowing jewels by Jenny and Irene, Jan 2012

Below: Quilt top by Tarnyia and Debbie in delicious purple, Jan2012

BELOW: Del pinning donated blocks to that ‘design wall’ 
that we’ve all heard about.

BELOW:  Maria’s quilt tops with detail of 
the black and white fabric, Jan2012

BELOW:  From fabric stash to strips, to a roll ready for cutting, 
to quilt top – there will always be AHQ strippy quilts

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