Why start Quilting?
Ever wondered about getting involved in crafting? For some, the act of simply getting started can be the most challenging aspect of the journey.
Not enough time? Don’t know enough about embroidery? Forgotten how to sew?
If ever we needed an example to follow; the amazing team behind Aussie Hero Quilts would be first on our list!
So who is the mind behind Aussie Hero Quilts? have a read and get to know Jan-Maree!
Jan-Maree’s adventures as a quilter begun when she first Joined the Royal Australian Air Force, and found that her hours between shifts needed filling with some relaxing but rewarding handiwork. Luckily, a course in Patchwork and Quilting presented itself to Jan-Maree at a local TAFE, where she would begin to learn the craft and embroidery that has since become a huge factor in her life, and the lives that her work has touched to date.
Love, Marriage, and Children soon followed. Busyness and excitement replaced the spare time that Jan-Maree’s initial foray into quilting had filled, eventually resulting in a move to Connecticut in the United States driven by her Husbands work.
“I took up other hobbies and busied myself with raising our sons fitting in to the local community.
One of my best friends from School days gave birth to her second child and I was asked to be God Mother. I wanted to do something special for my new God Daughter so I made her a patchwork quilt – and that was the point that my love for sewing and quilting was rekindled. “
With her two young boys in school, Jan-Maree decided to take up the needle once more and join a local quilt group. The act of quilt-making gave her creativity a deep satisfaction, which was to culminate into the Aussie Hero Quilts that we now feature.
So what was the catalyst? Prime-time TV.
“I was watching shows like Random Acts of Kindness and Secret Millionaire.
Often the shows focused on people who were giving back to their community in a way that made a difference and the desire to do something similar was born.”
‘Aussie Hero Quilts’ was built on foundations of empathy for current and ex-serving Australian Service-women and Men, whose focus is that “We care about the people, not the politics or the mission.” It is well known both in and outside of Military circles of the sacrifices many – if not all – that are taken to enable Humanitarian missions, medevac (Medical Evacuation), search and rescue operations and other kinds of tasks that routinely strip loved ones of their Dads, mums, sons and daughters. Jan-Maree purely felt that these sacrifices deserved to be acknowledged, so she set out to do so in a unique and heartwarming way.
It began in 2010, when a decorated Australian soldier was severely injured in Afghanistan:
“SGT Garry Robinson was in a blackhawk that crashed – killing three of his mates and an American pilot. Garry was seriously injured along with several others. He was taken to hospital in Germany, and whilst there, was given a quilt by an American organisation, because otherwise he would have been the only man in the ward without a quilt on his bed.“
Jan-Maree knew, at the very least, that Garry deserved a quilt from one of his own countrymen as a piece of recognition and support from far away home.“Someone, who has little chance of ever meeting you, took the time to make something by hand just for you, to say thank you for your service and the sacrifice that service asks of you.”
How ‘Aussie Hero Quilts’ was born
AHQ is an online community group that makes and sends personalized quilts and laundry bags to deployed men and women whilst they are serving overseas. Their online social media following numbers above ten thousand, and a long running blog which you can also follow.
At its inception, the impetus for Aussie Hero Quilts came through some online sleuthing as Jan-Maree herself discovered a blog; the author of which had a husband who was deployed in an unstable conflict zone. Desiring to help, Jan-Maree reached out and asked what she could possibly do.
The first answer: “Laundry Bags.”
A quick second: “Quilts. If you could manage it!”
15 sets of laundry bags and quilts later, Aussie Hero Quilts received an honorable mention in said blog! And the 15 soldiers got their presents too. Jan-Maree was delighted to find that many of her blogging friends also wanted to help out.
“ I launched the dedicated Aussie Hero Quilts (and Laundry Bags) Blog that same day and 6 weeks later I launched a Facebook page.
I spread the word as much as I could and just got on with it… little by little, Aussie Heroes grew.”
Around eight years since the initial quilt – AHQ is a staple amongst deployed, current and ex serving Australian Defence Force members. And, with each deployment being – in some cases – rare, the colourful laundry bag and quilt marks an important milestone for a career, or even a rite of passage.
So how does AHQ work now?
“These days Aussie Heroes is supported by its own dedicated members all around Australia.
There are quilt groups that make a batch of quilts and then go off and do other things.
Some quilters make a quilt or two, while other quilters make quilt after quilt after quilt.
There are also ladies who look for new laundry bags to make each week.”
This ever-growing team also includes past and present serving members, and their wives, daughters and friends. Even partners of Vietnam Veterans now sew for AHQ!
These lovely care packages are sent to personnel on Operations in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa among others. This also includes whichever Naval ship is deployed as part of that operation at the time.
How can crafting help?
In late 2012, a soldier who had developed PTSD from multiple deployments to East Timor and then Afghanistan was medically discharged, and gained the attention of Jan-Maree and AHQ. After 23 years in the Army, and unable to work more than 8 hours a week, the deeply affected soldier would go ‘out bush’ (hiking) with his swag to seek comfort and solace from his inner anguish.
In early 2014 AHQ sent him a quilt by request of his wife, to be a powerful reminder that he is loved and appreciated by more than just her. “We heard that he loved it and expected to hear no more. Two and a half years later in mid 2016, I received a message telling me that his quilt goes with him everywhere” and is a mandatory item for all visits to the hospital!
In the years that followed, AHQ continued to run out of Jan-Maree’s home (with a fair amount of help) while steadily growing, sending embroidered quilts and laundry bags to thousands of heroes. Tragically though, bushfires raging in the Australian winter of June 2016 destroyed her home and nearly all of her progress and work.
“I managed to salvage a few treasures, but I lost almost everything to do with Aussie Heroes.”
Yet, “As strange as it may sound, what should have been the most devastating experience of my life, however, turned out to be the prelude to the most amazing six months.”
Once word got around, messages of support were circulated from all corners of the ADF who had been privileged to receive their quilts and laundry bags, which far exceeded Jan-Maree’s knowledge of the affect she’d made. A high ranking officer made the first call to her, asking in what way he “could be of service”, and within a few short weeks she welcomed him to dinner at her newly rented home.
At her kitchen table, he explained that Jan-Maree perhaps “had not fully understood how much people appreciate what Aussie Heroes does.” as these quilts continue to do duty when troops come home from deployment. Jan-Maree’s acts, through crafting and embroidery show how each quilt and bag is a tangible reminder that someone, other than their family and friends, really cares about them and appreciates their service.
“Another Fallen Warrior Quilt went to a little girl whose father died suddenly, and it bears a message saying “Always remember Daddy loves you Midgie.”
Some were made in memory of members who had passed away in previous years, but whose loved ones still deserve to know that we appreciate and remember them.”
AHQ: In a Nutshell
Aussie Hero Quilts (And Laundry Bags) is a 100% volunteer organisation, and remains the only organisation anywhere in the world that looks after its country’s serving members in this way.
With between 150 to 250 volunteers, this surprisingly small group which demonstrates amazing generosity, commitment, and – simply – output!
Aussie Hero Quilts (and Laundry Bags) is one very simple way the Australian public can say “thank you” to the members of the Australian Defence Force every single day.
Here’s (some of) the team:
Still searching for reasons to get started? Here’s a few:
- To make people feel loved.
- To show they’re not alone in whatever struggles they’re experiencing.
- To keep your hands busy.
- To involve those around you.
- To keep the memory of those we’ve lost.
- To have fun!
- (Now it’s time to add your own!)