Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Wrap Up Report: Over 1000 quilts!!!

It has been some time in coming, but here it is ........ the final wrap up report.

What a huge two days we had in March with the quilts. The Public Open Day was great. We were so excited with how fantastic everything looked when it was set up. Of course, we knew we had a lot of quilts, but we hadn't seen them all in one place before. It was quite overwhelming really. So much for the eyes to take in.

We had lots of visitors on the Friday including a lot of lovely quilt makers who came from far and wide to see their quilts in with all of the others. It was a very busy day, but I had a lovely chance to sit and chat with the lovely Di, and Di and Gillian and Margaret. The two Di's had brought quilts up to my house earlier in the appeal and it was great to catch up again over a sausage sandwich. Di wrote a blog post about the day, which you can read here, and she has taken some lovely photos. There were quite a few quilts delivered on the day, and their photos are now up on Photo Gallery 2. We had only been open a few minutes when we hit the 1000 mark! By the end of the day we estimated we were up to:


There were quite a few people who had lost their homes as well. They were looking through the quilts to see where the ones they liked were. It was very emotional time for some. I can't imagine how hard it would be to be on the "recovery from bushfire" journey.

There were photo opportunities and talking and questions and talking and a few tears and talking and hugs and talking and by 7pm I was starting to realise I was running out of steam. I would have run out of steam quite a few hours earlier if I didn't have the best self-appointed executive assistant on the earth. Debbie Smith is my friend who went above and beyond the boundaries of friendship. She can't come to our patchwork group because she works, but she gave 110% to the Quilt Appeal. I didn't ask her to, but she was my guardian angel on the day. She would come and find me, look in my face for a moment, and then go only to come back moments later with something I looked like I required. She monitored my water intake, my caffeine intake (extremely important), my carbohydrate intake, my rest times, and at the same time worked very hard in the Emergency Services Truck and with the organisation of the whole day. She was an amazing blessing to me. I couldn't have done it with out you, Debbie.

And speaking of amazing people, my patchwork group and the members of Springwood Salvation Army and Hadleigh Lodge were fantastic. Their dedication to doing something for others is an inspiration. Everyone worked so hard, and were so fantastic at pulling the day off, that it still makes me get a warm fuzzy to think of it.

Our Officers, Captains David & Joy Morgan

Saturday was the big day. I arrived early in the early morning at the hall and I walked through the quilts in the total peace and quiet. That is one thing we noticed during the setting up. All of the quilts had a sound dampening effect, like you are in a well insulated box. I have to say that I felt a moment of sadness in the stillness because the journey for me was going to be over in a few short hours. It had been such a big part of my life since the fires.

Soon my fantastic volunteers arrived, and so did the people who were coming to choose their quilts. Tea and coffee greeted them until the opening time of 10am. It was very busy for the first couple of hours. Most people got the ones they wanted, although there were a few disappointments. There were plenty to choose another favourite from.

When people arrived, they were checked off the registration list and were given a purple token for each quilt they were entitled to receive, and a yellow token for a knitted or crochet rug. They could also choose one wallhanging per household, and a sewing kit or sewing supplies. We also had two tables of back issue of craft and decorating magazines if anyone wanted them. I heard a lady say she didn't do quilting but she was taking some magazines to learn about how the quilts are made, now that she has one. We also had a sausage sizzle and lovely homemade cakes and slices (in regular and gluten free) and real filtered coffee and tea and cold drinks.

If you are wondering how we worked it, we had two people standing at the doors of the entry/exit of each building. As someone left the building, our volunteers would just check to make sure they had the right amount of quilts for tokens. It was a very simple and friendly process. Sometimes a person might go back and forth between the main hall and the barn trying to decide which one they liked more.

When someone chose a quilt off the wall, our team of quilt hangers would get it down and immediately hang another in its place. With so many quilts on display, we found the one on the walls went quicker because you could see them more clearly. Lots of volunteers were on hand to help people with their choices, and the patchwork ladies were able to explain some of the stories behind individual quilts. Sometimes it was the story of a quilt, or where it had come from, which was the deciding factor. Quilts that had come from other Australian communities who had experienced natural disasters in recent years were highly regarded because the recipient knew that the maker would understand what it is like.

Some people could walk into the room and see a quilt within minutes and know that was the one. For others, it took 2 hours or more. Some people know what colours they are going to have in their new homes, others didn't have any idea but they knew what they liked when they saw it. I heard a number of times of people who didn't have a theme in mind but they have now found this quilt and they know exactly what the colour scheme in the lounge or bedroom is going to be. A lady pointed to a triangle in a quilt she had and said to me, "That is going to be the colour of my new lounge where this quilt will be." Imagine that, fellow quiltmakers! You might have been making that quilt at home in your place and someone who has lost their house, and has no idea on what colours to decorate with, has picked your quilt and is going to theme their room around it.

Having food and drink and a covered sitting area turned out to be a good idea, because a lot of people stayed for a couple of hours. Neighbours and friends met up, some for the first time since the fires, and sat and chatted about where they are up to. There was a lovely moment when some people from Mt Victoria saw a neighbour walking up the driveway and there was a lovely reunion. Thankfully the rain held off for both days.

And then before we knew it, it was 3pm and all over. By that stage I think we had distributed 654 quilts and most of the knitted and crochet blankets. The pack up began. I was over in the barn with a lot of helpers and we were bring down the quilts off the net. We had no sooner got them down when it started to pour with rain. I mean it bucketed down! It was so loud that we were yelling at each other and couldn't hear what we were saying. And the the hail started. I am sure I have some hearing damage from it. The amazing thing is we had all the quilts off the walls because the opening doors leak and there was a lovely indoor waterfall spraying into the barn. What a blessing it didn't rain the for the 2 days the quilts were up.

The remaining quilts and blankets went to The Salvation Army Recovery Centre In Raymond Road, Springwood. I am currently the Recovery Team Leader there and it has been a joy to keep on distributing the quilts. People have been coming in regularly to come and choose quilts because they couldn't be there on the day. Just in the last two weeks about 25 families have chosen quilts. The stockpile is going down very steadily and in another couple of weeks after everyone has had a chance to come in we will start distributing them to hospitals and other places. I think the final remaining number may be about the same as what we would normally make in that timeframe as part of our community quilting.

So, it is almost the end of the journey. There may be a few more blog posts coming, particularly when the last quilts are donated, but it may be quiet here for a while. Being part of this journey has been life changing for me. Seeing the amazing community spirit up close and personal has impacted me in a deep way. Through it all Ryan has supported me 100%. He amazed me constantly with his calm words of encouragement, cups of tea, quilt hanging skills and willingness to do anything I asked even though he works such long hours in the city. As for our girls, they will never be the same again, in a good way. They were very frightened by the fires and what was happening around them, but they have seen how people in a community, and throughout the country, band together when there is trouble, and they have seen the blessings that come from volunteering and hard work. I believe this experience will help them to be more prepared for the next bushfire that comes our way one day. Hopefully, not for a long time.

Thank for stopping by!



  1. What a wonderful wrap-up of this amazing project, Tracey. It's so heartwarming to read your account of the quilt distribution and to know how much all these beautiful quilts were appreciated. You are to be congratulated for having the vision and seeing it through to such a triumphant conclusion! We at St Mark's Quilters feel privileged to have been part of the enormous wave of compassion from across Australia. Thank you, dear Tracey (and to your enthusiastic team as well).

  2. Tracey, thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to be part of your wonderful project. We at Rainbow Connection Quilters (Carlton, NSW) enjoyed making the quilts but also enjoyed our opportunity to visit your group when we delivered the quilts. Congratulations on a wonderful outcome and thanks for keeping us all so well informed.