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The Sydney Berner Buddies Quilt Fundraiser

The 2006 Quilt from the Sydney Australia Rescue Fundraiser, won by Maria Crifasi!

Annie's Story
Why did I do it?

The quilt is finished and so is one of life’s little adventures. It is hard to say what caused the idea to germinate but it was an itch that needed scratching. I concluded after four years owned by Bernese Harry Brat, Gideon von Wink and Special Spike (Da Boyz) that I am a Berner tragic; passionate but not obsessive about the breed. Breeding was something I did not want to do but was there something I could do?

I had been thinking for some time about how I could use my creative interests - cross stitch and patchwork. In January/ February 2006 I had fun making blocks for the USA Berner Health Quilt - a fund raiser at the US Speciality. In March a thought ‘make a quilt for Sydney Berner Buddies November Christmas Party’. Rather than turn up with a quilt, I thought it best to see if it was a suitable thing to do. Gael Goldsack (Sydney Berner Buddies Coordinator) confirmed it was. She had the vision that maybe other BMD owners would like to participate.

Gael also suggested that any of the state BMD Clubs with an active rescue committee would be a worthy recipient. We chose the South Australian Club because of Frankie, a little girl rescued and now living with Sydney Berner Buddy member, Janet Cameron and Berner boy ‘Cyclone’ Harley.

Gael and I met at the Sydney Royal and she showed me her block designs. I was impressed. I wondered if I’d bitten off more than I could chew. That thought was killed by the quote: How do you eat an elephant - one mouthful at a time!

In April, I sent an email to Berner-l saying that the quilt idea Down Under was gaining momentum. In May the Autumn Berner Buddy news letter was being distributed and Gael suggested that I include a flyer calling for expressions of interest. THAT meant that I had to commit. Optimistically I booked the quilter in May for a September deadline. Jiminy Conscience shouted ‘You are out of your mind!’ to which the reply was ‘Just SHUT UP!’

Fabric was selected and sent away to six volunteers in NSW and SA. I had no idea how many blocks would be made (if any, given that we all have busy lives); so I had to plan for any eventuality even making the quilt by myself. I had in mind that if only a few blocks arrived then the quilt would be a lap quilt - easy peasy.

The project was personally complicated by being relocated to southern Queensland for three months for work - without my beloved Boyz and the inconvenience of having to redirect my mail right when the blocks were due to arrive. However I planned to drive to Toowoomba and the first things packed were two canvas bags of quilt material, cross stitch and my sewing machine. All bases were covered.

Being Bernerless in Toowoomba and Brisbane meant that I could make blocks in a hair-free zone. I started with a couple of appliqué blocks, and then the enthusiasm took over. As the blocks started arriving, my production slowed. It was all about the volunteers. Each time new blocks arrived I was on my bum in awe of the effort and ideas that came from that crazy idea and two fat quarters. Often I fiddled with the blocks, wondering if I could do justice to the creativity of those who had participated. I had four objectives:

1 Not to create a clone of the USA quilt,
2 Use every block,
3 Have a flexible plan, and
4 Let instinct guide the result.

In early August I had 19 blocks which I took to the BMDCQ AGM. At that stage I had no idea how the quilt would look, its final size or layout. All I knew was that it would work. Asking people to buy tickets in a fundraiser that was ‘in bits’ was cheeky! Jiminy Conscience was 10 kg heavier - was I fooling myself and others with this whole damn thing? What would I say to those who had posted me blocks if it didn’t work?

Then the world went nuts. Following a Berner -l update in early August Joye Neff (the international fundraiser coordinator) came online offering to help. I was stunned. ‘What had I done? What should I do? Solution: talk to Gael she will make sense of this!’ And she did - with three words - ‘It can’t hurt.’ There was much to do. I emailed Joye, Gael, Jean Cheesman (Berner -l database manager in the UK) and Pat Long (Berner-l administrator) for advice. The financials were too complicated so I asked Joye and Gael to deal with them exclusively. I would concentrate on getting photos periodically to Jean and finishing the project. Within three days the website was ready for launch. Jiminy was back in his box - lid screwed down tight and I’m hanging onto the back of a runaway train by my fingertips (or so I thought).

Happily, I build the 9 centre blocks and then stopped to check what I had done. I laid the centrepiece flat, and the hair on my neck stood up. What would be the next step - I had no idea. How to incorporate the remaining blocks and what holes needed to be filled? How to use Nicole Miranda’s painted Berner block? The quilt lay idle in my Brisbane apartment. Three days later inspiration came from a magazine that had a picture of a quilt with brick-like border. Two days later it was done. Another check: hair standing. Instinct said it was right.

Then the question - how to use the remaining blocks? Another day passed and then the ‘paw print round’ idea emerged. Then five blocks (four of which make the corners) arrived in the post. It was at this point that I decided that Nicole’s block would be best as a separate prize.

Rearrangement of the remaining blocks for the nth time and the outer ‘round’ was done. I laid the quilt out again - I was amazed - it was easily going to fit a queen sized bed - not a lap quilt as I had thought! But I needed to get a second opinion - I was too close to the project. I showed the quilt to a couple of people and their response was the same as mine. Phew! I was normal!

How to finish the quilt? Solution: consult a patchwork oracle. I was going to Toowoomba to visit friends and the quilt shop across the road from the office where I had worked was open. They provided the guidance that I needed. Something biblical about going up the mountain -eh?

Early September and I am home at last. Priority #1: call the quilter to say I needed a two week extension to complete the border. It gave me a chance to take the quilt top to Melbourne and promote the fundraiser at the Melbourne Royal and the Victorian Speciality over the October long weekend. The quilt was a great icebreaker. I met a number of people who were following the quilt’s development on Berneseinoz (BIO) and knew me from BIO emails and people were most generous buying tickets.

The quilt went to the quilters to be quilted with paw prints, hearts and scrolls - the design I loved on the USA Quilt. 8 days later I get a call - the quilt is ready. What a lovely surprise! She had misread the completion date and had finished it a month early! Bonus! Interestingly she confessed that she had checked the paws of her Maltese to see if a dog had three or four toes! So there is a tincture of Maltese in the quilt now - however no visible shrinkage is apparent. The quilt lay dormant until early November whilst I worked on second prize. This proved to be the most difficult part of the project- certainly to prepare because the (painted) fabric needed to be stabilised. The preparation took some days, much consulting with experienced quilters and countless deep breaths because this was one block that I must not ruin. The result was worth it.

I planned to go to some shows at Sunbury Victoria, but due to a sprained knee (blindsided by Gideon von Wink) I couldn’t run. So I stayed home and worked on the quilt. Ten hours work over two days and the binding, hanging sleeve and labels are on. Both prizes are complete. Ta Da! It is done, finitio, finished!

Now I get hit by a runaway train! I read on BIO that as at 9 November over $1300 AUD has been raised (including $528 USD) and Joye has set the Internationals the target of $1000 USD! I drive home stunned. Tears involuntarily roll down my cheeks during the 10km trip. I’ve created a monster! All I want to do is curl up in the foetal position and wait for it to all go away. Jiminy escapes and shouts: ‘It was your idea! Finish what you started’. He was right. I sit mesmerised reading BIO and the Berner list keeping a low profile as the competition heats up: Australia versus the rest of the world. The bloody thing is well and truly out of my hands now. What to do? Just focus on what needs to be done for the 19th. Practice origami folding raffle tickets for the draw, laminate the SBBQ Story and the Quilt valuation - anything to distract from the last days of fundraising. Money keeps appearing! $2, $10, $50, I don’t know how or why but it does. More tickets to fold!

Sunday 19th November rolled around. Da Boyz, quilt, cushion, tickets, leads, treats, secret Santa gifts, water bucket, lunch, hat, rug, tether pegs and chair are bundled into the car and we head for Centennial Park 3 hours away with high expectations.

On arrival at the Centennial Park leash-free area, there are many dogs and people. I am amazed how many were lined up to buy tickets - some buying more! At times the line was 4-5 deep. There were about 30 dogs in attendance about 27 Bernese and 3 honorary. Words from Kevin Costner’s movie ‘Field of Dreams’ (one of my all time favourites) swirl in my head. ‘Build it and they will come.’ A sense of calm envelopes me. Not that I am into pop psychology but I now have had the experience to make me think that this is more than a cliché. I am prepared for the likelihood that the quilt may go overseas so I am not surprised when it does. So does Second prize. Gael advises that the funds raised totals @$3300 AUD. Happy with that and that figure still had not sunk in.

Will I do it again? Possibly but not next year I have many projects both cross stitch and patchwork waiting to be done and selfishly

I want a year just for me. 2008? We’ll see.

Annie Bell

Results from the Berner Buddies Quilt Fundraiser
<click here>

For pics of the Centennial Park Picnic
<click here>