Aussie Quilter

By Gemma @ Pretty Bobbins

It’s quite a while since my last post.  The end of the year kind of did me in.  All that crazy Christmas sewing and last minute customer quilts.  I hope you didn’t miss me too much.  Thank you to those who sent me an email to say hi!  Today is Australia Day and I’m sharing my thoughts on being an Aussie Quilter.

Me in my studio

Me in my studio

I’ve spent more of the past decade overseas than living in Australia.  My children have spent more of their lives outside of their country and two of them are Australian’s by decent.  I can tell you roughly what time it is in the US and UK thanks to my IG addiction and many of my bestest friends live overseas.  I even became a quilter whilst living outside of Australia.

I hate vegimite (I don’t even know how to spell it!), can’t eat TimTams, have never eaten baked beans and even before I was gluten free I didn’t like toast or sandwiches.  Thank goodness I love a good barbie (BBQ) or I’d barely qualify for citizenship!

My Aussie credentials are so poor at times that I question whether I am qualified to write a post on being an Aussie Quilter.

I grew up in a small town in the Aussie bush.  Not the outback, not the city or the beach.  A stunning area of subtropical rainforest, mountains and valleys.  Our road was unsealed, the neighbours kept cattle and peacocks. Kangaroos, echidneas, wombats and possums all visited our 2 acres of land.

My Grandfather, who was born in a tent during the Depression, was a wool classer, for years he fed his family on rabbits caught by ferrets with his sons.

One of my most vivid childhood memories is the day our town burnt during the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires. I remember the helicopter urging us to evacuate. Driving out of town, through a valley and turning a corner into burnt forest.

As a teenager I swam in muddy lakes, camped in the bush, learnt to drive in the Queensland heat in a bright yellow toyota that was falling to pieces.

I’ve lived in houses built by my parents, in old Queensland houses raised on stilts, and in brick homes with mission brown wood paneling.

I’ve traveled through Asia seeking adventure, had two babies overseas, learnt three languages, cooked pavlovas, been on cultural exchange and finally settled in the nation’s capital.  ‘The Bush Capital’ as it is affectionately known.

9 months pregnant at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

9 months pregnant at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

The more I travel the more I realise how essentially Australian I am.  There is no place I would rather live than here and no time I would rather be in than now.

But I think quilters are cross-cultural beasts. I’ve been told that Australian quilts have a look to them, that they’re identifiable.  I find this puzzling.  Maybe we do have a sense of our history and culture in our quilts. For me, it is the palette of my surroundings that influences my quilts rather than the country in which I live or the nationality that I claim.

As much as I am grateful to no longer live in Noumea, I yearn for the palette of the Pacific.  The aquas of the lagoon, the pinks of the dresses, the rich skin tones, the energy that pierces the air.

Mare 315

Canberra is very much subdued.  I often traveled here as a child and I actually found the palette sickening.  The deadening yellows of dry summer grasses, the threat and fear of fire that raised.  The big sky and lack of rain clouds. Even the birds and insects sounded hot, tired and desperate.  All of this no doubt heightened by the sticky car seats and lack of air conditioning and the hideous regional television stations.

yellow grass

Now that I am committed to this life in Canberra.  Now that I have found the joy in it.  I have realised that the colour, texture and inspiration is there.  The smell of eucalyptus after rain. The detail of the tree bark. The rocky bush walks around my suburb.  The absolute thrill of living in suburbia but having a view that puts me in mind of camping in the bush.

new house new view

Next month I travel to America for the first time to attend QuiltCon.  I suspect I may come back with a better understanding of what an Aussie Quilter is.  But right now I feel like it is my personal history and my current surroundings that shape the quilter (and person) that I am.  Especially as I introduce my children to life in Australia, to camping and spiders and stomping your feet to keep away snakes.

Camping near Canberra, Australia

Camping near Canberra, Australia

Life is good.

Check out Angie’s Australia Day post to check out who else is talking about being an Aussie Quilter. Angie (below) is one of the many awesome Aussie quilters that I’ve met in the year since I’ve returned to Australia permanently.

Angie and I on our big quilty day out!

Angie and I on our big quilty day out!

Modern Quilt and how it got the better of me

By Gemma @ Pretty Bobbins

Hello lovely quilters, it’s Thursday and it’s time to link up your quilty process.  I’m sorry I was AWOL last week, we went camping and I just plain ran out of time to post.  Camping was awesome though!  This week I’ve finally started to share online what I’ve been thinking about for awhile, my take on this whole modern quilt thing.  Apologies for the long post and the peek into my inner crazy ;)

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My quilting addiction started in 2012 following a bout of pneumonia.  To cut a long story short, I finally got round to finishing a quilt that had been a wip for a long while, got hooked on quilting blogs and ordered some “modern quilting” books.  I got lost in a quilt, “Color Therapy” (original title is something about Volume from the book, Scrap Republic) as I recovered from pneumonia and that was the last time I followed a pattern.

"Colour Therapy" on my son's bed where it lived (for awhile!) until I finished his quilt.

“Colour Therapy” on my son’s bed where it lived (for awhile!) until I finished his quilt.

This quilt gave me the confidence to delve into improvisational piecing and colour play and I’ve never looked back.  I’ve spent much time focusing on technique and have learnt something from each and every quilt that I’ve made.  As I moved away from blogland, (damn the demise of google reader!) and became addicted to Instagram, I became more and more aware of the amazing artists and quilters in the modern quilting movement.

My first real delve into improv piecing.

My first real delve into improv piecing.

So I kept making quilts and blogging and following quilters and designers and artists on IG that I admire.  And then I entered a couple of shows and won a couple of ribbons and felt pretty good about myself.  I felt validated, I won the modern award at my local show, that’s me, I’m modern!

plus quilt ribbons

But then I started thinking about the things that are important to me in quilting; the meditative aspect, the time for reflection, the busying of hands, the expression of creativity, the finding of my voice and the connection with other women.  None of those things are limited to the modern quilting movement.

So the more I thought about it, the more I realised that quilting, not modern quilting, is the joy in my soul and that really, I felt like I was somewhere out on the fringe of modern quilting and that all this talk of it felt like static in my ears, a buzzing distracting me from the pure joy of the art of quilting.

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And then I got caught up in the total and utter buzz of registering for QuiltCon. Little old me, gets to spend thousands of dollars heading to the US to meet like minded souls.  What a thrill and what a validation, to feel that I deserved to spend all that money on me because I’m so good at this modern quilting thing, I must be there. And If I’m going all that way I must have a quilt hanging.  I mean, I’m not going to Austin to sightsee, I’m not going tick something off a bucket list (I don’t actually have a bucket list!).  I’m going to roll around like a pig in mud and enjoy all that is modern and quilty and awesome and I want my quilting to be there because I’m proud.

starry skies texture quilting

But then I began to realise that the thrill of quilting is in the pace.  It’s in the colour play, in the reflection, in the connection with fibre and idea and thought.  And the making of quilts for shows is no fun (for me), it’s stress and it takes away all that is good.  So I decided to ignore the QuiltCon entry date and get on with growing my business, parenting, dealing with my day job and trying to be a better Mum, wife and human being.

But then I started seeing the countdown.  And I panicked.  I started to search my brain for the bestest, newest, modernest ideas that I could and put them into a quilt that I could make in four days and first finish the quilt I was being paid to quilt and help out at school and work at the office and feed the children and…

And I had an absolutely awful day where I felt fat and dejected and all those horrible inner criticisms bubbled over.  My quilting isn’t good enough, my clothes don’t fit, I yell at my kids too much, I don’t know if anyone travelling to QuiltCon is going to like me. I don’t deserve to spend all that money on me.

Enough already.  Seriously.  Remember the calm?  Remember the reason that you fell in love with quilting?  Breath.

So I kinda mentioned it on IG and a whole heap of people mentioned that they kinda felt similar and then I felt like all was good.

So I am working on the quilt that I started months ago that is not at the panic stages and totally achievable and I LOVE it.  And I started eating salad again and being more mindful of my parenting and partnering. In other words, I started to focus on the things that give me joy and are important to me.

Quilting the outline of my children's hands into a quilt for a dear friend who helped care for them for three years.

Quilting the outline of my children’s hands into a quilt for a dear friend who helped care for them for three years.

And I am back where I started.  Well, I’m trying to get back there.  To that place where my brain focused on the colour in front of me, the sound of my quilting ideas and the calm that comes with focusing on each individual thread.

And whilst I still feel that my work is modern, I’m back to listening to my own definition of modern.  I’m not going to worry about what other people define it as, I’m just going to make quilts and be happy.

So let’s do that :)  Let’s link up our quilty process, what makes us feel good, what brings us joy and connects us to others.  And I’m going to put my head back in the sand and stop counting followers and worrying about whether I fit someone else’s definition of modern quilting.

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Please link up your quilty process and remember to visit a couple of fellow linkers to share the love.

P.S. I love all quilts and quilters, they’re all just quilts and colour and peace and joy regardless of the other labels we place on them <3

P.P.S. If you all run away and leave me I’ll understand! But sometimes a girl has to share what’s on her mind.



Awesome quilts are everywhere!

By Gemma @ Pretty Bobbins

It’s Thursday and it’s time to link up your Quilty process <3  A big thank you to Angie of Gnome Angel for hosting I Quilt last week <3  Angie has actually just dropped me home from quilt guild (it’s a great deal, I ask her to host I Quilt AND she drives me around!) which has reminded me of just how many AWESOME quilts there are out there!  So this week I’m going to share what some of you have been up to!

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The talented Midge of Ms Midge linked up her stunning London Calling quilt!

These blocks were from the paper piecing bee Wombat Stew and the quilt was a gift for a special friend.  Isn’t it the coolest?!  I love the quilting designs she went with.

Julia Graber of Life as a Quilter blew my mind last week.  Seriously, check out her technique of making this incredable quilt!  I’m adding this to my to-do list!!!

Julia takes you through the technique step-by-step, make sure you head over and pin it!!

Chris of Made by ChrissieD made this super fun and colourful quilt.  I LOVE this photo!!

How fun is this quilt and she went with the perfect quilting,

I’m very sorry Chris but the images are skewed and I can’t seem to fix it…  So please head over and check out Chris’s original post with all the pics including matching items!!

So what have you been up to this week?  Have you been to a guild meeting?  Have you been inspired by the amazing quilters around you (online or in real life)?

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Don’t forget to link up your quilty process and visit two fellow linkers to share the love <3





Quilty Gnome Angel

By Gemma @ Pretty Bobbins

It’s Thursday and it’s time to link up your quilty process over at Gnome Angel!

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If you haven’t come across Angie before you should check her out.  She sports such accolades as comic genius, quilt photographer extraordinaire, super-driver, survivalist (ask her about the essentials she packed on our Sydney trip), focused, inspiring and most recently quilter.  Let me introduce you…

Evidence that my Mum likes to sew; she made us matching outfits!

Angie and her Mum 1978. Photo courtesy of Gnome Angel. Super cute matchy outfits made by Mumma Gnome Angel.

I met Angie in real life for the first time earlier this year.  I had already read her blog (one of those down the rabbit hole blogs where I seriously got lost in the archives for hours) and was following her on IG.  We ended up travelling to Sydney together for a quilt exhibition and talked non stop for about ten hours.  I got home feeling inspired, my cup full.

Fat Bottom Girls by Angie Wilson of - submitted in the Tiny Treasure category of Canberra Quilters 2014 Members Exhibition.

Fat Bottom Girls mini quilt by Angie of Gnome Angel. Blog post here.

I’m very lucky living in Canberra that there are a heap of super talented, inspiring quilters who I’ve gotten to know this year.  The kind of friends that you can’t remember what life was like before them.  The ones that text you at 7am on a Sunday morning, get your jokes and get that you don’t cope with lack of sleep or food (but still take great delight in teasing you!).  The ones that let you know when you’re right and when you’re wrong, make you laugh when you need it and on top of all that just get the whole all-consuming quilt obsession thing.


Bright Sky Rose Garden – photo by Angie of Gnome Angel. Blog post here.

Angie and I have collaborated on a couple of quilts, her intensity and ideas are inspiring and her drive leaves me for dead. Seriously, that girl is gonna go far!  So please share the love and head on over to Gnome Angel and link up your quilty process <3

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Another tova tunic

By Gemma @ Pretty Bobbins

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It’s Thursday and it’s time to link up your quilty process!  Angie of Gnome Angel will be hosting I quilt next week.  Not much quilting has happened here in the past week but I did whip up a tova tunic last night using quilting fabric!  With my Dad visiting we spent a lot of time in the garden.

My father and daughter gardening.  We have duly been watering our new plants daily.

My father and daughter gardening. We have duly been watering our new plants daily.

I have also been spending a lot of time tidying as we have rearranged almost every room in our house.  It looks like one of those films where they turned every drawer upside down looking for a USB key…  To cope I have snuck in a couple of QAYG (quilt as you go) cushions after work.  You can find my QAYG cushion tutorial here.

Our former play room and newly renamed "reading nook" with day bed. Pink cushion on right is a new QAYG cushion, middle cushion on left is also QAYG

Our former play room and newly renamed “reading nook” with day bed. Pink cushion on right is a new QAYG cushion, middle cushion on left is also QAYG

Last night I snapped and made a dress.  Another Tova Tunic.  Love this pattern, I now have five tovas (four tunics and one shirt) and they are on high rotation!  I make a few alterations, I shirr the back, replace the sleeves with cap sleeves and add darts at the breasts.  Otherwise it’s just a potato sack on me.  With the alterations it’s my favourite piece of clothing! You can see two other versions here.

Decided to make a Tova Tunic at 8pm, wore it to work the next morning - love!

Decided to make a Tova Tunic at 8pm, wore it to work the next morning – love!

I used a Valorie Wells linen print that I had been hoarding forever.  I LOVE it!  I felt good all day at work in it.  I did wear a belt as the linen tends to billow but I just felt wonderful all day :) Must learn to pose though…

Miss 4 and Zazou watering our new plants from Poppy.

Miss 4 and Zazou watering our new plants from Poppy.

Tomorrow real life starts again with quilting in earnest.  It seems to be the busiest time of year and I have a lot of quilts to get through.  In recovery mode this evening with a sinus infection and a long day behind me I enjoyed dinner in the garden followed by some watering.

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Have you been quilting this week?  I’d love you to link up below and visit a couple of fellow linkers :)  Next week my local quilty BFF Angie of Gnome Angel will be hosting I Quilt.  She recently told me that she finally feels like a quilter so I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us!



Bright Sky Star Quilt Along

By Gemma @ Pretty Bobbins

Bright Sky QAL quilt along (1)

Today you can find me over at Blossom Heart Quilts guest posting about quilting on Alyce’s Bright Sky star quilt pattern.  Seriously love this quilt.  I was lucky enough to quilt Angie of Gnome Angel’s Bright Sky Rose Garden (below).

Did you know that I also quilted the original Bright Sky quilt?

Head over to Blossom Heart Quilts to read all about it!  You can buy the pattern here to make your own version and visit all the other hoppers on the schedule below <3

Getting ready:
Monday 29th September – Choosing Fabrics Tips here at BHQ

Week 1: Centre Star
Monday 6th October – BHQ
Wednesday 8th October – Molli Sparkles

Week 2: Piece Outer Star
Monday 13th October – BHQ
Wednesday 15th October – My Fabric Relish

Week 3: Piece Quilt Top + Backing
Monday 20th October – BHQ
Wednesday 22nd October – Ms Midge

Week 4: Quilting
Monday 27th OctoberPretty Bobbins free motion quilting guest post at BHQ
Wednesday 29th OctoberA Stitch In Between (Bright Sky mini)

Week 5: Quilting
Monday 3rd NovemberElven Garden Quilts free motion quilting guest post at BHQ

Week 6: Final Linky
Monday 10th November – Linky opens here at BHQ for a week

Monday 17th November – Linky closes and voting opens for Viewers’ Choice award
Friday 21st November – Winners announced!


Bright Sky Star Quilt Along

By Gemma @ Pretty Bobbins

Bright Sky QAL quilt along (1)

Today I got up early to say goodbye to my Dad as he returned to Hong Kong today.  Have you ever had that feeling of someone you love travelling away from you.  Like you can actually feel them getting further away?  Yep, today was tough :(  But fear not, I cheered myself up with the IKEA catalogue, the preschool fete, quilt photography and helping my friend sort out her sewing machine.  But what you really want to hear is that I’ll be over at Blossom Heart Quilts on Monday talking about quilting the Bright Sky star quilt.  And just for jokes, this is what I look like when I’m exhausted, sad, have a headcold and Gnome Angel makes me hold up quilts for her ;)

Me working hard and Angie thinking she's funny with the outtakes!

Me working hard and Angie thinking she’s funny with the outtakes!

See you on Monday!

Straight lines and curves

By Gemma @ Pretty Bobbins

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Yesterday the lovely Libby popped over to collect her beautiful star quilt.  It was one of those custom jobs where the client tells you to just go for it.  We had a good discussion and I wrote down, “playing on straight lines and curves” as the quilting description.

Libby's star quilt

Libby’s star quilt

My favourite quilts are when clients let me do whatever I want.  But of course they are the scariest.  If we haven’t agreed exactly what I’m going to quilt then how can it possibly meet their expectations?  These are also the quilts where I doubt myself on what I’m charging.  What if my not yet imagined quilting isn’t up to the fee that I’m charging?  Heady stuff!

Libby's quilt - texture detail

Libby’s quilt – texture detail

Luckily, once I get into the zone those doubts vanish and the confidence takes over.  Which is the reason that I like to set aside a few days and work exclusively on one quilt (these are the times that my husband checks that I’m eating – I get a little focussed!).  I find with muscle memory and quilting ideas it all works a lot better if I work on a quilt over a short period of time.  If I can’t finish a quilt in one sitting I will finish one aspect of it – all of the background or all of the feathers.  I find my quilting is much more consistent and I enjoy the ride better.

Libby quilt texture

I love Libby’s quilt.  I seem to have had a run of star quilts lately and I’m loving quilting them!  Speaking of, next week is my stop on Alyce’s Bright Sky QAL, I’ll be talking about quilting ideas, so make sure you stick around :)

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What have you been up to this week?  I’d love you to link up your quilty process and to visit another linker or two <3

And in case you were wondering, it’s blissful having my Dad here :)  He is helping me rearrange the studio, giving the garden a makeover and giving me a run for my money on caffeine consumption and conversation ;)





Busy Quilting

By Gemma @ Pretty Bobbins

Hallo mes amis!  Did you miss me last week, I’m sorry, I was busy quilting and doing that thing called parenting…  It’s Thursday and it’s time to link up your quilty process.

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I’m so tired and it’s been a rough week or two.  Last week my 8 year old called himself a loser and just broke my heart.  How does that even happen?  So I’m trying to build his self esteem and spark his interest in activities without spending money that we don’t have.  So far he is loving watering the potted plants every afternoon and we’re going to look into hiphop dance classes at his request (he is a super funky dancer).

I am getting busier with quilting but still have a day job and a family so I’m just sleeping less.  Sound familiar anyone? ;)

My Dad is here next week from Hong Kong for a few days.  Dad, if you’re reading this (and thank  you for reading my blog, I love your support!) I have a list of jobs for you to do and I want to ask you to move here and never leave.  We love you and miss you and you’re an old fuddy-duddy who won’t be able to do long haul trips to visit us soon.  I know you won’t but we wish you would.  (Yep, I’m as good as my four year old daughter at pulling guilt trips!) ;)

starry skies class

Starry Skies class at Hobbysew Belconnen

I don’t have a lot of quilting pics to share but this is what I’ve been doing the last week and I so want you to link up :)  Big love to you lovely quilty peeps xxx  Don’t forget to visit your fellow linkers and share the love <3



Modern Medallion Quilt Bliss

By Gemma @ Pretty Bobbins

It’s Thursday, it’s school holidays, I’m exhausted but I have managed to quilt.  If you’re as tired as me, scroll down and link up ;) Don’t scroll too fast though as you don’t want to miss the amazing modern medallion quilt that I had the pleasure of quilting this week!

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Earlier this year local gal Crystal released her Modern Medallion pattern. It is such a fun pattern and I’ve seen so many amazing versions online.  But I have to say, I was completely blown away by the version that Happy Spider Knits brought to me for quilting.  AMAZING!  Seriously, I am missing that quilt and it’s only been out of my studio for 24 hours…

mm on frame

Sometimes life presents funny coincidences or maybe it’s just that Canberra is a small town.  Crystal hosted I Quilt last week, Happy Spider gave me her Modern Medallion (pattern by Crystal) to quilt, she had bought many of the fabrics from Angie.  All three ladies are fabulous, the quilt is brilliant.  I’d like to think that the fabulousness of all these creative Canberrans (and me!) came together in one outstanding quilt.  But the fact of the matter is that Happy Spider did an AMAZING job and deserves all the credit <3

mm quilting detail

When I first met Happy Spider she told me that she was went a little fangirl on me when she saw my quilts at the Canberra Exhibition.  Seriously, if there’s a fan girl, its me.  This is one of her first quilts.  The technical side of it is spot on, but the colour play is out of this world.  I can’t wait until the full reveal!

modern medallion quilting detail blues

Quilting a quilt this special, made from so many beautiful fabrics, is terrifying.  Until you get in the zone and spend hours of bliss getting up close and personal with something so happy (I promise that I handled the quilt with professionalism and no drool touched it despite my awe) ;)

modern medallion butterfly border

Happy Spider and I spent a fair amount of time discussing quilting ideas.  We wanted to keep the movement of the piecing but not have the quilting compete at all with the riot of colours and energy that just jumps out at you.  We opted for dense, straight line quilting with lots of contrasting angles broken up with two free motion borders.  We chose threads that blended into the piecing (Aurifil #2000 is the best for this task!) with the exception of the center where we chose to go bold with a verigated pink thread on low volume prints.

modern medallion center

I think we got the quilting just right on this quilt.  I’ve encouraged Happy Spider to show it at an exhibition as I just think that it is one of those quilts that people will get joy out of seeing up close and personal.  She is very modest about her abilities, but this is one of her first few quilts that she has made and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for her!  You can read about her process in piecing this beauty here.  I encourage you to pop over and check out her work.  I am in awe of the fact that she does podcasts, I mean, how do you even do that?!

If you want to make your own Modern Medallion you can find Crystal’s pattern here.  The sales help get her to QuiltCon and I’m for that ;)  And a big thank you to Crystal for hosting I Quilt last week.  I hope you enjoyed reading about her process under pressure.

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Don’t forget to visit a couple of other linkers and share the quilt love <3


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