Archive of ‘South Pacific’ category



Have you missed me?  Did you notice my absence?  Are you also melting in this crazy heatwave that Australia is currently enduring?  What a homecoming!

I often describe myself as overly optimistic.  I truly thought that I would continue blogging during our move.  Um…  that didn’t quite work out!  But I’m back and I’m itching to get back to designing, piecing and quilting.  The weekly I Quilt linky party will restart from next Thursday 23rd January, I hope you join me :)  But first up, let’s recap.

Last sunrise in Nouméa

Last sunrise in Nouméa

Leaving Nouméa was emotional.  Like any move it was chaotic, but those three years were more challenging and less enjoyable than many others that I’ve experienced and I really had to face it all as I left.  I do dearly miss my friends in Nouméa and oh how I mourn the blue of the lagoon!  I’ve swapped our tropical vista for the bush in Canberra (known as ‘Australia’s bush capital’ for a good reason!) and I am loving it.

Sunset from our house in Canberra <3

Sunset from our house in Canberra <3

I feel relaxed, happy, relieved.  All those things that don’t usually closely follow an international move.  Of course I am very lucky that both my husband and I are on leave and are able to spend the summer holidays with the children and setting up the house.  I LOVE our house.  Many times a day I gaze lovingly into my husband’s eyes and tell him how much I love this house ;)  It feels so right for us.  It features classic 1970s mission brown and bright white paint, cathedral ceilings and mostly original fixtures.  I am on a serious mid-century modern furniture bender at the moment (my budget being the only thing stopping me from refurnishing the entire house) and am eyeing off second hand sales and thrift stores.  Do other people furnish their homes this brightly? ;)


Excuse the shutters and blinds, we're in the middle of a heatwave...

Excuse the shutters and blinds, we’re in the middle of a heatwave…

Whilst I am eternally frustrated that the house isn’t perfectly organised right NOW!!  I am happy with the progress that we’re slowly making.  Our ‘dumping ground’ (ie. the rumpus room that we put all the stuff in that we didn’t initially know what to do with) has transformed into a guest room quilt show room.

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But I know what you’re really wondering about…  Yes, I have a longarm!!!!  I won’t bore you with the setup hiccups that we had but I will tell you that’s she’s beautiful, clever, sexy and powerful.  She also needs a name…  Any suggestions?

I’ve been having fun practicing and working on some charity quilts.

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I am open for business but the quilting website is still a work in progress.  If you are so inclined you can check it out here :)  Here I am in my studio with my lovely girl (and just for the record, I cannot bring myself to use the term ‘lady cave’, think about it people… ‘man cave’ works, ‘lady cave’ sounds a bit erm…  Well, let’s just say I enjoy my STUDIO) ;)

Gemma in studio

And yes, I make my own clothes so I can blend in with my stash LOL  Apparently it’s known as “quilter’s camo” ;)

Thank you for all the lovely messages and support during our move.  I have lots of quilts to share that I made just before we left Nouméa but blogging really had to take a backseat whilst we focussed on family.  Now that normality is starting to return, expect to see me back to blogging and quilting <3

Big love and happy new year to all you lovely, marvelous quilty folk.  Oh, and if you’re in Canberra, give me a hoi!  I’m looking forward to joining the modern and local quilt guilds :)  Keep an eye out for me, I’m much more shy in real life :)

Thoughts on moving


Well, the big move is underway.  Two days ago the shipping container was loaded and locked and shortly it should be on it’s way to Australia.  Now we camp out for awhile until returning.  This is my third international move with children and I was prepared for the fallout but it’s still hard.  We are exhausted, we are stressed and on edge.  The children returned home from school on Monday to find their home (the only one they remember) empty of all their possessions.  Miss 3 had tears in her eyes for hours, Mr 5 was full of nervous energy exploring every cupboard and Mr 7 got angry.  In my experience we should expect six tough months but by the year mark we should be back on track.

I can already see the behavioral issues.  Everyone is fighting and bickering ALL. THE. TIME.  The loss of anything (taking away a plate before they’ve finished) results in hysterical tears.  I am having to stop myself from taking them to the toy shop every day.  I want to see them happy again.  I want to stem the tears and stop the fights.  But all I can do is try and explain, try and be patient (I’ve had my post-move meltdown, it wasn’t pretty) and try to keep life as normal as possible.  But what is normal about this nomadic lifestyle?  That’s not a path I should venture down at this point.  It’s a dangerous spiral.  My silver lining is that in our mid-thirties we have realised that this lifestyle is not for us.  We are still employable, we have time to claw back our family life.  I know my husband will forever mourn the loss of these three years that he only saw his children on weekends (he has worked LONG hours Monday-Friday) but I hope that they will forget and it will be replaced with memories of a Dad who does their homework with them, a Dad who is home for dinner every night, a Dad who isn’t late for everything no matter how important it is because work ALWAYS comes first.

I hope that I forget too.  I hope that these three years go fuzzy in my memory.  That I remember the brilliant colours of New Caledonia, the smiling faces in the provinces, the precious friends that I have made.  Those friends that have taken my kids into their homes so I could pack up our life without them watching, the friends who rang to see if they could drop over dinner, the friends who judge me on my actions and not on what others may say.  I have had some very dark days here in Nouméa, I tell myself that great artists have to suffer for their work.  It’s a kind of sad joke.  It makes me wonder how much you have to suffer to actually make great work.  I’m not asking for pity, but I’ve written and deleted this story so many times without publishing it.  I don’t want to be negative in my happy place but these three years have had a huge impact on me as a person.  I have lost so much of my confidence.  I have suffered social anxiety to the point that I won’t leave the house other than to collect the children from school.  I have had moments where I was ready to walk out but I didn’t even have the clarity of mind to know where to walk to.

To me, quilting is like meditation.  I focus so wholly, with every fibre of my being, on a small area of fabric.  The rest of the world, my thoughts, the doubts, they disappear.  And then I produce something pretty and amaze myself.  And then I share it and other people like it and I feel human again.  Thank you dear readers for commenting both here and on IG and Flickr.  Your comments and ‘likes’ have helped me regain my confidence.  You’ve helped me feel human again.  My very good friend told me yesterday that you don’t need hundreds of virtual friends that you never even meet, that you only need a few diamonds (he -and his family- is definitely one of my diamonds).  I disagree.  Yes, my awesome ‘diamond’ friends are amazing and prop me up, but the online interaction has shown me that complete strangers care.  That is really powerful.  I can’t tell you how much it meant when Dasha emailed me late on Sunday night to wish me luck with the packing on Monday (we’ve never met and only started corresponding in January over thread/tension issues), I ‘chat’ everyday with the ‘Wombat Stew’ bee girls, in the last hours of packing they were cheering me on.  Those kind words and all the lovely comments on my blog are no less important.  So thank you very, very much.

I’m sorry this post isn’t really sewing related.  And I’m sorry if it’s negative.  And I know it doesn’t tell the whole story of what really happened (let’s just say bullying doesn’t end in primary school and leave it at that).  But this time I’m going to hit publish and I hope you don’t mind.

Tomorrow we’ll be back to quilting.  I’d love you to come link up to I Quilt Thursday.  I haven’t visited last weeks linkers yet.  I will, but it has been chaos here and my feet have only just hit the ground.

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South Pacific Dreaming – Blogger’s Quilt Festival – Wall Hanging Entry


Once again I am participating in the Blogger’s Quilt Festival which is very generously organised and hosted by Amy’s Creative Side.  This time I am entering two quilts.  South Pacific Dreaming in the Wall Hanging category and “Celebrate” quilt #1 in the bee category.  If you’re new to Pretty Bobbins, welcome!  I am all about free motion quilting, it’s my passion and I host a weekly linky party on quilting process :)  I’m soon to become a longarm quilter, but for now I work on a Bernina 440QE.  I’m currently based in Nouméa, a French territory in the South Pacific but am about to return to live in Australia.

Set of three quilts


Back in June some very good friends of ours left Nouméa.  They had lived here on their catamaran for many years and are one of the happiest, nicest family’s that I know (can you tell that I miss them?).  They commissioned me to make a set of three wall quilts (above) for their family as a souvenir of their time in Nouméa.  Honestly, the pressure was on.  I don’t know if you know many “boaties” but they tend not to have a huge amount of belongings (because they need to fit them all onto a boat).  These three quilts were to be a key souvenir of their time not only living in Nouméa, but sailing around the world and the South Pacific.  (I’m tearing up writing this LOL).  I spent a lot of time talking to them and they gave me some special photos for inspiration.

They are kite surfers – go girl!!

I made three quilts for them but the one I’d like to enter into the festival is South Pacific Dreaming (also the title of the set).

I used a lot of techniques in this quilt that I have learnt in the last year or so.  The improv curve piecing was based on the class I did with Rachel of Stitched in Color.

The family portrait outline style thingy (very technical!) was self taught and involved merging two photos, tracing, some freezer paper and some free motion quilting.  I’m planning a tutorial at some point but I’m sure you can figure it out yourself :)  I merged two photos, in the original photo the Father and son were sitting in a hammock and I tried to keep the texture of the hammock to give the idea of my friend sitting with his baby on his knee (seriously cute baby!).  The second photo was taken years later and my friend was leaning in perfectly toward her now four year old.  Pairing the two photos to create a family portrait was a lot of fun and I love the outcome.

You can see the family silhouette better from the back.

The detail in the quilting is momentarily lost when you glance at this quilt.  I didn’t want the family portrait to be overly obvious and it took me a few days to work out how to quilt it.  Whilst I’m usually up for all sorts of fancy free motion quilting, this quilt called for lots of straight lines to really give the picture that I was after.  You can see that I went with the beach scene quilting a palm frond in the top corner.

A photo taken on a joint family vacation. See those palm fronds everywhere? :)

The white section is quilted to show the iconic shape of the Catana Catamaran windows.

My friend’s catamaran moored at The Isle of Pines. Can you believe this? Stunning!

To me this quilt really felt like a night scene in the South Pacific but I took the colour palate for all three quilts from the Mahi Mahi fish.  My friends gave me a great photo of a freshly caught (by them) Mahi Mahi and it took my breath away.

Photo courtesy of my friends


Whilst I am only entering the South Pacific Dreaming quilt in the Blogger’s Quilt Festival, it is a set of three and I’d like to briefly share the other two with you because they are deep with meaning.  ”She Travels” was for my girlfriend (the wife/mom of the family) and the pink symbolizes her sailing around the world.  I included some prints with French text to represent the French culture in which we live (and remind them of me – one has a sewing machine!).

For the quilting I followed the path that my friends took from Florida, to the Caribbean onto the Galapagos, Tahiti, The Cook Islands, New Zealand, New Caledonia and Australia (with many stops in between!).  I then echoed this route in ever expanding lines to give the idea of a map of the sea bed or currents.  The three circles come from details of the catamaran and I added the phrase, ”Know your dream, find a route” just above these circles.

The third quilt is called “Elements” as to me it represents the elements of the wind, water and land as well as kiting, a clear passion of my friends.  This quilt excites me.  I really pushed myself by pairing a busy pieced section with an expanse of white which I then quilted in bold colours.  Absolutely no room for error!

I took the shape of the island from the photo below, the lighter blue of the wake behind the board shifting into the darker blue.  The colours represent the turtles that laze about in the seagrass bed and the unsuspecting kiters that have to dodge them.  The flaming C represents the kites that my friends have used during recent years.


I have no idea of winds and waters but I absolutely love these photos of my friends kiting.  I can see how much they love it and I can feel the excitement.  These things zoom and on a good day there are dozens of them weaving around each other.  Pouring over these photos I could almost imagine the wind and I did my best to capture this in my quilting.

My friends now live in Floriada and are sorely missed.  You know the kind of friends that you can pick up with at a moment’s notice?  The ones that you randomly think about and imagine what they might be doing?  We will leave Nouméa in two months and I hope to make something similar as a souvenir for my family.

South Pacific Dreaming (set of three wall quilts)

Usually when I share a quilt I talk about the materials used, these quilts used more than just materials, there were memories and emotions and dreams involved.  It was a privilege and a pleasure to work on these pieces and I miss my friends dearly.  They sent me a photo last week showing me the quilts on the walls of their new home and I want to share their words with you, “…we hung your quilts today and I am feeling so much better. I wanted to get a photo for you with/before the sunset… Anyway, they have very much lifted our spirits – thank you so much again. They have just so much meaning in every stitch and really look amazing in their spots.”


Pieced and Quilted: by me on my Bernina 440Qe

Size: approximately 30″ x 20″ (from memory!)

Thread: Aurifil threads (2000, 1135, 5005, 5006,1128, 2810 in 50 wt and 2024 in 40 wt)

Fabric: Bella solids (the white is snow) and lots of favourite prints from my stash.  If you would like the details of a specific print, please let me know and I’ll try and help you, but I suspect I used around 40 different prints so I’ll skip trying to list them all ;)

Wadding: 100% cotton

South Pacific Dreaming – my entry into the Wall Quilt Category

Thanks for stopping by and I encourage you to participate in the Blogger’s Quilt Festival by either visiting and/or entering the festival.  This is my third time entering and it’s a great quilty and bloggy event.  Thanks for all your work Amy!

I Quilt Linky Party – artist trading cards


Hello!  Welcome to I Quilt, a weekly linky party all about the process of quilting.  Big love to all you amazing quilters who linked up last week!  I was so overwhelmed by the response, even my husband was super excited (I think he secretly thought my goal of 3 linkers was ambitious) LOL  16 clever quilters linked up and I’m ever so grateful!  I hope you managed to visit a few other blogs.  I was super impressed with Rita’s post and would love to give her a shout out :)   She shared the quilting of her third quilt (a king sized quilt at that!) and all the things she learned.  Seriously, this lady has awesome skills for a new quilter!  Rita I’m keen to watch your quilting journey, it looks like you’re having a ball :)  Thanks so much for sharing and I do agree, I find free motion quilting easier than straight line quilting :)

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I was planning to share my current quilting project, a Christmas table runner, but instead I’ve decided to talk about some Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) that I made back in July and have had to keep secret.  These ATCs are all about free motion quilting so spot on for our linky party :)

A sneak peek of next week’s project that I’ll be talking about :)

Earlier in the year I suggested to the Wombat Stew Bee girls that we do a ‘Christmas in July’ swap of ATCs.  I had seen some online and I immediately fell in love with the idea of being able to make something super creative for no purpose other than to be creative.  We had very loose guidelines and a few of the girls struggled with having no guidelines other than a rough size limitation.  I take full blame there, I thought that it would be easier with no guidelines, but I guess that just reflects that we all work differently :)

South Pacific Dreaming – set of 3

I wanted my ATCs to reflect me so I decided to use some scraps from the above super special project that in itself was all about the quilting (there’s a family portrait quilted in there!  Can you see it?).

First up I pinned my pieced scraps to my quilt sandwich and secured in place with lots of organic lines, sticking within the pieced section.

One thing that you may have noticed is that when you quilt your quilt sandwich changes shape slightly.  I have been known to lose up to 2″ length and width because I have quilted so densely that the fabric is slowly pulled in (a good reason to leave some wiggle room in your quilt top and back – which I generally don’t do, but should!).

I decided to quilt feathers in the space between the SLQ.  I tend to choose feathers for three reasons, 1. Angela Walters says they are her default design as she loves them so much, 2. they are quite versatile and 3. I wanted to densely quilt the ATCs all over and feathers are versatile ;)  You can see above that I have squished full feathers into a small space (about 4″ x 6″ at the points of the triangles).  I will say that my feathers are probably more organic than the nice rounded ones that you see around.  I think of peacocks when I quilt feathers.  I guess I need to practice more to get nice, rounded ends ;)

I used Kona lagoon on the back and Essex linen blend on the front.  I highly recommend quilting with a linen blend.  It gives such amazing texture (it does move and fray a bit).  You can see another example here of when I used a linen blend for a mounted, quilted canvas.  The surface is a little rough (not enough to interfere with quilting) but it seems to just glow when the light hits it and really show off the quilting.

each ATC is approximately 2″ x 5″

My whole idea with these ATCs was to share a bit of my free motion quilting.  I wanted to quilt a scene, cut it up and send each of the participants a piece of the jigsaw puzzle.  I like the idea that maybe one day they might put the pieces together again.  I love how bright the back is and how the thread (Aurifil 2810, 1135 and 2000 all in 50wt) plays with your eyes.

Each ATC had a section of piecing quilting.  Just a taste, not a full scene.

I didn’t take a photo of the ATCs after I “finished” the edges.  With all of the quilting, these babies became as solid as a regular business card and they won’t be washed or experience much wear and tear.  I didn’t want to lose any of the quilting by using binding so I stitched around the edges three or four times using a really small stitch to prevent fraying. The one you see above is the prototype and the one I kept for myself.  The piecing reminds me of Nouméa, the shape of the main island, the colours of the lagoon and the sun.

I received my ATCs today and they’re amazing (and quite a few feature free-motion quilting!).  Although this post is about my quilting process I know you’re dying to see what I received ;)

Clockwise from top right: Jane, Gina, Alyce, Lara, Fiona, me, Midge.
Centre L-R: Marieka, Kristy

And the backs :)

Have you been quilting this week?  Or just dreaming about quilting?  I’d love to see you link up, I had so much fun discovering new blogs last week!  Just from my own experience I seem to get more traffic the earlier I link so I suggest you link up early if you can :)  I’m keeping the linky open for a week and I plan to post around 4-6pm AEST (that’s Sydney time if you google) every Thursday.  Next week I’m going to air my dirty laundry and show you some lessons I’ve learnt about showing your thread when you’re quilting – the good and the bad :)

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Now it’s your turn!  You don’t have to write an long post or share a finished project, just share some of your process so we can all learn together :)  I will keep the linky open for a few days and it will run weekly.  I really hope that you’ll join me <3  Make sure to visit two (or more) other bloggers and add the linky button (html at right –>) to your post or side bar.



Monday Stash – South Pacific Style


Vanuatu tiki

I could say that I meant to write this post yesterday for Sunday Stash, but actually I meant to write it the previous Sunday *sigh*  Better late than never, right? :)  I just wanted to share some textile goodies from our recent trip to Vanuatu.

Vanuatu colours

I mentioned recently that my family took a short holiday to Vanuatu, it was our first trip there and our first time staying at a big resort with a kids club.  Boy did the kids love that!  We managed to drag them away from kid’s club a couple of times, but they spent most of their time enjoying the climbing equipment and various activities.  I enjoyed the novelty of eating quiet meals with my husband and not cutting up someone else’s food ;)

Vanuatu street art

We stayed not too far from the capital of Port Villa, it really is a small place but for us it was a nice change of scenery.  The colours are striking and the street art was really impressive!

Vanuatu street art 2

We popped into the local markets a few times and bought some T-shirts and dresses.  I really loved the markets, the women sit in their stall with their tredle singer sewing machines (new ones) and spend the day sewing between sales.  They will whip up an item to order if you have time to wait and whilst I already need to make a few repairs after the first wash, I just loved the experience.

Vanuatu sewing machine
Photo by Trevor: Me in my made by me Washi Dress and a lovely lady
 in her handmade dress <3

We found an indoor market that had a lot of textile products and seemed to feature the colourful dresses that the local women wear.  In this market they had the most rudimentary overlockers/sergers, it really was a visual feast.

Vanuatu traditional dresses

I did go on a bit of a hunt for some local prints but it’s really hard to find good quality 100% cotton in the South Pacific.

vanuatu flying fish tea towel
close up of Flying Fish teatowel

We did find a very cool little store that featured the designs of an expat woman.  I purchased a few of her t-shirts for the kids and husband and some tea towels that I plan to cut up and make into something for our house.  I’m thinking some kind of wall hanging or table runner as a keepsake of our time in the South Pacific (we head back to Australia in seven months).

vanuatu bislama teatowel
A tea towel featuring the local language, Bislama.  If you read the words aloud you’ll work it out :)
vanuatu teatowel
Tree tea towel

I’m not sure that we’ll head back to Vanuatu, there is still so much of New Caledonia that we haven’t seen and it was actually a bit more of an adventure than we bargained for.  I’m just going to list for you the hilarious set of incidents that we experienced that made me convinced that we were on the set of some prank TV show LOL  (honestly, we had a great time):

  • 1am fire alarm (false alarm)
  • cancelled flights
  • hotel full and unable to offer extra nights accommdation due to cancelled flights
  • 4am wake up call for our cancelled flights
  • 5.4 magnitude earthquake only 75km directly beneath us
  • food poisoning
  • delayed flights
  • locked out of our house at midnight
Can you believe it? LOL  I’m glad we took our holiday in the first week of the school break and had the second week to recover ;)

Vanuatu fire dancers
Fire dancers in Vanuatu.
Late edit:  I forgot to share these gorgeous woven bags that I bought in Vanuatu.  I plan to use them in my sewing room to store some of my stash.  I was thinking maybe threads or fat quarters.  I love how delicate they are.

Vanuatu woven bags

I’m linking up to Sunday Stash at Finding Fifth.  Have you ever had a holiday that took a week to recover from? :)

Finding Fifth