Sunday, 29 April 2012

May Bee Blocks

 I know it's not even May yet, but I've totally completed my May block already! This month it was Phillipa's turn, so I helped her road test her design. She has blogged the instructions over at our blog Needles in the Haystack.

We pre cut all the heart shapes using Flo the Accuquilt GO! and used SewCalGal's "mock needle turn applique" technique.
My attempt at thread painting!
I think the block turned out beautifully, and I'd definitely use the mock needle turn applique technique again!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Anzac Day {Giveaway}

Today Australians and New Zealanders around the world honour members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp (ANZAC). In 1915 the Allied forces set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula, in the hopes that taking control of Constantinople would knock the Ottoman empire out of the war early. Unfortunately they didn't manage to take Constantinople and spent months campaigning before pulling out at the end of the year. Both sides suffered heavy losses with approximately 11,500 Australian & New Zealand soldiers losing their lives. Despite the ultimate failure of the campaign, the ANZAC troops showed true "ANZAC spirit": endurance, courage, good humour, larrikinism and mateship. These qualities have come to symbolise the "Australian national character" and the values we should embrace.

In the years that followed, ANZAC Day came to honour the sacrifice of all soldiers who have fallen in action, and the soldiers who continue to protect us by fighting for our freedom and upholding peace.

I'm sure that most quilting bloggers have heard of Quilts of Valor, where quilts are made for Armed service members who have been touched by war. Quilts of Valor has branches in the US, Canada and the UK.

I recently discovered that there is an Australian equivalent: Aussie Hero Quilts. Aussie Hero Quilts sends quilts and laundry bags to members of the Australian armed forces (Army, Navy & Airforce) who are stationed in Afghanistan. The quilts are sent twice a year, in time for ANZAC Day and Christmas. They are always looking for volunteers to make quilts/laundry bags, or donate fabric/batting. They even have a Block of the Month (BOM) group for anyone who wants to participate but is time poor. Given that it's ANZAC Day already, the next batch won't be sent until November so there is plenty of time to put something together!

I think we've all been touched by war in some way, shape or form. It may not be someone in our immediate family, but often we don't have to look far. My mother's father was in the Italian Navy in WWII. My uncle was in the American Navy. One of my cousins has just joined the Australian Navy. My sister's best friend is in the Navy. A girlfriend's husband is in the Navy. Another girlfriend and her husband used to be in the Navy, and her brother is currently serving in Afghanistan. My mother-in-law's uncle was killed in action during WWII. And the list goes on.

"Those heroes that shed their blood

And lost their lives.

You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours.
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land they have
Become our sons as well."

~Kemal Atatürk

And now to the giveaway! It's coming into Winter here in Australia, so I have some gorgeous quilting flannel fat quarters of "Colorful Christmas" by My Mind's Eye for Riley Blake. These fat quarters are winter themed but don't have to be Christmassy, in case you were wondering!

So how do you win? 

Firstly, you must be a follower. You do not get an entry for this though.

1. Leave me a comment letting me know if any of your family, friends or loved ones are serving/have served in the armed forces.

2. Please check out Aussie Hero Quilts, (or  Quilts of Valor  if you're not an Aussie!). If you are a follower of either of these blogs, leave me a comment.

3. Follow me on Facebook and leave a comment (here).

4. Tweet, blog or facebook about the giveaway and then leave me a comment with a link.

Two lucky winners will win a pair of fat quarters. The winner will be drawn via random number generator on the evening of Friday 4th May.  International entries are welcome.

If you are a "No Reply" blogger (or don't know what that is!) please make sure that you leave me an email address in your comment so that I can get in touch with you!

Friday, 20 April 2012

TGIFF - Harry Potter Quilt & Bee Blocks

It's my turn to host TGIFF! What an excellent week to be hosting too.. I've finally finished the Harry Potter quilt top!! It still needs to be basted, quilted and bound, but I consider this a significant milestone - 10 days to get it quilted, that's heaps of time right??

Here's a quick update on how it all went together..

Stars sashed, centre section all one piece, top/bottom row still to go

Owl blocks with an additional border to complete top & bottom rows

Sashing complete - quilt top finally in ONE piece!

And finally complete.. approx twin size.
I'm so happy with the way it's turned out.. It has all pulled together perfectly and so much better than I ever could have hoped. Admittedly, had I known quite how much time/effort/planning would need to go into this I probably would have bought the fabric panel I'd seen on ebay in the first place. But if I'd done that I wouldn't have learnt a pile of new skills, I probably wouldn't have been able to convince my husband to buy me the Accuquilt Go! cutter, and I wouldn't have this incredibly awesome looking quilt top to give to my son on his birthday (did I mention it's in 11 days?). It is by far the most ambitious quilting project I have ever undertaken, and I can't wait until it is completely finished!

Mum and I were brainstorming how to quilt it today, and I think I'm going to go with 'ditch' quilting for most of it. I really don't want to take away from the piecing, and all the elements are so different that I don't think that an all over design would enhance it specifically. I also need to coordinate with my husband to make up the quilt label for the back, as he has gone and digitized the Hogwarts crest for use with Daisy the embroidery machine.

I also managed to complete my April block for the QCA bee (hive #2) - Sue requested a Starflower block, a la Ellison Lane / Samelia's Mum. Phillipa and I caught up on Wednesday and managed to get both our blocks completed in and around our other projects. I posted both blocks off yesterday, so Sue should get them early next week.  I think this is a gorgeous block, and I'd definitely consider using it again sometime.

April Bee Block - Star Flower
I've still got my Craftsy BOM blocks to do, I've cut my cardboard templates for the hexies and now I just need to get my paper piecing on the move. I must confess that I've been holding off so that I can work on the Harry Potter quilt though... once that's finished it's going to be a quilty free for all!!!

Anyway, thanks for coming along and sharing in MY finishes.. now it's time for you to link up so that I can see *your* finishes! Don't forget to link back to TGIFF so that your readers can join in the fun too.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Australian Sewing Summit..

Because us Aussies are SOOOO far away from the rest of the world and we aren't able to attend Sewing Summit easily, a few of my Australian bloggy girlfriends (like Laura, Jane & Anorina) and I started talking about having an Australian Sewing Summit as an homage to the original, and so that we'd all have an opportunity to meet up and talk all things sewing & quilty!

Image taken from Australian Sewing Summit's blog

Of course, here in Australia interstate flight prices are ridiculous, so it makes much more sense for said Australian Sewing Summit to be held in the National Holiday Destination of choice - Bali! Cheaper to travel & stay (and eat, and shop..) in Bali than to travel to the other side of the country.

Image taken from Australian Sewing Summit's blog

Bali has benefits other than cheap airfares and accommodation though... for example, Batik fabrics are only $2.50/m!! Laura has recently returned from a "research" trip and has some fantastic ideas about Batik workshops and other things that we can do while we're there, especially as going to Bali really rules out taking along our sewing machines. It will be more of a brain storming, networking, hands on workshops (maybe hand piecing?) kind of summit, perhaps with a few massages and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

So how do you find out more about this weekend of sun, surf, sand, shopping, sewing and socialising? Check out the Australian Sewing Summit blog and register your interest. You can also find Laura, Jane and I tweeting about Australian Summit with the #ASS hashtag - but search that at your own risk! (I'd recommend following any or all of us on twitter instead, just to be on the safe side!)

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Sisterhood of the Travelling Stash

"Sasha Stash" arrived on my doorstep last week, having come directly from Janine (who was the first person to receive the stash!). Opening the parcel was such a thrill.. looking through, weighing which goodies to take and working out what to put in.. so much fun!

Sasha Stash's contents upon arrival
 One of the things that caught my eye straight away was a length of fabric from Khristian A Howell's Woodlands collection.. in orange.. which just happens to be the colour I was assigned in the QCA Rainbow Charm Swap (which still has a couple of vacancies if anyone's keen). I did have another fabric earmarked for the swap, but as soon as I saw this I just had to use it. I took the instructions that Cass had included to heart and only cut what I needed for the charm squares, which left about a half yard for me to pop back into the stash (and incidentally, McKenna chose to keep it, so I'm glad I put it back!)
Blossom took control of the camera while I was cutting charm squares
So from the stash I ended up taking approx 1 yd of fabric, the dresden plate templates and a spool of ribbon by French General (I can't decide whether I love the spool or the ribbon more!). And as a bonus, my charm squares for the Rainbow Swap are now cut and ready to post. Talk about a productive day!
My new bits and pieces
 I then packed up "Sasha" and added a few things of my own: a panel of Michael Miller's "Classic Glass", 2x 1/2 yard pieces of "Colourful Christmas" quilting flannel by My Mind's Eye for Riley Blake (I figured that gave better flexibility than cutting it into FQs, although others can do that as they wish), a mini charm pack of "Antique Fair" by Blackbird Designs for Moda, 2x packets of "handmade by" labels and a packet of cute little owl buttons (which I thought would appeal to the owl fabric fans).
My contribution to the stash
 The kids and I hopped in the car, headed down the hill and escorted "Sasha" to her next destination. "Sasha" is now visiting McKenna (who has already blogged about the stash! And added some awesome pieces, I might add - love that bag!) before jetting off on the next leg of her journey.
Sasha Stash is now in McKenna's capable hands!
And so ends my cameo appearance in the Sisterhood of the Travelling Stash. Thanks for the fun, girls!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Easter crafts

We got notice last Friday afternoon that the kids were having an Easter Hat Parade on Tuesday morning. For most of us, this was our first foray into Easter Hat making as the kids made their hats in class last year. Happily for me, I was on my way down to Spotlight anyway (armed with the $10 VIP vouchers they had going) and discovered that all their Easter stuff had been marked down by 50%. Sweet! Even better, they had lots of Easter DIY activities, including an Easter Bonnet kit.

 For my $10 I came home armed with Easter basket kits, foam mask kits, an Easter bonnet kit and a pile of decorative eggs & chicks. Of course, because Blossom didn't get to make an Easter hat we had to start with something she could join in on - the Easter baskets! The kits came complete with sequins in heart, star, leaf & regular sequin shapes, so everyone got a chance to decorate to their heart's content. And we still have sequins left over!

From the side

And don't forget the back!
 With Blossom all sequined out, Bean and I were free to continue on with the Easter hat. It came with a foam bunny design that Bean put together on his own (including drawing the mouth with permanent marker) and a couple of adhesive foam eggs and a pink pompom tail. I'd also bought some funny faced eggs that Bean stuck onto his hat with a little sticky tape. Not fancy, no hot glue, but Bean LOVED it. He was so proud when I dropped him off at school on the Tuesday, and one of the other mum's took photos during the Easter Hat Parade, and he just looked so happy! (Meanwhile, I was on roster in Kindy with Blossom, so I couldn't be there to watch.)

Bean's self-decorated Easter Hat

And the back with the pink fluffy tail!
 On the Saturday that Mum and I bought Daisy the embroidery machine we again raided the 50% off Easter stuff and came home with some paint & decorate polystyrene eggs. The kids did this activity with Mum while the husband and I opened Daisy's box and checked her out.
Through the week we also made up some of our other crafty things, like the foam masks and some foam easter egg stickers, which we stuck to the glass sliding doors in the kitchen just to make it a little more festive.

I've also got a couple of other things up my sleeve that we might pull out today.. especially seeing as our Easter lunch plans were canned yesterday afternoon as a result of both kids getting a virus through the week and fears that we might pass it on to my little nephew.

So we've mostly eaten chocolate and hot cross buns today (ok, only my husband and I ate the hot cross buns, the kids are operating in sugar-only mode) and I'm psyching myself up to head down to the only open Spotlight near me as a consolation.. might as well get some 40% off fabric/batting instead of gorging myself, right!?

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Aurifil Designer Collection Competition

 Lily's Quilts is hosting a competition a la Quokka Quilts (Laura) & I'm a Ginger Monkey (Katy) - except this time instead of fabric bundles, you get to design your own dream Aurifil thread collection. Can anyone say awesome??

I currently have 5 collections planned, mostly for projects I have in the pipeline (because really, if you're going to win thread wouldn't it be great if it was for a project?).. So far I've only put two of my collections together, so without further ado let me introduce you to:

 "Hopping to California"

Inspired by Figtree & Co's "California Girl" range, this collection (should I win!) was designed to be used with my "California Girl" jelly roll that is earmarked to make Camille Roskelley's "Hopscotch" quilt pattern as part of Katy's "Swooning-on-a-hop-along".

Threads used are designed to be in a 40wt, perfect for piecing and quilting.

Top Row:
1. 2130, 2. 1135, 3. 1231, 4. 1147

Middle Row:
1. 2021, 2. 4668, 3. 2220, 4. 2250

Bottom Row:
1. 5007, 2. 5006, 3. 1320, 4. 2325

"Divine Sweetness" 

My second collection is inspired by The Quilted Fish's "Sweet Divinity" range. I have purchased most of the prints in this range (and her "Sugar & Spice" range) so that when we finally move house I can do up Blossom's room.. new quilt, bunting, cushions, you name it! I really wanted something that wasn't just pink, because little girls grow up eventually and I wanted something that would see her through quite a few more years!

Again, the threads I've chosen would be a 40wt, perfect for piecing, quilting and perhaps even a little applique, embellishment or machine embroidery!

Top Row:
1. 2024, 2. 3770, 3. 2805, 4. 2815

Middle Row:
1. 2105, 2. 2135, 3. 4653, 4. 2888

Bottom Row:
1. 4660, 2. 3660, 3. 2588, 4. 4020

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Harry Potter quilt update

It's been ages since I've written an update on the Harry Potter quilt, and that's mostly because once I realised I wasn't going to have it ready before Christmas and it would become Bean's birthday present I just sat on it... because I had *time*... like a whole 6 months... except time has gotten away from me and now I have just less than a month. I can't disappoint my son by not having it ready in time for his birthday - he's been asking when he's getting his Harry Potter quilt and it makes me feel so guilty!

But over the last 2 weeks I've been on a roll - I completed the rest of the Split Drunkard's Path Star blocks, and laid it out so I could get an idea of how all my pieces looked together:
All my blocks, roughly placed.
 Next step: Making the owl blocks the same size as the star blocks. This shouldn't be too hard, right? It's just a case of cutting some triangles and sewing them on...
Auditioning 2 different fabrics as potential backgrounds for my owl blocks.
 I went with some blue "feedsack" (repro, of course!) fabric I'd bought at Spotlight, drew a scale drawing of my block and the "finished size" block and then used my ruler to work out how big my HSTs needed to be in order to make my block the right size. Luckily for me, it went together pretty smoothly. (Clearly my quilt math was ok!)
My larger owl block (unpressed)

Blocks laid out again with the larger owls
The next day I worked out how I was going to sash the stars to make them fit and have now turned them into strips of stars (but I forgot to take a photo) and I went and purchased a complimentary fabric that will go at the top and the bottom of the quilt top to make it longer. I think the width will be fine once it's all sashed and put together properly.

I haven't had a chance to touch it since last Thursday/Friday though as my husband and I have spent most of our spare time playing with Daisy, my new embroidery machine. (He is playing with another design he's digitized as we speak! I am sure he's getting WAY more out of this toy than I am! Oh, and my sister-in-law had her baby, so we've been visiting my new nephew!) Hopefully I'll get a chance to go to Phillipa's in the morning for our regular Thursday sewing morning and work on it some more then. Only 25 more days until it needs to be finished!

Meet my new Brother!

I have the best Mum on the whole wide world! Seriously.

Spotlight had another one of their $10 VIP coupon promotions running last week, so Mum and I caught up for coffee and a chat followed by a trip to Spotlight.. Because really, who wouldn't want to hang out with their mum at a fabric store?

As a bonus, all their Easter stuff was 50% off so we bribed the kids by letting them go crazy with Easter decorations and craft projects! Smart, yes?

So while we were wandering around looking at the "boring fabric stuff" I noticed an embroidery machine on their clearance table. A closer inspection found it to be a Brother Innovis 750d embroidery machine. A quick google on my phone revealed that it had a retail price of around $1100ish and some excellent reviews. Did I mention it's also the Disney model? Strictly for personal use of course, but that's fine - there are plenty of small children in my life that have birthdays and Christmases coming ;)


The best part is that the clearance price was $299! Too good to pass up, and my Mum agreed.. she offered to purchase it for me! A quick phone call to my husband (so he could confirm that it was a machine "worth" buying - which he did) and we were on our way to the checkout. The husband had confirmed that aside from the memory cards that can be purchased it was all good to go as far as purchasing online digitised embroidery designs and making up our own designs and loading them on. Woo!
My 2 day stash ;)

The not best part was that we were so exhausted by the time we'd decided to buy the machine that Mum and I didn't think about buying embroidery threads & stabiliser, so we had to wait 2 days until  Monday so that we could finally fire it up and try it out! Although on the up side, my husband is SO excited about this machine (so much so that you'd think it was *his* new toy!!) that he even came to Spotlight with me to buy thread and stabiliser which means that I have rather an "impressive stash" for someone who has owned her machine for less than a week. He's also purchased Embird Embroidery Software with all the extras (because have I ever mentioned that he's a Software Engineer  and loves all things software related?) and has spent the last 3 days digitising designs for the kids. I think he knows more about my new machine than I do!

*My* first attempt, using one of the inbuilt designs.

Our second embroidery design, purchased from Designs by Juju

2x finished muslin bunny rugs for my brand new nephew (name blurred)
Designs both from Designs by Juju
Infact he's declared that everyone we know will now be receiving embroidered gifts for the rest of forever. Sooooo amused. Meanwhile, I haven't had any time to quilt because I've been too busy "helping" him play with "his" new machine! But I need to get cracking on the quilting because I'm SO close to finishing the Harry Potter quilt top and it needs to be quilted, bound and finished by the 1st May  (Bean's birthday)... although now I'm sure the quilt label will be a little fancier!

The husband's first digitised design (of a certain pig Blossom requested, who shall remain nameless)

Attempt #1 - about 6 attempts later, we've ironed out the kinks in the dress!
I wanted to give my new machine a name (I was thinking Daisy) but my husband has "forbidden" it - he thinks it's silly. I pointed out that all his computers have names (server names), to which he replied that once it could be logged onto over the internet, then I could name it. But we don't have to tell him that I named it anyway, right?

Daisy might seem like a weird name to give a *Brother*.. but it's kind of appropriate.. when Blossom was littler the way she pronounced her brother's name came out sounding like "Daisy", so Daisy it is!

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