Friday, 26 October 2012

Jacky-Oh! Something Wicked This Way Comes..



I'm pleased to introduce you to my friend Jacky-Oh! He's a jack-o-lantern that has come to visit for the Something Wicked This Way Comes blog hop!


I was participating in Kristy from Quiet Play's Practically Paper Piecing blog hop when I heard that Soma from Whims & Fancies was organising a Halloween themed paper piecing blog hop. The catch? You had to design an original block. No worries... I'd just received a copy of EQ7 for my birthday from my husband, how hard could designing my own block be??

I knew straight away that I wanted to do a Jack-o-lantern block.. after all, carving pumpkins is one of our favourite Halloween traditions.


I found a free stock photo of a Jack-o-lantern, imported it into EQ7 and threw myself right in the deep end! It took a few tries, but eventually I came up with a block design worth testing:

He turned out ok, but highlighted the fact that very small lines in EQ turn out to be large lines in real life (the part where the left eye isn't actually a triangle - it's not my bad sewing, it was a design flaw!) So I went back and tweaked the pattern a few more times, adjusting his eyes and his teeth..


Alternate tooth position
 I printed out my new pattern, tested it out and voila! A delectably scary Jack-o-lantern!
 I decided that my two blocks would make fantastic snack mats for Bean and Blossom, so I backed it with some super cute jack-o-lanterny goodness (Dem Bones, Carol Eldridge for Andover Fabrics) and ditch quilted it with some Aurifil 28wt thread. I regularly use Aurifil 50wt (this was pieced with white #2024) but I'd never tried out the 28wt.. As luck would have it, I had a spool of orange #2150 from a sample pack that I won some time ago.. and it was the perfect Halloween orange! The 28wt was an absolute delight to sew with, and while it's not super obvious in the quilting (because it's quilted in the ditch), it looks amazing on the binding. I chose a decorative stitch that reminded me of candy corn, to match the candy corn fabric that I used as binding. Seriously, this snack mat is good enough to eat!

 Jacky also looks super scary when he's backlit by the setting sun. No evil spirits will be visiting here!
To be safe around the children though, we might just illuminate him with our faux candle lantern that Grandma brought home for them.

If you like Jacky-Oh! and would like to make a pumpkiny friend of your own, you can find the pattern for free at Craftsy :) There is also an "Extended Edition" available for purchase that has additional templates to create a range of different pumpkin personalities!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Let's Get Acquainted!

Hi! Today's my turn to "Get Acquainted" with you all in the Plum & June "Let's Get Acquainted!" blog hop. I'm sharing today with Megan from City Stitches, so don't forget to pop over and get acquainted with her too! 

Plum and June


My name is Tracey and I'm from Perth, Western Australia. I'm a stay at home mother of two great kids who never cease to bring me joy and frustration in equal measure ;) I love to quilt, embroider, crochet and bake (fortunately the first 3 are calorie free!). I love to be crafty in general and I've tried most things along the way. I'm really lucky to have a great group of crafty girlfriends (we all met through playgroup when our kids were tiny) and even though our kids are now going to different schools we catch up atleast once a week to sew, craft, eat and chat!



Here are a few "fun facts" about me..

How long have you been quilting
I've been sewing for as long as I can remember, but I only started quilting 5 years ago.. I made 2 quilts, and then had a 3 year break before taking it back up again last year. Now I've got a project list long enough to last me until I die! (It gets longer every day!)

Favorite quilting tip(s)
People always say to measure twice, cut once. I cannot emphasise enough how important that is! But I also love spray starch. I discovered starch a couple of months ago and it has improved my accuracy quite a bit! And it smells pretty.

Favorite blogging tip(s)
Have fun and stay true to who you are. Don't write what you think people want to read. Write what you'd want to read.

Favorite fabric (or wish list fabric)
I am a huge fan of Kate Spain and Bonnie & Camille. I've always coveted "Terrain", but I don't actually have any in my stash - I only "discovered" designer fabrics as "Good Fortune" was being released. 

Favorite craft book
I love Joanna Figueroa's "With Fabric & Thread", although I've made quite a few quilts from Pam & Nicky Lintott's "Layer Cakes, Jelly Rolls and Charm Quilts" book.

Favorite book
My favourite authors include Diana Gabaldon, Stephanie Laurens and Julia Quinn. But I'll read virtually anything, and I practically devour books! I'm currently reading "The Scarpetta Factor" by Patricia Cornwell.

Favorite children's book
I love Enid Blyton's Magic Faraway tree books. I have two of them from when I was little that I read to my children. They love to hear about the Land of Presents, the Land of Goodies and the Land of Take What You Want the best!

Favorite quilting tool
Of course my sewing machine would have to be my favourite quilting tool of all time.. but my Accuquilt GO! cutter is pretty high up on my list!

Favorite music to listen to while quilting
I don't often listen to anything while I'm in my sewing room as I need to get some portable speakers.. occasionally I'll remember to take headphones in with me, but I'm usually too lazy! This last week I've been using my sewing machine on the dining room table so I could have the quilt top laid out on the floor as I put it together, and it was so nice to sew with the TV on, or the radio. I think I need to ask Santa to bring me some speakers for Christmas! I love to listen to Pat Sloan's APQ Radio podcasts in the car though.

Binding - by hand or by machine?
My first two quilts were done by hand, but when I got back into quilting last year I saw a fab tutorial for machine binding using a decorative stitch (sew binding to back of quilt, then fold to front and secure with a pretty stitch) and that's how I do all my quilts now.

If I'd only known - what you wish you knew about blogging before you started your blog

I've noticed that a lot of people have said they wish they'd known more about Blogger vs Wordpress, but to be honest, I still don't really get the difference. I mean, I understand that Wordpress has more customisable functionality.. and I'll confess that I actually signed up for both. And I think I even posted my first couple of posts on both. (Although that might have been for my other blog, Needles in the Haystack) But I found Blogger easier to wrangle, and I don't have any plans to change (at this time). 

I wish I'd known that there was this awesome quilting blog world earlier. Like when I first started quilting. I've had other blogs in the past, but I never knew how much great stuff was out there. I wish I'd had more of a clue!



I'll have a brand new tutorial for you in a couple of days - it'll be my turn to show you my paper pieced block in the "Something Wicked This Way Comes" blog hop on Friday! I'm pretty excited to do the whole big reveal.. so stay tuned! In the mean time, there are a few tutorials on my Tutorials page to keep you busy ;)

Don't forget to check out the other blogs that are participating in the "Let's Get Acquainted" blog hop - this week we have:

Oct 23
         Tracey from The Peony Teacup (you are here!)
         Megan from City Stitches

Oct 25
        Kerstin from Sunset Sewing
        Jenniffier from Jenniffier's Sometimes Creative Life

Thanks for stopping by xx

Monday, 22 October 2012

Book Tour - The Big Little Book of Fabric Die Cutting Tips

Welcome to my leg of the book tour for Ebony Love's much anticipated debut book "The Big Little Book of Fabric Die Cutting Tips" :)

Before we go any further I'd just like to say that unlike all of the amazing book tour stops before me, I'm not a professional/expert die cutter or quilter! I'm just your average 30-something stay at home mum who fell into die cutting rather like I fell into quilting - straight in the deep end and working it out as I go along! But the fact that *I* am not a professional is really unimportant, because as you'll discover (if you don't already know), Ebony is THE "go to" girl in the fabric die cutting world.

I wish that there had been a book like Ebony's when I was making my first foray into die cutting 12 months ago. My son "outgrew" his baby quilt, so I decided that it was time to make him a new one. I found some Harry Potter fabric squares on ebay (he's only a little obsessed!) and then went on to think about how I was going to put it all together. In Australian Patchwork & Quilting magazine I'd seen ads for the Accuquilt GO! cutter, which ultimately led me to research it a little online and decide that I needed the GO! (as opposed to the Baby) and the Drunkard's Path die. I'd seen this cool idea for a Split Drunkard's Path star block online and I thought it would be a perfect way to use my Harry Potter fabric. I did some price researching, and while it was cheaper in the US, the shipping to Australia would cripple me, so I sucked up the price difference and found a place over here that had a pretty good price, and as it happened, a sale on dies! Hmm.. surely I needed more than just the Drunkard's Path? I managed to convince my husband to order me the Double Wedding Ring, the Rose of Sharon, the Tumbler and the 2.5" strip die (the strip die was an after thought, but it was $58 down from $85 for the GO Baby compatible one, so I couldn't go past it!).. and then I snuck in the Sunbonnet Sue die when he wasn't looking.. Turned out that ordering the Tumbler die was the best thing I did for that quilt, because the fabric squares were too small to use with the Drunkard's Path die. But I found a way to make those stars anyway!



And that 2.5" strip die I bought just because it was on sale? Best. Die. Purchase. Ever. I use it with EVERY quilt I make (sometimes for sashing, ALWAYS for binding!). Ebony outlines a whole range of other things you can do with the strip dies, including cross cutting the strips to make diamonds or squares. I also picked up a few tips on continuous borders by cutting length of fabric (LOF) instead of width of fabric (WOF). Other sized strip dies are definitely on my "to get" list!

If I'd had Ebony's book before buying my GO!, I think that the section on choosing which die cutter to suit you would have been invaluable. I love my GO! but there are times when I wish I had something larger, like the Big Shot Pro - especially because it has the flexibility of using other brand dies (including the Accuquilt ones) which my GO! does not. I love Ebony's clear, concise comparisons of the features of each cutter, the number of dies available, the die compatibility of other brands etc. Having it all right there in an easy to read format makes it much easier to make an informed decision.

Recently I've been pondering the purchase of a smaller machine because while my GO! *is* portable, it's quite heavy and cumbersome when I'm also trying to carry bags filled with fabric and my sewing machine when I go to guild meetings etc.  I'd naturally considered the Baby GO! because it will fit all my dies (except the DWR), but after seeing the Sizzix Big Shot at the Craft Fair a few months ago I've been in a quandary. I loved some of the dies that Sizzix offered (like the multiple same size hexie dies) but I wasn't sure that I wanted to invest in a new system, especially given that the Big Shot will only work with my 5x10" dies (which rules out almost all the dies I currently own).

After reading Ebony's comparison section, I'm seriously considering the Big Shot. After all, I'll still have my GO! so it's not like I won't be able to use my 6"+ Accuquilt dies, and I could just take my GO! on those occasions when I need to use the dies that are too big for the Big Shot. Additionally I'd also have the opportunity to purchase Sizzix and other brand dies that catch my fancy.

Don't think that just because you've already got a fabric cutter that you won't need this book - I picked up so many tips and ideas when I read through it. Some of them were so simple that you'd think they were obvious, and yet it had never occurred to me that I might be able or need to do some of those things. I'd never thought about checking my dies for accurate cutting by using paper to do the first cut, or even filing those paper pieces for future reference (eg using applique cuts to audition placement on blocks etc).



There is something in The Big Little Book of Fabric Die Cutting Tips for everyone. If you don't have a die cutter but are thinking of purchasing one, you should read Ebony's book before you make any decisions.. and if you already have a die cutting machine and want to learn how to get the most out of your die cutting experience then you won't be disappointed! I can't wait to get my hard copy so that I can make a few notes in the convenient sections Ebony has peppered throughout the book - perfect for all the extra tips I've been picking up over the course of the book tour!

Don't forget to check out all the stops along the way - there are even a few chances to win yourself a copy of the book! If you'd like to read an excerpt, Ebony has one available here :)


Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Sensational Spring!

Spring and Autumn/Fall are my two favourite seasons. I love the changing colours and the more mild temperatures. I think that Spring probably just manages to gain the edge over Autumn though, because Spring is an amazing, glorious riot of colour and scent.

Ornamental Plum Blossoms


 We live in an area where there are a lot of orchards, so Spring always brings a patchworked landscape of hills covered in pink and white blossoms. It's so pretty when the blossom petals start to fall and gather like pink and white snowflakes.
Apple blossoms - I hope the birds don't get them all this year!

A bobtail lizard staying cool under the agapanthus

Gorgeous irises and lavender that we picked up at the local farmers market.

Aren't they gorgeous?

A Crimson Rosella just hanging out in our fig & mulberry tree.

Someone must have announced groundhog day... we went back to rain, and frozen toes!

The first poppies of the season

 I just love the poppies. They make me feel happy. The pink mop head poppies are my favourites (which I think I mentioned last year) and sadly we only got ONE single pink one again this year. I found a lady at the local markets who had some seeds for the pink poppies, so I'll have to scatter them in the garden soon in the hopes that next year I'll have more than one!
My lone pink poppy
 Last week we went to the local botanic gardens for a friend's birthday. We had a devonshire tea in the tea rooms and then let the kids run around and burn off some pent up school holiday energy! I keep forgetting how much I love the botanic garden.. which is dreadful as it's only 5 minutes from my house!


Fields of poppies!


There are lots of lovely water features around the park.. it's so tranquil and peaceful.. Except when you're chasing after 5 crazy kids!

Pansies are such adorable flowers.

You could imagine that you were a million miles from civilisation..





The Wisteria at the Tea Rooms. Divine.
And what could be a more tangible symbol of spring than baby chickens? Phillipa and I purchased 6x day old Golden Laced Wyandotte chicks between us in the hopes that we could graft them onto my broody bantam, Honeydew. Amateurs that we are, we tried too early and she hadn't been sitting for long enough, so now we're hand rearing them.
At 4-6 days old - some people have goldfish on their desks while they work, my husband had chickens.


2 weeks old - enjoying a week's holiday at Phillipa's while the kids and I spent a week with my Grandparents.
The chicks are now 3 weeks old and are comparatively huge, compared to when they first came home with us. They have lots of feathers and are spending the days outside in our "chicken palace". They love it when we let them out so they can explore. They have no fear and will attempt to fly from pretty much anywhere! Another week or so and they should be able to spend the nights outside too. Unfortunately, getting the chicks didn't solve my broody Honeydew issue.. so last week we picked up some fertilised Araucana X eggs (the blue/green ones) from another breeder close by and she's now happily sitting on those. 2 more weeks and we should have another 4 chicks to add to our "family"!

The kids love the chicks, and I love that they have the opportunity to experience raising and caring for the baby chicks - especially now that the bantams are bigger and prefer to do their own thing (and Bean is much more comfortable dealing with the smaller chicks - he loves Honeydew but finds her too big to handle).

My poppies, all out in their splendour.
Ahh Spring.. what a splendid thing!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

September Craftsy BOM blocks

I was quite looking forward to the September Craftsy BOM blocks - curved piecing using the Drunkard's Path blocks! Naturally my first thought was whether I could adapt the pattern to use my Accuquilt GO! cutter and my Drunkard's Path die. Why yesindeedy.. with a little trimming.. and while trimming can be time consuming and tiresome, it *does* give better accuracy, so it all fell into place as if Amy Gibson had designed these blocks just so I could give Flo (my GO!) a workout!

Phillipa and Belinda also used Flo to cut their blocks, and we all pieced them using my Curvemaster foot. I *really* love that Curvemaster foot! No pinning, and magically accurate blocks. If you don't have one, and you want to sew something with a lot of curves, I'd highly recommend adding it to your toolkit.

September Block #1 - The Chain Block
I decided that I just wasn't feeling the love when it came to the Cleopatra's Puzzle block, so I took inspiration from one of the other ladies in the QCA Craftsy BOM facebook group. Sheila had put her block together with the print fabric in the centre, forming the pinwheel.. which I liked..
 ..until I laid it out in reverse, with the white fabric in the centre and the print fabric as the "background". I really loved how this block turned out, and once my plate is clear I'd love to play around in EQ7 with it as a whole quilt layout.. I think it would look awesome. But that's WAY down on my list of things to do atm!
I can't believe there are only two more blocks to complete and then it will be time to assemble to quilt top! The year has just flown by!
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