Ali Wilkinson

The Mandatory 2016 Review and 2017 Plans Post

Golden Child and I spent a good half hour drawing the above message in the sand and then photographing or filming as the tide came in. We were on the beach near Galle in Sri Lanka and were watching the stilt fishermen as the sun set beautifully over the ocean. Golden Child had a “perfect shot” in mind and the waves did not comply a lot of the time, coming slightly to one side or the other and not erasing the 2016 in the way she envisaged. It was a lesson in accepting what nature provides and taking joy from the beauty around. As I type these words I feel quite wistful for that trip and have a deep longing to return. Soon.

But on to quilty things…

As is the way at this time of year I reviewed my quilty goals list from this time last year to see how I fared. Here is the post where I articulated those goals. So how did I do?

  • Finish the In-Flight quilt. DONE although at this stage it is still a finished flimsy as it awaits quilting, so I guess quilting it goes on the 2017 list
  • Sew a medallion quilt. Still in progress. I feel ashamed to say that I have not moved on since August due to other commitments, but I have definite plans to complete this quilt in 2017
  • Sew a few queen sized bed quilts for our holiday home. DONE. I made this one and the In Flight quilt will also head there when complete
  • Complete the Mighty Lucky monthly projects. No progress at all! I was super disappointed by this subscription series and found the projects to be not at all as expected. I think if you are someone who likes art journals as a way of developing your arty side then this would appeal, but I found it a bit too art school for my taste. So I pretty much ignored it from July onwards
  • Complete the Tula Pink Marquise EPP quilt. I’ve done the first row of diamonds. I think this is going to be a long term project that lasts several years…. I’m enjoying it when I want to do a hand project, but in the meantime have lots of other stuff on the cutting table!
  • Do more clothes making. I haven’t made any clothes for me but I have made a crazy complex costume for the Golden Child! Does that count?
  • Make a few pouches. DONE see here and here and here
  • Make a quilt from the Alison Glass fabrics. Zero progress and I don’t even have a pattern in mind either. This is moving to the 2017 list
  • Long Time Gone BOM quilt. I am almost up to date with the BOMs and there are two more months to go before assembly. I feel that this should count as an achievement as I am making it in duplicate with the Liberty edition as well as the original version
  • Use my stash. Sort of done. I have not bought much fabric the past 12 months so I feel like this should be marked achieved. It was only the Loominous 2 range that stole my heart and forced a full fat 1/4 bundle purchase! (This year I have to make a quilt with that bundle!)

I also made a number of things that were not on the schedule, such as a few Noodlehead divided baskets for me and for gifts, and a few paper-pieced cushions using Tartankiwi’s dog patterns.


So where to for 2017?

I’d like to get In-flight quilted and am just waiting for my friend Suzet to have her long arm machine set up and a vacancy in her schedule!

I’d like to finish the medallion quilt I am making using Cloud 9 Cirrus Solids. Here’s where I am up to so far with plans on making 3 further rings:

I will finish the Long Time Gone quilts. Here’s a reminder of what the end result is set to look like:

I have the blocks using flying geese to make this month, and then there remain the pineapple blocks (I am dreading those!) and the checkerboard blocks followed by assembly. I can’t wait to have these completed and quilted.

I’d like to make this summer dress and have bought the necessary fabric and notions. I haven’t made a dress for myself for a long time so this will be fun! It’s a Vogue pattern (number V1344) designed by a Kiwi, Rebecca Taylor:

I’d like to make a version of Kaffe Fassett’s Haze Kilim quilt. I bought the pattern and fabric and now just need to get some of the other WIPs off the cutting board to make room for this. It reminds me of the fabrics I saw and bought in Sri Lanka, so I plan on using a sari for the backing when I finally make it!

I will continue with the Tula Marquise hand project and would like to make a few more fabric boxes and baskets, and no doubt I will find other projects to fit in here and there as inspiration hits! I plan on continuing my purchasing freeze and sewing from my stash, although with a trip to the US planned for July that resolution might face challenges!

So what have you decided to have as your sewing goals of this year? How did you go on in 2016?

Ali Wilkinson

Long Time Gone and Catching Up

Happy new year! I wish you good health, rewarding challenges, friendship and prosperity. This is going to be a very interesting year politically and economically, no matter where you live, and I plan on not sweating the small stuff, trying to see the bigger picture, and getting vocal about things that I feel strongly about! In the next few days I will share my quilty plans.

We had a quiet family Christmas and New Year. It will be our last family Christmas for a while as next year the Golden Child will be in Spain on an AFS exchange for 10 months and so we cocooned together  and enjoyed how quiet Christchurch gets at this time of year (everyone else goes on holiday, whereas we holiday in July and September).

I took the opportunity to catch up on my sewing. Travel and production costume commitments the past few months have meant that I was getting quite a stockpile of Long Time Gone BOM packages to make up. Given I am also making this quilt in Liberty too, the three packages really translated to 6 packages, and these recent months have several blocks for completion. I think Jen Kingwell has suddenly realised that only 2 more months remain, one of which is more than likely going to be assembly, and the first two or three months were so lightweight with smallish blocks that now we are playing catch up. It seems a bit like school holidays where the first few weeks seem like there is forever to do everything that needs to be done, and then all of a sudden there’s a week left and nothing on the list has been accomplished!

Month 7 was churn dash blocks in grids. These are not my favourite blocks and so I was really unenthused about making them, and each churn dash was so small (3″ finished) that they were quite fiddly too. I didn’t photograph the ones I made with the fabric from the BOM but they are typical Jen style of lots of fabrics with different designs on them which when jumbled together actually look quite fun. I have to say that many of the provided fabrics are quite garish and I would not normally even glance sideways at them, so it is quite fun to see how cool they look in tiny pieces with other fabrics.

When making my Liberty edition I remembered an earlier month which ended up looking like scrap vomit due to a proliferation of competing patterns and I had to remake with more neutrals in the mix. This time I decided to use lots of neutrals from the beginning and I am very happy with the results.

Month 8 was all about Courthouse Steps and Log Cabins. Each block above is under 6″ finished and they are fiddly strips. I do not know why but the centres seem to twist a little. I noticed it when I made the first edition and really worked hard to correct or prevent it in the second, but I still have that little twist going on. I’d love to know what I am doing wrong and how to prevent this in future!

My log cabins also have a teensy twist in some places and I do wonder if there is an issue with my 1/4″ foot (maybe the side guide is a little bent?). I was worried this block in Liberty would be overpowering, so spent a long time selecting the fabrics to go together and next to each other. I’m pretty happy with the end result and think it will be a nice colour saturated spot in the finished quilt.

Month 9 involved making 130 HSTs of patterned fabric and neutral fabric. I love making HSTs – I get into a rhythm and it’s almost meditative. This time I was watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix….! (I’m up to S2 episode 18). Above and the next two images are the provided fabric editions which look nice and bright as I took the photos with flash.

And here are the Liberty editions (without flash photography):

I have month 10 still awaiting action and that is focused on flying geese. I’m back to work tomorrow so that will have to hold off til the weekend.

I am still enjoying this quilt, though have a stack of excess fabric from the kit edition. I have no idea what I will do with that so suggestions welcome! Usually I make a pieced back but I don’t really love a lot of the fabric that has been used (except as tiny pieces as mentioned above) so don’t plan on doing that this time. I had thought I could sell it as a job lot for someone keen to make this quilt and who has bought the pattern and wants to recreate a lot of the Jen Kingwell look. What do you think of that idea? And where would I sell it?

Ali Wilkinson

Filling in the Gap

Last time I spoke of my adventures in Sri Lanka and this time I will provide more stories of what I have been up to while AWOL from this blog.

Regular readers will know that the Golden Child is a budding thespian and that each year her school puts on a production of varying proportions. This year they did Alice in Wonderland and Golden Child had the part of the Queen of Hearts, and I was asked to make her costume.

I was given a bag of fabric – velvet, stretchy shimmery red stuff, black lace jacket to cut up, and a zipper. I was also given a dress to use as a sort of model, and (thank goodness for this bit) a ready made hoop skirt to use as a base. Oh, and Mandy (who is wardrobe mistress extraordinaire) provided me with a drawing of her concept. No pressure then!

So here’s my confession. I might have made clothing in the past but I have never used a pattern, I have never made things that existed anywhere other than my own mind (and therefore only I knew if it didn’t look like I set out to make it look), I have never used velvet or stretchy fabric before, I have never sewn sleeves (let alone inset sleeves), and I have never taken a pattern off another garment. Hmmm, I needed to learn. Fast!

I started with the overskirt in the stretchy fabric, which I attached to a firm cotton waistband to give some substance. Each and every pleat was carefully mapped out and planned, buttonholes were sewn and I was pretty pleased with my effort! I added brace suspenders to the hoop skirt to ensure it stayed on Golden Child’s waist.

I then procrastinated for a while taking a pattern off the “demonstrator dress” bodice and making that from velvet with a lining and zippered back. Here is my lesson learned and hot tip for this type of work – interfacing is your friend. Repeat that three times so it sticks in mind for future reference!

However, the biggest procrastination took place over the sleeves which I well and truly dreaded making. Lots of googling informed me of the basic shape, being a little like an elongated standard deviation diagram, and of the importance of easing the seams. I had been asked to make the sleeves from the stretchy fabric, coming to a point over the centre finger, with a puffy velvet striped “leg of mutton” top part at the shoulders. I am sure that my procrastination allowed my brain to work this all out while I was sleeping as when time was running out and the pressure was mounting I awoke one morning and knew exactly what I had to do to make it work!

Once again, interfacing was my friend, combined with cream ribbons to create the striping. I took the plunge, realised I had cut the stretchy sleeves in the wrong orientation (the stretch went shoulder to hand and not around the arm – duh!), recut the long sleeves, pinned lots and jumped right in.

Not too shabby, if I say so myself!

Next up was embellishing the bodice with a piece of an old 1990s lace evening jacket which I cut up, edged in ribbon to prevent fraying, and attached to the bodice. Lastly I attached the bodice to the skirt, hemmed the overskirt and made the heart chocker necklace from a felt Christmas decoration.

What do you think? Here’s the full effect. Her make up was amazing and a golden crown topped the outfit while bells on her shoes and a light up staff (made from an oversized Chuppa Chupps container!) finished it off. I just realised I don’t have a photo of the whole ensemble and I am pretty mad about that.

So that, my friends, is largely what I have been up to the past few months, as well as a trip to San Francisco for Dearest Husband’s 50th during which time this is the closest I got to the fabric mecca Britex:

I know! It was like placing a giant chocolate cake in front of someone on a diet! Ah well, next time….

So now I have 4 months of Long Time Gone BOMs stacked up to complete in both original and Liberty versions, and I have to get back on the horse and make the next ring of my medallion. I did have a wee sew at the weekend and made this cute Christmas themed sturdy fabric box using Lilyella’s pattern:

Fabric by Makower.

Ali Wilkinson

Still Alive!

I am still here! I know it’s been so long since I last posted and although I have a few excuses I am also feeling a bit guilty.

I’ve been travelling a little – first off to Sri Lanka and the Maldives with the Golden Child for two and a half weeks of mum-daughter bonding with lots of fun, culture, great food and amazing experiences thrown in. If you have never been, I cannot say enough wonderful things about Sri Lanka. The country just blew me away. I was expecting it to be a bit confrontational, like India, but it is not at all like that. We never felt unsafe and were always met with warm welcomes and kindness. The food was amazing – fish curry for breakfast is now my new favourite way to eat! – and the countryside is so varied and very beautiful. I definitely plan to return.

While there I was able to see and buy many of the beautiful textiles that are made in Sri Lanka. The bad quality photo above is the reception desk at the Galle Lighthouse Hotel and is a stunning woven display to symbolise the ocean and the stunning sunsets. We sipped at Barefoot, where I could easily have purchased two suitcase loads of saris, sarongs and other woven cottons and silks. The displays in the shop were quite enticing, especially for colour and textile fans, but the shops were patrolled by assistants who prevented any photos from being taken, so here are two from the internet with photo credits below each:

It was so hard to make decisions and I now look at my purchases and wish I had bought more! I bought a few saris and sarongs that I will use as quilt backs, and some dresses and placemats, and a gazillion scarves for my mum and mother-in-law. Seriously, I could have bought twice what I did and still not been satisfied to have absorbed all that colour!

In Kandy we visited a centre where handicrafts are preserved and carried out in the traditional ways. We met a lovely lady who was weaving a rata mat using  threads made from long leaves of a hana plant which is fibrous. The threads are dyed using natural products and the pattern is woven from memory by the weaver who has learned this skill usually since they were a small child. The pattern is formed by threading a stick through the warp threads separating them and then passing the hana thread through with a shuttle. I absolutely admire the way the weavers have the pattern committed to memory and know exactly where they are up to even when being pestered by people like me! I would need the pattern written down and a pencil to scratch off each row as I completed it.

Here are others on display in the shop – I bought the navy and natural one with diamonds and it is hanging on the wall of my sewing room now.

In Kandy we also visited a batik workshop. Batik in Sri Lanka seemed to me to be more sophisticated than my experience of batik in Indonesia. Many, many layers of colour, fine detail and precision made me realise that batik is more than just one step up from tie dye, which is how I have always thought of batik until now. Here are some photos of the process and end result:

I was a little more restrained here and bought only a pillowcase and two sarongs!

So, that’s a bit about my trip to Sri Lanka. Golden Child and I then went on to the Maldives for a week on the beach but as there was nothing of interest in a textile way I will pass on sharing the photos of that trip! Further updates on my “absent months” in the coming days. Thanks for your patience!

Ali Wilkinson

Buster the Boxer


My friend has a boxer dog called Buster who is quite a character but is also getting old. When I saw Tartankiwi‘s (Juliet) paper pieced dog silhouettes in Love Patchwork and Quilting issue 38 I knew I had to make the boxer for my friend’s upcoming birthday.

Juliet’s original pattern is the silhouette and only the ear is distinctive, but @materialgirlquilts (Amanda) on Instagram has posted a modification of the pattern to include the white patches on her boxer, which match those of Buster, and so after much studying of what she had done and how it might work, I attempted a similar approach. My first attempt at the white flash on his nose was not a big success and I had to start again, and I think Amanda managed the eye much better than I did. But nonetheless, I am pretty stoked with the result.

I used a favourite Carolyn Friedlander Botanics for the main part of Buster, together with some scraps of unknown source brown and white fabrics for his ear and patches. Amanda inspired me to use a dark background too, which I am thrilled with as usually I would have tended to go to a low volume pale shade. This background is part of the Black and White range by Cotton + Steel.

Did you spot my tiny mistake? By the time I saw it I was to far committed to undo many pieces, and decided to just accept it.



I turned the 20″ square block into a cushion cover. Don’t you love those perfect pointy corners? I came across a tutorial on SewMamaSew that shows a very easy method to achieve points and not blunted corners. It’s so easy – you just sew the seam off the edge at the end of each side (instead of pivoting and turning), then fold over the seam you just sewed (folding on the seam), rotate 90 degrees and start to sew this new side from the edge. So simple, and such professional results. Check out the video and see just how easy to is.


I followed another tutorial for the back to add a concealed zipper. This time the tutorial was by Svetlana at Sotak Handmade. Svetlana uses a zipper that’s wider than the width of the cushion, but I prefer to use one slightly smaller so that at each side there is 1″ or so which can be closed off by sewing a row of stitches perpendicular to the zipper and across the ends of the zipper. My method avoids the bulk of a zipper as well at the edge seams and the broken needles that can often result in.

I am so very pleased with this cushion cover and hope Noeline likes it too.