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

Liberty Crocs and other random stuff

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Ever since I went to Japan last year and discovered Uniqlo I have been lusting over their limited editions at super cheap prices on their website. They don’t have stores here nor deliver to NZ so I only get to stock up when I am overseas. Recently I saw that they had a limited range in collaboration with Liberty, and coincidentally the Golden Child was about to visit her best friend who moved to Melbourne, and so with beating heart I ordered from their Aussie store and arranged delivery to our friends.

I’ve had to wait a few weeks to get my hands on these lovely items, but they were very worth the wait. I got a few T-shirts, a tote bag and these “Room Shoes”, which is the Japanese term for slippers. In my haste I didn’t realise I ordered large, so I do resemble Minnie Mouse when I wear them.

My bubble burst, however, when Gary saw them and asked if they were Crocs….. Seriously, he did.

I’ve been busy assembling EPP Liberty hexies to make another cushion and I am almost done with the EPP side of things. No photos as yet, but trust me, it’s yummy!

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Next weekend I have a baby shower to attend so when I saw this bear fabric at Stitchbird on a recent trip to Wellington I knew it would make a perfect Noodlehead Divided Basket. Shame I didn’t have my pattern with me as I didn’t quite buy enough to make the outer pocket, which would have been pretty handy on this. I plan to fill it with nappy cream, wipes and teensy newborn nappies, plus a little pamper treat for the new mama. Hope she likes it!

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Ali Wilkinson

Getting Cross with a Medallion

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When I was ready to make the next ring for the medallion I realised I had bought a slightly different shade of pale turquoise than I had used in the exploding star at the centre. This presented a bit of a dilemma – do I proceed knowing the colours were not the same but were so close it could look like a mistake, or should I reorder more of the correct colour. Or least acceptable of all, do I remake the exploding star with the newly arrived fabric.

The latter was eliminated before I even considered it. I don’t mind a small amount of unpicking, but an entire block is just too much for me! I decided to press ahead with the fabric I had to hand and to check what I thought after I had made a few crosses. Even after making a couple of crosses I was not too convinced it would look OK, but I think that was compounded by my struggles with how to actually make these crosses.

At first I used home-made paper piecing templates, but as I had hand drawn these they were not as successful as I had hoped. Next up I tried making oversized corner blocks and trimming them to size but that was a bigger disaster. In the end I went back to the old tried and tested method similar to making snowballs for each of the “legs” of the cross and then sewing these legs together. So having wasted a few hours mulling over fabric and methods, I chain pieced like a mad woman and rattled off the 16 crosses for this next ring.

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I am so pleased with the outcome and now I see them all completed I don’t think the slight difference in colour is a problem and in fact looks quite deliberate. The emphasised corners will be a theme for this quilt and I intend them to be either darker or larger or otherwise slightly different to the rest of the ring.

The next ring is going to be flying geese in these coral colours, with the darker shade in the corners as diamonds (square in square):

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I have also been a bit busy making a wall hanging organiser for my sewing room using the free pattern on Svetlana’s website. I have an ever increasing collection of plastic templates that I used to corral in the piano stool I use for sewing but the stool is stuffed full of patterns and I prefer to have the templates closer to hand. I am hoping this will do the trick and I think I will make a second narrower one for the quilting rulers I have.

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I used Cotton and Steel’s Tokyo Train Ride fabrics in my two favourite prints, and backed it with some Kona paprika solid. Svetlana uses Soft n Stable By Annie for the pockets and the entire backing but I wanted a little more rigidity so I replaced this in the backing with Peltex (Pellon 72F). It has been quite a success and I will definitely use it again. All that remains is the addition of the hanging grommets in the top corners and for that I will need to buy a grommet fixer – perhaps that will be my mothers’ day present tomorrow…!

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Ali Wilkinson

Mid Week Finishes


Hallelujah! I finally stopped hoarding Liberty and cut into it. It’s a miracle.

This is Long Time Gone block #1 for the Liberty edition. I am pretty happy with these and get a little smile on my face when I pass my sewing room door and catch a glimpse through the open door (they are pinned to the design wall for now).

I also made another Sofia pouch (pattern here), this time using Kaffe striped fabric for the lining and a lovely Japanese fabric for the exterior. I can’t recall the brand of the outer pocket fabric which I have used in a number of projects previously. I love the fussy cutting on the rear. Sofia pouches are so useful and are pretty easy to make even though they include piping. I think I might use this to transport my hand sewing projects around so I can work on them at a moment’s notice.

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And to cap off quite a productive Wednesday evening, I added the plain white fabric to the tropical cabins I assembled at Quiltcon Living Springs, made a backing and now it is ready for quilting. I don’t have a photo but will take it to the CBD with me tomorrow and look for a suitable photo venue so I can share.

Has your mid week been productive or dedicated to non-sewing activities?

Ali Wilkinson

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

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In honour of Chinese New Year I made a pouch in auspicious red fabric. It’s a bit bigger than a hong bao, which is the traditional red envelope used to gift money to friends, relatives and employees, but I like to think of it as a hong bao!

I love this Japanese fabric. The selvedge says “Yuwa Live Life Collection”, which is pretty generic sounding, and I am pretty mad with myself that I can’t recall where I bought it from. My favourite part of the design are the flowers and the little “dotty squares” used for shading on the black background and red flowers. I have two other fat quarters in purple and black which I am saving for a special project, as yet undetermined.

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I used the No Guts Boxie Pouch pattern by SoChick that I bought off Craftsy and have made previously. It’s such an easy pattern and the lack of padding makes the pouch really lightweight and easy packingĀ for traveling. In fact on our recent trip I used one of these to corral the various chargers and plug converters we needed, and this one is destined to carry the packs of playing cards and Uno and other small entertainment solutions for our travels.

Wishing you all the best for a healthy and prosperous Year of the Monkey. Tonight I will be eating dumplings and bao and other auspicious food as friends and I welcome in the new year.