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

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.


Ali Wilkinson

My New Sewing Room


We’ve moved house and the rental we will be in for the next 45 weeks has a formal lounge that I claimed for my sewing room. It’s quite a sunny room on the west of the house, so it gets lovely evening sun. I am so happy to have so much space and this is a good practice for working out what works and what doesn’t for my future sewing room in the house we are about to build.

The entrance I mainly use is through cavity sliders from the main living area, through which comes even more sunshine from the north facing double height windows in the living. The door on the left of the above photo is through to the hallway, and the glass bi-folding doors on the right go out to a paved garden. I expect they will be open or ajar many evenings ahead.needledownnz_new_quilt_room_-2

I have pinned up one of my design walls and am enjoying the indirect sunlight onto this wall. I have my iMac and printer close by so I can listen to podcasts and check blogs and print patterns. The baskets below the design wall contain batting and interfacing.


I have an ironing board for easy pressing, and in the corner is a stack of poufs and quilts that Golden Child has taken to using when she comes into the room to watch her TV shows.

Along the far wall are cupboards that run the width of the room and were here when we moved in. They have been very handy for storing my boxes of fabric and keeping them out of the sunlight.


In the centre of the room are my two tables. I bought these tables from Ikea when we lived in Moscow and they have travelled to many places with me since. They were super cheap but they are so sturdy and there is no wobble when my sewing machine is running full tilt. The higher one is for cutting and working out layouts and the lower one for sewing. On the shelf under the cutting table I store boxes which contain my WIP projects. I have similar boxes just underneath the fixed wall cupboards containing other fabric and spare bits of batting and interfacing.

I am quite happy with the tables in the centre of the room, and for safety I have the electric cords inside a safety strip across the carpet.

I love this room and am so happy that my sewing room is accessible and pleasant. I’ve been in there sewing many evenings after dinner, and I can keep up with my dreadful reality TV addiction without bugging Gary who is just the other side of the sliding doors watching his preferred Gold Rush or Gas Monkey Garage.

Ali Wilkinson

Long Time Gone

It has been a while. In fact, I just checked and I haven’t blogged since mid June. But I promise I have good excuses! I went on holiday for a month, I had the flu, I went on Retreat, and I moved house. Does that excuse me?

Regular readers will know we’ve been planning a new build for some time, and finally the Game Is On! We went on holiday to our place in France for almost a month and when we returned our builder put the pressure on for us to find a rental, move out and get the site clear. So we found a house to rent and moved, getting the last of our things here this past weekend.

The best thing about the rental house is that I get a decent sized room just for my sewing activities! And it has satellite TV and heaps of space and storage! A future post is definitely going to be about that.

In sad news we had to say goodbye to our beloved cat ten days ago. Kuching has been a much loved part of our family for 16 years but his kidneys were failing rapidly and the kindest thing was to allow him to go peacefully. Golden Child considers Kuching to be her “big brother” so this has been particularly hard on her. Whenever I was sewing Kuching hung out with me in my tiny sewing room. He lay on a shelf below my cutting table where he got full sun from the glass door behind him which also provided him views across part of the garden, or his kingdom as we referred to it. Many times he would curl up underneath my sewing table on top of boxes of fabric and right by my knees, but his biggest trick was to settle onto my sewing stool each time I got up to iron or cut the next section, resulting in me relocating him each time.

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Kuching loved this horrid black polar fleece blanket that Golden Child also adores so much. he was also a discerning quilt judge. I miss him immensely.

So what have I been up to the past few months?

Well, whilst in France I discovered a very cool fabric store in the town closest to our house. The store is called Les Tissus de Gaëlle and she has a Facebook page. I don’t have a sewing machine over there although my mum has promised me an old Singer of Gran’s. My Gran dies in 1981 so it is pretty old, but I am sure it will be perfect for small projects in the future. Gaëlle in the meantime satisfied my desire for fabric and I bought lots of metres of her pretty bias tape in all kinds of patterns. I will post pics once I download them.

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Despite all the house shifting and other stuff I still managed to do some sewing recently. My quilting group, the Stitch Sisters, went on retreat to Living Springs and I took the opportunity to add another ring to the Cloud 9 Cirrus Solids Medallion. This ring is a checkerboard using the pinks and purples of the range which I tried to blend together to be lighter in the centre and darker at the corners in a manner that is not ombre but retains the look of “weight” in the corners that I am trying to achieve in eau ring.

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The next ring is going to be teal blues and at this point I am thinking it will be pinwheels made to look like spinning bowties. I am still doing the maths and designing this ring, so plans could still change!


Ali Wilkinson

Modern Medallion Ring #2 WIP

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I do like to chain piece from time to time, and especially flying geese which are so satisfying to make and quickly turn into something quite cool. These geese are ombré coral coloured and inspired by the beautiful flock of flamingoes I was lucky enough to observe and photograph in Cuba earlier this year. Here’s a wee pic from that trip – aren’t they just wonderful?


This medallion’s Ring #2 has flamingoes (not geese) flying around the ring with a few dark red posts in the corners and mid-points of each side for them to land on and perch. I’ve made the sides and the corners but assembly will have to wait til later this week. Here’s what they will look like:

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I am so pleased with the way this ring has finished up, and it is exactly like I imagined – a feat many will know does not always come to fruition!

I didn’t assemble this ring because I got distracted…. By the need to make another Noodlehead Divided Basket to corral all the random laptop and device charging cables and separate them into types (laptop chargers, USB chargers in case you were interested..). I do love this Cloud 9 Koi fabric.

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So what have you been making lately?