Ali Wilkinson

WIP Wednesday

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February is going to be a sewing month for me. This last weekend was a long one thanks to Waitangi Day holiday and I made the most by going to my sewing group on Sunday (the monthly one) and then sewing most o the holiday Monday.

I finished this Osprey block from TartanKiwi’s In-flight quilt project. This marks the point where I have now passed the mid way point in this quilt and it feels good! The osprey took several hours and was quite tricky. When I was assembling it I realised I had used background sky fabric for the legs so there was a gap between body and claws. Bummer! I had to unpick quite a bit to get that bit of purple in there. This is a 24″ block and in all likelihood I don’t have any more big blocks left. I say that as I kind of think I need a third blog block to balance the quilt, but I will know more when I have done two or three more 12″ blocks and can do a dry run of the layout.

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I also decided to make a better effort to get to the Tuesday night hand sewing group more often. Since getting back from holiday I’ve managed to make it 1 in 3 times, so I am feeling quite happy! I decided to make a start on the Tula Marquise quilt which I bought as a kit a few years ago. It’s made with these honeycomb shapes and I was very relieved to find that Paper Pieces make paper templates of these so I don’t have to cut them myself. Above is diamond #1. There are 30 in total, though a few are half-diamonds, and then there are grey and cream filler strips that go in between the diamonds. There are 1,400 honeycombs in total, so more than the hexagons in my Hex on the Beach quilt, but it does come together slowly and steadily.

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I also finally made these five blocks for a swap. I agreed to this almost a year ago – 6 of us from the Tuesday sewing group are participating and we each gave one or two bits of fabric of our own choice to each other. The receiver then adds more fabric and picks a design for the blocks. I have been procrastinating all this time but as the deadline is the 19th I figured I had better get on with it! This is what I spent most of Sunday’s monthly sewing group time making.

I chose the Windmill block from the book 500 Quilt Blocks. It said it was 8″ and I figured I had enough fabric from each person. Hmm. First mistake. I only realised when I was about to make the one with the deep red background that the patterned fabric provided was not enough to make two windmill sails. Ok, I figured that was easy to fix, I would just make the frame a bit wider. So I made the sails as big as I could and then cut the frame accordingly. Job done.

I started the second block. The grey, yellow and black/white one. I followed the pattern exactly and had literally only just enough of the grey background provided by the swapper, but once assembled I realised the block was an inch too small. I re-checked all measurements, checked my seams were not generous and could not work it out. I had to add the yellow frame in order to make it 8″ finished size. I was a bit miffed and irritated by this stage!

I then re-examined the measurements provided and checked that I was using the book’s method for HSTs in case that was a factor. I was really mad when I realised that the measurements in the book were never going to add up to the 8″ finished (or even 8″ unfinished) – the squares used to make the HSTs were simply 1/2″ too small! Knowing this made it so much easier for the remaining three blocks which I whipped up in no time.

Here’s the offending book in case you have it and need to make an annotation of the error!

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I have other sewing plans for February too.

Tomorrow I am going to Auckland for business and will be able to call by one, if not two, of my favourite NZ quilting shops to stock up. The last of Christchurch’s main quilting shops closed over the holidays and so I am quite hankering for 15 minutes all to myself just to wander a fabric store and be overwhelmed by colours and design. I have a few quilts in the planning stages that need yardage to add to the fat quarters and prints I already have, so I am keen to get that. I also need a new thimble and I am quite fond of the Clover silicon ones. Oh, it’s so exciting!!

In two weeks I am going only first ever quilting retreat with the girls from my Tuesday group. We are going near to Christchurch to a venue mainly used for school camps. The catering is all provided and there is even a pool. The plan had been to stay Friday and Saturday nights but I messed up and double booked for Saturday night, so I will only stay til then. Hey ho, one night is better than none!

Ali Wilkinson

Help Given and Help Needed

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I’ve been a bit absent lately. I would try to tell you that I spent that time making costumes for Golden Child’s school production, except I can’t really use making 7 pinnies (aprons) in a 1920s style as having taken all these weeks! I did also spend a few hours in the marvellous drama costume department of Christ’s College doing small alterations and fixes to the last remaining costumes Mandy (their talented wardrobe manager) had left to complete. So although I’d like to say I have been heavily distracted with highly productive creative endeavours, I honestly can’t do that.

(The production, by the way, was Bugsy, as in Bugsy Malone the musical, and was a joint production between Christ’s College, a boys’ school, and Rangi Ruru, the girls’ school attended by Golden Child. The whole thing ran this last week and was truly outstanding. Kudos to the teens involved and tot he school staff who made it possible. I am always blown away by the talent there is amongst the teenagers of Christchurch.)

Anyway, back to the blog and my poor excuses for absence. I have not been idle during this leave – I have planted and tended my veggie garden where I am growing a limited range of plants as I know I will be away for a month this summer. This year I am growing gherkins, cucumber, several varieties of tomato, green and yellow zucchini, broad/scarlet/French beans, and herbs. They are all coming along nicely and I am pleased to say my cloches were very useful in the early weeks through a couple of chilly mornings.

I have failed to be inspired to sew. I think it’s because I have a few projects on the go that either require concentration or are failing to fully light my fire. I have been very slack in making birds for my In Flight quilt, as I find I need to be in a particular frame of mind for foundation paper piecing. Today I was looking again at the blocks I have made so far and was thinking that I would like to get this finished and that maybe the retreat I am going to in Feb will be the ideal time to get a few more blocks done.

And so today I decided I needed to get on and do some more blocks for the Off the Grid quilt. I am facing a bit of a dilemma with this quilt – the solid shot cottons I am using for the blocks, and the colours I am using are quite cool but also flat. I feel the quilt needs some pep. I hope to achieve that through really good quilting but also think the background fabric could help. The original quilt used a solid beige and some of the fabrics in the blocks were low contrast patterns, and I think I need to introduce a bit of pattern into mine.

So I’d like some reader help – which of these two Art Gallery fabrics should I use? Or should I use something completely different?

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So Squared Elements?

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Or Oval Elements?

In these photos they both look about the same tone, but in reality the ovals are substantially darker.

Which do you prefer or what other fabric would you suggest? – Here’s a reminder of the finished quilt design (photo taken from Love Patchwork and Quilting)


Ali Wilkinson

WIP Wednesday

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I have been working on my Off The Grid quilt using Oakshott purples and blues. The blocks are made up of concentric rings of colour in different widths and as they are constructed in an improv manner I have found myself on that final ring ending up 1/4″ shy of the required size. Of course I could spend time planning the width of each strip but I think that would remove the fun and spontaneity from the improv side of things, so instead I use those “underweight” blocks as a starter for the next size up, or I remove a strip and attach a wider one. Luckily the occurrence is not so frequent that it is annoying.

I am really enjoying the improvisation of colour combinations and strip widths, and am pleasantly surprised by how quickly these blocks come together. The most time consuming part is walking to my laundry and back to press each step before trimming to straighten and adding the next sides. My iron is set up permanently in the laundry and the last few times I have sewed it has not been feasible to bring the iron and board to the wide hallway outside my sewing room, so I work towards my 10,000 steps a day by pacing back and forth. Of course I keep telling myself that when we finally move into The New House my sewing room is going to be a good size (about 4m x 5m) and so the iron is likely to stay set up there instead of in the laundry downstairs. (The New House is capitalised because it feels like a work of fiction given the length of time we our insurance company has been taking over the whole project – still a good year away as we haven’t yet demolished or put in for consent, and I feel like I have been saying “within the year” for at least two years in relation to the house… OK, I will calm down again now!).

So, back to the quilt… I am still undecided on the background. A reminder of what the quilt looks like is here and you can see the colours I am using from the various photos I have posted. I am thinking of Kona light grey solid but I am worried about it all being solid, albeit some textured by being shot cotton. My other thought is a low volume, low contrast neutral patterned fabric, such as Art Gallery Fabrics Oval Elements in grey (either the liquorice or silver drops, I can’t recall which one I have some yardage of). For sure I know that the purple/blue Oakshotts will not look good next to white, cream or warm colours, and I think that is why I am heading to colder greys.

I would love some suggestions if anyone has any ideas!

Ali Wilkinson

On The Cutting Mat and Design Wall

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This week I have worked on a few different things; my Cruces de Revolución modern crosses quilt, a test block for the In-flight Quilt Along, and quilting and binding the Indian Blanket quilt.

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I tested a super sized block for TartanKiwi this week and as can be seen from the above photo, I did not pay attention at one point and so my bird appears to have an Invisibility Cloak over its wing with only the tips emerging… Hmmm. This was not a pattern issue – it was ENTIRELY down to my distraction! It looked much better after the cloak was removed….

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I’m not showing any more of that block as Juliet has not yet released it, but as a first time pattern testing experience I really enjoyed it! This is a super sized 24″ block and the largest paper pieced thing I have ever made. You would think the bigger size would make it easier but the large expanses of background in some parts of the block were tricky to wrangle and I resorted to using glue stick and pins to hold them in place.

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I have completed 5 of the 25 crosses for the Cruces de Revolución quilt, and I cut a further 10 blocks ready for sewing later in the week. While I was doing this cutting I was listening to National Radio (NZ’s equivalent to Radio 4 of the UK or PBS in the US) which was broadcasting a really fascinating Indian play. It was a crime drama and of course it was left hanging for next week at a real cliff edge! I will have to set a reminder in my phone so I don’t miss it next week.


Last but not least I finished the quilting on Indian Blanket and added binding ready for hand sewing while I catch up on various TV shows. The quilting is straight line across the width of the quilt. I did groupings of 1, 2 or 3 lines close together with varying sized gaps in between, to try to be a little “stripy”. The binding is scrappy using left overs from the quilt itself. This is the largest item I have quilted myself and I think I have concluded that I really don’t enjoy quilting my quilts and will probably in future leave it to my long arm expert friends and focus on the bits I really enjoy like choosing pattern and fabric, cutting, piecing and assembling. (Notice I didn’t mention binding, as we all know that I detest that part! LOL)

Linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced

Ali Wilkinson

WIP Wednesday

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I finally started on my Cruces de Revolución quilt using Kate Spain’s Paradiso line. At the beginning I was going to use Kona Pewter as the background for the whole quilt, and then I was browsing through old copies of Love Patchwork and Quilting magazine on my iPad and I saw a similar style of quilt where the background was various low volume fabrics in grey/white/cream tones. I liked the way the different backgrounds added a deeper dimension and so I decided I would still stick to solids for my quilt but use different shades of grey and maybe a square or two of white.

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I’ve made three blocks so far, each in a different shade of grey, seen here on my design wall (which currently has three projects on it, so much for one at a time…!). I used 5″ squares and the reclines are 3″x5″. That means that the grey one at the edge is slightly oversized and so when they are sewn together the cross will take up slightly more of each block than in a standard modern cross. They will look a teensy bit closer together. I wonder whether it will be noticeable?

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This is what my design wall is looking like at the moment. Six In-flight blocks are complete and the blank spaces between blocks have also been cut out and pinned up. That fabric on the right sitting on top of a parcel is ready to be cut into to make another laptop bag for Golden Child’s best friend.

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On the left of the wall is this EPP hexagon block. The hexies came from a small packet of pre-cuts I bought at Liberty last year and then sewed together randomly when I needed a hand piecing project a few weeks ago. I have no idea what I am going to do with it, and I have another pack of identical hexies all basted to their cardboard templates ready to sew together, so I will end up with twice as many. I have thought about placemats (as I really need some!), a book jacket, and (of course!) a pouch. I’d love to hear your suggestions for what I should do – if I square it up it will be 10″ square.