Ali Wilkinson

Another Potholder

needledown-nz_another_potholder_ 1

To the right of my cutting mat is a no man’s land of bits and pieces. There are favourite mugs that have lost handles and vintage preserving jars which now serve to hold rulers and pens and other quilting and sewing (and scrapbooking) tools and devices. There’s a dish where scraps and offcuts from the current project await their fate – perhaps to be incorporated into the quilt or perhaps to join the scrap basket. And also residing in this clumsy jumble has been a small packet of Tula Pink sample swatches I received once upon a time with an order from the Tula Pink shopping website.

The swatches are 2.5″ square and there were 25 of them. Now and then I opened up the packet and laid them out but never really had any idea what to make with them. Until today. I paired them up in a very random fashion and drew a diagonal line across the reverse of one of each pair. Then I chain pieced them sewing a quarter inch either side of the line.

needledown-nz_another_potholder_ 2

After cutting along the line I used one of my favourite tools, the Quilt in a Day Half Square Triangle ruler , to trim the triangles into perfect half square triangles. (I love this ruler. It is so useful and easy to use that I can’t figure out how come I didn’t get it earlier!)

needledown-nz_another_potholder_ 3

After pressing I laid out the HST squares in a sort of random manner and sewed them together, firstly in rows and then all together.

needledown-nz_another_potholder_ 4

Inspired by last weekend’s pot holder success I decided to turn this into another pot holder and quilted the top to InsulBright and backing using simple straight line quilting a quarter inch each side of the diagonal lines. Backing is Oval Elements by Art Gallery Fabrics, as is the binding. A quick project and a useful kitchen item. I mean who can ever have too many potholders?!

needledown-nz_another_potholder_ 7

needledown-nz_another_potholder_ 8


Ali Wilkinson

Pillow Swap

needledown-nz_pillow_swap_ 1

I remember over a decade ago my best friend told me I had acquired too many of two different items and had become a collector of both – the items were coasters and cushions (pillows to our US cousins). Her comment must have settled in my subconscious mind as I suddenly became quite aware each time I even looked at either items in shops for the next five or so years.

I gradually reverted to type in terms of cushions as I have been amassing even more of them throughout the house in recent years, though thankfully I don’t seem to have continued to acquire coasters at the same alarming rate!

Doesn’t everyone like cushions though? I like how easily (and inexpensively) they change up a room’s decor, and how I can strip the cover off a cushion form and store the cover until the mood takes me back to it without the excess covers taking up a lot of space. That is somewhat hard to do with larger pieces of furniture, and expensive to do with curtains (= drapes), so I rationalise my obsession as a means of thrifty style.

And when I think I have too many cushions I always think of the scene in the movie Along Came Polly with Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston where he talks about spending 4 minutes each morning and night taking throw pillows on or off the bed! I can assure you, I am not anywhere near as bad as that!

So that brings me to the reason for this post. At the end of last year a group of online classmates decided to hold a swap together. Most of us had never done a swap before and wanted to try it out. In a swap a hostess/host gathers information about likes and dislikes from each participant and then passes them on to another participant who uses the info to choose fabric and designs for an item that they make for the other person. I was allocated Debbie in Nashville and Ella was allocated me, although at the time we had no idea who would be making for each of us. We had a flickr group where we posted pictures of fabric pulls to seek feedback in the hope that the recipient would respond and that way we would get some ideas on direction, and ultimately we posted pictures of what we sent and what was received.

needledown-nz_pillow_swap_ 2

Debbie told me she liked lime and bright pinks amongst a few other colours and that her preferred neutral colour was grey. I decided to make a block from the class we had just done that I knew Debbie had not made. I picked Art Gallery, Anna Maria Horner and Carolyn Friedlander fabrics together with Kona Ash, and for the back I chose to use mirror dots in grey. I quilted both front and back using simple straight lines – a grid on the back and a star on the front. I sewed in a zip, which is a technique I am still improving. I was quite pleased with the end result and I think Debbie was too when she received it.

needledown-nz_pillow_swap_ 3

A few weeks after I mailed my parcel to Nashville I received a little package in the mail containing a cushion from Ella. She nailed it for me with lovely bold colours and those geometric triangles that are very much in favour with me at the moment. The back is an envelope closure and is orange and yellow. This one is perched in my bedroom at the moment where it doesn’t really coordinate and my plan is to have it in my sewing room in the house we will build later this year.

needledown-nz_pillow_swap_ 4

needledown-nz_pillow_swap_ 5


Ali Wilkinson

Hanging Out with a Gypsy Wife (part 2)

needledown-nz_hanging_out_with_a_gypsy_wife_part_one_ 7

Welcome to part 2 of my Gypsy Wife project report. Last time I talked about making the blocks and the tips I learned while doing so. Today I am going to cover off the assembly of the quilt.

As mentioned last time my most invaluable tool in the whole process was the spreadsheet which listed all the blocks in the quilt. I used that spreadsheet for keeping track of which blocks I had done and which remained to be completed, and also for ensuring colour balance. About halfway through the making of the blocks I changed method and sorted the spreadsheet by section. I then used the section list on the spreadsheet to compare with the section diagram in the pattern book to work out which size filler blocks I needed to make for that section. This was especially important for the square in square and courthouse steps blocks which came in different size versions. I used knowledge of the size of named blocks and strips to work out the sizes for these filler blocks, and I marked these sizes on the section diagrams. Here is an example:

needledown-nz_hanging_out_with_a_gypsy_wife_part_two_ 8

I have included a full set of photos of those marked up sections at the end of this post in case they are useful for anyone. Just a small disclaimer – although I am sure that I amended any errors and mistakes, using these charts is at your own risk!

needledown-nz_hanging_out_with_a_gypsy_wife_part_two_ 19

Bit by bit I completed each section and pinned the blocks on my design wall. On the photo above you can see the photocopy of the quilt I had pinned to the design wall where I was highlighting the blocks I had completed – I always do this with quilts and find it gives me a good sense of progress even though I have the actual blocks on the wall right next to it! Note that I didn’t add ribbons at this stage – all ribbon strip adding was done during the sewing assembly.

needledown-nz_hanging_out_with_a_gypsy_wife_part_two_ 14

And so the time had come to sew it all together. Of course, at this point in a regular quilt you are pretty much at the home straight and running for the line. But not with Gypsy Wife! Oh, no! Because there are soon very many blocks and all those ribbons and bits of ribbons, you are only now reaching the halfway line!

One of the key features of this quilt are the ribbons which run vertically and are only broken by the blocks they pass so they run from top to bottom. This effectively trains your eye to view the quilt as less fragmented and scrappy and they provide cohesion and a framework for the design. I quickly realised that the easiest way to tackle this aspect would be to work on multiple sections at a time and to work left to right or right to left. I chose to start at the left as there were two long and vertically thin sections adjacent to each other which sat above a single section on the lower part of the quilt. This lower section also had the advantage of having many long ribbon strips and not so many blocks in the way.

I used the colour photo on the inside cover of the booklet to refer to when I had any doubts as this photo allowed me to check if the same fabric actually did flow top to bottom where I thought it did. I marked this photo across the bottom with the alphabet – one letter for each ribbon. I then marked the same letters on the section layout diagrams, starting from the left.

needledown-nz_hanging_out_with_a_gypsy_wife_part_two_ 2

needledown-nz_hanging_out_with_a_gypsy_wife_part_two_ 3
The ribbons are cut at 1.5″ wide, except for a few which are cut narrower and are shaded grey on the diagrams. It is important to note that ribbon K from my photos above is 1.5″ wide for most of its use, but does get used at 1″ at the right of the Old Maid Puzzle block. This difference in shading on the section diagram threw me at first and that was when referring to the inside cover photo was very helpful as I could follow the ribbon from bottom to top by checking the design.

I chose ribbon strips and cut the shorter sections from remaining fabric first rather than cutting into long strips. I worked in groups of ribbons of the same length and groups of ribbons which were sewn together in blocks, usually making the ribbon block then sewing it to adjacent pieced blocks. I always worked on both the upper and lower section at the same time, so that the quilt was completed from left to right.

needledown-nz_hanging_out_with_a_gypsy_wife_part_two_ 16

My sequence went:

  1. Section 9 and left of section 10
  2. Section 8 and right of section 10
  3. Sew 8 and 9 together
  4. Sew 8/9 combined section to section 10 – you now have the entire left of the quilt complete
  5. Section 5 and left of section 6
  6. Sections 3, 4 and middle of section 6
  7. Left of sections 1 and 2, right of section 4 and right of section 6
  8. Right of sections 1 and 2 and section 7
  9. Sew sections 1 and 2 together
  10. Sew 1/2 combined section to section 3
  11. Using unfinished seam sew section 4 to section 6, sewing from right side of the sections
  12. Sew 4/6 combined section to section 7
  13. Sew 1/2/3 combined section to 4/6/7 combined section
  14. Sew section 5 onto the mega section made in step 13
  15. Complete unfitted seam to join section 6 to sections 4/5 – you now have the entire right of the quilt complete
  16. Join right and left sides to complete!

Yep, I know, it was a mind bender and I think all up cutting and sewing the ribbons and assembling sections then the quilt took a good 3-4 solid days of work.

needledown-nz_hanging_out_with_a_gypsy_wife_part_two_ 15

Once I had my quilt top complete I went for a massage! Kidding, but I really could have done with one! Instead I chose my backing and used this last end of bolt remnant of an old Kaffe Fassett design, which fit the bill entirely as it is so gypsy like in colours and those bold roses remind me of canal narrowboats from my childhood in England. Unfortunately it really was the last I could find anywhere and so I had to surround it with a lilac shot cotton, but once I got it made up I realised how perfect it was to be framed like that.

needledown-nz_hanging_out_with_a_gypsy_wife_part_two_ 11

needledown-nz_hanging_out_with_a_gypsy_wife_part_two_ 12

needledown-nz_hanging_out_with_a_gypsy_wife_part_two_ 13

I had it edge to edge long-arm quilted by my friend Suzet Pont with a baroque rose type design, which I feel fits the bill perfectly.

These photos don’t show it with binding. I used an Art Gallery oval elements print in a grape colour that I had used throughout the quilt top. (I love oval elements, which I nickname the “fried egg print”, and have used it in many of my quilts.) I am so satisfied with this quilt. It was such a lot of work piecing and aiming for precision points throughout. The pattern did a great job of providing the basics but I have to admit I was disappointed that an awful lot was left to the quilter to either know already or work out for themselves. I would hate to have tried this as a beginner as I think it could be quite off-putting. However, I feel like not only have I triumphed in actually completing the quilt, but I have learned from the experience and found a dozen new quilt blogs and resources through my online search for assistance and inspiration in the early months. In fact, my aim of posting this post and the previous one is to assist anyone else who is embarking on (or in the middle and frustrated!) making their own Gypsy Wife.

If you have made the quilt, or make it in the future, I would love to hear from you and see links to your renditions of this design. And if you read these posts and find them useful (or more confusing!) I would very much like to hear your comments and feedback. Good luck, gypsy wives!


PS. Did anyone spot my own mistake? I was following the diagram for the star block without checking the corrected diagram in the errata and I ended up not with a star but with something a bit different. I quite liked it so decided to leave it. Can you spot it?

needledown-nz_hanging_out_with_a_gypsy_wife_part_two_ 10

needledown-nz_hanging_out_with_a_gypsy_wife_part_two_ 9

needledown-nz_hanging_out_with_a_gypsy_wife_part_two_ 8

needledown-nz_hanging_out_with_a_gypsy_wife_part_two_ 7

needledown-nz_hanging_out_with_a_gypsy_wife_part_two_ 6

needledown-nz_hanging_out_with_a_gypsy_wife_part_two_ 5

needledown-nz_hanging_out_with_a_gypsy_wife_part_two_ 4