As well as admiring Alison's quilts from a purely aesthetic stand point, I really admire the way that she makes quilts she likes, the way she wants to, and doesn't worry too much about what other people think. She's quite forthright and her blog posts are often funny. She's also incredibly generous, having made 36 quilts so far this year for the Soy Amado project (more on that below) and sharing her knowledge in a series of tutorials (her hand piecing tutorial is particularly interesting, although I have to confess it still hasn't tempted me away from my sewing machine!).
|This is how the quilt Alison was working on in her hand piecing tutorial turned out.|
So, here's Alison. As usual, my questions are in bold and her answers are in normal text:
Does your family have a quilting or sewing history, or are you a first generation quilter?
I learnt to knit, crochet and do tapestry from my mum and I continued knitting well into my 20s. She did buy some Laura Ashley precut hexagons in the 1970s and made a rather lurid (sorry mum) hexagon bed quilt but I think that actually put me off quilting at the time because I thought it was frumpy and old fashioned.
How did you start quilting, and how long have you been quilting for?
I was just married and living in the Netherlands and in a nearby village was a quilt shop (it's still there) with the most inviting window displays. I went in one day, got talking in Dutch to one of the sales assistants, discovered she was English (!) so we switched to our mother tongue and she said her mum gave quilt lessons and they had a space in a course coming up and I should join. So I did. I think that was 20 years ago now - yikes!
How would you describe your quilting style?
All over the place! Not sure really. Isn't it for others to describe your style?!
Where do you find inspiration for your quilts?
Do you like to follow patterns or create your own designs (or a bit of both)?
Bit of both. For something like the Camelot quilt I bought the pattern because all the complicated maths is done for you. A lot of times I look at a quilt I like and I can usually work out how the blocks are constructed so I don't buy the pattern, I just get cutting. Is that bad?!
|Alison's Camelot quilt|
Do you think living where you do influences the way you quilt?
Absolutely. It's a small island (population 62,000) with no quilt shop and no opportunity to get in the car and drive off up the road to meet another quilter. I buy all my quilting needs off the Internet. We are lucky in that there are no import taxes here so I buy my fabric from the US, as even with the postage factored in, it is much cheaper than the UK.
Are you a member of a local guild?
There is no local guild. I know of a group of women who meet once a month in the evening but I am too busy providing a taxi service to our daughters so can't go. I also have a quilting friend who makes art quilts and she's in a small art quilt group which meets during the day.
Have you ever met any of your online sewing friends in real life?
I met my first online sewing friend for the first time last year. Leila (needleanddime on Flickr) was in a swap with me and we met in New York City and spent a day quilt shopping and chatting. She was even lovelier in person. I also met Leanne (SheCanQuilt) for a meal in London last summer when I was over with our younger daughter for the weekend. That same weekend I accidentally met Hadley/Flying Blind On A Rocket Cycle in a fabric shop. I was in there with our daughter and she walked in with a bunch of other quilt bloggers. It was very surreal because right from the beginning of starting my blog I had made a conscious decision no personal pictures. Other people have posted their pictures on their blogs so I knew it was her when she walked in. We'd struck up an Internet friendship so I thought it would be rude not to say something but I didn't want to gate crash her group. So I had a little five minute internal struggle with myself and when I spotted her looking at fabric on her own, I sidled up and said a few words! So 2 1/2 people is the sum total of my having met Internet quilting friends. Bit pathetic really!
|I have to show this cushion that Alison made because it lives with meeee!|
How did you decide to start your blog?
Because I wanted to enter Amy's Blogger's Quilt Festival. I took THE most awful photo of a fairly basic quilt in terrible lighting and within an hour people had left comments. The computer was talking back to me!
What is your favourite thing about the online quilting community? And what is one thing that you would change, if you could?
Definitely the 'meeting' of people who get your hobby that people in real life don't get.
If I could change one thing it would be banning quilting book blog tours! I completely get that a quilt author needs to get their book out there but I'm afraid if someone's done a quilt book review and it's on a long journey with a bunch of other quilters I zone out. You know you're going to be told the same thing, that the book really is very wonderful and you really need to buy it. And the nail in the coffin for me is asking people to leave reviews on Amazon etc. I hugely admire people who are constructively honest with their opinions and don't get completely sucked into the vortex that is the well-oiled quilt marketing machine. While I appreciate some quilt bloggers are looking to make a business out of their blogging, I would like to see more transparency in their tie ups with companies.
Many newbie quilters starting out now are getting their information from the Internet. Is it fair the information they read is biased because of commercial link-ups to blogs? And what happened to constructive opinions? It seems because of these commercial tie-ins we are afraid to share our real thoughts. I don't mean being unnecessarily unkind, I mean having a different point of view to the norm and not being afraid to give or air that point of view. Surely we'll all learn something from expressing our differing views rather than all politely agreeing with each other or not saying anything at all? (Well you did ask!)
|I'm pretty sure Alison was working on this quilt when I started reading her blog. I thought omg, this lady is insane and I love it!|
Your Soy Amado project is amazing - could you tell me a little bit about how you got started (and what it involves, for my readers' benefit).
We were in Mexico City over the Christmas period and to cut a long story short we visited a home for former street children to help hand out Christmas presents. You have no idea how something is going to affect you. I had given a small baby quilt but the reaction to it was so lovely. They couldn't believe someone had made something especially for them. That made me feel even more guilty because I hadn't made something especially for them: I'd taken one of my quilts that I thought was 'OK' and thought 'that will do - I've done my bit'.
But that was what we were all doing: a football team had donated some of their old football shirts (as in old design) and another company had donated some cheap clothes and toys and I just stood there and thought we were all passing on stuff we didn't really want any more - they deserved more than OK or another company's cast offs. No one had given them the best, something special just for them.
Afterwards, I talked with one of the ladies involved with supporting the home and asked her about quilts. She thought it was a good idea so I resolved to try and get a quilt on every bed.
|Soy Amado No. 31 - my personal favourite, so far.|
I knew I couldn't expect people to make whole quilts ( which would have been a whole lot less work for me) and it was Nicolette (Dutchcomfort) who suggested quilt blocks to me. And then the idea of quilted blocks came to me as I thought I could construct the quilts far more quickly this way.
I put a request on my blog for quilted 12 1/2" blocks and although it started quite slowly, the appeal has slowly gained momentum. I even joined Instagram so I could reach more people, having told myself a blog was enough of a time-sucker and to stay clear of IG!
I am aware though that not everyone shares my zealous enthusiasm for this project. If you're interested, since posting about the quilts, comments have dropped off from their normal levels and quite a few people who used to comment quite regularly on my blog have stopped altogether. I'm not sure if it's because they feel awkward about commenting because they haven't sent me anything or that I'm boring the pants off them. Either way, if you do something like this, don't automatically expect everyone who comments on your blog to stick their hand up and help you.
That said, I have been hugely touched by the generosity of everyone who has and am completely aware that I could not have produced the amount of quilts I have done without the support I have had. There is another delivery going in June when I should find out how many more quilts I still need to make.
|A lovely pile of quilts Alison has put together for the Soy Amado project.|
Confession time - how many quilts do you have in your house right now?
Not that many actually - maybe around 15. I give most of them away. I love giving away what I know the other person can't buy. It's a priceless, personal gift.
Do you do any crafts other than quilting?
Nope - in between work, family life and quilting there isn't really much left over for anything else!
Where do you see your quilting going - is it a career or a hobby for you and would you like to change that?
I'm going nowhere fast! It will always be a hobby. I love my day job (most of the time) with quilting as my creative release. If I think of quilting as more than a hobby then that means sewing things I don't want to with fabric I don't particularly like and that's not fun for me. There are more than enough people out there wanting to change their quilting from a hobby into a business without me joining the ever-growing queue!
Do you have any tips or tricks or things that have changed your quilting life that you'd like to share?
Do what you want to do the way you want to do it. Don't follow the crowd as ultimately your creative journey will be more rewarding.
|Another hand pieced beauty.|
What is your favourite part of the quilting process (and what's your least favourite part)?
Everything and nothing! Possibly choosing the fabrics (the more the better) has a slight edge.
Are there any quilting techniques you haven't tried yet but that you'd like to?
Can't think of any.
What's something about you that people might be surprised to know?
I don't know?! What would people like to know? First person to leave a question in the comments section, I promise to give an honest answer to. How does that sound?!
Thank you so much to Alison for participating in this series, and for her full and frank answers! I think her advice about doing what you want to do, the way you want to do it, is really great and applies whether you're just starting out or are an experienced quilter. Pop over to Alison's blog, Little Island Quilting, and check out all the other lovely things she's made.