A JEDBURGH student won a national quilt competition with a piece from her coursework.
Mum-of-two Ali Halley had to finish two pieces as part of her City and Guilds textile art course.
“I thought if I’m going to put all this work in then I’m going to enter it into a competition,” she told us.
So she put one of them into the Scottish Quilt Championships in Edinburgh at the end of last month.
And her ‘Tall Trees’ piece won the ‘theme’ award, the ‘art quilt’ category award and then scooped the overall Scottish championship.
“I was very surprised I won. I had thought I might do something in the theme category but I’m not quite sure how I did it! It comes down to the design as well as the sewing I think,” said Mrs Halley.
She developed her ideas from photographs and sketches, hand-dyed the fabrics and embroidered her work by machine.
“The design was inspired by the beauty of local trees, laden with snow through the last winter, with a deep layer of glistening snow beneath,” explained Mrs Halley.
The retired curtain maker, her husband Stephen, a communications manager, and their two teenagers moved to the Borders, near Jedburgh, eight years ago.
She said: “I did bits and pieces up here – a bit of restoration work for Floors Castle – then last year I decided ‘that’s it, I’m going to study’, just to do something more creative.
“I have sewn all my life – I can’t remember when I’ve not sewn – and I draw and paint, and I wanted to put it all together, that’s what I’m aiming to do: a combination of sewing with art.”
She so enjoyed learning to dye material that she now makes and sells unique hand-dyed fabrics and threads to textile artists and quilters, along with a range of basic fabrics and scrims.
“I want to do some textile art myself and, once I feel a bit more established, I would like to teach.
“Sewing is in my blood, it must come from previous generations. At school I did sewing class and made things, I have always made things.
“My parents taught us to be practical, make and do. And I love the historic side of sewing, the embroidery – it’s amazing the needlework that’s been done in the past .”
She is a member of the Embroiderers Guild and the Quilters Guild, and has recently been invited to join Studio 12, a group of artists near Newcastle.
“The Borders is fantastic, it’s an amazing area for textiles and very creative, and there is a growing network of people teaching and revitalising crafts such as felting, weaving, spinning, and dyeing, “ said Mrs Halley.
She also knits, makes her own clothes and “does anything to do with art”, such as screen printing.
She grows the family’s vegetables and, along with the garden, the restoration of the family home is her job.
She won £750 worth of prizes, including vouchers towards a sewing machine and books – and says her next challenge will be to win the UK-wide National Quilt Show: “I think that’s the only way to top that (the Scottish Championship).”