Hi, I’m Kelly Wilkinson.
Crafter, journalist,
middle sister, more...


the beauty and the wreckage

It started with hamburgers, then ramped up to a short order breakfast, then crescendo’ed in a full-on, slam-down, cook-off.
That was the natural progression when Sarah rented a house with a professional kitchen in Mendocino. Seven of us duked it out over a griddle, grill, professional wok, four convection ovens and six burners.
Amazingly I throttled the competition with my dark horse entry: honey-roasted pears and grilled pork served on garlic-rubbed toasts with yellow peppers, parsley, and a dollop of greek yogurt. But when it came to light the next morning that my pork came pre-marinated, there was hell to pay.

See some of the action here.


you harvest some, you lose some

We thought we were so clever when we set up the drip irrigation in the veggie patch to keep watering while we were away. When we left, there were clusters of still-green cherry tomatoes practically dripping from the vines, and the silks sprouting from the corn looked promising.

But you might guess what happened next. Either our downstairs neighbors or subletters turned the water off, so instead of coming home to a late September harvest, we came home to scorched tomato plants and corn that couldn't be paddled back to life.

It was a heartbreaker. But not all was lost. Leave it to the sturdy cold-weather carrots and potatoes to pull through.

As soon as I can face the destruction in the rest of the garden, I’m ripping up the veggie graveyard and putting in more winter faves: onion, garlic, cauliflower, parsnips.

And peas, because I’m still a hopeless gardening optimist.  


no excuse for cold tea

Tea cozies are a dicey subject around here. My husband has been wanting me to make one for years, and despite making one for my sister’s French press, our teapot still sits naked on the kitchen counter. Whenever Mike reminds me of this, I remind him of his famed coq au vin recipe that he's been promising to make for me for, oh, about a decade. Snap! It's always so good to have something in the can.

But our teapot may soon be clothed in this little felt number. I’ve seen this book at my local bookstore and think it is so adorable that it breaks my heart a little. You can see more of these projects here, and even download this pattern for a limited time here

I can almost smell the victory coq au vin.


rubber bands as therapy

I find that when I am steaming mad that I do not keep better track of my digital photos and they’re clogging up my entire computer and that little trivial pursuit pie is endlessly spinning, that it is helpful to turn to a simple, satisfying task like tidying the rubber bands. This prevents me from doing things like throwing knives at the floor.


the days of my irish life

The thing that happens when we go to Ireland is that we power down our work brains completely and see what percolates up to the surface. Some days that means reading by the fire for hours and walking around in a kind of lovely gauziness from all the fictional lives sloshing around our brains. This time, one of the books I read was Away but Amy Bloom, and when I finished, I sat in silence for a long time, in a kind of exhausted awe. Like Lisel Mueller said, "What luxury, to be so happy that we can grieve over imaginary lives."

Other days, we charge out into the world. But the difference in Ireland is that we charge out with a singular purpose. All of a sudden, the one and only thing that needs to be done is to pull on a pair of wellies and examine hedgerows for jam opportunities. A complicated and beautiful universe reveals itself in the thick greenery growing along country lanes, and a simple plan for the evening trips out ahead of us. Boil blackberries. Strain. Pour into old whiskey bottle and top with brandy. 

Our couple weeks there were studded with these single-minded pursuits. Among the domestic highlights were making a dessert from seaweed, a peppery pesto from nasturtium leaves, and a whole heap of flower arrangements from an afternoon spent collecting armfuls of wildflowers.

I checked a couple books out of the local library, and kept my to-do list, almost like an artifact from another life.


back from the old sod

Overall, we did very little other than cook and walk and read and tend the fire. But before all of that, we rocked out at a music and art festival called Electric Picnic that was so tasty and creative and constantly surprising that I kind of wanted to eat it. Walking around the green, green grass, you’d stumble across strange and enchanting setups in the woods, gather under a Moroccan tent for some tea, hit the music, and so much more.

I wasn't very loyal to the camera, but here’s a little of what it looked like:




There is something weirdly satisfying about someone recognizing something in you that you didn’t see yourself. Maybe it’s the narcissist in me, but when Maggie Mason recently announced that beverages are my thing, it felt like a high school boyfriend passing me a note with something sweet and enlightening.

And it was uncanny because I was in Ireland, reading a gorgeous book on the world of preserves and syrups. Blackberries happened to be out in all their fat and juicy glory, so I skipped jam and made a blackberry-bay leaf kind of cassis, strained through paper towels. Soon I was adding dashes of the thick, dark syrup to white wine, fizzy water, and champagne. Plus it doubled as a dessert sauce. Hooray, nature!

PS: all of you who are voting for my husband, I love you.


give the man some love

I’m back from Ireland and have much to report in the way of restfulness, nasturium pesto, the sex pistols and wellies. But before that, I have a favor to ask. Because I know you are all wonderful people who love nothing more than someone plucky and enterprising, let me introduce you to my husband Mike. Long story short, he invented a great gizmo called the Jimi wallet that’s made from recycled plastic. He left a stable career in advertising to peddle his idea to 13 plastic manufacturers before one of them would listen. He single-handedly willed the wallet into reality, and in the process, turned our spare bedroom into Jimi’s global headquarters.

Now, his small company has a chance to crack through to the next level, but he needs help. Forbes magazine picked Mike and Jimi as one of 20 finalists in their small business competition. Voters pick the top five, who get a crack at winning $100K to kick their business to the next level.

Mike was bouncing around the top few slots for a while, but all of a sudden dropped down the ranks. And it’s crunch time – voting ends in a few short days. So if you could be so kind, please help my incredibly deserving hubby, who’s tenacity and dedication would make your heart burst. Click here to vote!

And here’s an annoying but essential part of the whole thing: after you vote, Forbes will send you an e-mail confirmation. You have to click on that link to make the vote count, and it might end up in your junk folder, so please keep a lookout.

Thank you all. So much. If you could have been along to witness the ride that has been creating this business, you might want to marry my husband. But at the very least, you would want him to get a chance to prove himself alongside the big guys.



Off to Ireland, to hole up in our favorite place: a tiny little cottage near the sea with stone walls about three feet thick, where a boiler behind the fireplace heats our bathwater. It’s where my father-in-law was born, and where we go about once a year to take long walks in wellies and drink milky Irish tea while we read in bed for hours in the mornings and then head into town for a pint and do it all over again the next day. And yes, I realize how insanely fortunate we are.


september podcast

Let's not shift into another season without relishing the end of summer. And there are no better people to help us do this than the staff of Sunset magazine, who have been setting the standard for growing in the West for decades. For this month's podcast, we visit their test garden as they elevate humble backyard crops into a sophisticated feast that can inspire us all. Join me!

See more of their garden here. Find out what's happening in their garden right now, download calendars, crop lists, and more right here..

And remember, you can now find the Make Grow Gather podcasts in iTunes. Please subscribe to help my fledgling show, and thanks for listening!

(click here to download podcast)


deadline skirt

I am such a deadline girl, and vacations are no different. I bought this fabric probably two years ago, then I added these brown thistles in a silkscreening class, but still, the fabric sat silently in the cupboard until the night when really I should be making sure my clothes are washed and the passport isn’t expired. But I can’t help it. It’s such a little slice of heaven to sit here in this quiet late night, listening to only the spring of my shears and the dishwasher gurgling in the background.

(who knows what I am doing in this photo. probably micromanaging my husband taking the photo and he rightfully got sick of that very quickly and as a result, I only have this weird image. serves me right)

I kept the bottom and top unfinished to just fold over, for that graceful-slouchy look, ala ballet dancers during warmup.  And lo and behold, when I trimmed the hem, I kinda liked the effect so now it’s reversible, just like that. Go, go, gadget skirt!


week o'baby gifts, part 3

The last entry in my mini-series:

My sister first started making custom onesies a few years ago, and they are seriously just as much of a hoot to come up with as they are to give. I use squeezable fabric paints with fine little tips on them because I find that those fat fabric markers tug at the fabric and do a crappy job of writing. Go funny with your messages and it can really liven up that part of the shower when you're all stumped as to what to say when the breast pump comes your way.


week o'baby gifts, part 2

Today and Friday I'll continue with the baby gifts. This was for my niece’s 2nd birthday, which fell a couple days after her younger brother was born. She was a little shell-shocked but such a great sport, so my husband and I wore necklaces over to her house to help make a big fuss. The handy thing is that after you're done wearing them, they can decorate a birthday chair, and then a bedroom door, where I think they're still hanging.

The happy paper is from here.


week o'baby gifts

I am semi-ashamed to post this because I owe so many baby gifts, but it’s been hard to keep up lately. So this week, I'll post some of my go-to pressies. Today, the baby duvet. One side is flannel, and the other cotton, sandwiching two layers of batting. I’ve made several of these over the years, but because I was working with a few layers, it would all twist and feed into the machine at different speeds, no matter how vigilant I was.

Then I met a little gizmo that changed everything: the walking foot. Just pop one on, and it literally hops right along your fabric, feeding the top and bottom and middle layers just so. Heaven, I tell you.


dog chew as accessory

In the never-ending quest to get our still-puppy to stop using our niece as a chew toy, we happened upon this bone at the pet store. It’s already been stripped of meat, so we can give it to her in other people's places without worrying about her dropping hunks of marrow and muscle in the cracks of their couch. That's a bonus in and of itself.

But then, when I brought it home, I couldn’t help but think that you could use two of these $5.99 gems as very au currant candlesticks and no one would be the wiser. Suddenly, everything started looking like a riff on skeletons, like these salt and pepper shakers in the background.


paint chip redeux

Please forgive the reprise here, but it works in musicals, doesn’t it? I am so enamored of making these at the moment that I made another batch and wanted to share them. I needed to send out a pile of thank you’s recently so I went for the time-saving option of using rub-on transfers from here. Start to finish, this only took about an hour to whip up a few.

And p.s. to the previous entry, I switched to spray mounting them onto card stock. After that, simply cut out (I only use 3 squares from a 4 square paint swatch), rub on the transfer and think of something worthy to say on the back.


stand out in sea of black suitcases

We’re off to see the in-laws in Ireland soon, and while I should be doing sensible things like cleaning and packing for the subletters, I am instead whipping up luggage tags.

I did this very quickly, so the seams are a little wobbly, but this is a breeze if you can sew. It’s helpful to think of this as making a fabric frame. All you need is a 5 inch piece of bias tape and two pieces of contrasting fabric. The first piece of fabric should be 4 ½ by 3 ½ inches, and the second piece should be 5 ½ by 4 ½ inches.

Cut the first piece (in my photo this is the black fabric) in half horizontally so you have two pieces of fabric, 2/ ¼ by 3 ½ inches. Sew bias tape across just one long edge on each piece of fabric.

Center both of those pieces in the second piece of fabric, with the bias tape edges overlapping and wrong sides facing. You should have a one inch “border” with the wrong side of the fabric facing. Fold each side in twice, press, and sew in place. Stitch an 8 inch loop of ribbon to back of tag holder.  


new talisman

In the crowded aisles of the American Craft Show this past weekend, Connie Verrusio’s work was a beacon. I mean, look at this stuff. She makes it all from found objects like coins and slices of old films and watch parts. Or little mechanical gems like cogs that she has cast. Then she displays everything on these old blueprints, and happens to be lovely and charming and cool. I was totally smitten with the whole scene.

I snapped up this Lady Liberty necklace and feel like she's my new talisman.


weekend, come back

For me, one of the telltale signs of a kickass weekend away is hair that still smells like a campfire when you shower on Monday morning. Not to mention stumbling upon a race at the farmer's market that involved a pile of kids cheering on their homemade zucchini racecars.



august podcast

It's the middle of the month, and that means it's time for another podcast. In this show, I talk with textile designer Yaling Hou, creator of the gorgeous Flowie line of fabrics and products. You'll also hear a spooky-funny bee story, and the soundtrack for the beach chair makeover. Please join me!

You can also now find the show listed in iTunes. Just search for Make Grow Gather in the top right corner and please subscribe to help out my fledging show!