Memory Star – 4 patch block

I don’t often do any traditional patchwork piecing these days but I do still enjoy it when I do. I’m teaching a nine block sampler quilt course at the moment and wanted to refresh my memory and make a new class sample so last weekend I made this Memory Star block.

Memory Star Block

 

 

This block has always been one of my favourites and I raided my stash of batiks to make it up in these lovely autumnal colours of burgundy, tan and greens.

The block is a good revision of techniques that we’ve already covered in class already. Half square triangles and flying geese blocks but in smaller sizes so requiring accurate cutting and piecing.

Half square triangles for the corner blocks.

Half square triangles for the corner blocks.

Half square triangles for the corner blocks.

Flying geese blocks for the spokes of the star.

Flying Geese blocks

Careful pressing and accurate stitching make the blocks easy to put together.

Careful pressing and interlocking seams make it easier to piece accurately.

Careful pressing and interlocking seams make it easier to piece accurately.

It’s not a difficult block but it does need some care when putting it all together and making sure all the half square triangles are going the correct way. It’s easy to make mistakes!

It's easy to make a mistake when putting it all together!

It’s easy to make a mistake when putting it all together!

The same block made in a different colour scheme combining some of my hand dyed fabric, batiks and a print.

Memory Star in grey and purple

more hand dyes

A spent a few days last week dyeing fabrics as some of my stock of certain colours was starting to get low. I tend to use more greens in my work than anything else and I always need dark greens for backgrounds and borders and bright, vibrant greens for foliage. These fabrics are often very hard to find in commercial fabrics and sometimes I will dye a piece of fabric several times to get just the colour and texture I want.

some of my recently dyed greens

some of my recently dyed greens

I also like to use dark blue-blacks for backgrounds and borders and these too have a much more interesting depth of colour to them after a couple of dyes. Paler colours are also great for backgrounds.

dark blue and greysLately I’ve been using more reds, oranges and golds which are great for sunset scenes or vibrant tropical flowers, and look striking on a dark background. When I have done the Festival of Quilts in the UK my greens are always the first to get snapped up, but here in Brunei  people seem to love these bright colours. Maybe it’s the tropical climate.

These vibrant oranges and reds are great for sunsets or tropical flowers.

These vibrant oranges and reds are great for sunsets or tropical flowers.

In my last batch of dyeing I also did some paler pinks and purples which are also lovely for flower appliqué. They make me think of delicate wild flowers in the Spring time.

pastel pinks and purples

Flying Home

It has been an awful long time since I updated my blog but one of my new year’s resolutions for 2016 is to try and write more regularly, so here goes with my first post for 2016.

I recently tried out a new technique using up scraps of leftover hand dyed fabrics. They were just thin strips which I would normally have thrown away. I laid them out and fused them onto a piece of backing fabric. As the fabric scraps I had were oranges, golds and reds I created a sunset sky and then as I liked the effect I added dark blues for sea.

narrow fabric strips laid out on background

Like this there were a lot of raw edges exposed so next came the fun part. I got out a selection of various threads: rayon, polyester, cotton, some plain some variegated and of different weights too and free motion stitched across the surface. The stitching helps to blend the colours.

free motion stitching on background using a variety of threads The scene needed something else so I added the silhouette of an egret which I’d photographed on the beach a few weeks ago and created a pattern using #EQ7.

silhouette of egret on stitched background Finally a layer of batting and backing and more free motion stitching and a narrow binding to finish off the project.

Egret flying home across the south China sea

Flying Home

My new Janome

I’ve been back home just over three weeks now and slowly getting back into my normal routine and enjoying my new Janome 8900QCP.

I already have the 6600 and the Horizon 7700 but since the beginning of the year I had been thinking about switching my 7700 for the newer model. I was put off by the price but when I was at the Festival of Quilts they were doing a special deal which made them very attractive. I didn’t actually get a chance to try the machine until literally ten minutes before the show closed as the stand was always busy and I didn’t have the time to be able to wait. With the show closing I had to come to a quick decision, so I went for it. The stress I had with the shipping to Brunei almost made we wish I hadn’t bothered, but once it arrived I was very glad I had.

The machine is very similar to the 7700 but as it says in the blurb they’ve kept the best features and added quite a lot of small improvements  which make quite a difference to the quilter. I love the extra large foot pedal which stays put when you are sewing rather than sliding off across the floor.

They’ve got rid of the convertible foot plate and there are now two separate foot plates. I never had a problem with the convertible plate but was always worried I would forget about it and use it with the wrong stitch. The new foot plates are very easy to switch too, no more screws but a small lever to release, then they just snap back into place.

I do a lot of appliqué so was keen to check out all the available stitches. I think there are a few more than on the previous machine. There is a memory setting which enables you to set your preferred settings for any stitch which is very useful. (I think the 7700 had this feature but I never got round to using it)

Experimenting with a few different threads and stitches

I also tried out some setting for “invisible” machine appliqué.

I will also be doing a lot of free motion quilting on this machine and rather than have to fiddle around with tension I used the blue dot bobbin which I already had for my 6600. This bobbin is designed with a different tension, especially suitable for quilting, and I found it worked perfectly in these samples.

Of course Oscar had to come and try out the machine too!

Forest Giant revisited

It doesn’t seem like like I’ve been back in Brunei a week already. In some ways it feels like I’ve been back longer, and the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham feels like an age away. Having my own stand there for the first time was a great experience, and I really enjoyed meeting and chatting to so many lovely people from all over the world, as well as catching up with a few ‘old’ friends. Thanks to everybody who came by, it was really a pleasure talking to you all. Lots of people wanted patterns so that’s something I’m going to work on for the future.

One of the wall hangings that many people commented on was my “Forest Giant”, a new version of  apiece I first made several years ago. A lot of people were interested to know how I made it so here it is again with some pictures showing the various stages.

I started off with a piece of my hand dyed fabric for the background, then added a few strips of fabric for tree trunks and then the main tree.
When I made this design before I used a single piece of fabric for the base of the forest floor but this time I decided to add various hand dyed strips to give more variety.
Then began the very time consuming process of adding all the leaves. I used lots of different scraps of fabric to give depth to the design. I backed each scrap with fusible webbing, the cut leaf shapes. Each leaf was then added individually. I would do a batch then fuse in place a few at a time …… not a good time to sneeze or have one of the cats walk over my design board!
I continued in this way until the background was covered as much as I wanted it. Then it was time for the final details and free motion stitching to complete the piece. I used a large number of different threads to achieve the look I wanted.

Isle of Wight landscapes

While I was at The Festival of Quilts last year I was impressed by the beautiful landscape quilts by Kathleen Matthews. I bought her book “Stitched Textile Landscapes” but it is only now, six months later that I have had a  go at trying out her techniques, and this is what I came up with, inspired by some photos taken on the Isle of Wight when I was back there a couple of years ago.

This is the place where I was born and grew up so it has many fond memories for me.

My inspiration photo and a selection of my hand dyed fabrics for the background. The pieces were first pinned and then stitched in place, quite a fiddly job with all the small pieces.

The background assembled and stitched in place. It looks quite plain at this stage although already you get the feeling of depth. The fun part comes with the free motion stitching which really brings the design to life.

I used mostly rayon threads for the free motion embroidery, but a few cotton and polyester threads too, depending on what colours I needed for the look I wanted.

I was really pleased with the way this turned out so I decided to try another one based on another Isle of Wight photo. This time the view from Forelands beach where I used to live, looking across to Whitecliff Bay and Culver Down. I used to look out on this every day and have always wanted to make something inspired by this view.

The first stages before the thread embellishment. I didn’t have any hand dyed fabric the right colour for the sea but found a piece of piece of cloth I painted years ago which was just perfect.

The finished piece. I think there might have to be a series of these as I’m really enjoying making them and I have heaps of photos for inspiration and it makes quite a nice change to be doing work inspired by a different location, although this technique would probably work for some of my rain forest designs too.

Seed Pod Reflected

I started work on a new appliqué quilt wall hanging in November and just got it finished last week.

This design is inspired by the seed pods of the Pom Pom tree that one can find washed up on the beach here in Brunei.

I originally worked on this theme as part of my City and Guilds “Creative Quiltmaking” course, and the quilt I made, which was one of my assessment pieces was actually pieced. Even at the time I was doing it I wanted to make it again as an appliqué piece using my now hand dyed fabrics. I used one of my sketches to create a design in EQ7, and the theme was to do with using a mirrored image, so this is what I came up with for my pieced quilt.I later modified this design so I could use it for appliqué. This is the initial design.I felt the fabric needed more texture, so I hand embroidered every appliqué piece before applying to the background.  I still felt the design lacked something as there was a high empty gap between the two halves of the design, so I used some of my leftover cut out pieces and experimented with placing them in the middle. 

This looked much better and to balance the design I added two more pieces top and bottom and two pieces to the outer edges which ave more of the feel of the curves of the original seed pod. Detail of stitching. 

I echo quilted using a fine thread. 

Iban Design Continued

Recently I’ve been experimenting with the back basting method for hand appliqué after buying the excellent book “Back-Basting Appliqué Step by Step by Barbara J. Eikmeier. I have found it to be very effective and accurate so inspired by my sample pieces I decided to get out my Iban Design project to work on again. This project has been languishing in my sewing box for a while. I thought it was only a year but when I went back to my blog post Iban Design I discovered that I actually started work on it in 2010!

As I’m working on a dark background I found the easiest way to transfer the markings to the back of the quilt is to use my original freezer paper templates and a transparent overlay to ensure correct placement.

I then used a fine white marker to trace round the templates.

Basted and ready to start appliqué.

Work in progress. Funny how cat hairs get everywhere!

If at first you don’t succeed ……

Sometimes when you’re dyeing fabric the colours don’t always come out quite as you expect or as you want them to. The good thing is that almost always you can dye them again. Earlier in the year I was experimenting trying to get some good, rich chestnut browns but ended up with some very uninspiring dull oranges instead. Last week I decided to try over-dyeing these fabrics using dark brown, black or dark blue and ended up with these lovely autumnal pieces.

Just perfect for autumn leaves.

In my most recent batch of dyeing I was also experimenting with some yellow and blue combinations for foliage effects. For some reason the blue I used was very weak and completely washed out leaving me with a lot of bright yellow fabrics. I over-dyed these with a muted green and some black and got some gorgeous textured prints, which are going to be just perfect for backgrounds.

Artful Fabric Dyeing

Since I first started dyeing my own fabric as part of my City and Guilds course and discovering that it is something I love doing, I have dyed many, many yards of fabric, bought numerous books and done several online courses, but recently I haven’t been so happy with the results. It seems that every single person who writes about dyeing or does a class has a different method and dye recipe. The consequence is that I seem to have got confused trying all the different methods and am no longer sure what works best for me. There are so many variables when it comes to mixing the dyes, what quantity to use, how long to leave them how much water to use etc. and there is a huge variation between the different methods.

I find Linda Johansen’s Fabric Dyer’s Dictionary is useful when I want to dye a specific colour for something and sometimes I want fabrics without too much texture and colour variation, but I was looking for something that would give a bit more exciting results for other projects. Ann Johnston’s “Color by Accident” is another good book but I was still looking for a slightly different and more intuitive approach.

At the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham this year, I bought yet another book on dyeing in the hope that it might help me with my dilemma, “Tray Dyeing” by Leslie Morgan and Claire Benn. I found the book inspiring and I liked the fact that they approach the subject as artists rather than scientists, giving plenty of directions but also encouraging one to experiment.

I just mixed several colours to start as I wanted to see how these would turn out before dyeing a lot of fabric. I used golden yellow, a medium blue, turquoise and a little black, and made use of cheap local calico which I’d prewashed.

They recommend leaving a minimum of four hours and even better overnight, so as I was impatient to see the results I only left them to sit for four hours before rinsing. Straight away I could see that the fabrics looked very promising and I liked most of the results.

Golden yellow on its own.

Blue and turquoise.

Golden yellow and blue

Golden yellow and back.

The good thing about dyeing is that you can always overdue something that doesn’t turn out too well. I had a pale lemon yellow from a gradation I did which was a bit insipid, adding golden yellow really gave it some zing!

This yellow and blue also turned out well.

Now to go and buy some more fabric and try out some more combinations, and of course if you don’t like the results first time you can always dye them again.