Ice dye vest top

digital print ice dye top

I used to do a lot of dress making for myself, then quilting took over and I haven’t done anything for years. With my recent interest in fabric design for digital printing I was inspired to get my patterns out and make something again with this cotton knit material that started life as an ice dyed fabric.

ice dyeing

I photographed the finished fabric and then manipulated it in Photoshop so that I had a mirrored image that I could use for a repeat pattern. I then had this digitally printed by Spoonflower on an organic cotton knit. I haven’t done much sewing with knits so I chose a simple pattern, but I still had to adapt it so that I could the arms and neckline using a knit binding instead of a traditional bias binding that the pattern called for. I was able to watch a class on Craftsy to help with this: “Sewing fashion knits” by Linda Lee.


I got out my old Janome overlocker which again I haven’t used for years and was delighted to find that it worked perfectly.

I made bound armholes and neckline following the directions in Linda’s class and found these gave a really nice finish. The soft colours of the print look great with jeans, although I think it’s look great with something white too. Now I’ve done this I am keen to experiment with more of my iced dyed fabrics and maybe even some of my hand dyes too. If anyone wants to make their own version of this top or anything else for that matter the fabric design is available in my Spoonflower shop in a wide range of different fabrics

digital print ice dye top



SAQA Oceania Blog Hop 2016: Dancing Ferns

Dancing Ferns

I rejoined SAQA (Studio Art Quilts Associates) earlier this year and although I am based in Brunei, on the island of Borneo I was able to join the Oceania Group. Every year SAQA hold a benefit auction in which members donate 12” x 12” quilts which are then auctioned to raise funds. This year’s auction start on September 16th and you can find out more details on the SAQA web site. The auction is divided into three sections and my piece is in the third section taking place from October 3rd-9th.This year I entered a quilt for the first time and it is included along with 35 other quilts in the Oceania Collection and you can see details of these and the other participants here

Most of the work I do is inspired by the natural world around me and my auction piece “Dancing Ferns #1” is no exception and I have gone from the tropical rain forest to my garden where I have many of these graceful ferns growing and swaying gently in the breeze.

For the background ferns I made freezer paper templates and then used fabric paints and an old toothbrush to splatter paint on a piece of my hand dyed fabric. Using this technique gives a more subtle effect thank filling in the area with solid colour.

stencilled background ferns

I then fused the foreground ferns and appliquéd in place using a small satin stitch and fine 50wt Aurifil cotton thread because I wanted the stitching to blend and not be a dominant feature of the design.

appliquéd ferns

Finally I stitched rows of echo quilting around all the ferns again using the 50wt cotton thread. The echo quilting helps to give a sense of movement which is why I named these Dancing Ferns.


The next person following on from me in the 2016 Oceania Blog Hop is:

Carolyn Collins on 12th September

And before me was Rasa Mauragis

How to add a single fold binding to your quilt


People often want a reminder on how to sew on their binding once they finish their quilt or wall hanging so I have put together this tutorial for my blog. It also contains instructions for adding a sleeve if you are going to hang your finished quilt.

These instructions are for adding a single fold binding to your quilt or wall hanging using a ⅜” seam and with the finished width of ⅜” for the binding.

First measure the outside edges of your quilt or wall hanging to determine how many strips you will need to cut from your binding fabric. For example, if your quilt measures 20” x 16” you will need a total of 72” of binding plus a bit extra to go round the corners and for joining, so if your fabric is 45” wide you would need to cut 2 strips.

Cut your required number of strips from the width of the fabric 1¾ inches wide. Using your ruler and rotary cutter, cut the ends of each strip at a 45˚ angle, the join right sides together as shown to form one continuous strip using a ¼” seam. I find it helps to mark the ¼” seam on your binding strips. Strips joined using a 45˚ angle like this are stronger and almost invisible when viewed from the right side.

joining the binding strips

joining the binding strips

After stitching trim off the little ends of fabric that stick out.

joined binding strips

Strips joined with a 45˚ seam and the ends trimmed off.

It’s important that you have trimmed all the edges and squared up the corners before you attach your binding.

Lay the binding right side down onto the front (right side) of your quilt, stitch round all the edges with a ⅜ inch seam. Start your stitching 4-5 inches away from the end of the binding and leave that end loose, its good to start about mid way down one of the sides of the quilt.

To miter the corners, when you get close to the corner stop stitching and make a mark ⅜“ away from the edge. Continue stitching until you reach this mark and then stitch diagonally out to the outer edge.

Stitch from the 3/8" intersection mark diagonally to the outer edge.

Stitch from the 3/8″ intersection mark diagonally to the outer edge.

Cut you thread and then fold the binding up at a 45˚ angle, then fold down so that it is level with the edge of your quilt. Start sewing at the fold and then continue to the next corner and repeat the steps.

Fold the binding strip up on the diagonal

Fold the binding strip up on the diagonal

Fold down again so that the fold is level with the edge of your quilt and start stitching.

Fold down again so that the fold is level with the edge of your quilt and start sticking.

Stitch until you are about 8-9 inches away from where you first started stitching and stop
Joining the binding.

Lay the quilt flat with the binding on top and then mark with a pin ½” away from the edge of the 45˚ angle.

Put a pin 1/2" from edge of binding

Put a pin 1/2″ from edge of binding

Lay the other end of the binding over the top of the first one and make a mark or insert a second pin where it overlaps the underneath pin. This will be your cutting line for the other end of the binding. Cut this end at 45˚. I find it helps to draw a line on the top binding to show which direction to cut the angle.

Lay the other end of the binding on top and mark

Lay the other end of the binding on top and mark

Lay the second piece on top and mark.
Join the two ends with a ¼” seam, press the seam open, and then stitch the last part of the seam.

Stitch the ends of the binding together using a 1/4" seam.

Stitch the ends of the binding together using a 1/4″ seam.

Hanging sleeve
Next attach the hanging sleeve if you are making a wall hanging.
For the hanging sleeve cut a piece of fabric from the backing fabric the same width as your finished quilt and 9 ½” wide.
Make a seam at each end by turning in ¼” and then ¼” again to the wrong side, press and stitch in place close to the inside edge.
Once the stitching is complete fold in half lengthways and then press lightly to mark the lower edge.
Centre the hanging sleeve on the back of the quilt, having the raw edges even with the top edge of your quilt and then stitch in place using a ⅜” seam. Secure each end by backstitching.
To complete, turn the binding to the back of the quilt, fold in the raw edge and slip stitch in place on the back. Make sure that your stitches are only on the back of the quilt and don’t show through to the front.

Binding turned to the wrong side ready to be hand stitched in place.

Binding turned to the wrong side ready to be hand stitched in place.

Stitch the hanging sleeve in place last.

Stitch the hanging sleeve in place last

Stitch the hanging sleeve in place last. Make a fold and pin level with top of quilt to make extra room so you can insert a rod for hanging.

To make a little extra room in the sleeve so you can insert a hanging rod make a fold in the top of the hanging sleeve tube and align with the top edge of your quilt and pin in place. Now lay the sleeve flat and slip stitch the sides and lower edge in place. Don’t stitch the top edge. When this is unpinned there will be a small fold of loose fabric which will allow for the insertion of a hanging rod.


Fan Palms

I have just started work on a new series of  small wall hangings inspired by the fan palms in the Borneo rain forest. It’s been a while since I started a completely new project but this is one I have been thinking about doing for a while now and I finally got started after a recent trip to the forest.

fan palms Lambir

Unfortunately our walk was cut short by a big thunderstorm but not before I had taken plenty of fan palm photos, I then took one of these and made a number of crops so I can experiment with different views of the same design. I drew out my patterns in EQ7 because I want to later scale up any of the designs I particularly like.

I started off with making some freezer paper stencils and getting my old Painstiks out to make the background palm fronds.

stencils and paintstiks

I then traced the design of the palm frond onto fusible web and applied that to some hand dyed fabric. Have chosen to use raw edge appliqué for these small quilts because there are a lot of very narrow inside curves, so I layered up the top with batting and backing then stitched round all the edges of the palm fronds using a matching thread. I then used a darker thread to stitch all the ridges in the leaves.

fused shape applied over background stencil

Before doing this the design had looked very flat, but stitching in all the lines brings the design to life and gives it texture.


Finally I used a dark variegated thread to make lines of dense echo quilting in the background which again helps to make the palm frond stand out.

Fan Palm square crop

Fan Palm, the square crop.

Fan Palm fronds over stencilled background.

Fan Palm fronds over stencilled background.

making a tea towel

I received another batch of samples and fabrics of my designs from last week and amongst them were these orchid patterns.

orchid design fabrics

They are all based on watercolour paintings I did a while ago from a beautiful bouquet of orchids I was given. The purple spotted orchid I had printed onto linen/cotton canvas and I loved how vibrantly the colours have come out.

purple spotted orchid fabric

I decided to make this fabric up into tea towels as 1 yard of fabric divides perfectly to make 4 tea towels approximately 17″ x 26″ (43cm x 66cm). For each tea towel I cut off the unprinted selvedges, then folded over 1/4″, pressed with a stream iron and then folded over another 1/4″. I stitched the sides first then top and bottom. including a short length of tape in the top corner for a hanging loop.

hanging loop

The fabric is quite thick so I found it helped to cut off a small mount of fabric across the corners before stitching the top and bottom edges. I used a #14 Topstitch needle, but a #16 might have made the stitching a little easier. My newly made tea towel now hangs in pride of place in my kitchen.

orchid tea towel

First attempts at fabric design

Driftwood cushion

I am between quilting projects at the moment so while waiting for inspiration I have been having a go at designing my own fabrics and was excited to receive the first samples of my work last week from Spoonflower. I was really happy with how they turned out. They were even better than I was expecting because being my first attempt at creating repeat patterns it took quite a lot of trial and error to get the designs as I wanted them but I enjoyed the process and can’t wait to try some more ideas.

fabric samples from Spoonflower

I have used my quilt designs, drawings and photographs for inspiration for the fabrics. The gecko fabric is from one of my appliqué designs, and the flowers from drawings and watercolour sketches of periwinkle flowers that grow in our garden.

Inspiration for my periwinkle designs

The Driftwood fabric started off as a photo that I took of some driftwood on the local beach and then the image was mirrored and then mirrored again so that I could use it for a repeat design. I made this up into a cushion and I think it would look really great with outdoor furniture or very elegant on a plain cream, burgundy or back sofa or arm chair.

Driftwood cushion on chair


Ice Dyeing

This last week I have been experimenting with ice dyeing. It’s not the most obvious thing to be doing in the tropics but a good supply of ice cubes and crushed ice instead of snow works very well.

Ice dyed fabric

Ice dyed fabric

There’s a good tutorial on ice dyeing on the Dharma Trading website and I used this as my guide. Basically the ice covered fabric needs to sit on a rack in a container where the liquid from the melted ice and dye can drain away. I looked around to see what I could use and found that some old flower pots in the garden were ideal and some round, metal kitchen racks were the prefect fit to go inside the pot.

fabric arranged on a rack in the pot.

fabric pre-soaked in soda ash is arranged on a rack in the pot.

The pot is deep enough to allow a good layer of ice to cover all the fabric. I found that a mixture of ice cubes and crushed ice worked very well and didn’t melt too quickly.

the fabric layered in the pot and covered in a mix of ice cubes and crushed ice.

the fabric layered in the pot and covered in a mix of ice cubes and crushed ice.

On top of this I sprinkled the powdered dye. I use Procion MX fabric dyes for all my dyeing, and when applying the dye to the surface of the ice using a small nylon sieve helps give a more even distribution of colour. Using more than one colour gives a more interesting effect, but I found that some colours worked much better than others and you need to make sure to add enough dye powder to give the fabric a good colour.

a mix of blue and golden yellow dyes

a mix of blue and golden yellow dyes

red, fuchsia and gold dyes, looks good enough to eat!

red, fuchsia and gold dyes, looks good enough to eat!

I left these to sit overnight to allow all the ice to melt. Here I used a colander suspended over a pot and this also worked well.

The last traces of ice slowly melting

The last traces of ice slowly melting

I left the fabric to sit overnight until all of the ice had melted. Then comes the fun of seeing how the fabrics have turned out.

The results are unpredictable and beautiful as the dyes blend and mingle almost like watercolours to create delicate and subtle colour variations.

reds, pinks and yellow

reds, pinks and yellow

darks greens and blue

darks greens and blue

To avoid having white or very pale colour in the background you can also use a piece of fabric that has already been dyed. These fabrics will be wonderful for art quilts, appliqué, or even some contemporary patchwork or quilting design and I can’t wait to use them.

Beautiful greens

Beautiful greens

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