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

Sunrise over the Belait

I have recently been commissioned to make a small wall hanging for a friend from some photos she’d taken of here early morning runs along beside the Belait River here in Kuala Belait. She’d collected some lovely photos of the sunrise over the river so the challenge was to put these together to create something special.

With the help of Photoshop I combined the above photo of the sunrise over the river with the following one of the palm silhouette.

I decided the best way to do the sky was to paint it using fabric paints and it took me half a dozen attempts before I was happy with the result. The difficulty was to get the subtle light of early morning without it looking too washed out, and not to have the colours too bright so that it looked more like a sunset. This was my final choice.

The next step was to audition fabrics for the greenery along the edge of the river, and the river itself. The greenery is a piece of hand dyed fabric and I will later add more shading and detail with the use of thread painting. The water was another challenge as I wanted to use something I already had rather than dyeing or painting more fabric. I have lots of batiks with the nice stripes which give the impression of water but none were the right colour. I decided to experiment with fabric paints, first on a small scrap, then on the full piece and the results were just as I wanted.

Next step will be to add the palm tree then some thread painting.


Quilting the stencilled designs

Having printed a number of designs using the splatter painting technique I chose the negative image of the tree creeper to finish and embellish. I used three different shades
of cotton variegated thread and one variegated silk for the hand quilting, and a box of mixed ‘bead soup’ for the embellishment.

I started off with a dark variegated thread near the base of the creeper, quite dense scatter stitching to replicate the density of the paint splatters and darkness in this area. As I moved upwards and outwards I gradually used lighter threads and less dense stitching.

To begin with I found that I was consciously thinking about where I was making each stitch but as I went on I got into a rhythm followingfrom dot to dot, adding a bead here and there where there were bigger splatters of paint.

Towards the outside edges of the piece, where there were far fewer paint splatters I used mostly the lightest threads and more random stitches.

I finished off the piece with a narrow binding and hanging sleeve and as I enjoyed the process so much and find the hand quilting very relaxing and easy to pick up at any spare moment, I’ve started quilting and embellishing one of the other pieces.

view of the back

Splatter Painting

For one reason or another it has been an age since I last updated my blog, so here goes with some of my latest work.As part of my Creative Quiltmaking course I have been experimenting with splatter painting, a technique I first tried out on paper a while ago using stencils, an old toothbrush and watercolour paints.

This time I used the same technique but using fabric paints and some of my hand dyed fabrics. I used some enlarged copies of my drawings of an ixora flower and jungle tree creeper to make my freezer paper templates. I used a craft knife to cut out the shapes carefully so that I could use both the positive and negative images.

I ironed the freezer paper templates onto my fabric and then used undiluted Pebeo transparent fabric paints, gradually building up layers of colour. It took a bit of practice to get the right amount of paint onto the toothbrush to get an even amount of splatters and avoid any big clogs of paint.

For the flowers I used yellow, orange and red paints, adding each colour separately to create subtle blending. I then added a bit of blue for shading.

For the tree creeper I used yellow, green and blue fabric paints on a light yellow/green fabric which later proved very difficult to photograph. It took quite a bit of time to build up the depth of colour needed for the creeper shape but I was pleased with the end results of both the negative and positive images.

jungle creepers, negative and positive images

The next step will be to layer up one of these designs then embellish with beads and threads so I’ll keep you posted.

close up detail of negative image

Paintstiks leaf rubbings

I bought a set of paintstiks several years ago and have used them from time to time but I have frequently thought that I would like to use them to make some  rubbings from leaves. Up until now this has gone no further, but recently inspired by my Janome Challenge group on the internet, the last time we went off on a jungle walk I collected a pile of dried leaves. I almost didn’t get them home because I’d left them by the car while we were changing and one of my friends, not realizing that I’d collected them specially was standing right on them.

Luckily they survived and a few days later I tried them out with the paintstiks. They’d dried out and so were a little fragile but luckily they were quite thick and leathery to start with. I placed the leaves under some muslin and then rubbed with several different coloured paintstiks including gold, using my finger to blend the colours.


I left these to set for a day, and then because the background fabric was uninteresting I decided to back each leaf with fusible web, cut them out individually then applied them to a piece of black batik fabric. I used a free motion zigzag and variegated rayon thread to stitch round the edge of each leaf, and then I stitched along the outline of each leaf vein. I felt that the leaves needed something else such as metallic thread so that was on my shopping list when I went to the quilt show in England, and  yesterday I added the last bit of stitching.


Now I need to find a good fabric for the border and quilt the design.


New hornbill wall hanging

Over the past couple of weeks I have been working on a new hornbill design for a wall hanging, based on this photo which I took a while ago.

hornbill in palm

I imported the photo into EQ6 and then because of the complexity of the design I decided I would draw out the pattern in two parts, first concentrating on the hornbill and then creating another layout focusing on the background palm fronds. I did this and then once the background was drawn I copied and pasted the hornbill into the background.

hornbill-in-palm EQ6 layout

To create the wall hanging I started off with some fabric that I had hand painted for the sky and invisible machine appliqué to construct the design. Normally I use freezer paper templates which I iron to the wrong side of the fabric and then remove after the construction is completed but for this design as there were so many small pieces I didn’t want to have to cut the back to remove the paper. I used a different method where I still use freezer paper templates but iron the paper to the front side of the fabric and then turn the edges under to wrong side using the tip of an iron and spray starch painted onto the seam allowance. The spray starch helps to hold the seam allowance in place.

I printed out the full size pattern from EQ6 and then traced the outlines onto a stabilizer which I pinned in place under my ‘sky’ fabric. The fabric was light enough for me to be able to see the lines through so that I could place my pieces accurately.

invisible machine applique


I used a lot of fine pins to hold the appliqué pieces in place for stitching. I used invisible thread with a fine thread in the bobbin and a very fine needle (#60/8) and started stitching the pieces in place a few at a time as I built up the design on the background.


I had a lovely striped batik fabric which proved to be just perfect for creating the varied colouring of the palm fronds.

applique frond background

The fronds at the lower edge of the picture were so small and had such sharp points that I decided to fuse them in and use raw edge appliqué. To quilt I used invisible thread and outlined all the fronds and the bird, with stippling in the background areas and meander quilting with variegated cotton thread in the borders.

hornbill-art quilt-wall-hanging

The finished design.

Fabric Painting

In my last post I wrote about how I had been doing some fabric painting recently for some new projects. It’s strange how things work out because after not having done any painting for a long time, suddenly in my Yahoo challenge group the theme for this month’s challenge is ‘Playing with colour’ and altering fabric by some method such as painting or stamping. I couldn’t wait to get started but after a long dry patch we’ve been having wet and stormy weather so it hasn’t been ideal for drying fabric.On Sunday, the sun finally came out for a bit and so I got my paints out to try painting some more sky, and then the next day I experimented with making sea, jungle and sun printing.


To protect my work surface I covered everything with an old shower curtain, as the paint gets everywhere and is difficult to remove. I mix my paints in foil dishes and use a plant mister to dampen the fabric before painting. My favourite book on fabric painting is Mickey Lawler’s Skydyes and I used her directions for painting my sky by blending  ultramarine and cobalt blues to create a more realistic effect. In one dish I blended ultramarine with a dash of cobalt and in the other cobalt with a dash of ultramarine. I misted the fabric quite liberally and then used a  brush to apply the paint in broad stripes.


This picture shows the wet fabric and you can see quite clearly where I have applied the two different blues. As you can see from the next photo the fabric dries much paler.


The next day I moved on to sun printing and creating a ‘sea’ fabric.  For the sea I again followed Mickey Lawler’s directions although this time I also I added a layer of opaque pearlescent white to the dampened fabric which gives the finished piece a lovely sparkle. For the painting I used various mixes of emerald, ultramarine and cobalt.


I sprinkled the wet fabric with course salt and purposely scrunched it up with a few creases going across the width, then laid it out to dry in the bright sun.


I was pleased with the way this turned out, the ridges have created lines which have the appearance of rolling waves and the salt gives the effect of sea spray.

The hornbill in the photo below is one that I have just completed using my last batch of painted fabric.


I used some of the leftover ‘sea’ fabric to try sun printing and again following Mickey’s advice I chose some delicate leaves to make the prints. She says that soft leaves work better because they lie flat against the surface of the fabric, so actually for this I hunted around the garden and grabbed some creepers that were growing wild near one of the garden walls.


The wet fabric and leaves out in the sun, and below the sun printed fabric.


My final experiment was to add some ‘jungle’ to one of my pieces of sky fabric. This time I used a sponge to apply the paint. I only wetted the lower edge of the fabric where I wanted the colours to run into each other, and I used a little less water with the paints. I aslo used salt again and dried the fabric in the sun but on a tilt which gave an interesting effect with the salt.


I created this intending to use it just as a background for a new hornbill design that I’m going to do, but I was so pleased with the way that it turned out that I now want to design a new wall hanging around it. I already have an idea so I will write about it soon.