Iban Design

There was a power cut in the early hours of yesterday morning, and as it was a public holiday to celebrate the first day of Hari Raya I didn’t hold out much hope of it being fixed very soon. Luckily it was quite a cool morning so I was able to take advantage and do some hand sewing on my large applique wall hanging which I started at the beginning of the year.

The design is inspired by a traditional native Iban pattern which I drafted in EQ6 and then played around with to make my own original design. As you can see from the pattern below I still have a long way to go to complete the project.

I changed the colour from my original pattern to use a striking red batik on a black mottled background. Here in the drafted pattern I have just plain borders but when I finally reach that stage I might decide to do something more elaborate, but I think that will be a while yet.

I am hand stitching the design using needleturn applique and silk thread. It’s a slow process but it’s something I enjoy doing and the good thing about it is that I can just pick it up and do it at any time.

The power did eventually come on again around 10.30 in the morning, by which time I had done quite a bit of sewing, but it was beginning to warm up and get sticky.

Batik inspired birds and flowers

A little while ago I got this piece of applique out to show some friends and I was suddenly inspired to get it finished. I actually started work on this design five years ago and have taken it out form time to time to do a little bit more.

The original design was inspired by a piece of Indonesian commercial printed batik sarong fabric  that I bought locally here in Brunei. I’d originally planned to use it for patchwork but I felt that the design was too nice to cut up but it took me a long time before I finally made it into an applique pattern.

The original piece of batik from which I made the pattern

Once I’d made the pattern the challenge was to choose the colours that I would use for the applique as I didn’t want to use the rather dull brown, black and white of the original. I chose a dark blue, almost black mottled hand dyed batik fabric for the background and pale pastel colours for the flowers, stems and leaves.

Detail of one of the applique flowers

One of the main reasons I stopped working on this design is that after completing most of the flowers I couldn’t decide what colour to make the two birds and how to assemble them. At that time my stash wasn’t as big as it is now and also I wasn’t too confident about putting the birds together. When I took it this recent time it was much easier to make a decision and I had several chestnut brown batiks that I felt would be perfect for the birds. I also had a book by Jane Townswick called ‘Applique Takes Wing’  which was very helpful for showing how to assemble the birds.

The tail feathers and wings were quite a challenge.

The two birds amongst the flowers

And finally the completed design just waiting to be quilted.

Hand Applique Gecko

Hand applique gecko wall hangingPeople are often interested to know how I make my gecko wall hangings so I thought I would put together some instructions on the method of hand appliqué that I like using. I find it relaxing and it is something you can pick up and do any time, so I hope it might encourage some of you to have a go too.

I start with a freezer paper template which I iron onto the right side of my gecko fabric. My favourite fabrics are batiks because they are tightly woven and fray less and also because of their  gorgeous colours and patterns.

freezer paper template

freezer paper template

I draw round the template using a white fabric marker pen which disappears with heat or water or if I’m using a pale fabric I’ll use permanent fabric marker. I leave the template in place while I cut out roughly round the design. I prefer to leave it there until after I’ve cut it out because it’s easier to handle and you’re less likely to snip into the design by mistake.

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I next pin the gecko in place on my background fabric, using fine or short pins. Short pins are good because the thread doesn’t get caught up on them so much.

applique shape pinned to background fabric

applique shape pinned to background fabric

I use YLI silk thread and a #11 ‘sharp’ needle to hand stitch the gecko, the silk thread is so fine that it is much easier to make small and almost invisible stitches. I cut a piece of thread 16 – 18 inches long and make a knot in one end. People often want to use too long a piece of thread to avoid having to thread the needle so often, but this isn’t a good idea because the thread gets tangled and tends to shred. I trim the seams as I go along and because I am using a firmly woven fabric I can use very narrow ones without fear of them fraying. I usually trim them to less than a ¼ inch, especially around the toes of the gecko.

Getting started. The knot is buried in the seam and folded edge held in place with thumb.

Getting started. The knot is buried in the seam and folded edge held in place with thumb.

To start, insert the needle from the back of the appliqué shape and bring it up on the right side at the point where you want to start sewing. It’s easiest to start on a straight edge so with my geckos I always start on the body part.

Wooden toothpick used to turn under edge

Wooden toothpick used to turn under edge

Fold over the edge of the appliqué along the seam line, my favourite tool for this is an ordinary wooden toothpick because the slightly rough edge catches the fabric and makes it much easier to turn under. Use the toothpick to smooth the turned under edge and then I use my thumb to hold it in place. I make a straight stitch into the background fabric at the point where I brought the needle out of the appliqué, and then make a very short stitch bringing the needle up through the folded edge. Continue in this way all round the edge of the appliqué shape.

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 For sharp inner curves, such as where the body meets the legs, or the gecko toes, I clip right to the seam line, but on a gentle inner curve like the tail I just make small snips within the seam allowance. I never clip outside curves.

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This is how the stitching looks from the wrong side.

This is how the stitching looks from the wrong side.


Another finished gecko wall hanging

Another finished gecko wall hanging