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.
Once the foundation pieced background was completed I started to add details for the rain forest, starting with tree trunks cut from a striped commercial batik which was just perfect for this purpose. I then cut snippets of fabric backed with Mistyfuse to create leaves and foliage.
I used the snippets to help blend the tree trunks into the background to creat an illusion of depth. Snippets in browns, reds and golds give the impression of fallen leaves at the base of the tree trunks and brighter green snippets provide contrast and give the impression of new growth and sunlight shining on the leaves near the top of the quilt.
Once the leaves were all fused in place I then used free motion embroideryand various plain and variegated threads to stitch them all in place.
I also added plants in the foreground and hand couched some cotton yarn for tree creepers.
After taking a break from sewing over the month of December I started work in January on a new rain forest inspired quilt which I have been commissioned to make. I started by gathering together all my fabrics in various shades of browns and greens which I will use for the foliage, trees and forest floor.
my inspiration photo
I used foundation pieced crazy blocks in several different designs to create the base of the design: the forest floor and the background foliage.
selection of fabrics and inspiration photo for forest floor
making the foundation pieced blocks for forest floor
The finished background still has too many straight lines and abrupt changes of colour, but the next process of the design will be to add small fabric snippets to create more subtle blending especially where the foliage and forest floor meet.
the pieced background which will form the basis for the design
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.
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.
I have wanted to try dyeing my own fabrics for ages, but have always been put off by the difficulty of obtaining all the necessary bits and pieces here in Brunei where I live. However, I couldn’t put it off any longer when I had to produce a range of dyed fabrics as part of the Creative Quiltmaking course that I am doing online through Linda and Laura Kemshall at Design Matters. I found a company in the States that would ship the dyes and chemicals to Brunei, convinced the ladies in the local post office that the dyes were for fabric and not hair! (30% duty on hair dye for some reason) and then I was all set to go.
The instructions given were for a technique called low water immersion dyeing, which means dyeing the fabrics in a small amount of liquid, using plastic bags or small containers. As well as being economical with the dyes this method produces lovely patterned effects depending on how much you manipulate the fabric in the early stages and how much liquid is added.
The aim of the activity was to produce a range of fabrics inspired by the inspiration items I had collected for the course. Not being sure how well these would turn out and being limited by the amount of fabric I had available I cut a lot of my fabric pieces into fat eighths. Even so I soon ran out of fabric and rather than waste the precious dye I used some local cotton calico fabric which also turned out beautifully.
I was really pleased with the way the fabrics turned out and am so glad that I have finally been prompted to try it as I am sure it is something I am going to do a lot of in the future. I love playing with colour and experimenting with the blends to try and get just what I want.
The exciting part is when having left the fabric overnight in the dye solution, you come to rinse it all the following morning and suddenly the wonderful patterns and colours start to emerge.
I ordered some more fabrics and had another big dyeing session, this time experimenting with scrunching the fabric into small containers, as well as using bags, and this produced some more lovely effects.
Of course with all this lovely new fabric to play with I couldn’t resist using some of it for the background for a new wall hanging that I wnated to make.
A few weeks a go I started work on a new rain forest waterfall design. I first drew out the basic background design onto nonwoven stabilizer and then gathered together my selection of fabrics for the background forest, rocks, pool and and sandy foreground, mostly batiks and hand dyes.
I started with the lighter background area behind the waterfall. Before starting work on the main quilt I made a small experimental post card sized piece to try out the technique I wanted to use.
Once all the pieces were fused in place, I added free motion stitching to give greater depth and create the impression of foliage. I then started to build up the layers of rock using invisible machine applique.
Of course, as usual I had my feline ‘helper’ making stitching a little difficult at times.
With the background now completed it is time for the fun part….adding all the details and embellishments. So far I have started adding a few snippets to give the effect of foliage in the areas surrounding the waterfall. These have been fused in place and then once I am happy with the arrangement I will add free motion stitching and some couched yarns.
For the waterfall I used some fine tulle which I shaped into folds to give the impression of flowing water and held in place with a free motion zig zag stitch and invisible thread then further free motion stitching and rayon thread. Behind the tulle I added a layer of angelina fibres to add a bit of sparkle.
The waterfall before being stitched down. I will next start to add rocks and foliage to the foreground.
A couple of weeks ago I took my sketchbook to do some drawing in the jungle. It is something I have thought of doing before but one of those things I hadn’t got round to until now.
The first place I stopped was only just inside the forest, an old tree stump, surrounded by an abundance of growth and an ideal place to stop and make my first sketches.
Over the years I have taken many photos in the rain forest and used them as inspiration for my quilts, but there is a very different feeling when you take the time to stop and draw a plant. One becomes far more aware of the shape, shading, texture and various patterns, all of which are important to me when it comes to creating a new design.
some of my rough sketches
I was prompted to do this sketching as part of the City and Guilds Course on Creative Quiltmaking which I started at the end of last year. I am studying the course online through Linda and Laura Kemshall at Design Matters and I’m finding it wonderfully inspiring even though I haven’t even begun to do any stitching yet.
more detailed drawings made at home
Almost all the sketches I made were of various leaves and plants as the purpose of the exercise was to concentrate on shapes and patterns rather than texture or colours. When I got home and did some more detailed drawings I was constantly thinking how these designs could be interpreted in fabric, quilting or thread painting.
Over the last week I have continued working on my African sunset project. Having painted the skies for the background then fused a black hand dyed batik for the foreground it was time to add the details with thread painting.
I wanted the stitching to be quite fine so I used Aurifil 50wt cotton thread in both the bobbin and needle so that I could build up detail without adding too much bulk. For the large tree in one of the sunsets I needed to use an embroidery hoop to stop the fabric distorting, but I found this wasn’t necessary for the smaller trees.
The completed thread painted tree.
I planned to use a black batik border for each design but first needed to find something suitable for an accent. Going through my stash I found a perfect batik print which picked up the light purple in the sunsets as well as some of the orange.
In my last post I wrote about my new project for the new year and the sample pieces I was making. This is the second sample that I made, with a brighter, more dramatic sky than the first one.
With the samples made I decided it was time to start work on the full size pieces, and the first thing to do was to paint the four different sunset backgrounds. I used fabric paints on dampened fabric as I wanted the colours to run and blend with each other. I used a pale wash of diluted yellow on each panel, then added red, orange and purple to create my sunsets. For the palest sky I also used a dilute blue wash for the top half. The effectts can be a bit unpredictable and two of the skies I had to do again before I was happy with the results.
I fused each panel to a piece of muslin and then added batik fabric for base and sky line. The four panels are now ready to be embellished with free motion stitching to simulate the tree tops as in my sample piece.
While I was putting these together I happened to leave the muslin backing fabric in a pile on the floor and that soon became a comfortable sleeping spot for Suzie.