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.

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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.

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

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.

Jungle Leaves

I recently signed up for a Craftsy class with Gloria Loughman called “Linear Landscape Quilts”. It’s  a really good class and the first sections on choosing colour schemes and fabric painting are almost a class on their own. To make her “linear landscapes” she uses two layers of fabric and a clever raw edge applique technique which reveals slithers of the underneath fabric to create the effect of contours. The landscape she created is very appealing but as I watched the video I realized that this technique could be adapted for things other than landscapes so I decided to try it out on one of my own designs.

My inspiration was this jungle plant which grows in the Sarawak rain forest and has beautiful curved and ribbed leaves.

My first piece is a close up study of these leaves using some of my hand dyed fabrics.

I was happy with the way that this first piece turned out so I decided to try it on a larger design using the complete leaves.

I used a bright green for the base, with a darker green for the main part of the leaf, and made three pieces like this. It’s  time consuming but very effective.

Rain Forest Quilt continued

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.

 

Butterfly finished

In my last post I described how I created the pattern and started putting together my butterfly and flower design. Now, with all the pieces for the butterfly and flower fused to the background I added some thread painting with 40wt rayon threads which added a nice sheen and a little more texture.

Close up showing thread painting on the flower and butterfly

Close up showing thread painting on the flower and butterfly

 I did all the embellishment before adding batting and backing because I wanted the butterfly to stand out from the background. These photos show the design with the quilting completed because the original photos I took didn’t come out very well thanks to a nice smeary finger print across the lens of my camera.

thread painitng on the butterfly and flower

thread painitng on the butterfly and flower

So once this was complete I sandwiched it all together and then began the quilting. I didn’t want the quilting in the background to stand out and draw attention away from the butterfly so I used a fine 50wt cotton thread which blended well into the hand dyed fabric which I used for the background. For the borders I used a thicker variegated thread and a trailing leaf pattern.

The finished wall hanging

The finished wall hanging

 

Butterfly on Flower – work in progress

For a long time I have wanted to do something with a photo that I took in Thailand of a butterfly on a flower. Originally I had thought of creating a cross stitch design but never got very far with it, and then just recently I decided I would make it into an art quilt. I scanned the photo into the computer and imported it into EQ6 where I made it into an appliqué pattern.

eq6-butterfly

The pattern drawn out in EQ6

With the pattern made, my next decision was how I was going to create the design. ? My preference would have been to do it by hand or to use invisible machine appliqué, but because I had chosen to make it quite small, 12 inches by 15 inches, some of the pieces were really tiny. It might just have been possible to do it by hand, but in the end I opted to use fusible webbing and raw edge appliqué, embellished with machine thread painting.  

butterfly-wing-1

making the first butterfly wing

Fabrics and threads play such an important part in a design and for this one I had a lovely piece of hand dyed fabric which I had bought from Foltvilág Patchwork Studio at The Festival of Quilts which I knew straight away would be perfect for the background.  I didn’t even buy it with this project in mind as I’m always drawn to greens as I use them in so many of my pieces but I’m so glad I did as looking through the rest of my stash I would have had a struggle to find something that was as good. For the butterfly wings and flower I used mostly commercial batiks although again for the actual base of the wing I used another hand dyed fabric from the quilt festival which had good gradations from brown to black which again were just perfect for what I wanted.

work-in-progress

assembling the butterfly wings and flower

It took me several days to put the whole thing together and the cats didn’t help today by lounging all over my cutting table, or propping themselves up against the sewing machine.

two-assistants

Millie keeping an eye on things

Millie keeping an eye on things

Yesterday afternoon I finally finished assembling all the pieces of the design and then my next decision was how to embellish it. Whether to do the thread painting before I added the batting or after?  In the end I decided to do the thread painting first, with a stabilizer underneath as I am more familiar with that method. This method also has several advantages. The piece can be trimmed and squared up after the stitching and also it gives me a bit longer to think while I’m stitching, about what fabrics I’ll use for the outer borders.

The completed design ready for thread painting and embellishment

The completed design ready for thread painting and embellishment

 

Journal Quilt Timed Challenge

I spent almot all day Friday working on a journal quilt for a timed challenge for my Janome Internet Challenge group. We had eight hours to complete a journal quilt from start to finish and weren’t allowed to look at the theme until we were ready to start.

When I looked at the theme I almost decided not to bother because all the images it conjured up just don’t go with living in hot, humid Brunei. The theme was “Hearth and Home” and I immediately thought of log fires, warmth, comfort, sleeping cats, and dark, warm colours, just the things one doesn’t associate with Brunei, apart from the sleeping cats! I also thought of the wonderful Christmas story by Dickens, “The Cricket on the Hearth”, but decided that was a bit obscure. I started off by looking on the internet and finding some clipart images of sleeping cats and fires, but this seemed like cheating, and a bit too easy so I rummaged through my shelves and found a few old magazines for inspiration. I started ripping out a few pages here and there, but the image that stuck in my mind was of a cat staring out of a darkened window, all it needed was a nice warm fire so I scanned in a few images and then played around with Photoshop until I had a composition I liked. Meanwhile the clock was ticking away and I still had to draw out the design, find fabrics and then quilt the whole thing.

I don’t really like raw edge appliqué but with the time limits this was the only alternative and as I started pulling out fabrics with an idea in my head of what I wanted, the whole thing started to fall in to place, and I was enjoying the process. No time for lunch, luckily there was a bit of pizza left over from last night, and I carried on working through the day. Once the initial design was fused in place I added the batting and backing and then started to embellish with threads and free motion stitching. I used mostly rayon threads as they are the only ones I have in a wide variety of colours.

before-quilting

With the hands of the clock starting to speed up I finally got to the point of finishing and adding the binding and with just two minutes to go off the eight hours my journal quilt was finished.

hearth-and-home

If I’d had more time I would have like to have added some foliage and flowers in the area below the window and maybe also I might have written the title of the piece.detail-of-fire

I’m glad I did the quilt, it was a real challenge, not just the subject matter but the time limit also, and I was quite pleased with how it turned out and maybe there is even potential for a larger and more detailed quilt there. As the challenge went on over the weekend it was interesting seeing everyone elses journal quilts and how each person had interpreted the theme so differently.

detail-of-cat

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.

imgp4323-002

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.

leaves-with-embroidery

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

leaf-close-up