More fabric postcards

Bougainvillea series - fabric postcardI have recently completed several large projects and so felt like taking a break and working on something much smaller and quick to finish. I’d had the idea in my head for these bougainvillea flower inspired fabric postcards and had even made a quick sketch while I was working on something else so this was the perfect project to work on.

I started off with some hand painted ‘sky’ fabrics left over from other projects, then couched down several strands of  hand dyed embellishment yarn. I used a free motion zigzag and invisible thread for the couching. I took some scraps of hand dyed and batik fabrics backed with ‘Misty Fuse’  to make the flowers and leaves.

I cut the fabric into tiny random snippets with sharp scissors. I’ve only recently started using Misty Fuse but so far I have found it very good to use as it is light weight, bonds well and doesn’t gum up the needle.

These were applied to the background stems using tweezers as the pieces were so tiny.

The leaves and flowers fused in place ready to be embellished with free motion stitching. I used several different shades of green rayon thread for the leaves and then several different pinks for the flowers.  Bougainvilleas come in a wide range of colours here in Brunei apart from the standard bright pink that you mostly see across Europe, so it was a good opportunity to play with some of the fabrics I don’t tend to use so much and make a series of cards. Once all the stitching was complete I backed the cards with Fast 2 Fuse, trimmed to size and then zigzagged the edges using variegated thread.

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.

Flowers after rain

Looking for new design inspirations I took my camera out into the garden this morning.

white allamandas against an early morning sky

white allamandas against an early morning sky

It was still a little overcast after a predawn shower and the flowers and plants were wet from the rain.

Heliconia flower

Heliconia flower

The garden isn’t looking at its best at the moment as I have been too busy quilting lately to devote as much time to it as I should. Everything grows so quickly in this climate and the garden can very quickly get out of hand. Perfect for small cats to play hide and seek in!

No one can see me here if I keep very still

No one can see me here if I keep very still

The bougainvilleas also grow into huge shrubs here, and are in constant need of pruning.

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Of course, Millie isn’t the least bit interested in gardening and thinks it is a complete waste of time as long as she has somewhere comfortable where she can lounge and keep an eye on things.

Millie looking contented with life

Millie looking contented with life

 Madagascar periwinkles grow almost like weeds and crop up all over the garden, but they are pretty and add a bright splash of colour wherever they turn up. I have used them for inspiration for both a cross stitch design and a small quilt, so maybe it is time for another one.

Madagascar Periwinkles

Madagascar Periwinkles

I have yet to make a quilt featuring a Bird’s Nest Fern, but we have a beautiful specimen in the garden, and the best thing now is that the spores have been carried on the wind and we have new ones cropping up all over  the place. I love the delicate curves of the new leaves as they unfurl.

Birds Nest Fern

Birds Nest Fern

My favourite colour is green and I love using it  in my quilts. I have a large selection of fabrics in every possible shade of green and I’m working on my thread collection so here is yet another possiblity for a new design.

A pretty pair of toads

A pretty pair of toads

These toads were taking an early morning bath, but nice as they are, I’m not planning to put these into a quilt, unless of course, someone specially requested it. Frogs are very popular, and I have sold a large number of my tree frog wall hangings but I don’t think toads have quite the same appeal.

Well, that’s all for now. I think I have given myself some new ideas to think about once I have done my final craft show tomorrow.

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.  

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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

 

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.

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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.

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The finished design.

Jungle Walks

Last Monday was a public holiday here in Brunei so a few of us got together to go for a jungle walk. The weather has been very hot and dry here lately, and there has been haze from forest fires but on this day the skies were looking threatening and there were spots of rain as we were setting off in the cars. It was just a passing shower because when we got to our destination there was no sign of any more rain. We chose to go to the Rampoyah waterfall which is a walk we haven’t done for a while. The last time we did it many of the bridges (if you can call a few logs wedged across a ditch a bridge) had rotted away or were unsafe which meant a lot of clambering and scrambling up and down muddy gullies. This time it was much drier underfoot and almost all of the little bridges had been replaced which made the going much easier, although the walk was longer than I remembered it being.

rain forest tree

Despite the dry weather the jungle foliage was lush as usual as you can see from this photo looking up towards the canopy. We walked for about an hour and a half to the waterfall, then stopped there for a dip and refreshment.

river and jungle

The picture above shows the river where we stopped at the waterfall, with the rain forest trees coming right down to the water’s edge. A couple of people swam in the river but it didn’t look too appealing with the dark water concealing anything that might be lurking there. We didn’t see any interesting birds this time although we could hear them in the distance. We did spot this rather hairy caterpillar though.

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An unusual specimen, and I’m sure those spiky hairs would give a very nasty sting. Our walk back was a bit quicker than on the way out and then the drive home again.

On Friday we got together again with a smaller group this time and headed over the border to walk in The Lambir national park and to the Pantu waterfall which is one of our favourite treks. The rain forest here is very impressive although sadly there is only a small area left now. There are many ancient trees with their great buttress roots spreading out, twisted creepers that have grown to the thickness of small trees and huge fallen leaves the size of a tea tray.

rain forest tree and creepers

We stopped at the waterfall to swim and although the level of the pool was lower than usual it was still surprisingly cold, but it was refreshing after the heat of the jungle. On the way back we spotted this marvelous crested lizard. Actually one of our group put their hand on it as they grabbed a tree for support and got quite a shock.

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He obligingly stayed still enough for us to take a few photos before deciding he’d had enough of us and disappearing up to the top of  that tall and spindly tree. Before we set off  on the walk we also spotted this unusual insect which was pretending to be a leaf on one of the posters at the park head quarters.

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Well, plenty of inspiration here for future quilts so I don’t think it will be too long before I make another rain forest inspired art quilt design.

Frangipani wall hanging

I was recently commissioned by a friend to make a floral design wall hanging in neutral colours and the idea appealed to me. For the flower I chose a single frangipani adapted from a design that I had drawn out in EQ6 some time ago and inspired by a photo I’d taken of flowers in our garden.

The picture above shows the design as drawn out in EQ6. I then went through my pile of pale fabrics to chose the colours I needed to make the frangipani petals and stems.

Batik fabrics for the petals and stems along with my original photo. I printed the design out in reverse onto freezer paper and then used this to make templates for the design. I ironed the freezer paper templates onto the wrong side of the fabrics and then using a scant quarter inch seam I turned the edges over to the wrong side and stuck in place using a glue stick.

The picture above shows the pieces with edges turned under and glued in place then positioned over a full sized print out of the design to get correct placement. I used invisible machine applique to stitch the design together, assembling the small pieces before stitching the whole flower to the background. I auditioned a number of different fabrics for the background and borders and finally came up with a combination that I liked. The fabric for the borders was a batik I’d ordered over the Internet a few years ago and hadn’t used as it wasn’t quite what I’d been expecting at the time.

The completed design.

Close up of the flower.

I was happy with the way this turned out so decided to make another wall hanging using similar fabrics for the flower but a hand painted back ground which I had made recently.

I haven’t done any fabric painting for a while but I was prompted to do it as I had to paint a ‘sunset sky’ for another wall hanging that I was making and while I had all the paints out I thought I might as well do a few others.

Close up of the frangipani on blue background. I achieved the mottled look by using a sponge to paint the background.

Detail of the quilting in the border. I used a lovely variegated polyester thread  I had which went just perfectly with the mottled batik fabric.

New Gecko Design

A few weeks ago we were sitting on the patio in the evening and there must have been something hatching out because there were geckos everywhere. All shapes and sizes, feasting voraciously ans snapping up all the little insects. There were so many and in such good poses that I was prompted to go and get my camera and take a few pictures with the aim of producing a new gecko applique design for a wall hanging. It’s easier said than done to take pictures because you see the perfect pose and then just as you go to take the shot they move.

To get a good pose to make into an applique design ideally the legs should all be splayed out away from the body as it makes it easier to sew and make a pattern. For this design I chose a photo of a gecko with a nice curved tail. I imported the photo into EQ6 and drew out the design as an applique pattern, which I then drew out onto freezer paper ready to transfer to my fabric.

I chose a spotted batik fabric for the gecko and a pale batik for the background. The design is transferred to the fabric using a white fabric pen, I cut out roughly round the design and pin it onto the background ready to start needleturn applique. I prefer to sew these designs by hand using a fine needle and silk thread so that I can get all the shaping around the gecko toes. The gecko pinned and ready to start sewing.

Two years ago, I was intending to go outside one evening and take some photos to make a new design and I got a big shock. I went out of the kitchen door and there in front of me was a large snake which I imediately recognized as a python because of its distinctive markings. Luckily I had my camera in my hand so was able to take some shots straight away. It didn’t seem too bothered by me and I’m not worried about snakes (only terrified of spiders) so I was able to get quite close and get some good photos of it on the ground.

It then moved off past the car and then effortlessly coiled itself up the post of the washing line where it then settled quite comfortably. It didn’t look as if it was going to move off in a hurry so I went and got my SLR camera so that I could take some better shots. It was a wonderful experience being so close to this beautiful creature and I regret that here in Brunei so many people panic the moment they see a snake and want it killed. A large number of the snakes here are not harmful to man and most if left alone would rather escape than attack.

 

I hope this beautiful snake is still out there somewhere.

Heliconia flower

With the rain forest quilt finished I felt ready to start on a new project and I decided I would do a flower design this time. Several years ago I made a small sample block of a heliconia, or bird of paradise flower, using a method called upside down applique where you stitch the pieces in postion from the wrong side of the fabric (hence the upside down) and then stitch on the right side using a free motion zig zag stitch. The method works well but for this design I didn’t like the obvious stitching round the outline and felt it was too clumsy for the delicate flower. 

I redrew the design in EQ6 so that I could make an applique pattern.The original design was square but because of the shape of the flower and the long stems and leaves I thought an elongated block would look better.

The next task was to choose the fabrics to make the flower and leaves. Origianlly I got out all my various orange fabrics, but I also had a  striped batik with shades of brown, orange and yellow and I was surprised to find this was the best match for the flower.

Choosing the fabrics for the leaves and background, a nice selection of greens.

When I first drew out the design I liked the idea of the flower against a dark background but because I chose a slightly dull shade of orange for the flower this didn’t look right. After spending a long time going through my various fabrics I came up with two possible combinations, either a graduated green or a bright blue green batik.

The blue has a nice contemporary feel, but I wondered if perhaps it was a little too bright.

I liked the green better, so decided to use this one for the background. The fabric was graduated from dark green at the bottom to a yellow green at the top. I didn’t want the bright yellow green but then because of the size of the background piece the lower part of the design was a bit dark and I felt that the leaves became lost. In the photograph above I have the graduation running across the fabric instead of up and down and I suppose I could have done that but I decided to look again for another fabric. I found a beautiful blue grey batik which I have had for quite a long time and I felt immediately that this one was right.

Here the design is just pinned in place but reading for stitching using invisible machine applique.