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.

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.


The hornbills have visited the garden every day this week and I have been able to take more pictures, mostly through the living room window so as not to disturb them. Yesterday morning the pair of them were sitting together on one branch and the male was giving little gifts of berries to the female, who would either delicately give them back or swallow them down.

Male and female pied hornbills

Male and female pied hornbills

In my last post I mentioned that I’d created a new hornbill design for a wall hanging, and already drawn it out in EQ6. This design is now stitched and completed. I used batik fabrics for the hornbill and the borders of the wall hanging, with a graded fabric for the background. I used a machine satin stitch and rayon threads to stitch the hornbill and variegated cotton threads for the quilting. As with my tree frog design I stitched a random trailing leaf pattern for the quilting in the background.
wall hanging of pied hornbill

wall hanging of pied hornbill













detail of hornbill art quilt

detail of hornbill art quilt

Birds in the garden

While we were having lunch on Sunday I suddenly spotted an unusual bird on the garden fence so I went to get my camera so that I could get some close up pictures to identify it. We’re approaching the time of year when we start getting  a few migratory birds passing through Brunei and we later identified this one as a type of cuckoo.

While I was taking photos of this bird we heard hornbills in the trees on the other side of the garden near the beach. Pied hornbills are quite plentiful here in Kuala Belait where we live, but we don’t get them very often in our garden so I was very happy to see this pair especially as I had my camera and zoom lens at the ready. The female stayed in amongst the trees so I wasn’t able to get any pictures but the male posed obligingly on an exposed branch.

I was inspired by the photos I took and for a while now I have been thinking about designing a new hornbill wall hanging so later I imported one of my photos into EQ6 and planned out a new design.

This is the new design for my hornbill wall hanging which I hope to start stitching in the next few days.