First attempts at fabric design

Driftwood cushion

I am between quilting projects at the moment so while waiting for inspiration I have been having a go at designing my own fabrics and was excited to receive the first samples of my work last week from Spoonflower. I was really happy with how they turned out. They were even better than I was expecting because being my first attempt at creating repeat patterns it took quite a lot of trial and error to get the designs as I wanted them but I enjoyed the process and can’t wait to try some more ideas.

fabric samples from Spoonflower

I have used my quilt designs, drawings and photographs for inspiration for the fabrics. The gecko fabric is from one of my appliqué designs, and the flowers from drawings and watercolour sketches of periwinkle flowers that grow in our garden.

Inspiration for my periwinkle designs

The Driftwood fabric started off as a photo that I took of some driftwood on the local beach and then the image was mirrored and then mirrored again so that I could use it for a repeat design. I made this up into a cushion and I think it would look really great with outdoor furniture or very elegant on a plain cream, burgundy or back sofa or arm chair.

Driftwood cushion on chair

 

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.

Seed Pod Reflected

I started work on a new appliqué quilt wall hanging in November and just got it finished last week.

This design is inspired by the seed pods of the Pom Pom tree that one can find washed up on the beach here in Brunei.

I originally worked on this theme as part of my City and Guilds “Creative Quiltmaking” course, and the quilt I made, which was one of my assessment pieces was actually pieced. Even at the time I was doing it I wanted to make it again as an appliqué piece using my now hand dyed fabrics. I used one of my sketches to create a design in EQ7, and the theme was to do with using a mirrored image, so this is what I came up with for my pieced quilt.I later modified this design so I could use it for appliqué. This is the initial design.I felt the fabric needed more texture, so I hand embroidered every appliqué piece before applying to the background.  I still felt the design lacked something as there was a high empty gap between the two halves of the design, so I used some of my leftover cut out pieces and experimented with placing them in the middle. 

This looked much better and to balance the design I added two more pieces top and bottom and two pieces to the outer edges which ave more of the feel of the curves of the original seed pod. Detail of stitching. 

I echo quilted using a fine thread. 

If at first you don’t succeed ……

Sometimes when you’re dyeing fabric the colours don’t always come out quite as you expect or as you want them to. The good thing is that almost always you can dye them again. Earlier in the year I was experimenting trying to get some good, rich chestnut browns but ended up with some very uninspiring dull oranges instead. Last week I decided to try over-dyeing these fabrics using dark brown, black or dark blue and ended up with these lovely autumnal pieces.

Just perfect for autumn leaves.

In my most recent batch of dyeing I was also experimenting with some yellow and blue combinations for foliage effects. For some reason the blue I used was very weak and completely washed out leaving me with a lot of bright yellow fabrics. I over-dyed these with a muted green and some black and got some gorgeous textured prints, which are going to be just perfect for backgrounds.

West of Ireland

I’m afraid it has been a long time since I last updated my blog; life has been busy and once you get out of the routine of writing it is hard to get going again. I am just back from a trip to the UK and west of Ireland, where I went to the International Quilt Festival in Galway. The festival itself was a bit of a disappointment for one reason and another but I really enjoyed visiting Ireland again after so many years away. I decided to stay in a bed and breakfast just outside Galway rather than a big hotel and so glad I did. Beautiful views from across the road and braving the cold weather, a pleasant walk into the coastal town of Salthill.

One of the highlights of my trip was the Burren where I went as part of a photography workshop. I had been there many years ago back in the days when we only had film cameras. I remember running out of film and of course there being nowhere for miles and miles where you could buy more but I did get some impressive black and white shots and I’ve always wanted to go back there.

The Burren

From a distance, as you approach, it looks like a barren landscape studded with giant boulders (although the boulders are actually a lot smaller than I remember them) where nothing would grow.

 This is a false impression because as soon as you get down amongst the rocks there is an abundance of vegetation, and a wonderful array of wild flowers peeping out from amongst the cracks and crevices: honeysuckle, wild roses, orchids and many others which I couldn’t name.

Honeysuckle growing wild amongst the crevices.

A delicate purple orchid, and there was another white one growing quite close by. I don’t know what varieties they were but it would have been good to have had a book on all the wild flowers.

I’m sure I will be finding inspiration for future quilts from the photos I took, not just the flowers and vegetation but also the intriguing patterns of the rocks themselves, and also the beautiful Irish countryside.

 

 

 

First attempts at dyeing

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.

Sketching in the Jungle

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.

simple line drawings in pen

Up the river

Last Sunday I went on a boat trip up the local river with some friends. We set off mid afternoon, the sun still blazing  but the speed of the boat cooling us down. We slowed down to look for crocodiles lurking on the river bank in a couple of places, but no luck in spotting them this time. We motored on until we reached a big open point in the river where it then started to narrow down,and this is where we stopped and then turned round to come back, for a while drifting with the current so that we could appreciate all the sounds of the jungle.

I haven’t done the trip for a while so it was good to see that there is still plenty of vegetation, although in some areas it was noticeable that many of the tall trees were no longer there. Some, victims of the terrible forest fires we had a number of years ago and others that have been logged.

These bright orange leaves caught my eye amongst the vegetation, from a distance they looked like flowers. In my last post I wrote about the wall hanging I’d just made, inspired by the birds nest ferns which we have growing in the garden, and whilst drifting down the river I spotted this beautiful specimen high up in the trees.

It was so peaceful drifting down with the current listening to all the exotic calls of the birds, insects, frogs and monkeys, some we could indentify and others not.

Birds Nest Ferns

These birds nest ferns normally grow high up in the canopy, but they happily grow at ground level too. This one which we got as a small plant a number of years ago has turned into a beautiful specimen, and we now have others all over the garden.  I love the shape of the curling fronds and recently I took some photos thinking that they might be good inspiration for a quilt design.

I drew out a pattern in EQ7 and then I decided I would try out the design in a small format as fabric post cards.

For the small design I had some bright green batik fabric which I’d had a while and not used because it was less tightly woven than normal batik and I’d always thought it  a bit flimsy, but it worked fine for this project. For the larger piece I used some beautiful hand dyed fabric by Heide Stoll-Weber which I’d bought at the Festival of Quilts this year. I was a little reluctant to cut into it so soon but the fabric was so perfect, with all  the subtle colour variations, I had to use it.

I assembled the ferns using a non stick pressing sheet before fusing them to the background fabric. I then used a fine satin stitch round all the edges.

Detail of the stitching and quilting

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.