Going Green Challenge

I belong to a yahoo challenge group linked to my Janome sewing machine and in March it was my turn to lead the challenge for that month. The theme I chose was ‘Going Green’ and it opened itself up to many different interpretations and it was interesting to see such a wide variety of different projects from within the group. Some people took an environmental slant and chose to use recycled goods and scraps. I was amazed to see how old pairs of jeans could be transformed into bags, book covers, dolls clothes and even cat and dog toys.


Other people chose to feature green fabrics in their work and I was one of those, as it’s my favourite colour and I enjoy working with greens. For my project I created a foundation pieced background of ‘crazy’ blocks which I printed out from EQ6. I then used invisible machine appliqué to add a jungle plant, spilling out into the borders. In the latter stages I was racing against the clock to get the challenge finished by the end of the month but I just managed.


Quilting with variegated and solid coloured cotton threads completes the design. Initially I started to quilt a trailing leaf design in the borders but then had to unpick what I’d done as I felt that it didn’t look right and drew too much attention away from the main design.

working on a new waterfall design

I recently started work on a new waterfall quilt and this time I decided I would make it a little bigger than the ones I have done before, although still using the same basic design. The first step was choosing all the different fabrics I would use, because although I have made this design before each time I do it, it’s like starting right from the beginning again. I have certain fabrics that I like, but then they run out and I’m always buying new ones, so the quilt always turns out differently.

inspiration photographs and some of the fabrics I've chosen.

inspiration photographs and some of the fabrics I've chosen.

Most of the fabrics I use are batiks or hand dyes, because of the subtle colour variations which I can use to replicate the patterns of the rocks in the background and foreground.

starting to build up the design

starting to build up the designMolly watching the progress of the waterfall

Building up the background for the waterfall using a variety of different batik and hand dyed fabriccs.  For the area at the back of the waterfall I used a preprinted fabric and used fabric pens to emphasise the trunks and branches of the trees.

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I’ve used invisible machine applique to construct this top, first making templates from freezer paper which I iron on to the right side of the fabric.  I clip the seams, brush the edges with liquid starch, then turn under the edges using the tip of an iron. It is time consuming but I prefer this method to ironing the freezer paper on the wrong side and glueing the edges because this way I don’t have freezer paper to remove after. I also prefer the look of turned under edges.

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For the waterfall I used a batik fabric as the base, then added details using Shiva paintstiks and Angelina fibre. The rocks are all added individually and I have turned under the edges of each one. It’s a slow process but little by little I’m getting there.

adding the rocks to the foreground.

adding the rocks to the foreground.

Little by little I am adding all the rocks, then the next step will be to add some foliage to the foreground and background.

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.

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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.

Fan Palms in the forest

On our walks in the rain forest over the border in Sarawak I have frequently photographed the fan palms that grow plentifully there in the national park and I have often included them in my rain forest design wall hangings.

Recently I decided to make a wall hanging featuring just these palms. I drew out a pattern using EQ6 and to replicate the background and to give an impression of all the rich colours of the fallen leaves I chose to construct it from small 4 inch foundation pieced crazy blocks which I printed out from EQ6.

The illustration above shows the proposed quilt with the foundation pieced background and the applique motif on top. To construct the foundation pieced blocks I chose a wide variety of fabrics, mostly batiks in various hues and shades of brown, matching them to a photo I’d taken of fallen leaves.

 Once the background was pieced and all the blocks put together I appliqued the fan palms using satin stitch applique and rayon threads, I used a novelty yarn for the stems which I couched in place using invisible thread. I added dark brown borders and then quilted the whole wall hanging using a variegated polyester thread.

The picture above shows a close up detail of the foundation blocks, palm leaves, quilting and couched stems.

The finished design.

New Waterfall Project

At the beginning of March I started work on a new waterfall art quilt wall hanging which was commissioned some time ago by a friend (sorry it has taken me so long, Sue). For one reason and another it has taken me much longer than normal to do but today I finally completed the last stitches on the binding and all it needs now is a label to be sewn on the back.

Before starting on the quilt we had another trip to the jungle and I took some more photos to inspire me and get me in the mood for another rain forest project.

I was slow to start this quilt but as soon as I started sorting all my fabrics out I started to feel inspired again. The quilt is of a waterfall set deep in the forest and is a design that I have made several times before but every time I make it, it turns out slightly different. My fabrics are always changing, I run out of old favourites and find new ones. I wanted to start fresh with this design so once I had assembled my fabrics and got my inspirational photos I didn’t look at any pictures of the previous quilts I’d made.

The quilt is constructed on a background of stabilizer on which I sketched the outline of the design and then the individual fabrics are added one by one. I use freezer paper templates and the edges are coated with liquid starch and then turned under so there are no raw edges in the construction process. Something funny happened when I first started. I grabbed a can of what I thought was spray starch and sprayed some in the lid and thought that it had perished from long storage as it came out as a sticky yellow mess. It was only when I stuck my finger in it that I realized that it was in fact spray glue and I had an awful job getting it off my fingers and paintbrush, but luckily I hadn’t applied any to the fabric.

These are the fabrics and photos assembled ready to start, and the design drawn out on tearaway stabilizer. I tend to use mostly batiks for these designs and I have some lovely striped batiks which I find particularly good for replicating the layers of rock.

In the photo above you can see where I have started layering the fabrics for the background, pinning them in place individually before stitching with invisible thread.

 I continued adding fabrics until the background was completed, then I started to add embellishments to create the foliage, waterfall and jungle creepers. I also added some machine trapunto to make the foreground rocks stand out. The whole design was outline quilted with invisible thread, then I used rayon threads to stipple in some of the background areas, finally finishing off with a variegated cotton thread in the borders.

Detail showing the foreground rocks made to stand out from the background a bit more by the use of machine trapunto, needlelace foliage and raw edge applique with decorative quilting for the water and sand.

The completed design, and it is particularly pleasant to look at the moment, with the image of the lush vegetation and the cool, flowing water because it is extremely hot this morning. There is an inland wind blowing, parching everything and bringing with it the smell of distant fires as the forest burns. This morning I woke with a headache and the smell of smoke throughout the house, I prefer rain any day.

Another forest walk

In my last post I wrote about the heliconia or ‘bird of paradise’ flower wall hanging that I was making, and this design is now finished. I tried a different method for finishing it off this time and decided to complete the design without borders, making a backing rather like a pillow slip. In the directions I followed, they said to do the main quilting before completing the design so I did that using a light backing fabric because I found that it was difficult to feed the top smoothly through the machine without anything on the back. Once the quilt was finished I outlined the main part of the design to anchor everything together.

Heliconia flower

Heliconia flower

Yesterday was national day here in Brunei, and to take advantage of the day off we got together with some friends to do a forest walk. The place we chose to go is about an hour and a half’s drive away from where we live and one of the few places left that still has primary rain forest. We set off early in the morning and it promised to be a fine day and as we drove up into the hills there was still heavy mist hanging over the tops of the trees.

 We were intending to walk to a place called Bukit Teraja, bukit being the local word for mountain, so the first part of the walk was very steep. The previous time we did this walk it was pouring with rain so it made a nice change to do it in dry conditions although because of the recent rain there were still plenty of leeches around. We were soon out of breath from the climb but the minute one stopped anywhere the leeches would home in, so it was best to keep moving.

After about twenty minutes of walking (or climbing) we emerged into a clear, exposed rocky area and this place is well known as an excellent place for spotting pitcher plants and we weren’t disappointed. It seems that there are a number of different varieties growing in this spot, some nestled in the undergrowth at ground level and others like creepers, climbing up through the branches of trees. Some were small and round like little pots, others long and thin.


It seemed the more we looked, the more we saw, they were just everywhere. After crossing this open space and ridding our boots and socks of leeches, we went back into the trees to continue our climb but we hadn’t got far before we found our way obstructed by a large fallen tree. Beyond the tree the path had been completely obliterated by a large landslide so this time there was no chance of getting to the top. We had a bite to eat and then went back down the path, the return journey being easier than the ascent, although by the time we got back to the cars my knees were feeling rather wobbly. The walk was very enjoyable even if we didn’t reach the top of the hill and more  photos for potential wall hangings.

Forest Path

A couple of weeks ago I got a copy of Cindy Walters’ book ‘More Snippet Sensations’ as I wanted to try out her technique for creating pictoral quilts. I have experimented with this technique before to create leaves in several of my rain forest designs. I have tried a number of different methods including using powdered glue which was set by using the iron; it was effective but messy and I ended up with sticky scraps of fabric all over the place and not just in the area of the quilt where I wanted them. In this method the fusible web is applied to pieces of the fabric before it is cut up into small snippets so I thought it would be better.

In the photo you can see my pile of  fabric scraps and the photo taken on a recent jungle trip, which I used as my inspiration for the design. I never through any of my batik scraps away and keep them sorted by colour in clear plastic bags. I drew a basic outline of the forest path design on my backround fabric and then started applying the tiny snippets of fabric starting off with the lightest and most distant leaves.

Distant leaves and tree trunks, the design starting to take shape.

I used a pale grey fabric for teh background as I wanted some of it to show through as sky, but it meant that I had to cover the rest of the design very densely. I think next time I will use several fabrics for the background, roughly pieced so that I don’t have to cover it with so many pieces. I used tweezers to position some of the tiny pieces and when I was happy with the arrangement , fused them in place.

The finished design with borders added and a few leaves and plants spilling over the edge. The quilting will have to wait a while as we are away for most of December having a holiday in the Philippines, so I’ll be writing about that rather than my sewing for the next month.