African Skies – continued

Over the last week I have continued working on my African sunset project. Having painted the skies for the background then fused a black hand dyed batik for the foreground it was time to add the details with thread painting.

I wanted the stitching to be quite fine so I used Aurifil 50wt cotton thread in both the bobbin and needle so that I could build up detail without adding too much bulk. For the large tree in one of the sunsets I needed to use an embroidery hoop to stop the fabric distorting, but I found this wasn’t necessary for the smaller trees.

The completed thread painted tree.

I planned to use a black batik border for each design but first needed to find something suitable for an accent. Going through my stash I found a perfect batik print which picked up the light purple in the sunsets as well as some of the orange.

These are the sunsets with the borders added.


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

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.