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

 

Flying Home

It has been an awful long time since I updated my blog but one of my new year’s resolutions for 2016 is to try and write more regularly, so here goes with my first post for 2016.

I recently tried out a new technique using up scraps of leftover hand dyed fabrics. They were just thin strips which I would normally have thrown away. I laid them out and fused them onto a piece of backing fabric. As the fabric scraps I had were oranges, golds and reds I created a sunset sky and then as I liked the effect I added dark blues for sea.

narrow fabric strips laid out on background

Like this there were a lot of raw edges exposed so next came the fun part. I got out a selection of various threads: rayon, polyester, cotton, some plain some variegated and of different weights too and free motion stitched across the surface. The stitching helps to blend the colours.

free motion stitching on background using a variety of threads The scene needed something else so I added the silhouette of an egret which I’d photographed on the beach a few weeks ago and created a pattern using #EQ7.

silhouette of egret on stitched background Finally a layer of batting and backing and more free motion stitching and a narrow binding to finish off the project.

Egret flying home across the south China sea

Flying Home

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. 

Iban Design Continued

Recently I’ve been experimenting with the back basting method for hand appliqué after buying the excellent book “Back-Basting Appliqué Step by Step by Barbara J. Eikmeier. I have found it to be very effective and accurate so inspired by my sample pieces I decided to get out my Iban Design project to work on again. This project has been languishing in my sewing box for a while. I thought it was only a year but when I went back to my blog post Iban Design I discovered that I actually started work on it in 2010!

As I’m working on a dark background I found the easiest way to transfer the markings to the back of the quilt is to use my original freezer paper templates and a transparent overlay to ensure correct placement.

I then used a fine white marker to trace round the templates.

Basted and ready to start appliqué.

Work in progress. Funny how cat hairs get everywhere!

Forest Waterfall

A few weeks a go I started work on a new rain forest waterfall design. I first drew out the basic background design onto nonwoven stabilizer and then gathered together my selection of fabrics for the background forest, rocks, pool and and sandy foreground, mostly batiks and hand dyes.

I started with the lighter background area behind the waterfall. Before starting work on the main quilt I made a small experimental post card sized piece to try out the technique I wanted to use.

Once all the pieces were fused in place, I added free motion stitching to give greater depth and create the impression of foliage. I then started to build up the layers of rock using invisible machine applique.

Of course, as usual I had my feline ‘helper’ making stitching a little difficult at times.

 

With the background now completed it is time for the fun part….adding all the details and embellishments. So far I have started adding a few snippets to give the effect of foliage in the areas surrounding the waterfall. These have been fused in place and then once I am happy with  the arrangement I will add free motion stitching and some couched yarns.

For the waterfall I used some fine tulle which I shaped into folds to give the impression of flowing water and held in place with a free motion zig zag stitch and invisible thread then further free motion stitching and rayon thread. Behind the tulle I added a layer of angelina fibres to add a bit of sparkle.

The waterfall before being stitched down. I will next start to add rocks and foliage to the foreground.

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

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.

 

African Skies

In my last post I wrote about my new project for the new year and the sample pieces I was making. This is the second sample that I made, with a brighter, more dramatic sky than the first one.

 With the samples made I decided it was time to start work on the full size pieces, and the first thing to do was to paint the four different sunset backgrounds. I used fabric paints on dampened fabric as I wanted the colours to run and blend with each other. I used a pale wash of diluted yellow on each panel, then added red, orange and purple to create my sunsets. For the palest sky I also used a dilute blue wash for the top half. The effectts can be a bit unpredictable and two of the skies I had to do again before I was happy with the results.

I fused each panel to a piece of muslin and then added batik fabric for base and sky line. The four panels are now ready to be embellished with free motion stitching to simulate the tree tops as in my sample piece.

While I was putting these together I happened to leave the muslin backing fabric in a pile on the floor and that soon became a comfortable sleeping spot for Suzie.

New year new Project

After a few week’s break from stitching, having been away on our annual windsurfing trip to Boracay in the Philippines, it feels good to be back in my sewing room and starting work on a new project. The project is a series of four wall hangings featuring African sunsets shot in the Kruger National park by a friend, and it makes a nice change to be working on something a bit different from my usual Asian inspired designs.

To start with I made some washes on paper so that I could experiment with the colour mixes I would need when I came to do the skies on cloth. This is one of the ones that I did.

When I was happy with the colours on paper I decided to try some samples on fabric using fabric paints. I dampened the whole piece first, then painted a pale wash of yellow before adding other colours.

the samples drying on the line

Once the samples were dry, I heat set them with an iron and then backed each piece with fusible web. I did the same with a strip of commercial batik fabric which I will use for the ground and sky line. I fussy cut an uneven edge for the sky line, then fused that to the background sky and then fused the whole lot onto a backing of muslin.

I made another smaller sample so that I could experiment with stitching, and I used a fabric pen to sketch in some trees and shrubs.

I wanted a fine thread to stitch the details and go along the edge so I used Aurifil 50wt cotton and a narrow free motion zigzag. I varied the angle and width of the stitching to give an uneven edge to the sky line.