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.

Jungle Leaves

I recently signed up for a Craftsy class with Gloria Loughman called “Linear Landscape Quilts”. It’s  a really good class and the first sections on choosing colour schemes and fabric painting are almost a class on their own. To make her “linear landscapes” she uses two layers of fabric and a clever raw edge applique technique which reveals slithers of the underneath fabric to create the effect of contours. The landscape she created is very appealing but as I watched the video I realized that this technique could be adapted for things other than landscapes so I decided to try it out on one of my own designs.

My inspiration was this jungle plant which grows in the Sarawak rain forest and has beautiful curved and ribbed leaves.

My first piece is a close up study of these leaves using some of my hand dyed fabrics.

I was happy with the way that this first piece turned out so I decided to try it on a larger design using the complete leaves.

I used a bright green for the base, with a darker green for the main part of the leaf, and made three pieces like this. It’s  time consuming but very effective.

Rain Forest Quilt 2012

After taking a break from sewing over the month of December I started work in January on a new rain forest inspired quilt which I have been commissioned to make. I started by gathering together all my fabrics in various shades of browns and greens which I will use for the foliage, trees and forest floor.

my inspiration photo

I used foundation pieced crazy blocks in several different designs to create the base of the design: the forest floor and the background foliage.

selection of fabrics and inspiration photo for forest floor

making the foundation pieced blocks for forest floor

The finished background still has too many straight lines and abrupt changes of colour, but the next process of the design will be to add small fabric snippets to create more subtle blending especially where the foliage and forest floor meet.

the pieced background which will form the basis for the design



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

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.

Leaf rubbings completed

Last month I wrote about the leaf rubbings I made using some dried leaves I’d collected in the jungle and paintstiks.You can see the post under “Paintstcks leaf rubbings”. I embellished the leaves with a blend of rayon and metallic threads then fused them to a black batik background and there they sat waiting to be finished until a few days ago.

I was going through my stash of browns and autumnal colours looking for fabric to complete another project when one of the batiks caught my eye and I thought it would be just right for my leaves. I just added a simple border as I felt the design didn’t need anything else.



The colours of the border fabric compliment the colours I have used in the leaves. I quilted in the background using a fine black 50wt cotton thread and because there is no quilting on the leaves they stand out well from the background. I used a thicker variegated cotton 40wt thread in the borders.

Detail of the leaf rubbing and quilted background

Detail of the leaf rubbing and quilted background

Detail of Jungle Leaves Wall Hanging

I have frequently used this jungle plant in my art quilt wall hangings, either featuring the whole plant or using it as a detail in one of my larger rain forest pieces. I don’t know what type of plant it is but I love the curves of the leaves and the pronounced veins, perfect for interpreting into applique.

This time I wanted to try something a little bit different and just focus on a small detail of the leaves to create a more abstract design. It is an idea I’ve wanted to explore for a while and I was finally inspired by Katie Pasquini Masopust’s book: Design Explorations for the Creative Quilter where she devotes a chapter to exploring details of images.

I cropped the above image where two of the leaves overlap and create an interesting pattern.

I printed out the image and made an drawing on tranparency film which I thne scanned and imported into my Electric Quilt programme to create a pattern. Once the pattern was drawn out I went through my stash of greens  and chose over twenty different fabrics to recreate the shading in the leaf and add variety and interest. I printed out the pattern from EQ6 and traced one copy onto a satbilizer to use for the background and another copy onto freezer paper to use as a working pattern.

To make the design I cut out each section one by one from the freezer paper, applied it to the right side of my chosen fabric and then used starch and an iron to fold under the raw edge. Each piece is then applied to the background stabilizer and pinned, then I stitched each section in place using invisible thread and a reversed blind stitch.

The picture above shows the first sections stitched and further ones pinned in place and ready to stitch. I have used a mixture of batiks and tone on tone fabrics for greater variety and to add interest to the design.

This photo shows more leaf sections stitched in place. And finally the finished design.

I added a bright green narrow accent border and I outline quilted each individual section of leaf using rayon thread.

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.