I’ve been back home just over three weeks now and slowly getting back into my normal routine and enjoying my new Janome 8900QCP.
I already have the 6600 and the Horizon 7700 but since the beginning of the year I had been thinking about switching my 7700 for the newer model. I was put off by the price but when I was at the Festival of Quilts they were doing a special deal which made them very attractive. I didn’t actually get a chance to try the machine until literally ten minutes before the show closed as the stand was always busy and I didn’t have the time to be able to wait. With the show closing I had to come to a quick decision, so I went for it. The stress I had with the shipping to Brunei almost made we wish I hadn’t bothered, but once it arrived I was very glad I had.
The machine is very similar to the 7700 but as it says in the blurb they’ve kept the best features and added quite a lot of small improvements which make quite a difference to the quilter. I love the extra large foot pedal which stays put when you are sewing rather than sliding off across the floor.
They’ve got rid of the convertible foot plate and there are now two separate foot plates. I never had a problem with the convertible plate but was always worried I would forget about it and use it with the wrong stitch. The new foot plates are very easy to switch too, no more screws but a small lever to release, then they just snap back into place.
I do a lot of appliqué so was keen to check out all the available stitches. I think there are a few more than on the previous machine. There is a memory setting which enables you to set your preferred settings for any stitch which is very useful. (I think the 7700 had this feature but I never got round to using it)
Experimenting with a few different threads and stitches
I also tried out some setting for “invisible” machine appliqué.
I will also be doing a lot of free motion quilting on this machine and rather than have to fiddle around with tension I used the blue dot bobbin which I already had for my 6600. This bobbin is designed with a different tension, especially suitable for quilting, and I found it worked perfectly in these samples.
Of course Oscar had to come and try out the machine too!
It doesn’t seem like like I’ve been back in Brunei a week already. In some ways it feels like I’ve been back longer, and the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham feels like an age away. Having my own stand there for the first time was a great experience, and I really enjoyed meeting and chatting to so many lovely people from all over the world, as well as catching up with a few ‘old’ friends. Thanks to everybody who came by, it was really a pleasure talking to you all. Lots of people wanted patterns so that’s something I’m going to work on for the future.
One of the wall hangings that many people commented on was my “Forest Giant”, a new version of apiece I first made several years ago. A lot of people were interested to know how I made it so here it is again with some pictures showing the various stages.
I started off with a piece of my hand dyed fabric for the background, then added a few strips of fabric for tree trunks and then the main tree.
When I made this design before I used a single piece of fabric for the base of the forest floor but this time I decided to add various hand dyed strips to give more variety.
Then began the very time consuming process of adding all the leaves. I used lots of different scraps of fabric to give depth to the design. I backed each scrap with fusible webbing, the cut leaf shapes. Each leaf was then added individually. I would do a batch then fuse in place a few at a time …… not a good time to sneeze or have one of the cats walk over my design board!
I continued in this way until the background was covered as much as I wanted it. Then it was time for the final details and free motion stitching to complete the piece. I used a large number of different threads to achieve the look I wanted.
For the past few years I have been going back to England for the Festival of Quilts at the NEC in Birmingham and several years ago I met up with Deborah O’Hare from The Blue Hare and Quilt Routes.
Deborah as well as being an art quilter produces unique hand painted fabrics, quilt patterns and kits. We got to know each other through our blogs as Deborah saw some of my quilts online and she has also lived and worked in Brunei. Deborah now lives on the coast in South Wales and many of the art quilts she creates are inspired by that coastline and the countryside around.
Since the first time we have met up at the FOQ almost every year, and for the past two years Deborah has had her own stand. I have been very tempted to have a stand myself and while chatting together last year we came up with the idea of having adjoining booths so that we could open them up and share the larger space to display our work and also have a friend to be with as we will both be doing the show on our own.
This idea has now become a reality so the countdown has begun and I’m working flat out to make sure I have enough quilts to display. I also plan to sell some of my hand dyed fabrics so I know the time is going to fly between now and August.
We also had an idea of each doing a ‘memory’ piece to link our work, Deborah creating something from her memories of Borneo and myself from my memories of the UK where I grew up. These works are in progress, and for myself it makes an interesting change working on something inspired by the English countryside rather than the tropics.
You can see more of Deborah’s work on her blog, website and on her Facebook page “Quilt Routes from Deborah O’Hare”.
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.
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.
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!
After several months and many, many hours of work my “Birds and Flowers” quilt is finally finished and hopefully on its way to Birmingham (or maybe even already there).
Virtually all the applique was done with Aurifil 50 wt cotton thread and I used the same for the quilting. I actually did this part quite quickly because I when I first started to quilt the design it wasn’t looking so good with lumps and bumps all over the place so I wanted to get it finished and smooth again.
Before the quilting was done I also added some hand embroidery to make the stems for the little pink flowers.
Also to add a bit of interest to the larger leaves.
And hand dyed cotton thread on the tail feathers.
A section of the finished quilt.
Another section of the quilt showing some of the embroidery detail.
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.
I belong to an online challenge group linked to my Janome 6600 and 7700 sewing machines and last month’s project was to create something using at least five different purple fabrics. This appealed to me because when I’m dyeing I almost always seem to end up with more turquoise and fuchsia left over and from these loads of different purples.
I decided to randomly strip piece some of these fabrics together to create a background. I varied the widths and curves to create more interest and ended up with this piece.
I then added some applique flowers trying out a new method of machine appliqué which I have just learnt on a Craftsy class with Beth Ferrier. She uses a narrow zig zag stitch rather than the reversed blind stitch which I have used in the past and creates an almost invisible finish.
I then quilted the whole piece with a variegated rayon thread, roughly following the curved lines.
I wanted to experiment a bit more with this technique so made another small piece using a piece of multi coloured hand dyed fabric which I’d always thought rather unusable but cut into a small square looked so much better than I’d imagined