SAQA Oceania Blog Hop 2016: Dancing Ferns

Dancing Ferns

I rejoined SAQA (Studio Art Quilts Associates) earlier this year and although I am based in Brunei, on the island of Borneo I was able to join the Oceania Group. Every year SAQA hold a benefit auction in which members donate 12” x 12” quilts which are then auctioned to raise funds. This year’s auction start on September 16th and you can find out more details on the SAQA web site. The auction is divided into three sections and my piece is in the third section taking place from October 3rd-9th.This year I entered a quilt for the first time and it is included along with 35 other quilts in the Oceania Collection and you can see details of these and the other participants here http://www.saqa-oceania.blogspot.com.au

Most of the work I do is inspired by the natural world around me and my auction piece “Dancing Ferns #1” is no exception and I have gone from the tropical rain forest to my garden where I have many of these graceful ferns growing and swaying gently in the breeze.

For the background ferns I made freezer paper templates and then used fabric paints and an old toothbrush to splatter paint on a piece of my hand dyed fabric. Using this technique gives a more subtle effect thank filling in the area with solid colour.

stencilled background ferns

I then fused the foreground ferns and appliquéd in place using a small satin stitch and fine 50wt Aurifil cotton thread because I wanted the stitching to blend and not be a dominant feature of the design.

appliquéd ferns

Finally I stitched rows of echo quilting around all the ferns again using the 50wt cotton thread. The echo quilting helps to give a sense of movement which is why I named these Dancing Ferns.

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The next person following on from me in the 2016 Oceania Blog Hop is:

Carolyn Collins carolyncollinsart.com/art-blog on 12th September

And before me was Rasa Mauragis rasamauragis.com/blog

How to add a single fold binding to your quilt

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People often want a reminder on how to sew on their binding once they finish their quilt or wall hanging so I have put together this tutorial for my blog. It also contains instructions for adding a sleeve if you are going to hang your finished quilt.

These instructions are for adding a single fold binding to your quilt or wall hanging using a ⅜” seam and with the finished width of ⅜” for the binding.

First measure the outside edges of your quilt or wall hanging to determine how many strips you will need to cut from your binding fabric. For example, if your quilt measures 20” x 16” you will need a total of 72” of binding plus a bit extra to go round the corners and for joining, so if your fabric is 45” wide you would need to cut 2 strips.

Cut your required number of strips from the width of the fabric 1¾ inches wide. Using your ruler and rotary cutter, cut the ends of each strip at a 45˚ angle, the join right sides together as shown to form one continuous strip using a ¼” seam. I find it helps to mark the ¼” seam on your binding strips. Strips joined using a 45˚ angle like this are stronger and almost invisible when viewed from the right side.

joining the binding strips

joining the binding strips

After stitching trim off the little ends of fabric that stick out.

joined binding strips

Strips joined with a 45˚ seam and the ends trimmed off.

It’s important that you have trimmed all the edges and squared up the corners before you attach your binding.

Lay the binding right side down onto the front (right side) of your quilt, stitch round all the edges with a ⅜ inch seam. Start your stitching 4-5 inches away from the end of the binding and leave that end loose, its good to start about mid way down one of the sides of the quilt.

To miter the corners, when you get close to the corner stop stitching and make a mark ⅜“ away from the edge. Continue stitching until you reach this mark and then stitch diagonally out to the outer edge.

Stitch from the 3/8" intersection mark diagonally to the outer edge.

Stitch from the 3/8″ intersection mark diagonally to the outer edge.

Cut you thread and then fold the binding up at a 45˚ angle, then fold down so that it is level with the edge of your quilt. Start sewing at the fold and then continue to the next corner and repeat the steps.

Fold the binding strip up on the diagonal

Fold the binding strip up on the diagonal

Fold down again so that the fold is level with the edge of your quilt and start stitching.

Fold down again so that the fold is level with the edge of your quilt and start sticking.

Stitch until you are about 8-9 inches away from where you first started stitching and stop
Joining the binding.

Lay the quilt flat with the binding on top and then mark with a pin ½” away from the edge of the 45˚ angle.

Put a pin 1/2" from edge of binding

Put a pin 1/2″ from edge of binding

Lay the other end of the binding over the top of the first one and make a mark or insert a second pin where it overlaps the underneath pin. This will be your cutting line for the other end of the binding. Cut this end at 45˚. I find it helps to draw a line on the top binding to show which direction to cut the angle.

Lay the other end of the binding on top and mark

Lay the other end of the binding on top and mark

Lay the second piece on top and mark.
Join the two ends with a ¼” seam, press the seam open, and then stitch the last part of the seam.

Stitch the ends of the binding together using a 1/4" seam.

Stitch the ends of the binding together using a 1/4″ seam.

Hanging sleeve
Next attach the hanging sleeve if you are making a wall hanging.
For the hanging sleeve cut a piece of fabric from the backing fabric the same width as your finished quilt and 9 ½” wide.
Make a seam at each end by turning in ¼” and then ¼” again to the wrong side, press and stitch in place close to the inside edge.
Once the stitching is complete fold in half lengthways and then press lightly to mark the lower edge.
Centre the hanging sleeve on the back of the quilt, having the raw edges even with the top edge of your quilt and then stitch in place using a ⅜” seam. Secure each end by backstitching.
To complete, turn the binding to the back of the quilt, fold in the raw edge and slip stitch in place on the back. Make sure that your stitches are only on the back of the quilt and don’t show through to the front.

Binding turned to the wrong side ready to be hand stitched in place.

Binding turned to the wrong side ready to be hand stitched in place.

Stitch the hanging sleeve in place last.

Stitch the hanging sleeve in place last

Stitch the hanging sleeve in place last. Make a fold and pin level with top of quilt to make extra room so you can insert a rod for hanging.

To make a little extra room in the sleeve so you can insert a hanging rod make a fold in the top of the hanging sleeve tube and align with the top edge of your quilt and pin in place. Now lay the sleeve flat and slip stitch the sides and lower edge in place. Don’t stitch the top edge. When this is unpinned there will be a small fold of loose fabric which will allow for the insertion of a hanging rod.

 

Fan Palms

I have just started work on a new series of  small wall hangings inspired by the fan palms in the Borneo rain forest. It’s been a while since I started a completely new project but this is one I have been thinking about doing for a while now and I finally got started after a recent trip to the forest.

fan palms Lambir

Unfortunately our walk was cut short by a big thunderstorm but not before I had taken plenty of fan palm photos, I then took one of these and made a number of crops so I can experiment with different views of the same design. I drew out my patterns in EQ7 because I want to later scale up any of the designs I particularly like.

I started off with making some freezer paper stencils and getting my old Painstiks out to make the background palm fronds.

stencils and paintstiks

I then traced the design of the palm frond onto fusible web and applied that to some hand dyed fabric. Have chosen to use raw edge appliqué for these small quilts because there are a lot of very narrow inside curves, so I layered up the top with batting and backing then stitched round all the edges of the palm fronds using a matching thread. I then used a darker thread to stitch all the ridges in the leaves.

fused shape applied over background stencil

Before doing this the design had looked very flat, but stitching in all the lines brings the design to life and gives it texture.

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Finally I used a dark variegated thread to make lines of dense echo quilting in the background which again helps to make the palm frond stand out.

Fan Palm square crop

Fan Palm, the square crop.

Fan Palm fronds over stencilled background.

Fan Palm fronds over stencilled background.

Ice Dyeing

This last week I have been experimenting with ice dyeing. It’s not the most obvious thing to be doing in the tropics but a good supply of ice cubes and crushed ice instead of snow works very well.

Ice dyed fabric

Ice dyed fabric

There’s a good tutorial on ice dyeing on the Dharma Trading website and I used this as my guide. Basically the ice covered fabric needs to sit on a rack in a container where the liquid from the melted ice and dye can drain away. I looked around to see what I could use and found that some old flower pots in the garden were ideal and some round, metal kitchen racks were the prefect fit to go inside the pot.

fabric arranged on a rack in the pot.

fabric pre-soaked in soda ash is arranged on a rack in the pot.

The pot is deep enough to allow a good layer of ice to cover all the fabric. I found that a mixture of ice cubes and crushed ice worked very well and didn’t melt too quickly.

the fabric layered in the pot and covered in a mix of ice cubes and crushed ice.

the fabric layered in the pot and covered in a mix of ice cubes and crushed ice.

On top of this I sprinkled the powdered dye. I use Procion MX fabric dyes for all my dyeing, and when applying the dye to the surface of the ice using a small nylon sieve helps give a more even distribution of colour. Using more than one colour gives a more interesting effect, but I found that some colours worked much better than others and you need to make sure to add enough dye powder to give the fabric a good colour.

a mix of blue and golden yellow dyes

a mix of blue and golden yellow dyes

red, fuchsia and gold dyes, looks good enough to eat!

red, fuchsia and gold dyes, looks good enough to eat!

I left these to sit overnight to allow all the ice to melt. Here I used a colander suspended over a pot and this also worked well.

The last traces of ice slowly melting

The last traces of ice slowly melting

I left the fabric to sit overnight until all of the ice had melted. Then comes the fun of seeing how the fabrics have turned out.

The results are unpredictable and beautiful as the dyes blend and mingle almost like watercolours to create delicate and subtle colour variations.

reds, pinks and yellow

reds, pinks and yellow

darks greens and blue

darks greens and blue

To avoid having white or very pale colour in the background you can also use a piece of fabric that has already been dyed. These fabrics will be wonderful for art quilts, appliqué, or even some contemporary patchwork or quilting design and I can’t wait to use them.

Beautiful greens

Beautiful greens

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

Forest Giant revisited

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.

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!

Artful Fabric Dyeing

Since I first started dyeing my own fabric as part of my City and Guilds course and discovering that it is something I love doing, I have dyed many, many yards of fabric, bought numerous books and done several online courses, but recently I haven’t been so happy with the results. It seems that every single person who writes about dyeing or does a class has a different method and dye recipe. The consequence is that I seem to have got confused trying all the different methods and am no longer sure what works best for me. There are so many variables when it comes to mixing the dyes, what quantity to use, how long to leave them how much water to use etc. and there is a huge variation between the different methods.

I find Linda Johansen’s Fabric Dyer’s Dictionary is useful when I want to dye a specific colour for something and sometimes I want fabrics without too much texture and colour variation, but I was looking for something that would give a bit more exciting results for other projects. Ann Johnston’s “Color by Accident” is another good book but I was still looking for a slightly different and more intuitive approach.

At the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham this year, I bought yet another book on dyeing in the hope that it might help me with my dilemma, “Tray Dyeing” by Leslie Morgan and Claire Benn. I found the book inspiring and I liked the fact that they approach the subject as artists rather than scientists, giving plenty of directions but also encouraging one to experiment.

I just mixed several colours to start as I wanted to see how these would turn out before dyeing a lot of fabric. I used golden yellow, a medium blue, turquoise and a little black, and made use of cheap local calico which I’d prewashed.

They recommend leaving a minimum of four hours and even better overnight, so as I was impatient to see the results I only left them to sit for four hours before rinsing. Straight away I could see that the fabrics looked very promising and I liked most of the results.

Golden yellow on its own.

Blue and turquoise.

Golden yellow and blue

Golden yellow and back.

The good thing about dyeing is that you can always overdue something that doesn’t turn out too well. I had a pale lemon yellow from a gradation I did which was a bit insipid, adding golden yellow really gave it some zing!

This yellow and blue also turned out well.

Now to go and buy some more fabric and try out some more combinations, and of course if you don’t like the results first time you can always dye them again.