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

Iban Design

There was a power cut in the early hours of yesterday morning, and as it was a public holiday to celebrate the first day of Hari Raya I didn’t hold out much hope of it being fixed very soon. Luckily it was quite a cool morning so I was able to take advantage and do some hand sewing on my large applique wall hanging which I started at the beginning of the year.

The design is inspired by a traditional native Iban pattern which I drafted in EQ6 and then played around with to make my own original design. As you can see from the pattern below I still have a long way to go to complete the project.

I changed the colour from my original pattern to use a striking red batik on a black mottled background. Here in the drafted pattern I have just plain borders but when I finally reach that stage I might decide to do something more elaborate, but I think that will be a while yet.

I am hand stitching the design using needleturn applique and silk thread. It’s a slow process but it’s something I enjoy doing and the good thing about it is that I can just pick it up and do it at any time.

The power did eventually come on again around 10.30 in the morning, by which time I had done quite a bit of sewing, but it was beginning to warm up and get sticky.

Toucan wall hanging

My blog has been rather neglected over the past few weeks as I have been so busy, but I haven’t been neglecting my sewing and this is a project I made several weeks ago for a friend. This is a departure from my usual hornbill designs, but a friend from my sewing group asked if I would make a wall hanging with a toucan on it for her as she has a property in Costa Rica and she often sees toucans there.My friend had brought me a picture to work from so I scanned it into EQ6 so that I could draft a pattern for the appliqué design.

toucan EQ6

The image above shows the design that I drew out in EQ6, ready to be made into an applique pattern. I decided to use invisible machine applique for this project as the pieces were large enough for the edges to be turned under, so I printed freezer paper templates and contstructed the bird before adding it to the background.



 It was quite similar to make to a hornbill but the biggest challenge was getting the colouring and markings on the beak. I searched through my piles of fabric and found two different batiks which blended blues and yellows. I then added the details using fabric pens. I also added a little touch of colour where the yellow feathers join the black.


For the background I chose a lovely hand dyed fabric by Frieda Anderson that I bought at the Festival of Quilts last year. Sometimes I find it hard it’s hard to cut into these special fabrics, but in the end I have to tell myself that I bought them to be used and they really do help to give  a special touch to the finished design.


The finished wall hanging, quilted with a variegated cotton thread in the background and a solid coloured thread for the borders.


A more detailed photo of the finished wall hanging.

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.

Butterfly on Flower – work in progress

For a long time I have wanted to do something with a photo that I took in Thailand of a butterfly on a flower. Originally I had thought of creating a cross stitch design but never got very far with it, and then just recently I decided I would make it into an art quilt. I scanned the photo into the computer and imported it into EQ6 where I made it into an appliqué pattern.


The pattern drawn out in EQ6

With the pattern made, my next decision was how I was going to create the design. ? My preference would have been to do it by hand or to use invisible machine appliqué, but because I had chosen to make it quite small, 12 inches by 15 inches, some of the pieces were really tiny. It might just have been possible to do it by hand, but in the end I opted to use fusible webbing and raw edge appliqué, embellished with machine thread painting.  


making the first butterfly wing

Fabrics and threads play such an important part in a design and for this one I had a lovely piece of hand dyed fabric which I had bought from Foltvilág Patchwork Studio at The Festival of Quilts which I knew straight away would be perfect for the background.  I didn’t even buy it with this project in mind as I’m always drawn to greens as I use them in so many of my pieces but I’m so glad I did as looking through the rest of my stash I would have had a struggle to find something that was as good. For the butterfly wings and flower I used mostly commercial batiks although again for the actual base of the wing I used another hand dyed fabric from the quilt festival which had good gradations from brown to black which again were just perfect for what I wanted.


assembling the butterfly wings and flower

It took me several days to put the whole thing together and the cats didn’t help today by lounging all over my cutting table, or propping themselves up against the sewing machine.


Millie keeping an eye on things

Millie keeping an eye on things

Yesterday afternoon I finally finished assembling all the pieces of the design and then my next decision was how to embellish it. Whether to do the thread painting before I added the batting or after?  In the end I decided to do the thread painting first, with a stabilizer underneath as I am more familiar with that method. This method also has several advantages. The piece can be trimmed and squared up after the stitching and also it gives me a bit longer to think while I’m stitching, about what fabrics I’ll use for the outer borders.

The completed design ready for thread painting and embellishment

The completed design ready for thread painting and embellishment


New hornbill wall hanging

Over the past couple of weeks I have been working on a new hornbill design for a wall hanging, based on this photo which I took a while ago.

hornbill in palm

I imported the photo into EQ6 and then because of the complexity of the design I decided I would draw out the pattern in two parts, first concentrating on the hornbill and then creating another layout focusing on the background palm fronds. I did this and then once the background was drawn I copied and pasted the hornbill into the background.

hornbill-in-palm EQ6 layout

To create the wall hanging I started off with some fabric that I had hand painted for the sky and invisible machine appliqué to construct the design. Normally I use freezer paper templates which I iron to the wrong side of the fabric and then remove after the construction is completed but for this design as there were so many small pieces I didn’t want to have to cut the back to remove the paper. I used a different method where I still use freezer paper templates but iron the paper to the front side of the fabric and then turn the edges under to wrong side using the tip of an iron and spray starch painted onto the seam allowance. The spray starch helps to hold the seam allowance in place.

I printed out the full size pattern from EQ6 and then traced the outlines onto a stabilizer which I pinned in place under my ‘sky’ fabric. The fabric was light enough for me to be able to see the lines through so that I could place my pieces accurately.

invisible machine applique


I used a lot of fine pins to hold the appliqué pieces in place for stitching. I used invisible thread with a fine thread in the bobbin and a very fine needle (#60/8) and started stitching the pieces in place a few at a time as I built up the design on the background.


I had a lovely striped batik fabric which proved to be just perfect for creating the varied colouring of the palm fronds.

applique frond background

The fronds at the lower edge of the picture were so small and had such sharp points that I decided to fuse them in and use raw edge appliqué. To quilt I used invisible thread and outlined all the fronds and the bird, with stippling in the background areas and meander quilting with variegated cotton thread in the borders.

hornbill-art quilt-wall-hanging

The finished 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.

New Gecko Design

A few weeks ago we were sitting on the patio in the evening and there must have been something hatching out because there were geckos everywhere. All shapes and sizes, feasting voraciously ans snapping up all the little insects. There were so many and in such good poses that I was prompted to go and get my camera and take a few pictures with the aim of producing a new gecko applique design for a wall hanging. It’s easier said than done to take pictures because you see the perfect pose and then just as you go to take the shot they move.

To get a good pose to make into an applique design ideally the legs should all be splayed out away from the body as it makes it easier to sew and make a pattern. For this design I chose a photo of a gecko with a nice curved tail. I imported the photo into EQ6 and drew out the design as an applique pattern, which I then drew out onto freezer paper ready to transfer to my fabric.

I chose a spotted batik fabric for the gecko and a pale batik for the background. The design is transferred to the fabric using a white fabric pen, I cut out roughly round the design and pin it onto the background ready to start needleturn applique. I prefer to sew these designs by hand using a fine needle and silk thread so that I can get all the shaping around the gecko toes. The gecko pinned and ready to start sewing.

Two years ago, I was intending to go outside one evening and take some photos to make a new design and I got a big shock. I went out of the kitchen door and there in front of me was a large snake which I imediately recognized as a python because of its distinctive markings. Luckily I had my camera in my hand so was able to take some shots straight away. It didn’t seem too bothered by me and I’m not worried about snakes (only terrified of spiders) so I was able to get quite close and get some good photos of it on the ground.

It then moved off past the car and then effortlessly coiled itself up the post of the washing line where it then settled quite comfortably. It didn’t look as if it was going to move off in a hurry so I went and got my SLR camera so that I could take some better shots. It was a wonderful experience being so close to this beautiful creature and I regret that here in Brunei so many people panic the moment they see a snake and want it killed. A large number of the snakes here are not harmful to man and most if left alone would rather escape than attack.


I hope this beautiful snake is still out there somewhere.

Heliconia flower

With the rain forest quilt finished I felt ready to start on a new project and I decided I would do a flower design this time. Several years ago I made a small sample block of a heliconia, or bird of paradise flower, using a method called upside down applique where you stitch the pieces in postion from the wrong side of the fabric (hence the upside down) and then stitch on the right side using a free motion zig zag stitch. The method works well but for this design I didn’t like the obvious stitching round the outline and felt it was too clumsy for the delicate flower. 

I redrew the design in EQ6 so that I could make an applique pattern.The original design was square but because of the shape of the flower and the long stems and leaves I thought an elongated block would look better.

The next task was to choose the fabrics to make the flower and leaves. Origianlly I got out all my various orange fabrics, but I also had a  striped batik with shades of brown, orange and yellow and I was surprised to find this was the best match for the flower.

Choosing the fabrics for the leaves and background, a nice selection of greens.

When I first drew out the design I liked the idea of the flower against a dark background but because I chose a slightly dull shade of orange for the flower this didn’t look right. After spending a long time going through my various fabrics I came up with two possible combinations, either a graduated green or a bright blue green batik.

The blue has a nice contemporary feel, but I wondered if perhaps it was a little too bright.

I liked the green better, so decided to use this one for the background. The fabric was graduated from dark green at the bottom to a yellow green at the top. I didn’t want the bright yellow green but then because of the size of the background piece the lower part of the design was a bit dark and I felt that the leaves became lost. In the photograph above I have the graduation running across the fabric instead of up and down and I suppose I could have done that but I decided to look again for another fabric. I found a beautiful blue grey batik which I have had for quite a long time and I felt immediately that this one was right.

Here the design is just pinned in place but reading for stitching using invisible machine applique.

Festive Fair

Earlier this week I attended a ‘Festive Fair’ in the capital and sold some of my wall hangings including the ‘Forest Giant’ and the ‘Male Pied Hornbill’ which I have only just finished. It was a long day and I was fairly exhausted by the end of it but is always interesting meeting and chatting to new people and old friends at these events.

Since then I have been busy making some more gecko cushions and then today I started drawing out a  pattern for a new cat design which I have been commissioned to do.

This is the picture of the cat and then the design drawn out in EQ6 and ready to be stitched.