Sunrise over the Belait

I have recently been commissioned to make a small wall hanging for a friend from some photos she’d taken of here early morning runs along beside the Belait River here in Kuala Belait. She’d collected some lovely photos of the sunrise over the river so the challenge was to put these together to create something special.

With the help of Photoshop I combined the above photo of the sunrise over the river with the following one of the palm silhouette.

I decided the best way to do the sky was to paint it using fabric paints and it took me half a dozen attempts before I was happy with the result. The difficulty was to get the subtle light of early morning without it looking too washed out, and not to have the colours too bright so that it looked more like a sunset. This was my final choice.

The next step was to audition fabrics for the greenery along the edge of the river, and the river itself. The greenery is a piece of hand dyed fabric and I will later add more shading and detail with the use of thread painting. The water was another challenge as I wanted to use something I already had rather than dyeing or painting more fabric. I have lots of batiks with the nice stripes which give the impression of water but none were the right colour. I decided to experiment with fabric paints, first on a small scrap, then on the full piece and the results were just as I wanted.

Next step will be to add the palm tree then some thread painting.


Quilting the stencilled designs

Having printed a number of designs using the splatter painting technique I chose the negative image of the tree creeper to finish and embellish. I used three different shades
of cotton variegated thread and one variegated silk for the hand quilting, and a box of mixed ‘bead soup’ for the embellishment.

I started off with a dark variegated thread near the base of the creeper, quite dense scatter stitching to replicate the density of the paint splatters and darkness in this area. As I moved upwards and outwards I gradually used lighter threads and less dense stitching.

To begin with I found that I was consciously thinking about where I was making each stitch but as I went on I got into a rhythm followingfrom dot to dot, adding a bead here and there where there were bigger splatters of paint.

Towards the outside edges of the piece, where there were far fewer paint splatters I used mostly the lightest threads and more random stitches.

I finished off the piece with a narrow binding and hanging sleeve and as I enjoyed the process so much and find the hand quilting very relaxing and easy to pick up at any spare moment, I’ve started quilting and embellishing one of the other pieces.

view of the back

Splatter Painting

For one reason or another it has been an age since I last updated my blog, so here goes with some of my latest work.As part of my Creative Quiltmaking course I have been experimenting with splatter painting, a technique I first tried out on paper a while ago using stencils, an old toothbrush and watercolour paints.

This time I used the same technique but using fabric paints and some of my hand dyed fabrics. I used some enlarged copies of my drawings of an ixora flower and jungle tree creeper to make my freezer paper templates. I used a craft knife to cut out the shapes carefully so that I could use both the positive and negative images.

I ironed the freezer paper templates onto my fabric and then used undiluted Pebeo transparent fabric paints, gradually building up layers of colour. It took a bit of practice to get the right amount of paint onto the toothbrush to get an even amount of splatters and avoid any big clogs of paint.

For the flowers I used yellow, orange and red paints, adding each colour separately to create subtle blending. I then added a bit of blue for shading.

For the tree creeper I used yellow, green and blue fabric paints on a light yellow/green fabric which later proved very difficult to photograph. It took quite a bit of time to build up the depth of colour needed for the creeper shape but I was pleased with the end results of both the negative and positive images.

jungle creepers, negative and positive images

The next step will be to layer up one of these designs then embellish with beads and threads so I’ll keep you posted.

close up detail of negative image

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.

Fabric Painting

In my last post I wrote about how I had been doing some fabric painting recently for some new projects. It’s strange how things work out because after not having done any painting for a long time, suddenly in my Yahoo challenge group the theme for this month’s challenge is ‘Playing with colour’ and altering fabric by some method such as painting or stamping. I couldn’t wait to get started but after a long dry patch we’ve been having wet and stormy weather so it hasn’t been ideal for drying fabric.On Sunday, the sun finally came out for a bit and so I got my paints out to try painting some more sky, and then the next day I experimented with making sea, jungle and sun printing.


To protect my work surface I covered everything with an old shower curtain, as the paint gets everywhere and is difficult to remove. I mix my paints in foil dishes and use a plant mister to dampen the fabric before painting. My favourite book on fabric painting is Mickey Lawler’s Skydyes and I used her directions for painting my sky by blending  ultramarine and cobalt blues to create a more realistic effect. In one dish I blended ultramarine with a dash of cobalt and in the other cobalt with a dash of ultramarine. I misted the fabric quite liberally and then used a  brush to apply the paint in broad stripes.


This picture shows the wet fabric and you can see quite clearly where I have applied the two different blues. As you can see from the next photo the fabric dries much paler.


The next day I moved on to sun printing and creating a ‘sea’ fabric.  For the sea I again followed Mickey Lawler’s directions although this time I also I added a layer of opaque pearlescent white to the dampened fabric which gives the finished piece a lovely sparkle. For the painting I used various mixes of emerald, ultramarine and cobalt.


I sprinkled the wet fabric with course salt and purposely scrunched it up with a few creases going across the width, then laid it out to dry in the bright sun.


I was pleased with the way this turned out, the ridges have created lines which have the appearance of rolling waves and the salt gives the effect of sea spray.

The hornbill in the photo below is one that I have just completed using my last batch of painted fabric.


I used some of the leftover ‘sea’ fabric to try sun printing and again following Mickey’s advice I chose some delicate leaves to make the prints. She says that soft leaves work better because they lie flat against the surface of the fabric, so actually for this I hunted around the garden and grabbed some creepers that were growing wild near one of the garden walls.


The wet fabric and leaves out in the sun, and below the sun printed fabric.


My final experiment was to add some ‘jungle’ to one of my pieces of sky fabric. This time I used a sponge to apply the paint. I only wetted the lower edge of the fabric where I wanted the colours to run into each other, and I used a little less water with the paints. I aslo used salt again and dried the fabric in the sun but on a tilt which gave an interesting effect with the salt.


I created this intending to use it just as a background for a new hornbill design that I’m going to do, but I was so pleased with the way that it turned out that I now want to design a new wall hanging around it. I already have an idea so I will write about it soon.