New Hornbill design for 2013

While waiting for the threads I’ve ordered for my Birds and Flowers quilt I started work on a new hornbill design.

 To start with I made a sketch from the photo I’d taken in a friend’s garden, leaving out unwanted background details.

I drew out a pattern for it in EQ7 and then put it all together using my own hand dyed fabrics for the background and borders, and a mix of hand dyes and commercial batiks for the bird, which I stitched in place using a fine satin stitch and 50wt cotton thread. I used a fabric pen for the markings on the casque to give a more natural look.


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.

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.


The hornbills have visited the garden every day this week and I have been able to take more pictures, mostly through the living room window so as not to disturb them. Yesterday morning the pair of them were sitting together on one branch and the male was giving little gifts of berries to the female, who would either delicately give them back or swallow them down.

Male and female pied hornbills

Male and female pied hornbills

In my last post I mentioned that I’d created a new hornbill design for a wall hanging, and already drawn it out in EQ6. This design is now stitched and completed. I used batik fabrics for the hornbill and the borders of the wall hanging, with a graded fabric for the background. I used a machine satin stitch and rayon threads to stitch the hornbill and variegated cotton threads for the quilting. As with my tree frog design I stitched a random trailing leaf pattern for the quilting in the background.
wall hanging of pied hornbill

wall hanging of pied hornbill













detail of hornbill art quilt

detail of hornbill art quilt

Birds in the garden

While we were having lunch on Sunday I suddenly spotted an unusual bird on the garden fence so I went to get my camera so that I could get some close up pictures to identify it. We’re approaching the time of year when we start getting  a few migratory birds passing through Brunei and we later identified this one as a type of cuckoo.

While I was taking photos of this bird we heard hornbills in the trees on the other side of the garden near the beach. Pied hornbills are quite plentiful here in Kuala Belait where we live, but we don’t get them very often in our garden so I was very happy to see this pair especially as I had my camera and zoom lens at the ready. The female stayed in amongst the trees so I wasn’t able to get any pictures but the male posed obligingly on an exposed branch.

I was inspired by the photos I took and for a while now I have been thinking about designing a new hornbill wall hanging so later I imported one of my photos into EQ6 and planned out a new design.

This is the new design for my hornbill wall hanging which I hope to start stitching in the next few days.