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

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.

First attempts at fabric design

Driftwood cushion

I am between quilting projects at the moment so while waiting for inspiration I have been having a go at designing my own fabrics and was excited to receive the first samples of my work last week from Spoonflower. I was really happy with how they turned out. They were even better than I was expecting because being my first attempt at creating repeat patterns it took quite a lot of trial and error to get the designs as I wanted them but I enjoyed the process and can’t wait to try some more ideas.

fabric samples from Spoonflower

I have used my quilt designs, drawings and photographs for inspiration for the fabrics. The gecko fabric is from one of my appliqué designs, and the flowers from drawings and watercolour sketches of periwinkle flowers that grow in our garden.

Inspiration for my periwinkle designs

The Driftwood fabric started off as a photo that I took of some driftwood on the local beach and then the image was mirrored and then mirrored again so that I could use it for a repeat design. I made this up into a cushion and I think it would look really great with outdoor furniture or very elegant on a plain cream, burgundy or back sofa or arm chair.

Driftwood cushion on chair

 

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. 

If at first you don’t succeed ……

Sometimes when you’re dyeing fabric the colours don’t always come out quite as you expect or as you want them to. The good thing is that almost always you can dye them again. Earlier in the year I was experimenting trying to get some good, rich chestnut browns but ended up with some very uninspiring dull oranges instead. Last week I decided to try over-dyeing these fabrics using dark brown, black or dark blue and ended up with these lovely autumnal pieces.

Just perfect for autumn leaves.

In my most recent batch of dyeing I was also experimenting with some yellow and blue combinations for foliage effects. For some reason the blue I used was very weak and completely washed out leaving me with a lot of bright yellow fabrics. I over-dyed these with a muted green and some black and got some gorgeous textured prints, which are going to be just perfect for backgrounds.

Jungle Leaves

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.

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.