I’m afraid it has been a long time since I last updated my blog; life has been busy and once you get out of the routine of writing it is hard to get going again. I am just back from a trip to the UK and west of Ireland, where I went to the International Quilt Festival in Galway. The festival itself was a bit of a disappointment for one reason and another but I really enjoyed visiting Ireland again after so many years away. I decided to stay in a bed and breakfast just outside Galway rather than a big hotel and so glad I did. Beautiful views from across the road and braving the cold weather, a pleasant walk into the coastal town of Salthill.
One of the highlights of my trip was the Burren where I went as part of a photography workshop. I had been there many years ago back in the days when we only had film cameras. I remember running out of film and of course there being nowhere for miles and miles where you could buy more but I did get some impressive black and white shots and I’ve always wanted to go back there.
From a distance, as you approach, it looks like a barren landscape studded with giant boulders (although the boulders are actually a lot smaller than I remember them) where nothing would grow.
This is a false impression because as soon as you get down amongst the rocks there is an abundance of vegetation, and a wonderful array of wild flowers peeping out from amongst the cracks and crevices: honeysuckle, wild roses, orchids and many others which I couldn’t name.
Honeysuckle growing wild amongst the crevices.
A delicate purple orchid, and there was another white one growing quite close by. I don’t know what varieties they were but it would have been good to have had a book on all the wild flowers.
I’m sure I will be finding inspiration for future quilts from the photos I took, not just the flowers and vegetation but also the intriguing patterns of the rocks themselves, and also the beautiful Irish countryside.
Once the foundation pieced background was completed I started to add details for the rain forest, starting with tree trunks cut from a striped commercial batik which was just perfect for this purpose. I then cut snippets of fabric backed with Mistyfuse to create leaves and foliage.
I used the snippets to help blend the tree trunks into the background to creat an illusion of depth. Snippets in browns, reds and golds give the impression of fallen leaves at the base of the tree trunks and brighter green snippets provide contrast and give the impression of new growth and sunlight shining on the leaves near the top of the quilt.
Once the leaves were all fused in place I then used free motion embroideryand various plain and variegated threads to stitch them all in place.
I also added plants in the foreground and hand couched some cotton yarn for tree creepers.
After taking a break from sewing over the month of December I started work in January on a new rain forest inspired quilt which I have been commissioned to make. I started by gathering together all my fabrics in various shades of browns and greens which I will use for the foliage, trees and forest floor.
my inspiration photo
I used foundation pieced crazy blocks in several different designs to create the base of the design: the forest floor and the background foliage.
selection of fabrics and inspiration photo for forest floor
making the foundation pieced blocks for forest floor
The finished background still has too many straight lines and abrupt changes of colour, but the next process of the design will be to add small fabric snippets to create more subtle blending especially where the foliage and forest floor meet.
the pieced background which will form the basis for the design
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.
A few weeks a go I started work on a new rain forest waterfall design. I first drew out the basic background design onto nonwoven stabilizer and then gathered together my selection of fabrics for the background forest, rocks, pool and and sandy foreground, mostly batiks and hand dyes.
I started with the lighter background area behind the waterfall. Before starting work on the main quilt I made a small experimental post card sized piece to try out the technique I wanted to use.
Once all the pieces were fused in place, I added free motion stitching to give greater depth and create the impression of foliage. I then started to build up the layers of rock using invisible machine applique.
Of course, as usual I had my feline ‘helper’ making stitching a little difficult at times.
With the background now completed it is time for the fun part….adding all the details and embellishments. So far I have started adding a few snippets to give the effect of foliage in the areas surrounding the waterfall. These have been fused in place and then once I am happy with the arrangement I will add free motion stitching and some couched yarns.
For the waterfall I used some fine tulle which I shaped into folds to give the impression of flowing water and held in place with a free motion zig zag stitch and invisible thread then further free motion stitching and rayon thread. Behind the tulle I added a layer of angelina fibres to add a bit of sparkle.
The waterfall before being stitched down. I will next start to add rocks and foliage to the foreground.
A couple of weeks ago I took my sketchbook to do some drawing in the jungle. It is something I have thought of doing before but one of those things I hadn’t got round to until now.
The first place I stopped was only just inside the forest, an old tree stump, surrounded by an abundance of growth and an ideal place to stop and make my first sketches.
Over the years I have taken many photos in the rain forest and used them as inspiration for my quilts, but there is a very different feeling when you take the time to stop and draw a plant. One becomes far more aware of the shape, shading, texture and various patterns, all of which are important to me when it comes to creating a new design.
some of my rough sketches
I was prompted to do this sketching as part of the City and Guilds Course on Creative Quiltmaking which I started at the end of last year. I am studying the course online through Linda and Laura Kemshall at Design Matters and I’m finding it wonderfully inspiring even though I haven’t even begun to do any stitching yet.
more detailed drawings made at home
Almost all the sketches I made were of various leaves and plants as the purpose of the exercise was to concentrate on shapes and patterns rather than texture or colours. When I got home and did some more detailed drawings I was constantly thinking how these designs could be interpreted in fabric, quilting or thread painting.
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.
Last Sunday I went on a boat trip up the local river with some friends. We set off mid afternoon, the sun still blazing but the speed of the boat cooling us down. We slowed down to look for crocodiles lurking on the river bank in a couple of places, but no luck in spotting them this time. We motored on until we reached a big open point in the river where it then started to narrow down,and this is where we stopped and then turned round to come back, for a while drifting with the current so that we could appreciate all the sounds of the jungle.
I haven’t done the trip for a while so it was good to see that there is still plenty of vegetation, although in some areas it was noticeable that many of the tall trees were no longer there. Some, victims of the terrible forest fires we had a number of years ago and others that have been logged.
These bright orange leaves caught my eye amongst the vegetation, from a distance they looked like flowers. In my last post I wrote about the wall hanging I’d just made, inspired by the birds nest ferns which we have growing in the garden, and whilst drifting down the river I spotted this beautiful specimen high up in the trees.
It was so peaceful drifting down with the current listening to all the exotic calls of the birds, insects, frogs and monkeys, some we could indentify and others not.
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.
I recently started work on a new waterfall quilt and this time I decided I would make it a little bigger than the ones I have done before, although still using the same basic design. The first step was choosing all the different fabrics I would use, because although I have made this design before each time I do it, it’s like starting right from the beginning again. I have certain fabrics that I like, but then they run out and I’m always buying new ones, so the quilt always turns out differently.
inspiration photographs and some of the fabrics I've chosen.
Most of the fabrics I use are batiks or hand dyes, because of the subtle colour variations which I can use to replicate the patterns of the rocks in the background and foreground.
starting to build up the designMolly watching the progress of the waterfall
Building up the background for the waterfall using a variety of different batik and hand dyed fabriccs. For the area at the back of the waterfall I used a preprinted fabric and used fabric pens to emphasise the trunks and branches of the trees.
I’ve used invisible machine applique to construct this top, first making templates from freezer paper which I iron on to the right side of the fabric. I clip the seams, brush the edges with liquid starch, then turn under the edges using the tip of an iron. It is time consuming but I prefer this method to ironing the freezer paper on the wrong side and glueing the edges because this way I don’t have freezer paper to remove after. I also prefer the look of turned under edges.
For the waterfall I used a batik fabric as the base, then added details using Shiva paintstiks and Angelina fibre. The rocks are all added individually and I have turned under the edges of each one. It’s a slow process but little by little I’m getting there.
adding the rocks to the foreground.
Little by little I am adding all the rocks, then the next step will be to add some foliage to the foreground and background.