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.


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.

Leaf rubbings completed

Last month I wrote about the leaf rubbings I made using some dried leaves I’d collected in the jungle and paintstiks.You can see the post under “Paintstcks leaf rubbings”. I embellished the leaves with a blend of rayon and metallic threads then fused them to a black batik background and there they sat waiting to be finished until a few days ago.

I was going through my stash of browns and autumnal colours looking for fabric to complete another project when one of the batiks caught my eye and I thought it would be just right for my leaves. I just added a simple border as I felt the design didn’t need anything else.



The colours of the border fabric compliment the colours I have used in the leaves. I quilted in the background using a fine black 50wt cotton thread and because there is no quilting on the leaves they stand out well from the background. I used a thicker variegated cotton 40wt thread in the borders.

Detail of the leaf rubbing and quilted background

Detail of the leaf rubbing and quilted background

Paintstiks leaf rubbings

I bought a set of paintstiks several years ago and have used them from time to time but I have frequently thought that I would like to use them to make some  rubbings from leaves. Up until now this has gone no further, but recently inspired by my Janome Challenge group on the internet, the last time we went off on a jungle walk I collected a pile of dried leaves. I almost didn’t get them home because I’d left them by the car while we were changing and one of my friends, not realizing that I’d collected them specially was standing right on them.

Luckily they survived and a few days later I tried them out with the paintstiks. They’d dried out and so were a little fragile but luckily they were quite thick and leathery to start with. I placed the leaves under some muslin and then rubbed with several different coloured paintstiks including gold, using my finger to blend the colours.


I left these to set for a day, and then because the background fabric was uninteresting I decided to back each leaf with fusible web, cut them out individually then applied them to a piece of black batik fabric. I used a free motion zigzag and variegated rayon thread to stitch round the edge of each leaf, and then I stitched along the outline of each leaf vein. I felt that the leaves needed something else such as metallic thread so that was on my shopping list when I went to the quilt show in England, and  yesterday I added the last bit of stitching.


Now I need to find a good fabric for the border and quilt the design.