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.

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.

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.

Rain Forest Quilt 2012

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

 

 

Forest Waterfall

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.

Sketching in the Jungle

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.

simple line drawings in pen

Birds Nest Ferns

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.

Detail of the stitching and quilting

Going Green Challenge

I belong to a yahoo challenge group linked to my Janome sewing machine and in March it was my turn to lead the challenge for that month. The theme I chose was ‘Going Green’ and it opened itself up to many different interpretations and it was interesting to see such a wide variety of different projects from within the group. Some people took an environmental slant and chose to use recycled goods and scraps. I was amazed to see how old pairs of jeans could be transformed into bags, book covers, dolls clothes and even cat and dog toys.

jungle-leaves

Other people chose to feature green fabrics in their work and I was one of those, as it’s my favourite colour and I enjoy working with greens. For my project I created a foundation pieced background of ‘crazy’ blocks which I printed out from EQ6. I then used invisible machine appliqué to add a jungle plant, spilling out into the borders. In the latter stages I was racing against the clock to get the challenge finished by the end of the month but I just managed.

Jungle-leaves-completed

Quilting with variegated and solid coloured cotton threads completes the design. Initially I started to quilt a trailing leaf design in the borders but then had to unpick what I’d done as I felt that it didn’t look right and drew too much attention away from the main design.

working on a new waterfall design

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.

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 design

starting to build up the designMolly watching the progress of the waterfall

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

Detail of Jungle Leaves Wall Hanging

I have frequently used this jungle plant in my art quilt wall hangings, either featuring the whole plant or using it as a detail in one of my larger rain forest pieces. I don’t know what type of plant it is but I love the curves of the leaves and the pronounced veins, perfect for interpreting into applique.

This time I wanted to try something a little bit different and just focus on a small detail of the leaves to create a more abstract design. It is an idea I’ve wanted to explore for a while and I was finally inspired by Katie Pasquini Masopust’s book: Design Explorations for the Creative Quilter where she devotes a chapter to exploring details of images.

I cropped the above image where two of the leaves overlap and create an interesting pattern.

I printed out the image and made an drawing on tranparency film which I thne scanned and imported into my Electric Quilt programme to create a pattern. Once the pattern was drawn out I went through my stash of greens  and chose over twenty different fabrics to recreate the shading in the leaf and add variety and interest. I printed out the pattern from EQ6 and traced one copy onto a satbilizer to use for the background and another copy onto freezer paper to use as a working pattern.

To make the design I cut out each section one by one from the freezer paper, applied it to the right side of my chosen fabric and then used starch and an iron to fold under the raw edge. Each piece is then applied to the background stabilizer and pinned, then I stitched each section in place using invisible thread and a reversed blind stitch.

The picture above shows the first sections stitched and further ones pinned in place and ready to stitch. I have used a mixture of batiks and tone on tone fabrics for greater variety and to add interest to the design.

This photo shows more leaf sections stitched in place. And finally the finished design.

I added a bright green narrow accent border and I outline quilted each individual section of leaf using rayon thread.