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 continued

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.

 

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

Up the river

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.

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.

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.

 

completed-jungle-leaves

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