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.
My blog has been rather neglected over the past few weeks as I have been so busy, but I haven’t been neglecting my sewing and this is a project I made several weeks ago for a friend. This is a departure from my usual hornbill designs, but a friend from my sewing group asked if I would make a wall hanging with a toucan on it for her as she has a property in Costa Rica and she often sees toucans there.My friend had brought me a picture to work from so I scanned it into EQ6 so that I could draft a pattern for the appliqué design.
The image above shows the design that I drew out in EQ6, ready to be made into an applique pattern. I decided to use invisible machine applique for this project as the pieces were large enough for the edges to be turned under, so I printed freezer paper templates and contstructed the bird before adding it to the background.
It was quite similar to make to a hornbill but the biggest challenge was getting the colouring and markings on the beak. I searched through my piles of fabric and found two different batiks which blended blues and yellows. I then added the details using fabric pens. I also added a little touch of colour where the yellow feathers join the black.
For the background I chose a lovely hand dyed fabric by Frieda Anderson that I bought at the Festival of Quilts last year. Sometimes I find it hard it’s hard to cut into these special fabrics, but in the end I have to tell myself that I bought them to be used and they really do help to give a special touch to the finished design.
The finished wall hanging, quilted with a variegated cotton thread in the background and a solid coloured thread for the borders.
A more detailed photo of the finished wall hanging.
Last Monday was a public holiday here in Brunei so a few of us got together to go for a jungle walk. The weather has been very hot and dry here lately, and there has been haze from forest fires but on this day the skies were looking threatening and there were spots of rain as we were setting off in the cars. It was just a passing shower because when we got to our destination there was no sign of any more rain. We chose to go to the Rampoyah waterfall which is a walk we haven’t done for a while. The last time we did it many of the bridges (if you can call a few logs wedged across a ditch a bridge) had rotted away or were unsafe which meant a lot of clambering and scrambling up and down muddy gullies. This time it was much drier underfoot and almost all of the little bridges had been replaced which made the going much easier, although the walk was longer than I remembered it being.
Despite the dry weather the jungle foliage was lush as usual as you can see from this photo looking up towards the canopy. We walked for about an hour and a half to the waterfall, then stopped there for a dip and refreshment.
The picture above shows the river where we stopped at the waterfall, with the rain forest trees coming right down to the water’s edge. A couple of people swam in the river but it didn’t look too appealing with the dark water concealing anything that might be lurking there. We didn’t see any interesting birds this time although we could hear them in the distance. We did spot this rather hairy caterpillar though.
An unusual specimen, and I’m sure those spiky hairs would give a very nasty sting. Our walk back was a bit quicker than on the way out and then the drive home again.
On Friday we got together again with a smaller group this time and headed over the border to walk in The Lambir national park and to the Pantu waterfall which is one of our favourite treks. The rain forest here is very impressive although sadly there is only a small area left now. There are many ancient trees with their great buttress roots spreading out, twisted creepers that have grown to the thickness of small trees and huge fallen leaves the size of a tea tray.
We stopped at the waterfall to swim and although the level of the pool was lower than usual it was still surprisingly cold, but it was refreshing after the heat of the jungle. On the way back we spotted this marvelous crested lizard. Actually one of our group put their hand on it as they grabbed a tree for support and got quite a shock.
He obligingly stayed still enough for us to take a few photos before deciding he’d had enough of us and disappearing up to the top of that tall and spindly tree. Before we set off on the walk we also spotted this unusual insect which was pretending to be a leaf on one of the posters at the park head quarters.
Well, plenty of inspiration here for future quilts so I don’t think it will be too long before I make another rain forest inspired art quilt design.
A few weeks ago we were sitting on the patio in the evening and there must have been something hatching out because there were geckos everywhere. All shapes and sizes, feasting voraciously ans snapping up all the little insects. There were so many and in such good poses that I was prompted to go and get my camera and take a few pictures with the aim of producing a new gecko applique design for a wall hanging. It’s easier said than done to take pictures because you see the perfect pose and then just as you go to take the shot they move.
To get a good pose to make into an applique design ideally the legs should all be splayed out away from the body as it makes it easier to sew and make a pattern. For this design I chose a photo of a gecko with a nice curved tail. I imported the photo into EQ6 and drew out the design as an applique pattern, which I then drew out onto freezer paper ready to transfer to my fabric.
I chose a spotted batik fabric for the gecko and a pale batik for the background. The design is transferred to the fabric using a white fabric pen, I cut out roughly round the design and pin it onto the background ready to start needleturn applique. I prefer to sew these designs by hand using a fine needle and silk thread so that I can get all the shaping around the gecko toes. The gecko pinned and ready to start sewing.
Two years ago, I was intending to go outside one evening and take some photos to make a new design and I got a big shock. I went out of the kitchen door and there in front of me was a large snake which I imediately recognized as a python because of its distinctive markings. Luckily I had my camera in my hand so was able to take some shots straight away. It didn’t seem too bothered by me and I’m not worried about snakes (only terrified of spiders) so I was able to get quite close and get some good photos of it on the ground.
It then moved off past the car and then effortlessly coiled itself up the post of the washing line where it then settled quite comfortably. It didn’t look as if it was going to move off in a hurry so I went and got my SLR camera so that I could take some better shots. It was a wonderful experience being so close to this beautiful creature and I regret that here in Brunei so many people panic the moment they see a snake and want it killed. A large number of the snakes here are not harmful to man and most if left alone would rather escape than attack.
I hope this beautiful snake is still out there somewhere.
With all Christmas, New Year and the holidays well and truly over it is time to get back to sewing and to finish off the forest path design which I started before we went away in December. I only had the quilting to do and I decided to keep that fairly simple, with stippling and invisible thread in the main part of the design and a large meander pattern using variegated cotton thread in the border.
Since coming back from the Philippines, where we had an unusually dry December, we seem to have had nothing but rain here in Brunei. It rains a lot at night but there have been days too when it has been so dark we’ve had to have lights on in the house and the rain has come down in great torrents. The garden which normally drains quickly, being so close to the beach, has been flooded in places for the last few days, and two days ago I rescued a very nice frog which had got stranded in our patio. Later that day my husband found our kitten Millie about to play with something not so nice, a small scorpion had come in out of the rain. He caught it and put it over the fence into the jungle but I hope there aren’t any more around.
After a busy week finishing off various projects for another craft fair at the weekend I took some time off on Sunday to get together with a group of friends to do a rain forest walk. We went to Lambir National Park which is just over the border from us in neighbouring Sarawak. It isn’t a very large national park but contains a rich variety of trees and plants, and I have used photos that I have taken there as inspiration for the majority of rain forest wall hangings that I have designed and made.
Impressive buttress roots of a rain forest tree
We set off quite late,there was a queue at the border and it was almost midday by the time we set off and so we didn’t see much in the way of wildlife. We’ve had a lot of rain recently so the paths were quite wet underfoot and there were a lot of leeches, but we reached the waterfall which was our destination without mishap. After walking for an hour we were all hot and sweaty so it was refreshing to plunge into surprisingly cold water of the forest pool and cool down.
The waterfall which has inspired the various waterfall quilts that I’ve made.
While we were having lunch on Sunday I suddenly spotted an unusual bird on the garden fence so I went to get my camera so that I could get some close up pictures to identify it. We’re approaching the time of year when we start getting a few migratory birds passing through Brunei and we later identified this one as a type of cuckoo.
While I was taking photos of this bird we heard hornbills in the trees on the other side of the garden near the beach. Pied hornbills are quite plentiful here in Kuala Belait where we live, but we don’t get them very often in our garden so I was very happy to see this pair especially as I had my camera and zoom lens at the ready. The female stayed in amongst the trees so I wasn’t able to get any pictures but the male posed obligingly on an exposed branch.
I was inspired by the photos I took and for a while now I have been thinking about designing a new hornbill wall hanging so later I imported one of my photos into EQ6 and planned out a new design.
This is the new design for my hornbill wall hanging which I hope to start stitching in the next few days.
As a result of the Open House the other day I have several new commissions to work on, including another tree frog (that, along with the gecko cushions was one of the very first things to go) I decided that while I was at it I would make two tree frogs, using the same graded background fabric for both, but cut from different areas so that they are not the same, and then different fabrics for the borders.
I am working on several different designs at once so that I can go from one to another, so one of the other commissions I am currently working on is an Iban Leaf Design which I adapted from a traditional Iban design and made into an applique pattern. I am doing this one by hand using needle turn applique so it is going to take a while to do.
Cut work applique
This picture shows the first stage of construction. The design was drawn onto freezer paper which I then ironed onto the fabric and traced round the outline using a fine white fabric pen. I removed the freezer paper and then pinned the fabric onto the background.
applique close up
I have started at one of the outside points of the design and am gradually working my way round the outline using the cutwork method of applique. I cut a small section of the fabric at a time and small pins to anchor everything in place, which I remove as I get to them. I am using silk thread with a very fine needle and I use a toothpick to fold under the edges as I go along.
Several evenings ago I was sitting in the garden, letting the cats have a run around and relaxing with a cup of coffee when I suddenly spotted something in the small tree in front of me. At first I thought it was a snake because I could see something long, thin and spotted draped over one of the branches. I went to look closer and it turned out to be a young monitor lizard. I ran inside to get my camera and luckily it was still light enough for me to get some good shots.