Watercolour pencils and textile medium – a happy marriage

26 07 2015

In the Aug/Sept 2015 issue of Quilting Arts magazine was a description of a fabric painting technique that used watercolour pencils (or sticks) plus a textile medium to intensify and set the colour. It looked interesting, so I decided to try it. I was really pleased with how it turned out.

I outlined some basic flowers using a permanent thin black fabric marker on some plain white Kona cotton. For the red flower I only used my Derwent Inktense watercolour pencils to colour the petals, then painted on textile medium (Folk Art Textile Medium ‘Plaid’ 794 [http://www.plaidonline.com/folkart-mediums-textile-medium-2-oz/56/794/product.htm]), keeping within the lines. Immediately it was added, the red intensified, and there was no bleeding outside where I’d painted the medium.

I needed to test it with other colours — both a small distance from each other and blended — to see if the textile medium would ‘run’ the colours into each other. It didn’t. I also needed to test how well just water would do with the watercolour pencils on the fabric — there’s no point in paying for textile medium if water out of the tap works just as well!

Below is a photo of my tests. I was very pleased with how the textile medium intensifies the colour AND fixes it so that you get no blending of colour with the brush, nor bleeding into other areas of the fabric. You can blend the watercolour pencils (or Inktense watercolour blocks) before applying the medium, or after (when it’s still wet) — it won’t cause the colours to run into each other. And with the textile medium there’s no ‘bleeding’ into the fabric either, as there is with water, which failed miserably in this test (see the photo for how badly the water did with this fabric).

(Click on a photo to view it larger)


The next photo is of part of a piece I decided to paint with this technique. I used Frixion Gel pen to mark my lines (yes, it irons out, even through the dried colour and textile medium), then shaded the line with black Inktense watercolour pencil, shading only near the left edge. The top part of the photo shows the immediate change in colour with the application of the textile medium (I didn’t shade the right edge of the column as I wanted it to fade off to light grey. The lower half is the watercolour pencil shading.


You don’t need to apply much colour. In fact, I’d advise you apply a small amount to start with. You can always add more when the fabric is still wet. But it would be impossible to remove the excess colour if you applied too much.

Cleaning out

26 07 2015

We moved to our current house 5.5+ years ago, and prior to that we had a BIG move from a house we lived in for 16 years in Perth. At the time of the big move, I culled a lot of paperwork from my personal files. And did the same again, though on a smaller scale, when we moved here. I had some time so decided to tackle my personal file drawer.

The piles of paper below are what I removed from the drawer! The left pile will be shredded and given to friend for her compost, while the right pile goes into the recycling bin (it’s shiny paper mostly, and doesn’t do well in compost).


The drawer STILL looks full, even after removing all that paperwork! I guess I should do this sort of cull more often than every 5 or so years…


Having fun with yarn!

20 07 2015


This past weekend I travelled to Perth to do a 2-day Yarn Couching workshop with Helen Godden, Australian Handi Quilter Ambassador and co-inventor (with her father) of the couching feet for Handi Quilter machines. And a darned nice person, too! (If you think you’ve heard Helen’s name before on this blog, you have — she was one of the co-hosts of the QuiltVenture trip to the US I did in Oct/Nov 2014.)

I purchased the couching feet when they first came out and had done a bit of experimenting with them. But I didn’t feel very confident using them and had a few issues with starting and ending, and with the thread skipping the yarn. So I invested in learning the proper way to use these feet from the designer of them — and had a ball of fun doing so! I was in the second-ever class in the world that Helen has run on this technique (the first class was the two days prior), and so it was a learning experience for us all — Helen got lots of examples of how we all interpreted the same pattern she provided, and we got the benefit of her knowledge and artistic flair.

There were 16 ladies in the class (14 on their Sweet Sixteens, the same machine I have) held at Handcrafters House, and all were very generous in sharing their yarns. My yarn stash was pretty small as I don’t knit or crochet, but I was able to supplement my meager supplies with yarns from others.

The technique is basically thread painting, but with yarn instead of thread. As I’ve done a lot of thread painting, I was comfortable with that side of it. It was the hints and tips and ‘best practice’ stuff I was there for. And we got plenty of that! Helen will be releasing an online class soon on this technique (including patterns), and I highly recommend it if you have the Handi Quilter couching feet but aren’t sure what to do with them or how to use them.

On Day 1 Helen showed us the basics and we did just enough practice to feel comfortable before yarn couching the blue wren pattern Helen gave us.

Day 2 saw us all interpreting Helen’s landscape pattern. I added a snowy mountain and water to mine! (This art quilt is now available for sale from my Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/au/listing/618938579/australian-desert-art-quilt)

The day after the course finished, I went to my local Spotlight and stocked up on yarn — fortunately they had a 40% off all yarns sale on at the time, so I was able to make good use of the dollars I spent. Maybe I’ll get to use them now that I have lots of ideas and inspiration from Helen! I’m hooked!

(Click on a photo to view it full size)

The wren

The pattern markings were done with a Frixion pen, which magically irons out; the beak, eye, and legs were done with a Sharpie; everything else about the bird and the leaves was couched yarn; the background was quilted prior to couching the bird and leaves.


For the long flat leaf, I used a knobbly variegated earthy green yarn — I really liked the effect, but I think it was a bit heavy for the pattern. I could see myself using this sort of yarn in a forest or jungle background scene, or for reeds or rushes in a foreground. If you look closely, you can see the thread I used to secure the yarn to the quilt top.


I LOVE the yarn I used for the fern — it was soft and fluffy and had a cream core, which stitched out as veins in the fern leaves. I found some of this yarn at Spotlight, so have now purchased my own ball of it!


A hive of industry




The landscape piece

After tracing the pattern onto our sky fabric, creating our quilt sandwich, and stitching down the main elements of the apttern to stabilise it, we started couching the elements furthest away — the hills in the background. I used a variegated 4-ply baby-soft yarn in creams, soft blues, and mauves for the snowy mountain range. The close-up of the needle shows the special plastic surround of the couching foot and the hole that the needle, thread, and yarn go through.




I stitched the front hills with a variegated 8-ply purple, blue, orange, brown, and yellow yarn. Helen thought they looked like The Bungle Bungles (Purnululu)!P1040808

More layers added…


After adding the water, the reeds behind the tree, and the tree, I stitched the foreground elements. I was REALLY pleased with the effect for the plants right in the foreground — I used the same soft furry green yarn I’d used for the fern on the wren piece. Again, the cream core of the yarn showed through as veins on the leaves. LOVE that yarn!


The tree was a bit of a disaster that I rescued from awfulness 😉 I started by stitching it in cream, then added a furry brown, black, and grey yarn as shadows. It looked just awful, so I unpicked most of it and gave the bits left on the front a haircut, leaving just a few to add some character to the tree. I then overstitched the tree with some variegated cream and grey yarn and was quite happy with how it turned out. 30 minutes earlier was a different story…



The finished piece (prior to ironing it flat and trimming it to size and adding a binding):


Yarn stash

My new stash — yarn!






This was my previous yarn ‘stash’ – 8 balls of yarn, 2 of metallic, and one ribbon yarn….


Helen’s lyrebird and waratah quilt

One of Helen’s amazing quilts, with couching emphasising all the main elements and making the lyrebird’s white tail:







Eyelids: Before and after

16 07 2015

Warning! The photos in this post may be disturbing to some people. If you don’t like photos of post-operative wounds and healing, look away now.

With that warning, you might be wondering why I’m even posting about the eyelid surgery I had last week, and posting photos of the healing process. Well, it’s because SO many people have told me in the past week or so that they are either considering this surgery, know someone who’s considering it, or know someone who’s had it done. Far more than I expected… and several people working in my local shops wanted me to remove my sunglasses to see what the results were.

I wanted to document the process I went through for anyone considering this surgery — with photos to show you what my first week post-surgery was like. And to document the pros and cons as I’ve experienced them. Over the next few weeks I’ll add more photos to show you how my eyes look after all the bruising and swelling has gone down.

Remember, this is MY story — if you’ve had this operation or are intending to have this operation, your experience may be different.

What surgery I had and why

I had surgery to remove drooping eyelid tissue that was starting to obscure my vision. The surgery is called a blepharoplasty and involves removing excess tissue (skin, fat, muscle) from the eyelids. I had this surgery on the advice of my ophthalmologist after I asked him about my drooping right eyelid when I visited him earlier this year. He confirmed that ultimately the eyelid would obscure my vision and that although the left eyelid wasn’t as droopy, he’d do both at once so that I didn’t look lopsided.

Here’s a photo of my eyes the day before the operation (absolutely no make-up) — my right eye is on the left in the photo:


You can see how the eyelid has folded over and how my eyelashes are almost totally hidden by the fold. The cause is likely a combination of genetics, weight gain, and aging.

There’s no eyelid definition, either. This lack of eyelid definition is often the reason some women have this surgery, and why this surgery is classed as ‘cosmetic’ by the health insurance companies, and therefore attracts only a small rebate. In my case, the surgery was recommended by an ophthalmologist for vision reasons, but the health insurance companies still treat it as ‘cosmetic’ (don’t get me started on that…).

If you look closely at my right eye and compare it to the left, you can see that the eyelid is well on the way to blocking light (at least) from that eye. This photo was taken in the morning — by evening, my right eyelid droops even more, to the point of closing totally (and involuntarily) by about 8:30 or so every night (when watching TV).

For comparison, the photo below is of my eyes taken July 2004, some 11 years ago, when I was not only younger, but thinner, not as grey, and wearing a little eye make-up on the day:



Although the ophthalmologist told me he could do this surgery under local anaesthetic in his rooms, I opted for ‘twilight’ anaesthetic in the day-surgery unit at a private hospital. Why? Because I had a major eye operation when I was a child and even today I get traumatised if a doctor of any sort puts an instrument anywhere near my eyes. I wanted to feel nothing — and I wanted to know nothing!

When I was waiting in a bed to be taken to surgery, the anaesthetist came to insert the cannula and discussed the anaesthetic procedure with me. It didn’t sound like what I’d been told and I told him so, as well as told him I’d freak out if I was awake and saw an instrument near my eyes. He suggested for everyone’s sake that he put me under a general anaesthetic, even though the ophthalmologist would prefer me to be awake so he could tell me when to open and close my eyelids. I was very grateful to the anaesthetist, and eagerly agreed to a general!

I was told the procedure would take somewhere around 45 to 60 minutes (that’s for both eyes).

(Aside: Waiting is traumatic — I arrived at Admissions just before 9:30, went through another 4 waiting rooms/stages, etc. before being wheeled to surgery at noon. That was some 2.5 hours of being alone with my thoughts and trying to fight off thoughts about what was to happen to me and whether I should go through with it or not. Fortunately, I took my tablet device with me so I distracted myself by playing Scrabble against the computer. Oh, it was a cold day and despite the air conditioning in the hospital, it was bloody freezing in the light cotton gown I had on — my bare feet [yes, I had to remove my shoes] were like blocks of ice.)


After being brought around in the recovery ward, I got dressed and took a couple of photos with my tablet of my immediate post-op eyes. The bruising and obvious stitches were a bit scary, but already I could see eyelid definition and my eyelashes!


The next series of photos were taken at approximately the same time each morning for the next seven days. Excuse the quality of these photos — I had to take them with the camera pointed upside down at me! Selfies with a camera aren’t so easy…


10 July 2015, approx 18 hours after surgery


11 July 2015


12 July 2015


13 July 2015


14 July 2015


15 July 2015 – the stitches come out today!


16 July 2015, after the stitches were removed

As you can see from these photos, the bruising and swelling gradually faded over the first week. I still have some residual bruising (16 July), but now that the stitches are out, my eyes are feeling much better. By the way, despite the horrific images above, the view from inside was fine and I felt very little pain — it looks far worse than it feels!

Pros and cons

The obvious positives are that my vision will be better in the long term as I won’t have to deal with drooping eyelids. And I can see my eyelashes and eyelids, so I should be able to wear eye make-up again, if I choose to (I haven’t worn eye make-up in years as there was no point as it couldn’t be seen, or it smudged all over the upper eyelids).

The list of cons looks long, but most of these are very temporary and will go with the passage of time:

  • Bruising and swelling — Expect some bruising and swelling for at least a week. Ice packs help with both, and sleeping half sitting up helps a bit with the swelling.
  • Wear sunglasses inside and out if you have to go out and about — Unfortunately, in this day and age, others may think you’ve been abused as versus had an operation or been in an accident of some sort. You WILL have some serious black eyes — wearing sunglasses is preferable to having a well-meaning person call the police to question you or your partner about abuse!
  • Tightness — Even a week later, my eyelid area feels a little tight. This is normal and will fade over time. It felt even tighter when the stitches were in, but now that they’re out, the tight feeling above my eyes has gone. However, there’s still quite a bit of tightness on the inner and outer parts of the eyes.
  • Tenderness — For the first few days, everything close to and around my eyes was quite tender (not especially sore — just tender), fading off over time. A week on and I’m still a bit tender in the outer and inner corners where the incision occurred, but not along the incision lines across the eyelids. Again, this will fade.
  • Showering — I didn’t realise how much I splashed my face when taking a shower! Until I couldn’t do it. Now that the stitches are out, I’m very gently splashing my face with water (no soaps, cleansers, or gels yet) in the shower. Splashing my face is part of my routine for waking up and feeling refreshed, so not being able to do it each day made me feel like I hadn’t ‘properly’ woken up. It’s a little thing…
  • Rubbing and scratching — Like the splashing, I didn’t realise how much I rubbed or scratched my eyes each day — until I couldn’t! This was probably the hardest thing to live with. There’s nothing worse than having an itch you can’t scratch — whether it’s because of tenderness, fear of infecting the area, or fear of pulling on stitches. It was agonising at times. However, now that the stitches have been removed and the area is healing well, I’m starting to rub and scratch a little. Ah, the relief 😉
  • Blinking — I blinked a lot more the first few days. I think that was for two reasons — one, my eyes felt a little dry; and two, I wanted to check that the eyelid muscles were still working as they should.
  • Follow instructions — I was given ointment to put onto the incisions for the first few days, and was told to use the ice packs the hospital gave me. I was religious about the ointment; not so much the ice packs, unless I noticed the swelling. I should have been more diligent with that. When I had the stitches out yesterday (a painless procedure, by the way), I asked about when I could start using my cosmetic eye cream again and was told about another two weeks. However, the person who removed my sutures said it was OK to stop the ointment and to use something like a drop of Bio-Oil in the interim.
  • Cost — This isn’t a cheap operation. The quote I was given by the eye surgery people was AU$1800 for both eyes, of which I had to pay $600 after Medicare and Medibank Private rebates were taken into account. I haven’t yet received the anaesthetist’s bill, which no doubt will be several hundred dollars (I don’t know how much will be covered by government and private health insurance). I shouldn’t have any hospital charges as my Medibank Private top hospital private health insurance covers that, and I had already paid the annual $150 excess for an operation I had in April this year at the same hospital.

I’ll update this post with photos of my progress over the next few weeks. I won’t be taking photos every day now — perhaps once a week for a few weeks until it’s all settled down.

Two weeks after surgery

Two weeks after surgery I still have some residual swelling and bruising, but it’s going fast. I’ve now had my post-op appointment with the ophthalmologist and he’s pleased with how they look. He reckons I look a lot younger! (BONUS!!) I still have’t received a bill from the anaesthetist, so maybe that’s still to come, or perhaps it was covered as part of the hospital/surgical coverage. I guess I’ll find out within a month… My eyelids are still a little tight, but I’m sure that will settle with time too. I can now wear eye cream again, too. And I can splash my face and rub my eyes (gently!) if they are itchy.



The photo with my eyes closed shows the scars — they are quite fine and unless you knew to look you wouldn’t notice them.

Four weeks after surgery

One month on and all the obvious signs of surgery are gone — no more black eyes and minimal puffiness. The scars are fading. However, there’s still a bit of tenderness and dryness, especially around/in the right eye. And the scar above the right eye feels a little lumpier too. I’m sure this too will fade. I’ll post more pics in a couple more months’ time.



Three months after surgery

These will probably be the last photos I post, as everything has settled down into the ‘new normal’. As with the other photos, taken without makeup.

10 October 2015

10 October 2015

10 October 2015 - eyes closed

10 October 2015

Shed: Before and after

12 07 2015

A week or so ago I bought some open and covered tubs from Bunnings, with the aim of sorting out the gardening stuff in the shed.


It wasn’t TOO bad — almost everything was in the one place, on an old bookshelf just inside the shed door. But the herbicides were mixed in with the insecticides, and the stuff I bought recently for my casual yard guy to use was all on the floor making it difficult for him to get on with his job.

 After a few hours, my garden area in the shed was all nicely sorted and all tubs were labelled. I even sorted out the sprinkler, hose, and irrigation fittings into tubs of like stuff, and then into ziplock bags of the same thing (e.g. separate labelled ziplocks for 360 degree MP Rotator heads and for 90 to 210 degree MP Rotator heads). This makes it easier for me (or anyone who works in my garden) to find what they need without scratching through a big tub of bits.

And I put my tub of PPE right near the door (personal insecticide, gardening footware, fly net, cap, gloves, safety glasses, etc.) ready for me to grab it and put it on when I next venture into the garden. (PPE = personal protective equipment)

Achievement unlocked!


2015 Challenge pieces and show and tell

8 07 2015

A bit of background… Since 2009, five of us have participated in an annual 4-day retreat down south, where we get to hang out, sew/quilt, laugh, sew some more, tell off-colour and groan-worthy jokes, play, sew some more, laugh even more, eat good food, etc. It’s a delightful break in the middle of the year and the middle of our winter. And it’s a most wonderful time spent with cherished friends. I highly recommend such a weekend to anyone!

To give some focus to the weekend, a challenge is set the previous year that we have to make and keep secret until the reveal at our retreat weekend.

Details of this year’s Challenge and the process for making my piece are here: https://rhondabracey.com/2015/07/04/2015-challenge/

Here are the pieces the five of us made, with my recollections of how they relate to something QI (quite interesting) about the history of quilting.

F chose the colour blue to use in her quilt and that colour was passed on to me to use in mine. F received ‘burgundy’ from M to use in her quilt. F’s quilt represented the Amish quilting tradition, which came out of Wales, the Netherlands, and Germany. One of the interesting snippets she spoke about related to two fashion houses that have direct connections to these traditions — Laura Ashley, which came out of the Welsh traditional quilts, and Esprit, which houses a collection of old Amish quilts.


F gave me ‘blue’ and I decided to give ‘red’ to B. I incorporated blue and red in a quilt that represents the Gee’s Bend quilting tradition of improvisation and making do with fabric scraps from old work clothes etc.


B took my ‘red’ and passed ‘gold’ on to G. B’s quilt represented two traditions — hexagons and crazy quilting (around since at least the 1770s, but made ‘fashionable’ in the Victorian era and up until the 1930s). B used English paper piecing for the hexagons, then HAND embellished each one with lace, beads, embroidery etc.


G got ‘gold’ from B and passed on ‘black’ to M. G’s quilt looked at the history of our little group — the printed newspaper fabric in the middle has black and white photos of each of us featured alongside the articles! She also added five Dresden plates, also using that newsprint fabric, one for each of us. The gold she had to incorporate was a gold thimble on the main newspaper.


M got ‘black’ from G and passed on ‘burgundy’ to F, completing the circle. M made an ‘underground railroad’ quilt, of several TINY traditional blocks. Supposedly, the underground railroad quilts were coded directions to slaves who were escaping from the US to Canada in the 1800s. She read how each block was part of the message.




Finally, Brian, who set the challenge, revealed his piece, a many-layered photograph he had created, surrounded by a wooden frame he had made. The colour we gave him was ‘pink’, and he used B’s treadle sewing machine as the centrepiece of a history of sewing machines. The background was an enlarged piece of hand-dyed fabric that B had dyed.


All the quilts together on the floor:


Show and tell

After we’ve done the challenge reveal, we get to do ‘show and tell’. Here are some of those pieces.

G’s show and tell pieces:






Ann’s show and tell (Ann is a local quilt shop owner, invited along to join us):




M’s Christmas runner made entirely from Accuquilt Go! Cutter dies:


And B’s finished piece that she started last year:


Other activities from the weekend

While we sew and quilt a lot on our weekend, we also do other stuff. On Saturday night after dinner, G handed out cards coated in a black waxy stuff. Our job was to use a stylus of some sort (satay sticks were ideal!) and scratch patterns in the surface. Great fun! It seems you can buy sets of these cards in the kids’ section in K-Mart or Big W (??) stores in Australia.






I was pleased with my efforts, especially my second one, which emulated the ‘graffiti quilting’ technique made famous by the lovely Karlee Porter:





On Sunday, we had ‘O’ day — we had to incorporate words starting with the letter ‘O’ into the day, e.g. clothing, food we made, etc. We all dressed up! From left, B was an ‘orange oblong [with owl]’, F was ‘on and off’, G was ‘Osama Bin-Liner’, M wore a ‘One-horned mystical creature onesie’, and I was ‘orange is the new black’. Brian took the photo, dressed as an ‘orphan’. The other ‘O’ thing for the day was the ‘odd’ animal tails we wore — you can see two of them on F (zebra) and me (tiger) 😉


G made some shortbread biscuits, shaped and pressed like buttons, and served in an orange plastic pet food bowl (brand new, of course!). Clever!


And M worked on an OMG quilt:


To finish off a fabulous weekend, Helen Godden and her family arrived from Canberra on the Monday. Helen revealed our challenge for 2016, and it looks like a doozy!

See also:

Community Quilt 219

8 07 2015

Cats in window boxes!

I started this cheerful quilt by stitching in the ditch around each house and the window borders within each. Then I just did a large meandering stipple to hold the layers together.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)



Threads used:

  • Top: Isacord ‘Lavender’ (40 wt, trilobal polyester, colour 3040)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Magna Glide Classic pre-wound bobbin (cream)


Community Quilt 218

8 07 2015

This Australiana quilt was a bit of a mish-mash of fabrics and elements — there was applique, some embroidered animals, some traditional and modern quilt blocks in the corners, as well as a linen-like fabric in the centre, and weird ghost forms in the white/cream/green border fabric.

How to quilt it? First, I stitched in the ditch around all the blocks, borders, sashing strips, and the appliqued pieces in the centre block. Next, I did some McTavishing in the centre block’s background to make the applique pieces ‘pop’; I also echo quilted around the embroidered animals in that block and then McTavished in there too. For the green leaf fabric, I stitched large leaves going in a zigzag pattern diagonally (about 8 leaves per fabric strip). I did other filler stitches in the remaining corner blocks, then a stylised sun motif in the ghost fabric strips. I repeated the stylised sun motif in the brown border fabric too.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)





Threads used:

  • Top: Rasant (cotton/poly, colour 1630 [was 0861]); Robison-Anton ‘Earthen tan’ (40 wt, rayon, colour 2569)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Magna Glide Classic pre-wound bobbin (light tan)


Community Quilt 217

8 07 2015

Hmmmm… Orange and geometric? That calls for a rounded shape — in this case, BIG ‘overlapping’ spirals, in orange.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)



Threads used:

  • Top: Glide ‘Lava’ (40 wt, trilobal polyester, colour 51585)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Magna Glide Classic pre-wound bobbin (light tan)


Community Quilt 216

8 07 2015

As soon as I took this quilt out of the bag, I knew I had to quilt it with stars! So I did. Free-motion stars and loops, in yellow.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)



Threads used:

  • Top: Isacord ‘Citrus’ (40 wt, trilobal polyester, colour 0600)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Magna Glide Classic pre-wound bobbin (light tan)