Thursday, December 1, 2016


What I (Teri) love about pansies is that they love the cold weather. So during the time of year when most of our natural color lies dormant, pansies are happy to spread some cheerful purple and yellow hues to what can be a rather dreary brown and tan, with an occasional evergreen sprinkled around. Here, pansies tend to be one of the last flowers blooming in the ground, and one of the first to splash is colors in our gardens in the spring. There is something incredibly beautiful about this blossom with such thin, delicate petals that demonstrates such hardiness in harsh weather. I want to be like that pansy!
Floral Wreath, designed by Through the Needle's Eye

In our Floral Wreath class at the Academy of Appliqué in Williamsburg, February 28–March 1, 2017, we will be creating our own pansies, one flora of many we will be stitching. Hanah bias silk ribbon is perfect to replicate these lovely blooms, and you will be surprised by how much easier they are to make than they look. We hope this taste might entice you to check out the two classes we are teaching at the Academy and consider joining us in our class(es).

Pretty pansies made with 5/8" Hanah bias silk ribbon
When we were in Houston at Market, we were talking to Brooke in the Hanah Silk booth, and she asked us if we would make a prototype of our pansies for her. She gave us some ribbon to use, and we promised some pansies by week's end. It was a bit challenging in that we didn't have all our regular supplies—we tried to pack light to leave plenty of room in the suitcase for returning treasures. But we spent an afternoon creating flowers, and we thought we'd share a little tutorial with you here, to give you a glimpse of the fun we will have in Williamsburg. 

All you need is 15 inches of ribbon. We chose Hanah's Wild Iris and Briar Rose for our colors. Here, we used 1-inch wide ribbon; however, the pansies above were made with 5/8-inch wide ribbon. Obviously, size matters, but only in that the size of your ribbon will affect how big your pansy is. You will need to cut the ribbon into 2 pieces: a 9-inch and a 6-inch piece. (You may wish to obtain chocolate reinforcement, as we did, above. Truffles always help!)

Fold the 9-inch piece into thirds, using a 45-degree angle. Pin to keep in place. With a strong thread—either 40-wt. cotton, polyester, or quilting thread—do a running stitch on the outside edge. Be sure to knot your thread. Note, above right, that you should start at the inside bottom, and then stitch across the bottom in a curve to help turn the edges under when it is gathered.

Do a running stitch around the OUTSIDE edge, catching both layers on the folds. Do not put a knot in the needle end of your thread.

Your stitches don't have to be tiny. The smaller the running stitches, the more gathers you'll have. Your preference! After you've made a few, you will determine how you like it best.

Now you are ready to gather by gently pulling the thread. The silk gathers very easily.

Begin to pull the thread, working the ribbon toward the knotted end. As you begin to have a gathered piece of ribbon, you could put your finger on the thread near the ribbon to help stabilize your gathers.

I always fuss a bit with my petals to make them look the way I want them to look, always remembering that no two pansies in nature will be identical. I don't fret if the petals seem a bit wonky; I can usually stitch it into submission, or at least make it behave well enough to call it "organic." (Some pansies in my garden have wonky petals, but I think they're still pretty. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!) When you are satisfied with the arrangement of your gathered petals, turn over the pansy and catch several layers of the gathers with small stitches to anchor it in place, above. Now, knot your thread. We could stop here and have a violet, but we will continue and put the back two petals on ours. 

You will need the six-inch piece of ribbon. First, fold it in half and finger-press the center crease. Open the ribbon.  To make the back two petals, we will do a running stitch in a squared-off U-shape. You can see the first "U" below. Knot your thread when you begin!

When you get to the crease, stitch up one side and down the other. Make sure that if your thread is on the back on the way up, your needle goes in on the front, or vice versa. The thread should loop over the top of the ribbon. See the two examples below.

Thread is in back, so needle starts running stitch on the front.

Here, the thread ends up on the front,
so the needle begins the running stitch on the back of the ribbon

It is now time to gather, . . .

. . . which gives you two petals.

Play with the petals to shape them, and then knot the thread. At this point, we need a foundation on which to stitch our flower. Usually, I use a small piece of crinoline, but we didn't have that in Houston. We had just purchased some hand-dyed osnaberg fabric from Fiber on a Whim, which is a rather coarsely woven fabric, so we used a bit of that.

First, we placed the back two petals on the square foundation fabric, and used stab stitches to secure them. I try to be sure my stitches are in the folds so that they don't alter the shape and they can't be seen. Then I place the bottom section on the foundation. When I like the arrangement of all the petals together, I stitch that piece to the foundation as well.

Note that the needle comes up into the bottom of a pleat.
I can adjust the placement using these stabbed stitches until I think the petals have the look I want.

I only need to stitch the petals in the center to secure the flower as a unit.
When I am finished, I will trim the foundation fabric as close to the stitches as possible.

Five-petaled pansies. The gathering stitches on the left were smaller,
which yielded a smaller flower with tighter gathers.

The center of the pansy is made using silk ribbon French knots. Again, we didn't have all our usual supplies, so we improvised a bit. Usually, I would use regular yellow silk ribbon, but all we had was the bias silk, so we cut it down the middle and used the yellow side. The three French knots help to hide any raw edges in the center of the flower.

Finished pansy blossoms

Brooke had given us some of Hanah's cording to try, so we gathered it to fashion a leaf for our pansies.
Here are the flowers atop a piece of Fiber on a Whim's hand-dyed osnaberg fabric.

What better way to experience the loveliness of springtime than to create your own pansies—all year round! These flowers can be appliquéd onto a block, used on a crazy quilt, glued onto a pin to create a floral brooch, or fastened to a barrette to bedeck a young girl's hair. I'll bet you can come up with some more creative usages for these lovely posies! We'd love to see photos of your results! (Search @needleseyestories on our social media channels. And don't forget to enter our Facebook giveaway if you haven't yet!)

Stay tuned: we have some pansy ribbon on order and plan to offer pansy packs on our website if you have no access to ribbon and would like to try these. 

Detail from The Secret Garden,
designed by Through the Needle's Eye

We hope to see you at the Academy of Appliqué in Williamsburg, from February 28–March 4, 2017! Pansies, roses, bachelor's buttons, clematis, lilies, jasmine, wisteria: we'll be stitching a garden of joy! (For more info, click here to go to our website.)

What a delightful gift that could be from Santa!! 


  1. Thanks for the wonderful tutorial! Pansies are my favorite flower too. Mostly because of their determination to pop up where least expected with their shining little faces. I adore your ribbon work!