Thursday, October 11, 2018

Free Block of the Month 13—Sunflower

Fields of sunflowers are very common here in Germany. Many of them are in pick-your-own fields where you can cut what you want and then pay for them in a little box using the honor system. Other fields with sunflowers in them, as I mentioned before in a previous post, are grown solely for the sake of the bees. 

Sunflower from a pick-your-own field 
Sunflower at a local preschool

When I saw the beautiful sunflowers at the preschool, I knew that I would need to incorporate one into this series. Their bright yellow petals are just so cheerful, and the sheer size is impressive as well! 

This beauty will be the subject of this month's block.

Cotton Block

For this block I knew that I wanted to use ribbon for the petals (truthfully, because I didn't want to appliqué all those petals).  I gathered my ribbon and threads, chose my leaf fabric and got started.

Teri and I (Kara) prefer back-basting as our method of appliqué, so I thought I would show a little tutorial of how we do it. We start by pinning the pattern to the background and then put a piece of transfer paper behind that. We use Loew-Cornel transfer paper, which you can purchase it here. You want to have all the "good" sides facing up—transfer paper with shiny side up, background right side up, and then pattern with image up.

Prepped and ready to draw the design using a stylus.

Once you have that ready, trace over the design with a stylus. Since I would be using ribbon for the petals, I didn't need to trace those. Next, I cut a piece of fabric that would be larger than my leaf. I held my background and the leaf piece up to the light, made sure that it covered the leaf shape, and then pinned it into place (a light box would work as well).

Pinned and ready to baste.

Once it was pinned, I went around the shape basting directly on the line. The stitches don't need to be tiny but don't make them too large or your shape might shift on you as you pull the basting stitches out.


Once the shape was basted, I turned the piece over and traced the leaf outside the basting stitches using my white roller ball pen, which you can find here. I like this pen because it gives a nice visible line. You can use whatever marking pen is your favorite. One of our favorite marking tools is the Sewline Trio, which you can buy here. The advantage to this pen is that it comes with two tracing colors (white and black) and a stylus for tracing—all in one pen!

Traced and ready to trim

Trim away the excess fabric leaving about a generous 1/8 of an inch around the shape. You can always cut more away as you go around but you don't want to make things challenging with too little seam allowance.

Trimmed and ready to needleturn.

You can pull the basting stitches out as you go, either from the top or the bottom, or you can clip from the backside every 3rd or 4th stitch and pull the cut threads out as you go along. Your basting stitches need to be on the smaller side if you go with the second method.

Appliquéd and ready.

Once you have the leaves appliquéd, hold your block up to the window or a light box and trace the largest circle of the sunflower center. This will give you a guideline for your ribbon stitches. I used a 7mm ribbon and filled the area with ribbon stitches until I was happy with how it looked. After I finished the petals I appliquéd the brown center, taking care not to catch the ribbon as I stitched. Once that was finished I lightly drew another circle about an 1/8th of an inch inside the brown one. This was my guide for the embroidery.

The Karen Kay Buckley Perfect Circles™ work perfectly for tracing circles.

With a light brown #5 pearl cotton, I stitched two rows of colonial knots on and inside the drawn circle. I filled the center with turkey work loops with 6 strands of floss and then gave it a buzz cut. The close trim allowed the center to be just a little bit fuzzy. The final touch was to add some random bright yellow French knots interspersed among the brown knots.

Loops before the haircut.

The finished center

The finished block!

Stitches and Threads Used (Cotton Block)

Petals—River silk, 7mm, #250, ribbon stitch
Center—Weeks pearl, #5, Hazelnut and Aurafil wool, yellow, French knots
               The Gentle Art floss, Tiger Lily, turkey work

Wool Block

One of the wonderful things about working with felted wool is that you don't need to worry about raw edges. That makes it perfect for a multi-petaled flower like a sunflower,  

Supplies ready!

Once I appliquéd the leaves with a matching thread, I started on the petals. There are eleven petals in one shade of gold and eleven in another shade. I cut out one petal shape from the pattern and loosely used that as my guide for the rest. If they were a little different in width or length, I didn't care because that would just add to the character of the flower. The darker gold petals were stitched on first. I just used a chain stitch up the center, starting about halfway up the petal and finishing at the tip.

Ready for the next round of petals.

I used a little temporary spray adhesive for the next round of petals to keep them in place while I stitched down the center. 

Just a little bit of stickiness from the spray adhesive
to hold them down without having to fuse or staple them.

The petals were then placed on the open spaces between the previous round of petals. Because there were a few layers of wool around the center, I cut a small circle of batting and put that in the center to even out the depth.

Ready for the center.

Before I stitched down the center, I cut a smaller circle out of a dark gold wool and seed stitched that to the larger dark brown center. I used a Basque stitch to stitch the brown center on top of the petals, but a blanket stitch would work just as well.

The finished block!

Stitches and Threads Used (Wool Block)

Petals—The Gentle Art floss, Autumn Leaves, 2 strands, chain stitch
Center—Weeks pearl, #8, Chestnut, Basque stitch, 
               The Gentle Art, Autumn Leaves, 2 strands, seed stitch 

Summer is gone, but our memories of it can live on in the things we stitch. These sunflowers bring back the joy of seeing fields of bright yellow along the roadside and they will add a nice pop of color to the Flora and Fauna quilt when it's put together. As mentioned last time, I thought I would give you a little preview of how the whole project is coming together.

The wool version

The cotton version

It's fun getting a glimpse of what's to come, and hopefully you are stitching along as well. Remember, these are free block patterns, and they go together relatively quickly, so tell your friends so they can get stitching, too!

You can download the Sunflower block HERE.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Petite Floral Wreath

Last year in Sainte Marie Aux Mines at the European Patchwork Festival, I (Kara) sat next to a friendly woman from around the Frankfurt area. She was a quilter, an American and an all around lovely person. We struck up a conversation which nine months later, led to an offer to teach at her guild! It's funny how teaching opportunities come along. The next question was what class would they like taught? Our Floral Wreath caught their eye but that is a two (really three) day class so we decided to make a smaller version that would fit into a one-day class.

The smaller version.

Our smaller version has all the ribbon flowers of the first block but we have scaled it in size so that we could fit it all in one day. Here are a few close-ups of our latest block.

We used two new colors with the purple and orange silk
and we love them!
Hanah bias silk makes the best pansies.

As this class may have some students new to appliqué, we have simplified the clematis.
and used embroidery to give it depth.

Gathered ribbon roses are always fun to teach.
Can you believe this rose uses the same ribbon
as the rose on the left?

Leaf made with ribbon fly stitches.

Baby's breath

Turkey work centers for the clematis

Getting the supplies ready.
Kits in the making.

It will be a lot to accomplish in one day but I am excited to have a teaching opportunity here in Germany! As winter approaches, it's alway fun to create a little bit of spring and summer with ribbon. I'm looking forward to the Petite Floral Wreath class later this month at the Rheinland Pfalz Quilt Guild. It will be great to meet new stitchers here in Germany that love appliqué and are eager to have some fun with ribbon!

Teaching how easy and fun it is to make realistic flowers out of ribbon and appliqué is one of our favorite things to do. If you would like to learn how to make wonderful ribbon flowers and learn how to embellish your appliqué, there is a wonderful opportunity to do so in March of 2019 at the Academy of Appliqué in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Click here for more information about this fantastic venue!

Teri and I will be teaching two classes next March at the Academy: Botanical Beauties and Lovely Vase. Both classes will give the student plenty of skills to make wonderful floral creations out of ribbon as well as learning some embroidery skills to enhance your appliqué. 

Botanical Beauties

Lovely Vase

We hope to have a few kits left over to put on our website after the Petite Floral Wreath class but if your guild would like to host this class or any others, please let us know. Whether you are on this side of the pond or the other, we would be happy to come.  If you are interested in either of the Academy classes, please click on the links above to register. We'd love to see you there!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Marcia's Flowers: A Thursday Throwback

So it's one of those weeks. Kara just got home from traveling to a family wedding and is dealing with jet lag, and I (Teri) am preparing to travel to Long Island to lecture and teach for a guild. So when we touched base this morning about what we should write, we thought it might be a perfect week to do a throwback to our most popular post. That post would be Marcia's Flowers—by far! 

This was our very first pattern, and it continues to be a popular one. We are still teaching the class, and even occasionally getting to see some finished projects—always a real treat for us. Seeing projects based on our classes and patterns gives us great joy!

Last week at a workshop, Pat H. shared her Marcia's Flowers mat.
The beads add a nice touch, and I love how she finished it with the scalloped edge!

Thanks primarily to Pinterest, we are still getting lots of traffic on this original post. In light of our busy week creating writer's block, we thought we might make it easier for you to review. Enjoy!


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Marcia's Flowers

In July, Kara shared The Story of an Inspiring Jacket with you. Today, I (Teri) will show you what we have each done with the design created from that jacket. These projects have been such fun, and we hope to share the joy with you. We are excited to teach this class at Primitive Homespuns Wool & Needleworks in October, in Frederick, MD. 

When we first met Kathy, the owner of the shop, she asked if we could design a wool appliqué piece that could be used to top a wooden box. Kara had already started working on this pattern in bright colors by Shakerwood Woolens, and we took it in to show to her. Kathy thought that the design would be perfect, so I selected a palette of colors from her shop to stitch my model. As I love warm colors, my model has a very different look from Kara's. Our two examples show how the same pattern, with the same embroidery stitches, can look so very different! 

Here are a few side-by-side detail shots for you to compare. 


Sometimes a different look is achieved because of different thread choices, or even because of the density and weave of the wool. The purple wool on the outer petal of the above flower, left, held the scalloped cut. The teal, on the right, however, was a looser weave, so I chose to fray it with the back of my needle, so it would look more feathery.

For our class at Primitive Homespuns, we will be using the warmer palette and making a lovely box that would be perfect for storing sewing supplies, threads, or even used as a project box for appliqué or embroidery pieces. I went to the shop yesterday to work with Kathy to secure the finished piece on the top of the box, which she had painted a lovely brick red. First, I backed the finished piece with muslin, using SoftFuse Premium™ as my fusible. Then I trimmed it to size, and we backed it with Shurtape® double-sided carpet tape. Kathy has this process down to an art; I was impressed watching her trim the tape to the size of the appliqué, and methodically remove one strip of backing paper at a time to carefully secure it to the box with proper placement.


We auditioned several examples of trim, including discussing a blanket stitch around the edge of the block, but we settled on a lovely vintage chenille yarn, which we glued down using Aleene's® Original Tacky Glue®. The color matched the pale yellow used in the block and gave it a nice, finished look without distracting the eye from the design.


While I was stitching up my model, I put a photo of my embroidery on a Facebook group and was astonished by the number of requests there were for the pattern. So we decided that it only made sense to write up directions and create a formal pattern. We have been working hard to get it ready, and it should be up on our website by October. But in the meantime, if you live in the Frederick area of Maryland, come join us for some Saturday fun! (For more information about the class, please check our website, by clicking here.)* 

We thought it would be fun to put our two projects together for a photo session; here they are sitting on a chair together in the shop. You can see that Kara decided to stitch hers into a pillow, and she just happened to have the perfect fabric to match her appliqué! What would we do without such an extensive fabric stash?!

Marcia's Flowers


*NOTE: We don't happen to currently have a class scheduled for this block, but if there is interest, we can always add one! And, for the record, the patterns ARE now available on our website, in both digital and hard copy!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!