Monday, October 16, 2017

"Potts" of Ribbon Flowers

We have written about the Margaret Potts quilt many times in the past, and we have enjoyed teaching several workshops based on the blocks of this antique quilt, patterned by the Baltimore Appliqué Society. Last year, Kara and I (Teri) taught a Block of the Month series at our then-local quilt shop, Patches Quilting and Sewing. When it ended, the class wanted more, so we began a new batch of blocks—this time embellishing with ribbon. I thought you might enjoy studying our approach to this block, along with some highlights of our class. My intention was to include some photos of our class time, but with Kara in Germany, I had no "down time" to think about taking photos; we were having too much fun stitching! 

As before, since our focus was embroidered embellishment, we fused the blocks and covered the raw edges with stitches. Of course, the same effect could be achieved with needle-turn appliqué if you are totally opposed to fusing. The buds, calyxes, leaves, yellow flower centers, and vase were all fused, and then we were ready to begin embellishing.

A rectangle of yellow was fused beneath the window cut out of the blue vase fabric—what a "cheater" method of reverse appliqué! In fact, the light fusible creates a bit of a firmer surface for inking. In the original quilt, a name was inked in the center; I chose to simply write the date, but most people in class yesterday said they would probably write something different. I used Weeks Dye Works variegated floss to outline the edge of the vase with a scroll stitch.

The bud and calyx were outlined with a chain stitch. On the bud, I first outlined the center petal, and then the outer two petals to meet it. The leaves were all "veined" with a blanket stitch. For the larger ones, the edge of the blanket stitch creates the center vein, and the spokes go toward the leaf edge; a stem stitch covers the raw edge of the leaf. On the smaller leaves, the edge of the blanket stitch is on the outside of the leaf, covering the edge, and the spokes go toward the center of the leaf, creating the illusion of a center vein. To see a tutorial on these leaves, read Anna Scott's blog post, here.

The stems were made with River Silks 4mm silk ribbon, using a stem stitch. We played with this in class a bit, to see the difference the size of stitches make in the look of the ribbon stems. It took of bit of expectation-adjusting; everyone commented on how different the look and feel of the stitch is when compared to doing it with floss or pearl cotton. That's part of the charm! ☺

The flowers bloomed out of wired ribbon. We actually started the class with our flowers—why not start off with a bang? We had quite a lovely garden in no time at all. A whole lot faster than waiting for a real flower to bloom!

 If you would like to try these flowers, I've included a tutorial below. Have fun!

With tweezers or the tip of sharp scissors, bend the ends of the wires
to prevent them from getting lost in the ribbon.

Fold the ribbon in half, and securely stitch the ends together. 
I used a backstitch to create a seam, creating a circle out of the ribbon. 
Open the ribbon into that shape.

Using your fingers or tweezers, pull the two ends of the wire
on one side of the ribbon. They should be side-by-side
on one side of your seam. Gather them as tautly as you can. 

Wrap the wire near around your tweezers or scissors tips to secure the gathers, 
and trim the excess wire. You now have gathered the center of your flower.

The ribbon from the back

Checking the size with the pattern     

Pull the wires on the outside edge just about an inch. Secure and trim.    

From the back with trimmed wires

Adjust the gathers so they are even around the ribbon.

On a piece of cardboard or Styrofoam, use pins to manipulate the
outer wire into petal shapes. Start with the top and bottom,
then each side. Place pins where the wire is indented.

Divide each of the four sections in half. Use your finger to hold one half
of the section and drag the pin toward the center, creating two petal shapes. 

You might use two fingers to hold the petals and drag the pin between them.    

You should end up with 8 pins for 8 petals. 
(A smaller flower could have 6 petals.)    

Carefully remove the pins and secure to your background,
over the yellow center.

Don’t worry if the shape shifts a bit. As you are appliquéing it down, you will be able to manipulate it into the shape you want. It’s wire…YOU are in control! With matching thread, appliqué around the inside and then outside, catching the wire and adjusting the gathers to look the way you want to as you stitch. Don’t be afraid to fuss with it! Use French knots around the inside edge, or beads, if you want sparkle. Have fun!    

We hope you'll try one of these flowers and let us know what you think. Enjoy!

Previous posts about Margaret Potts

"Potts" of Flowers

A Potts Palooza—Part One


  1. Amazing! Thanks for sharing this wonderful technique. Oh how I would love to take a class with you two. What fun!

  2. I really likes your blog! You have shared the whole concept really well and very beautifully soulful read!
    Thanks for sharing