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.