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Declare Your Quilting Independence…with Free-form Flowers!

"Sunbonnet Sue at the BBQ" (22" x 26") from A Year in the Life of Sunbonnet Sue

Happy July 4th weekend to all our American friends! As you can see, that all-American girl, Sunbonnet Sue, has caught the spirit. She’s the July entry in my book,  A Year in the Life of Sunbonnet Sue, co-authored with Christine Porter, and she’s got eleven specially themed friends, one for each month of the year, complete with full-sized patterns and instructions. Ask for her at your favorite quilt shop, or–for an autographed copy–email me via

So…What do you have planned for the long holiday weekend?  Why not take the opportunity to try something “freeing” and EASY at your sewing machine…like the liberating free-form flowers that bloom on my wall quilt “Still Life #1” (shown below)? They are a snap to make and are a great way to use up your scraps. Use them on blocks or pillows, to embellish garments or totes, to create a free-form Baltimore Album-style quilt or your own original “still life”…the only limit is your imagination.

Detail of "Still Life #1"

1. Cut an irregular four-sided shape (not a square or rectangle) for the flower center.

2. Sew a scrap of “flower” fabric to one side of the flower center. Make sure the scrap overhangs the edge of the flower center on each end. Press the seam away from the flower center.

3. Trim the two side edges of the flower fabric to follow the edges of the flower center. Trim the top edge at any angle you like.

4. Using the same process, proceed counterclockwise around the flower center, adding a flower-fabric piece to each of the remaining three sides. Press and trim as you go.

5. “Shape” your flower by trimming each of the four corners at a random angle. Spray lightly with spray starch or fabric sizing to stabilize.

Detail of "Gustav's Dream"; the entire quilt measures 20" x 27".

You can make the flowers any size you like. Experiment with hand-dyed fabrics, batiks… even velvet or dupioni silk. I typically fuse the flowers to the background and secure them with a machine straight stitch and decorative threads, but feel free to explore other options. Embellish your blossoms with beads or buttons.

In “Gustav’s Dream (shown at right), I made the flowers extra small, and tied them in place with gold metallic thread. For more about this quilt, see the article “Flower-Powered Quilts Reap Huge Rewards” in the August issue of The Quilt Life magazine.

Do you have a favorite technique for making flowers for your quilts? A special quilt you’ve made with a floral theme? Post a comment by noon (PDT) Friday, July 8, and you’ll be entered in a random drawing to receive a copy of Rodale’s Successful Quilting Library: Favorite Techniques from the Experts. The book features “Still Life #1” on the cover, and includes my chapter on the free-form flower technique, with additional tips and ideas for using the finished blossoms. It also includes chapters on favorite techniques of such well-known quilters as Mary Stori, Ami SimmsSally Schneider, Karen Kay Buckley, Karen Combs, Sharyn Craig, Anita Shackelford, and more. The winner will be announced in my post on Friday, July 15.

That’s it for now. ‘Til next time, happy stitching!

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