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Designing an Original Sunflower Quilt

Updated on July 29, 2016
Marie Flint profile image

Marie is a self-taught quilter. She has been making quilts as a hobby since 1970. You can find her projects on Pinterest and Facebook.

The sunflower is so named because its appearance is like the shape of a sun and is a popular subject in art due to its brightness and association with happiness.
The sunflower is so named because its appearance is like the shape of a sun and is a popular subject in art due to its brightness and association with happiness. | Source


My younger daughter said she wanted a yellow quilt for her twin-sized bed. The first idea that came to mind was a sunflower. Having researched hours on the internet to see if a quilt kit was available, I found nothing suitable. I even emailed the Amish quilters if they would construct me a kit for under $200, but the response was that they "did not do kits." So, I was on my own. With minimal art skills, but experience of making nearly 40 quilts, I started a sketch for a 70" x 90" quilt. And, at this stage of my experience, I knew I wanted to do applique with scalloped edges. So, spending some time calculating my scale and rough sketching some sunflowers, here's what I drew after several hours.

The Sketch

This sketch is done on 9" x 12" heavyweight, general purpose sketch paper using a No. 2 pencil, ruler, and a penny. The scale is roughly 1" = 10".
This sketch is done on 9" x 12" heavyweight, general purpose sketch paper using a No. 2 pencil, ruler, and a penny. The scale is roughly 1" = 10". | Source
Center detail of the sketch. Y = yellow, G = green, M = maize, and Bg = beige.
Center detail of the sketch. Y = yellow, G = green, M = maize, and Bg = beige. | Source

Estimating Yardage

Over the years, I have created a fairly useful method of calculating yardage by using square inches. It's especially helpful when you have a bunch of scraps and want to figure out how many yards of a particular color or print that you have. It's based on 44-45" W, the most common fabric width. The scale for other widths would be different.

Here's a general example: 1 yard = 36 inches. A 44" width in square inches would be 44 X 36, or 1584 in2. Fractions and multiples of a yard are based on this figure. My reference table is below.

Square Inches
1 1/4
1 1/2
1 3/4

Materials List

  • 4 3/4 yd lemon yellow fabric (solid or appears solid, includes binding)
  • 1 1/8 yd dotted medium beige for center flower and blocks (variation 4 patch)
  • 1 1/8 yd darker beige for border and blocks
  • 1 yd green for leaves, stalks, and circle border
  • 7/8 yd light blue (solid or appears so)
  • 1/2 yd maize for petals
  • 1/2 yd light beige flower print with dark blue for blocks
  • fat quarter white for butterflies
  • full size polyester low-loft batting (allows 2" beyond quilt top)
  • 5 yards quilter's muslin for backing
  • 1 skein dark brown embroidery floss for butterfly antennae
  • matching thread for various fabrics, as needed
  • white or ecru quilting thread for preferred hand or machine quilting

This list is based on my sketch and square-inch method of calculation for major fabrics, guesstimating smaller fabric usage, and experience. Generally, one spool of thread to go with each fabric will suffice. Up to two spools of thread may be necessary for actual quilting and binding.

Fabric Selection

Quilts can be made from a variety of fabrics: light-weight wool, cotton-polyester blends, satin, cotton flannel, but I prefer 100% cotton with a 68/68 thread count, and it is the type of fabric recommended for most quilts. This is because pressed seams stay in place better than do other fabrics when working with them.

Some popular manufacturers of good quilting fabric are Andover, Benartex, Clothworks, Free Spirit, Hoffman, Kona Bay, Moda, Quilting Treasures, Robert Kaufman, Timeless Treasures, and Windham. These often have numbered dyed circles on the selvage to show what colors are in the fabric. This is very helpful when trying to match or harmonize fabrics.

Fabrics (top row, left to right): 3928 Kelly, 3947 Sky, 4008 Orangina, 4010 Honeysuckle (bottom row, left to right): 5696 Curry, 5697 Paprika, 5706 Mustard, and 6421 Brown
Fabrics (top row, left to right): 3928 Kelly, 3947 Sky, 4008 Orangina, 4010 Honeysuckle (bottom row, left to right): 5696 Curry, 5697 Paprika, 5706 Mustard, and 6421 Brown | Source
5687 Faux Linen Beige
5687 Faux Linen Beige | Source

The Connecting Threads website is a nice place to work because it has a web design board to compare up to eight fabrics. The fabrics are all quilting cotton fabrics, but the colors shown are not exact due to limitations between my Samsung cell phone camera and the Windows photo editing program. However, they do give the designer an idea that may be developed.

The fabric at right is a possibility for the butterfly wings.

Needle-Turn Applique Using a Blind Hem Stitch

The Blind Applique Stitch

While the blind hem stitch is secure and something I use when connecting the binding to the backing, I use a blind applique stitch taught to me by June McVey, a former master quilter of Torrance, California, for appliqueing.

Without video capacity, I can only describe it here.

1. Thread your needle (no. 8-10) with a single, strong thread that matches the major color of the piece which you are trying to applique.

2. Tie a small half-hitch knot on the end. Allow a 2-4" lead of free thread to hang from the unknotted part of the thread.

3. Place the piece to be appliqued where you want it onto the fabric of the quilt top.

4. Bring the threaded needle up along the edge of the applique from behind the quilt-top fabric.

5. Catch 1-2 threads of applique edge and pull the needle through.

6. Go back down the hole from which you brought up the needle.

7. Come up again approximately 1/16th of an inch from the first stitch.

8. Repeat steps 5-7 until piece is entirely appliqued using the needle-turn method shown in the video.

9. On the wrong side of quilt-top fabric, tie another knot to secure the work and cut your thread.

Design Summary

When designing a quilt, there are several methods, depending on the abilities of the individual designer. The quilt design I have created uses both piecing and applique. The design uses my skills developed from making over 40 quilted projects. I am challenging myself by adding an outside scalloped border, which I have never done before.

Very often I like making a sketch of what I want to do. The idea might change as I begin cutting the fabric and putting the quilt together. In the past, I would find inspiration from the fabric I had on hand and design as I sewed. This project works from an abstract idea and sketch. While fabric calculations may have some error, these give me a good place from which to start.

Once I have the top together, I will be sandwiching (a quilting term referring to putting the top, batting, and backing together) the quilt and hand quilting it using an 18" circular quilting hoop. I make my own bias binding.

I anticipate this project will take a good seven months to complete, depending upon how quickly I procure the fabric and at what pace I work. In any event, I will find the process challenging, inspirational, and enjoyable. ***

© 2014 Marie Flint


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    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 16 months ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Elaine, I'm sorry to say I still have not started this one for three reasons: 1) my younger daughter has a yellow quilt (the design was intended for her request for a yellow quilt), 2) I'm trying to finish my own quilt (postings on Facebook and Pinterest), and 3) nanny duties to my grandson and mother support to my elder daughter, who now has a newborn, keep me very busy, so quilting has to take low priority right now.

    • profile image

      Elaine/S FL 16 months ago

      Where's the finished quilt?

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 2 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Yes, the sunflower bombs are amazing, Anne.

      Thank you for taking the time to stop and read about my design. I haven't made this quilt yet, but I still plan to make it. (Right now, I'm using some leftover, donated scraps to make a quilt for my own bed. I've been posting progress on Facebook.)

      I love the "beauty and brawn" concept. Blessings!

    • annejantz profile image

      Anne Crary Jantz 2 years ago from Dearborn Heights, Michigan, U.S.A.

      What a beautiful quilt! I absolutely love sunflowers. They are such wonderful plants - I've heard they can actually remove toxins from the soil they're planted in INDLUDING NUCLEAR WASTE, isn't that amazing? A friend of mine belongs to an environmental activist group. They make "plant bombs" consisting of sunflower seeds and fertilizer imbedded in topsoil and bound together in a ball of clay. They drive around Detroit and throw the "bombs" into vacant lots and alleys. Is that cool or what? Beauty and brawn.

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      I wish to thank all guest readers who visit this article about designing a sunflower quilt.

      Currently I'm finishing a queen-sized (90"X108") quilt on which I've been working for a year. Once the binding is completed, I will be jumping right into my charity quilt project for the cat rescue mission in San Diego. The latter is due mid-May.

      After those, I may very well be putting this one together for my own use! When I do, I intend to write an article about its construction. Wish me luck and God speed! ~~~

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 4 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      "Will be," ologsinquito. It's not made yet.

      Thank both of you, ologsinquito and Cecile, for reading and commenting.Also, special thanks to Cecile for the vote.

      I still have to figure out how I'm going to finish the top on the one I currently making. So, unfortunately, I have nothing new to share on this one for the time being. ***

    • cecileportilla profile image

      Cecile Portilla 4 years ago from West Orange, New Jersey

      Your Hubs on Quilt making are detailed and informative. Voted up!

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 4 years ago from USA

      I bet this quilt was beautiful. It's amazing what we can accomplish when we have to, when there is no other option.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Wonderfully interesting Marie and voted up for sure.


    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 4 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Thank you, Phyllis. I definitely want to make this one because of the scalloped edges. At some time in the future once the quilt is made, I'll add a picture of the finished quilt to the hub.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 4 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Marie, you are so good at this. I love to read your quilt hubs. I am amazed at the way you bring the quilt into being by first doing the drawing the math. I also love sunflowers and would love to see the finished quilt. Your instructions are very well-written. Great hub.

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 4 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Thank you, R. I will eventually get this one made, but I have to finish what I've started first! I was surprised how few sunflower themed quilts there are online (practically none)--and no kits. Of course, one might be able to find a printed fabric with sunflowers. Blessings!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      This is a beautiful design and I hope to see it come to life one day! Would pin to one of my Sew and No Sew:... boards but it is not allowed. This should be useful to anyone wanting to begin a quilt design.

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 4 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Originally, I thought I would make the quilt first and then post this hub with the design and step-by-step progress notes with pictures. However, I'm currently working on a different quilt project, so it may be quite some time before I ever get around to actually making this quilt.

      Because I keep coming back into the article to use my table on square inches conversion to yards, I wanted to offer this information to other quilters as well.

      I hope I've inspired you to make your own sunflower quilt!


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