Designing an Original Sunflower Quilt
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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