The final story in my series of the four art quilts I just completed for my show which opened this past Friday at Ridge West Gallery. The show runs to the end of June with the Gallery open Thursday to Friday 11-5pm or by appointment other times and days. Stop in to check out some really fabulous artwork.
The Sunflower is the only one of my art quilts that I didn’t start in a class. In fact, I have developed the technique and idea into a class which I teach to fellow quilters.
I love flowers of all kinds and I had always wanted to make a sunflower quilt so thought why not try it for this show. There was a field of sunflowers near where I live that was just magnificent last summer with the yellow heads standing tall at the end of the stalks soaking in the sun.
I started with a sketch on paper which I drew free hand. The plan was only to make half a sunflower and then as I kept designing and planning the quilt the flower grew to a full sunflower.
The centre of the flower was made from one piece of fabric that was gradiated from dark brown to an orange with a pattern printed on it. Here is a photo of the same fabric but in a different colour way.
I wanted the centre to look like the sunflower seeds and thought how can I do this without appliquéing pieces on. Small squares I figured would do the trick. The fabric was cut into one inch strips. The light and dark strips were strategically placed and sewn together.
Once all the strips were sewn together to create one piece I recut the piece into one inch strips and sewed them all together again. The final result was a piece of made up of ½″ squares. They almost look like they are woven together with the different colours and values of fabric. Boy did the strips shrink – I started with a half a metre of fabric and ended up with enough to make 2 – 10 inch diameter centres. How long did this take me you ask – about 4 ½ hours.
Moving forward I began to develop a plan for the petals. I wanted to do them as Bargello so had to pick fabrics for a colour run from light to dark. The first set that I did was far to yellow and did not go well with the centre – it would look much better as a daisy.
The second set of fabrics I chose were more on the golden yellow side and worked much better for the sunflower. I spent a lot of time cutting strips, sewing strips together, recutting them and resewing them into a Bargello. There was really no rhyme or reason to the Bargello design as long as it had some movement in it. I made 4 different Bargello sets to cut the petals from.
The petals were all done with fusible web and appliquéd to the background. Picking the background was an undertaking as well but after auditioning many fabrics I settled on a very dark teal.
The Bargello produced an effect that was beyond what I was expecting and it looked fantastic. It created movement within the sunflower radiating from the centre out to the tips of the petals. Each petal was stitched with a free motion zigzag which was not uniform but rather quite jagged as petals are not completely smooth. Once the stitching was done the sunflower looked like it had come alive. I used a combination of different Sulky Blendables for the stitching.
I had limited background fabric so needed to create a border with fabrics from the flower and the background. More strip piecing and sewing were undertaken to create this checkered patchwork design. The dark teal background was stippled with a matching thread. To carry the yellow checkered design towards the quilt I made little squares with free motion thread play. Once again using the Sulky Blendables.
All the seams in the sunflower were stitch in the ditch quilted to hold it in place. I used Bottom Line by Superior for this. The sunflower does have a bit of a ripple to it and a 3D effect which I think makes it look like it is ready to pop off the background.
My idea of turning Bargello into an appliquéd flower was very successful. I have to say that I am looking forward to making other flowers this way and teaching quilters the technique as well.
If you’d like to see this workshop at your guild or local quilt store or group just drop me a note.
I have an entire series of Bargello Flower patterns: