A Birthday Bunch of Flowers

And here it is!  The official First Project of 2017!  I made this for mum’s birthday at the beginning of January – a shot of spring in the middle of winter.

We already have a lot of cushions, so I decided to make a wall hanging this time, with a flower motif and a blue background.  After rootling through my scrap bin and pulling colours I liked, I decided to do tulips and daffodils.

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To make the background and the appliqued flower petals, I randomly pieced fabric together.  The blue background was trimmed to 15″ square and I cut petal shapes from the red and yellow scrap fabrics.

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I used my couching foot, matching thread and a specialty embroidery floss (metallic red or yellow rayon) to attach the petals to the blue background, which I had already sandwiched with wadding and a pretty butterfly print as the backing:

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The stems were also machine-couched, using a pretty variegated green thread and some left-over yarn from my crochet scarf – the colour variation is subtle but pretty.  🙂  The quilt was partially quilted when I appliqued the petals and stems, but after some pondering I decided that it needed more!  Using the same green thread that I’d used to couch the stems, I used FMQ to doodle leafy planty shapes along the bottom of the quilt, kind of like thready zen doodles:

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I’m not very good at feather shapes!  But otherwise, these turned out nicely and emboldened me for quilting the “sky”, which I did with light-blue variegated thread and loose swirls and echos around the flowers.  I decided not to worry about quilting over the stems and it’s not very obvious where I did.

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As is often the case, the quilting is much more obvious from the back:

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I’m glad I did it, it makes the piece look much more finished and I like the movement of the sky quilting.  Before I attached any embellishments, I trimmed the quilt, added corner pockets at the top to hold a dowel, and bound the quilt with a nice dark red print.

Obviously, by now you can see that something is missing – my flowers don’t have enough petals yet!  Here’s where my secret weapon comes in – soluble stabiliser, aka Solvy.  It’s something I have been fascinated by for a long time and I happened to buy a 10m roll of it a few months ago so that I could play with it.  This seemed like a good time to try it out and make my flowers a bit more 3D.

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I took scraps and snippets of specialty embroidery floss and little bits of ribbon and sandwiched them between two sheets of Solvy in an old plastic embroidery hoop (luckily, it just fitted under the Pfaff’s foot if I raised it to max height).

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Then I used FMQ to “draw” my petals and fill them in with stitching so that they would hold together and form useful structures.

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Initially I did little overlapping circles on the daffodil petals and trumpets, but when I got to the tulip petals I’d gained more confidence in my technique so I tried a more needle-painted look to resemble the markings on real tulip petals – I’m quite pleased with the effect!

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It is still possible to see the shimmer of the metallic or rayon threads in the petals after they have been cut out and soaked to dissolve the Solvy.  One problem I found was that this method is not a very efficient use of the Solvy – the size of the hoop put limits on how large I could make the petals without the sides of the hoop interfering with the mechanism of the sewing machine, so I used a different technique subsequently.

The final embellishment to make, following the theme of the backing fabric, was a butterfly.  This time, I used a scrap of blue-green organza as the bottom layer of my Solvy sarnie and filled it with snips of blue, green and silver metallic embroidery floss.  Then I stitched over the whole area of the embroidery hoop with overlapped circles and doodles with iridescent white metallic thread in the needle and variegated gold metallic thread in the bobbin (I kept the bobbin thread the same for all of the butterfly stitching – like many real butterflies, mine has a comparatively plain outer wing).  This was a much more efficient use of the Solvy – once the hoop was filled, I removed it from my sandwich and used a butterfly outline I found online to mark out the shape of two fore wings and two hind wings, all of which fitted nicely on my sewn area.  Using variegated dark blue quilting thread, I couched metallic blue embroidery floss around my wing shapes to give them a clean edge and also used the same thread and FMQ to stitch veins across the wings.

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Finally I added sequins and beads to amp the glam level up to 11, fashioned a little body from two glass beads and a silver headpin, and attached everything to the quilt by hand.  The daffodil trumpets were by far the most annoying part to attach – thank goodness I only needed to do four of them!

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It was a few days’ effort, and I am so pleased with how it came out given how experimental some of it was.  Importantly, mum seems to like it too.  The other reason that I am proud of it is that, other than one new embroidery floss skein (the yellow rayon), all the materials in this quilt came from my stash or my scraps bin.  2017 – the year of the scrap quilt?  Bring it!  ;D

Linking up with Needle ‘n’ Thread Thursday, Free Motion Mavericks and Oh Scrap – all links in my sidebar.  🙂

19 thoughts on “A Birthday Bunch of Flowers”

    1. Thanks, Cynthia! I hope someone finds my experiments useful. Lol, I think that’s my favourite bit, too! 😀

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Paula. I’m thrilled with how well my experiment worked, and I’m looking forward to trying more. 🙂

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