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Free motion quilting the sunflower quilt


Adding stems and leaves

I’m really enjoying using these three fabric lines from Northcott to make my sunflower art quilt. The Toscana, Artisan Spirit Shimmer and Artisan Spirit Sandscapes look AMAZING together!! Now that the background is assembled we need stems and leaves so that the sunflowers aren’t just floating on the background. Once everything is fused to the background I can try out some new designs for free motion quilting the sunflower quilt.

To make the stems I cut a piece of fusible web 6” x 22” and fused it to the back of one of the darker green fabrics. I then used my rotary cutter and ruler to cut two strips 1¼” x 22” and one 1” x 22”. I peeled the backing off of these strips and positioned them under the sunflower heads.


Making the sunflower stems
Making the sunflower stems


I decided to have two different sizes of leaves for my flowers. Here are the templates to trace:

(click on the image to download a PDF of the patterns)
(click on the image to download a PDF of the patterns)


I traced my large leaf shape onto the fusible web and then traced another in reverse and fused these to two of the green fabrics. I did the same with the smaller leaf shape except that I traced it twice and then three times in reverse to make a total of five small leaves. These were fused onto the assorted green fabrics. I then arranged the leaves on the stems until I had a pleasing arrangement.


Positioning the flowers, leaves and stems on the background
Positioning the flowers, leaves and stems on the background


Making a pressing board

Now I needed to fuse all of these pieces onto the background. For this step I have a handy portable ironing board that I made years ago. As you can tell from the picture, I’ve used it A LOT!

The base of the pressing board is a piece of wood that was from our old kitchen cabinets but a piece of plywood about 18″ x 24″ would work just as well. I layered a few pieces of Mylar batting on top and then covered them with a piece of fabric on top. All of these layers were brought to the back of the board and then secured with a staple gun, stretching them to make the front smooth. It’s a great tool to have because you can just slide it under the background fabric and iron right where you are (the floor in my case) and you don’t need to move everything to the regular ironing board.


My homemade pressing board
My homemade pressing board


Back of the pressing board
Back of the pressing board


Working on my floor, I slid my pressing board under the quilt top and using my hot, dry iron, I fused all of these elements to the background fabric. My knees are killing me, but my wall hanging is looking awesome!!


Sliding the pressing board under the quilt top
Sliding the pressing board under the quilt top


I used my rotary cutter to trim the stem ends that were hanging over the edge of the border.


Trimming off the stem ends
Trimming off the stem ends


Let’s start machine quilting!

Now that my design is all fused to the background, my next step is to decide on how to secure all of the applique pieces. When I was starting the project, I had in mind that I would do decorative stitching around each of the petals and then do some machine quilting, but now that I see how many petals there are I’ve decided to secure and quilt in one step by doing a bunch of free motion quilting designs all over the piece.

The piece measures 41” x 49” so I’ve made a backing that is 50” x 60” and have mounted it onto the rollers on my Gammill quilting machine.

I’ve pulled out all of the gold, green and brown threads that I have on hand – it looks like almost all of them will work!!


Mounted on the Gammill
Mounted on the Gammill


Since the background fabric has such distinct vertical lines, I decided to extend those lines out into the border using my machine quilting.


Border quilting design
Border quilting design


As you can see, I carried the vertical quilting lines out to the side borders as well. I used a darker thread to quilt along the lines of the background fabric and then used a gold thread to machine quilt all of the flower petals. I quilted around each of the petals twice and then did a vein up the middle of each petal.

The flower centers were quilted with a pebble design using brown thread. I maybe should have picked a different shade of brown because the design is much easier to see from the back of the quilt!


Close up of sunflower quilting design
Close up of sunflower quilting design



Flower center quilting shown from the back of the quilt
Flower center quilting shown from the back of the quilt


For each of the leaves I used green thread and quilted around the edge twice before quilting the veins of the leaf. The larger leaves had much more intricate quilting than the smaller leaves just because of the space limitations.

Each of the flower stems was outlined with machine quilting and then a swirl design was quilted down the length.



Small leaf and stem quilting design close up
Small leaf and stem quilting design close up



Large leaf quilting design
Large leaf quilting design


The end is in sight!

My art quilt is really taking shape! Tomorrow we’ll make and apply the binding and I’ll add a hanging sleeve so that I can display my piece of art on the wall. I’ve really enjoyed free motion machine quilting the sunflower quilt and can’t wait for you to see the quilt all finished – see you tomorrow!


This is part 4 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 3:  Why use a silicone pressing sheet for fusible applique



I have been designing and publishing quilt patterns for the last 16 years under the business name Fairfield Road Designs. My patterns range from fusible applique and piecing to felted wool applique and punchneedle. You can see all of patterns on my website


  1. anna Brown

    What a breath of summer air love sun flowers..ty for sharing….

  2. Jaya sundaram

    Love the sunflower quilt! Have to try it

  3. Daphne Williams

    The quilt is lovely! Sunflowers are so bright and cheerful. Great tips on your blog. Like the pressing board.

  4. Paco Rich

    This is Beautiful!

  5. Kelley

    Thanks for sharing your process! i love this quilt and its design- you’ve inspired me to make one of my own!

  6. Sandy K

    Love the quilting! Thanks for the tip of your portable pressing board.

  7. Myra

    I am a hand quilter so would do that when I make this quilt.

    • I’m in awe of hand quilters! That is one thing that I really CAN’T do!!

  8. Lee

    What a fabulous quilt!! I am so motivated to get some fabric and make one!! Great posts!

  9. Peggy Pirillo

    Looking great. Really liking the quilting on this project.

    • Thank you so much! I really had fun with this project.

  10. Michele T

    I spotted this Sunflower Quilt on Pinterest this morning and was hoping to see the details and zoom in photos… Your post did it all for me and I am in love with this quilt!!! My first thought was that my dear friend who is retiring would love it too!! Winning this bundle would make it easier for me to make it for her because I simply don’t have all those colours in my stash!!!

    • Thanks Michele! I hope you win the bundle and can get started on your own version 🙂

  11. Hiya Christine!!! I’m loving this. My older daughter is a huge fan of sunflowers, so this may turn into a Christmas gift for her this year (or next year hehe). Thanks for the great tutorial. Blessed be, hugs!!!

  12. Kathy E.

    Christine, this art quilt is just gorgeous! Isn’t it fun to use pretty fabrics and just let your creativity run free? I feel inspired by your techniques and close-up pics and look forward to making my own art quilt this summer. Thanks!

  13. Laura

    Thanks for showing the close up photos of the quilting. This is very valuable. This is a wonderful series of posts with lots of good content.

    • Thanks Laura! I’m glad that you’ve found it informative!

  14. sherryl

    Fantastic quilt! So many great tips! Thank you for sharing.

  15. Quilting Tangent

    Pretty Sunflower quilt

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