Hello quilting friends and botanical lovers! Today I’m going to pull back the curtain a bit and share how the Botanical Beauties Block of the Month (BOM) quilt went from idea to finished quilt and pattern.
I do not consider myself a master gardener or even someone who has a green thumb. My husband, Jason, grew up in the woods and gardens since his mom is an actual master gardener. When we moved into our house 16 years ago, Jason started a vegetable garden that slowly expanded. Each year I helped a bit more, eventually planning what we would grow and where it would go. Over the past few years, we’ve added flowers. Some of my favorites are sunflowers, zinnias, and my prized hibiscus, which only really blooms about 3 weeks out of the year since we’re in New England.
In early spring 2021, I started brainstorming concepts for the new 2022 Block of the Month project. As I was thinking about potential ideas, I was also planning for this year’s garden. Around the same time I was reminded of an art process I had seen, but never tried before—cyanotypes. Cyanotypes, also sometimes called sun prints, is a photographic printing process that produces a cyan blue print. Engineers used the process well into the 20th century as a simple and low-cost process to produce copies of drawings, referred to as blueprints. The cyantopye print is made by placing objects on specially prepared paper and then exposing the composition to UV light. After the exposure and a rinse of the paper, a beautiful Prussian Blue print is left behind.
An easy way to make a cyanotype, or sun print, without mixing up compounds is to purchase pre-coated paper. Earlier this spring, I experimented with a Sunprint Kit (available at your local art supply, craft shop, or on Amazon). Using flowers and leaves found in my yard and from some road trips, I made prints that inspired me to create the Botanical Beauties quilt.
After making the prints, I sketched using chunky pens and markers abstract icons based on some of the botanical photographs I made. Here are some of those early sketches:
I scanned them all in to my computer and selected a number of them to digitize in Adobe Illustrator. From there I started playing around with arrangements, including in a circle. A “wreath” quilt has been on my bucket list for some time!
I also looked at the same designs in a grid layout.
I fell in love with both options and couldn’t decide which I liked more, so I decided to proceeded with the pair
It was then time to get down to the nitty gritty — figuring out how I could convert my preliminary sketches into a quilt pattern, specifically into foundation paper pieced (FPP) blocks. Since I have been using Adobe Illustrator for more than 25 years, it’s a program I’m super comfortable with. For that reason, I use Illustrator when designing all of my quilt patterns. Here’s an early sketch I made as I was deciding how to translate the botanical sketches into a FPP pattern:
Once I discovered the designs could indeed be achieved through paper piecing, I finessed the designs of the quilt blocks. The final layout turned out a bit different than the preliminary digital sketches.
I then sewed up some quick prototype blocks to confirm that the patterns I drafted would be able to be sewn together without any major issues.
Then came the really fun part—looking at all of the color possibilities, fabric choices, and design variations!
Once I decide on a quilt layout, I often ask myself “What if?” and try to push the design a bit further. Often times I find that the first direction is the way I proceed but sometimes, a design tweak or an additional detail makes a quilt design extra special.
For the “grid” version of the blocks, I was curious what the corners would look like if they were rounded irregularly and all a bit different. I was interested in offering an option in the patterns that would making the blocks look a bit more organic and weathered, sort of like the original cyanotype photographs that inspired the quilt. I found that with a little bit of extra piecing, this extra detail is easy to achieve.
In the case of the Botanical Beauties wreath, I realized that if I rotated parts of the quilt as it was being assembled, I could create a lovely inverted circle.
I had so much fun making both the wreath and grid options of Botanical Beauties but that’s just the beginning! I’ll be sewing along with lots of other quilters from all over the world throughout 2022 (and for some of us beyond) as we make our own Botanical Beauties quilts. Not only will we have a beautiful quilt at the end of the process, but we’ll also gain valuable skills and have fun. I’ll be sharing all of my foundation paper piecing (FPP) tips and tricks on the blog along the way, so with all of this knowledge and practice you’ll be a pro paper piecer by the end of the project! I hope you’ll consider joining us.
This is a low-stress BOM sew along and we’ll all work at our own pace. I’ll be here with you on this adventure to encourage you but during any month if you don’t have time to finish the block, no worries. The bonus content will be up on my blog indefinitely.
All skill levels welcome, including adventurous beginners. During the sew along, I will be sharing FPP tips, tricks, and best practices on my blog. Paper piecing instructions are NOT included in the patterns— general foundation paper piecing knowledge is assumed. Need some help with foundation paper piecing? Check out my video tutorial/mini-class here.
Get a deeper look…
Check out this Whole Circle Studio LIVE! to hear Jason & Sheri chatting about the Botanical Beauties project.
I’m looking forward to sewing along with you!