behind the scenes:
Botanical Beauties quilt

Botanical Beauties floral & foliage themed block of the month program. Make these modern quilt blocks / mini quilts. Foundation paper pieced quilt sew along. Available at wholecirclestudio.com

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.

Making cyanotypes or sunprints.

sunprints made with flowers

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:
rough sketches for Botanical Beauties quilt

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!
preliminary digital sketch for Botanical Beauties quilt in a circle or wreath layout.

I also looked at the same designs in a grid layout.
preliminary digital sketch for Botanical Beauties quilt 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:
preliminary digital draft for Botanical Beauties quilt in a circle or wreath layout.
Botanical Beauties floral & foliage themed blocks. Make these modern quilt blocks / mini quilts. Foundation paper pieced quilt sew along. Available at wholecirclestudio.com

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.
test blocks for Botanical Beauties floral & foliage themed block of the month program. Make these modern quilt blocks / mini quilts. Foundation paper pieced quilt sew along. Available at wholecirclestudio.com test block for Botanical Beauties floral & foliage themed block of the month program. Make these modern quilt blocks / mini quilts. Foundation paper pieced quilt sew along. Available at wholecirclestudio.com

Then came the really fun part—looking at all of the color possibilities, fabric choices, and design variations!

Botanical Beauties floral & foliage themed block of the month program. Made with Art Gallery Pure Solids and Elements. Foundation paper pieced quilt sew along. Available at wholecirclestudio.com
Botanical Beauties quilt made with Art Gallery Fabrics Pure Solids and Elements
Botanical Beauties floral & foliage themed block of the month program. Made with Ruby Star Society / Moda Fabrics Speckled modern fabric. Foundation paper pieced quilt sew along. Available at wholecirclestudio.com
Botanical Beauties quilt made with Speckled by Ruby Star Society / Moda Fabrics
Botanical Beauties floral & foliage themed block of the month program. Made with Alison Glass and Andover Fabrics. Foundation paper pieced quilt sew along. Available at wholecirclestudio.com
Botanical Beauties quilt made with Sun Print 2021 and Kaleidoscope by Alison Glass for Andover Fabrics
Botanical Beauties floral & foliage themed block of the month program. Made with Moda Fabrics Grunge blender fabric. Foundation paper pieced quilt sew along. Available at wholecirclestudio.com
Botanical Beauties quilt made with Grunge by Moda Fabrics
Botanical Beauties floral & foliage themed block of the month program. Made with Ruby Star Society / Moda Fabrics Speckled modern fabric. Foundation paper pieced quilt sew along. Available at wholecirclestudio.com
Botanical Beauties quilt made with Speckled by Ruby Star Society / Moda Fabrics.

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.
close ups of Botanical Beauties floral & foliage themed block of the month program. Make these modern quilt blocks / mini quilts. Foundation paper pieced quilt sew along. Available at wholecirclestudio.com

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.
Botanical Beauties floral & foliage themed block of the month program. Lots of options, including this inverted wreath. Make these modern quilt blocks / mini quilts. Foundation paper pieced quilt sew along. Available at wholecirclestudio.com
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.

making the Botanical Beauties quilt blocks and displaying them on my design wall
Botanical Beauties floral & foliage themed block of the month program. Make these modern quilt blocks / mini quilts. Foundation paper pieced quilt sew along. Available at wholecirclestudio.com

Join us!

Click here to register for the Botanical Beauties Block of the Month (BOM) + quilt sew along.

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.

Botanical Beauties floral & foliage themed block of the month program. Make these modern quilt blocks / mini quilts. Foundation paper pieced quilt sew along. Available at wholecirclestudio.com

Get a deeper look…

Check out this Whole Circle Studio LIVE! to hear Jason & Sheri chatting about the Botanical Beauties project.

Links:

Foundation Paper Piecing video tutorial / mini class
Botanical Beauties Block 1 
Botanical Beauties Block 2
Botanical Beauties Block 3
Botanical Beauties Block 4
Botanical Beauties Block 5

I’m looking forward to sewing along with you!
Sheri

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5 Comments

  1. Terrific story about the creative process. Always fascinating to hear the origins and see the final product. Kudos!

  2. I still am wondering about the choice to paper piece these beautiful images, rather than use an applique technique. Why pp?

    Thanks for the in-depth explanation about how your pattern came to be. And I love seeing the examples made with different current fabric collections.

    1. Hi Jeanne, Thanks for your question. The wonderful thing about quilting is that there are so many ways and techniques to achieve similar designs. I love applique, but I find that I can sometimes be more precise with paper piecing. I also wanted to offer a project that would be accessible to lots of quilters. I know many quilters struggle with applique. I find with a bit of practice and the right tips, FPP is an easy technique to master!

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