Bring Flowers to Life with Machine Embroidery and Paint

While Vivika is on medical leave, we're revisiting some of her most popular posts and guest bloggers are pitching in, too. Today, we're featuring this post on how Barb Forrister creates lifelike flowers with machine embroidery techniques. ~The Quilting Daily Team

fabric flowers with machine embroidery and paint by barb forrister
Flowers created with machine embroidery
designs and paint by Barb Forrister.

Dimensional flowers lend beauty and texture to a piece of fiber art, but they are not easily accomplished. When I saw Barb Forrister's demonstration of how to make realistic looking flowers with a combination of machine embroidery and surface design techniques, however, I was intrigued and wanted to share the process with you.

Here is how Barb creates fabric flowers that pop out of her quilts like crocuses on the first warm day of spring.

To make the flowers:

1. Assemble a sandwich starting with a layer of sheer fabric, a layer of Mistyfuse, and a layer of white cotton. 

2. Drizzle thread and fiber snippets over the white cotton to create a textured surface for your flower. 

3. Place another layer of Mistyfuse followed by a top layer of sheer fabric and fuse the layers together. This side will be the top portion of the flower petals.

free motion embroidery on petals
Free-motion embroidery adds life
to the petals.

4. Flip the sandwich over and continue layering with Mistyfuse and an additional layer of sheer fabric. Fuse layers together. This will be the underside of the petal.

5. Transfer the pattern for the petal onto a piece of cardboard and cut out the template. Lay the cardboard template on the side that has snippets of fibers showing.

6. Transfer the petal shapes to the fabric using a disappearing ink pen. Each flower has 5 petals. 

hand stitching and embroidery on petals
Stitch the petals with simple
sewing or hand embroidery.

7. Use free-motion machine embroidery to stitch the outline of petals and their pattern. For this step, the feed dogs must be in the down position and the bobbin thread should match the back of the petal. For the top thread, choose a color that shows up against the sheer fabric.

8. Finish quilting the petals by outline stitching once more. Cut out all of the petals and rinse them in cold water to remove any marks from the disappearing ink pen. Let dry.

9. Add the white design to each petal with white fabric paint, referring to the template. Add texture by painting small dots of three-dimensional acrylic paint along the inside edge of the white design. Add an additional outline of dots just outside the white area. 

quilt by Barbara forrister
The finished quilt.

10. Edges may be finished with satin stitch machine embroidery or hand embroidery. You could also paint the edges using a 1:1 mixture of matching fabric paint to clear gel medium.

I hope this tutorial sparked your imagination and encouraged you to try combining embroidery designs with surface design to make flowers. Last year, we explored many other ways of creating flowers (and other motifs) in fiber art in the pages of Quilting Arts Magazine. All six issues are now available together in our convenient Quilting Arts 2012 Collection CD. There are so many inspirational techniques to try!

P.S. Do you make fabric flowers with machine embroidery and surface design? What tips and tricks do you use? Leave a comment below.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Hand Embroidery, Machine Embroidery, Quilting Daily Blog

5 thoughts on “Bring Flowers to Life with Machine Embroidery and Paint

  1. Wow….This is so beautiful. I totally love it. Absolutely gorgeous!!! This not only sparked my imagination; but, really inspired me to start creating something new again. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I haven’t done much flower applique with the exception of tulips in a vase….one of my favorite flowers. Which I admit, was a failed attempt because for some reason, the applique will not lay down. The design is made of commercial batiks and I didn’t want to machine or hand quilt at finishing. Still figuring that out.
    Recently, I have been working on a concept for an applique quilt project with Koi fish in a pond with water lilies, lily pads and lotus blossoms. I think this technique is precisely what I need to use for my Koi Pond quilt thanks for the tip!

  3. i love making dimensional flowers and leaves for my friendship branches series of quilts (currently over 50 completed. they are called friendship branches in honor of the wonderful friends i have met thru quilting). most of them are about a fat quarter size – some bigger. they are all made using my sun prints as the background.
    the dimensional branches are made from twisted fabric, sheers or yarns, and tacked onto the finished quilt.
    leaves and flowers have been made from –
    fused silk – i love the sheen and color variation i can get with these
    freehand embroidered sheer fabrics – i put either a name or inspirational word
    (a couple of these are a variation of the theme – i call them family branches , as
    each leaf has the name of a family member embroidered on it)
    fused angelina is one of my favorite ways of making leaves. the color possibilities are
    laced lutradur is another favorite way of making leaves. after lacing, i usually paint
    them with sparkle paint – gorgeous when white on white – and embellish with
    white beads after tacking to the quilt