Raw-Edge Botanical Fabric Collage

Fabric collage by Susan Brubaker Knapp

April showers bring May flowers, right?

Well, what do May showers bring? Hopefully a hot, dry summer! While I wait for the weather to even out at home, my plants are loving it. A lush, green landscape has exploded with leafy trees and early spring flowers. A business I drive by every day has yards and yards of gorgeous, blooming, red tulips. With all of the new growth sprouting around me it makes me what to explore springtime themes in my art as well.

Photo by Getty Images/Pakin Songmor
Photo by Getty Images/Pakin Songmor

Susan Brubaker Knapp confesses that she is more of a realist when it comes to her art making. But who can resist these bright, raw-edge collage pieces? Exploring thread painting and fabric collage in one piece these whimsical blooms scream fun and creativity! Read on for Susan’s technique and don’t forget to grab a copy of the June/July 2019 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine!

My work is precisely planned and realistic but sometimes I like to work outside of my comfort zone—raw-edge collage is the perfect project for this! I’m not creating patterns or tracing anything and I’m working more intuitively.


1. Flower photo for inspiration
2. Background (I used an abstract pattern in many colors.)
3. Fabrics for the foreground in colors inspired by the photograph—yellows and greens in the sample quilt (I used different patterns, solid, and textures for variety. Batiks are recommended because they ravel less.)
4. Basting glue
5. Stiff paintbrush


  • Black-and-white fabric
  • Seam ripper or stiletto


1. Cut the petal fabrics into manageable pieces such as 1½” x 2½” or 2″ x 3″.

2. Layer 2–3 rectangles together and cut the petals intuitively, using the photo as a reference. Work organically, not too precisely.

3. Arrange the petals on the background.

4. Cut a circle for the center of the flower in yellow or green. Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect. If desired, place a second cut circle on the top of the center.

5. Using the paintbrush, apply enough glue to the backs of the petals and centers to baste them in place.

6. From the green fabric, cut long, slim pieces as stems and spiky leaves. Tuck them under the petals and glue them, too.

7. Add other appliqué elements to the background to enhance it, such as additional circles, and glue them.

8. When the composition is complete, go back and apply additional glue under all of the pieces so the presser foot will not catch on them as you sew.

Tip: Consider adding unexpected touches—such as bits of a black-and-white print—to the petals before stitching.

9. When the glue is completely dry, layer the backing, batting, and quilt top; pin baste lightly.

Note: The stitching will both secure the appliqué pieces and quilt the project at the same time. Use a high contrast color thread—black in the sample—for a graphic look. A neutral thread will have the opposite effect.

10. Free-motion stitch the edges and details of the appliqué pieces, including those in the background. Use a seam ripper or stiletto to hold down elements that pop up when stitching.

11. Add additional quilting in the background, as needed, to complete the project.

Susan Brubaker Knapp on the set of Quilting Arts TV
Susan Brubaker Knapp on the set of Quilting Arts TV

See Susan demonstrate this process on “Quilting Arts TV” series 2300. For more great instruction from Susan check out these products below!

Sew long,


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