By:     Deborah Lyn Stanley

Artists learn a great deal from creating work and lots of it, and working in a series is a valuable tool to develop an idea or technique. I like working in a series because there is always something to learn, to adjust, and to further develop with each piece.  By using my own drawings and photographs I have a good reference base to work from and I find that I am inspired to render my subjects in various ways.

Fabric & Image reference selection:
Each floral portrait is a very workable size of approximately 16” wide by 16-18” high. The path for this project involves: compiling black and white fabrics from your stash to play with, and selecting a drawing or photo reference for design and for pattern preparation.

Bird of Paradise fabric choicesSelect black and white fabrics for your floral. Next, select either a black or white background that sets the base for your floral portrait. The background adds character and texture to your piece when it is machine quilted.  I often use the back side of a white print. Consider using shiny fabrics such as black or white silk or organza.

Choose several primarily black prints and a few solid black fabrics. Do the same for white fabrics. Layout your floral portrait with special attention to creating high contrast.  It is helpful to think about creating a modified silhouette.

Select a drawing or photo reference for your piece. I use my photos most often for floral portraits.  Visit your favorite home and garden Bird of Paradise final bookstore for wonderful photo opportunities.  Choose an image that inspires you and enlarge it with a copier in black & white.  It should be enlarged to fit nicely in a 16” X 18” sized piece, leaving open space around the floral for the background setting.  Use tracing paper to make a line drawing of the photocopy.

Pattern development
Overlay the enlarged and traced image with freezer paper. Trace again and cut out the flower’s main parts.  Apply these pattern pieces to your various fabric choices, attach fusing material to the back of each fabric piece and cut out allowing a little extra edge for lapping over or under an adjacent piece.  Follow the manufacturer’s directions regarding heat setting or just finger pressing the fusible to the fabric at this stage.

Beginning Construction
Sandwich the backing, batting and background fabrics together. Set the floral pieces in the desired position on the background.  When satisfied with the layout, fuse it in place with a hot iron. Straight or blanket stitch around the perimeter of each flower including petal shapes, stems and leaves.  Use straight or built up “thread painting” stitches for the stamen, the veins of petals and the leaves.  This stitching helps accentuate a curved appearance.

Machine quilting the piece
Add a linear, free-motion stitching pattern on the background of the piece; this creates a subtle look that helps point attention to the floral portrait rather than pulling attention away. Scrolls and gentle curves also work well on the background.  Use tracing paper to audition a stitching design by sketching the design on the paper then laying it over your piece.

To quilt the flower itself, I prefer to straight stitch around each petal, stem and leaf to empathize the design and add depth.

Trim and bind as desired to finish your piece. A “facing” technique is my favorite binding application.


  • Scraps of silk, organza, batiks, ribbon or yarn can be used as elements of the background or the flower.
  • Consider magnifying your subject presentation. For example, minimize the background with an extreme close-up of the flower and/or let part of the flower “run off the page”.
  • If you choose to use tulle netting as part of your piece, always use a muslin protective cloth when heat setting or ironing your piece to avoid melting parts of the netting. If melting occurs, it can be patched with another piece of netting by lightly gluing it in place then stitching it down when quilting.
  • Taffeta is a wonderful shiny fabric but it tends to melt or become distorted when ironed. It is not a good choice for this kind of project.
  • If your piece lacks interest or “pop”, more contrast between the flower and the background may be needed. Experiment with black or white tulle added strategically.  Black or white acrylic paint can be used for shading and highlighting.  A “dry brush” technique is best for this application.  I am most successful using a sponge, dipped in paint then rubbing out excess paint on a rag before applying to my piece.  I used both of these techniques for the Tree Poppy.


poppy 2 final   tree poppy final


stocks final 2

stocks fabric choices



stocks final 2