In this blog I am going to share with you my way of creating a machine embroidered applique silk sunflower, stage by stage. I have used this delightfully bold motif many times and have made it into cards, cushion covers and stitched pictures. It can look very different each time by using different fabrics and backgrounds. This is the simplest version which you can play around with.



To make this flower you will need:

  • A piece of light coloured, plain background fabric ( 18cm x 28cm ish). This needs to be of a medium weight, a soft upholstery fabric or sturdy calico is ideal.
  • A smaller piece of lightweight plain fabric- for the centre of the flower (5 cm ish square)
  • A piece of patterned fabric, poplin like, with small flowers on it (4cm x 10cm inch ish)
  • A piece of dupion silk (4cm x 20cm ish)
  • Some bondaweb



Firstly, cut out the background fabric and iron it well. Your fabric may be thick enough to stitch straight onto, or it may need backing with interfacing. If it is very fine then it will need to be hooped up. Using a circular object and a frixion pen, draw a circle where you want the centre of the flower to go. I drew around an old wooden bobbin.

Iron the silk then decide on the width of the petals. If the petals are to be 4cm long, cut the fabric 4cm wide, or 3cm or whatever. Then fold lengthways in half and cut, then again with each half so you have 4 square ish pieces. Cut 4 petals out of each piece so you will have 16 in total, like the picture below. They don’t have to be exact. The petals can have one pointy end and one sort of pointy end.



Now set your machine up ready. You will need a dark thread- normal sewing thread. Drop the feed and change your foot to a machine embroidery foot. I usually use a Janome open toe, see through, horseshoe shaped, darning foot. Set your stitch length to 0, or to the lowest number your machine will let you.

When I add the flowers, I must admit, I rarely plan where the petals go. I usually add them one by one but here I’ve shown you by pinning 4 on at once so you can stitch it in sections.



Pin 4 petals as in the picture, so that the pointy end is facing out, and the other end is slightly inside the drawn circle. Stitch across all 4 petals at the top, so just inside the circle line, then come back to the beginning and stitch around your petals. You will notice that I have made a little cross at the end of the petals. Make sure you stitch well inside the edge of the petals, not too close to the edge. Otherwise you won’t be able to achieve a frayed effect as there will not be enough free fabric to fray.



Bondaweb the plain piece of fabric and using the same circular object, draw, then cut a circle. Remove the bondaweb backing and iron the circle of fabric into the centre of the flower. Machine a line just inside the circle, all the way around. Then create a blanket like stitch stitching onto the line then whizzing in, out, up, in, out ,up, until you have stitched around the whole circle.

Bondaweb the patterned fabric. Take the paper off the back then cut out some of the small flowers. Position them in place onto the centre of the flower, then iron on.

Using your frixion pen, draw on the leaves. (For this picture I painted the leaves, but you could applique if you prefer). Machine along the lines to create an outline. Then using any paint, create two shades of green. I have used emulsion tester pots. You could use fabric paint if you are intending to wash your finished item. Add some water to your paint to make it a bit like single cream consistency. Paint one end of the leaf with dark green, then the other end of the leaf with the lighter shade. Using a damp brush, blend the two colours together where they meet. You could use a darker paint to add lines onto the leaves.



Brush backwards and forwards across the finished flower so you get the flower petals to fray. The silk is brilliant for this and works really well. Once you have made this simple version you could go on to create more pieces.  The patchwork background has been made using neutral fabrics with a slight pattern or texture. The dupion silk has been intentionally frayed a lot after the petals have been stitched on.



Lace can be used for leaves. Do use bondaweb on lace, it works really well. In the centre of this flower, I have embroidered a little star stitch then added a small bead.

I do hope you enjoyed this little tutorial. If you fancy making some similar pieces, please feel free to share on your instagram page using the hashtag #tigleytextiles so that i can see. Good luck!