Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rita's Spiral Quilt -- A Sunflower

The area behind our home is a native prairie with seasonal wildflowers. As a retired science teacher I am aware of the many spirals in nature’s wonderful backyard. When the challenge word SPIRAL was given, and I was seeing native sunflowers, I had my vision and the challenge became how to create this as a 12 x 12.
First, a mini biology lesson:  The sunflower is actually a composite and is a collection of hundreds of flowers, packed together next to one another on a platform called a receptacle (the tip of the stalk where the flower is attached). It is made up of two kinds of flowers.  The disk flowers (tiny bead-like) in the center will form seeds. The infertile ray flowers are the ‘petals’ (bright yellow). The disk flowers grow in spiral rows around the head of the receptacle.
Bringing this 12 x 12 image to life: Timeless Treasures is a wonderful photo-treated fabric, backed with paper, which can be processed through an ink-jet printer. Google then came to the rescue. After locating the exact sunflower image I wanted, I made a full color print which would be the background on which to work and then was ready to select materials and bring this month’s challenge to life.  
The center of my ‘composite flower’ is embroidered and would be where the sunflower buds are just forming.  Out from the center, the buds which will become flowers and then seeds are beaded.  The outside rows are fully developed flowers and are beaded and embroidered. Finally the ‘petals’ are made from double sided fabric, fused together with Heat n’ Bond.  The ‘petals’ were also shaded with a small touch of fabric paint.
Just for the fun of it, a mini math lesson:  In the heads of sunflowers, two series of curves can be observed, one winding one direction and one winding a different direction and the number of spirals will not be the same in each direction.  The number of spirals will be 21 & 34, or 34 & 55, or 55 & 89, or 89 & 144.  These numbers all belong to the Fibonacci sequence: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89,144, etc. (where the number is obtained from the sum of the two preceding numbers).  This is the most efficient way of filling space, which maximizes the number of seeds in a given area. Moreover, generally the petals are formed at the extremity of one of the spirals and therefore their number corresponds on average to a Fibonacci number.  Fibonacci introduced these numbers in the year 1202 in attempting to model the growth of populations of rabbits.
And finally - an apology:    In my “grand plan”, I intended to fold the petals that went past the edge of the gallery wrap frame down and under.  When it was time, I just could not; I really liked the way it looked with the “over-hang.”  Therefore, my 12 x 12 is not really a 12 x 12. It’s really 12 and a petal tip x 12 and a petal tip. 

PS From Alice:  Rita sent me the image and her explanation because she was having major issues with her computer and was not able even to log on to our blog!  So that's why below you will see that it says "posted by Alice"!


  1. Oh, Rita! I am speechless! Speechless when it comes to doing justice in words to how beautiful and intricate this quilt is! And all the work you put into it.... I loved both your little lessons, too. Fellow Material Mavens: Rita formerly was a teacher. Wouldn't you have loved to have her to teach you math and/or biology? What an amazing group we are, not only brilliant and creative artists, but women with such a rich store of knowledge! I am humbled, dear Rita.

  2. Rita, I love it. I also love that we both headed to nature - fibonacci was my first thought. Actually I would love to take a quilting class from you!

  3. Speechless, stunned, awestruck - these are just a few of my feelings after seeing your work Rita!!
    This is magnificent!! You have outdone your usual exemplary effort, skill and detail with this ever so realistic image of a sunflower with fabric, beads and stitching. Your meticulous attention to detail repeatedly amazes me. The math and biology lessons were interesting too. But I had to chuckle when you apologized - wrapping the petals behind would ruin this in my opinion and I'm so glad you broke the dimension rule!

    1. I so totally agree with Nedra that had you wrapped the overhanging petals to the back it would have taken much away from this quilt. And NOW we all have a precedent to follow, if ever we "need" to let portions of our 12x12s extend beyond the edges!

  4. I have the same reaction to everything you make, holy cow. I love the way you break out of the boundaries!

  5. This is just gorgeous! I agree with you and everyone else about not wrapping the petals. It definitely would not have had the same stunning affect. We need a close up of the center so we can see the awesome work you put into it. It is a beautiful composition and I hope a lot of people get the opportunity to see it.

  6. Rita, you are such a creative and awesome quilter. This quilt with all of it's intricate detail is absolutely stunning! I am so glad you are in the MM so that we can all learn from your careful attention to detail!

  7. Judy asked, can we have a close up of the center of your absolutely stunning quilt? I also agree with the other MM's about not wrapping the petals...the flower "told" you what it needed and I am so glad that you listened! I'm in awe of your attention to the details with the tiny stitched flowers and beading.

  8. WOW! Awesome. Splendid. Mind boggling beading. You Rock Rita!

  9. Loved the science and math lessons...from a solid teacher. I am amazed by the beautiful work and am inspired to seek better stories and more complete development of ideas. Glad you didn't fold the petals around.