Friday, April 4, 2014

Tutorial - William Morris Sunflower Pincushion

I recently designed this William Morris Sunflower Pincushion for the How.Do iPhone app. It was based on an Arts and Crafts movement William Morris sunflower wallpaper design.

 The tutorial allows you to draw your own petals or download this PDF for instructions and pattern templates for the pincushion.
You can use new or repurposed materials for this project. I have used upcycled wool sweater and blankets for the pincushion shown in this tutorial.

Wool fleece is the preferred stuffing for pincushions because it has a bit of weight and the lanolin keeps pins and needles from rusting.

Materials needed: 

6 1/2” (15cm) diameter repurposed sweater or other stretch knit fabric circle
3 colors of wool felt or felted wool blanket:
1 – 7” (18cm) square for inner petals;
1 – 7” (18cm) square for outer petals;
1 – 10 1/2” x 1 1/2” (27cm x 4cm) strip for base
2 1/2” (6.5cm) diameter cardboard circle
Wool stuffing

Using 2 strands of embroidery thread, sew a wide running stitch around the perimeter of the circle and pull slightly to gather.

Stuff with a ball of wool fleece and top with a cardboard circle.

Pull your thread tight and sew your gather shut. Tie off securely. The cardboard now makes the base of the ball a bit flatter.

Center the ball on a 90 degree cross and draw 12 inner petals around your central ball (or download the pattern here). Cut this out and use as a pattern for your petals.

Trace this inner petal layer onto the back of a square of wool felt or thin felted blanket. Cut this out carefully along tracing lines.

Wrap the inner petals around the ball with the gathered side inside the petals. Pin petals in place for now.

Use the same method to draw outer petals (or download the pattern). Make these more ornate and as similar to William Morris' style as you can.

Don't worry about being perfect. Nature's petals are varied and unique. Yours can be also.

Trace this pattern onto the back of your second square of felted wool. Cut carefully along tracing lines.

If you center your ball on the outer petals you can see how the sunflower is starting to emerge.

Using 3 strands of embroidery thread, attach the inner petals to the central ball with two or three long stitches up and down each petal. Pull tightly enough that it holds the petals close to the ball but not too tightly that the petals pucker.

Using 3 strands of embroidery thread, embellish the outer petals similarly but this time use a stem stitch to embroider your accents. Vary the number of accent lines per petal to create a more natural look. Keep the thread knots trimmed short and at the back of the petals.

Turn the ball over and center the petals over it, back side of the petals facing up. Use 2 strands of matching embroidery thread to sew the outer petals to the ball with a simple running stitch. I've placed a black thread around the ball to show where to sew.

When you turn the flower right side up, the outer petals will fall gracefully outwards and downwards, but the ball may yet be a bit wobbly. To provide stability, roll up your strip of felt and sew it closed with a whipstitch.

Turn the flower upside down again. Whipstitch the roll onto the flower just above the running stitch holding the outer petals in place. If the roll is too long, just snip a bit off so the ends meet. Join the ends together with a few stitches. Turn your pincushion right side up.

Congratulations! You have made a William Morris Sunflower Pincushion in the Arts & Crafts style.


  1. So incredibly beautiful! I love William Morris and your interpretaion of his design is wonderful!

    1. Thanks Marsha! When I saw that sunflower, it hit me immediately! I would have liked to have had the time and materials to create a larger decorative pillow using the same method. I challenge me readers to make that or the pincushions and come back and show off!

  2. Very cute Pincushion ! I would love to try make one !

  3. That's one of the best pincushions I've ever seen, Allison. I love it!!! And such a detailed, easy to follow tutorial, too.

    1. Thanks so much, Pam. It was quite a challenge to find an easy craft representing some aspect of the Arts and Crafts movement. I'm so glad it works for you. :-)

    2. Wow, thanks! And if anyone bothers to read these comments - go to Pam's It's chockers with great projects and tutorials.