How to sew a sunflower star quilt block #quiltblockchallenge

Sunflower quilt block Carolyn Forster

As part of our Quilt Block Challenge for World Craft Week, we’re challenging you to make and share a block you’ve never tried before! If you’re looking for inspiration for where to begin, why not try Carolyn Forster‘s scrappy star block with a Dresden-twist? It’s one of our favourite blocks ever to appear in Today’s Quilter and we featured it in our first every issue.

You will need

  • Fabric for the petals
  • Fabric for leaves
  • Fabric for background diamonds
  • Fabric for flower centres
  • Freezer paper
  • Download our Soothing Sunflower templates here – Template A (petal) Template B (leaf), Template C (circle), Template D (diamond)

Finished block size

  • Block size: 1512in at widest point, 8in along straight sides.


  • Seam allowances are 14in throughout.
  • WOF = width of fabric.
  • FQ = fat quarter.
  • Press all fabrics before cutting.
  • Press all seams open unless otherwise instructed.

If you want to use pre-cuts for the petals and leaves, then the following information may help:

  • One 5in square will yield two petals.
  • One 10in square will yield eight petals.
  • One 10in square will yield eight leaves.

Set-in seams

A set-in seam, sometimes called a ‘Y’ seam, is necessary when three or more pieces of fabric that have angles other than 90 degrees meet at one point (Fig A).

The stitching line where the pieces meet needs to stop ¼in from the raw edge of a fabric piece, to allow another piece to be set in. For this quilt, these seams will be easier to sew if you mark dots ¼in from the beginning and end of the fabric pieces, to show where to start and stop stitching (Fig B).

Backstitching for a few stitches at the beginning and end of the stitching line will help to secure the seam. The project instructions below give further advice on this.

Sunflower quilt block Figs A-B

How to make the block

These steps will give you the method to sew one block. When you have the hang of it you can chain piece some of the process, but it’s useful to cut and make one block first, to check things out and practise the technique.

Step one: Take twelve (12) fabric petals and sew these together in a round. Start at the very edge of the fabric in the centre of the flower and stop 14in away from the outside edge of the flower (Fig 1).

Sunflower quilt block Fig 1

Fig 1

Press the seams open (Fig 2).

Sunflower quilt block Fig 2

Fig 2

Step three: Take six (6) fabric leaves and using set-in seams, sew the leaves into alternating gaps between the petal. Work with the wrong side of
the petals uppermost so that you can see where to stop with the machine needle in the work to pivot (Fig 3).

Sunflower quilt block fig 3

Fig 3

Start sewing at the raw edge of the fabric and stitch towards the pressed-open seam. Stop sewing in the middle of the open seam, with the needle in the work. Lift the foot and turn the work on top to re-align the petal raw edges and leaf underneath. Lower the foot and continue to stitch to the fabric raw edge. (If it’s easier, take work off the machine to manipulate the pieces into place.) Repeat in alternating segments around the flower to fit six leaves in. If it helps, shorten the stitch length when pivoting . Press the leaf seams towards the petals (Fig 4).

how to sunflower quilt fig 4

Fig 4

Step four: Take six (6) background diamonds and using set-in seams, sew three (3) alternating diamonds in the spaces between the leaves. Again, work with the main body of the flower uppermost and the diamond flat on the machine bed. Press the seams open. Stitch the three (3) remaining diamonds in the remaining places and press (Fig 5).

how to sunflower quilt fig 5

Fig 5

Step five: Now add the centre appliqué (see Fig 6 overleaf). Take a fabric circle with a freezer paper circle stuck to it (already prepared) and turn the seam allowance over onto the freezer paper and baste through the layers to hold it in place (Fig 6).

Sunflower quilt block fig 6

Step six: Position the circle over the hole in the flower and ensure that it is in the centre by making a crease at the quarter points of the circle and matching these up with the quarter point seams on the flower. Pin in place and appliqué down with a slipstitch. Take the basting stitches out and remove the freezer paper.

Finished your block?

We hope you’ve enjoyed this free tutorial. If you’re making Carolyn’s block for World Craft Week then remember to join our Quilt Block Challenge and share a photo online with the hashtags #quiltblockchallenge and #worldcraftweek

Sunflower quilt

Love this block so much you want to make a whole quilt out of it? You can see Carolyn’s full sunflower quilt in issue 1 of Today’s Quilter magazine. We’ve run out of printed copies but you can still get a copy of our digital issue through our Today’s Quilter apps. Keep up to date with Carolyn’s latest work over on her website Quilting-On-The-Go.