Flame ON!

Good morning quilters and welcome to Swan Amity Studios here in the beautiful Sonoran Desert! There are few places in the world more unique and rewarding to visit. My studio faces my lovely backyard, filled with native plants and all of the northern mountain ranges ringing our valley haven.

We love to plant torch cactus in our yard and in the summer they stun us with flowers often larger than the plant itself. Those gorgeous blossoms were part of the inspiration for my block creation. Often the blooms are so incredible they almost appear to be artificial.

Today we’re going to bebop into the studio and take a peek at how to turn your Living Flame block into a lovely 16 inch decorator pillow.

When making my block, I start with choosing a background and marking the centering lines. Then I choose a color palate. In this case, I wanted those bright reds and orange-yellows I like best in my yard. I paired them with two shades of green. Today I’m working with fabrics from Hoffman’s 1895 Bali Batik Watercolors.

I love how many shades their colors are available in and how easy it is to find them in quilt shops around the country.

When choosing colors, I like to cut out my pieces and then lay them out to test and see if I should make any changes before I start preparing the pieces and stitching. I also lay examples of the fabric on the background and test to see if any pieces need a lining fabric in order to stay bright and beautiful in the final piece.

Since I used a black background fabric, I decided to make lining fabric pieces for all of the orange-yellow pieces to help them maintain their full value of color.

With a tracing of my pattern positioned underneath my background, I use a Wafer Lightbox from the Daylight Company USA to position my pieces. The Daylight lightbox is strong enough to allow me to see my pattern lines through the black background fabric. The layering of the leaves and petals makes it easier to start from the outside of the block and work my way into the center.

Here you can see how the black would discolor the orange-yellow fabrics if we didn’t add the liner fabric you see ready next to the piece. When the lining fabric is positioned inside the piece it prevents the darker background from showing through.

Once I have completed my block and squared it up to measure 12 ½” x 12 ½” I am ready to cut the materials for my pillow.


From the Darker Green, cut 2 rectangles 1” x 12 ½” and 2 rectangles 1”x 13 ½”.

From the Lighter Green, cut 4 rectangles 1” x 13 ½”.

From the Black, cut 2 rectangles 2 ½” x 13 ½” and 2 rectangles 2 ½” x 17”.

From your pillow back material, cut two rectangles 12 ½” x 16 ½”.

Directions for making the pillow top:

1. Stitch the 2 rectangles of the darker green measuring 1” x 12 ½” to either side of the block. (I like to piece with a seam guide to assure a perfectly accurate quarter inch while stitching.) Press toward the added border.

2. Stitch the remaining 2 rectangles of the darker green measuring 1” x 13 ½” to the top and bottom of the block. Press toward the added border.

3. With a hot, dry iron press the rectangles of lighter green fabric in half lengthwise to make a flange.

4. Pin 2 of the pressed green flanges (raw edges to raw edge) to either side of the block and stitch into place using a scant quarter inch seam.

5. Pin the remaining 2 flanges to the top and bottom of the block and stitch into place, again using the scant quarter inch seam. The result is a center that looks like you made tiny seams without all the fuss of actually making tiny seams!

6. Stitch the two rectangles of black measuring 2 ½” x 13 ½” to either side of the block (returning to a true quarter inch seam. Press toward the black border.

7. Stitch the remaining two rectangles of black measuring 2 ½” x 17” to the top and bottom of the block.Press toward the black border.

8. Cut a square of backing material 18” x 18” (any scrap fabric will do) and a square of batting 17 ½” x 17 ½”.

9. Sandwich the pillow top with the backing material and the batting.Pin as necessary.

10. Quilt your pillow top as desired.I chose to use free motion in my domestic machine, ditching the applique shapes, making bubbles in the black around the flower, and adding some green leaves to the border.

11. With the quilting completed we are ready to trim the block to measure 16 ½” x 16 ½”.