A tutorial: pinflower cake toppers
It's May, which means that it's now my month to contribute a Liberty Scrap Challenge tutorial...so what better day to offer it up than May 1st! I am crediting Nova's Liberty challenge with getting my sewing groove back: I hadn't really realised it, but my mind had been whirring a little slower recently and my compulsion to stay up sewing until midnight had all but ebbed away. I'd optimistically viewed this as 'a healthy thing': a life with more balance is a good thing surely, no? However, the scrap challenge set off a series of explosions (hopefully not critical) in my mind and a list has begun forming by my bedside of new ideas and sketches of things I'd like to make since receiving Nova's email in March. And then my beautiful scraps arrived from our Liberty fabric sponsor, Jo, and late night sewing sessions were resumed. Liberty fabric is perfect for making very tiny things as the small patterns can still be appreciated even when only a snippet of it is seen. And they are also so beautiful that they speak for themselves: so all of a sudden, rather than aspiring to make clever, complex things, I've just wanted to make very simple, very small things. Unexpectedly refreshing and liberating. Because they are so simple, I decided to write two tutorials as my contribution, the next of which will appear later in the week.
Cake toppers (and perhaps just things-on-sticks generally, for have you seen these stunning Liberty print butterfly table decorations?) seem to be undergoing something of a revival recently and I was inspired to create something that allowed contrasting fabrics to be shown next to one another. I've shaped the points of the ubiquitous pinwheel to make them appear more petal like, giving pinflowers.
Liberty fabrics work perfectly for these cake toppers as the small prints allow you to see a flavour of the pattern even on the tiniest flower petals. They also present an opportunity to have fun raiding the button tin.
I've created a template for you to download which offers the pattern in four different sizes from Large to Wee (for those overseas, 'wee' is old English for tiny), so that you may pick a flower which would have the best proportions for the size of your cakes. As a guide, for the cupcakes featured in this post, I used the 'wee' size, with one 'large' flower as a centre piece - I would avoid increasing the size beyond this as the cocktail stick may not support their weight adequately. You can download the template here.
Scraps of Liberty fabric
Cocktail sticks (available from any supermarket)
Lightweight iron-on interfacing
Bondaweb or Wonder-under applique web
A disappearing ink pen or chalk (I use Frixion pens which can be ironed away with heat)
1. Begin by cutting out your chosen size of Pin-flower from the downloadable template sheet. Cut carefully on all the lines, cutting the length of all straight lines which go toward the centre. Ignore the dot and two short parallel lines in the centre for the time being.
2. Cut two pieces of lightweight iron-on interfacing, 1 piece of Bondaweb and two pieces of Liberty fabric out so that they are approximately 1/4" bigger than the Pin-flower template on all sides.
3. Iron the light-weight interfacing onto the reverse of the Liberty print fabrics. Not only will the interfacing give your pinwheel a little bit of reinforcement, but more importantly it will mean that the lighter areas of each fabric won't show the other print through it once they're stuck together. It will also stop your fabric from fraying excessively.
4. Now take one of the interfaced Liberty print squares and iron the Bondaweb to the reverse of this, as per the manufacturer's instructions. Once ironed in place, peel away the paper backing.
5. Now take the other Liberty print interfaced square and iron it so that the wrong sides of both squares are together - the bondaweb which you've just applied will fuse them together when heated. It should look like the photo above once done.
6. Trace the pin-flower template onto one side of the fabric. There's no need to trace on the dots or two small parallel lines - these are there as a visual reference should you need them. Carefully cut along the lines you've traced, being sure not to over-cut as you reach the centre.
I'm adding in an additional sub-step here where I show you the fabulousness of these Frixion pens (which seem to be available from most stationers). Despite my careful cuts the ugliness of the lines still blights the beauty of the Liberty fabric, but a second or two beneath the iron removes all trace of them (see below). Wonderful! The magic of this never fails to delight me.
7. It's now time to mark on the tiny cuts which you'll need to make to accommodate the cocktail stick. If your cuts are too big, then the flower will travel down the stick and gather icing on its lovely petals, so it's really best to err on the side of caution and start very small. When you look at the width of the cocktail stick above, you can see that your marks do not need to be very big at all. I've made two, about 1/4" apart. Avoid making them too close to the diagonal line cuts that come toward the centre as that could lead to all kinds of awful non-fixable pin-flower breakage.
8. Fold the flower gently in half and make the tiniest of snips with your finest scissors.
9. Load in your cocktail stick. You can see how snugly the cocktail fits in the photo above - a good fit will mean that your flower stays exactly where you want it to. The intended front of your flower should look like the above photo.
The back of the flower, where the stick point will be visible, will look like the photo above.
10. Begin by making a securing stitch using a thread colour to match your button. I make mine just above the upper cocktail stick hole.
11. It's now time to pull the pointed corners toward the centre to form the petal shapes. Do this by putting your needle through the first pointed corner a little way in from the point, going from front to back (in this case that's green fabric to pink fabric).
Now do the same for the next petal. Work round the pointed corners in order until all four are gathered in the centre. This is the fiddliest part of assembling these, so fear not if your fingers are currently feeling like sausages - it won't last for too much longer.
12. You must now secure these petals to the base of the flower. To do this sew through all layers a few times, coming out on the back of the flower to either side of the cocktail stick above the tiny strip of fabric that bridges across it. It's really important to keep the cocktail stick in place as you sew - it means that you don't risk sewing this opening together and will ensure that the flower is re-usable later, allowing a different stick to be inserted.
It should look like this on the reverse. It's worth trying to make this really neat so that it still looks lovely whatever side your cake is viewed from.
13. Finally, you may sew the button on. Simply continue using the same thread and bring your needle up through the reverse of the button and then down into the other hole from the front and continue to sew it to the base of the flower, paying attention, as above, to how your stitches look on the reverse of the flower. When your button is securely sewn in place, make a few securing stitches and place atop a cake for squeals of admiration and delight from all whose hands make their way toward your cake stand.
If you make any it would be lovely if you were to drop a few pictures of them into the Liberty Scrap Challenge Flickr pool, as well as my own Flickr pool. And if you'd like to purchase some of your own scraps, then you can find Jo's shop, The Organic Stitch Company, here. If you'd like more Liberty themed inspiration, you can also find the previous months' very lovely scrap challenge tutorials listed here.
As with all my tutorials, you are welcome to use this free-of-charge for your own personal use. If you wish to sell the things that you make from using my tutorial, however, then I request that you pay a small fee (£3) for the right to do this when you download the template.