Updated: Mar 24, 2019
Perhaps this is part of your tradition, or maybe it's new to you (as it was to me when I started researching), but in America the carnation seems to be the official flower of Mother's Day. On the second Sunday in May, the symbolism has evolved to wearing a white carnation in remembrance of a mother who has passed, and a red carnation for a living mom. You can read more about the history here (and how the daughter of the founder was really really bothered by the commercialization of the holiday).
So, being a person who is more than slightly enamored with both flowers and symbolism, and being challenged to come up with a block of the month with my mother for May, the improv carnation petal is born.
A carnation petal kind of looks like a cone with fringe. It's a really easy shape to replicate without a pattern.
For the Orlando MQG, for whom this post is initially written, begin by choosing either a white or red petal. Then the background will be the opposite. If you are going to use prints for the red, the reds that read closer to solids will work better. For example, that fabric with the white radiating circles above might not be a good choice. We want to see the defined edges of the red against the white and a large white pattern might muddy that. Also, please use white. It can be pure white, tone on tone white, or just slightly off white (like Kona Snow), but no low volumes.
Begin by cutting your cone. Use any angle you want, but remember it needs to fit in a 12.5" square, so 8" tall might be the upper limit.
Then cut your petal fringe. Remember, this is improv, so cut as you feel so moved. If you are into fabric efficiency, one way to approach this is to cut a strip (this one's a little short of 3" wide) then zig zag your cuts to get some triangles.
Then, cut a strip of your background fabric a bit (maybe an 1"+) wider than your triangle. In this picture the fabric is folded so please note you'll want a long strip.
This is how I add the background to improv triangles. Just because I'm into fabric efficiency. All the triangles will have different angles, so I picked one, set it on my strip, and used the angle of the triangle as a guide for my cut.
Then cut the other side. See how it's quite a bit taller than the triangle? That's good.
Add one side, making sure you have extra fabric on the top point (the bottom is less important). Trim to the other angle. Add the other side.
Continue making these triangles until you have enough to add to the top edge of your cone. I could have actually gone with one more triangle on this one.
Now we trim the sides of our fringe triangles. I put them all in a row and then trimmed the interior edges so that the bottom points of the triangle now meet the edge exactly. Make sure the interior edges are close to being parallel (see the second and third in the row), so when you sew them together they make a straight(ish) line. Note the exterior edges , bottoms, and tops are left untrimmed.
Sew your triangles together aligning them at the bottom. Here's a rare case where I press open. You do you.
Sewn all together. I'm not trying to match any points here at all. Now we are ready to add to the cone. Trim the bottom to a straight line.
Then sew it to the cone, centering your row of triangles. You want a little extra on the ends of the row to hang off, because you will be continuing the lines of the V of the cone. The example above is probably the least amount of overlap you can get away with. I'd go for more.
Trim one edge of your cone. See what I mean about the line continuing? Also you, can change the angle of your cone here too if you don't have enough. Which I did.
Add one side of your background fabric. This is the same principle as the small triangles, where I laid the piece on the background fabric to determine the angle to cut. Be generous here, as you want enough background to cut this down to a 12.5" square in the end. Now I am letting fabric efficiency go.
Add the second side of the background, then trim this edge straight across. Add third side of background.
See how I added background generous enough to cut down to 12.5" square? (Full disclosure, I didn't. When I went to cut it down I was 1/4 " short on one side. But no worries, I can cut off an edge and add a strip. Moral of the story - go big with the background pieces.)
And there you have it!
Now, you can get creative with your blocks. You can vary the size of your petals (within the 12.5" square). You could make a double petal (make two petals and sew them together before adding the background).
For the Orlando MQG, we are making a red and white version. If I were doing this one my own, I might go wild with color and solids. Or have a carnation Dresden in the quilt with the petals tossed around it.