A Stylised Flower Quilting Motif

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Free-motion quilting with baking paper

From the Sewing Room – The Stylised Flower motif and how I free-motion quilt with baking/tracing paper

Last time we talked quilting, I had just finished stabilising two charity quilts and deciding how I was going to quilt them. This week I have finished quilting the first of these, and I learned a number of lessons along the way that I thought you might be interested in. There is also a free downloadable template of the flower motif nearer the end of this post if you want to give it a go yourself.

Last week I designed a stylised flower motif to cover the pieced blocks of a red, brown and cream quilt that my daughter has dubbed “Jaffas and Cream”. Do you know what Jaffas are? They are an Australian and New Zealand chocolate treat. Delicious. But I digress….. 🙂

Stylised flower quilting motif
Stylised flower quilting motif over a Jaffas and Cream quilt block

At first I decided I was going to quilt this motif freehand, like the daisy I did on a similar quilt. I planned to mark the diagonal lines with chalk, and once I had the orange peels stitched in place, quilt the petals and corner details around the main lines. But it was not to be. I had “one of those days”, quilting-wise.

I marked up the first block with chalk and set to work. But I couldn’t get the tension between the top and bottom threads just right. Once I had what I thought was an acceptable balance, I couldn’t get the nice sweeping curves I wanted for the orange peel backbones. I started again on a second block, this time with extensive chalk markings to guide the sweeping lines. But still to no avail. I gave up and unpicked.

The dirty culprit….

Coming back at it later, I realised that the pre-wound bobbin was not spooling off nicely. I’m not even sure how to describe this issue in words…. The thread coming off was suffering friction from the adjacent thread still on the bobbin slightly trapping it. But not consistently. That was why I couldn’t get a nice stitch flow and happy tension. This is not the first time I have had trouble with these commercially wound bobbins, but it was the worst. I like the actual bobbin thread, but I will only be buying cones to wind my own bobbins from now on. This was Lesson 1.

Anyway, I re-wound the bobbin thread from the pre-wound bobbin onto a fresh bobbin. Having fixed the main problem, I also changed the needle for good measure. I was ready to go again. But my free-motion confidence and chilled disposition was now shot for the day!

The baking paper approach to the stylised flower motif

In the past when I have wanted to quilt a design that is too hard to do without marking, I have often traced it onto baking paper and quilted over the tracing. Then I pull the paper away. So, feeling a bit frazzled, I decided to ditch the freehand stitching and use a tracing. I have never tried this before on my Sweet 16, but I didn’t expect things to be particularly different to on my domestic machine. Wrong!

Traced stylised flower
Stylised Flower motif after trace-stitching, before pulling off the paper.

It turns out that trace-stitching with the Sweet 16 is a different art to on my domestic machine. I think this is because on the domestic machine you are sitting more over the needle, and it’s slower. Both of these things means it is easier to retrace your stitches exactly when you need to back track. My first attempt at tracing the stylised flower motif was messy. It also resulted in too many small fragments of paper to pick out, trapped in the not quite aligned back-stitching. Agggh. I didn’t like it, it didn’t have the clean look that I set out to achieve, and it was going to take too long to clean the paper off 25 blocks. This was Lesson 2.

messy stylised flower
This was my first attempt at tracing the stylised flower motif. I actually intended to leave this as it was, but the remaining flowers worked out so much better, that I did rip it out and replace it once the other 24 blocks were done.

I ended up rethinking my stitching path several times to get a much neater and faster result. Lesson 3, and the one I am most satisfied with! If you would like to know how to best stitch out this design using baking paper, here is the method I settled on.

Tutorial: The Stylised Flower Quilting Motif

Supplies and Printing

The first thing you will need to do is print out the motif from the downloadable file below. Then you can trace it or print it onto tracing paper/baking paper/parchment paper. I use “Greaseproof paper” for my projects, found in the kitchen section of the supermarket. It is a type of baking paper. The cheapest versions are best; thinner and less slippery than quality baking paper brands. Save the expensive baking paper for your actual baking! And don’t get confused with waxed kitchen paper. Waxed paper is not good for this project.

Click here to download the pdf of the stylised flower motif.
Please note that the pdf is formatted to the A4 standard for Australia. You may need to adjust your printer settings if your default paper size is “letter”. The size of the provided motif is 5.75 inches square. This is because my blocks started at 6 inches square, but shrunk a little when I stabilised them. The final design is slightly smaller than my blocks, to ensure the whole motif fits inside.

I print my designs directly onto greaseproof paper by taping the greaseproof paper to a piece of office paper as a “carrier”. The greaseproof paper won’t go though the printer alone because it is too flimsy and it gets jammed. I use white paper-backed masking tape to attach the greaseproof paper to the office paper. This has never harmed my laser printer, but I take no responsibility for anything you put through your own printer. If you are unsure about putting unorthodox things through your printer, trace the design by hand.

baking paper printing
Baking paper taped over printed office paper, ready for printing (left) and after printing (right).

Quilting the Stylised Flower

Pin the design to your quilts with quilting safety pins.

pinned stylised flower design
Pinned and ready to go.

First the leaves….

To quilt the stylised flower motif, enter into the design from one corner and travel to the diagonally distant corner through the centre point.  Then quilt the first half of the corner “leaflet” and stop.

stylised flower motif step 1
Follow the red line to quilt his design

I then tear the paper out of the way so that I can complete the leaflet and travel back to the centre of the design without double-stitching over any paper. Use the back of a seam ripper or a pin to neatly score the paper so it only tears away from where you want it gone.

tearing off the paper
Scoring the baking paper for controlled removal. You will also notice in this picture that I adjust the design on the fly to fit each block so that it reaches the edges.
paper removed out of the stitch path
I now use the stitching lines already done as a reference for where to stitch next.

Finish the leaf and return to the first corner of the design through the centre. Finally, finish the little leaflet in that corner.

stylised flower motif step 2

Now, travel along the edge of the block (stitch-in-the-ditch) to one of the two remaining leaves.  

stylised flower motif step 3
Travel along the ditch

Repeat the above steps to quilt the remaining leaves. Except, once you return to the centre after completing the third leaf, enter the first petal and stop with the needle down.

stylised flower step 4
After finishing the third leaf, enter the first petal. Make sure you pause at the top of this first petal for more paper removal.

Then the petals….

Tear all the paper out of the middle so that you can see where you are stitching and to avoid back-stitching over paper. Be careful to leave the tops of the petals visible so that you can still see where to stitch.

stylised flower motif tearing out the paper
Remove the paper from the flower centre, sparing the tops of the petals.
Stylised flower motif paper removed.
Paper removed. Now quilt the petals using the petal tops and the leaf edges as visual guides.

Complete the petals using the petal tops and leaf edges as visual guides. Quilt into the centre for each petal but stop just short of actually touching the centre point to avoid a build up of thread there. Where petals cross over the leaf edges, don’t quilt into the centre again. Just bounce off the leaf stitching line to the next petal top.  Finally, finish the last leaflet as you exit the block. 

finished stylised flower motif
Finished stylised flower quilting motif
stylised flower step 5
After the paper is removed, finish quilting the petals.

What if you want to quilt this design, but not in a block?

If you are not quilting this design into a block and can’t travel invisibly between corners, you can also quilt it as shown below. I did actually do two blocks with this method before I changed to the described method above. I changed only because I found it easier to quilt the “S” shape straight through the centre than to neatly arc through in a half circle to the third leaf. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know. I just did!

Alternative way to quilt the stylised flower
Another perfectly good way to quilt the stylised flower.

The rest of the quilting on this quilt

I completed the quilt with a vine of leaves in the sashing, and piano keys in the border with orange peels in the border corners.

leaves and piano keys
Quilting in the sashing and border
orange peels in the corner
Orange peels in the corner

That is it for me for this charity quilt. Now it is ready to go to the next quilter in the production process for binding.

Finished "Jaffas and Cream" quilt.
Finished “Jaffas and Cream” quilt.

I hope you enjoy playing with this motif and making it your own. Let me know if you quilt it so I can feature your work for everyone else to see!

Do use a brand of pre-wound bobbin thread for your Sweet 16 that you would recommend. I’d love to know! Please comment below!

For more tutorials and colour inspiration for quilts, follow me on Pinterest, Bloglovin’ or by email (sign up in the side bar).

Hope to see you back here next week, still Quilting Your Own Story!

P.S. Here are the linky parties I am joining this week;
Confessions of a Fabric Addict
Busy Hands Quilts
Crazy Mom Quilts
Free Motion Mavericks
Tweety Loves Quilting
Don’t forget to check out these great quilting sites for links to all sorts of inspiration!

And a monthly linky too: Quilting JetGirl

10 Replies to “A Stylised Flower Quilting Motif”

  1. Mmmm I love Jaffas 🙂 Great tutorial, I’ve having used baking paper or freezer paper to quilt with, but keep meaning to… xx

    1. Of the two methods, baking paper has been my go-to….. I found that under my domestic machine, freezer paper would often dislodge before I was finished. Frustrating. Now that I have a Sweet Sixteen, I should try it again actually. Being able to keep the quilt flat should make a big difference to the ability of freezer paper to stick. Thanks so much for your comment… I think I will have to give the freezer paper another go soon!

  2. Hi Dione, thanks for the tutorial. The last quilt I did, I really had a hard time marking it since it had too many light and dark fabrics in the same block. I will have to try this technique. I also like your quilting design. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Andrée, So glad you found it useful. If you do try the technique and/or design, I’d love to hear from you. Always happy to feature readers’ work – then we can all learn from each other. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment!

  3. Hello Dione,

    Your quilt is lovely, such a generous gift for charity. Congratulations on quilting with paper. When I tried it, with greaseproof paper, my machine absolutely shredded it.

    Thank you for linking up with Free Motion Mavericks – your quilt is this week’s featured project!

    Love, Muv

    1. Hi Lizzie, thanks for the feature, that is very exciting!
      About the shredding – I am curious, and would love to know more. Were you free-motion quilting? What sort of foot were you using? Stitch length? Can you describe the issue? I have found this to be a very reliable method, except getting the paper out of dense stitching. I’d love to know the caveats. Please share some more details (or write me a guest post?)! xDione.

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