Composite Flower Motifs

Allison Aller 2010

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Most of us have stashes filled with all different kinds of supplies and goodies for stitching, quilting and crafting too. In honor of the sweet and welcome summertime, I've been combining different stash components--painted lace, vintage millinery supplies, beads, ribbon, and commercially printed quilting fabric--to create some whimsical flower motifs. I create them on a background fabric, and then piece that "pre-made motif" into a crazy quilt block.

Let's look at three different flowers and how they are assembled.

Composite Flower #1

As you can see from the photo, I've got several choices of small beads and buttons for my flower centers, with parts of an old millinery flower, variegated crochet thread, and printed cotton for my petals, silk ribbon and printed cotton for my leaves, and stem threads. (It's inspirational to gather a collection of supplies and then audition them as you go.) The goal is to "surprise" the eye with unexpected combinations, and to provide a pleasing mix of texture as well.

*Note* I have fused Steam A Seam fusible web to the back of my printed flowers, not to fuse them but because this treatment prevents the detailed cotton flowers from fraying after I cut them out. I did fuse the cut out leaves to the background fabric, however.

1. To attach your first flower, stitch down the first millinery petal "layer" in the center with a few Straight Stitches.

2. Repeat with the second petal "layer", offsetting them so that the first layer shows beneath it.

Two petal "layers" sewn into place on background fabric

3. Attach the cut out printed flower with a few Straight Stitches in its center, directly above the center of the first two layers.

4. Sew a flower bead into the center of the cut-out cotton flower. I glued a smaller bead into the center of my first bead for additional detail and interest.

5. The second flower has not fully bloomed yet, so this time assemble the three layers and fold them in half. Stitch the layers together at their base, and then pin the folded assemblage to the background fabric. Attach the base of the flower with some straight stitches. These will be covered in a later step.

6. Fuse on your cut out cotton leaves. You can Buttonhole Stitch around them by hand or Zigzag Stitch around them them using clear thread, as I did by machine.

7. Using 4mm silk ribbon, cover the base of the folded flower in a fan of Straight Stitches.

8. Create your accent flower with a button center surrounded by small dagger beads sewn on in a circle.

9. Make Straight Stitches between each dagger bead from the crochet thread.

10. Using the 4mm silk ribbon, create the first two flowers' stems in a Stem Stitch. Use three strands of floss for the accent flower's stem and Fly Stitch leaves.

The finished Composite Flower #1 (and, hey, a bee flew in)

Composite Flower #2

For this flower, we will be arranging our components on a printed cotton floral background, not cutting it out. Again, we've gathered vintage millinery petals, leaves, and stamens, plus painted laces, hand-dyed cotton floss, silk ribbon, Lutradur (a stitchable and paintable spun bond web material that you can cut into shapes that do not fray; see Resources) and an antique covered button.

1. Because the cotton background fabric is lightweight, iron some fusible knit interfacing to the back of it before you begin assembling and stitching your flower.

2. Sew down the first petal "layer", centering it over the printed flower, with some Straight Stitches in its center.

3. Paint your Lutradur with acrylic paints, and cut out petals. Tack them into place under your first millinery flower layer.

Lutradur petals

Lutradur petals and first millinery layer sewn into place

4. Attach second millinery flower layer with Straight Stitches in its center.

5. Pin and tack painted lace into place in a circle, leaving 1/2" of the second millinery layer showing.

Circle of painted lace pinned into place

5. Prepare the flower's center by stitching the stamens to the back of your button. If there is no way to stitch them into place, use a little glue to affix them to the button back.

The stamens stitched to the back of my netted button

6. Run a Gathering Stitch along the bottom of the second piece of painted lace (about 6" long). Pull the thread to gather the lace into a circle, slightly smaller than the circumference of your center button. Fold over one end of the lace, place it in front of the raw end, make a knot where they overlap to secure the gathers, and then Whipstitch the overlap closed with a few stitches. Do not clip thread.

7. Attach the gathered painted lace circle to the center of your flower, Whipstitching along around the inside edge.

8. Sew on your "prepared" button in the center of the inner lace circle.

9. My background fabric had some printed flowers that I made three-dimensional by adding some simple silk ribbon stitches in the petals, and then Outline Stitching around the blooms.

The finished Composite Flower #2

Composite Flower #3

The supplies for Flower #3 include a vintage doily and millinery rose, some lace with a good scalloped edge, commercially made individual petals from the bridal section at Michael's, and a flower button.

1. Interface your background fabric with fusible knit interfacing.

2. Tack down the doily in its center to the background fabric.

3. Starting with the largest commercial petals, tack them down one at a time at their bases in the center of the doily. Have the petals overlap a bit.

The first round of commercial petals being tacked into place

4. Run a Gathering Stitch along the base of the scalloped lace. Pull on the thread to create a circle out of the lace, large enough so that its edge extends halfway over the large petals. Pin in place and Whipstitch around the gathered base of the lace.

The gathered, scalloped lace pinned into place

5. Attach the second round of commercial petals, again overlapping them from the center of the flower. Trim the petals to the exact size and shape you want.

6. Sew on the center flower bead, and your bloom is complete.

The finished Composite flower #3

I laid out my three motifs on a muslin foundation to create my block, using repositionable fabric spray adhesive to hold them into place along with other fabrics and trims. Next, I pinned the collage into place and lastly sewed everything down with a narrow machine Zigzag Stitch in clear thread.

The block "collage" laid out

Some simple seam embellishments were the final touch before mounting my block onto foam core. (See for how to do this.)

The completed, mounted block. It measures 9" X 11"

I hope summer will inspire you to have some fun creating your own composite flower motifs. When you do, please send pictures to us for our next Readers' Showcase!


Lutrador can be purchased at quilt and craft stores or from Amazon here:

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