Adding Trapunto to your QuiltsFeb 9th, 2011 | Category: How To, Lead Article
Trapunto adds marvelous dimension to quilts. It is defined as “quilting that has an embossed design produced by outlining the pattern with single stitches and then padding it with yarn or cotton”. The word originates from the Italian “to embroider” and is sometimes also called stuffed work.
Originally, trapunto was done by slitting the backing fabric in order to stuff the design with batting. The slit was then slip-stitched closed or covered with a second backing fabric. Vines or straight lines were sometimes stuffed with yarn or cording. I must admit that slicing the back of my quilt didn’t appeal to me, so I never seriously considered trying trapunto.
That was until I learned about a new way to add trapunto to my quilts. With this technique – sometimes called “machine trapunto” or “cut-away trapunto” – the extra stuffing is added before the quilt is layered and quilted.
Begin by marking the design onto the quilt top. (See last week’s article: To Mark or Not to Mark!) Pin a layer of high-loft batting – the stuffing – under the motif. I have been enjoying good results using wool batting.
Stitch the two layers together, following the marked design, using water-soluble thread in the needle and regular thread in the bobbin.
Now for the fun part. Carefully trim the batting close to the stitching, so that only the design is “stuffed”.
From this point on, construct the quilt as usual. Layer the quilt top with batting and backing fabric and baste. Quilt by stitching over the same design lines, this time using your choice of quilting thread. For best results, add dense quilting in the background around the motif. This will compress the background and really make the stuffed areas stand out.
Once the quilting is complete, wash the quilt. Not only will the design markings be removed but the first layer of water-soluble thread will dissolve. All that remains will be beautiful embossed designs. These step-by-step photos are from my quilt “Flourish on the Vine”.
Fruitful is the first quilt I made with trapunto motifs. I quilted straight parallel lines in the background around the trapunto. Because the background quilting isn’t as dense as say, stippling, the trapunto doesn’t stand out quite as much.
So for my next attempt, in the quilt Bridal Tea, I stipple quilted the background.
It is an extra step, and trimming that batting can be a challenge, but I believe the results are well worth the effort. Judges and viewers alike love to see the extraordinary visual texture created by trapunto. Consider adding it to your next quilt.