Quilt Lessons: What is Stippling?

Meander drawing and example by Susan Brubaker Knapp

If you are new to free-motion quilting or unfamiliar with the terminology of various free-motion quilting motifs, you may have asked yourself, “What is stippling?”

With so many quilt artists well-versed in the art of quilt stippling, it can be difficult to discern what stippling actually is. Personally, I’ve found Sulky’s explanation the most concise and easy to understand. Here is their definition:

“The term ‘Stipple Quilting’ refers to ‘free-motion’ straight stitching done in small, soft, curvy, puzzle-like shapes. Lines of stitching do not intersect or touch. It is a preferred quilting method for small, open areas on quilts.”

Stipple quilting and meander quilting are two birds of a feather. Both free-motion quilting techniques utilize straight stitching in soft, curvy, puzzle-piece-like shapes. Meanders, however, are generally bigger shapes than those of stippling and are meant to fill in large open areas on quilts.

Both of these quilting methods take practice. Whether you’ve practiced stipple quilting and meander quilting a handful of times or a hundred times, here are a few tips you may find helpful:

  • Drop your feed dogs or cover them with a darning plate so they don’t pull on your fabric.
  • Use a free-motion or darning foot. The small hoop or horseshoe shape of the foot will hop up and down instead of holding the fabric down all the time like a regular presser foot does.
  • Sit so that your nose is in line with the needle. If your machine is flush with your sewing surface, rest your forearms on the table in front of the machine.
  • Always lock your stitches when you begin stitching and before you cut the thread.
  • Before free-motion quilting any project, always “warm up” on a practice quilt sandwich to loosen up tight arms and hands.
  • Thread tension can be checked and adjusted on this practice piece. Adjust the top tension so that no bobbin thread shows on the top.
The example above uses stippling in between the flower petals.

Repetition and practice really does make perfect when learning stipple quilting and meanders! It takes time, and more than a few sample quilt sandwiches to feel comfortable with the flow of these soft and curvy free-motion quilting techniques.

Master these free-motion quilting techniques and explore over 20 more creative machine art techniques in the Seasons with Sulky: Online Certified Teacher Course. Whether you’re interested in becoming a certified teacher or you want to advance your sewing skills, you can’t go wrong with the top-notch projects and instruction from Sulky. Register for your seat today.

Happy quilting!

Brenna's Signature

P.S. Not sure about taking an online course, but still want to learn more free-motion quilting designs? Download your copy of Susan Brubaker Knapp’s video 52 Free-Motion Quilting Motifs and Fillers.

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