The Free Motion Quilting Project: The Texture of Stippling

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Texture of Stippling

For the past several weeks we've been working on Stippling. We've stippled several practice pieces, seen how this design works in rows, in blocks, around blocks in sashing, and on multiple scales.

Through this learning process, I really hope you've been able to take a closer look at this wiggly, curvy design and appreciate it's texture. Excuse me as I ramble off on a weird tangent about design texture...
free motion quilting | Leah DayStippling really is like nothing else.

I decided to start this year with this design because it is so popular and iconic in quilting, but also because it's so darn beautiful.

Yes, you heard me right, I think Stippling is gorgeous!

free motion quilting | Leah DayThere's several designs in this Zentangle, but it's the Stippling that really ties them all together.

I often hear quilters scoff a bit at this design "oh, it's just stippling..." and I can understand this attitude. This design is popular to the point of saturation. We've seen it, we know it, and it's starting to feel like a popular actress who's face is appearing on magazine covers and in movies a bit too often.

But don't let this pervasively dismissive attitude to Stippling color your perceptions. This is indeed an extremely useful and necessary design.

Stippling can do things that almost no design can. It can not only fill large expanses of your quilt on a large scale, it can also shrink down to a micro scale to fill and flatten areas where no other design can fit.

I hope you can stop for a moment to appreciate the wonderful texture this design has. On a denser scale, stippling is FLAT, but it's also OPEN which makes the design appear lighter on the surface of your quilts.

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis is a rare quality in designs because most that flatten are also quite dark with thread texture. Stippling is unique in that it can flatten an area densely without attracting attention.

In this role, Stippling is no longer a showy design, but an assistant behind the main attraction.

So the next time you hear someone say "oh, it's just stippling..." please inform them that this design is much more than "just" anything. It's an AWESOME design! It can do AMAZING things! And it does it all with grace and soft curves and not a hair out of place.

I'm off to quilt a bit more stippling!



  1. Nice explanation. I love stippling and I love a freehand swirl for the qualities you spoke of. There are times when the piecing just needs some light texture and nothing else will do without detracting from the pieced areas of the quilt. LOVE stippling.

  2. Amen. I love stippling too and use it often in my quilts. I am experimenting with many other designs as well, but there are times when only stippling will work for me.

  3. I love stippling too and am still learning it but love doing it. I think I could just do stippling large and small and not get tired of it and I have learned so much from you. I just need to keep practicing and relax and enjoy the process. Thanks Leah.

  4. I'm coming to appreciate stippling more and more as the weeks go by and I follow your practice suggestions, Leah. I'd never realised just how much can be done with it, using different scales, threads and placement. Your Quilt Along is becoming a very exciting journey!

  5. Dear Stipling,

    This Valentines Day I just want to say how much I love you! I really do!

    Yours truly,


  6. You and your work is simply amazing to me. Thank you for all your tut's and sharing.

  7. I have been sad that many scoff at stippling now. I love the look and often think it is just what a quilt needs.
    Thanks for this post!

  8. thank you,,,,,i love to read your advices,,,,,,,new to quilting, and doing my own, and love love love stippling,,,,,,thank you for your grt blog i read alot,,,,stiple two,,third, stiple and hearts,,,,i love love it,,,,,someday, will do a awesomeone like yours today, lolol,,,,dream big i say,,,,

  9. I'm falling in love with stippling, its so versatile. Thanks again for your tutorials :-) and Quilt Along's.

  10. Thank you for posting your love of stippling. Before I found you I was depressed because the only freemotion I could do was stippling. I did that fairly well, but I was unhappy that it was all I could do. I sort of felt that stippling was the poor step-sister to all the beautiful feathers and other designs--that I couldn't do. Thank you for shining a golden light on the one stitch that I'm really good at.

  11. Awesome post Leah, I too believe that stippling in its many forms, has a wonderful place on our quilts. Learning this design at different densities is a worthwhile skill. It's not EASY to be consistent, especially on large quilts, stitched over multiple days. "Just stippling" annoys me too!

  12. I love stippling......along with shadowing or echoing as some call it...and stitch in the I am in the learning stages and now learning other designs and how to relax and do the controlling. I love your site you are an inspiration to me. I am from British Columbia, Canada and can't get enough of quilting. Thanks Leah


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