Jan 21 07

Trapunto 101

I had meant to make a new sample wall-hanging for a trapunto/couching class I am teaching next weekend and I just now realized that I am running out of time! I spent my afternoon today working on one, so I figured it might be a good thing to post since all of us quilters love finding new ways to add texture and dimension to our quilts.
Trapunto means “stuffed work,” so what we are doing is adding one or more layers of additional batting to parts of our quilt in order to make parts of it protrude out. You can control how much a trapuntoed area protrudes by: 1. your choice of batting type and how many extra layers you place and 2. by how densely you quilt within the trapuntoed area. There are many different ways to do trapunto and what I am doing here is trapuntoing under the appliqued butterfly. Once it’s completely done and in a final quilt sandwich, (you won’t see this tonight because I didn’t have time to get that far today), you can stitch around the outside of the trapuntoed area with invisible monofilament thread and this will make the area pop out.
To start, applique the shape you wish by either traditional hand applique or fusible applique. The butterfly you’ll see later was done in fusible. There are 2 small areas of rust-colored applique within the butterfly that I wanted to have 2 layers of batt, so I begin my trapunto by pinning a piece of scrap batting under each of these zones and then stitching around the outside edge of these areas. You could do this with a satin stitch or decorative preprogrammed stitch on your machine or with free motion embroidery. I did it a different way, by couching a decorative fiber, just because I wanted to add another texture. (To couch, use invisible monofilament thread in top needle and a bobbin thread which matches the fiber being couched). You can couch with either a free motion foot or a couching foot and you may use a straight stitch or a zig zag. I used my free motion foot w/straight stitch today. This first picture shows the front of the center of the quilt after these zones were done:


(The turquoise “wiggly” thread is the part that was just couched down). Now, to get a better sense of what’s going on, look at the backside of this center section:


The piece of batt on the right is where one of the couched areas is. On the left is an illustration of how it looks once the extra batting outside the trapuntoed area has been cut away. (Be careful when you cut this away, taking care not to accidentally slice into the bakground fabric!) Also note the faint areas of yellow thread above; these are places where I did some free motion embroidery around the outside edges of the circles in the top wing. Since they were done in fusible applique, I did not need to use a stabilizer.
Next, I wanted to trapunto the entire butterfly, so I pinned a large piece of scrap batting behind this entire area. (You could use water soluble gluestick or spray baste this on, but remember, you’ll eventually need to go back and cut out excess, so pay attention to where you place any sticky stuff!) I couched down a yellow yarn around the base wings as below:


And after that, I couched down a rust colored decorative yarn around the perimeter of the upper wings, as shown below:


We’re almost done with “stage I” of the trapunto, we just need to do something to the body of the butterfly. It’s pretty small and I think couching a decorative yarn here would be overwhelming, so I just did a free motion straight stitch in an EKG pattern here:


Now we are ready to get rid of our excess baggage! Flip this puppy over and cut away all the batting outside the perimeter of the butterfly. (By the way, I actually use children’s blunt-edged scissors for this part because I think I’m less likely to accidentally cut through my background fabric with them):


Now I want to stitch some antennae on this butterfly and again, my goal in this quilt is to create some interesting textures, stuff that will make the viewer want to touch it, so I am using size 12 pearl cotton black embroidery thread, (available at Michael’s, Joanne’s, everywhere just about except a quilting store), because once this baby’s in a true quilt sandwich, I’ll stitch just outside the antennae with invisible monofilament thread and this will make my heavy black embroidery thread REALLY pop out! I mark 2 faint chalk lines so I’ll remember where to stitch, throw it into a hoop and place some stabilizer underneath as shown below:


(I had to use stabilizer and put it into a hoop because this part of the quilt is not stabilized by fusible web, this is just plain old fabric here!) Once done stitching, remove the hoop and tear away the stabilizer as shown here: (By the way, I used sandwich paper purchased very cheaply at Sam’s for my stabilizer, a trick for cheapskates like me that I learned from fiber artist and fabric dyer extraordinaire, Nancy Bruce!)


Now your “base” butterfly is done. You could finish piecing your top, lay it all out in a quilt sandwich, and begin your quilting by stitching around all parts of the butterfly w/invisible thread. Or, you can quilt the “insides” of your butterfly now, which is what I I did. Unfortunately, the picture really doesn’t show it too well:


Notice the large knots seen on the back-one of the nice parts of trapunto is that you don’t have to worry about making a mess like that that because no one but you will ever see them!

At this point in the process, I spilled a can of diet Sunkist orange drink on my sewing table…No Joke!! This brought a halting end to my afternoon of fun and I didn’t figure the cleanup would be of any interest, so I didn’t take any photos for posterity! I’ll post how to finish it off once things have dried and I have the time to get back to it!

One Comment

  1. Helen Says:

    Is that and ordinary domestic machine you are using with that hoop? Where did you get the hoop? I haven’t seen one like that. It looks like it makes the quilting easier.

    It is a plain old domestic sewing machine, that particular machine is a Pfaff, so you DON’T need an embroidery machine to do this! The hoop is a cheapo spring embroidery hoop I bought at Michael’s. (I think they are also at Ben Franklin, Hobby Lobby, Joanne’s, and Hancock’s). It is a metal inner hoop and a plastic outer hoop-I think it cost all of $2.99. If you have a wooden machine hoop that you actually tighten, that also works; I just prefer the spring embroidery hoop because I can place my fabric in it and remove it very quickly and with no effort.