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Stippling and Beyond

Stippling is a popular machine quilting design. Get tips and tricks for stippling plus see other great allover quilting designs.

"A beautiful quilt deserves a knockout background. Stippling is a popular background design for machine quilters, because it adds texture quickly and goes with any theme. But it's good to spice up your backgrounds with other designs, as well. Hi, I'm Elizabeth Tisinger, editor of American Patchwork and Quilting and I'm here today with Vicki Hoth, education coordinator for Handi Quilter quilting machines. I'm so happy to have you here today, Vicki." "Well, thanks. I'm glad to be here with you." "So most quilters have heard of stippling, but can you tell us what it is exactly?" "Well, stippling is a random overall background design that can be applied to pretty much any quilt. It doesn't cross the lines. It's circular, round, random." "And it kind of looks like puzzle pieces." "Yes, let me show you some, okay? The one thing with stippling is you want to choose a circular object--a quarter, a nickle, a dime--something circular, and kind of keep your curves that size through it, so you don't change the size of the quilt. It looks like I've chosen a quarter today." "And you never cross over your lines?" "Never cross over. And you go in and out and up and down, so it doesn't look like you're going in a row." "Well, Vicki, you make that look so easy and natural. I wish I could do that. You know, Elizabeth, you can do it. It takes practice. So what we have here is the stitch, the design. And what we're going to do is put a plastic over the top of it." "Good, so I can trace it." "That's right. That hand-eye coordination so that you can get it down. The stippling is easy and fun to create. You first practice stippling with a pen and paper or a dry-erase marker and a piece of clear plastic. After you get a hang of the movement, you're ready to practice on the machine." "I can see that practice will really make perfect with this stipple design." "That's correct. But you know what? I think it's time to move on to another design." "Okay. Great. What are we working on?" "Let's do loops. Alright, with loops, of course now you can cross over the line. But now you want to do a loop left clockwise, then you want to do one counterclockwise, so you kind of flip the loop. So let's start. Flip it, very random. They can be all the same size or we can make a larger loop and move into a smaller loop. It's just a background fill and you can use those loops to travel from place to place." "Well, that one looks pretty easy, I think. I think I can do that." "I think you could. Are you ready to maybe add a little twist to it? Let's add a star to the loops. Ready?" "Sure." "We're going to do a loop. We're going to do a star--your Kindergarten stars. Loop, loop. Remember, those loops are opposite each other each time. Again, travel to another path. There we go with out star again." "Well, I can see already that this is a very versatile pattern. What else can you do with that?" "Should we add hearts? Now remember what we can do with this is we can make these larger and do an overall fill for a whole quilt or we can do them small and fill them in just a small area. So let's go ahead and do those hearts. Now if you'll notice, my hearts can be going any direction. They don't all have to be facing up." "Those look fun. Anything else you can do?" "Well, straight-line meandering." "That sounds totally different than the stipple or the loop.." "It is, it is. It's straight lines. We need to remember that when we do straight lines that we need to keep the lines straight. That's why it's called straight line. And as we come to the points to go back and forth that we need to rest in the point so we have a good sharp point as we stitch." "Okay, can you show me what you mean?" "We're going to do straight line, rest. And you know, this is one where we can actually cross over our lines. This is more of a geometric, fun for boy's quilts." "I can see that one looking great on a modern quilt." "That's right. It would be a lot of fun." "So, Vicki, from just the few background designs you've showed me, I can see that the possibilities really are endless. That's right. But you do need to practice. I know, you don't want to hear that. But that really is the key to becoming better at quilting. Paper and pen, and practice, practice, practice. And then put on some fabric on the machine." "Just some solid fabric." "Before you put on that expensive quilt that you've spent lots of time piecing, practice on some muslin first. Then I have a challenge for you. After you've become very good at this, I want you to make yourself a patriotic quilt and just fill it full of stars and loops." "I think I can do that." "I think you can, too." "A background doesn't have to be boring. Learn how to stipple, but don't stop there. Try the loopy design or the straight-line meander to really give your quilt a burst of personality." "And happy quilting."