Trapunto Quilting

Trapunto is a beautiful technique used in both traditional and modern quilts. It is an amazing process to add additional physical texture and optical relief to the fabric surface by filling and pre-quilting selected areas of the ceiling to achieve this effect. The oldest preserved example of Trapunto, the Sicilian Tristan ceiling, dates back to the late fourteenth century. I was overjoyed with Trapunto when I was introduced to the work of Karen McTavish, who claims the title “Queen of Trapunto” for her work in her book The Secret of Elemental Quilting.

Trapunto means finding a design that you love and transferring it to fabric for trapunto quilting. You can find a ton of free and paid online sources for trapunto designs for your embroidery machine as well as FMQ (Free Motion Quilting) embroidery by hand. Once you have found the perfect template, tap learning is easier than you think. Trapunto Embroidery can transfer the design and fabric that you love to Trapunto Embroidery and you will be able to make your embroidery machine patterns suitable for other types of simple quilting.

Trapunto is an Italian term for a quilting style that creates designs in high relief. If you have ever admired a beautiful embossing on a vintage book cover and wish you could use it on your duvet or pillow, then you should try it. Trapunto means that your quilts have a great contrast to the loft of the design, giving them a beautiful embossed look.

Pin the trapunto Watting to the top or outside of the Trapunto design: Once you have pinned the cotton wool, you should be able to tell if it is in the right place. Place the bat on the wrong side of the blanket or on the design. When using high loft cotton wool, be sure to cut layers of cotton wool. Each quilt section will have an additional layer of cotton wool for a beautiful, stuffed look. You can trim extra Trapunto cotton wool around your design area to cover the cotton wool you are looking for on the back of the quilt top. I sew the pouting invisible thread with a butcher’s stitch needle (size 75 / 11). It is small enough for my eyes to control the fine thread and has nice sharp points to pierce the top of the fabric and the cotton wool. The clear, sultry thread on the top keeps the extra layer of cotton in place, so I don’t have to worry about stitches appearing in our thread painting.

Most quilters use cotton batiste for this technique, but for those who want something more transparent, use organza. With water-soluble thread you can make a sandwich fabric with cotton wool. You need to wash the blanket to get rid of the first seams made with the water-soluble thread. Trapunto Quilting uses two layers of fabric or filling that are placed within the confines of a mesh to create a textured shape. It’s an old and underrated technique and I’m a big fan of it, so let’s dig a little deeper and explore the history of that technique.

Trapunto quilting is also known as Italian Stuffed Quilting, and cotton cord is the most commonly used material for filling. Trapunto stuffed works best when working with a hand blanket or a layered blanket. In normal quilting, there are two layers of fabric, and each layer consists of a sewn-together watt, but in layered quilting, these layers are used with filling to define the areas where the seams are finished. Extra cotton wool and cords are used to plug and channel motifs to create areas of high relief when quitting. This is achieved by sewing an additional layer or layer of cotton wool in place of the chosen motifs in addition to the back fabric. Cut the pieces of each layer a second time so that the full piece of cotton wool lies over the backing. I chose a subtle trapunto quilt by doubling one of the five circles and changing it a little. Mark the center of a point on the perimeter of each circle and stitch. Tie the center of the circles with a simple glue stick and pat a few pins in the corners to keep everything in place. 

One wants to let the fabric glide around the circle until it corresponds to its starting point. Be careful not to cut the fabric by mistake, as it is easier to cut it with sharp scissors. To complete the trapunto circle, we quilt our quilt sandwich as normal. Paired with the quilt’s background, stuffed trapuncated areas add depth, texture and design elements to the quilt’s lines and colors. As you can see in the quilting above, your layers of trapunto circles show subtle dimensions. The tighter your design to the catch shape, the more obvious your trapping method becomes.

Trapunto is often confused with a similar technique used in the production of traditional Provençal blankets developed in seventeenth-century France. Modern machines and new types of yarn take the manual work required for the traditional trapunto and allow you to create dramatic quilting designs with your sewing machine.