Modern Trapunto Tutorial

I want to try trapunto.  So I did.

Keep in mind this is the “how I did it” for my first-ever try at this.

I was thrilled to see the Don’t Look Now and Sharon Schambers quilts in person at last fall’s quilt market in Houston and I knew I had to try the technique.  Trapunto is basically a method of quilting though the “quilt sandwich” leaving areas looking more full and puffy.  I’m sure there’s a better definition out there, but that is the basic idea.

Finished Trapunto

I started out researching and reading and sketching.  I wanted to just dip my toe in on this one, so I knew I would NOT be making a huge trapunto style bed quilt.  I also wanted my project to take this VERY traditional technique and see if I could mix it into a modern design.  I decided to work with my “test block” from the workshop with Jacquie.  The fabric in this quilt are Kona Solids (Robert Kaufman), Bella Solids (Moda) and Geo Grand (Daisy Janie).

Step 1.

Decide on the shapes, which will appear “puffed and filled” and trace them onto the front of the quilt top with water soluble pen.  I’ll be calling these trapunto shapes for the rest of the tutorial.

Mark ShapesStep 2.

Find scrap batting pieces large enough to cover just the area of the trapunto shapes.  I chose to use 2 layers of cotton batting.  Pin baste the batting to the WRONG side of the quilt, behind the traced shapes.

Scrap Batting

Pin BastedStep 3.

Next you need to temporarily stitch around each shape.  The trick is to use water soluble thread.  The thread I used is Vanish by Superior Threads.  Sew with quilt top facing you.  Stitch directly on the marked shapes’ lines.  I used plain white thread in the bobbin, since I figured no one would ever see inside my quilt and stress over the thread that didn’t dissolve.

Water Soluble Thread

Stiched Shapes

I used a regular presser foot for this step, though a walking foot would work great for straight line shapes as well.  Also, here’s a crazy side note- Don’t try to lick the end of the thread to get it though your sewing machine needle.  Um… it’s water soluble…

Step 4.

Next, remove the piece from the sewing area.  Flip the quilt to the back side and remove all the excess batting beyond the trapunto shapes.  Take your time on this step and if you are using regular scissors (like me) go extra slow so you do not snip through your quilt top.  Snip right up next to that stitching line.

Snip and Remove Excess

Still Removing

All removedStep 5.

Layer the quilt sandwich the way you normally would. {{mmmmm…. quilt sandwich, said in the Homer Simpson voice}}  Quilt backing, batting, and quilt top.  In this case, there just happens to be 3 wonky rectangles of batting on the wrong side of my quilt top.  Add tons of pins to hold the sandwich together.

Quilt SandwichStep 6.

Get your quilting on!  I chose to do a free-motion quilting design within the wonky rectangle trapunto shapes and a bit wider free-motion meander outside the shapes.

Inside the shapes

Outside free motion quilting

Step 7.

This step might be best done before the free motion quilting, but like I said in the beginning, I just wanted to give this trapunto thing a try…. so in my pictures I did this step AFTER the quilting.  I switched my presser foot FROM my free-motion hopping foot to a zipper foot.  Yes, zipper foot, to stitch right up close to the shapes giving them a nice straight outline.  I tried to stitch directly on the blue line, again.  Just as I did with the water soluble thread.

Zipper FootStep 8.

Now you are ready to square up your project and add the binding.  This part is the same method as any ole regular quilted project.

Square Up

BindingStep 9.

Finishing this is easy easy.  You need to soak the project in warm water to dissolve the thread and remove the water soluble blue pen ink.  My quilt is small enough to fit in my sink, and still be completely saturated.  I didn’t add any soap or chemicals to the water, though you can.


Now you just need to pop this baby in the dryer to get the perfect shrinkle on your quilt.  After the dryer, I did end up giving my little quilt a bit of steam + iron just to make sure it laid nice, flat and square.


Trapunto Shapes


Finished Modern Trapunto Quilt

All in all, I’d say it was a successful experiment.  I think it definitely adds a cool dimension to a modern quilt motif.  It’s subtle but still cool. (to me.)  I hope you give it a try.

2 Responses to “Modern Trapunto Tutorial”

  1. How cool! I’ve never heard or seen this technique (at least, not where I actually knew what I was looking at). It looks great!!

  2. Diane says:

    Wow, i loved it, it looks so cute. That extra texture really gives it a touch of modern design , i cant wait to give it a try , maybe on my next quilt. Thank you so much for your tutorial.

Leave a Reply

« « Doll Quilt Swap 10| Viscount Sewing Machine » » Print This Post Print This Post