“Micro-stippling”—What is it??? Where is it used???? A question asked; a new post to answer. Rather than adding links to answer this I will share what I have learned since first embarking on this facet of machine quilting. First off, I use a Juki  machine that is totally mechanical and does only straight stitching. What I would call a “Plain Jane” machine. But what it does it does perfectly, whether it is FMQ (Free Motion Quilting), piecing using the 1/4″ foot, or being used to do formal wear/bridal gown alterations-perfect stitch formation is so easy to achieve. I purchased the machine, on-line, here and would highly recommend this company. Next, for this project, I used white Coates and Clark thread in the top and bobbin. It is strong (polyester) and fine enough for this. I use Schmetz needles primarily and the 90/14 size worked perfectly with no shredding. A drop of glycerin on the finger tips worked the ‘magic’ needed for fabric grip. Dropping the feed dogs (if possible, otherwise covering them with a recipe card taped down well) and a stitch length of zero all with the use of a free motion foot (or darning foot) completed the set-up. The pattern was downloaded from Leah Day’s site and traced with a water erasable marker on to bleached muslin. There are no limits to fabric/thread color combinations that would be equally stunning. I used these supplies because they worked and were the most reasonably priced for a technique I wasn’t sure would be something I would pursue (boy! was I wrong about that one!!!!). Once the machine is set up, and before any stitching on the project is begun, I always do some “warm up” stitching on a practice piece (18″, or so, square of top fabric, batting & backing) to test stitch formation and to get myself going in the right direction. I do this every time because something as simple as a change in humidity can change how the process will proceed and affect the “success factor”/’frustration'(?) level!!! I think we’ve all been there!  This latest warm-up piece is quite large and divided into quadrants for various exercises. For this process, the first step is to outline the design, stitching on the blue marked lines. This will separate the areas that are puffy from the flattened background. For last Saturday’s demo, I used a variegated thread to do the outlining and the white thread for the stippling. When not doing a demo, where I wanted to show all aspects of the process, I would work from the center towards the outer edges, doing the outline/stippling/outline/stippling as I moved outward. A more complete step by step can be found here. Here are some pictures of my 2 previous completed pieces:















This type of dense stitching (stippling, echo, or other) is used where ever  the background is to have a more ‘flattened’ appearance which, in turn, can produce a trapunto, or “stuffed”, area by contrast.
There were so many gals, at the event on Saturday, who commented that they would never be able to do this, or even quilt at all, because they felt they were so lacking in the artistic ability they determined was needed. Not true! As with any craft/art form, there is a learning curve and with practice and some teaching most anyone can do it. The quilting motifs can be a simple ‘loop’ or meander/’puzzle-piece’ shape or more complex. Beginning is the hardest part… first giving yourself a “help” will get the creative juices flowing and I had this sample as an example of a ‘jumping off point’:A scrap of printed fabric fused to a larger piece may be all it takes to get going! Look around…..inspiration is everywhere!!! Now, as Leah Day often says, let’s go quilt!…………


About treadlemusic

A quilter who rides motorcycle, living on a small hobby farm in southeastern Minnesota. Grandmother and Great Grandmother.
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12 Responses to Question……

  1. candy says:

    The glycerin works great! I like it sooooo much better than the gloves. You can’t stitch the glycerin to your project like the gloves. 🙂

    You have really taken the ball and run with stipppling! Your work is beautiful and I found the tutorial very helpful…a nice little nudge for those of us who are still a little fearful of the technique. 🙂

    Ahh,,,,the Juki! I have a love/hate relationship with mine. It’s like that nursery rhyme about the girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead. When it’s good, it’s very, every good. And when it’s bad, it’s horrid! Right now, it’s very, very good. 🙂

    • treadlemusic says:

      You have given me my morning giggle…..sewing your glove to the project–really?!? Oh my! The glycerin idea is not original to me (did I read it on your blog, maybe???), anyhow….it’s the greatest! So many “addictions” in my life (sewing, that is!) and micro-stippling/dense quilting is definitely one of them.
      My Juki is being very very good at the moment, too, and really is 99% of the time! Am still waiting on my ‘Sweet Sixteen’ machine. A mix-up(?) with the HQ rep (or someone) caused the order NOT to be placed on Sept.13th!!!!! Just discovered this past Monday. Was meant to be, I guess, ‘cuz now the order was placed with a brand new dealer in Sparta,WI, which is 200 miles closer to me than the last. Will wait to see how this goes.
      Thanks for stopping in and sharing!!! Hugs…..

  2. Jeanne says:

    Doreen – I really need to try your tip of glycerin. You said a drop – does this come as a liquid? Years ago, I used glycerin that was a solid. Thanks!

    • treadlemusic says:

      It is a 6 oz. plastic bottle and, yes, it’s a liquid….very thick. A drop (maybe 2 if your hands/fingers are quite dry) on the finger tips and rub tips together to rub in. If doing a large quilt add additional glycerin to palms and rub together. The skin remains tacky for a long time with no transfer to the fabric. The bottle can be seen in the picture with the thread and needles. Walmart (pharmacy area) is where I purchased this bottle but most pharmacies of any size should carry it. Cheap! $2, or so. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Quilter in Motion says:

    Fascinating! Thanks for the details.


  4. ruthiequilts says:

    What a great demo you did! I love all of your “practice pieces”… I still only quilt when I have to, even though I know I’d improve with more practice! Thanks for all the great information Doreen!

    • treadlemusic says:

      Ruthie, You are so very welcome! Such posts are only possible because others have gone before and shared their hints, successes and less than desirable outcomes. I try to remember so many of the clever tips but have decided only the very relevant will be put in to my already overcrowded (ha!) brain cells! Thanks for the very kind words…hugs, D

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