The Basics of Trapunto
If you like to quilt and looking for a way to put a new twist on your quilts you should try trapunto. Trapunto is a form of quilting that got its origin before the 14th century in Italy. The definition of the word changes depending on where you go to look up the meaning. In Latin Trapunto means "to prick with a needle", in Italy it means "to embroider" but in American we like to call the trapunto technique "stuffed work". Trapunto is a form of quilting that produces raised quilting designs and it looks like you have miniature little pillows in the designs that you created. There are two main ways to do trapunto and both ways produce a beautiful finished product whether you stuff the item by hand or use machine quilting to produce the pillow effect.
Traditionally the trapunto technique is done by making tiny holes in the back of the quilt to add stuffing. To start pin a piece of muslin behind the outline on your quilt top that you plan to use the trapunto quilting on. So you don't risk hitting a pin with your sewing machine needle you may want to baste the muslin to your top piece instead of pinning it. When the muslin is in place embroider or sew the design in the area where you added the muslin keeping in mind that the design should be completely enclosed for this style to work the best. Once you have your design sewn cut a small slit in the muslin (about ½" works well) and carefully start adding small pieces of stuffing into the slit that you just created. It is best if you are constantly turning your quilt over to make sure that you are getting it into every corner and that you don't over stuff it to cause the fabric to wrinkle or pull. Once you have the correct amount of stuffing added you can just use a needle and thread and whip stitch the opening closed. If you are using a very loosely woven fabric for your quilt backing you may have some success by gently nudging the fabric threads apart to add your stuffing and then push the threads back in place.
Machine quilting is another way to get a similar result but with a different look. Once you have your quilt back on and your design embroidered you start stippling all around the area that you want to be your trapunto quilting. Stippling is randomly placing small stitches very close to each other which causes that area to be flatter and makes your trapunto area stand out as if it was the only area with padding.
As you can tell trapunto is not a form of quilting that can be done quickly but it will add a whole new texture and dimension to your quilt. To see just how much time it takes start out by just doing trapunto quilting on a sample block first before you attempt it on a whole quilt. Here a book that might help answer any questions you may have about machine trapunto.
Exploring Machine Trapunto by Hari Walner