Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Two Reasons to Ditch the Stipple


I am going to be teaching free motion quilting at a fairly local quilt shop soon as part of a retreat.  I'm very excited about it, but a bit nervous too. I haven't really taught an official class before. I've demo'd, I've taught my little quilt group, and coached some of my quilting friends but this is a real class.


One thought kept nagging at me today as I was working on class prep. They're going to want to stipple and my stipple isn't all that great. I can feather all day long, in just about any size and shape, but the stipple is still pretty rough. I started to get a bit panicky; I am prone to negative thinking. And then....

To heck with the stipple!

Shocking, I know, but two thoughts lead me to this.

Contrary to popular opinion, stippling or it's larger cousin, meander really isn't the best design for beginners. First of all it's very random and as such it's a bit difficult to move the design around so it looks random and still have an easily repeatable motion for your hands, arms and mind. Also, there's no easy spot to stop and reposition the hands without the slightest bobble of the hands showing as you resume stitching. Especially if the scale of the design is large, which leads me to the second thought....

Stippling/meandering is really a long armer's design. Especially in the larger scaled, utilitarian meander. We just don't have the same range of motion when we work on our sewing machines.

What's a beginning quilter to do? Ditch the stipple! Embrace the freedom of free motion quilting! Choose designs that have a good stopping/repositioning spot. Find a design that is comfortable for your hands to repeat the basic shapes. Some folks will find they like a curvy design like loops, shells, or spirals. Others like a spiky design like flames or bananas.

Loops and shells

Spiral  scrolls

Flames and bananas
BTW, the above samples were a quick practice piece on which the stitches are too long, hence that ripply effect between lines of stitches.

I'm still working on the stipple, because sometimes it does fit a particular spot or design quite well, but I'm not gonna stress out about it. In fact, a customer quilt I'm working on is getting some stipple in a few spots.

So, what do you think? Love it or leave it? (stippling that is) Leah Day did quite a good series on the stipple. It seems to be a staple of the quilting world, but there certainly are prettier designs out there. And so many more have good places to stop. It is difficult to hide those spots where you stop and start in a stipple, especially as a beginner. Maybe I'm just being cranky.

33 comments:

  1. that so makes sense, I have struggled with the stipple/meander but thought it was me as it is so often used.... I am still learning this wonderful art ...
    I will keep using it occasionally ... it's a nice basic but I will try and keep to busy fabrics and blending thread so the 'kinks' are not to obvious
    Hugz

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    1. Thanks for commenting. I wish I could stipple better, but I will stress over it no longer.

      Busy fabrics- I do cringe sometimes (ok, a lot) when I quilt for videos, because I have to use contrasting colors so folks can see what I'm doing which shows every kink and bobble!

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  2. I do see a lot of truth in this now that you mention it. I can barely draw a stipple or meander by hand on a small piece of paper!! I'm quite new to FMQ--I like the old faithful of stitching in the ditch around the main blocks or zigzagging across the seams of the main blocks. I may have to try more of your ideas. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks for commenting and I guarantee that if you keep doodling, your FMQ wil get much better!

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  3. I have to disagree. That was my first FMQ and I loved it! It is my go to when I need to cheer myself up that I really do know how to FMQ. I do agree there are more interesting designs out there but they are harder.

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    1. Always good to hear another point of view. I just can’t get the stipple to work for me. Different strokes for different folks.

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  4. I guess it just depends on the quilter. I like the stipple and use it fairly often. It isn't the prettiest thing in the world, but it gets the job done and gets it done quickly. I'll tell you what I suck at -ditch quilting! I always miss. :)

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    1. Yep, definitely depends on the quilter. Ditch quilting….for so many years we are told to stay out of ditches, then we become quilters and we’re supposed to stay in ‘em!

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  5. I totally agree with you and this is not the first time I've heard stippling isn't the easiest design to free motion. I prefer to do a swirly design similar to your examples. I've started to practice with the Fine Line rulers and the new ruler foot for my machine. I still haven't conquered feathers like I want, but I also need to practice more. I know you will do well teaching.

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    1. Thanks! And if you practice, you get better, guaranteed.

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  6. I've promised myself to never stipple. There are too many pretty designs out there. Nine years and counting...... Stipple free :)!!

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  7. I like to use a tight stipple to enhance the other quilting designs like feathers and spirals. Thanks for the info on the Ruler Foot and rulers. I love the ruler foot because it is centered and makes it easier to echo quilt and judge space. I'm practicing with the rulers still and the straight lines are getting straighter. I also like using the quilt halo, easier on my hands. Love your blog....

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    1. Thank you! I do love having that centered needle. I've hear that the halo is easier on the hands.

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  8. Stippling is pretty boring. Goes fast though. Mine end up looking like puzzle pieces, you know with the fat bulby ends? Some customers like that look. Makes for a nice break in between custom quilts. It is a bit more challenging with a smaller work space though:)

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  9. I've been stippling for over 20 years and I think I can do it in my sleep. Now feathering and other stitches......I really have to concentrate on to make them look good. I think it is just a matter of what someone is comfortable doing. Thanks for sharing.
    Freemotion by the River Linky Party Tuesday

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    1. We could trade based on the design! Lol.

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  10. I totally agree with you Amy. I never stipple overall - it's too boring a look. I think stippling by long armers is why I started FMQ on my domestic machine. I prefer the custom look of my own quilting. Now when friends ask for advice, I'm honest and tell them I can't/don't/won't Stipple! I advice newbies to start with what they can easily doodle. For me it was meandering loops.

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    1. Thanks! And loops is what I started my students on and they took to it like a duck to water.

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  11. If more people had started machine quilting on something besides the stipple, they'd probably be quilting more. I think it's a fantastic idea to ditch it.

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  12. I can't stipple worth a darn, and frankly, I don't care! Ditch it - definitely not a beginning quilters design, and I agree, it probably stops a lot of folks dead in their tracks thinking that quilting is hard.

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  13. I love your thoughts on this! Good luck with your class :-)

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  14. oh, stippling is SO yesterday... I'm glad you feather!
    And I love love love variegated threads. Your photos are so good. Pretty threads,
    LeeAnna Paylor

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    1. Lol! Pretty threads, let me stroke you! They call my name and dive off the shelf at me!

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  15. I learned to quilt with stippling and I do it quiet well...that said I can and do quilt other designs onto my quilts...feathers seem to be my nemesis and I am practicing them currently and getting better with each set...I only quilt in the ditch if I am hand quilting...and I do use stippling if I am quilting a utility quilt which will be used for any and everything...that way I don't stress over the fact that all my hard work is going to be ruined by the use and washing of my quilt...I use prettier designs on those quilts that will not see much usage or if I am giving them as gifts.

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    1. I think everybody takes to things differently, even when it comes to the shapes we choose when free motion quilting. I definitely saw this with my class, one gal really liked one design that was more curvy and another gal liked one that was more pointy. They both did great though at what they chose to do. Thanks for commenting.

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  16. like many 'so-called rules' stippling kinda became one of them. i'm known as the 'stipple nazi' {lol}, and i echo those sentiments, and while it's a valuable quilting design {in moderation - as all things are!}... and a wonderful skill to hone, please remember you are YOU, and you've got something going {already} that is pretty special. you've GOT THIS AMY!!! relax, laugh at yourself, and enjoy the comradarie of your students as you teach, sharing your tips and experiences, and treat them just as if they were future good friends you hadn't met yet! xo

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    1. I love you, Leslie! You are so encouraging. Thank you. Stipple Nazi…HA! I can’t imagine your cheerful face stern enough to earn that moniker.

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  17. Wow! I got a lot of comments from this post! Thanks so much for the feedback.

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  18. Interesting article. I began machine quilting in 2005 on my home machine and now I've been doing professional longarm quilting for 3 years now. At least 1 out of ever 5 customers come in and burst out, "I hate stippling! Please don't stipple on my quilt, it's boring." Learning a variety of back-ground fillers are very beneficial. I do think micro-stippling does have a place though, such as back-filling around your beautiful feathers or as an alternate route for bump-back feathers to eliminate the need for back-tracking over the same line already quilted. Enjoy quilting!

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