From the Sewing Room: Dandelion Shadows

Shadow Trapunto with Felt tutorialDandelion Shadows: How to Shadow Trapunto with Felt.

Did you know there are an amazing number ways of achieving the stuffed quilting known as trapunto? When I was at school we were only taught one method. Snip the back of your work after stitching the trapunto outlines, stuff in some extra padding and sew the hole back up again. Of all the trapunto methods I now know, this would be my least recommended!

Trapunto quilting can be achieved by hand or machine. If you want to do trapunto by hand, read this fabulous article by Quilts A Lot and watch this video she recommends. This is a much nicer method than the slit and stitch I was taught. I would like to give it a go, “one day”.

Actually, even if you don’t want to do trapunto/french boutis by hand, these links are worth a look. The trapunto wedding rings quilt of Quilts A Lot is amazing, and the more techniques you know about, the more idea resources you’ll have to use in all your designs. 🙂

Machine Trapunto

Dream Big trapunto mini quilt

Probably the most common method of trapunto I see these days is created by machine free-motion stitching onto fabric layered over polyester wadding. The wadding is then clipped to the trapunto shape before a quilt sandwich is made. There are many experts out there on this, including Geta Grama. I am not one of them, but I have given this type of trapunto a go recently on my Dream Big mini quilt. Now I am playing with shadow trapunto.

Shadow Trapunto

Shadow trapunto is when the top fabric and clipped wadding is laid directly over a second fabric rather than straight onto the quilt batting. The fabric between the polyester wadding and the quilt batting is expected to show through the top layer, except where the trapunto lies. Here the wadding obscures the fabric design underneath, creating a “shadow”. Thus the trapunto design has even more visual impact than ordinary trapunto.

Cross-section through a shadow trapunto quilt sandwich

The remainder of this blog post is a description of how I did the Dandelion Shadows trapunto with felt.

Felt Shadow Trapunto Cushion Project: materials

What you need: which fabrics to choose

The first step of a shadow trapunto project is to choose the top fabric and the feature fabric. The main requirement for the top fabric is that it needs to be partially see-through. You can use very transparent fabrics like tulle, or more opaque fabrics, like cotton lawn. Choose white or a very pale colour. For this project I wanted a subtle effect, so I choose white cotton lawn for its partially opaque nature.

The most important requirement for the feature fabric for shadow trapunto is that there is good contrast within the print. Light coloured prints often perform very well. Saturated prints that look bright but have low colour value contrast do not give very pleasing results. If in doubt, lay your top fabric over potential feature fabrics until you find one that shows through as you would like. 

The feature fabric for my Dandelion Shadows project practically chose itself. While I was out shopping I noticed this hexagon print fabric, and it sparked an idea. It is “Grecian Bath House Tiles” by Emma & Mila.

Grecian Bathhouse tiles fabric
Grecian Bath House Tiles fabric by Emma and Mila

Don’t forget, of course, that you’ll also need quilt batting and a backing for your project, seperate from the trapunto supplies.

What you need: which trapunto stuffing to choose

Finally, you need a material for the trapunto stuffing. To do a project with the method I am describing here, you will need a thick non-fraying fabric that you can cut into shapes without stitching it down first. I used felt, but thick fleece or similar would also work. The result is a much flatter trapunto effect than the traditional method…. perhaps it is “modern trapunto”. I like both effects…. but I would use them in different contexts. Choose a colour that works with your feature and top fabrics, because the idea is that you will partially see the trapunto stuffing through the top layer.

How much of everything you will need:

For this cushion (about 42cm square) I used:
– 50cm WOF of the feature fabric, cut into 2x 50cm² pieces.
– 50cm² white cotton lawn
– scraps of yellow and white felt
– 50cm² low-loft polyester batting

I didn’t use a backing because I intended to make a cushion out of the trapunto piece, so a backing would just be hidden inside the cushion. However, if you wish to back your trapunto, by all means do so.

cat helping choose fabrics
My furry helper approving materials for the shadow trapunto.
cat on fabrics
Time to do something else for a while. These materials are taken!

Felt Shadow Trapunto Cushion Project: creating the trapunto quilt sandwich

How to create your trapunto shapes:

Once you have chosen your trapunto materials (and rescued them from your furry quilting friends), the next job is to produce the felt shapes to make the trapunto design. I chose to overlay the printed hexagons on the feature fabric with felt hexagons of the same size. You could exploit any medium or large scale fabric print in the same way. Or you can create any original design that you are willing to cut out and glue down onto your feature fabric. Either draw your design in reverse onto the back of your felt, or trace your reversed design onto freezer paper and use these templates to cut out your felt pieces.

felt and freezer paper
Freezer paper adheres really well to felt…. who knew?!

I used freezer paper. This was actually a bit of an experiment, because I thought that the freezer paper would not stick to felt more than once, due to the great amount of fluff that remains on the freezer paper once the felt is peeled away. But I got at least 4 re-uses out of each freezer paper template, and it would have been more, but I didn’t require any more felt hexagons.

Attaching the felt to the feature fabric:

Felt trapunto shapes and Elmer's glue
Elmer’s glue works well to tack the felt shapes down, but use it sparingly.

To get the felt accurately attached to the feature fabric I used a very thin smear of Elmer’s school glue (available in Officeworks here in Australia) to position the pieces. Once the glue was tacky enough that the pieces couldn’t shift, I flipped the project over and hot ironed from the back. This sets the glue hard so it cannot damage my sewing machine. However, if I want to re-position any pieces, they just gently peel off. Elmer’s glue is so fantastic!

Take care to use just a little so it doesn’t soak through to the front of the felt, especially if you are using a highly transparent top fabric…. but if it does, Elmer’s glue washes out, so as long as you can wash your project, it shouldn’t matter.

Once the pieces are securely attached and ironed dry, layer your work over the quilt batting and backing (optional for cushions). Then layer the top fabric (cotton lawn) over the top of everything else.

Trapunto quilt sandwich ready to go
Cotton lawn laid over my felt shapes glued to my feature fabric, and the quilt batting.

Secure all layers with your favourite basting method (in my case, quilting pins).

shadow trapunto pin basted
Dandelion Shadows trapunto pin-basted

Felt Shadow Trapunto Cushion Project: quilting

Now it is time to quilt. I chose to quilt around the trapunto with a pebble, spiral and feathers design I saw on Karen Miller’s work posted in the Free Motion Quilting Frenzy facebook group (if you are into FMQ – join this group!!). There was no particular reason to use this FMQ design, except that I really wanted to try it. Any dense fill you like will do.

Free-motion quilting around shadow trapunto
I densely quilted the background around the trapunto to help the feature fabric show through
free-motion quilting
Close-up of the FMQ
FMQ back side
The pebble quilting is easier to see from the back

I finished off the quilting by adding some stems and leaves to the trapunto flowers and dandelion clock. These are quilted in a very pale grey-green. The idea is that they don’t detract from the trapunto and are only really noticeable if you are closely looking at the piece. Ghost details, if you wish.

Dandelion Shadows detail

Felt Shadow Trapunto Cushion Project: finishing off the cushion cover construction

Once I was happy with my trapunto piece, I squared up the sides. I cut the remaining piece of my feature fabric in half and hemmed one long edge on both pieces. I then sewed these pieces to the sides of the trapunto sample.

Adding the envelope backing pieces to the quilted trapunto
Dandelion Shadows trapunto with fabric attached for cushion envelope.

I then folded the flaps over the trapunto piece, right sides together, so that the cushion backing pieces overlapped by 3-4 inches. I then sewed up the top and bottom of the quilt cover and trimmed the excess from the seams.

Dandelion Shadows cushion construction: back
Envelope Cushion cover ready to sew.

Here is the back once it was turned right sides out and filled with a pillow form.

Envelope pillow back

And the finished cushion 🙂

Dandelion Shadows pillow finished

I hope these instructions are clear enough. If you have been following my blog lately, you’ll know that I am writing things in a bigger hurry than usual. If you have any questions, please ask and I’ll endeavour to answer and/or edit to clear things up. 

Shadow trapunto with felt is a lot faster and less stressful than the more traditional kind. No risk of accidentally snipping fabric or stitches. But it does give a different effect, so it’s not a replacement for stuffed trapunto. I really like the effect this gives. I will be doing this again, for sure.

What do you think? Are you going to give this a go? Have you already done trapunto using this method? I’d love to know what you made.

Now, I’m going to have to love and leave you….. we have a family day in between all the work we are doing here in Vanuatu. Going to see an active volcano!!!!!! I am hoping tomorrow’s “everyday” quilt inspiration slot will be anything but! xx

P.S. Linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts, Tweety Loves Quilting, Love Laugh Quilt, The Quilting Room with Mel, Wednesday Wait Loss, Sew Fresh Quilts, Midweek Makers, and Quilting Jet Girl’s monthly tutorial linky.

P.P.S. Jennifer at the Inquiring Quilter featured my tutorial this week on Wednesday wait Loss! Such a lovely surprise. 🙂 

Wednesday Wait Loss Featured

10 Replies to “From the Sewing Room: Dandelion Shadows”

  1. Wow, this is so beautiful. Your explanation is so clear it would be easy to create something with this technique. Thank you for sharing it on Wednesday Wait Loss.

    1. So glad you enjoyed it. And thanks for letting me know – I really appreciate it when people take the time to comment and let me know who’s out there! 🙂

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