Creating In the Hoop Trapunto Blocks


Today’s inspiration is all about trapunto. Just in case you are not familiar with that term, it is Italian for “to embroider” and has traditionally been done with a regular sewing machine. Trapunto quilting is sometimes called “stuffed technique” which is defined as a quilting technique that is quite decorative, in that it utilizes at least two layers of batting, which is padded from the underside, producing a raised surface on a quilt. Creating trapunto designs produces an embossed effect by outlining a quilting pattern with running stitches, allowing the stuffed batting to poof, creating beautiful texture. Trapunto is not new to the sewing community as it dates back to 1920-1925. It is newer to the world of machine embroidery though.


With today’s awesome technology, it is now possible to create an In the Hoop (ITH) trapunto technique using a little know-how, special supplies, and an embroidery software program. For this exercise I will be using a brand new software program that I love; Floriani’s My Decorative (MDQ) Quilter. This amazing quilting software simulates the look of hand heirloom, echo, stipple stitches and more! Unlike regular digitizing programs, this one is pretty easy to use and the best part is you don’t need to have any knowledge of digitizing theories, or even know how to digitize! Below are a few images of beautiful ITH quilting created using this program. Let’s begin!


1. Once you have the software, just open MDQ and and create a new page. Then click on the Select Block Window window . Choose the Basic block style and in the bottom left drop down window, click on 6” x 6” (if you have a hoop that will support that size block, or a 4” x 4” will work).
2. Next, click on the Motif window window and choose Feather/Feather 01/Block_Feather, then select OK. So far your screen should look like the image below.


3. In the sequence view window, select the artwork for the feather outline and copy it, then paste it to a new window image . The new window should look like the image below.

step 3

4. Turn this artwork into running stitches easily by clicking on the run icon four and then when the properties box opens, change the stitch length to 2.5, then select apply. You have now successfully transformed the artwork (that you didn’t have to draw, scan or upload yourself) into a run stitch which is the area that will be stuffed and puffed with batting. Here is an image of what the properties box looks like. Select the running stitch design and copy it (we will paste it later, just leave it on your computer’s clipboard).


5. Go back to the other window with the square block and in the Sequence View window, select the two artwork images (artwork for the square and artwork for the feature stitch).


6. Next is the cool part that gets me excited every time I use it. I call it the “cookie cutter” effect. The square block and feather are only artwork at this time. I would like to easily add micro-stippling to the outside area that is not part of the feather stitches, leaving inside the feathers without any stippling so it allows the puffing and dimension I desire. In other words, I need to cut the background square that is shown in pink, away from the feather artwork.  After both artwork portions in the sequence view are selected, click on the combine icon icon and magically the background from the pink square is cut away behind the feathers.


7. Next, in the Sequence View, select the pink box so that it is highlighted.

step 7

8. Then select the Stippling icon eight and adjust the stitch length to your liking in the properties box. So far this is what your square should look like.

9. Next, you will need to add the run stitch outline of the feathers you created in another window. Simply “Paste” the outline in the stippled square window and make sure it is a brand new unused color. It should look like this:


10. Move the outline you just pasted up to the first position by selecting it and then dragging it with your mouse. You will need another feather outline, so “Paste” again and then change the color of the outline that is the last color to a new unused color. Then drag it up so it is the second color. It should look like the image below if you have done everything correctly.


11. Notice in the Sequence View window, I have four colors. Color 1 is the blue feather outline, color 2 is the pink feather outline, color 3 is the stippling and color 4 is the feather running stitch. Always watch the Slow Redraw icon of the design to make sure it runs in the order you think it should. It’s a great visual aid that a lot of people forget to use. Needless to say this can save you hours of frustration if you remember the function is there and get into the habit of using it on a regular basis.

step 11

OK now that you have successfully created a trapunto block in the program what’s next? Let’s move onto how to embroider it out in real time.


  • Three 7” squares of high loft polyester batting
  • One 7” square of thin cotton batting
  • Two squares of 7” cotton fabric
  • 8” x 8” embroidery hoop (if you created a 6” x 6” block)
  • General embroidery supplies
  • Tearaway stabilizer

1. Hoop only the stabilizer.

Color one is a placement line. After color 1 is complete, place three layers of high loft batting over the stitching line and continue to color 2.


2. Next embroider color 2 which is a tack down stitch, holding the batting to the stabilizer.


3. After color 2 is complete, trim away the excess batting and then lay a piece of cotton batting and fabric on the top of the hoop. Lay the second piece of cotton fabric on wrong side of the hoop. The right side of both pieces of fabric should be facing out.


4. Continue to embroider the rest of the design. You’ll quickly find that the texture and dimension are incredible!


You may be wondering what kinds of threads or colors I use. The stippling should blend into the fabric and not be the focal point, so I’d advise selecting a poly or rayon embroidery thread that will blend or disappear with the fabric. The trapunto or running stitches should be a contrasting color, since this is the focal point. In my blue sample photo above, I used a light blue poly embroidery thread for the stippling and then switched to a white poly thread for the trapunto stitches.

Now, learn more about in the hoop projects and in the hoop name tags, or get started with Bluprint’s machine embroidery classes.

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