by Hari Walner
Notes to Instructors & Shop Owners
Exploring Machine Trapunto demonstrates how to achieve beautiful trapunto effects with your sewing machine, without having to make little splits in the back of your quilt. Exploring Machine Trapunto begins by addressing the basics of machine quilting and the textural effects that can be achieved using machine trapunto. It also includes more than 30 new designs.
If you wish to teach a more advanced class on machine trapunto, you may want to focus on one of the new specialty techniques covered in the book, such as cornerstone quilting (reverse trapunto); simulated cording; using trapunto with pieced patterns, applique, or fake applique; and other traditional and non-traditional trapunto applications. See Exploring Machine Trapunto for details on these techniques.
This lesson plan is geared for one 4-6 hour class. The instructor could supply a kit of required materials, if desired.
Exploring Machine Trapunto: This machine quilting class will teach you how to add beautiful trapunto effects without having to make tiny slits in the back of your quilt. (Shops and teachers may use this description in their announcements, flyers, etc.)
Preparation for Class
1. The "April" design on page 71 of Exploring Machine Trapunto is a good choice for an introductory class. It is a simple block that shows step-by-step how the trapunto technique is done.
2. The pillow-top size design allows students to make a finished, usable project. When students work on a usable project, they are usually more focused.
3. Incorporate a demonstration and tips on basic free-motion quilting techniques.
4. Prepare a cut-away sample of how batting affects the final trapunto look.
5. It is always helpful for the teacher to have completed samples of machine trapunto quilts.
Students need to have enough working room to stitch their projects on their sewing machines and enough elbow room to do the small amount of handwork that is required. Request that students bring an extension cord, just in case.
Shop owners: Remember to stock up on the supplies listed below!
Sewing machine in good working order and free-motion darning foot. This foot is mandatory for this technique. Students should also bring their sewing machine manuals.
Machine needles: jeans/denim (#70) or universal (#80)
Water-soluble basting thread (dissolves in clear water) - Wash-Away is one brand currently on the market
Machine embroidery thread, 50 weight, same color as their fabric
Two pieces of muslin or a very light-colored solid fabric
One piece of very thick (the thicker the better) polyester batt, large enough to cover the back of the quilting design, plus one inch
One piece of cotton or cotton blend batt, same size as the muslin
A pair of blunt-end scissors - Fiskars children's scissors with the rounded ends work well (if students use pointed scissors, they increase their chances of accidentally cutting their quilt top)
Marking pen or pencil - blue rinse-out markers work well since the finished project will be immersed in clear water to dissolve the thread and the marks will also disappear at this time
In the Classroom
1. Show samples of quilts that have been done with this technique. Point out how the quilts throughout the book use this trapunto technique.
(a) Show how stipple quilting adds to the dimensional effect.
(b) Point out that light-colored solid fabrics show off trapunto and textural quilting far better than dark fabrics or even white-on-white prints. Cotton sateens and good polished cottons show the trapunto and stippling best of all.
(c) Explain that machine trapunto uses free-motion quilting techniques, and that you will be demonstrating free-motion quilting.
2. Divide the class into two groups. Have one group mark the "April" design (or another selected design) on their muslin while you demonstrate basic free-motion quilting techniques to the other group.
(a) Suggest to the group that will be marking their designs that when they finish marking, they can familiarize themselves with the stitching sequence of the design by putting their marked fabric in their machines and moving the fabric around under the needle, just as they would if they were free-motion quilting. Do this without running the sewing machine motor.
(b) Demonstrate the basics of machine quilting to the other group: starting, stopping, and moving to another line. Emphasize not looking at the needle on the sewing machine while they are stitching. Tell them to look at the line of the design that they are feeding into the needle. Try to keep this free-motion demo to 30-40 minutes.
(c) If you have examples showing the step-by-step trapunto process, show them, explaining each step. Students will see how easy it is to do.
(d) During the free-motion demonstration, remind students that the first part of the technique, stitching with the water-soluble basting thread, is a perfect time to relax and practice free-motion techniques, because stitches made with water-soluble thread will ultimately go away and uneven stitches will not show.
(e) Ask the groups to switch places, and repeat the free motion quilting demonstration for the second group.
3. When finished with the second demonstration, solicit questions from the whole class about free-motion quilting, stipple quilting, and the trapunto technique. Students learn from each other's questions. Now all the students have seen a machine quilting demonstration up close and all have their blocks marked.
4. Time to start sewing:
(a) Show everyone how to pin only the thick batt to the back of their marked fabric.
(b) Tell the class to put the water-soluble thread in the needle of their machine, and to put a light, neutral-colored thread in the bobbin. Be sure to attach the darning foot at this point. Have students free-motion baste the thick batt onto their fabric, stitching only on the outline of the design. Remind them not to wet the end of the thread when threading the needle.
(c) Show the class how to trim the thick batt away from areas that will not be trapuntoed, using the blunt-end scissors. Warn them that if they are not careful, they might snip the quilt top when trimming the thick batt.
5. As class members finish cutting away the thick batt, show them how to layer the quilt top with the cotton batt and lining. REMIND STUDENTS to change the water-soluble thread in their machines back to their regular thread before they begin the actual quilting of the entire design. With regular thread back in the machine, the student should free-motion quilt all the lines of the design, including stitching back on top of the stitches that were done with the water-soluble thread.
6. Remind them not to worry if their new quilting stitches are not exactly on top of the previous stitches, because the water-soluble thread is going to dissolve in the final step. When they finish quilting and binding their projects at home, they are to immerse the entire project in clear, tepid water for a minute or two. This will dissolve the water-soluble thread and remove the blue marks. Lay the quilt flat, block it, and let it dry thoroughly.