Today let’s look at the second of three stitching techniques that I consider essential for most machine quilters: pebbles.


Pebbles, stones, bubbles – call them what you will, they are one of the most versatile fills around. They are basically a series of stacked circles as seen in the diagram below.


The first two stones can be made like a figure eight, but start sewing at the intersection of the two stones as shown here. I like to make the bottom one clockwise, and the top one counter clockwise. Where the circles intersect you begin to make a new circle. Continue sewing counterclockwise just a little on the top circle, and then begin your next circle, sewing clockwise. Keep adding circles to fill your space, sewing in circular loops, changing sewing direction as necessary. Travel on your existing stones to get to a new location. Varying the size of the stones adds interest, and is often helpful if you find yourself in a tight spot.These pebbles are numbered to indicate the order in which they would be quilted. The red X’s indicate where the stones intersect and the direction of quilting will change. I find it helpful to use a relatively fine thread to minimize thread buildup where traveling and backtracking occur in this design.

I love that pebbles work for almost any style of quilt, plus they can be modified or combined with other designs endlessly. Here are a few examples:


I think these look a little bit like olives, but you can call them bubbles if you want. They are simply pebbles that have a smaller pebble inside them, attached to outer pebble. The diagram shows the how to start the first two units.

©Diane Rusin Doran

Using one of the motifs from my post on echoing, here I filled one of the channels with pebbles before moving on to the next round of echoing.

photo 2b
©Margaret Solomon Gunn

This sample, made by Margaret Solomon Gunn, is from her article Getting Dense and Dainty from the July/August 2016 issue of MQU. By echoing around the circles she created a unique and interesting fill. Note how the change in the size of the center circles impacts the look of the fill.

Here are two more examples that Margaret created that show how pebbles can be combined with other designs to create interest.

Photo 10b
©Margaret Solomon Gunn
photo 10a
©Margaret Solomon Gunn

Finally, in this detail from my quilt Return of the Grackle, I used pebbles to create texture reminiscent of small feathers on the bird’s head. Since circular patterns are so often found in nature, whether as water droplets, spots on animals, or flower centers, pebbles work exceptionally well in quilts depicting plants and animals.

Detail from Return of the Grackle ©Diane Rusin Doran

The next time you’re stumped for a fill or texture, or find yourself in a tight spot while quilting, add a few pebbles and I bet you’ll love the result!

2 Responses to Pebbles

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