Usually called stippling when small, or meandering when large, this versatile fill is one of the first that was embraced by machine quilters of all stripes. It used to be everyone’s go to fill, but has recently lost a little momentum. However, its versatility should never be discounted. Note how different the stitch looks below when its size is altered.


When used as a large, widely spaced meander its an easy and fast fill that can be used as an overall pattern. The smaller it gets, the more flattened the area it’s in becomes. It then becomes useful for texture or as a backfill.

Look at how lovely the stippling looks in this detail from Denise Havlan’s gorgeous September/October 2013 Jawdropper, The Peaceful Ones.

tdenise_havlan_cropped resized
Detail from The Peaceful Ones ©Denise Havlan

Denise used stippling very effectively in part of the cream background, on the green collar, and on the lady’s face. By changing thread color and keeping it small, she’s created an even texture that enhances the design without calling a lot of attention to itself.

In the trapunto sample below I used stippling to flatten the background around the motifs.

diane stippling cropped

One of the great things about stippling is that you can create small fingers of stitching that can reach into small areas, like where the upper and lower wings of the butterfly meet.  Everyone’s manner of stippling is unique, almost like their handwriting. I do find that when making backfill sized stippling that using a small needle and fine thread enhances the look, as well as quilting at a reasonably fast pace to make sure that my curves stay smooth. Though it may seem tricky at first, with a little practice you’ll be a pro in no time.

The photo below shows a comparison between several types of fills around a feather and a more organic frond.


Take a look at how the different fills contrast with the two motifs. The lines work well for both of them. but the meander is too close in appearance to the curvy nature of the left hand motif, so doesn’t set it off very well. However, the feather, with its larger open areas and echo quilting, contrasts nicely with the stipple. I think that it’s interesting that the pebbles on the left do contrast nicely with that curvy frond, even though they are curved themselves.

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at several basic fills over the last few posts, and encourage you to try them yourself and see which ones appeal to you the most!



One Response to Stippling

  1. I can’t believe I have only just discovered machine quilting unlimited here in Australia, thanks to the e quilter website. It is a truly inspirational magazine. To now receive newsletters and have access to this blog defies description. To say that I enjoy all of it is an understatement.

Leave a reply