texture Archives - Handi Quilter

Filled Grid Variations

Now that you’ve got the basics of filled grids from our last post, it’s time to kick it up a notch and explore some filled grid variations.

If you’ve been following along with this Free Motion Quilting for Beginners series, I bet you can guess what I’m going to say next. IYKYK.  If you’re new here, then go to this post. It is a list (with links) of the first posts in the series. Then you can continue on from there.

IYKYK = If you know, you know.

The Five Basic Shapes.

We used straight lines to fill every other grid box last week. That created fabulous texture!


This is another example:

There were squares pieced in this quilt, and I could have used those piecing lines as my grid, but I chose to divide those pieced squares even further, to make a smaller grid. I used a removable marking tool, the Handi Iron-Off Pencil, to do that. They work great on dark fabrics, iron off, and leave no residue. Just what you want in a quilt marking tool.



Straight Line Variations

We can change up the way we use straight lines in the grid boxes:


I started by going around the perimeter of the grid box and then spiraled in towards the center. When I got to the middle, I just angled back out to the perimeter.

That makes me think of another variation! Use angled straight lines to fill alternating grid boxes. Can you picture that?

How about the other shapes?


We can fill the alternating grid boxes with a simple small stipple.

Using the method of doing 2 rows at a time, like we did in the last post, works great for stipple as well. You do need to think ahead and end in the corner that connects to the next box you want to fill.


Using the S-shape to fill the grid lends movement to the quilt.

Once again, I want to make the design as continuous as possible. Using the alternating rows trick doesn’t work for the S-shape variation. But working on a diagonal and alternating the direction of the S-shape works really well!


Start in the upper left. Fill the grid box with S-shapes ending in the lower right corner of the box.


Fill the next grid box on the diagonal but this time rotate the S-shapes by 90 degrees. End in the bottom right corner of the box.

Fill the next box on the diagonal, rotating your S-shapes by 90 degrees again. Continue along the diagonal as far as you can within the quiltable space of your machine, or the end of your grid, whichever comes first.


Work the other diagonal rows that you can reach in your frame space. This example is a small 9-box grid so I just need to fill in the corners.

Pro-Tip: remember to keep the alternating direction of the S-shapes when moving on to new diagonal rows.


Sometimes, when shapes do not fill the whole grid box, the design can lose the crispness of the grid. If I erase the grid lines for this S-shape variation, I’m not too happy with the look of the design. This often happens with curved variations.



This is totally personal preference. Always remember, it’s your quilt, so make it look the way YOU want.

When I lose the crisp lines of the grid, I opt to stitch the grid as well as the design. If the design does the job of defining the grid, I don’t need to stitch the grid. In the case of the S-shape design, I think the grid needs to be stitched.

To me, this looks much better. What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

Next week we’ll dive into some more variations.

Till then……quilt every day!


by Mary Beth Krapil





Filled Grids

We are back this week to our discussion of grid-work. Next up are filled grids. When you want maximum texture on your quilts, filled grids are the way to go. Whenever parts of the grid framework are stitched and other parts are left un-stitched the result is texture.


Stitching tamps down the batting and creates low places. Leaving parts with no stitching allows the batting to pouf (Isn’t that a great word? I love words that sound like their meaning. Pouf!). The batting poufs up and creates a high place. The contrast between the low place next to the high place is Texture.

Fill every other grid box

Just like always, we start with the grid. I use filled grids more for background quilting, so my grids tend to be small. The grid squares in the photo are 1/2 inch.

Decide whether you want to stitch the grid or simply mark it as a guide.

Pro-Tip: Stitching the grid is a bit more forgiving when filling the grid. When it is not stitched you must be careful to fill right to the grid line. Not beyond it, and not shy of it, but right-to-the-line. That will keep the shape of the grid “boxes” and you will achieve even texture. When the grid is stitched it helps define the grid boxes and you can get away with a small amount of deviance. 

Let’s start with using the straight line for our fill, just like in the photo above.

Pro-tip: mark the grid boxes you want to fill with a removable mark to help you keep going right.

Mark every other box alternating rows, like this:


Stitch back and forth in each of the marked grid boxes to fill the box. Make a choice whether you will make the ends of your lines straight or curved. Straight is easier to keep the grid lines nice and crisp. Curved is easier to quilt, because it flows.






As usual I start in the upper left corner. If you are not quilting the grid lines, the first line you quilt should follow the grid line.


Stitch down along the grid line. Have a plan for the spacing of your quilting lines. Try for even spacing as best you can but don’t worry too much about it.

Then quilt back to the left.


Continue in this manner to fill the box. Your last quilting line should follow the bottom of the box grid line and end on the right. This will make it possible to stitch continuously using 2 rows at a time.

Keep stitching on that same grid line across the top of the marked box in the next row.


Fill this next box in the same way, BUT end on the LEFT this time. You’ll want to go back to the first row for the next box to fill.


Did you notice it took an extra stitched line within that box to accomplish ending on the left?

Pro-tip: until you get comfortable with this design, you can stop at the end of one box and finger trace your next path to fill the next box. Knowing where you’re going is half the battle!


Follow the grid line to the left and fill the bottom box in row 1. End on the RIGHT.


At this point you can decide to tie off and cut your thread, to go up to the top of row 3 and start again. Or you can choose to travel along the grid line to the bottom of row three and work your way up the grid. I’ll travel.


You guessed it, fill the next box. End on the right.


Since my grid only has 3 rows, I’ll travel up along the outside of the grid to the next box I need to fill.


And fill the last box.


When I finish filling a grid like this, I like to stitch around the entire grid to define it. Often this is stitch-in-the-ditch work.  Do it! It makes the whole quilt look so much better!


Last but not least, remove your marked grid and the marks you used to indicate the boxes you wanted to fill.


This graphic looks a little incomplete but when you are quilting this it comes out looking very nice. Refer to the photo of the filled grid at the beginning of the post. The grid lines were not stitched there and yet you can clearly see the grid.

Have some fun trying out filling a few grids with straight lines. Try both straight edges and curved edges to see which one you like better.

Next week we will look at some different filled grids. After all we have the 5 basic shapes!




Free Motion Quilting for Beginners – Putting it Together – Straight

So, you’ve been practicing quilting those five basic shapes in all different orientations. Now it’s time to start putting it together into free motion designs, basic ones that are fun to use on quilts. We will start with straight lines.

Putting it together – Straight lines

Modern quilters love straight line quilting. So do traditional quilters. You really can’t go wrong with straight lines. Here are some super useful straight line design ideas you’ll use over and over again.

Piano Keys

Piano keys is probably the #1 most useful quilting design ever. I use it on almost every quilt somewhere.

Piano keys are most often used in long narrow sections of a quilt such as borders or sashings. There are a gazillion variations of piano key designs. If you don’t believe me, just Google it or search on Pinterest.

When quilting piano keys, the straight line quilting usually goes perpendicular to the edge of the border and the lines are, usually, evenly spaced apart.

Pro tip: An advantage to the piano key design is that it takes up fullness in a border.

The basic piano key looks like this:

and is stitched like this:


You can vary the spacing like this:

This design is sometimes referred to as Beadboard.

And you can double or even triple stitch your straight lines. Like this:

Or you can even try slanted straight lines, like this narrow border at the top and on the left:

Keeping straight

You might notice that my straight line quilting is very straight. That’s because I use a longarm quilting ruler to guide my hopping foot as I quilt. It’s kind of like using a ruler and a pencil to draw a straight line on paper. The pencil is my needle. My ruler keeps my lines straight.

Another way of achieving straight lines is to use channel locks for straight horizontal and straight vertical lines. There are two options for channel locks, Electromagnetic Channel locks and wheel-lock type channel locks. Both work great!

We will delve into ruler work quilting in future blog posts. For now, just know that you can accomplish these straight lines with simple free motion. They will be straight-ish. And that’s OK!

Pro Tip: Give yourself guidelines to keep your piano keys spaced the way you want them. A simple way to do that is to use a ruler and chalk to mark the intervals. For example: put a little dot of chalk every 1/2 inch along the edge of the border. Then stitch a straight line at each mark. Travel along the edge of the border, don’t break thread in between. You might even mark the piano keys with chalk. That will help keep you going straight and keep your keys standing up straight like soldiers.


Bricks is a fun design that’s easy to quilt. And it quilts fast!

(Note: the green circle is the start and the red circle is the end in all the examples.)

Start at the left side of the first row of bricks. Stitch the bricks in rows. I stitched up – right – down – up -right – down- up -right etc. When you’re ready, start the next row and stitch it right to left. Be sure to alternate the spaces between the bricks in subsequent rows, so it looks like real bricks. Keep going in rows til your space is filled.

You can use Bricks as an all-over design, as a background filler, even as a border. It just depends on the size you make your bricks.


Stars can be used in blocks or connected by loops or a meander for an all-over design.

Two kinds of stars are pretty easy to stitch.

Teacher’s Stars

Remember back in grade school your teacher would put a big star on your paper if you did a good job? These are the easiest stars to draw and stitch. Here is the path you take:

Remember to pause in the points (go back here and read the Pro tip) to get nice sharp star points.

This star has quilting lines in its center. If you prefer an

Open Star

it’s a little harder to draw and quilt. But I have some tips for you to make it easier.

Start with a Witch’s Hat like this:

That’s not too hard. Then imagine another Witch’s Hat that overlaps the first. Like this:

Then you only have to stitch the V-shape (circled)

Visualizing the witch’s hat helps to get the correct angle on the lines so that your star comes out looking nice. Note that the left and right “brims” are on the same plane. They form a straight line and the “peak” of the hat is an upside down V-shape right in the middle.

Then just add 2 more star points using the witch’s hat visualization trick and you’ve got a beautiful open star!

This open star is a design you might want to practice drawing on paper until it becomes natural for you. Then go to the machine to quilt it.

Here are a couple more straight line designs that you can practice this week. I know you can figure out the path pretty easily.

Pro tip:  When quilting designs like these, they look best when the spacing between the quilting lines is similar. They don’t have to be exact, but similar. It helps to create nice even texture on your quilt. Use the edge of your hopping foot to give 1/4 inch spacing. Ride the edge of the hopping foot along the previously quilted line.

Greek Key

Squared Spiral

Have fun giving these designs a try! How’s that 15 minutes a day working for you? Are you being faithful? I’m watching you!


by Mary Beth Krapil



Creating Texture

Every time you quilt you are creating texture. The very nature of what makes up a quilt, three layers, with the center being a compressible fiber, means that when you stitch the three layers together you will compress that inner layer with your stitches and create texture. The location of the stitches will be lower than what surrounds them. The contrast, low to high, creates a variation on the surface of the quilt. That variation is the definition of texture. (See last week’s blog post to refresh your memory of that definition.)

Seeing texture

Sometimes you look at a quilt and swoon over the gorgeous texture of the quilting. With other quilts, you might hardly notice the quilting. Why? If you look at a variety of quilts, (Pinterest is a good place to do that), notice where you can really see the quilting and you’ll come to realize that quilting shows up best on solid, lighter color fabrics. This quilted bag has a ton of quilting on the black background surrounding the mandala. But you can hardly see it.

Mandala tote by Mary Beth Krapil

This quilt has a lot of texture too. It is hardly noticeable on the colorful, busy and darker fabrics. You can see a bit of the texture in the light blue areas. This quilt is 12″ x 12″.

Miniature by Mary Beth Krapil

But look at the texture you can see on the back of the quilt!

Back of Miniature by Mary Beth Krapil

Emphasizing texture

What can we do to emphasize the texture? Here’s some tips you can use:

Pick the right place

Choose the lighter, solid fabric areas of the quilt to create the most interesting textures. [Don’t neglect the other areas with busier, darker fabrics though! If you want your quilts to lie flat, you want an even distribution of texture.]

And always remember, in the right lighting, even texture on darker fabrics can be seen.

back of Mandala bag by Mary Beth Krapil

Emphasize the contrast

Remember the contrast, low to high, creates a variation on the surface of the quilt, creating texture. So if you stitch some tighter quilting next to an area you want to emphasize, the tighter quilting will flatten out and allow the area next to it to pouf forward.

Mary Beth Krapil

The daffodils pop forward because there is tighter (or smaller) quilting next to them.

We usually refer to the tight quilting as background quilting.

Rule of thumb: The background quilting motif must be at least 1/3 or less the size of the motif you are trying to emphasize.

Choose the right batting

When you are trying to achieve texture choose a batting with a higher loft. There has to be something to fill up the unquilted areas to make them pop forward.  Avoid very flat batts.

100% cotton is an example of a flat batting. Wool is an example of a batting with loft. You can also use a polyester batting, just choose one with a higher loft or thickness.

When I want to emphasize texture I usually use two batts. A layer of 100% cotton or 80/20 on the bottom and a layer of wool on top.

But this was a faux leather pouch that I quilted with upholstery foam instead of traditional batting. It had super-defined texture!

creating texture

Faux leather bag
by Mary Beth Krapil

Choose the right thread

Both weight and color are important here. Matching the thread color exactly to the fabric results in seeing pure texture. The thread disappears.

micro-fill sampler
by Mary Beth Krapil

A fine thread also tends to disappear and leave the viewer seeing only texture.

Mary Beth Krapil

There are no hard and fast rules about thread though. Just like anything else in quilting, experiment and see what happens when you change things up. A contrasting thread can add to the texture!

Grid Sampler
Mary Beth Krapil

You’ve heard the saying, “Quilting makes the quilt”?  Well I think that’s true because quilting makes the texture.

What do you think?


by Mary Beth Krapil







There’s a lot of talk on quilting social media these days about texture. Just try a search on #TextureTuesday and you’ll see what I mean. What is texture, anyway? Dictionary.com says this:

Texture was what drew me to quilting.

I have no quilters in my family. My mother taught me to sew at a young age. But the intention was garment construction. She made our clothes, (my sister and I), until we were old enough to make them ourselves.

We had no quilts in the house as I was growing up. (Sad, I know). My grandmother knitted and crocheted. We had afghans, from dictionary.com: afghan: a soft woolen blanket, crocheted or knitted, usually in a geometric pattern. They were scratchy to this little, allergic to wool, girl. I kind of hated them, but oh, what I would give to have one of them today. I had no appreciation of my Gramma’s artistry.

afghan, wikipedia

Every year at Christmastime, we would get a card from a woman that worked with my Dad. They were the most imaginative cards with moving parts and they were embossed. I was enchanted by them. The Christmas tree branches had needles and the little girl’s sweater had knitted stitches. They were the most beautiful things I had ever seen. The design elements of not only image and color, but texture. And I thought the lady who sent them must be some kind of princess artist with the best taste in things ever.

Later in life, I really can’t remember when, I saw a wholecloth quilt. The emotions and thoughts I had about those Christmas cards came flooding back. A practical item with gorgeous texture that you could enjoy every single day of the year and it wasn’t scratchy! I was in love!

Making quilts

When I started to make my own quilts, my greatest goal was to make a wholecloth. I started hand quilting my tops, I quilted two. However, that was taking way too long, so I tried machine quilting on my domestic machine. That was hard, and uncomfortable, and not very much fun. Then I discovered longarm machines. And when I bought my first Handi Quilter I knew my goal might be in reach, someday, after lots and lots of practice.

And that’s my story about how I ended up here, writing to you about quilting. Texture drew me in and never let go.

Here’s some quilt texture eye candy for you. Next week I’ll write more about how to achieve great texture on your quilts.

texture quilt

Kim Sandberg


Mary Beth Krapil


Debby Brown


Mary Beth Krapil


Telene Jeffrey


Mary Beth Krapil


Kelly Ashton


by Mary Beth Krapil




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