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Trapunto and free-motion quilting together: Add pizzazz to your project

by Claire Haillot

All week I’m showing you how to make this magical Christmas Tree decorative pillow using the PFAFF creative ambition 640. You’ll have so much fun playing with the decorative stitches to dress up your tree. In yesterday’s post, I demonstrated how to set your appliques onto the background fabric. In today’s post, I’ll show you how to free-motion quilt and add a 3D effect to your Christmas tree with the trapunto technique.

An applique Christmas tree on white fabric under a white and black sewing machine; PFAFF creative ambition 640

How to add a trapunto effect to your Christmas tree using the PFAFF creative ambition 640

As mentioned in Monday’s post in the material list for the quilted Christmas cushion cover, here’s what we need now:

Cutting away the excess wool batting and tear-away stabilizer with PFAFF tweezers and scissors; PFAFF creative ambition 640

Create a trapunto effect in three easy steps using the PFAFF scissor set

3 easy steps to create the trapunto effect

  1. Position the wool batting on the back of your project and add the tear-away stabilizer.

For the trapunto effect, I always prefer using wool batting. If you can’t find any, you can always go with a high-loft polyester batting. Adding the tear-away stabilizer behind the batting ensures the batting doesn’t get stuck in the feed teeth. If you feel the batting isn’t stable you can add a bit of spray-on adhesive, but it will complicate the last part of the trapunto step.

  1. Use water-soluble thread to stitch the outline shape of the Christmas tree.

My trick is to use the water-soluble thread only on the top bobbin of your sewing machine, leaving the regular bobbin thread on the bottom. The idea is that once the project is finished, I can slightly rub a damp Q-tip over the water-soluble thread on the top of my project and it will disappear. The bobbin thread will be stuck in the batting portion of the project and won’t be visible at all. But don’t do this step before your project is completely finished.

I love using the PFAFF creative ambition 640 for stitching projects that have several layers because I don’t need to pull out my screwdriver and change foot. I simply ensure I have an open foot to see where I need to quilt and engage the IDT system. The Integrated Dual Transportation (IDT) allows perfect control when quilting. The finger walking foot located at the back of the needle moves the fabric and batting from the top of the project away from the needle in synchronicity with the bottom feed teeth.

  1. Remove the excess wool batting and tear off the stabilizer.

Using the 6’’ curved embroidery scissors from the PFAFF Scissor set, I carefully cut out the excess batting around the tree. I love using curved scissor as the tip has slender blades which curve upward. This allows me to safely cut out the batting without any fear of cutting the background fabric. Using the PFAFF opposable tweezer from the same set, I also tear off the stabilizer. This step is more difficult if you used the adhesive spray during the first step.

Free motion quilting swirls in the background of the Christmas tree pillow; PFAFF creative ambition 640

Free motion quilting using the PFAFF creative ambition 640

Now that the 3D effect is set under the Christmas tree, you can add the regular batting along with the backing to the back of your project. You can use the spray-on adhesive to set them in place in preparation for the quilting. Using a 30 or 40-wt quilting thread, stitch out your Christmas tree’s outer form using an open foot while engaging the IDT system. To create a true 3D effect, I also quilted around the green fabric appliques. Now when quilting, ensure you only see your top bobbin thread, and have a sample piece nearby with the wool batting and regular batting to test the tension. If you see your bottom thread, it means your tension is too tight and you need to lower the number.

Free-motion quilting

Once the tree is stitched into place, I went on to free-motion quilt the areas surrounding the tree. When using high-density quilting around a trapunto design, it flattens the background and increases the 3D effect. Before you begin, ensure the tension is still correct. In this portion of the quilting, you’ll only be quilting through your cotton batting, so it might not require the same tension. Once again, have a sample piece nearby with only the regular batting to test the tension.

Here are the simple steps to begin free-motion quilting without any fear, using the PFAFF creative ambition 640.

  • Disengage the IDT system
  • Lower the feed teeth
  • Attach the free-motion foot
  • Set the machine to free-motion sewing with a straight stitch

For this project, I wanted to create swirls using Sulky rayon silver color thread to represent movement. One could see the wind and others could see dancing swirls. Notice that I didn’t quilt the section just at the top of the tree where I will be placing the star. When the swirls were all done, I changed to Sulky rayon brown color thread to create a bark texture on the tree trunk.

The trick to free-motion quilt swirls is to begin quilting the largest circle and then move inward leaving enough space to be able to come back out of the swirl and move onto another section.

Here’s a video explaining the process.

Free motion swirls on the white background and bark on the trunk are the main ingredients for the quilting of the Christmas tree pillow

The Christmas tree pillow ready for decorating using the PFAFF creative ambition 640

Hope you enjoyed learning how to quilt the project and adding the trapunto effect using the PFAFF creative ambition 640. Come back tomorrow when I show how to decorate the Christmas tree.

This is part 3 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 2: Getting applique pieces ready for a Christmas tree cushion [free pattern]

Go to part 4: PFAFF creative ambition 640 works wonders for Holiday Decorations


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