Learn How to Free Motion Quilt Stippling

Stippling is one of the most popular free motion quilting designs, and the first design I learned how to quilt as a beginner. Stippling is also referred to as Meandering because the lines randomly meander over your quilt without crossing. It can be a bit tricky to learn how to quilt Stippling without stitching yourself into a corner. 

Learn how to machine quilt Stippling with me in this video:


For this tutorial I quilted on my home sewing machine, a Bernina 1230, and my Grace Qnique longarm set up on a Continuum frame. I hope you enjoyed seeing how I quilted Stippling on both types of machines.

how to quilt Stippling | quilting tutorial

When quilting on a home machine, I use Machingers quilting gloves to help my hands grip the quilt and give me lots of control over the quilting design. It's really essential to have something on your hands that helps grip the quilt top, otherwise the fabric tends to slip under your fingers.

I also place a Queen Supreme Slider over the machine to make the quilt easier to move. This slippery Teflon sheet helps to minimize friction between the back of the quilt and the surface of the machine and table.

Another tool I keep in my home sewing machine all the time is a bobbin washer. This little disc helps my bobbin thread feed as evenly as the top thread so the back of the quilt will look as good as the front. It also helps to reduce thread breaks - something I always want to avoid!

Click Here to find all three of these tools bundled together in the Queen Supreme Kit.

how to quilt Stippling | quilting tutorial

The Rules of Stippling

All free motion filler designs have basic rules that govern how they are stitched. These rules are as simple and easy to memorize as the rules behind cursive writing. Once you memorize the rules of a design and practice quilting it, you will be able to quilt it anywhere.

 The rule behind Stippling is very simple:

Stitch a wiggling, meandering line that doesn't cross itself.

Stippling free motion quilting tutorial 

It's important to note that this is a specific rule only to Stippling. It has confused many beginning quilters into thinking that we are not supposed to ever cross our lines of quilting. Please understand that it's perfectly fine to cross your quilting lines, and there are many designs we use in quilting that involve crossing and travel stitching to form the design.

A great way to practice Stippling is by drawing it on paper because the same metal muscles that you use to draw the design will be used to quilt it.

stippling quilting worksheet

This quilting worksheet can be found in the Free Motion Basics for Beginners workshop. You can print this page as many times as you need and practice tracing and quilting this design. It's important to trace a quilting design with a pencil because it will help you learn the design and commit it it to memory, much like learning cursive writing.

how to quilt Stippling | quilting tutorial

Stippling has a very unique texture that appears to flatten or recede into the background of a quilt. It's perfect for machine quilting densely into the background areas of a wholecloth quilt, or expanding to a large scale to quilt a soft bed quilt. Because Stippling is so popular, many quilters feel that it's a bit overused, and even I found myself stuck for years in a stippling rut.

However, Stippling is a terrific machine quilting design to learn because it will help you build skills for moving the quilt smoothly, estimating space, echoing, and controlling the quilt. Stippling is also extremely versatile - it can work on any quilting scale and is very quick to quilt over large areas.

Quilting Stippling on a Longarm Quilting Frame

Since Stippling was one of the first designs I learned to quilt on my home machine, I figured it would be an easy design to learn how to quilt on my new Grace longarm quilting frame as well. Turns out it's a terrific design to learn the basics of moving the machine over the frame because you can stitch very simple rows of the design. 

how to quilt Stippling | quilting tutorial

My goal when quilting this design on a longarm was to move slowly and stitch the design consistently. It wasn't perfect, but I felt like it would be even easier to quilt this design really big with 1-2 inches between the lines of quilting. That would cover the surface of the quilt even faster and easier too. Because you don't have to stop and shift constantly through the arm of the machine, I think it will feel a lot faster and easier to quilt on the longarm frame too.

how to quilt Stippling | quilting tutorial

Stippling is absolutely one of the most essential designs quilters should learn to machine quilt, just remember not to quilt it to death! I consider free motion quilting filler designs just like working with different colors of paint, and you wouldn't only paint with one color for five years? It's good to learn a design like Stippling, but keep expanding your skills with new design and exciting textures to use in your quilts.

Would you like to learn how to quilt my four favorite quilting designs? Click on the links below to learn how to quilt Stippling, McTavishing, Pebbling, and Paisley:

how to quilt Stippling | quilting tutorial

Stippling Quilting Tutorial

how to quilt mctavishing | quilting tutorial

McTavishing Quilting Tutorial

how to quilt pebbles | quilting tutorial

Pebbling Quilting Tutorial

how to quilt Paisley | quilting tutorial

Paisley Quilting Tutorial


Did you enjoy this free motion quilting tutorial? Each week I share new quilting tutorials and videos online to teach quilters from around the world how to quilt their own quilts. Make sure to subscribe to our email newsletter so you don't miss out on any new quilting videos, podcast episodes, or quilting design tutorials:


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Let's go quilt,

Leah Day