Trapunto is a technique of stuffed quilting that originated in Italy. It can refer to an area enclosed by stitching that is stuffed with batting or using stitched channels stuffed with cording to create raised linear patterns.
example of corded work
When working in trapunto, choose a surface fabric with a tight weave to hold in the stuffing. It should not be so stiffly woven, however, that it lacks "give." Cotton, linen or satin are good choices that provide high dimension and are easy to manipulate.
The bottom fabric should lend itself to being cut open or to having its threads separated to admit the stuffing. Machine sewing works well for trapunto, but it is possible to sew by hand, especially if you back-stitch often. You can use a hoop or not to hold the fabric taut while working.
Unless you are experimenting with a special effect, the thread should match the top fabric of your project so as not to detract from the raised effect of the design. Regular thread is fine for most projects that will not receive heavy wear. Use a thimble.
Stuffing & Cording
petticoat, CT Historical Society
For stuffed trapunto, once the shape to be stuffed is enclosed by stitching, you can fill it in with batting by cutting a slit in the foundation fabric and pushing the batting in place. Even better, use a sewing awl to work the fabric threads apart gently and form a small hole through which the stuffing can be pushed inside with the awl. This method retains the integrity of the fabric. Once the polyester or cotton batting is inside, re-work the threads with the awl to make the hole disappear.
For cording, use a plastic yarn needle or large blunt tapestry needle and synthetic yarn. The yarn may be doubled according to the thickness of the passageway between the parallel lines of quilting that is being filled. Work the needle into the passageway from the back and pull the yarn through the sewn channel. Bring out the needle when it has gone as far as it can without twisting the fabric. Insert the needle into the same hole it came from. When the time comes to end that length of cord, don’t knot it, just run it inside the channel about an inch. If two cording passageways cross, the cording should be cut and started again on the other side, rather than run over or under the other line of cording – since that can make the design pucker. See more about trapunto here or make a trapunto moon pillow.