dot to dot quilting

How to Use Dot to Dot Quilting to Show Off Your Piecing

Dot to dot quilting is a great way to show off piecing and focal fabrics as well as provide visual contrast with denser, curvier free motion quilting motifs. Here are my best tips for when and how to use dot to dot quilting on your quilts!

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Dot to Dot Quilting with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story

You know how some outfits pair best with a big ol’ statement necklace while others need only a simple pendant or a fine chain? If feathers and swirls and graffiti quilting are the big bold necklaces of quilting, dot to dot quilting is more like the simple pendant— almost overlooked at first but adding just a touch of sparkle. If you’re not a necklace person, think about earrings— we all have the friend who loves big ol’ drops (I’m often that friend), and then we have the friend who has worn simple pearl studs every day of her life, and they always look wonderful. Some quilts (lots of quilts, if you ask me) shine brighter if you give them bold, amazing texture, but others, especially ones just need that little touch of sparkle to steal the show.


(The Lisa I greet at the beginning of the video is the fabulous piecer of this Polaris quilt. It’s always fun when I can share the process with my long arming clients!)

What is Dot to Dot Quilting?

Dot to Dot quilting uses the points in the quilt’s piecing as starting and ending points for quilting lines. It is a geometric style of quilting that often echoes or emphasizes existing shapes in the piecing. It can be done with a ruler on the longarm or domestic or with a walking foot on the domestic.

Dot to Dot Quilting with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story

When is Dot to Dot Quilting a Good Idea?

Ultimately, this comes down to your personal taste, but there are a few things I think about when opting for simpler quilting motifs.

1) The quilt is pieced with an amazing focal fabric or with a special fabric line that you want to keep the star of the show (In the video above, Lisa pieced Polaris using Tula Pink’s Zuma collection. The fabrics were stunning, and I sat with this quilt top until I was sure I had a quilting plan that would allow the fabric to shine)

2) The piecing itself is the whole point of the quilt. Think about a New York Beauty or a Mariner’s Compass. Carefully or intricately pieced quilts or sections of quilts are great candidates for simpler quilting to show off the pattern and workmanship

3) There is a clear background and foreground on the quilt. Dot to dot quilting is a great way to secure and enhance the foreground of a quilt while leaving it puffier than a densely quilting background. On the Polaris quilt above, I’m using brightly colored threads and dot to dot quilting to enhance the foreground (the stars themselves), then I will push the background back by densely quilting the black with matching black thread)

Bonus: 4) You want to. Like I said— this ultimately comes down to taste. You may just have a hankering to do some dot to dot quilting. You might be wanting to practice your ruler work. You might be wanting to quilt with your walking foot but also wanting to take it up a notch from straight lines. Dot to Dot quilting creates great texture, and if you’re feeling it, go for it!

How to Dot to Dot Quilt

1) Draw your plan. Print or draw a picture of your block/ quilt and decide what sections you want to emphasize. These “stars of the show” will be the least densely quilting. You might also use dot to dot quilting or other geometric quilting in the background, but I recommend quilting it more densely to “push it back.” Play around with how you can connect the different points of your piecing to create cool secondary effects or emphasize shapes that already exist (If you’re unfamiliar with making a quilting plan, check out this blog post for more tips)

2) Mark Your Quilt. I know, I know, you almost never hear me say this. In fact, it’s totally optional. But, if you are doing something a little complicated or if you are creating lines more than a couple of inches long while using a walking foot, it may be helpful to have some lines to follow— at least until you hit your groove. Since I usually do dot to dot quilting on the longarm, I use my ruler to guide my foot and do not usually mark. (For more tips about how I mark my quilts, check out this blog post)

3) Stitch in the Ditch. Since “the point” of dot to dot quilting is to make your piecing pop, I encourage you to incorporate stitching in the ditch around your focal areas into your plan. In the video above, I figured out how stitch in the ditch and do the dot to dot quilting simultaneously which made the quilting efficient and made the piecing shine.

Dot to dot quilting is a wonderful way to add crisp, geometric designs to your quilts and has the added bonus of working well on both longarm and domestic machines. After you’ve made your plan, go for it! If you’re like me and do a lot of free motion quilting, it may take a minute to find your groove, but keep practicing and enjoy this whole new world of quilting effects that can be made with a straightforward technique.