Search here...
Applique Home Decor

Polka-dots, Stipple Blocks and Creativity, Oh my! Part 2

If you missed Part 1, click here.

I was making excellent progress this afternoon—stitching block after block.  I have quite an assembly line going!  Then I heard the dreaded Low Bobbin Warning beep with the accompanying sad face on the machine.  I always appreciate that the machine feels my pain.  Maybe it’s also a signal it’s time for chocolate.

Denise’s Must-Haves

Pre-wound Bobbins are the greatest invention since sliced bread!  They are the no-muss, no-fuss way of making sure you keep stitching!  When you hear that dreaded Low Bobbin Warning—you don’t have to worry about stopping to wind a new bobbin.  Just be sure you purchase the right type for your machine.  Consult your favorite local dealer for advice or open up the manual that came with your machine!

Or you can take the Always-Prepared-For-Every-Emergency-Approach and before you begin stitching wind a bunch of bobbins so you’re ready.  Either way works—you’ll be glad you have them handy.

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this blog—I like to focus on one or two blocks and make as many variations as possible changing fabric, thread colors, etc.  I decided to use 5 Flower 5_small for my quilt.  I hooped a quilt sandwich using Snap-Hoop Monster and stitched a series of blocks.  Like snowflakes, I decided no two blocks would be alike.

To add variety I layered the applique fabrics in a different order and sometimes I got daring and skipped some applique steps and just stitched the outlines.  I kept my assembly-line process—and continued to stitch block after block without trimming away the applique.  This was a good idea and also a learning experience.  The finished blocks wouldn’t be unveiled until I trimmed them—talk about a fabricated surprise!

Using Snap-Hoop Monster makes it easy to lift the frame and slide the fabric to make room for the next block.  Love that!

I ignored that voice in my head that cautioned against layering light colored fabrics on top of black fabric.  I ignored that voice in my head that warned against using light colored thread on light fabrics.  After all, my goal was to be a free-spirit and create however I wanted.  I stand by that goal of creating and experimenting to see firsthand if something works… or not.  Who’s to say it does or doesn’t work but you, the designer?  Besides, it’s a valuable learning experience….

Denise’s Tip #1

Go ahead and experiment with colors, layering different applique fabric, working with busy prints, etc.  Make a note of what works and what doesn’t so that you can improve next time.

Learning Experience Block 1

I admit it was laziness that inspired me to not change thread colors.  I started out with white thread and figured I could stitch the entire block with white thread.  But if I had changed the thread to black when stitching the polka dot and the white fabric, the block would have been more attractive because the detailed stitching would have ‘popped’ more rather than blend in.  Sometimes, you do want everything to blend in… so there’s no hard fast rule.

Learning Experience Block 2

Light colored fabrics can be placed on dark fabrics.  You just have to place a second layer of light fabric underneath.  Notice how the black fabric affects the vibrancy of the orange polka dot fabric in Block 1 above.  For Block 2 below I used two layers of white fabric on top of the black.

More Experimentation!

After stitching a set of blocks using white and black solid fabric as a background I decided to experiment by using the orange polka dot fabric as the background.

Denise’s Tip #2

Remember to hoop the base fabric straight when working with printed fabrics.  If this is a challenge—then you’re not using Snap-Hoop Monster!  Snap-Hoop products have a flat top and bottom frame making it simple to adjust the fabric by giving it a tug.

Time to Play

I enjoy Stipple collections not only because they produce results quickly and flawlessly but I get to play!  I love stacking my quilt blocks then arranging them—and rearranging them and …  you get the idea.  There are countless ways to lay out the quilt blocks—go ahead and set aside some time to play!

It’s also a fun to get others involved in the creative process.  I asked Editor, Eileen Roche to rearrange the blocks.  I like what she’s come up with!

Looks like I’ll have a tough choice deciding layout.  Plus I’ll need to come up with some extra blocks to fill in!


Here’s your assignment this week:

Vote now! It’s time to choose a color for sashing and I thought it would be fun if you helped me select a color. What color or colors would you choose? Do tell! I’ll choose my favorite suggestion and will use that color(s). I’ll give you a shout-out as my special “Color Adviser” in the next blog. Don’t worry, if more than one of you think brilliantly alike I’ll mention each of you as my “Color Advisers”!

The winner of last week’s assignment is:

Last week we read some great ideas on hoop storage.  This week we’d like to know how you store your stabilizers.  Leave a comment and a random person will be chosen to win a $25 shopping spree to the new Designs in Machine Embroidery website.

And the winner is…Carol K. – “My husband and son built my cutting table and sewing storage. I have dowels on one end for anything on tubes and a designated slide out shelf for others. The stabilizers are just below the hoop drawer. I have to admit, that sometimes there are several kinds on top where I am hooping — I am not the most diligent when it comes to clean up when I move to something out of the sewing room.”




  • Mary Haggenmaker

    I really like the ecru that you have the blocks sitting on in your pictures.

  • Beth R

    I would go with orange for the sashing – complement the polka dot and make the black stand out.

    • Mary Haggenmaker

      My threads are right behind my machine and over to the right of it on 3 thread racks mounted on pegboard. I also have the rack that attaches to my machine where I can line up the colors I will be using for a particular embroidery project.

      • Mary Haggenmaker

        Ended up in the wrong place, didn’t mean to intrude, sorry.

  • mimi

    how about orange with black polka-dots

  • Donna N.

    Two adjoining sides black with orange dots and the other 2 sides orange with black dots.

  • Donna

    I think I would go with a thin orange with dots border and then a wider black one.

    • Marcia Nation

      Good choice Donna! If I had a vote, I’d vote for you!

  • Kim M Harrington

    On my laptop, I can’t tell if it is red or orange, but the black rectangles with the red or orange dots on them is what I am thinking of. Use that color (solid) since none of the blocks are solid in that color. It seems like a good choice so none of the blocks will be sashed with the same color that the block is. Is that about as clear as mud???

  • Paula Roney

    I’d try an orange stripe border. Maybe cut on the diagonal.

  • Virginia

    I would absolutely use a polka dot fabric selecting one that matches one of your blocks. An orange might be good with fall coming. I love thinking out of the box. Sometimes that is hard for me to do but after looking at the polka dot fabric you selected I would so love that.

  • TroyJennene

    I would go with White background with black polka dots to enhance the blocks and not take away from the color or the design of each block. Good luck with finishing it

  • annette Rady

    Well,having completely outgrown my very large Koala drawer for thread storage… I find it easy to use clear shoe boxex without lids on the swing out shelves… I’ve dedicated a color group to each box…reds and purples, greens, yellows and oranges, blues, Aquas and blue green blends and one just for neutrals; black, grays, beiges, browns and whites. The boxes are easy to reach from where I’m sitting and I can pick the right one at a glance.It is not perfect but it’s working for me right now.

  • Sandra Fidler

    I loved your experiment with fabric: In reply to the contest for this week – I have an entire set of Arc threads. I keep them in a plastic rolling cart, sorted by color range. This has worked great for me and keeps my thread out of direct light.

  • Diane Willey

    I am not sure until I tried it but I would try a polka dot in black and white – either black with white dots or white with black dots. Good luck – know it will look stunning!

  • Katherine Artines

    Go BOLD Denise! Use a funky lime green or a mustard gold, maybe in a small tonal geometric check.

    • Denise Holguin

      Hadn’t thought of lime green– that’s a great idea!

  • Carolyn H2

    I think a narrow sashing of black & a wide sashing of orange.

  • Becky3580

    I think a nice shade of green or even two shades of green like a deep leaf green would be nice. It would make it blend from season to season and make the orange and black pop.

  • Linda Turner

    I think you ought to be really free spirit and go for a completely different color! How about a bright lime green????

  • Shelly C

    I think gray sashing would set it off and then black binding to finish it off.

    • Denise Holguin

      Hadn’t thought of gray. Thank you Shelly!

  • Stella

    I think a black and white check for the sashing probably 1/2″ in size, larger than the dots.

  • Gail Beam

    I think a thin black and white stripe border with a wider black and orange check border would look nice.

  • Mary

    Looking at the design board,somewhere in there I would go with gray.That’s what popped out the minute I saw the designs, Maybe some thin strips of orange or black to complement.

  • Greta Kanegae

    I love the orange for the sashing which is strange, it’s not a go to color for me, but it looks so happy on the blocks.

    • Denise Holguin

      I don’t even like orange so making the quilt with orange was quite a stretch for me! I’m glad I pushed myself to try something other than my usual favorite color (blue!). You are right– the blocks do have a ‘happy’ look about them.

  • starr kanikeberg

    First, I’d like to say the dots remind me of the little candies that were on paper years ago–fun!
    Thin black, thin orange, wider black– it would look like a double picture mat with a black frame.

    • Denise Holguin

      Oh that’s funny! Yes, and now I want to make a version in those candy colors!

      Good suggestions too!

  • joycej

    I think you need a thin black maybe a black/ white dot and another wider fabric like apple green to give it a real splash of color. Love the endless possibilities you can do with this Stipple block.

  • Doree shandera

    I like a black with pinpoint orange polka dots

  • Debbie W.

    Orange!! This looks like an awesome quilt for a dorm room or alumi of Oklahoma State University! Go, Pokes!

    • Debbie W.

      Oops! Alumni!

  • Valerie Brown

    Gray…If you want your blocks to be the star.
    Green… If you want your sashing to be the star.

    So gray wins for me, but I’m not sure why you have to have sashing in the first place. I can’t wait to see the finished product. I know it will be fabulous!

    • Valerie Brown

      Wait, wait, wait… The answer is in the blog banner at the top of the page. That double sashing would really make the blocks pop and not become the star of the quilt.

    • Denise Holguin

      You raise some good points Valerie. I hadn’t even considered going without sashing. I might have to stitch more blocks just to experiment even more!

  • Pam M

    This sounds incredibly boring, but I would be thinking white for the sashing. It will space everything out and keep it looking fresh and modern. Colours will make visual tracks over the quilt top which will detract from the blocks as being the main feature. Of course much will depend on which layout you are going to use and what “look” you want. As a second choice, I would vote for Valerie’s suggestion of grey.

    • Denise Holguin

      Not boring at all and I’m glad you suggested white. You are right– it would keep everything fresh and modern– which is my goal.

      Grey seems to be another popular choice.

      We’ll see what happens!

  • Judy G

    Because I like rectangular quilts rather than square ones, I would use the layout of the last photo pictured in the article with 2 rows of the “polka dot” rectangles at the top and at the bottom of the quilt-alternating background colors on these. Then, a wide row (6″ or so) of solid orange for a sashing followed with a black and white striped fabric for the binding.

  • Susan D

    I would use black with white polka dots and stitch with orange thread or add a small orange piping and bind with black and white polka dot fabric

  • Carol Bartlem

    I would add a black peeper first then the orange with the white dots for the border and self bind

  • Orvalee Roe

    If you went with design #3, I would start with a thin solid orange sashing to frame the quilt then on each corner incorporate the extra polka dot squares with a joining corner square like you have in design #2 with the orange polkadot fabric and bound with black.

  • Barbara

    I’d insert a narrow band of a bright shade of purple (maybe a piping?) and then a black and white polka-dot with purple binding.

    • Denise Holguin

      Ooooh! Purple piping! I like how you think Barbara!

  • Patty Sack

    Most of my stabilizers are in rolls and I store them in a shoe organizer that hooks over my closet door! More than 1 roll will fit in a shoe pocket so you can organize them better.

  • Natacha Shotts

    I think that I would use something that ‘reads’ as a solid so the sashing would not detract from the blocks. Otherwise I think it would just be too busy and the designs would lose their impact.

  • Nancy Owens

    I think sashing would detract from the great blocks, just use solid orange and black for 2 borders!

  • Vicki B.

    I would do a white border with orange polka dot trim. It doesn’t need too be fussy.

  • Ruth Thompson

    I would use black with white or orange polka dots. Actually, I would use a neon green to make the whole thing pop!!

  • Linda Lee

    I like a double edging with (if you can find it) thin orange with black dots on the inner edge and black on the outer edge. I am in a black loving stage I think.

  • Laurene

    Bright olive green! I just grouped some thread with the orange and black and it works.

    • Denise Holguin

      I like that! Gives it a nice retro feel which I love!

  • Melli

    Thin black inner border, larger orange polka dot border, thin black outer border, black binding. You could strip piece the border to make it easier and miter the corners to make it look like a frame. MM

  • starr kanikeberg


  • Cornelia du Preez

    An orange polka dot border (not too wide)and binding.

  • Eunice

    Definitely orange and white stripes

  • Susan Burns

    Orange and black stripes!

  • Vicky Isliefson

    You could stay with your current palette and use the solid orange. Or stay with the modern quilt theme and use a medium-dark grey.
    If you want to get crazy, go across the color wheel and use a deep teal.

  • Sunny

    Continue the bold. Lime green striped fabric which will also carry the feeling of Fall when combined with your orange, black, etc.

  • Paula l

    If you like blues then put a teal or a bold aqua in there. Not too thick but just enough to frame the individual blocks.

  • Sue Winnie

    I used bright yellow

  • Karen W

    I think I’d try to find a black & white (or is it ecru?) chevron, with a narrow accent of orange flange (you know, like empty piping) along one edge, then a plain black or orange binding. I think a tiny print would be cute, and stripes or polka dots would also work, especially if they’re small. There are so many ways to go………. ;>) THAT’S the joy of quilting!!

  • EmmyJay

    My first thought is a stripe with all your colors on the diagonal.

    Not only will you enhance your block design but introduce a contrast of linear to the circular appliques you’ve spent so much time creating.

    Have fun!

  • BeckyM.

    I like the 4th layout of designs. What about a leaf green fabric with a stippled design using white thread.

  • Joyce

    Hi, it all looks so easy to do. I would love to try quilting, but have a machine with one needle and would have no space for all the materials. I do several hobbies so every corner is already stashed full. Of course Hubby hates my work space and must hear it everyday. I must admit I keep on buying, but do the odd freebie that comes along.
    Keep going, your work is great !!!!!
    Joyce, South Africa

  • Marsha N.

    This might be crazy, but I would use a narrow strip of plain, butter yellow. With the other colors, it would make the quilt shine. The blocks are beautiful.

  • Berenice

    I would use a thin teal strip then a thicker black with orange binding…

    • Denise Holguin

      I do like teal! Actually I love most shades of blue– but in this case, teal would be perfect!


  • Joan D

    I would go with two thin stripes – one orange and one black.

  • Gloria Daniel

    Hello how much are the Polka dot designs and where do I get them

    • Denise Holguin

      Hi Gloria,
      The designs featured in the blog post are called Stipple Fabulous Flowers & Medallions. It’s available from our website:

      The collection features more than just dots! I’ve only showcased two designs but there are quilt blocks with flowers and medallions and also 3D flowers. If you click on the link above you can see the complete collection.


  • Gloria Daniel

    How and where do I buy Polka dot designs?

  • debe

    I’d use orange with white. I store my stabilizer upright in a decorative basket under my sewing table. I’m short on wall space.

  • Dawn D

    The last arrangement shown is the most pleasing & least chaotic to the eye of this non quilter. As a boarder I would use a 1″ finished strip of a burnt orange, to tie it together and not take away from the pattern. Outline this with white, then Orange dot, in slightly wider strips 1 1/2″ & 2 1/2″, then finish with a 6″ black boarder all around to help keep it looking clean from handling. I’m also not a great fan of orange, but this is an interesting color scheme.

  • Charlotte L

    Hi Denise, First, I would get rid of one black block and add another orange dot block. The black block with the small white center jumps out at me in each design. Since orange is not a go-to color for you (me either) I would go all the way with solid orange sashing. Then a small black border with a wider orange dot border and white binding. Seems like the more white and orange the less Halloween. But that’s just me talking.

  • Terry Back

    I would try gray… Or maybe gray with black polka dots

  • occhiali polarizzati

    occhiali da vista oakley
    occhiali polarizzati

  • Terrific Lodge 銉儍銈?銉偢銉冦偗 銉椼儹銉偢銉冦偗 銉儛銉笺偡銉栥儷 銈般儶銉夈儷 20×10-7/16銈ゃ兂銉?LPG13 Logic & Pro-Logic Series 銈偊銉堛儔銈Lodge 銉儍銈?銉偢銉冦偗 銉椼儹銉偢銉冦偗 銉儛銉笺偡銉栥儷 銈般儶銉夈儷 20×10-7/16銈ゃ兂銉?, thinking about many years of offer