Design Series: Texture

Sandy and I had fun talking about Texture, another element of design, a few days ago. It is so interesting to do the research for these segments as I learn so much. Check out Sandy’s podcast episode 89 on Texture.

Texture is an Element of Design


  • “The way something feels to the touch or the visual patterns on a surface.” (Art+Quilt, pg.88)
  • Texture: actual or simulated tactile quality (from
  • “Texture is the surface and tactile quality of an object.” (Quilter’s Book of Design, 2d, pg.49)

Texture and Pattern are closely related.

Types of texture:

  • amorphous – organic and curvilinear (looks like nature)
  • structural – rigid and geometric (looks architectural, man made)

Some thoughts:

  • Texture is usually appreciated through our sense of touch. (Quilter’s Book of Design, 2d, pg.85)
  • Architecture and sculpture employ “actual material that have…tactile texture.” You can also see (museums probably won’t let you feel) texture in some paintings with very thick paint usage, such as Wayne Thiebaud’s work. (Pentak & Lauer, pg.160) Examples: Sculpture in Toronto
  • silky smooth satin, roughness of coarsely woven linen (Art+Quilt, pg.22)
  • bold, subtle (Art+Quilt, pg.88)
  • feathery, sharp (Art+Quilt, pg.88)
  • tactile, actual, imitation (Art+Quilt, pg.88)
  • cotton vs wool (Art+Quilt, pg.23)
  • satin vs velvet
  • “It is important to remember when planning a large quilt that its textural qualities will add visual interest to the design at close range and will have much less impact at a distance.” (Quilter’s Book of Design, 2d, pg.86)

Use of Texture in General

  • “…help define the design and contribute to its success.” (Quilter’s Book of Design, 2d, pg. 87)
  • “Use of texture to suggest movement.” (Quilter’s Book of Design, 2d, pg. 88)
    • “…create lines and a sense of movement.”  …spiral quilting lines add swirls and shapes in sky. Long, wavy, diagonal quilting lines can suggest motion and contribute to the idea of flight. (Quilter’s Book of Design, 2d, pg. 88)
    • Size of thread can make part of a quilt stand out as can echo quilting. (Quilter’s Book of Design, 2d, pg. 88)
  • Use of texture to add dimension (Quilter’s Book of Design, 2d, pg. 88)
    • rocks can look rounder (Quilter’s Book of Design, 2d, pg. 88)
    • emphasize cracks (Quilter’s Book of Design, 2d, pg. 88)
    • suggest water in motion by using metallic thread (Quilter’s Book of Design, 2d, pg. 88)
    • give the impression of depth by overlapping a pattern underneath (Quilter’s Book of Design, 2d, pg. 88)

Use of Texture in Quiltmaking

  • “Piecing in and of itself creates visible edges with shadows on a quilt top. A whole cloth quilt will have a much flatter look than one with seams or applique.” (Quilter’s Book of Design, 2d, pg. 89)
    • “In order to sculpt the surface of the quilt, I like to in complete control of the seam allowances. When the quilting is done on the background, close to the seam, the patch under which the seam allowances are pressed can be lifted from the surface of the quilt by the extra padding provided by the seam allowance.” (Piecing: Expanding the Basics, pg.6)
  • Perl cotton stitching
  • embroidery
  • quilting, especially many lines close together
  • applique’ (think of the layers sometimes used to build up a design)
    • raw edge applique’ to have the fibers of the fabric add to the design
    • all the different types of applique’ provide different types of dimension and texture to a quilt.
  • ruching (flowers in Baltimore Album quilts)
  • thread painting (have you every felt the texture of the stitching?)
  • the feel of the quilt if you put your thumb on the back and your fingers on the top of the quilt and squeeze
  • couching (listen to Sandy’s podcast interview with Karen Lee Carter)
  • yo-yos
  • trapunto
  • beading (Kissy Fish as example)
  • Cathedral Window quilts
  • prairie points (Example: Autumn by Ludmilla Aristova from (Adventures in Design, pg.68) )
  • buttons (Adventures in Design, pg.65)
  • paint (Adventures in Design, pg.65)
  • embellishment (Adventures in Design, pg.65)
  • Crazy quilts
  • quilting
    • “The  type of quilting used changes the texture of a quilt: a hand-quilted line looks a lot different than a machine-quilted line.” (Quilter’s Book of Design, 2d, pg. 90)


  • “The essential distinction between texture and pattern seems to be whether the surface arouses our sense of touch or merely provides designs appealing to the eye. In other words, while every texture makes a sort of pattern, not every pattern could be considered a texture.” (Pentak & Lauer, pg. 168)
  • Tactile texture is the way the cloth feels when you touch it, the difference between satin & burlap.” (Art+Quilt, pg.22)
  • Visual texture is the way the cloth looks, from the printed or woven pattern such as subtle brocade to a bright and bold Hawaiian print.” (Art+Quilt, pg.22) ” “A bold visual texture will automatically become a dominant feature when placed with a more subdued prints and solids.” (Art+Quilt, pg.23)
  • Visual texture is “that which can be seen and gives the appearance of a texture where no actual difference in the surface of can be felt. Examples of visual texture are printed fabrics that look like rock or sand, but actually feel smooth and even.” (Quilter’s Book of Design, 2d, pg.85)
  • “Visual texture is implied.”  “There is no actual ” tactile feel to it, instead it has a print on it which makes the surface look as though it has a print on it whcih makes the surface look as though it is textured.” (A Fiber Artist’s Guide to Color & Design, pg. 90)
  • Pattern is sometimes thought of as visual texture.
  • Texture “allows subtle changes in the surface design.” (Adventures in Design, pg.65)
  • “Pattern and texture are often used interchangeably because a pattern may give a surface the appearance of texture and because textures have a distinct repeating arrangement that creates a pattern.” (Quilter’s Book of Design, 2d, pg. 79)
  • “You draw a line, close it to make a shape, and then fill it with texture. As quilt artists we work mainly in the opposite direction. We choose the texture of our fabric, cut out shapes, then add line with stitching and thread”  (Art+Quilt, pg.22)
  • “Though many fabrics have tactile texture, most quilt artists use cotton fabrics made specifically for quilting. These fabrics have a polished surface with no tactile texture. …we rely heavily on the visual texture that is derived by the motifs printed on the surface of the fabric. ” (A Fiber Artist’s Guide to Color & Design, pg. 90)
  • You can change the texture of your fabric by manipulating it. Fabric can be “scrunched, wrinkled, pleated, folded, felted, or twisted to add” to what you want your work to say. (Art+Quilt, pg.23) Example: Change of Seasons
  • “Texture provides interest and variety. It can add realism to landscape, portrait and animal quilts.  It also helps delineate space…Simply put, we need to see when the perimeter of one section ends and another begins. We achieve this through contrasts in color and value, as well as contrast of textures.” (A Fiber Artist’s Guide to Color & Design, pg. 91)
  • “Van Gogh was an early exponent of the actual application of paint as a further expressive element.” In his painting Portrait of the Artist, you can see “how short brushstrokes of thick, undiluted paint are used to build up the agitated, swirling patterns of Van Gogh’s images. The ridges and raised edges of the paint strokes are obvious to the viewer’s eye.” (Pentak & Lauer, pg.160)
  • “Texture adds character, can create a sense of age, and provides uniqueness.” (Adventures in Design, pg.65)


  • Look at your most recent quilt and see what kinds of texture you can find.
  • Think about how “texture will affect your work. Will the viewer immediately see the weave of the cloth, or is it so smooth and tightly woven that it reflects the light? Can you use those qualities to evoke certain emotions or feelings? (Art+Quilt, pg.22-23)
  • Create “similar compositions executed in solid, plain-woven cottons,” velvet, brocade, satin, etc (Art+Quilt, pg.23)
  • Take a scrap of fabric and give it texture – couch on it, scrunch it, pucker it, embroider on it.
 Koigu Cross Stitch Scarf by DoublePointed Designs (
Koigu Cross Stitch Scarf by DoublePointed Designs (

Source: via Jaye on Pinterest


The example above has great texture.
A Fiber Artist’s Guide to Color & Design by Heather Thomas
Adventures in Design by Joen Wolfrom
Art+Quilt by Lyric Kinard
Design Basics by Pentak & Lauer
Leaf embroidery: (note this is an Asian site written in characters. I don’t read this language, so don’t know what it says)
Ludmila Aristova Website –
Piecing: Expanding the Basics by Ruth McDowell
Quilter’s Book of Design, 2d, by Ann Johnston