Heather Thomas

Quilting Motifs vs. Fills - What’s the Difference?

Heather Thomas
Duration:   11  mins

Motifs and fill are both common words used in the quilting world today. Heather Thomas teaches you what each one means, how they are different from one another, when and where they should be used and shows examples of each.


Simply stated, a motif is a ‘thing’ — a leaf, a flower or a star are all examples of quilting motifs. Heather explains that motifs are meant to draw attention and catch the eye of the person looking at the quilt. She also explains that in general, a motif should be used on a quilt with a simple design. If a decorative motif is quilted onto a quilt that was ornately pieced the two will compete with one another and the overall quilt design will not be cohesive. Heather shows examples of several different quilts and points out the motifs on each. She also shows an example of when stitching that may first look as though it is fill is actually a motif because of where and how it is stitched. If fill stitching is done in a way that draws the main attention, it can be considered a motif.


Fill quilting is meant to fill in the background or fill in negative space on a quilt. It is generally done in thread that is similar to the fabric color and does not stand out. Heather shows several examples of stitching and explains why it is considered fill. She also explains how the same kind of stitching done on one quilt can be considered fill while being considered a motif on another. Heather also shows examples of echo quilting done around a main motif that is considered fill stitching.