Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Feathers are Flying!

Let me start this by saying there are as many different types and styles of feathers as there are quilters.  You can learn the shape of feathers with stencils, templates, and all kinds of feather tools out there.  Use anything that works.  The place to start is with a pencil and paper.  Please use a pencil rather than a pen--it is much more forgiving and the flow in your hand is much better.

Think about the parts of a feather design.  First, there is a stem from which the feather "grows."  Then there is the feather itself--what shape will yours be? You want it to "grow" naturally from the stem---flow out and around to form a beautifully rounded loop and organically flow back into the stem.  See figure 1.
Figure 1
You can click on Figure 1 and print it out.  Figure 2 is a sheet for you to practice on.  It shows the first stem in a straight line with "boundary" lines on both sides to make your feathers all the same width.  Practice drawing these all the way up the stem.  Them move on to the curved stems.  The middle one should have feathers of different sizes.  See how you like that.  The third one curves but the feathers stay pretty much the same size.  Try them all and practice a lot!
Figure 2
Print Figure 2 out as many times as you like to have plenty to practice on.

Yes, I do draw them out and practice all the time.  I try different ways of filling up spaces and try different types of curls and branches.  See... need to learn to draw feathers on paper first.  Then we will move on to fabric and thread.

Port of Cassis by Lenore Crawford
Here is a little more inspiration from Paducah.  Look at the quilting on this one!

And this is what happens when you walk into Hancock's of Paducah for the first time.
My sister-in-law, Janie's eyes glazed over.  It only lasted a minute before she jumped into action, though.

Keep that pencil and paper handy for doodling feathers.


  1. This was a VERY helpful post! I always see the feathers.. and of course to me they look perfect. So, I thought all of the feathers.. were perfect.. I tried to draw some feathers and when they weren't exactly the SAME size and shape.. to me they weren't perfect.. I stopped trying. WOW!! What a revelation.. they don't have to be... PERFECT.. Just look nice.. and no one will even notice.. practice, practice.. Thank you again.. you cannot know what a relief this post is!

  2. Drawing is so important in FMQ especially in doing feathers to learn the shape. And I have learned not to wait to practice on fabric. My drawing always is very poor, to put is nicely. Learn the shape and the direction to go than get to the machine and go. Start filling up those spaces with wonderful feathers!!! They will just get better and better!!

  3. Thanks for your tips and pictures of these beautiful quilts! I can't wait till October for the Des Moines show.