We are now working on month 5 in our annual quilt along, and this month we are going to tackle feathers!
Looking for previous months? Check out the main quilt along page for links to all the blocks and instructions.
2023 Quilt Along - Quilt as You Go
Preparing the Block
Before we can quilt, we need to prepare the block. If you want to see this, head to Month 1, we show you how in that video. Grab one of your 19" background squares and 1 - 19" batting square. If you want to spray baste them, spray the backing square and carefully lay the batting on top of it. If you are pin basting, you don't need to worry about this.
Next, fold the backing and batting in half on the diagonal and press it. This will help us line up the quilt block in the middle. Press it again on the opposite diagonal and press again.
Now that you have an X across your block, spray (if using spray) the back of your quilt block, then gently lay it down, lining up all the corners on your X. I find that folding it in half makes this easier so it's not sticking to everything.
If you are pin basting, after lining up your block, go ahead and put a few pins in. You might not need as many as a full sized quilt, but it's good to keep everything in place.
If you have a specific layout, quilt the blocks following the order below. We'll be trimming outside edges differently when joining the blocks to allow us to add the borders.
The Quilting Plan
We are going to start our quilting plan in the center block and work our way out. This will create 1 set of threads we need to bury, but it also keeps everything in place and if things shift, they are shifting out and not creating extra backing fabric we have to deal with. Remember, don't do anything with the extra backing and batting yet, that will be used to join the blocks.
If you want to print out the quilting plan, click on the photo below and it will pull up a bigger version.
If you want to create your own quilting plan, click on the blank photo and you can print out the block and sketch your own designs.
If you are new to free motion quilting, I recommend printing out the blank block and practice drawing the designs, moving as if you were quilting the block. This is great practice, creates muscle memory, and helps you figure out how to move around without the stress of ruining the quilt block.
Setting up your Sewing Machine for Free Motion Quilting
Now we need to set up our sewing machines. A couple of general tips:
- Put on your free motion quilting foot. This will let us move around the quilt block in any direction.
- Lower your feed dogs. If you can't lower your feed dogs, try setting your stitch length to zero. That way they won't move.
- Create as much flat space as possible. If you have an extension table or can set it level in your sewing table, this helps.
- Put your needle to stop in the down position.
If you have quilting gloves and want to use them, grab them! They can really help with moving your quilt around the machine.
Quilting the Block
Now we are ready to start quilting. We'll complete the plan as follows:
- Before we start quilting this block, we want to mark the inner square of our center motif. Anywhere around 1/2-3/4 inch in from the edge is great. I used a ruler and the back of a butter knife. Use the lines and points in the quilt block to keep things even.
- We'll start in the center, starting at a corner and quilting a straight line to your marked line, follow the marked line to the next corner. Stitch out to the edge of the center block and then back in to your marked line.
- Repeat around the entire center motif, traveling back out to the corner where you started.
- Next we will fill the white area around the center with feathers. Starting next to the corner, create your first feather, then continuing around the shape, add more petals, backtracking along the edge of the petals as needed. Remember to fill the entire space with your feathers.
- Now we are going to focus on the big outer triangles. Starting along one long edge, quilt a straight line. Quilt 3 more straight lines, evenly spacing them.
- Stitch in the ditch to the next triangle, this one will begin on the small side of the triangle, stitching across the point. stitch straight lines back across the triangle, evenly spacing 4 lines. Continue around the block.
- We are now ready for the corner units. Following the ditches work your way around to the connecting bar. Stitch back and forth lines, curving around when you get to the edge of the bar, keeping the stitch lines close together. I do them about the width of the foot apart.
- Now stitch in the ditch along the edge of the connecting bar to the small outer triangle. Stitch from the point to the opposite edge, dividing the triangle in 4ths.
- Stitch along the edge of the triangle to the center, stitch back to the point, then out again still dividing it into fourths.
- Stitch along the edges to the outer corner. Making sure that the feathers go in the same direction as the center section, stitch feathers around the block, using the seam lines as your borders. Remember to stop 1/4" from the edge. Move along the edge of the block to the next corner and repeat steps 7-10 until complete.
When quilting, remember to stop at the edge of the quilt block. Don't stitch into the extra batting and backing, we'll need these free for when we join the blocks.
Free Motion Quilting Tips
If you are new to free motion quilting, there are a couple tips that might help.
- If you are having trouble moving the block around, try stitching a little faster. This will also help smooth out curves. It seems crazy, but works. I promise.
- Doodle the design first. If you are comfortable doodling the pattern, you'll feel more comfortable stitching it.
- Sit up straight. Try not to hunch over your machine. You'll just end up causing unnecessary muscle strain and pain.
- Try different hand positions and holds till you find one that feels comfortable for you.
- Practice, practice, practice. Just like anything, you can't get better if you don't quilt! Be gracious with yourself and allow the opportunity to improve. No one looks at your quilting as closely as you do, so don't judge too harshly!
- Have fun! If it's not fun, why are we doing it?
If you have any questions, please let us know!
Kimie and Missy