tutorials

How to Free Motion Quilt Funky Feathers

Kimberlee Tanner

We are finishing off the year with one last free motion quilting motif!

I love feathers, they are versatile and work great on so many different designs. They can be super intimidating though! Especially when talking about traditional free motion feathers. It feels like things have to be perfect. If you want to sew feathers, but need more freedom, this is the perfect motif to jump in with.

 My favorite part of these feathers is how forgiving they are. Petals aren't the same size? Perfect! Adds more character and helps fill spaces. Didn't travel back perfectly on your previous stitch line? Not a problem, these petals are separate and individual and don't sit right on top of each other. Struggle getting the perfect rounded shape? Rest easy, these feathers don't even have a perfectly rounded shape.

So, let's set perfection aside and get quilting!

Whenever I quilt feathers, I like to start with a spine. You can either put this in with thread or draw it in if you don't want extra thread build up. This is totally personal preference. I don't mind thread build up, so I'll stitch it in. If you want to draw it in, make sure you test what you are drawing with on a scrap fabric to make sure it comes off. I like to use washable school chalk, air erase pens, or water erase pens. If you aren't going to make it to the quilting immediately, pick the chalk or water erase methods. They won't disappear before you get to them. 

You can do straight lines, but I think a soft curve adds so much and makes them feel more natural. 

After you've put your spine in, it's time to start stitching the feathers. I ususally stitch up one side, then follow the spine back down and stitch the second side. If you like to stitch both sides at once, I'll post those diagrams farther down.

With these feathers, you are going to make your petals heartish shaped. They don't have to be perfect, but go out, throw a little dip in the edge, and taper back in to the spine. You can start from the bottom or top, whichever feels more comfortable. If you want more stitching, throw in a vein.

Now, move up the spine a little bit and add a second petal. Don't worry about traveling on the same stitch line, the petals can all be separate entities. You can put veins in all petals, alternate petals, or just randomly in bigger petals.

When stitching the petals, fill the space! Don't leave big empty holes, those will stand out. If you stretch the petal to fill in the full area, it will look more finished. This works if you are filling certain shapes in the quilt, or doing all over designs.

After you've worked your way up to the end of the spine, travel back down the spine and repeat on the opposite side. At the top, I like to throw a petal coming out the top of the spine to finish it off. 

To add a second feather, you can either travel along the edge of the quilt to start a new one, or echo your feather till you get to where you want to stitch your next feather.

If you prefer to stitch both petals at the same time, simply alternate sides as you move up the spine.

And that's it! You can really have fun with these and just let them flow. Don't forget to grab your sketchbook and try drawing them out first to really get comfortable before you go to the sewing machine. After you've learned the basic technique, challenge yourself to make them fit in different shapes and practice stitching them in all different directions.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out!

Happy quilting,

Kimie and Missy


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