A little more than a year ago, I wrote about my desire to do feathers well. I have been practicing them a lot and am improving, although I still have a ways to go.
Besides Daine Gaudynski and Sally Terry, I have added Peggy Holt to my favorite feather stitchers. They each have a different take on how to make them and I think the more ways you know how, the more applications you can successfully manage.
To recap how I do feathers:
Most quilters will instruct you to feather all the way up one side of the spine and then the other. I do both sides at once. It eliminates backtracking or breaking thread and it lets you build the whole feather into the space at once. I think you get a more balanced result, too.
I think the keys to good looking feathers are making elegantly longish tapered shapes and angling them fairly steeply to the spine. I am finding that the base feathers establish how the rest of the feathers will look – so taking care to make them really well helps build the rest of the feather. If you look at what I did a year ago, those feathers tended to be stubby and round. They lacked the elegant curve that I think looks so nice.The photo below has each example marked with the corresponding number in this list.
1) I start by drawing a spine and stitching it from the top down, adding the base embellishment and ending where my first feather will start. The “top” starts actually a short ways down from where I want to end. Once I get back up there, I can decide how I will end the feather.
2) For a traditional feather, after making the base feathers, I arch out and around, hook into the first feather, backtrack around the top of the feather and then hook back down to the spine. I then repeat that on the other side of the feather. The challenge with these is the backtracking and the fact you are making a pair each time – occasionally there are spacing problems.
3) To avoid backtracking you can make a hooked feather, as Sally Terry does. Start with the same base feathers, then the next feather is slightly shorter – where it meets the previous feather you arch the second higher and away. No backtracking, but you still are making pairs.
4) Dianne Gaudynski shows that it looks good to make each feather individually, but spacing them close together. It’s that spacing that challenges me. You can see where I wobbled mightily at the last. I got distracted by something.
5) Here’s a completed traditional feather.
6) Finally there are Dream Feathers that Peggy Holt makes. These start with a base shape. You make a series of feathers arching away from and to one side of the base. These get longer and longer, because you return to the starting point each time. Then the back of the longest feather becomes the spine for the top row of the feathers. Once those feathers get long, you return to the first side. You end up with this fabulous undulating curve of feathers. She shows how to use a variety of base shapes, but I like this simple curl best.
7) Another feather application is the feather garland that I have devised (but it’s probably not original). You make one feather with its inner edge towards the middle, make another feather facing it and bit longer. When you arch around and hit the first feather, make the third feather facing the same way as the first – and so on. This works really well in narrow borders and sashing.
While Dream Feathers are ideal for borders, when arranged symmetrically, you can fill any shape with them. For today’s practice I decided to try making a block of Dream Feathers.
I started out by marking the boundaries of the area I wanted to quilt as well as the initial base shape. I also ended up marking the central rosette (not in the photo).
The feathers themselves are freehand. While they don’t exactly match up with the others, the overall effect is one of symmetry and movement.
I liked the result so much (in spite of my wobbles) that I bound it and hung it up in my studio!