Sunday, January 29, 2012

FMQ Challenge Feather Plume Part 2

Thanks for all your enthusiasm and comments about my upcoming tutorial for SewCalGal's Free Motion Quilting Challenge!  I know many taking part are beginners, and also many are experienced quilters, so I had to aim for all levels in my explanation of quilting a feather plume.

The sample, above, is done with #100 YLI silk thread on silk dupioni, Hobbs wool batt, and I made it about 10 or more years ago when I first started quilting feathers freehand after years of drawing and tracing my own feather designs, and before that using stencils. 

It still looks fine.  I would do it a bit differently now (the spacing on the spiral at the base of the spine is too close, should have more puff to make it stand out from the background), but don't be afraid to learn this technique and use it right away on your quilts.  The only way you'll improve and be smooth and confident is to quilt tops.  Repetition on a real quilt is the key.

Some things we should remember:

Feathers are unique to the quilter, but they do have some basic things in common.

The "flow" of the feather or elegance is based on the angle that is formed as it touches (yes, it must touch) the spine, or central line.  My feathers have a narrow angle, maybe about 20 degrees or less, depending on the curve of the spine.  You will find many stencil feathers come to the spine at a much bigger angle, more than 45 degrees.  I call this angle the "tilt" of the feather and like to keep mine very tilted.  I'll try and find a stencil that has chunkier feathers for you to see, and show it in a future post.

I include both long, fat, thin, large and small feathers in a plume to make it look more interesting and natural.  It's not necessary to do this if it is easier for you to make them all the same, but many quilters like the "no restrictions" of feathers in all sizes.

Avoid straight lines.  If there is one straight line in 40 feathers, the eye will go right to that.  Always try and curve the lines gently, not abruptly.  It sounds easy, but all of us tend to see "home" and head straight towards it.  In my tutorial there is one straight line feather - you'll probably see it right away, but I left it in and continued.

The echo space between each feather needs to be very consistent and even, as if you have a twin-needle in the machine.  This looks really hard, but in reality it is a resting time as you quilt, as you don't have to think about where you are going. 

A nice medium speed is good; too fast and you get out of control, too slow and the line isn't smooth.  Look ahead of the needle, create the space and make that even.  Don't look at the stitches.

There will always be some "odd" feathers in your design.  Don't worry about them!  With all the swirls and curves, one strangely shaped feather won't stand out.  If they are all strange, perhaps you have invented an entirely new design.....!

If you quilt one side of the feather better than the other, start on the good side first the next time.  Take a break, just a few minutes, before doing the second side, and really think about where you want to quilt, the shape you will make.  Concentrate!

It's ok to stop, needle down, take a breath, then proceed.  This isn't quilting where your life or income depends on it; this is fun.  It will go faster as you get better and more experienced.

Be very careful when you resume quilting, start slowly so the needle doesn't jump to a new spot.  I usually begin by raising the needle and then starting so I'm sure the needle is in the right place.  On my Bernina I do this by touching my heel to the foot control - needle is raised, or lowered with that action.

Make small plumes for practice, with a spine about 5" long.  Make several.  Take a break, start a new practice sandwich, then make some more.   If you do one incorrectly and then try a new one next to it, your eye will see the bad one and reproduce it one more time.  Get a new sample so you start fresh.

Remove thread tails so they don't get in the way or distract you.

When you reach the spine don't keep running the machine if you are not sure where to go next.  A knot of thread will build up top or back or both in about 3 stitches, so stop the machine, readjust hands, figure out your plan, then proceed.

I hope these tips will help you, even if you are not in the Challenge.  Quilting feathers is a beautiful thing, something that not only is relaxing but also fills your quilts with lovely designs and gets them finished before you know it.

Snow here in Wisconsin, beautiful flocked trees, blue skies and sun.  Time to quilt!


Bianca said...

Thank you for these clear instructions. I just bought your 2nd book last week to learn myself more elaborate quiltdesigns. And yesterday I accidentaly came across "the challenge". Perfect timing.
Although I don't take part in the challenge, I will follow all the intrution-video's and all your tips and trics here.
So, while the snow is coming here too (in the Netherlands) it's a great time to quilt!
Thanx again.

Andrea R said...

I can't wait for this - I've been practising on paper first, just to get the "flow" of it. It really helped.

I wanted to second the recommendation for the Aurfil thread on the orange cone. My local quilt shop owner recommended it as the best, and it is just so wonderful to work with.

And I have a quilt all set to go, since I practised my feather already. The recipient loved my practise attempts at feathers so that takes away the pressure of getting it perfect on this quilt. :D

Danih03 said...

I just checked out your gallery of quilts on your websites. My 2 favorites are Orphan Feather Star and Roses in Blue. I like the minimal piecing. Don't get me wrong, I think an intricately pieced quilt is nice too, I just don't want to do all that piecing myself. I'd rather get to the quilting! It gives me hope that I can too, one day, enter a quilt in a show, and not have to piece it to death!!! =] I have never entered in a show, or made so many quilts for that matter, but it is a goal I have.Can't wait for your tutorials!

Sue Halter said...

Diane, looking forward to February's Feathers! Will you be showing us how to do the background fill as well as the feathers? I am such a FMQ novice!

Helen said...

I have been quilting now for a few years and following your advice I try to practice on a very regular basis and consequently my quilting has improved no end. I still find though that I cannot completely relax especially if I'm doing a large quilt also I would like my stitching to be a little more even. One last thing when prewashing quilt fabrics should one also wash the batting, I use Hobbs wool or silk.

Diane Gaudynski said...

Bianca, good luck with your quilting; I hope the book combined with the blog will help you learn.

Andrea, practicing drawing and quilting really gives you confidence and expertise. People know they should, but don't, but just "settle" for whatever happens. Don't settle; work at this, analyse what is working, what isn't, and try to improve, even if only YOU can see it. I bet your finished quilt will be great.

DanihO3, I like very simply pieced graphic designs, not a zillion pieces and fabrics, although that is how I began. My first quilts were all scrappy, no place for quilting. I was considering NOT making anymore quilts when I discovered antique quilts and used them for inspiration. Lots of space devoted to hand quilting around a strong focal point, love it. Hope you can find a way to do what you like as well.

Sue, no backgrounds from me. You'll have to do what you already know, or save the space for trying out an upcoming design you will learn as tutuorials keep on coming! Mine would have become a small book had I also done a background. On the tutorial I did not quilt a background so you can see the feather alone, and plan on your own background later, what you think will set it off nicely.

Helen, I don't pre-wash my batting. I like what happens when the quilt is finished, and it is washed and the batting crinkles just a bit and gives a bit more "old" look and puffs up the areas in designs too. If a batt is washable, then you certainly can pre-wash it to keep all shrinkage minimized and have more control over the quilt when it is done and washed. I say experiment, use whatever system you like.

It takes awhile to relax as you quilt. It took me years. I always felt tense. I don't know when it happened but I do recall suddenly knowing I wasn't tense,but I was relaxed, and the quilting was going better than ever. It will come, and a relaxed quilter does get nice even stitches. It all works together.

matate10 said...

When I first started quilting feathers, I practiced on the charity quilts at my quilt guild. It was a real quilt, but not a family heirloom, so I was less stressed about the outcome, but anxious enough to try hard. Practicing new designs on the charity quilts was the best thing that ever happened to my quilting!

Kay Lynne said...

I will be looking forward to your tutorial. I am one of the experienced quilters that is participating in the quilting challenge. Your feathers are really beautiful! Thank you for being one of the teachers :)

susan said...

Can't wait to see your tutorial and learn from you starting tomorrow! Thanks for participating in this challenge -- I am so grateful to learn from you again!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the great tut at SewCal Gals! I printed it off, as I will be reading,reading and reading more I have always stitched in the ditch and have a hard time with my hands moving the fabric without pain. Beautiful work by the way!!

Ana Buzzalino said...

Thank you very much Diane for the tutorial. I've signed up for the challenge, and was so pleased to see you were one of the instructors. I love your work, and have admired your feather work for years and years. I also like the way you work the echo quilting in the background. Do you have a tutorial for that too I could learn from?
I am still holding to my dream of taking a class with you some day.
Thanks again for your work and thorough instructions.

Joan said...

I am such a fan of yours. I have both your books and have learnt so much from them. I have so many samples here, that I almost forget where I have put them all :) I am also doing the Quilt Challenge that SewCalGirl has organised - and I am so pleased that your tutorial is there for all of us.
I would really love to know where you would recomend to get the dupioni silk to quilt on. I am currently quilting a WCQ on cotten Sateen - I am never quite sure what fabric is best to sew on.
I use YLI silk thread in the top and Aurifil thread in the bobbin.
Thank you for being so inspirational.

Maggi said...

Thank you so much for your tutorial, so well explained and with lovely clear photos. Once I have my practice samples done I intend to try these out on a real quilt that is waiting in the wings.

Anonymous said...

Thank you sew much for participating in Sew Cal Gal's free motion challenge. Although I'm not participating, I couldn't help but go through your instructions -- I knew I would learn something additional. I spent some time today having fun doing feathers your way and find it much easier to sew additional feathers off the back of other feathers, go off in a different direction, surround an applique with little or big feathers -- I had previously been doing a bounce off the top of each feather or retracing the spine of the previous feather. I love my Bernina even more. Your way is so much better that I had to stop and say thank you!
Diane in Illinois

Diane Gaudynski said...

Joan, your feather is stunning! You really did a fabulous job going through the process to the final result, beautiful.

Maggi, yes put them on a real quilt as soon as possible, you will be very happy I promise.

Diane, it sounds as if you are having so much fun playing with this technique; I am so glad it is working for you!