Way back when, about 10 or more years ago, I began quilting freehand feathers with the "echo" technique, leaving a small corridor or space between each feather, and echoing once around the finished design to tie it all together.
I still love quilting them this way, although longer thin "finger feathers" as in the design above, are a tad difficult to do in a home machine. Moving the quilt smoothly and keeping that space even isn't easy, but you do develop the skill with repetition and conscious effort. Concentration is the key, and then it becomes a non-thinking task, more of a muscle memory.
The photo above shows a portion of a small design/quilt I drew, traced, and then quilted with this technique. If you find it too difficult to do feathers with no marks, then try drawing your own, tracing them to your quilt, and quilting them with the technique. Quilt on the line for the feather, but echo it back up to the top until you reach the marked top of the next feather, then quilt on that line. Remember to echo the outside tips of the feathers as the finishing touch.
You can also use stencils and quilt them this way.
In my designs I include fat rounded feathers, long thin ones, feathers that look a bit like real bird feathers with hardly any variation in the width, large and small feathers. It makes the design interesting to combine a variety of sizes especially, but even shapes. Don't go overboard on this or it will look very busy and distracting.
The complete design, below, is still one of my favorites. The good thing about drawing a design is you can tinker with it and get it so it looks right before proceeding to mark and quilt it. Also, you have it in your drawer of designs to use again and again.
Note the two plumes I added at the bottom to balance the design. Fun! The main design was begun with the urn, then I added a branched spine. Now, I would only draw that much, and quilt the feathers freehand, spontaneously, but at that time I drew them all and traced them.
I am better at quilting them now, but any feathers, at any time, beginner or advanced, give beauty, movement, elegance, charm to your quilts.
Enjoy your feathers, keep working at them, add them to other designs to keep up your skills.
FMQ Challenge members, good luck in March! You will enjoy Ann's tutorial.
Keep quilting! Your work gets better every day,