My first wide stencil for a vining feather in a border! This dates way back to the early 90's, and it's probably still being made. When I used it then, I traced it and filled in the gaps with my marker, and quilted it just as it appears because I didn't know I could change things.
Later I modified it, and finally drew my own vines and feathers. But this was a great start for me, and now really looks nothing like the feathers I am quilting now, freehand. But it was great training wheels for me, and at the time I thought it the pinnacle of all things beautiful.
I think the biggest difference between these stencil feathers and my freehand ones or drawn feathers is the angle I use as the feather approaches the spine. Mine is a much more narrow angle, a long slanting take-off for each feather. I also include variations in size and scale of the individual feathers. Below, a photo of a portion of the above stencil, and then how I would change it if I were to use it now. You'll see the differences in the angles at the spine.
You can see that when the angle is less, the "flow" of the feathers is more smooth, and even the top half-circles are angled in more to the preceding feather. I did this as I quilted them, didn't bother to draw them in, and used the marked stencil design as a base or guide.
Originally, feathers were formed by tracing the top half of coins as the hills and hand quilters continued the line by eye with their quilting in a pleasant curve until it met the spine. The needle was inserted into the batt, and the next feather was begun at the top. The spine was lightly marked, and the top rounds that formed the feather tops.
The feathers on the inside curve of the stencil are very awkward looking, and although these might be trickier to learn on your own with no marking, they can look so much prettier than these with a little practice. But be warned, the inside curve is definitely a tad more difficult to do, with long curving lines to sustain and keep going, with no wobbles or straight lines. Not easy, but so worth it.
Here is a closer look at my modification of the stencil. I also always use a double spine to avoid thread pile-ups there from both sides.
If you use stencils, and now there are so many beautiful ones, you can use my echo technique on them, leaving a small space between each feather and adding one row of echoing around the outer edge, or you can machine quilt them in the traditional way by backtracking over stitching to get to the next feather. Either ways works just fine, just a matter of preference and skills.
Hope you are having fun working on feathers, although our winter is really spring, and all the snow melted so quilting is taking a rest right now.
If you are in the free motion quilting challenge with SewCalGal and have questions, please email me or use this blog to ask in the comment section. I'll try and answer so everyone gets a chance to read the answers. Good luck everyone!