Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Feathers on One Side Only!

I have been looking at the FMQ Challenge results that many of you have posted, and they are fabulous!  There are feather plumes everywhere, all over the world, looking individual, unique, lovely.

Practicing drawing, quilting, going back, trying again, all of you worked so hard and came up with some spectacular results.  The best thing?  You are quilting them already in your quilts. 

They look terrific, and of course, the more you do, and keep at it, and try new things with them, the easier they will be, the better they will become.  Try different threads and needles.  It's always fun to experiment, and yes, it is a process, a journey, and seeing improvement so quickly does keep you going.  I am really happy so many of you are doing quite well with this tutorial.

The echo quilting background I did is more difficult and takes a long time to do.  Simple echoes that repeat the design are easier, with more spacing.  If you use a contrast color thread that shows for the feathers, choose one that matches background for echoes or other background design so the feathers are highlighted, and your "oops moments" in echoes are not as obvious.  But echo quilting is a fabulous technique to learn, so keep at it, love seeing your results.

The hardest thing in doing echo quilting is having good visibility in your home sewing machine.  Some machines make it truly difficult, others are great because of the foot placement, no big thumb screws or added hardware getting in your line of vision.  Big thick plastic feet are hard to see around, as are feet that are not offset from the central post but block your view at "noon."

Time for another idea for your feathers.

The photo, above, is a variation of the feather plume that you can try.  It works placed around anything, other designs, applique, open spaces. 

I used the Perfect Spiral tool by Anita Shackleford at www.thimbleworks.com to trace the spiral lines that became the spines of the feathers as they radiate outwards.  I only traced one line, quilted it out from the base at the echoes around the pile of Headbands (directions in my Quilt Savvy book).  Then at the outer edge, and just as in the spine in the tutorial, I echoed it back to my starting point and then feathered it.

It's easiest to feather on the outside curve, the edge that is like the outside edge of an inflated balloon.  Here I quilted on the left side of the spine and it was the Dreaded Inside Curve, but it is so gentle it is not a problem. This side can be tricky and more difficult as so many of you found. 

This design lets you quilt on either side, pick your "best" side and do that. If you found it was always hard to do one side, but the "other" side was good, pick that side and quilt it in this design. 

You can also quilt this design in plumes, so each line has feathers emerging from it.  Be sure and double the spine so you don't get thread pileups going to a single stitched line.

The feathers also fill the background space, no need for any other quilting that can be so tedious. 

I loved reading someone saying that she decided to quickly add a few more feathers as it decreased the amount of echo quilting!  Something I discovered years ago too.....:-)!

The center part could be an applique, and actually this spiral technique was devised by Anita as an applique block background.  Feathering it is just a way to make it more interesting and give more excitement to the central area.

You could divide a border space with these curves and do areas of this design like a fractured design.  It would not be difficult, it would give you areas to quilt and take a break, and would look new and fresh and interesting.

Yes, you can use straight lines for this if you like, but the soft curves  look so flowing and natural.  And yes, you can sketch these yourself without a tool, give it a try.

Straight lines would be perfect to give an architectural look or more geometry to the feather design. 

The lines control and contain your feather shapes.  You have boundaries for your feather exuberance!  Here you quilt the feathers to fill the space, so deciding on how big to make them is so easy, and they graduate nicely in size too.

I'll keep checking your results on SewCalGal's blog, and ....

Keep quilting!  Your work really does get better every day!


Erica said...

Thank you so much for the post. You are an inspiring teacher and quilter.

Helen said...

Once again thank you for your wonderful post, as usual so very informative. One of the things I find most difficult is not to turn the quilt whilst stitching. In recent years I have kept mainly to smaller quilts which can easily be turned but I am wanting to make a very special large quilt so I need to be able to stitch in all directions and I am having no end of trouble.

Diane Gaudynski said...

Thanks Erica!

Helen, when I began free motion quilting I knew I would be doing it on quilts that could not be turned in the machine so I always practiced or quilted smaller things and only turned them a few degrees, this way or that, so I could see better.

If there are designs that can be done well in a certain direction in a large quilt I definitely package the quilt, place it so I am working on those designs in the best possible positioning. Then I can re-package the entire quilt and go on. Small turns and tweaks work, but yes, you have to learn to simply quilt in all directions and not turn the quilt.

If you turn it in practice, then when you do a large quilt you will be inexperienced at quilting this way and it will be difficult. If you never turn the quilt, you will become a whiz and be able to do bed quilts with ease and expertise.

I know it's hard but it will get easier every time you quilt.

Janet said...

"pile of headbands" - is that what that filler's called? That's pretty much my "go to" pattern. Being able to do the half feather around it is FABULOUS! Thanks so much!

The Nifty Stitcher said...

Diane, I would like to thank you for your fabulous feather tutorial. I have been machine quilting for nearly a year. Something clicked into place and I can do 'proper' feathers now. I am so pleased and can't wait to start incorporating them into full size quilts :)

Diane Gaudynski said...

Janet, I called that design "headbands" in my Quilt Savvy book and in my classes. I know it has lots of other names too, but the basic shape to me looks just like one of those plastic headbands we wore in 4th grade.

Nifty Stitcher, so glad something did click and it's going well!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for these continuing feather posts - the icing on the cake of the challenge tutorial! This has been so inspiring and the feathers do get better as I concentrate on tear drop shape, curve the line back down to the spine, etc. All of your advice is so practical and no detail is left out! My biggest issue right now is trying to maintain the same stitch length as the feather when echoing it - my natural tendency seems to be to create much tinier stitches in the echoes. Time and lots more practice will help I'm sure.
Pat in Oregon

Diane Gaudynski said...

Pat, glad it is all helpful. It is most common to have smaller stitches in the echo quilting. That's because you are slowing your hands down and really concentrating on this, so my advice is to slow down the machine too. You know the sound of it as you do the feathers, so shift it down one gear, from 40 mph to perhaps 25 mph when you echo. You do not quilt at one speed for everything!

As you get better at echo quilting you will find you are naturally going faster so the machine will go faster to keep up with your hands.

Let your hands lead, and adjust the machine speed to them. In time this will all be natural and you won't have to think about it at all. Plus, there will always be stitch variation; we are not digitized. HTH!

Anonymous said...

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your tutorials! I am on the othert side of the world, in Thailand, in a small city on the beach. I am also a mother of 12, with six still at home,so try as I might,I won't likely ever attend a regular class or workshop. But thanks to your excellent tutorial and the added posts, I am happily quilting all sorts of feathers now. You deserve that best teacher of the year award, your explanations are so clear and easy to follow! Thank you again for giving me and others the opportunity to benefit from your teaching!
Your cat is too funny, by the way!

from thehappygreenfrog.wordpress.com

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the continuing feather posts and hints in your comments. This is more like a week long workshop than a tutorial.

Diane - yarngoddess

Diane Gaudynski said...

You are all so welcome! It has been a pleasure doing this, and seeing the results, all the way around the world too. Happygreenfrog, so glad I could help you with this "class" online, your post really made me smile.

monica said...

Digita il testo o l'indirizzo di un sito web oppure traduci un documento.
Hello Diane, my name is Monica and I wanted to thank you for your great tutorial and for your valuable suggestions! I'm trying again and again to the feather quilting, but for now are not very well. Adjust the speed of hand and foot is not easy for me that I have often used the BSR. And it's hard not to turn the quilt! Soon as I carried a little more 'I'll post the photos. Thanks again for your time and excuse my bad English!

Marlene @ KISSed Quilts . com said...

I quietly follow your work....it is beautiful and inspiring.


I've just awarded you a 'Versatile Blogger Award'! Thank you for inspiring me and so many others.

Mary Ann said...

I purchased your insightful books after participating in Harriet Hargrave's fmq classes. Your work is a feast for the eyes and your books are a wealth of practical information. Thank you for helping me begin on the path to being the machine quilter I always wanted to be. I had no trouble drawing a sketch of what I wanted to paint with thread on the fabric, but the direction to travel confounded me once I got to the machine. The lighter weight thread and small needle were also a change from my typical 30w with 90/14. What would you advise to improve these challenges? Thank you so much! My blog post of your echo feather: http://rocknquilts.blogspot.com/2012/02/sewcalgal-2012-fmq-challenge-february_12.html

Diane Gaudynski said...

Using the BSR is absolutely fine. It gives you the even stitches without having to stress over that. Many who love the Bernina BSR will use it forever; and many learn to quilt with it and then forge on without it and find it becomes even easier, and they automatically now can get even stitches because the BSR trained them well.

Mary Ann, I looked at your quilt sample, and you are having a problem with direction of the feathers. You don't have a top and bottom of the plume and have had to improvise by turning the feathers in the wrong direction to resolve them. Try one like I showed until you get the feel of how they should form. Then branch out and do a plume like you did. Also, the top part of each teardrop feather is too straight; try tapering it down as it goes back to the spine for a more graceful look. But all in all, a super start!

I think you will all find that a finer thread and needle really helps your expertise. Learn with a fine cotton thread, become comfortable quilting each new motif or technique, and then try different threads for effect: heavy threads are more like embroidery and require larger stitches, decorative or variegated shiny threads look great and are fun to try, and very fine threads as I use (#100 silk) require smaller stitches and give an incredibly refined result.

Whenever you switch threads, tension is usually affected on top, so adjust until you get a soft lovely stitch, not pulled tight. Even with metallics or heavier top threads, the #50 Aurifil cotton works so well in the bobbin, and once the tension in the bobbin is good you rarely have to worry about that.

I am bowled over with all the results posted on SewCalGal's blog - you are all amazing!

Heather Vitella said...

Hi Diane,

Thank you for the detailed tutorial you have provided us for the FMQ challenge. My feathers have improved drastically and I feel much more confidant about including them on my quilts. Your tutorial was easy to follow and helped guide the way to better quilting!!!

Thanks, Heather Vitella

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Diane, for the tutorial on feathers. I did a tablerunner today with feathers. Without your post for the FMQ Challenge I probably never would have attempted it. I was so pleased with how it turned out--not perfect,but a good start. Thank you!!

Dinny said...

Dear Diane, THis is from the French quilting desert lady of a few years ago. Thank you mille fois for your tutorials I got from Sewcalgal. Since I can do only the basics on the computer, I can't post a photo of my latest, but you can be sure your influence is behind all what I do, in spite of little cutting remarks about machine piecing and quilting from one really conservative person in my guild! I do wish I could find some solutions for tension problems, even though I do everything you say-changing plates, needles, Aurifil thread, feathers, etc. Sometimes I can see that the top thread is pulled to the back but yet lies so flat on the top. I like to free motion quilt the design on tissue paper-would that be the problem? Thank you again, how I wish I could attend one of your classes. Dinny Wolff

Diane Gaudynski said...

Thanks everyone, glad the information has helped. Then it takes repetition, analysis, and re-trying with tweaks until you are happy, and feel comfortable quilting feathers.

Dinny, yes I do remember you! I am glad you are having success, and the tension problem could be the tissue. If the top thread is pulled to the back it could be that you lowered the top tension too much, but more likely is that the bobbin tension is simply too tight.

Try holding the bobbin case by the thread as it comes out - it should pull easily, and when you hold it should feel as if it is ready to drop but doesn't.

If it drops as you hold it by the thread, it is too loose. If it is difficult to pull through the opening on the bobbbin case (out of the machine) it is too tight. Loosen it a bit, try again until the stitch is balanced. Even a tweak will help a lot. The trick is to adjust one tension, top or bobbin, at a time so you know what is causing the change in the stitch.

This is something I do with students' machines in class until we get things "just right." It's hard to describe but is something most everyone can do.

Every now and then I find a machine that will not respond and needs the attention of a service tech.

Hope this helps, and I hope to post some more info on feathers soon. Had an emergency, am just about recovered, but haven't been quilting or blogging.

Carole Titsworth said...

Dear Diane,
I am sorry to hear you haven't been feeling well, hope you continue to recover. I have enjoyed your tutorials on the feathers, and have been working on my quilting thanks to your inspiration. I was fortunate to take a class from you here in Mich last summer, but due to family needs haven't done much until recently. I have pledged to do the SewCalGal's yearly tutorials, but find your books at my machine and your blog as my "go to". Just wanted to say thanks for such detailed help. My quilting is improving, have a way to go though.
Carole T.

Maggi said...

Thank you so much for your wonderful contribution to the FMQ challenge. You have removed my fear of feathers. Your tutorials are so clear and full of inspiration.

Ivory Spring said...


You are such a great teacher. I will have to try this one out!!!!