Sunday, March 6, 2011

Free Motion Feather Tutorial

I thought I would demonstrate how I do free motion feathers on my home sewing machine.

I don't mark this style of free motion quilting.

My sewing machine is a Husqvarna. Any sewing machine that starts smoothly, and has good speed control will make free motion quilting easier.

I like a spring action free motion quilting foot,

with a microtex needle (any sharp needle will work - but for practicing a universal needle will do). I use a #70 for fine thread and #80 for regular sewing thread.

I set my machine to free motion spring action, but I leave the feed dogs up (for more control).

Aurifil #50 is my favorite sewing thread (for piecing and quilting), I use it when I practice and when I free motion quilt with an all over quilt design (edge to edge - E2E) on a quilt. I use #80 needle with these threads.

Invisafil (a polyester thread) and YLI silk are threads that I use for more detailed free motion quilting (like feathers). They are both 100 weight threads, Invisafil is much cheaper. You notice the backtracking less with a fine thread.

Ready to start!

Begin by pulling up the bobbin thread

and taking a few stitches to anchor the thread.

Start by positioning your hands in a comfortable position of either side of the FM foot, with your hands slightly cupped and your finger tips resting on the fabric (wearing quilting gloves makes FMQ much easier - gardening gloves or rubber gloves work in a pinch).

Make a stem (to begin with only move a couple of inches so that you don't have to reposition your hands), with a tear drop at the end. Don't look at the needle, look where you need to go (just like driving). Go slow so that you have control.

Backtrack up the one side of the tear drop to start the next lobe (or plume). If you don't move your hands, it makes backtracking easier (your hands remember the shape they just made). Aim for a nice smooth curve with a wide top.

Travel back to the stem (this photo is from the back of the machine), notice the slight "S" curve that is created, this allows for the next lobe to nestle into the previous one.

Create lobes all the way down the stem - don't worry about the sizes of the lobes - uniformity comes with practice. Notice how the lobes come into the stem at a small angle.

Backtrack up the stem to start stitching lobes on the other side. You can create lobes moving up the stem, but to start with it is easier to work down the stem.

Stitch the lobes down the stem.

Take a few stitches in one spot to anchor the thread. Finished!!

Here is a simplified diagram of the steps.

Here is a video of me free motion quilting a feather to demonstrate the speed I like to quilt feathers at -

The foot looks jumpy only because of the video


- don't turn the fabric, get used to quilting feathers in every direction (important when you work on a large quilt).

- when you are sewing normally, listen to the sound your machine makes at different speeds and how fast your hands are moving the fabric - try to remember to move your hands at the same speed for the different speeds of your machine to get even stitches when you are free motion quilting

- try for even stitches, but it is better to have stitches that are too small than too big for free motion quilting - curves will appear smoother

- go as slow as you need to (set your machine to sew slower, if you can, to begin with), look where you need to go, and relax

- if you can, set your machine to stop with the needle in the down position

- when I move my hands, I tend to move one at a time

- don't worry too much about backtracking not being perfect, normally the thread matches the fabric and it helps if the thread is finer - so it is not noticeable

- use good quality thread, fabric and batting even for practicing, to eliminate possible troubles (ever time I have used any old thread that I want to get rid of, my machine tends to act up)

- Practice, Practice, Practice!! The only real "secret"!!

I hope you give feathers a try - they are lots of fun, and easier than you might think.

Update - Feathers Part II

            - Bump-Bump Feathers

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by!!


canuckquilter said...

Thank you for this tutorial. I've just been pondering feathers and wondering how to tackle them!

Quilter3000 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Terri said...

Thanks for the tut! I've been trying different methods to use my 1950s sewing machine. (No stitch regulation.) You've given me the courage to try yet again!

Impera Magna said...

Excellent tutorial... you're really good with those feathers!

Mrs A said...

Thanks Joanne, those are really great tips, i have checked out Sally's blog, and have looked at the others before, they are such talented ladies, next time you will have say hi on your video!

YankeeQuilter said...

Thanks for the tutorial..nice job. Hope I can live up to it by making a few feathers that don't look like they just went through an oil quilting suffers from flat feathers....

Diana and LaDonna said...

Great tutorial! Really good information on everything especially the thread! I've haven't tried quilting with silk thread yet and am looking forward to it!


corina said...

Thank you for the tutorial! Hopefully with your tutorial and lots of practice my feathers will stop looking like sausages on a stick....

Myra said...

Great post/tutorial Joanne! Thanks so much!!!! I will have to refer back here when I've got something ready to try this!!! 8-)

Sheila said...

Thank you so much for the tutorial. I have the same Viking machine, so all of your detailed instructions are great! I will have to give free motion quilting a try. Have a great week.

GerryART said...

I appreciate your blog post today, I know it took time and patience to get ALL THIS INFO together and presented.
Learned a lot.
Seeing your video after reading your tutorial certainly added to a great post.
Thanks for the heads-up links to the others.

Cathy said...

Oh Joanne, thank you so much for your tutorial. First thing tomorrow morning I'm going to practice making feathers. You do such nice work. I've admired it for a while and was totally astonished that you did using a regular sewing machine. Again thanks. Hugs

Wendy said...

Nice tutorial. Lovely feather. After watching your machine, I'm positive I need a different one.


Cheryll said...

That was GrEaT..THANKS!

Joan said...

Great tutorial Joanne - its great to see how others do this isnt it...and a big thank you for the reference ... Very interesting also to see the needles and different threads. That must have taken time to put together...Appreciated! Never used invisafil.
I have completed 2 more blocks in the Quilt along...up to #14 now.

Ann J said...

Thanks for the tutorial and vidoe, Joanne, you make the feathers look so easy :-) As a 'practicing' FMQ-er, I was particularly interested to read that you keep the feed dogs up, and was wondering whether you minimise your stitch length or not in this case?........Luv Ann J

Cori said...

I was doing it all wrong and my so called feathers looked it. Tried your way and have beautiful feathers

O'Quilts said...

Great tutorial! Thx.

Nima said...

Thank you so much for this tutorial..i want to try this

weeser1 said...

This is a great blog & tutorial.Beautiful quilts. I hope to try the feathers soon.As soon as I figure out my new machine.
Thanks for sharing.

sulrossgrad (Emma) said...

Beautiful website and great feather tut.

Emma (Blissful Existence)

Unknown said...

Thanks Joanne for the tut, I've never done FMQ before, wanted to, but have been afraid to start. This is perfect, I too have a Husqvarna and you have explained it so easily. I'm inspired by the simplicity of this tut, I will use it without any fear of failure.

Aunt Cindy said...

Thanks for the great tutorial! Feathers are next on my list of things I want to do on my longarm. I quilted them once on my home machine, but I did a bunch of marking and it was before my daughter, who is almost 8, was born... :)

Unknown said...

My sewing machine is a Husqvarna. ...

Larain said...

I have only just discovered your site. Than you so much for showings the breakdown of the feather quilting. Your easy steps helped me.

Unknown said...

I am so glad that I found your tutorial. It is the first I found with my machine. I have a husqvarna viking sapphire 830. Your tips worked very fine. Thank you very much for them.

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