Suzy’s question was about using stencils, so here’s my notes on tissue paper quilting guides (currently my preferred method where you can’t directly draw the quilting lines on due to dark fabrics or too many different coloured fabrics and because you can draw them up yourself).
The basic method is: trace of the guide, stick it to the quilt sandwich, follow the lines and voila – you’ve got feathers.
Without further ado here’s how it’s really done – Making and Using Tissue Paper Quilting Guides…
Before you start get your quilt sandwich started by, ironing a horizontal and vertical centre-line on the quilt top and backing, then baste the layers together (preferably by stitching or using an adhesive as it’s hard to avoid pins with feathers). This way the layers won’t wriggle when you are doing your feather quilting. You wont see basting in the photos here as I used a quilt frame which holds it in place already.
TRACE THE DESIGN
- Figure out what size feather design you want – for PP the tile blocks are about 12” so I have chosen a design of about 11” to leave a bit of wriggle room and because I can fit this on an A4 page (sort of).
- Draw or copy/print your feather design to the right scale. I scanned the design into my computer then resized it to 11″.
- Mark the centre lines onto your tissue paper, your design (on normal paper), AND onto your quilt – these are the green lines that you may see in my work-in-progress pictures here.
- Trace your design onto tissue paper with pencil – try to make this a hard/light pencil (ie H not B pencil) so it does not smudge and mark your work (although it should rub off). Mark in the centre lines in as well (I used diagonals on my square portion) to make it easier to align the stencil on your work.
NB: This time I used mauve tissue paper (the supermarket was out of white) – I suggest get a white paper or one close to the colour of your background as the may be very tiny pieces left behind where the stitching is very close together. You could mark it directly onto your fabric but this only works if you can see through it.
ATTACH THE DESIGN
- Tape and pin the stencil on to your fabric – align the centre marks on the stencil with the equivalent area on your quilt and check it looks right by eye as well. Then tape and pin the stencil to the quilt.
- I found that sticky-taping the stencil to my work, and then putting some pins in the sticky tape worked better than pinning the tape for two reasons. Firstly, it held the stencil taut so it did not move. And secondly, the pins did not rip through the paper again preventing the stencil from moving (I did forget to do this at one stage and if you have a look at the feathers here you can probably figure out where it was…).
- Set up – check your sewing tension, threads etc. You will need are darning or free motion foot for this and to drop the feed dogs on the machine to allow the quilt to move freely.
- Sew your design – Start in the middle of the design, sewing in the centre or stem of the feather and then work back to the middle putting the feathers in.
I found that a faster needle and slower hand movements worked best. This gives smaller stitches than I would normally use with free motion but gets the curves more accurate. Also, don’t anchor or lean anywhere when you are moving the work – this seemed to lead to straight lines and corners whenever I did it. Remember to start and finish with a few very small stitches to anchor the end of the threads.
Next PP-headed post will be feather quilting dos and don’ts – so don’t touch that dial :-).
PS: Remember you can also do free-form feathers with just a centre line or no markings at all (see for example Karen McTavish’s video or Carla Barrett’s blog). The style I’ve done here is for a complex pattern to fit in a certain area that for me needs a guide. Experiment your heart out baby!