PP6 – Feathers by Machine: Do’s and Don’t Guide

IMG_1536_smallWithout ado, a gift from me to you. Bert

Lovely feathers with a tissue paper guide.


  • Iron a centre line through the middle of your quilt/panel before you pin anything on.
  • Mark the alignment/centre lines on both your stencils and your quilt
  • Use sticky tape and pins to hold tissue stencils in place
  • Trace onto the tissue paper with a pencil dark enough, and thick enough to see to follow the lines.
  • Check the tension in your sewing machine before you start to make sure you get beautiful sewing lines on the final product.
  • Work from the centre of the design outwards – you end up with nice curves this way.
  • Keep the quilt taut as you sew the feathers – if it’s too loose you’ll end up with puckers or at least ‘hourglassing’ of the quilt (ie the quilting resulting in a wobbly edge due to it ‘sucking in’ more of the fabric)
  • Try tone on tone thread and fabric to practice with – it still looks great even if your feathers are a bit higgledy-piggledy.
  • Match your feathers to the one you sew, rather than the one you drew.
  • Tidy up by using some tweezers to get the very fine pieces of tissue out where the stitches are close together
  • A bit of research – I love Judy Allen’s book The Art of Feather Quilting, and there’s loads of videos on You Tube and designs for free or to buy on the internet. Try searching for ‘bertcollections’ on Pinterest and you’ll find my Free Motion Quilting Board if you are looking for some inspiration.


  • Use a soft (B) pencil to trace your stencil – it smudges on the paper, on you, on your thread and your fabric.
  • Work from the outside edge of the design when stitching the feathers – it is much harder to see, ends up with more mistakes/straight lines/corners.
  • Lean on the table or your quilting frame/machine – it puts straight lines and angles in your lovely curvy feathers.
  • Panic – If your stitching goes off the lines, just make sure that when you stitch the feathers near by that they match the size and shape of the others around them – the stencil will be gone later and no-one will know about it.
  • Expect it to be perfect the first time – this is a skill to practice and enjoy so remember it is fun and don’t stress about it. You’ll be surprised how much better it looks when the paper stencil is removed after you’ve stitched the design.

For instructions on how to sew feathers using a tissue paper guide, see the earlier post, and you’ll find my posts from as I experimented with feathers again here 1, 2, 3.


About bertcollections

I began quilting, with the help of some friends, in 2005, and have been quilting ever since. In that time, I’ve completed several projects in a variety of styles and colour combinations. My approach to quilting generally doesn’t involve using a particular pattern. I tend to have a concept I want to bring to life, or find a fabric on sale somewhere that looks like it could be turned into something fun. As the photos in the 'Introductions' post show, my quilts cross a range of styles, but generally use some strong colours and shapes.
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5 Responses to PP6 – Feathers by Machine: Do’s and Don’t Guide

  1. zippyquilts says:

    Hey Bert, I just round our blog (thanks for visiting mine) and I really like the quilt in your header!

    • Thanks Zippy. I’m hoping to get to some more stylised quilts like Aotearoa Dreaming next year – there’s some ideas brewing and pictures collecting so watch this space…Bert

  2. I have not even begun to try stencils or feathers, but when I do, I will remember to check back with you – the tips are so helpful, and I checked out your Pinterest board too. Wonderful post!

    • Thanks for the feedback Textile Ranger. It’s handy to know what’s useful to my readers so I can keep the posts relevant. Should be more feather-ish quilting posts appearing in the next few weeks. B

  3. Pingback: PP6 – How to Get Ready to Quilt | bertcollections

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