November 26, 2010

Free Motion Quilting Designs: Vines and Feathers

Vines and feathers are sisters. That's good for me, because while I'm pretty comfortable with vines I've never quilted feathers. I won't pretend that this is a comprehensive lesson in feathers, but it's a fun introduction to thinking about different ways to form them. I think of vines (and feathers) as anything that involves decorative designs placed to either side of a central line. There are many things that can change the look of vines.

The spacing of the leaves

Straight or curved spine

Tapering or not.

Leaves mirrored or alternating

There are exactly one billion possibilities for the "leaves". Here's eleven of them.

 And you can stick other things on the vine for interest as well.

Simplest possible vine:  Make an arc (not too curved). Come back with a smaller arc to form a leaf. (You can also add a center vein detail at this point if you like as well). Then start a new arc in the other direction. It can go on forever! Vary the leaf size and spacing as you like.

Instead of putting the leaves on the outside of the curves as above, you can instead nestle them in the inside curves. Here I drew a second spine over the first when I was done to make it look less choppy. This was the first vine I learned to stitch. I think it's so sweet.

Simplest possible feather:  Starting from the center, make a lobe. I think of it like I'm drawing half a heart from the bottom up, only somewhat exaggerated. Stop just above where you started. Then start a new lobe on the other side. Likewise, this design can go on forever. It might take a while to get used to drawing upwards from the bottom of the design to the top but you will get the feel for it.

If you have a curvy feather in a column or border you can keep your leaves roughly balanced, or you can stretch the leaves all the way to the border.

The feathers above have an implied spine, but you can draw the spine in as well. Here is a single feather. You would start by drawing the spine, then down one side and up the other. Continue the line on to start your next feather or design.

Double feathers are fun. Draw a spine and come down one side. Then go back up that side tracing a bit away from what you've already done. At the top follow around to go down the other side, then come back up the outside again. Continue on to make your next feather or design.

You can also stitch feathers around an entire border, drawing first the spine, then one side, then the other, and doubling them if you like. Dolly, a real live Free Motion Quilt Along participant just raced ahead of the class and cranked out a great first time feather border right here, with a nice description of how she did it.

I'm pretty sure there are other feather variations but it hurts my head a little to try and think about them. If you want to stitch feathers, I know you won't be surprised that my advice is to draw them over and over and over. It will take practice to get those curves nice and lush, and to feel comfortable on both sides of the feather. 

So, how about cracking open that quilting journal and sketching some vines and feathers?

See more Free Motion Quilting designs and tips on the Free Motion Quilting page.


Sheila said...

this is a great tutorial on quilting vines and feathers, i really want to do this but need to practice before i do it on an actual quilt

Suzanne said...

Wow! I had never really realized how closely related those shapes were. Good teachers, like yourself, build self esteem when they say, "If you can do (this), then you can do (that)." Hurray for all of your readers, myself included.

Gene Black said...

Ahhh.. I need to get back to the machine and get to work. Great lesson, thanks for your work and sharing.

Elsa said...

I've been practicing but still shaky with my designs, it feels all out of control. But I'm doing it, which is the point. Right?
thanks so much for all the work you put into doing the tutorials and then posting them on your blog. I'm inspired every time I read one!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this! I'm gonna try these. I especially like the holly leaves for a border!

Dana Gaffney said...

Wonderful, I really like the vine you learned first, it is sweet and just has something extra that I like.

Dolly said...

Thank you for this post, Christina.......I just love the vine with the leaves within the curve. You just HAVE to know that I'm going to be using THAT one, too.
You are so sweet to link to my blog on the feathers that I tried. I would never have had the nerve to try it without your hard work bringing us this quiltalong. You've changed my life, literally ! Thank you so much !

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