Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Getting a More Interesting Look with the Custom Feather

// This post is part of the Feather Free-Motion QAL. See all of the posts here. //

In this post, I'm going to talk a lot about what I did "wrong". Or at least, wrong in my eyes. That's the great thing about quilting and other arts; we can all aim for what we personally find beautiful and work toward our own personal best. My criticisms aren't meant to make you feel negatively about your own work, if you're just starting out, because this isn't my first time trying everything!

Similarly, while I'm going to be critical about my own work, I'm also proud of it. If, however, I brought work like this to a quilt show, the quilt police would tear it about. Not gonna lie. It isn't perfect, no matter how good I think it is, and that's ok. I'm aiming for improvement, not perfection. 

I'm working on improving by critically examining 1) what looks great, and 2) what doesn't look so great, then working to make the #2 parts look like the #1 parts. So while I'm looking at Angela's examples for a guide, I'm also not beating myself up over any mistakes. I hope you're able to do the same!

This time around, I practiced with pen and paper. I generally prefer practicing/learning new FMQing patterns on an actual quilt sandwich, but feathers take up a lot of space and fabric! So I gave sketching a try. I also used a Frixion marker for any marking I might do on an actual quilt top, as well as a few marks to point things out to you guys. These markers are erasable.

In Lesson 5, Angela talked about adding off-shoots to your feather. I practiced this method with some simple, regular petals. I'm just going to show you photos and problems I ran into as I worked methodically through this feather here:

While quilting the Dyed quilt, I learned that some simple marking really helps me out. For example, when I start up the inside here, on the new teardrop shape at the intersection, it helps if I mark a dashed line. I try to quilt approximately up to that dashed line. This way, I make sure I'm leaving enough space for the feather on the other side.

Then I try to quilt right up against those petals.

I still struggle with quilting the petals as I'm working into a curve. Looking back, I see that if I had shaped this petal differently...

...more like this...

I might have had an easier time.

As I prepare to quilt the inside of this circle, I did a little marking. Now I have an idea where the center of the circle is, as well as some markings to help out with the end of the feather.

Again, as I quilt into the curve, I'm struggling a little bit. I think I started making these petals a little too long.

So I reign them back in for the rest of the circle. That works better now.

Ideally, the edges of the petals would make a nice round circle, mimicking the stem they came off of. So that still needs some practice and work!!

I'm really quite pleased with how the outside of this curve turned out:

The only part I wish I had done differently was where the two feathers split here -

I like how it looks better when those beginning petals are touching.

Now, as I started getting ready for this turn...

I realize that it isn't the prettiest shape. Angela draws her spine out in c-shapes, and I tend to draw out the main spine and then the shoot-offs, because I have an easier time visualizing where everything's going to end up. The downside of this method is that I don't always place my shoot-offs very well.

It should start farther down on the curve - like this:

Again, as I move into the curve, I struggle with knowing just how long to make those petals! It'll just take some trial and error and practice to get it right.

The end of the curve here is alright, although the petals go a little long and narrow at the end there. I'd rather have the ends of the petals create a nice curve, as I've drawn on there. After thinking about it, I might want to mark curves like that ahead of time for some guidance in the future.

Once again, I like the outside curve of the feather a lot! I have a few petals that peeked out a little too long, but generally, the outside of a curve seems to be my strength here.

So now you can see a little bit of my personal practicing process. Yes, I'm being critical. In the long wrong, despite all the "mistakes" I've pointed out, these feathers will still look great in blending thread on a quilt. I'm only being so critical so I can learn, and I don't feel badly about the way it looks. I hope that's the same attitude you're able to take with your practice!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Quiltpocalypse Now

Alright, it's time for a little highschool-style fun. Let's say there was a Quiltpocalypse. If you could only ever use the fabric from TWO designers for the rest of your life, who would they be and why? (no worries, the solids have remained unharmed)

Mine would be Carolyn Friedlander & Parson Gray. Mmmmmm I love their stuff! Both of their design styles lean masculine, with the occasional softer print, which is totally my style.

I could definitely live without quilting a super girly quilt ever again. I mean, I might miss it a little, but I could live. But never quilting a masculine quilt again? No way! I would cry some major quilty tears. And then fall over dead.


The quality and nature of both their patterns and their colors work really well together, which is hugely important.

Basically, CF + PG = 2getha 4eva, mmmmmhmmm.

So, pleeeeeease tell me - who do you think belongs together forever? Who couldn't you live without? Comment or linkup below, lovely people! And grab the button if you so desire :)


13 Spools

Sunday, October 19, 2014

FFMQAL: Practicing the Basic Custom Feather

This post is part of the Feather Free Motion QAL - for the announcement post, see here! All are welcome to join in at any time, even and especially if you've never quilted feathers before.

And just an update, one of my readers kindly pointed out that #featherQAL has been used for a QAL for Allison Glass' Feather pattern, so I've switched over to #ffmqal (feather free motion quiltalong) on Instagram. I invite you to do the same! I'd love to see what you're up to :)

Have you started practicing any quilted feathers from the first few lessons of Angela's Craftsy course? I hope so!! No need to worry if they don't look great, or if you're new at free motion quilting and have never fmq'ed feathers before, that's the whole point - learning! This week, just watch up through Lesson 5 and practice, practice, practice!

I, for one, am glad I sat down for some practice first because while I've done some feathering, certainly not enough to have built it up firmly in my muscle memory. I need much more practice! I ran through a few of her exercises from Lesson 4. First, I marked out the entire side of a feather ahead of time.

I don't worry if I'm not hitting the lines exactly, it's just a guide to help.

After that, I moved on to quilt the left side of the feather without any marking. Wow - I was really surprised to see just how much better the marked side looked! But that's ok. That's the point of practice, after all :)

Next, I tried out this echo-back feather technique from Lesson 5. It was my first time trying it and I really like the look - a bit more of a funky vibe. I did find it a little tricky, though, and had troubles getting the echo back to be a consistent width. Again, something that will come with practice (or will be less noticeable with blending thread!).

I did struggle more with petal shape/size with this particular feather version. I'm not sure whether that was due to the nature of this specific variation, or with the fact that the first petal I drew was rather short and plump. Maybe I just started off on a bad foot. I do really like how it looks, though, so I see myself working on this in the future.

On the other side, I quilted petals with the swirl variation. This is how I did all my feathers in the Dyed quilt and it's my absolute favorite feather variation. I think the swirls are just so feminine and pretty!! It satisfies my super girly side :)

Now, let's talk about some different issues that I - and perhaps you - tend to run into when I'm quilting.

- For starters, ugh I tend to get flat/boxy petals that pop in there! Still working on getting beautiful curves every time, not just most times.

- When I quilted my first feather, that very first/top petal joined the stem too abruptly and left this funky shape in the feather. It might not bother you (and that's ok! your feathers, your way), but I really don't like the way that looks.

So the next time, I made sure to "blend" my beginning petal into the stem and achieved much better results.

- Another difficulty you might encounter is getting a lovely shape at the very end of your feather. For the longest time after I started, my petals around the top were higher than the starting tear drop, which made for a very awkward feather top.

Ok, so this is a little bit exaggerated, but you get the point.

If you are having this problem, you can always do a little marking to help out. I suggest drawing two lines, like this, to give you a boundary to aim for. Of course if you're a little off, it's not a big deal.

See how much better that looks?

- And one last point of note, about your petals - when I first started quilting feathers, I noticed that the location I backtracked to/started the next petal from, as well as the angle I headed out at, really affected the look of the petals. To illustrate my point...

Above, I backtracked farther and quilted out in a nice curve. These petals look a little more separated.

And in the top petals (shown in the photo below), I didn't backtrack very far and didn't quilt out, but angled towards the stem. These petals look much smoother, so to say, and give a very different looking feather.

I decided I prefer the look of the first kind (more separated) of petals, and now I know how to aim for that shape. Try both out, purposefully shaping your petals, and see if you like the look and/or feel of one over the other.

Remember to tag any Instagram photos of your progress! I encourage you to practice and share. I'll be back on Wednesday with more feathering fun :)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Feather QAL Prizes

Guess what I bought at my local love Crimson Tate yesterday?

SEVEN yards of 108" widescreen by Carolyn Friendlander!!! It's all for my king-sized feather quilt. The white will be the top and the blue will be the backing.

It's official: I'm crazy :)

Speaking of (feathers, not my craziness), I'd like to share with you the prizes for the FMQ Feather Quiltalong. I sure hope you'll join in! I do want to reiterate that this isn't just for advanced quilters, but for any level of quilter - even brand, brand new!!

I have prizes for four very lucky people - one person will be drawn at random from the linkup, so don't feel as though you have to be an expert by any means to participate!! I will choose one winner for most creative use of feathers, and the two remaining winners will be chosen by popular vote.

Here's what each of the four winners will receive:

// A high quality, throw size batting from Hobbs //
Hobbs has graciously provided me with four battings to give away, one of each of the following: Silk, Cotton, Unbleached Cotton, and Cotton-Wool Blend. These battings are from their Tuscany Collection, intended specifically for quilt shops "and their discriminating clientele". If you thought regular Hobbs batting was good, you'll love their Tuscany line!!

// An Angela Walters free motion quilting book //
C&T Publishing has provided me with four books to give away, two of Angela's Shape by Shape Free Motion Quilting book and two of her Free Motion Quilting Workbook.

// Two 13 Spools Patterns //
I'll be sending two PDF patterns to each winner - my Fire & Ice pattern and my soon-to-be-released Mod Blocks pattern.

The next post will be up sometime tomorrow! I, for one, can't wait to start my big feathers project, but am definitely going to start on some practice pieces. Diving into a king-sized quilt cold turkey is a level of craziness beyond what I'm currently capable of :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Alright folks. I've finally done it - gone and joined Instagram. You can find me @ 13spools, if you would like to follow me. I just have a measly four photos up at the moment, so don't expect too much yet!

And now I want to know where I can find you! Comment on this post with your username so I can follow you and see all the fun sewing things you are up to :)