I am passionate about teaching free motion quilting-I really want anyone interested to know that they CAN quilt their own work! I am always looking for motifs and projects that help beginners feel competent and to put them on the road to loving free motion quilting.
Ferns are surprisingly easy to quilt, definitely in the realm of possibility for anyone with a bit of free motion quilting experience. I’m going to walk you through the process of how to quilt this delightful motif. But first, here’s why you might want to learn:
I added a fern to my “Morning Breeze” because I do have ferns in the shady areas of my lot-and because I just love to quilt them!
I featured them prominently in my “Mom’s Lily Bed” because her lily bed had lilies and ferns. I guess I really do have a love of ferns!
The best way to learn these is to draw them until you’re comfortable, THEN quilt them. Just follow along step-by-step below and you’ll be on your way to adding ferns to your projects!
Okay so let’s start. Ferns can be inserted into odd shapes or in a border. For simplicity I will show them in a border setting. The first step is to mark the center of the border so that you can quilt in the spine of the fern.
Marking is a whole issue unto its own. Choose a method that will leave clear marks that can be easily removed. Also, keep in mind that it’s harder to quilt this on a bigger scale-start out with a border of less than 4″. Three inches is ideal.
Anytime I do feathers, ferns or anything with a spine, I pull out my Wave Edge ruler. It just makes it so dog gone easy to draw in the spine. If you do feathers or ferns at all, you’ll want one of these. I lay it down atop my marked center line so that it straddles the line evenly on both sides.
Now the spine is ready to be quilted. I am very opinionated-I like a double-sided spine. If you choose a single line spine you may end up with a “centipede” look.
Ever notice at shows that the feathers on quilts with a single spine look snakey/centipede-like from afar? That’s because you need that gap down the spine’s center to avoid that thready look. A double spine will fix that.
Start to free motion quilt the right side of the spine about 1/8″ or so away from the marked center. You may mark it but I usually just go ahead and stitch it without marking. If you keep your eyes on the distance between the center and the line you are stitching, it is more likely to be even. Really. If you look at your needle you are much more likely to be herky jerky.
Each side of the spine is a separate pass: start the right side, stitch all around the quilt and end upon the place you began, break thread. Then do the same thing for the left side.
DO NOT STRESS about the spine being perfect. When it’s all stitched with the frond part, your eye will be magically drawn to the tips and you will not notice the less-than-perfect spine. Really. I have an example at the end of this post.
Finally, we get to start the fronds! See that line I’ve drawn? You are going to be doing that same motion over and over. It’s a “lazy s”. Or some like to think of it as “start with a v up and away from the spine, turn right and then turn left”. Get that shape in your head and draw it until it’s pretty.
Echo that shape back to the spine. Notice how the end of the second pass “tucks” back into the spine? That’s important.
Let’s do it again. Same motion, same shape.
Echo that pretty little thing back to the spine and “tuck him in”.
Just keep doing this. If your angle gets off, just correct it on the next one.
The motion and sound of your machine is a quick little run to the tip, nano second pause, quick little run back to the spine, nano pause, quick little run to the tip, nano pause, quick little run back to the spine, nano pause.
Now, this is just me, but I like to throw in a rogue frond. If you want to do this, have one curve back over the others, then echo him back.
Oh, another rogue guy! Let’s have him curve down. You have permission to run your lines over each other! That’s what rogue fronds do!
Now I’m back to “normal” fronds.
I’m loving this. Funny thing is I can quilt them better than I draw them and many students are the same. But remember-draw these over and over until you’re comfortable, then quilt them. Life is so much easier that way!
You will continue filling in the right side until you meet back at your beginning frond; then break thread.
Now let’s start the left hand side. I am right handed and the left hand side is more difficult. You will find that one side is harder than the other. This is true for everyone! Don’t worry about that-it will come.
Quilt a similar path on the left hand side, all the way around until you meet your first frond again and break thread. Keep that pretty little shape and angle. If you get off just correct it on the next frond.
Don’t rip out a frond just because it’s not perfect-keep going-it will blend in. Remember, frond lines can run over each other-it’s allowed! Remember to “tuck” the ends of the frond back into the spine.
I showed the left hand side with all “normal” fronds so that you could have a better idea which kind you like better.
And just to prove my point I made this sample. Look closely and you will see that the spine is tortured with uneven stitches and a jerky path. Also, especially in the upper portion, the stitching is not even at all. But I think it looks pretty good! By choosing a thread color that is close in value to my fabric, the imperfections are well disguised, kinda like Spanx for your quilting!
Key Point here: If the tips of your ferns are pretty, your eye will not notice imperfections along the frond or spine.
The way I got the tortured fronds was by going slowly. You want this stitching to be quicker than say a stipple. With a stipple you have to think about where you are going. With this pretty little thing, you know your shape. To get that pretty curve, go a little faster.
Enjoy and let me know how it goes! I linked this up to Nina Marie’s blog’s Off the Wall Friday.