I accidentally sent off all my feathers examples ahead to Grand Rapids, so I spent some time this week making new ones. That is not a bad thing to do – the new samples are “fresh” and I changed them up to reflect the most recent changes I have made to teaching “Feathers Four Ways”. I was delighted that the Bakersfield guild, the Cotton Patch Quilters of Kern Co, had enough demand to ask for a second workshop and they chose feathers!
Really ” getting” the shape of the feather into your head is key. So many videos I see basically instruct the viewer to “build a feather, now do this”. Well that’s kinda like saying “quilt as desired”. You need to get that shape in your head and coming out your needle. I’m not going over that part here, it pretty much takes a class to do that.
Besides the beauty of the feather shape, there are other key things to consider: thread, needle and surrounding fills. If your thread choice is wrong, if you’ve got needle issues or if the surrounding fills are poorly chosen, the prettiest of feathers takes a hit.
Consider surrounding motifs. Some motifs distract from the feather and some enhance it. I created this sample to make that a tangible concept:
Some of those motifs are much better than others, but of course the choice is up to you. Taking them one by one:
Random box. In each case I rotated the image 90 degrees to the left for better viewing. This one in particular has an interesting bent to it:
See those darker spots? It is more profound in real life and it creates an interesting visual texture.
Bouncing Bananas or Half Moons.
One more thing, the density of your quilting makes a difference also:
A dense fill will make the feather pop more than a loose fill will, as the above sample shows. Alternately cover up the top and the bottom of the above photo and I think you’ll see what I mean.
The surrounding motif definitely makes a difference. You make the call.
Now, on to thread. If the type of feather you quilt has doubled-stitched lines, you’ll need to choose your thread weight carefully or the doubled lines will really show:
A bit of an explanation here: the bottom numbers are the needle size on the left and the tension on the right for each thread. The above sample goes from 100 wt Wonderfil Invisifil poly thread on the left, then 3 Aurifil threads: 50/2, 28/2 and 12/2. Note that the thicker the thread, the more the backtracking shows up.
The thread spools all lined up to match the sample above, thinnest on the left.
Now a funny thing happened when I was digging through my 100 wt threads to find the best one for this example. I discovered that all 100 weight threads are not the same thickness! Lookie here:
Now this is not a scientific test, it’s an eyeball test. There is definitely a difference in thickness and I arranged them in their perceived thickness from thickest on the left to thinest on the right. They are all 2 ply as far as I could tell.
The spools lined up to match the threads above:
Also, there was a difference in sheen:
The shiniest were the left and the right, the YLI silk on the left and the Invisifil poly on the right. The Microquilter was by far the most matte.
All this is a hill of beans in most situations. But, if you want your 100 wt thread to have a wee bit more importance, then go with the YLI. If you want it hair-thin, go with Invisifil. Same goes for the most sheen: YLI and Invisifil. But you may want the thread to almost disappear then you’d choose Superior’s silk Kimono or Microquilter. I have to admit this is really minutia. I don’t care to research any of this further because all these threads are good.
One more discovery from years ago. I was quilting this piece, Emerge, when I ran out of thread right before a deadline. I was quilting with Superior Threads silk Kimono. Lo and behold I had a similar color in my Invisifil poly collection.
In a total move of desperation I tried the poly Invisifil and you could not tell the difference! How bizarre that I could not tell the difference between the silk and the poly. Bottom line, test your thread to make sure you like how it looks and then, onward!
And needles? I’ll cover needles at another time – I need to pack for Bakersfield!
What an interesting adventure that was. I’ll be linking up with Nina-Marie’s Off the Wall Friday so check out all the other links.