Rulerwork for Beginners Series, Part 8: Feathers

This is an exciting month, as everyone wants to be able to quilt feathers. Whether you are a novice or an experienced quilter you can perfect feathers using rulers!

We are going to stitch four large feathers that will create a large center motif. Let’s take a look at the Roadmap. Our design will look similar to this.

There are a lot of different rulers to create feathers, but I will be using the Good Measure Every Feather template set and the Every Feather Spine template to create our feathers.

Begin by marking horizontal and vertical centering lines all the way to the edge of the block. Measure in 1 3/4″ from the edge on each line and place a mark. Connect the marks creating a square on point.

Before we begin our feathers, I want to point out there are 2 parts to each feather. A spine and plumes. We will start with the spine. The spine may be stitched free motion but if you want a consistent look for this motif you may need to consider a ruler to make the spine. This design depends on a 6” spine.

Begin at a corner with the 6” side of the spine ruler facing out. Lay marked centerline on the 6” side of the Good Measure Every Feather Spine Ruler on the diagonal line marked on the fabric. The curve faces out.

Stitch to the end of the ruler, stopping with the needle and foot down. Swing the ruler around so the curve will go to the inside.

Stitch to the marked centerline or the point of the square.

Turn the ruler so the centerline is on the marked line and the curve is to the inside. Continue down the second side pivoting the ruler.

Continue stitching on all four sides of the square. You now have the spine for your feathered design.

The spine shape is pointed at the top and bottom and slightly rounded at the sides. We will stitch four feathers stating at the side of the shape. Two feathers will meet at the top and two will meet at the bottom. Before we start, let’s look at some feather basics. Read through the directions and then you may want to practice this before you go to the block so that you have a good understanding of how this works. Or practice with the written instructions that come with the rulers.

You have four rulers in the Every Feather Ruler Set. Two rulers stitch plumes to the right and two stitch plumes to the left, so you have five sizes of plumes. What size plum you stitch is up to you. I like to vary the sizes of the plumes as I like a more organic feather.

But because our first plume will be to the inside and we only want it to come to the center marked line, we will start with the small plume.

For sake of instruction, let’s start on the upper left quadrant of the block and stitch the inside plumes first, so we will be using the right side plumes.

Begin on the stitched spine about 1/2″ up from the beginning. Position the smallest plume so that the horizontal marked center line on the square is about 1/4″ inside the bottom of the plume.

Stich the plume from the bottom up over the top, ending on the spine. The rest of the plumes will be stitched from the top of the ruler down and around and they will be done in pairs. These are done like “bump back” feathers.

Stitch up the spine about 1/4″ – 1/2″.

The next plume can be the same size or a different size. Position the ruler so that you can see the top of the first plume, at least 1/4″ inside the ruler.

Stitch around the top until you have stitched to the line of the first plume.

Stitch back on the same line, just around the curved end.

Slide the ruler up, adjust the angle if desired, and stitch from this point up and around the plume and back to the spine. (Now you know why this is called a “bump back” feather.)

Stitch up the spine a little way, about 1/2″ and repeat the same process to stitch two more plumes. You can vary the plume sizes, even changing the size of the second plume in a set of plumes. You may want to vary the angle of the plumes. Always stitch up the spine a little between sets of plumes.

When you get to the top, you will want to keep the plumes small as they will once again only be stitched to the vertical centerline leaving room for the other inside plume. You may not be able to stitch all the way to the top of the spine.

Repeat this same process using the left side plumes, stitching on the outside of the spine. Begin with the one starting plume, stitched from the bottom up over the top to the spine, making sure it just comes to the marked centerline.

The rest of the plumes will be stitched in sets, moving up the spine between sets. Vary the size and the angle of the plumes. Stitch to the top of the spine.

You have now completed one feather. Stitch a second feather in the same manner in the upper right quadrant.

When you stitch the outside plumes of the second feather, you will notice that you may need to fill in with a plume at the very top.

You have now completed the top half of the block.

Repeat the process for the bottom half to complete the feather motif.

To finish the center of the block, I have filled in with straight lines 1/2″ apart. I began my first line 1/4″ from the center and moved in one direction. Then I came back and stitched a line 1/4″ from the center in the opposite direction and stitched from here in the other direction. This keeps the straight line motive centered.

Any straight edge ruler will work for this design. However, I have used the Quilter’s Groove ProLine 2 ruler. I love the Proline rulers for straight-line fills or borders. They come in 5 sizes, 1” spacing to 1/16” spacing.

This is a ruler where you will work inside the cutout. There is a small slit on one side of the ruler to slide over the foot. Stitch against the solid side of the ruler. Stitch over, this may be stitching on the previously stitched pattern until you get to the other side of the ruler. On this ruler, it will be the 1/2″ that I want.

Slide the ruler over, stitching against the solid side of the ruler, and repeat the process.

Fill in the center with this straight line fill.

The remainder of the block may be left as is. You could continue the straight line quilting, or do as I have done by stippling around the outside of the feather motif.

I hope you enjoyed stitching this design this month! Stitching feathers with rulers can give you the confidence to stitch feathers on your own quilts.

Next month, in our final Rulerwork blog, we will be exploring rotating rulers. I will be using the Westalee Design Wreath #16 with Echo as well as a notion also from Westalee called Long Arm Pin that allows the ruler to rotate. Just a reminder when purchasing rulers, be sure to purchase the correct thickness ruler for your machine. All BERNINA machines use traditional 1/4″ thick rulers.

Also next month, I will give you instructions for either making your blocks into pillows or putting them together for a quilt.

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4 comments on “Rulerwork for Beginners Series, Part 8: Feathers”

  • I have a general question about ruler work: using a slippery may versus spraying my Perspex table down with silicon. I have been trying rulers with a larger quilt and find it gets stuck. Do you have any feedback about which is best to use with the 770QE? Is there any feedback on the new sew steady system that allows you to use the stitch regulator with their ruler table?
    Thanks for the great tutorials. They are awesome!!!

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