Monday, June 17, 2013


I wanted to name this post "the birds and the bees," referencing this quilt block and the ladies in my online quilting bee who are making it . I named my last post "Orphans," which attracted lots of traffic to my blog, but for the wrong reasons. I wonder what kind of traffic and comments I might get with "the birds and the bees" as a title!

July is my month for our Stars in Their Eyes bee. (This is an online group of friends who take turns making quilt blocks for each other.) I’ve chosen Anna Maria Horner’s Feather Bed block, one that really caught everyone’s attention when it was introduced. I’m really excited to see my friends’ creations of this bold and colorful block!
Sam of Cup of Tea and a Slice of Cake has already made two blocks for me, here's her first!
The instructions for making this block start with making a fabric strata (a lot of fabric strips sewn together) to cut multiple vanes (side sections of the feathers) from. Since I’m asking my friends to make two feathers for me, and variety is a goal for these feathers, it makes more sense to me to paper-piece the individual sides.

On my first try, I pulled out a pile of strings from recent projects. Most of them were 1” to 1.5” wide, and the vanes ended up taking 12-16 strips to finish. It created a dense texture, and since I was experimenting with monochromatic strips, they’re kind of serious looking. I thought they were too dense to make both sides of a feather like this, so I paired each vane with a single fabric for the other side.

The feathers in the pattern, and the feathers Sam made already are bright and colorful, I like them better than my first attempt! So I tried again. This time I pulled out 2.5” strips, and looked for color contrast between the strips. Here’s a suggestion: I paper pieced the vanes, and removed the paper before I trimmed the shapes, because the bias edges stretch out of shape easily. After I removed the paper backing, I traced another pattern piece onto freezer paper, then ironed it onto the sewn-together strips, placed my ruler on top of the pattern,  and cut out the shape. Freezer paper has a waxed backing that adheres to the fabric when ironed on, and it peels off easily without leaving any residue. That made it easy to line up the pattern piece with the strips angled correctly, and to cut without the pattern shifting.

Another suggestion is one Sam made: cut the background pieces bigger than you need, so you don’t have to get the angle and alignment perfect when adding the background to the feather. This is especially advantageous when adding the little wedges at the top of the feather.

You’ll notice, too, that I used two different values of Kona gray fabric for the backgrounds of the feathers I made, and they are different from the gray Sam used for the blocks she made for me. Any gray fabric is good for these feathers. *Black background fabric is acceptable, too.* Use what you have, what you think works best with your feather fabric. The quill, or shaft of the feather can be any neutral color, too.

When you’ve sewn together the feather and the background, I’m asking my friends to send two unfinished feathers, not sewn together. Each feather block should be 9.5”x18.5,” but I won’t mind if they’re a little bigger, or even a little smaller.
I hope my friends will have fun making this block, just as we did making Lisa's x&+ blocks and Sam's Union Jack blocks.


Lisa said...

It's so funny, I read these tutorials at work and I'm lost, I get home with fabric and rotary cutter in hand and it just makes a whole lot more sense. Hope to get these done before surgery!

Needled Mom said...

The feathers are really wonderful. Your Japanese x&+ look great too.


They look great and I love the monochromatic feathers too! And LOL I never knew my name was changed!!!! lOL Sam