Feather & Fern

I’m working my way across my Bright Sisters quilt top using a different quilting design in each color block area. For the yellow & green square-in-a-square areas, I chose this half-feather, half-fern design.

a yellow and green quilt block quilted with a design of feathers and ferns
Feather & fern

Before attempting this design on the quilt, I drew variations of it on my iPad and practiced on scrap blocks. I tried a couple of different patterns before settling on this one. I like the way it moves across the block and fills it up. I’m aiming for a heavily quilted look on Bright Sisters, with a few less quilted spaces to let the eye rest, so this fits right in.

Here’s how I created the finished look.

Step 1: Draw light guides for the stems using a Fons & Porter chalk pencil. I drew these freehand, one in each quarter of the block. I like the chalk pencils because I can just brush the lines away with an old, dry toothbrush after I’ve finished with them.

an unquilted yellow and green block with faint guidelines drawn in for the stems
If you look closely, you can just see the guidelines.

Step 2: Quilt around the block on the drawn lines. This stabilized the block so that it wouldn’t trap bubbles or become distorted from the heavy quilting as I worked my way around. You might notice that I didn’t match the guidelines exactly everywhere. Since the design fills the block, it doesn’t really matter if the initial lines are a little off. It won’t show at all.

Once I had gone all the way around, I echoed the first stem (see below) to position my needle for the fern part of the design.

echoing the first line to form the stem
All four stabilizing lines are done, and I’ve echoed the first one.

Step 3: Quilt the fern design back to the starting point of the first section. In the photo above, the “starting point” is at the bottom of the photo, and the “first section” is the triangle formed by the two yellow patches and the green square. The fern design starts at the far end of the section and works backward toward the starting point.

one row of quilted ferns done
Completed fern in section 1

I chose to include some stems inside a few of the fern leaves, but not all of them.

Step 4: Quilt the feathers back up along the other side of the stem to the far side of the section. I really like the way the feathers reach into the interior of the block (see below). I chose to add a swirl to the end of a few feathers, and quilt a spine inside a few others, but I left most of them plain.

Step 5: Echo the next section’s stem to reach the far side of the block. As you can see in the photo below, I didn’t always do a great job of echoing. The good news is that once the ferns and feathers are in place, that won’t really matter.

one quarter of the block has been quilted
Echoing the second stem to get to the far side of section 2

Step 6: Repeat the ferns back to the starting point, and the feathers back to the far side of the section. From here out, it’s the same thing all the way around the block. I didn’t turn the quilt to do this; it was always oriented the same way, and I just quilted in whatever direction I needed to for the design I was doing. I found out that ferns and feathers are definitely easier to quilt in some directions than in others!

a colorful quilt loaded in a sewing machine and being quilted with a feathery design
Adding the feathers to section 2
half the block has been quilted
Sections 1 and 2 complete; about to echo the stem in section 3
two sections complete, and the fern half of the third is done
Section 3 ferns done — time for the feathers!
a yellow and green quilt block quilted with a design of feathers and ferns
All done!

I filled 12 blocks with this motif and I never got tired of it. The featured image for this post shows the design from the back. If you’re looking for a dense filler for a square, it’s a lovely and fun one!

The previous post in this series was Quilting Bright Sisters. Next time, I’ll show the whole thing, all quilted!

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