Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Quilting Tutorial: How to make peacock feathers

There was a lot of interest in how I make these free motion quilted peacock feathers, so here's is a detailed photo tutorial!  This is adapted from the Angela Walter Plume Feather

Step 1. Start with a line just off from center, ending with a spiral (I'll call this the head of the feather)--leaving enough room for more quilting around the head.

Step 2. Come out of the swirl, and around to the top, going up to a point and back down, connecting to the stem just below the level of the head.

Step 3.  Curve back up to make a petal/leaf shape that is fairly narrow and pointy.  The first couple of petals help create and define a nice head shape--you want them to go up almost as far as the top of the head point.

Step 4.  Continue adding more petals.  Occasionally you can add a swirl.  Note this one faces down.

Step 5.  For downward facing swirls I keep them fairly thin, then add a small "filler" petal that comes up to the bottom of the swirl (where I added the red dot).

Step 6.  Continue filling in with the feathers until you get to the bottom of the stem.

Step 7. Quilt the other side of the stem, about 1/4" away from the first stem line, then curve gently out before getting to the head (I added a small line on the green about where I started curving out), and ending in a pointy petal that approximately matches the other side.

Step 8.  Connect/close the petal about where you started curving out from the stem (near the little line again).

Step 9.  Continue adding petals, adding occasional swirls (I like to put them in the places that have a lot of space to fill).  Note that this swirl faces up.

Step 10.  Come out of the swirl, back to the stem, continue with petals.  Usually for upward facing spirals I keep the base of the petal about the same shape as the other petals, although I didn't do that very well in this drawing.

All those colors and arrows really distract from the finished feather, so here is one I made with just black:

I love making these feathers, and have used them for all sorts of shapes.  On my current project I'm using them to fill big half square triangles--here's how I did it following the steps above:

Steps 1 and 2.

Steps 3-6.

Steps 7 and 8.

Steps 9 and 10, feather filling a half square triangle.

Here you can see them on the quilt, and how each side of the feather has at least two swirly petals--I add more when the feathers are big (these are are about 18 inches long):

Here are some more examples, using different sizes and filling different shapes:

Back of an envelope--rectangle feather.

Diamond feather.

Wedge shaped feather from my Radiant Orchid mini quilt.

Back of Radiant Orchid quilt--shows wedge shaped peacock feathers on a dresden.

Diamond shaped feather, my first quilt with a plume/peacock feather was Lone Star Reflections.  I've come a long way!

This was a practice feather for the one above, I quilted the feather and then went back to add a bunch of echo lines inside and outside of each petal.  Then I turned it into a mini quilt.

 I hope this helps you FMQ some gorgeous peacock feathers!  Please let me know if you have any questions.  If you make some feathers using this tutorial, I'd love to see them!  Use #FMQpeacockfeather on IG or post a link in a comment.


  1. This is a great tutorial, Renee! I like the way you take it step by step through the process with the different colors and descriptions. I have never tried a feather... but maybe it's time to change that! :)

  2. They look great! Kind of funky with all those colours too. It was interesting to see the first plume feather you did, it really shows how much you've improved.

  3. Wonderful tutorial!! The different colored markers works well for showing the steps :) I'm going to have to start doodling! Thanks!

  4. Nice tute! These feathers are so beautiful.

  5. Awesome tutorial! Thank you! I might try it right now on the orange peel quilt. :)

  6. Very nice--thanks so much for the tutorial and all of the step-by-step advice!

  7. Great tutorial - you make it look easy ;-) Guess I have to try it !!

  8. Wow that's so impressive - I've yet to even attempt free motion quilting but tutorials like this really help me start to wrap my head around the complexity involved - it does look like it would be a very rewarding technique to learn.

  9. I love the way you used colored markers to explain this - great tutorial, and beautiful design. I particularly like the dresden one.

  10. Your peacock feathers are fabulous! I need to remember to use this.

  11. Your tutorial did not disappoint!

  12. Fantastic tutorial! The drawing using different colours really helps. Thank you so much for writing it.


  13. Nice tut! Thank you for sharing!

  14. Thank you so much for writing this tutorial. Love how you used the different colours to show the steps. Love the snapshots of your quilting.

  15. THank you so much. I have to try this out xx

  16. Oh, thank you for writing this splendid tutorial. How marvelous, and how very kind of you to teach us!

  17. That doesn't look half as frightening when you break it down step by step! I just need to make a practice piece and give it a go.

  18. These are beautiful! Going to pin for future use ☺

  19. Fantastic tutorial Renee! I always knew how much work it was to do these, but to actually see it all laid out like this, wow!
    I'll just send anything i need feathered to you, m'kay?!

  20. Wow. This looks really neat. So, do you draw on the quilt first then go over it or do you do it all of f the top of your head as you go? Or have you evolved to the point that you dont HAVE to draw it out first?
    Just wondering. I am basically brand new to quilting.

    1. I only draw the first stem line and the swirl, and only when I want the head of the feather to be in a certain place, then I quilt it--making up the rest as I go to fill the space. Hope that helps!