My awesome Liberty Tana Lawn supplier Ava & Neve started selling Karen Lewis Textiles fabric recently, and she sent me some to play with. I put them next to my sewing machine, and kept looking at them for a few weeks, waiting for inspiration to hit. Then one day I was watching the kids playing at the park - I looked down, and there was a feather on the ground. With the sun on it it was almost pearlescent - lots of pastel hues. And I knew exactly what I had to make with these pretty screen printed fabrics - a raw edge applique quilt featuring feathers.
Designing the pattern was the easy part - deciding on the background fabric wasn't. It took me days to make up my mind (am officially queen procrastinator). I had originally planned to applique the feathers onto grey linen but I shared a work-in-progress photo on Instagram where the feather pieces were laid out on a charcoal sand board. And everyone said I should use charcoal instead of grey! After much umming and erring I finally listened to the communal wisdom of the sages of Instagram (I mean, who am I to argue). And I am so glad I did. I love how each feather piece really 'pops' against the dark fabric.
(Cute pear pattern by Tournicote, hand-made by me - I take orders for them in my Etsy shop)
This is quite a modern design for me compared to my usual style - so to make it a little more 'me' I hand quilted around the feathers and the frame, and added some embroidered Xs to the bottom corner. I have learned two things from this project: 1. I need to sew with purple more, 2. A design can be pretty without having lots of pink and/or mini florals (gasp! Shock, horror.) Huge revelation, right there.
I had been meaning to write a technique tutorial for raw edge applique, so I took photos whilst making the mini. I am so glad I did, there were a few requests for the pattern and tutorial when I shared a photo of the finished mini on Instagram. So without further ado, here is your step by step guide.
Step 1. Download the feathers pattern from here and print it out. I print my applique patterns on to heavyweight matt photo paper, as the extra thickness makes it easier to handle whilst cutting and tracing. However if you don't have any heavyweight paper normal printing paper will be fine too.
Step 2. Using a pair of small scissors carefully cut out each feather piece from the pattern. My secret tip here is to use a pair of curved nail scissors. Try it and you will see how much easier it is to cut out curved pieces using these as opposed to regular embroidery or sewing scissors. Follow the curve whilst cutting, switch the scissors around in your hand when the curve changes direction.
Step 3. Select your fabrics for each piece of the feather. You can use any little scraps of fabric, or a charm pack. For each piece we need to cut out a small rectangle of fabric. I place the pattern piece right side up on top of my fabric to make sure the piece of fabric I am cutting is big enough, and then I cut a rough rectangle with my rotary blade (you can use scissors also).
Step 4. Cut a piece of fusible web the same size as your fabric rectangle. I use Heat'n Bond Lite which is widely available here in Australia, Wonder Under is a similar product in the US. If you are using Heat'n Bond make sure you get the Lite version not the regular, as the regular version will clog up your needle! Put the fabric on top of the fusible web, right side facing up, and make sure the shiny side of your fusible web is facing up also (that's the glue). Turn upside down onto your ironing board (paper backing facing up) and press with hot dry iron (no steam) for 5 seconds until the fusible web has bonded onto your fabric.
Step 5. Take your pattern piece, put it on the paper backing UPSIDE DOWN (don't forget to turn or your pieces will end up mirror images!), and trace around. Then carefully cut out the piece on the traced line using your curved scissors again.
Tip: If you are only using a few fabrics for the project, you will find it easier to line a big square of each fabric with fusible web, then trace all the applique shapes on the back and cut them out one by one. I used quite a few different prints in this project so that's why I used small rectangles for each piece.
Step 6. Repeat until all your feather pieces are ready. Cut a piece of background fabric (as large as you want, depending on how much space you want between each feather. My charcoal fabric measures 10" x 12") and place it on your ironing board, right side facing up. Peel off the papers behind each pattern piece, then carefully place them onto your background fabric, arrange them until you are happy with the finished look. Using a dry iron carefully press each feather, taking care not to move any of the pieces during the pressing. Hold the iron in place for 5 seconds, repeat with the other two feathers until everything has bonded to the background fabric.
Step 7. Using the shortest stitch length on your machine carefully sew around each piece 1mm from the edge (start with needle down and go very slowly if you are new to this!).
Step 8. Add borders as desired. I added 2.5" borders all the way around using a quarter inch seam allowance (the dotty print is from the Hello Bear range by Art Gallery Fabrics).
Step 9. Make a quilt sandwich, and quilt as desired. I machine quilted the borders with two parallel lines half an inch apart, and hand-quilted the interior of the quilt. Add the binding, and it's ready for display!