Almost any quilting design I'm going to create I practice on paper first. I drew HUNDREDS of feathers before I was able to quilt them. These are not the kinds of feathers I made when I was starting out, but I've found that bump bump feathers are much easier to control the direction, flow, and shape of.
First I draw curving line. This is going to be the spine. You'd think you'd want to start at the base, but I prefer to start at the top of the spine. The top curve will eventually become a feather plume.
Because I began the spine at the top, I can begin making my feathers at the base of the spine. I find that it's easier to travel from the bottom up. This is personal preference, I have seen a lot of quilters who start from the top down, or from the bottom up then trail back down the left side from the top. Not me, I like to start at the bottom on both sides! I just feel like I have more control of the shape of the feather this way, and better visual of what I've already done.
Without lifting your pen, practice creating feathers all the way up the right side of the spine. Make your first feather, then travel up the spine just a bit and create your next feather. NOW is when you're going to bump back over the round part of the plume of the feather you just made to create another feather....bring that new feather back to the spine and do it again until you reach the top of the plume. See below how I took that top section of the spine and made it a feather?
At this point I might even go so far as to create another plume as I have done below. It just depends on the shape the feather is taking on. All feathers will come out a little different, though you do have some control over the shape and direction so you can achieve some uniformity. Next, if I don't want to accumulate thread down the spine, you can echo back down the feathers to reach the base of the spine. This is especially effective when used with micro stippling or continuing the echo to create an almost, trapunto effect. Now, here my echo is very wide to account for the arrows and writing. When quilting, generally my echo would be much tighter and closer to the plumes.
Now travel back up the other side and repeat.
Again, if you choose, you can echo back down the other side.
My other favorite and very traditional feather is a curling bump bump feather. Here I show you how I create this feather without echoing. Now remember, when you quilt this, your spine is going to be more defined because you'll have trailed back down it with thread. Here I've used pen, so you can see some of the back tracking, but it will be more evident when sewing. You'll want to choose your thread accordingly. I like to use a thin thread like Superior So Fine! when attempting to create shadow and definition...but if I want to see the thread I might use something like Glide.
Again, you start at the top where the curl will end.
Trail up the spine of the feather just as you did in the first feather.
Once you reach the top of the feather, either echo back down the outside of the plumes, OR, trace down the spine of the feather. Once you reach the base, just as you did in the previous feather, work your way creating plumes back up the opposite side of the feather.
When finished, your feather will resemble something like this! Of course everyone's feathers has their own bit of flair and style to it.
Or you're welcome to send me your quilt and I'd be happy to feather it silly for you!!! ;)
Have fun making those feathers!