Why are feathers so popular?

…or do I need therapy?


Have you ever asked yourself why feathers are the go-to quilting design?  It’s probably because they can flow in any direction, fill any space, can have different designs for the barbs and bring a sense of luxurious beauty to the quilt—or is it because the quilter can’t think of any other design to put on there?

Here’s my personal opinion on feathers…they don’t suit every quilt.  Now feather lovers will gasp in shock at that statement and that’s okay—but in your opinion—do they suit every quilt?  Are they overused just as stippling was overused in the 90s?  The great thing about stippling being everywhere then is that people got a little bored of it which led to an explosion of new great filler designs this century.  Don’t get me wrong, I like feathers and stippling as much as the next person if they suit the quilt. Please note I always keep my opinions to myself if I think there might have been a better option.  Over the years, I’ve heard rumours of others (like me) who don’t use feathers on their quilts, but is it easy to find or create designs to fill every space on a quilt?

The answer is yes!

The family of designs below were made from two common elements and circle thrown in here and there. You can see even with minimal manipulation, you can make a design in any shape.  Most of these designs are featured in my book, From labels to whole-cloths: volume one.








Even within the octagonal designs, you can see many different styles and shapes.  You could put a star in some of them, use them as feature designs or borders. Those long curved lines are one of the secrets to developing the designs. They can become straight, more curved and go in any direction.  They can also be shortened or lengthened to make the design fit any shape.

If you’re wondering why I call the second last border a partial border, it’s because each unit doesn’t join up but has a gap in between each one. This is a great design concept for a design you want to use but just can’t make it fit the area.  You may not want to enlarge the units because the border may then overpower the main area of the quilt or if you were to add more units into the border, it may yield too little texture or be too detailed or small to quilt.

More about these tips and so many more are in my book The design master plan: creating motifs and borders.

If you’re not into feathers, you don’t need therapy

or to be arrested by the quilt police.

Just take a few elements and play around with making them into different shapes. You never know what you’ll come up with until you try.  One thing I’ve noticed with feather designs is the quilter will try to fill every inch of the area.  This leaves little room for negative space around the design.  Negative space is the area where the eye will rest (that quilters usually fill with filler designs).  If a quilt is too busy, the viewer will turn away from the quilt to rest their eyes.  We want people to be mesmerised by our quilts so sometimes less design is more.

I recommend having a play date with design so you’re not stressed out when it comes to the point when the quilt top is finished and you need a design right then and there and don’t have any on hand.  This way you aren’t limiting yourself to making one design to fit one area in one shape.  I have been a much happier quilter since I created a library of ~2000 designs.  Heck, I would have been happy if I had five on hand!

Happy quilting,






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