Let Your Sewing Techniques Take Wing

While Vivika is on leave, guest bloggers are filling in, and we're also revisiting some of our readers' favorite posts. This one, Vivika's first as editor of Quilting Arts, looks at how she makes her bird quilts look so realistic through fabric choice and sewing techniques. ~Kristine Lundblad, Quilting Arts assistant editor

sewing techniques for bird quilts vivika denegre
Detail of on of my robins captured in fabric and stitchery.

The more closely I watch birds, the more fascinated I have become with trying to capture their colors and textures using fabric and stitchery.

I have developed a design and sewing technique for "capturing the moment" in cloth and quilting stitches.

Here is the basic overview of how to sew a quilt that will "take wing.":

You will need:

  • A copyright-free pattern of a bird or a simple drawing (I like to use ones found in coloring books)
  • Tracing paper
  • Freezer paper
  • Fabric glue
  • A selection of fabrics to match your bird (and branches, flowers, etc., if desired)
  • Iron
  • Background fabrics or papers
  • Sewing machine and thread
  • Optional: Embellishments and hand-stitching supples

1. Trace the drawing onto tracing paper.

2. Trace each individual piece of the bird separately onto the dull side of freezer paper.

3. Roughly cut out your pattern pieces and iron them onto the right side of your chosen fabrics.

4. Cut out each pattern piece on the marked line.

5. Carefully peel the pattern pieces from the fabrics. Place each fabric piece onto the traced pattern.

sewing techniques for bird quilts vivika denegre
My 'Robin and Apple Blossoms' quiltlet.

6. Glue the bird together, beginning with the body and wing. (Gluing is easier than sewing appliques. However, you could stitch them or iron the pieces onto fusible web and press them in place before stitching.)

7. While the bird is drying, make your background; cut, glue (or fuse), and stitch it in place.

8. Place the bird on the background exactly where you want it. Attach with a bit of glue and iron. Then machine stitch. Machine quilting stitches add depth and detail to your bird. You could also add details with hand embroidery. I sometimes use hand embroidery techniques to sketch in the bird's features and add texture to branches and feathers.

9. Embellish with beads, etc., as desired.

Fabric Selection Tips

There are many considerations in choosing fabrics for small compositions. Keep the following in mind:

Loosely-woven fabrics are more likely to fray and should be avoided.

Textures and geometric designs in fabrics often add interest and suggest movement when used appropriately.

Your composition will be examined closely–give the viewer something interesting and unexpected.

Scraps are your friends. Look at large- and small-scale fabric prints for transitions of color, shading, and feather pattern.

A new book I want to get my hands on is Mollie Makes Feathered Friends: Creating 18 Handmade Projects for the Home. In it, Mollie shows how to make bird-themed art and craft projects with sewing, quilting, applique, and crochet techniques. My creative imagination is already soaring.

P.S. Do you use bird motifs in your fiber art? What's your favorite avian subject? Leave a comment below.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Embellishing, Hand Embroidery, Quilting Daily Blog, Sewing Techniques
Kristine Lundblad

About Kristine Lundblad

Kristine is Associate Editor of Quilting Arts Magazine, Modern Patchwork, QuiltCon magazine, International Quilt Festival: Quilt Scene, Modern Patchwork Holiday and Quilting Arts TV.

3 thoughts on “Let Your Sewing Techniques Take Wing

  1. I love birds. My favorite of course is a robin (my name). Other than robins, I enjoy sandpipers and other beach birds. I am also interested in what miss peach asked about more of Vivika’s patterns. –Robin