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Feather Stitch
The Versatile, Vexing Stitch

      Mention feather stitch, and visions of baby clothes and undergarments come to mind, with hems often applied with the aid of this stitch. Feather stitch is used in other ways, however. As "fill" in embroidered bouquets, boldly worked on crazy patch quilting, and in swirly repeat designs. Virtually anything can be enhanced by this versatile stitch. It is open, doubled, tripled, single and closed. It is similar to fern stitch. However, it has a pleasing roundness that delights the eye. It is actually a method of working the fly stitch - a relative of the open chain stitch.

     Although not a technically difficult stitch, it has a way of confounding even an experienced embroiderer. Different authors have a different approach to graphics, and the exact details of how it is executed. Hopefully, with a combination of techniques, this page will help you to understand feather stitch and more successfully work it.

     At all times, the worker must strive to get consistency in stitch size. That, indeed, is the greatest trick of all. A finished sampler is shown at the end of this essay.

At left are the stitches known as single feather and feather stitch.

Single feather is worked exactly like buttonhole stitch, except the needle is angled more.

Feather stitch has identical stitches on either side of a central line. Note that the new stitch is begun at the same "level" where the last stitch left off. However, not all stitchers prefer this. Some start the new stitch slightly above or below where the last stitch ended, angle the needle more or less. Some even cross the center line (going to the left of center for a right stitch, and to the right of center for a left stitch. Each produces a slightly different look, but is still acceptable.(See graphic below)

At left is a sample and below is a drawing showing how to begin the stitch and where to place the needle for this particular style.


The straight red lines help you to see how this style is executed.   Two things to note:  In this method, the stitch does not follow a central line, but goes side to side.  Also, each new stitch does not begin at the same level where the last ended, but is slightly lower.
This second photo shows triple feather stitch. Notice that one is angled more than the other, but that in all cases, the stitches are exactly the same size. Either method shown is correct. The angle of the needle is something that is an individual stitcher's "identity" or "signature". It is rare for two embroiderers, no matter their prowess, to do this stitch in identical ways.
Few modern embroiderers have seen feather stitch used in the manner shown at left. It is called closed feather stitch, and makes an effective border.
Feather stitching, in this example, is used in an eighth-inch space between eighth-inch tucks. Notice the tucks are hemstitched. Three threads of the ground were removed for each tuck and knotted hemstitch was executed.
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