Introduction: Bringing in the Blue Flues

And now it's time to bring in some blue to my faux peacock feather! I've searched through my stash of materials and found just the right blue to add.

Individual feathery bits are called flues. I also call them fronds or strands or fluffy bits, depending on my mood, but you get the idea. (See the above diagram for more feather anatomy.) In an actual peacock feather the flues are a little dull if you get too close, but turn the feather this way and that and you'll get an iridescent shimmering effect. Instead of trying to find fabric that exactly replicates that effect, I'm using a combination of materials and techniques that will give the overall feel of a feather without getting too literal.

If this is your first time with my instructables, I'm A. Laura Brody. I'm making faux peacock feathers to re-upholster a Jazzy Power Scooter and showing you the process step by step. Making the peacock feather's "eye" was the first step. I formed the "spine" and "ribcage" of the feather in step 2, uncovered hidden golden trim in step 3 and sewed down the velvet with gold in the 4th. Welcome to step 5!

If you want to know why I'm re-upholstering a Jazzy Power Scooter, check out my mobility art at Dreams by Machine.

For this step I used:

A sewing machine and sewing machine needles

Thread

Sharp scissors

Open weave fusible interfacing (about 1/4 yard)

An iron and ironing board

An old sky-blue ribbed scarf

And the peacock feather base from the past 4 steps.

Step 1: Fuse Your Feather

At this point, my feather has a good basic shape. I plan on sewing it many more times in many more directions, though. After a very short time, this will make my fabric stretch and bubble in irritating ways. So this is an excellent time to reinforce the fabric.

I'm using a fusible interfacing on the back of my feather. It's a semi-sheer material with an open weave that's slightly fuzzy on one side and coated with a heat and steam reactive glue on the other side.This kind is called Armo Weft, but there are other brands. Fusible interfacing, like thread, is one of the few things that I don't try to re-use because it just doesn't work again after the glue has melted.

Most fusible interfacing has a set of directions included, but they all work pretty similarly.The only thing to pay attention to is whether the glue responds well to steam or not. I like the kind that it open weave and works with steam, because it means the glue will really adhere to the fabric. Fusible interfacing that sets with heat instead of steam comes unglued quickly when it gets wet. Blech.

First spread the interfacing smoothly and evenly over the area you want to reinforce, then heat up the iron to the second to highest setting and add water as needed so you get good steam. PLEASE NOTE: Make sure you put the glue side down against the back of your fabric and iron on the fuzzy side. Otherwise you will be sad and your iron will be very sticky. Work in segments, leaving the iron on steam for at least 15 seconds in each area, and then smoothly move to the next area. This keeps your interfacing from getting lumpy.

If you already have some sewing and tailoring skills, this step may seem boring and trivial. Sadly, the secret to making most things well is in the boring details. You know the drill. Iron everything at each step along the way. Grind off the bumpy bits, start with the coarse sandpaper and work your way up to a fine finish. Clean as you go. Make sure it's clean before you paint/chop/set the kiln on high/put it in the oven. Fuse your feather.You will be happier later.

Step 2: Find and Prep the Blue

Technically speaking, peacock feathers are more green than true blue, but they have elements of both. So far I've mostly been using green materials. Now I'd like to add some blue!

When I was growing up in Alaska, we took berry picking season seriously. There were high bush and low bush cranberries, raspberries and bog blueberries and we scoured the woods around us to find as many as we could. With practice we'd develop what I like to call the berry pickers eye. We'd train our eyes to look for the color of the berries we wanted, and after a while that color would jump out at us.

I use the same technique in thrift stores, salvage yards and in my own house when looking for specific colors. I have been known to take down drapes or take apart my own clothes because they were just what I needed for a project. Luckily, I had a sky blue scarf in my stash that seemed perfect and I didn't have to replace any household goods. Try this out on your own! Start looking for a specific color. You'll start noticing the world in an entirely different way.

The blue scarf I found was made of long ribbed yarn like sections held together by short, flimsy cross strands. I snip in between a few of the ribs and tear them apart gently, leaving only wee fuzzy bits of the cross strands. Once those fuzzy bits are picked off, the strands are ready to add to the feather.

Step 3: Laying in the Blue

After the strands are prepared, I lay them out on my feather.

First off, I follow the spine of the feather and curved the first blue strand so it makes a nice arc around the eye. Then I pin it into place and snip off the excess blue. I curve the blue in between the velvet and gold fronds and make each strand arc smoothly into the blue at the spine. This makes the lines seem more natural. Then I pin all the blue down.

Making something appear natural is actually a little tricky. It's tempting to keep curving the lines so they follow the existing fronds. But consistency is part of what makes something look artificial. Curving the blue strands so that they're similar but not exactly like the velvet fronds makes for a much more interesting looking feather. I want to mostly follow the existing curves, but change them up just a little bit. Real peacock feathers aren't groomed!

Pinning really thin strands can also get tricky. There isn't that much surface area to hold down. I use the pins to generally keep the strands in place, but I'll eyeball my curves when it comes time to sew everything down. "Eyeballing my curves" means estimating the curve by eye as I sew. I do this frequently.

If you'd rather not eyeball your curves, basting the strands down is another good way to hold everything in place. That means sewing them down by hand with a BIG stitch (maybe 3/4" long) and a single thread. Don't bother knotting the ends of your thread. You can either pull the thread out as you zig-zag over each strand or leave it in for added texture. This will take longer than pinning, but it will give you great control over your blue flue placement!

Step 4: Sewing the Blue Down

Once my strands are all pinned into place, it's time to zig-zag those mothers down.

Using a narrow zig-zag stitch on the sewing machine, I sew down the blue strands, removing the pins as I go. At the end of each blue frond, I allow myself a little extra thread before looping back to sew the strand twice. This makes sure everything stays in place and it also gives me extra thread that I can cut into “tails” for each frond.

Instead of cutting those threads each time I finish a blue strand, I keep on sewing until I've finished all the blue on one side of the feather. It’s pretty easy to see the extra loops of thread against the black fabric. Those threads will also show up really clearly against the white fusible interfacing on the back of my feather!

Once I’m done zig-zagging down each side, I trim off the extra “tail” ends of thread, leaving just a little bit at each frond tip to give a nice feathery effect.

And yes, I also trim off the threads on the back side of my feather. That side isn't going to show, but leaving a wad of thread in back makes it a lot more likely that I'll create snags later on. The thread loops can catch on the sewing machine, hook around my scissors and drag pins in their wake which will wreak havoc with my sewing machine needles.

Plus I just hate hanging thready bits. I'm like that.

Voila! The feather is really taking shape. Next time I'll zig-zag in most of the rest of the fronds.

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Bio: I re*make mobility devices and materials and give them new lives. I re*use often. And sometimes I staple drape.
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