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How to make DIY feathers From Upcycled Fabric Scraps

I have a thing about DIY feathers at the moment. I love to make denim feathers by fraying scraps of old jeans. This time I’ve made scrap fabric feathers.

It’s quite a relaxing craft to do in front of a box set and doesn’t require much concentration.

One night when I was making my latest batch of denim feathers, I got the idea to make these tartan feathers. The denim feathers are great but tend to be only one colour.

When you think of real feathers in nature, they are often not of just one colour but are often multicoloured and patterned. I thought, how can I make faux feathers colourful like real feathers?

That’s when I thought of making DIY feathers with tartan fabric scraps. Tartan is a woven material like denim, so the same method of making feathers should work with both fabrics.

Tartan, Plaid & Flannel Fabric

Tartan plaid fabric scraps

The word tartan seems to be interchangeable with the word plaid and flannel when discussing the materials. There is much debate about the definition of each type of fabric.

Wikipedia defines tartan as a patterned cloth consisting of crisscrossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours, and tartans originated in woven wool.

The site also states that the term plaid is commonly used in North America to describe tartan. Flannel is a soft woven fabric, and the term “flannel shirt” is often used casually to mean any shirt with a plaid/tartan pattern.

Having a Scottish mother, I am familiar with the tartan fabric and drawn to it; that is why I have plenty of scraps. I also love to wear warm flannel shirts in the autumn, so I have some plaid scraps.

Whether you call it tartan, plaid, flannel or buffalo, check does not matter for this faux feather craft. You must ensure that the fabric scraps are woven (preferably wool) and have some checkered pattern.

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What You Need To Make The DIY Feathers

  • Scraps of woven woollen fabrics, tartan, plaid or flannel. Old plaid shirts or upholstery fabric samples would work well with this faux feather craft. The more colourful the fabric pattern, the more colourful the DIY feathers will be.
  • Natural twine
  • Needle and threads in assorted colours
  • Wooden beads
  • Black Sharpie
  • Scissors
  • Feather’s template (free to download on the denim feather tutorial).
what you need

How To Make The Scrap Fabric Feathers

Step 1: Download the feather template from the denim feathers page (see link above). Or draw your feather shape on paper. Cut out the feather shape in the size you want to make your faux feathers.

Denim feather template

Step 2: Place the feather shape onto a scrap of tartan fabric and draw around it. Depending on which way you lay your feather, the pattern and colour of your feathers will vary. Cut out the feather shape with a pair of scissors.

You must lay the feather template in the same direction as the fabric weave, either horizontally or vertically but not at an angle.

My fabric scraps were large enough to make two feathers, so I made one feather in each weave. I laid the feather template horizontally for one faux feather and vertically for the other.

This gave me two DIY feathers in different patterns and colour combinations from the same scrap fabric.

Tartan scrap fabric for feathers

Step 3: Cut a twine length of about 30-40cm. This twine will not only form the centre spine of the feather but also give you something to hang the DIY tartan feathers with.

Lay the twine down the centre of the faux feather shape. I then used a needle and cotton, the same colour as the fabric, to stitch the twine. I just used a simple stitch around the twine to keep it in place.

Stitch the whole length of the faux feather spine.

You can glue the twine in place instead of stitching, which is what I did with the denim feathers. However, this time I thought I would stitch in the twine spine as I thought it would look better with the tartan/plaid fabric scraps.

stitching in the spine of tartan/plaid feathers.
stitching in the spine

Making The Faux Feathers By Fraying

Step 4: Once the twine spine is firmly in place, it’s time to turn the scrap fabric into a feather. To do this, slowly pull out the threads from the long sides of the fabric scraps.

Pull the feathers out one by one until you reach the centre spine. Make sure you pull the threads out on both sides of the centre. You are just fraying the woven fabric.

I’ve also used this method to make frayed tartan cone Christmas trees.

Pulling out the threads to fray the fabric
making DIY feathers from tartan
finished tartan feather

Top Tip: If the fabric is tightly woven, it may be challenging to pull the threads. Especially as you get to towards the centre spine, I find if this is the case using a pin to tease out the lines one by one helps.

Also, a bit of patience too!

Step 5: I added wooden beads to finish these DIY feathers. As well as being decorative, the beads add a bit of weight to the light feathers, which helps them hang better.

Place the two feathers you made from the same piece of fabric together. Tie their twine lengths with a simple knot, then thread two beads onto the twine.

The knot is to stop the beads from slipping.

adding beads to DIY feathers

Even though both tartan feathers are made from the same fabric, their colours and patterns will vary.

This is because of the different coloured threads pulled from each feather. The colours will depend on whether the feather was cut vertically or horizontally from the tartan/plaid fabric.

Pair of DIY feathers made from plaid

This is illustrated more clearly with the red tartan feathers below. Again both DIY feathers were made from the same upcycled plaid shirt.

Tartan DIY feathers
DIY feathers from plaid tartan fabric scraps

What To Do With The Faux Feathers

Once you start making these DIY feathers, they get pretty addictive. It’s exciting trying out different plaids and tartans to see how these faux feathers turn out.

I imagine them coming from some exotic-looking tartan Scottish bird!

collection of faux DIY feathers

I decided to display my colourful array of tartan feathers on a simple wall hanging by simply tying them to an old branch.

Tartan DIY Feather Wall Display
Tartan and plaid DIY feathers

Smaller feathers would make fabulous earrings. All you need to do is add a simple earring hook. They would also make a great necklace.

I’ve even made a DIY feather lampshade before, but that took a lot of feathers. I will make these colourful feathers and make a garland with them or use them to adorn planters or even just as cute present toppers.

Ask relatives and friends if you don’t have tartan or plaid clothes to upcycle. I have seen bundles of tartan scraps available to buy on sites like eBay before. I’ve used tartan skirts before to make some cool Gucci-inspired tiger pillows.

Charity and thrift stores are also excellent places to hunt out tartan and plaid clothing. If you are a bit cheeky, a good source for woven tartan and plaid is free fabric samples, especially those from upholstery stores. As you only need tiny pieces of fabric to make these craft feathers, fabric samples are perfect.

As well as making feathers out of fabric, you can make them out of paper. I made some map feathers from old road maps for a large paper angel wings art to hang in my bedroom.

how to make tartan feathers

Any tiny leftover tartan scraps can make a Scottish version of these trendy denim earrings.

I also used some of these tartan and tweed fabric scraps to make myself a forest of Scottish tartan mini trees and tartan Scottie dogs for my Christmas mantle.

Yield: Tartan and Plaid Faux Feathers

Tartan & Plaid DIY Feathers

collection of faux DIY feathers

These fabric DIY feathers are made in a very similar way to my very popular denim feathers. They are made with scraps of tartan and plaid fabrics which gives them lovely patterns and colors. I warn you this is an addictive feather craft, soon you'll be wanting to make feathers out of your old plaid shirts.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Active Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Difficulty Easy
Estimated Cost $1

Materials

  • Scraps of woven wool plaid or tartan fabrics
  • Natural twine
  • Wooden beads

Tools

  • Needle
  • Scissors

Instructions

  1. Download the feather template from my denim feathers tutorial.
  2. Cut out the feather size you want to make from the template
  3. Place the feather shape onto the fabric lying in the same direction as the weave. Draw around the feather shape with a sharpie.
  4. Cut out the feather shape.
  5. Cut a length of twine 30-40cm long.
  6. With a needle and thread stitch the twine down the center of the feather shape so that it acts as a spine. Use a simple stitch around the twine.
  7. One by one plug the threads from the long edge of the feather shape. Start at the outside edge and remove the threads one by one until you reach the center spine.
  8. Remove the threads on both sides of the spine.
  9. Make another feather this time cut out the shape with the template at 90 deg to the first feather.
  10. When the two feathers are finished tie them together by using a simple knot in the twine.
  11. Thread two wooden beads onto the twine.
  12. Hang from a twig using the excess twine.

Jacqui Haynes

Wednesday 26th of October 2022

I can’t thank you enough for sharing this idea. I lost my dear sweet husband to Covid last year. I managed to get through his closet ok, but I could not part with the beautiful flannel shirts. They just feel like hugs. I did make a quilt out of them. I still had small scraps leftover. I made feathers for his friends and family to remember him.

Claire Armstrong

Wednesday 26th of October 2022

Thank you. So sorry you lost your husband. I bet your quilt is lovely! Have fun making the feathers.

Carol

Wednesday 13th of October 2021

Saw these over at Our Hopeful Home and they are so fabulous! I have some drop cloth scraps that I'm going to try this with. Just fabulous!

Claire Armstrong

Wednesday 13th of October 2021

Thank you, the feathers work really well with any woven fabric.

Kirsty Little

Friday 11th of September 2020

These are really beautiful, I love the idea. I have been trying to find out how to make feathers to go with my upcycled dreamcathers for months and you have started the ideas flowing.... Thank you

Claire Armstrong

Friday 11th of September 2020

I have a tutorial for denim feathers too, they are so easy and fun to make. Thank you.

Miss Daisy

Wednesday 19th of August 2020

I am in love with this creation ! Being Native American I adore feathers , buttt they are hard to find and the ones in stores look cheap sooo this is a perfect solution. I will make some to go with my FALL decor , your instructions are easy to follow. Thank you very much for sharing your creations. Have a great week.

Claire Armstrong

Thursday 20th of August 2020

Thank you so much. They are fun to make either with printed fabric or denim.

Alex

Wednesday 20th of May 2020

Hi Claire,

I've now read about how you made these - I love them! - so, my next step is to find a way to get scraps of tartan fabric because I currently don't have any at home unless I go cut clothes that enjoy wearing :-) Thanks for sharing this tutorial!

Claire Armstrong

Wednesday 20th of May 2020

Hi Alex, thank you. You can try them out with other woven fabric you might have at home. Then denim feathers look just as lovely too.

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