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Focus: Peacocks

 Cathy Kizerian © 2012

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Peacocks have long been part of the legend and lore of many civilizations, and still capture the imaginations of artists the world over. Crazy quilters, too, have a history of rendering this bird in their work in countless ways; embroidery, beading, appliqué, and just about any technique you can imagine! Peacocks, by the way, are technically the male of the birds known as pea fowl. The females are called pea hens. But most often they are lumped together, male and female, when speaking of peacocks.

Why are peacocks so beloved? Maybe it's because they are arguably the most beautiful and elegant bird of all. But really it is more than that; it's their mystery, their symbolism, and the various beliefs and meanings that are attributed to peacocks.

The end of a peacock's tail feathers resembles an eye, often called the Evil Eye. In ancient times, the feathers were thought to bring bad luck. In many Asian cultures, however, those same feathers mean protection of the home. Some cultures believe (wrongly) that the Evil Eyes mean that peacock meat is poison. More likely, however, is that these beliefs sprung up to protect these beautiful birds from would-be hunters. Peacock feathers are highly coveted, even today. Check out this wedding dress, made of peacock feathers at a cost of $1.5 million.

The peacock's tail feathers typically cascade in a train that accounts for more than 60% of the bird's total body length. These beautiful feathers with eyes are often spread into magnificent fans when the peacock is wooing females, who are said to choose mates according to the size, color and quality of the feathers.

The Peacock in Crazy Quilting: the most common renderings of peacocks in crazy quilting (indeed, all artwork) can be grouped into four basic shapes. They are: Front-Facing Peacock with Fanned Feathers (with or without legs), Side View Peacock with Fanned Feathers Down or Curved, The Peacock Feather and the Eye of the Feather. Let's study these one at a time.


Ina at Let's Learn Embroidery stitched a marvelous peacock last January for Sharon Boggon's TAST (Take a Stitch Tuesday) challenge. Using primarily the Fly Stitch and some sequins, she created this beautiful peacock.

Ina's Feather Stitch peacock

Visit Ina's blog to see how she accomplished this simple and elegant design.

Another way to depict tail feathers would be to use Straight Stitches or Lazy Daisy Stitches, and beads or French Knots of metallic threads to represent the eyes. Or, here is a great stitch to try, courtesy of Nicole at Follow the White Bunny.

Nicole's unique stitch

To learn this stitch, visit Nicole and see her complete tutorial at:  To simplify things, you might choose to represent just the basic fan shape of the tail feathers. To do this, appliqué a fan-shaped piece of fabric or felt, add a few Straight Stitches and beads, and you have a simple peacock tail. Or, if working on a larger scale, try using the thin ends of men's neckties to represent the blades (feathers) of the tail. A crocheted or tatted fan shape, or the pineapple pattern in a half circle, also make great peacock tails.


Cathy K's stained glass window

The sky, or in this case, the tree branch, is the limit when you choose these poses. Whether the tail hangs down, or curls over and up, the focus is the feathers in all their glory.

Pam Kellogg's Tutorial Pam has a great step-by-step tutorial describing how she made this fancy peacock and tail.  And you can substitute other fibers and other colors according to what you have in your stash.

This amazing golden Peacock was created by Gerry Krueger for a recent "Fools Gold" round robin she was participating in. Using Goldwork techniques but with less expensive, everyday materials, Gerry drew, stitched, Couched and beaded this lovely bird into existence. Her first step was to find a design and adapt it to the space she had to work in. Read her enlightening design blogposts here:  and  And then to watch her stitching progress and techniques, visit these posts: 

Now look at this vintage peacock artwork. Can you see design applications for crazy quilting? A crazy pieced tail? Perhaps a solid tail with different types of stitching for each feather? Appliquéd fabric feathers? Aha! Now you're getting the idea!


The feather itself is often the focus you want. Let's face it, the peacock's feathers are the primary focal point. Take a look at how Kerry Leslie has both stitched and beaded this stunning gold peacock feather on a round robin block.

Another idea: Take a silk leaf (from stemmed silk greenery) and shape it with scissors to your liking. Then stitch veins on to represent a feather. Or glue beads or sequins on to represent the eye.


The eye of the feather itself is basically spoon-shaped. See the first picture for reference. The inner circles are more round (or heart-shaped) and of bright, yet differing shades of blue. We can pare those down to two colors. The next outer section is primarily a golden brown color, and begins the spoon shape. The outer few rings (and if you are appliquéing, one would be sufficient) are again bright colors. Try fusing layers of fabrics, stacking layers of shirred ribbon, burning and nesting silk fabric pieces, or thread painting these layers.



Think Colors:

  • Usual: blues, greens, purples with gold
  • Outside the Box: reds, pinks, orange and gold (with blue, green or purple)
  • Monochrome: White (albino peacock)

Think Materials:

  • Plain or patterned fabric, felt threads and novelty threads and yarns
  • Beads and sequins Lace, many patterns have eye, fan or teardrop shapes
  • Ribbons, silk or other real feathers.

Think Technique:

  • Embroidery (threads, silk ribbon)
  • Ruching (for tail)
  • Appliqué (for individual feathers or entire body silhouette)
  • Foiling
  • Embossing or stamping on fabric
  • Angelina fibers

Vintage Embroidery Patterns: Here are a couple vintage embroidery patterns to get you started.


See Di Van Niekerks's amazing peacock here: 

Incredible Italian antique needle lace peacocks and feathers:

Link to draw a peacock: 

Cute appliqué peacock and tail parts:

Strings of beads as tail feathers:


Embroidered peacock, peacock needle work, peacock art vintage, peacock art, lace peacock, peacock appliqué, beaded peacock (or peacock tail), crocheted peacock, peacock tatting, peacock jewelry

And finally, did you know that a group of peacocks is called a party? Let's go party with the peacocks!

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