Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Darting Fish Tutorial

At the end of last year, I had lots of darting fish constructed thanks to the Rainbow Scrappy Challenge. However, I also realized that I had quite a few more to make. I now have a plan and need to make many fuschia and purple darting fish. This seemed a good time to make a tutorial for this pattern as I went along. Each fish block finishes 6 by 9 inches and is built on a one inch grid (which means that the stripes use 1.5 inch strips, for example).

The fish uses three colors: one for the face and two for the stripes. To start, I cut a 3.5 by 4.5 rectangle for the face. Next, I use two 1.5 inch strips of different fabrics each about 22 inches long.  This will be more than you will need but allows you flexibility in choosing which fabric will be the fin and/or the tail.

For my quilt, I am using a single background fabric. For that, I cut 2.5 inch and 1.5 inch strips. From the 2.5 inch background strip I cut four 2.5 inch squares. From the 1.5 inch strips, I cut four 1.5 inch squares, four 1.5 by 2.5 inch rectangles and two 1.5 by 4.5 inch rectangles.

 As mentioned earlier, the face is a 3.5 by 4.5 inch rectangle. The four fish stripes are 1.5 by 5.5 inches, the two fins are 1.5 by 3.5 inches and the two tail pieces are 1.5 inch squares. Also, to frame the face, you will want one 1.5 inch square from each of the two fabrics used in the fish body.  The photo shows how these pieces will be laid out roughly with the face to the left and the tail to the right.

I should mention that this fish is bidirectional and can face either direction (assuming no directional print is chosen for the fish).

This fish is built from flip triangles, squares that are sewn on the diagonal and then ironed over to make a triangle. One note of caution, however, is that the direction of the diagonals change for each tail piece and each fin.

In the photo, the top two rectangles show the two tail pieces that are formed by laying the 1.5 inch square fuschia square on a 1.5 by 2.5 inch background rectangle.

The bottom two rectangles show the top and bottom fin. In this case, the fin is a 1.5 by 3.5 inch rectangle of fuschia with two 1.5 inch squares of the background fabric on either end.

The lines show the direction to sew the seams. Remember not to sew exactly diagonal to diagonal, but to move a thread's distance towards the corner to accommodate folding the fabric over.

Also, sew the four body strips (1.5 by 5.5 inches) so they alternate.

After the flip triangles are ironed over, the two layers underneath the flip triangle can be trimmed away (allowing for the seam, of course).

Now the photo shows the fish layout for the next steps and includes the background fabric.

First, decide which stripe will be on the top and which will be on the bottom. Depending on what you choose, sew the matching 1.5 inch squares to the back corners of the fish's face to make flip triangles.

Next, sew two 2.5 inch squares to the back of the fish body to make flip triangles.

And you can also sew the two tail pieces together.

And last, but not least, sew a 1.5 by 2.5 inch background rectangle to the back of each fin. Then sew a 1.5 by 4.5 inch background rectangle to the front of each fin. 

At this point, we are far enough along that the block should smell fishy.

For this step, sew two 2.5 inch squares to the face on the diagonal (as shown) to make flip triangles.

Also, sew the tail to back of the fish. Match the points together. In fact, given how the flip triangles are ironed, when the front side of the tail is laid on top of the body, the two pieces will snug right into each other.

To finish the fish, sew the fish face to the body.

Next, sew the top fin to the fish. Carefully match the triangle at the back of the fin to the triangle that shapes the back of the fish body.

Finally, sew the bottom fin to the fish. Again, carefully match the triangle at the back of the bottom fin to triangle that forms the fish nether regions.

And this is what it looks like when its finished.

Here are the six fish that I made today.

Meanwhile, Molly has taken to sleeping on the window treatment she pulled down--an effective strategy to prevent me from putting it back up.


  1. Thank you for the tutorial and the measurements. What a fun string quilt this could be. Happy sewing!

  2. I'm always happy to see your tutorials. All your critters make me smile! (I have occasional delusions that I'll someday make one of each and assemble them into a menagerie quilt...)

  3. Maybe Molly loves lace (as I recall, that curtain was lace-like). Hmm, sounds like the name of a new quilt...

  4. Thank you for taking the time to do a tutorial. I love this quilt design. Is it an original? I have a bag of 1.5 " strips just screaming to be sewn together and this will be so much fun to try. Another perfectly fun pattern for your RSC challenge! I am looking forward to spending some time perusing your archived posts.

  5. I have to admit, I was kinda wondering about those fish . . . Couldn't imagine them in a quilt. But, boy! You nailed it!!! I absolutely LOVE the way this is turning out . . . Great job!