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.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Spin out

Today I launched into a scrap project that I think I will scrap. I started with the delightful little spinners in Jen Kingwell's book Quilt Lovely. I used 1.5 inch strips that makes these finished 4 inch blocks.

I haven't been able to find a layout I like. Happily, there is a fox yapping out in the yard which is distracting Molly from clearing off the design wall so I have been allowed some time to fiddle. By morning, I am sure the blocks will be in a nice pile on the floor and that will mark the end of this diversion.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Green fish

It's the last week of May so its the last week of green. To celebrate, these fish indulged in a bit too much algae. If you would like to see more over indulgence in green, visit the Rainbow Scrappy Challenge. 

And to celebrate the end of the school year, here's the school of fish so far. It does look like they need a broader curriculum given they are all swimming in the same direction. I think its time for me to start working on some right facing fish. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Vintage Spin Side One and Home Decoration

Here is one side of the vintage spin quilt with all the blocks sewn together. I have about 65 blocks made and will use 30 on each side. I have chosen the two fabrics for the center circles (one fabric for each side). I divided the blocks according to how well they went with each of the fabric centers.

However, you may have noticed that I haven't sewn the circles in yet. I was going to use the 6 minute circle method but realized it would be easier to machine quilt this without the circles. I will be able to march across the circles without over quilting or going around each circle. This means I will hand applique the circles at the very end.

Block placement was chosen by the design committee. Art critiques in this household can get very heated and involve a lot of biting.

And I hope you realize that Molly has her own projects...for example, taking down window treatments and wadding them on the floor where they belong. Apparently.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Alternative Jane Blocks

Not only have I neglected the Dear Jane blocks, but I have been remiss in completing the Alternate Jane blocks. As you may know, these are the blocks that Jane Stickle made but did not include in her now famous quilt. This is Block T22 or Typewriter Eraser. At this point in time, the typewriter eraser is considered an archaic artifact, but for Jane, it demonstrates that she was well ahead of her time.

Along with others in her time, Jane was probably very fond of The Ballad of The Monkey and Pig At Sea. This is Alternate Block U19 or Monkey and Pig At Sea. Contemporary quilt makers construct variations of this block, but few are able to acquire these rare reproduction fabrics. For further scholarship in this area, please reference Gayle at mangofeet.

Here are nine of the alternate Jane blocks. And yes, controversy abounds about these blocks and potential historical inaccuracies, such as pandas not being brought to Europe (as a skin) until after Jane's lifetime. Also, some question whether Jane would make circus blocks given her well publicized clown phobia.

But let me assure you that all of these blocks were vetted by a knowledgeable researcher.

Plus, the researcher was able to refute any and all issues raised by tiresome skeptics.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


As I was cleaning and sorting in the sewing room, I ran across the wavy fabric and knew it had to be a vintage spin block. So yes, I made another vintage spin block although both sides of the quilt are accounted for.

I also selected the backing for the bounding bunny quilt and happily I have exactly the amount I need for the quilt that grew too large: six yards. I bought this fabric for a backing many years ago and now it gets to fulfill its destiny.

I also made a new Dear Jane block B1 or Bachelor's Buttons.

My first version of this block didn't have enough contrast and was too pale and boring.

Meanwhile, Molly and Buddy are preparing to compete in the olympics...synchronized sleeping. Earlier, Molly practiced knocking applique pins off the sewing table. I was using them at the time and wasn't paying attention as she approached and before I knew what was happening the box was flying. Judges' scores are based on how far the tiny applique pins fly and spread, and by how loud the person yells.  She scored all tens.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Bounding Bunny

The bounding bunny quilt top is finished. First I added the floating border and then the bunny tail border. It doesn't seem like a lot of progress for one day, but I had a lot of help. And in this case, help means burrowing under the quilt top and then attacking anything that moves.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Kitten review

Small changes can make big differences. I brought out some tissue paper for Molly, and this is now her favorite hangout in the office. She only comes up on the desk if she wants attention, which she gets when she starts shredding papers. She seems to have even given up chasing the cursor on the computer screen. This means that Buddy now comes and either flops in front of the keyboard or on my lap.

And for a trip down memory lane, this is one of the first pictures I took of Molly when she was willing to come out of the hidey hole when I was in the room. I was taking the pictures with an iPod without the flash so I wouldn't scare them.

This photo was taken two weeks later. At that point, all three kittens were willing to come out. And by the way, that is a stuffed opossum toy in the foreground. That is now one of Buddy's favorite toys and it is always interesting to find out where it has gone during the night. Sometimes it gets taken downstairs and then the next morning its back upstairs.

This is one of the first pictures of Buddy who was the last to come out of hiding. At this time I thought he was a natural at posing and would go on to become a feline model. Little did I know that he would grow into a huge lap dog.

And we probably shouldn't forget Cyclone, Molly and Buddy's sister, who was half their size but twice as sweet. The shelter wouldn't give me the address of the people who adopted her so I could go and steal her back.

As for quilting...I have little to show for my day because I mostly sorted through projects and fabric trying to make enough room so I can lay the vintage spin blocks out on the floor. I have decided which blocks go on which side though.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Green twinklers

Here are some green twinklers. They look a bit warped because my design wall needs some maintenance. The "kittens" disrupt the stacks of fabric on the shelves behind the design wall that create bulges. I sense a massive reorganization in my future.

In the meantime, I suggest a visit to the Rainbow Scrappy challenge to keep your May green and growing.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Still Spinning

I made several more vintage spin blocks than I need, but it is a highly addictive block. It's fun to pick the fabric combinations, somewhat fun to cut the wedges, and gratifying to watch it sew together so quickly. Now we will have to see how much fun it is to lay out for placement given there are two too many helpers in the sewing room.

Buddy is working on his posing fundamentals but Molly thinks he needs to take Elementary Paw Placement first. Buddy thinks he should continue working on his dissertation on Ambushing and Biting Hurricanus Mollicus.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

More vintage spin

Upon revisiting the vintage spin quilt, I decided to make it larger with 5 by 6 blocks instead of 5 by 5. And since this quilt will be double-sided, that means I need 60 blocks instead of 50. Clearly, I will use any excuse to make more vintage spin blocks. I need ten more, and here are eight of them.

This is my favorite block of the new ones.

I seem to have been channeling pink and teal with yellow.

And I can't resist owls, apparently.

And you may recognize the fractured plaid as the same fabric I used as the backing for the plaid bunny quilt.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dear Jane B2 and B3

Here are two Dear Jane blocks that I couldn't resist making. They are Dear Jane blocks B2 (Sweet Tater Pie) and B3 (Mirror Image). Both of these blocks require making two blocks, cutting a circle out of one and then applying it to the other.

Block B2 is made from two pinwheel blocks, each 5 inches unfinished. In this case, I used Dale Fleming's six minute circle technique so the lighter blue pinwheel is machine sewn behind the dark pinwheel that has a circle cut out of it.

For Block B3, I made two simple four patches (5 inches unfinished). This time I cut the circle out of one four patch and basted around the seam allowance. I then pulled the basting to contour around a circle template. Next, I ironed it to make a nice crisp circle that I then hand appliqued on top of the other four patch. While this method takes longer, I do enjoy the process a bit more.

I jumped ahead to play with Dear Jane circle blocks because I'm trying to decide how to finish my vintage spin quilt. Molly was up on some shelving and knocked the pile of blocks to the floor, possibly because she wanted to bring them to my attention. Or most likely, Molly just knocked them to the floor because she likes to knock things down to the floor.

In any case, the six-minute circle might be a quicker way to move this quilt along, but I think I might enjoy it more if I hand applique the circles given how much fun it is to gather the basting thread around the circle template.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Outside and Inside

This morning I went out to take advantage of our sunny day and found this tree branch blocking the drive.
At first I thought the fallen branch was this branch which has been suspended over the same area for years. No such luck.

Happily, I have this wonderful battery-operated alligator chainsaw (Black and Decker). This device can cut up to 4 inches but is also perfect for twiggier stuff.

A rotary cutter for trees.

All clear.

I also went out in the woods to visit the mountain laurel and found this small bush blooming with all its might.

On Mondays, many quilt bloggers show what they have on their design wall. Since Molly likes to keep the design wall clear, I thought I would show you the floor in front of the design wall instead.

Seeing that I was taking a picture of a fabric pile, Molly decided she should pose for me to provide some visual interest.

She also suggested I come in for a closer view at a different angle.

I used a toy to lure Buddy into the photo shoot, but as you can tell he hasn't yet taken the class in Foundations of Feline Poses.