After reading my previous post on this quilt, you know I’m overflowing with amateur information to share — so be warned!
The first question with a gift is, of course, to find out what the recipient wants. The mother wanted soft blues for a little girl, with a marine theme. I did a quick image search on fish quilts, and eliminated anything with applique or other pictoral techniques. Of the patchwork fishes, I eliminated anything with curved lines — my skills aren’t up to that yet. And of the geometric fishes, I eliminated anything with too many pieces. Towards the end of my search, I considered this:
It’s recognisably a fish, and consists of six half-triangle squares, two colour squares, and two background rectangles (which could, alternatively, be made with 7 background squares). I liked it, but wasn’t fully satisfied. I wanted a school of fish swimming across the surface of the quilt, and my chosen motif produced very large fishes. Even if I kept each square to two inches, that was still ten inches for the length of each block. And I couldn’t leave out the rectangular strips because if the fish are snugged up, they lose their fishiness, and look like a random geometric pattern.
After some further searching, I found the perfect block:
Each fish is made of three half square triangles, two colour squares, and four background squares. The block is perfect in itself, and doesn’t require further rectangular strips to remain coherent. I settled it as final.
To figure out how many colours of fabric I needed, I calculated the simplest cutting process. This brilliant technique allows you to make eight half square triangles in one go, without needing to sew fiddly, stretchy, bias cut edges together. But each fish needed only three HST pieces. So by repeating the process three times, I would get 24 HST’s, enough for 8 fishes. If I made each square 3″x3″, each fish would be 9″x9″; a blanket of 4×4 blocks would give me a total size of 36″x36″, which (with a narrow border) is just right for a baby. So I needed 16 fishes to begin with. So: make eight-at-a-time HST’s three times for two different colours, giving me 24 + 24 HST’s, which would give me eight fishes in each colour (since each fish uses three HST’s). Which meant I needed two main colours, and a background colour.
To select fabrics, I just squinted to blur the print details and ensure that they both read as two distinct colours against each other, and also that each one contrasted well against the background. I had initially thought of a white background, but decided that would be too boring. Stripes, my next consideration, would show up misalignments too easily. These tiny blue dots were just right!
The cutting, which I had thought would be very tedious, wasn’t too bad. The sewing was fun! Way more fun than I had imagined, and working several sessions of an hour or so distributed through the day, I had my 16 blocks done in one day!
To put them together, I considered:
a) Swimming in the same direction
b) Swimming in opposite directions
d) Rubbing cheeks
I discarded the last two options because I felt that they lost their fish shape and started looking randomly geometric. Of the remaining two, I settled on the first option. And so, less than two days after buying the fabric, my quilt top was done!
Lessons Learnt: It really is a good idea to plan the final block size a little bit larger all around, so they can be trimmed to size. And it is crucial to check if your machine’s presser foot really sews to 1/4 inch or not — I accumulated tiny errors in each seam, so that the whole thing became nearly 5 inches smaller than planned once it was all sewn up. I lost a tiny bit at each seam, and also because I had to trim the squares to correct wonky angles.
Now please prepare yourselves for the next stage of gushing about the quilt back.