Tutorial! Sara’s Mendocino fish quilt block
We sent Sara a bundle of Mendocino a few months ago with the task of creating a quilt for a window display in our West Hampstead shop (we’ll share the new window next week!) Sara previously made this gorgeous Tiger Lily quilt so we couldn’t wait to see what she’d make with the latest Heather Ross collection. Needless to say, we were not disappointed. This quilt is a stunner!
Sara is back today on The Daily Stitch to show us how to whip up those awesome fish blocks! Take it away, Sara!
I was so inspired by all of the amazing makes with Mendocino at Quilt Market, especially the fantastic octopus and seahorse quilts (check them out in Annie’s Quilt Market report). In the same vibe, I decided to make a shoal of fish swimming amongst the mermaids and octopi.
For the fish blocks, I used:
- 19 FQ from Mendocino for the main bodies of the fish in the pink-brown-orange colourways (I repeated three to make 22 fish) – there was lots left over
- 1m of Kona in Aqua for the fish backgrounds
For the quilt background, I used:
¼ inch seam is used throughout. The finished quilt measures approximately 45×55 inches.
For each fish block, cut the following, using the template. I traced this onto template plastic to help with fussy cutting.
From main fabric:
1 x fish body piece
1 x fish tail piece
From background fabric:
2 x fish body background piece
2 x fish tail background piece
1 x fish tail end piece
1. Take the main body piece and the two body background pieces, fold them in half lengthways and finger press the centre line. For the background pieces, you should be matching the end points of the curve, rather than the ends of the fabric.
Place the body piece on top of one of the background pieces, right sides together, with the centre creases matching.
2. Match each end point of the fish body piece with the end of the curve on the background piece and pin. Find the mid point between the centre pin and each end pin and pin here, too. You can finger press another crease between the end and the centre crease to make sure that this is accurate, but I don’t bother with this part. The pinned piece will look full of folds, but it will come together, I promise!
3. Start stitching the pieces together at one end. The trick is to go slowly and stop frequently to check that the edges are still aligned and to move excess fabric from one side to the other, to ensure that it doesn’t get caught in the needle. I find that it helps to hold the fabrics up at an angle with my left hand whilst sewing. The important thing is not to stretch the fabric to try to make it fit the curve – this will cause a misshapen finished block that won’t lie flat. Press the seam towards the background fabric.
4. Take your second body background piece, making sure that you have the longer sides matching, and align and pin the centre creases, right sides together.
This time you need the background piece to overlap your existing seam by ¼ inch.
5. Pin and sew in the same way as for the first seam, lifting the fabric up slightly with your left hand if that makes things easier.
6. Press the seam towards the background fabric again. You should have something that looks a bit like this – but I must confess that I pressed one of the seams the wrong way in this block, so it looks slightly different!
7. You will notice that there is a smaller amount of background fabric at one end of your block. Line up your ruler so that one line cuts through the two points of the fish body, and trim this end down to just under ¼ inch from the end of the fish.
8. Now we’ll piece the tail. Take the main tail piece and the two background tail pieces and make the centre creases as you did for the body.
9. Pin the centre crease and each end, overlapping the background piece at the point of the tail (where it will join the body) by ¼ inch.
10. Sew the seam with the same method you used for the body, and press the seam towards the background fabric. You should have something that looks like this.
11. Pin your second tail background piece in the same way, ensuring that it overlaps by ¼ inch at the point of the tail.
Sew and press seams towards the background fabric.
12. Take your tail end piece and fold it so that the two ends of the curve match. Finger press a crease at the centre of the curve, and in the centre of the curve of your main tail piece. Match and pin the centre creases.
13. Pin the ends of each curve as you did for the body and tail pieces. Take the straight edge pieces and shift these so that they are at 90 degrees to the main tail background pieces. It will look something like this, but ignore the fact that I had got ahead of myself and already sewed the tail to the body in this photo!
14. Sew the tail end seam, stopping with the needle down when you get to the beginning of the the curve and rotating the fabric to keep your ¼ inch seam allowance. Sew the curve in exactly the same way as for the body and the tail, stopping again when you get to the end of the curve and rotating to sew the final straight seam. Press towards the background fabric.
15. Trim the little triangles of fabric at the point of the tail so that you have a straight edge. Try to ensure that you have one of the lines of the ruler cutting through the centre of the tail so that you have a 90 degree angle, and keep the seam allowance as close to ¼ inch as you can (it will be slightly smaller, which you want).
16. Line up the trimmed ends of the tail and body pieces and pin. To make sure that the tail and the body meet in the right place, I put a pin through the point of the tail piece and then put this through the point of the body piece.
Sew and press this final seam.
17. Finally, trim your block. How much you need to trim depends on what size you want your block to be. There is quite a lot of extra fabric on all sides, so that I could be flexible in this stage. I trimmed the bare minimum, just to ensure that the block was squared up.
Finishing the quilt
To make the quilt top, I pieced 22 fish blocks together improvisationally, inserting extra pieces of background fabric to give the shoal movement. The quilt background is simply pieced from 6.5” blocks in a mixure of Kona Aqua, four blue Mendocino prints, and a few 9-patch blocks randomly pieced in Kona Aqua, Azure and Bahama Blue in order to create a dappled effect.
I quilted using wavy lines and used leftovers from the pink prints for the binding.