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Awesome Ocean's Preppy - three tips for making a happy pod

Awesome Ocean's Preppy - three tips for making a happy pod

We are well and truly past the half way mark in our Awesome Ocean journey.  Stitching these sweet sea creatures each month is just the right pace.  There is plenty of time for stress- free sewing, but it feels like we are making consistent progress as well.  If you'd like to join in you can sign up here

I'm a bit partial to whales and here in Hervey Bay we are lucky to have humpback whatels in the Bay for several months a year.  They stop off for a few days rest during their annual migration and its a major part of the tourism industry here.

So needless to say, I have been looking forward to making Preppy and he didn't disappoint.

If you just want to make the Preppy quilt these tips will still help.  You can grab a pattern here

Preppy is the first time we have  been let loose on the fabrics in Group 2 and its nice to finally add these Reef prints into our project.  You can check out all of the fabrics in Elizabeth Hartman's Reef collection here 

Elizabeth Hartman Reef fabric

Here are my three tips for making Preppy

1. Make the most of your fabric

When cutting your background fabric, don't bother cutting the 1.5" strip as instructed in the pattern.   You can easily cut pieces N and L from the excess left over after cutting your M and O strips.

2. Be careful with the directional fabric

There are some large pieces in Preppy, so it will be really obvious if some of those larger scale and directional prints (like the kelp and, seahorse ones)  are running the wrong way.

My first tip is to have a close look at the diagram Elizabeth Hartman has included at the bottom of page 13.  This will set you up for success.

Its relatively straightforward to manage directional prints in Preppy's head and body units, but things get a bit trickier when sewing the angled seams for the tail

I found  I needed to flip the corner of the squares (pieces F and I) back before stitching to double check that I had the print running in the right direction.

Its sort of the opposite of what you'd expect, but I found that if I had the seahorses heads to the left, like this , then a quick pivot clockwise before stitching worked a treat for me.

preppy directional fabric1

3 Cutting the mouth strip down

This is the first time we have trimmed a rectangle piece back to size after stitching in this project, and it is important to take your time and be as accurate as you can with the mouth.  Any wobbles will really stand out in that Kona Pepper.

align ruler

I used both the 1/2 and 1/4 inch marks on my rule to be extra certain my cut was nice and straight..  I lined up the 1/2 inch mark on the stitching line, but before I cut I double checked that 1/4 mark was covering the Pepper folded seam allowance before cutting. 

Hopefully you can just make it out below.

Once trimmed there is just one seam to stitch the D rectangle to the bottom and the head unit is sorted. 

Granted, this strip is narrower than the others we have sewn, but the same principle applies.    Line up the edge of the foot with the row of stitching (with other strips we used the seam allowance) on the left hand side like this. If you have sewn that first seam with an accurate 1/4 inch seam you should notice that your needle is coming down exactly at the edge of the seam allowance.

Don't focus on that needle going up and down though as it is a sure-fire way to lose track and make a wobble.

So there you go - another couple of seams to join the head, body and tail and your little pod will be completed.

Preppy pod

Next month we will be making Tony the Turtle.  Can't wait!

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Chuckles cheered me up

Chuckles cheered me up
We are getting into the 'swim' of things and Elizabeth Hartman's clown fish Chuckles went together like a dream as we revisited some of the tips and techniques from Angelica, Puffy, Octavian and the Kelp blocks. Continue reading

Making Elizabeth Hartman's Angelica - the angel fish that fought back

Making Elizabeth Hartman's Angelica - the angel fish that fought back

When he was a teenager, my brother kept a beautiful tropical aquarium.  Mysteriously his school of neons began to disappear.  Every day a couple more had gone missing.

tropcal fish

One morning I caught the culprit in the act.

angel fish

Thats right - the angel fish.  They were quickly banished to another tank.

Despite her beauty, Elizabeth Hartman's Angelica turned out to be just as fiesty as those aquarium fish and this month I had a number of hiccoughs when making my blocks. 

Don't freak out.  There's nothing that hard about Angelica; you just need to focus.

I think part of my problem was that I was tired; distracted ; and coming down with a cold. 

Angelica certainly let me know that she's one lady-fish who won't be rushed

Cutting and preparation

There are a lot of small pieces to Angelica.  I've mentioned this last time when we were making Puffy, but being organised and cutting a few layers at a time will make a huge difference and speed things up. 

Be careful though, some of these pieces are only 1'" square, so its important to be as accurate as you can

Making the bubbles

So we get stuck into those tiny pieces straight away with the bubble section and the eye units.  As well as being as accurate as you can cutting those 1" squares, you will need to make sure that you have an accurate seam allowance for these teensy tiny pieces.

My machine has a habit of chewing up small pieces so I used a leader, which is basically just an offcut of fabric that I start my stitching on.  This helps me get those seams nice and straight and any wobbles or tangles in the feed dogs at the start.


As you can see, I used the same scrap of yellow over and over (I'm up to piecing the eye units here).

As for all of the other blocks to date, chain piecing will speed things up and if your are methodical, will help you avoid flipping the pieces and stitching the wrong way.

angelica bubbles unit

Be careful here. The top of the bubble section can be easy to twist around the wrong way when constructing your block.  

I like to place the pieces I am sewing in two stacks at the front of my machine table.  As I pick them up I place them right sides together, sort of like I am closing a book along the edge I intend to sew.

I didn't do this and certainly wish I had as  I needed to double check each one.  Even then I ended up with an oddball one.  Oh well. 

Making the tail unit

I recommend you skip through and make the tail unit next.  It has fewer pieces than the and is a good chance to practice those angel fish angles before getting to the larger, more intricate body unit.

First of all chain piece all of your E and H strips together and give them a good press. Lay your background piece over  the top so that it looks like the diagram in the pattern, and making sure the white kona is on the left.

Move it to your machine and stich across that diagonal.  Its a fairly small seam and I was confident I would nail it so I didn't bother to rule a line.  If unsure though that extra step is probably a good idea. Chain piece all 8 units and then flip it around and repeat for on the other side.

It might seem a little awkward to chain piece these. To help keep things nice and straight, flick the bulk on the right up so that it sits on top of the previous unit.

Stop here and check your angles

Before you trim the corner triangles, check that your angles are going the right way.  Your units should look like mini harbour bridges with the pilons on each side and the seam line forming the lower part of the arch.

Make the body unit

Piece the body strips like before and join them to the head unit.  Make sure that you have the eyes positioned correctly.  My tip above for the bubble section and layering everything the same way in stacks will should help here.

Then stitch  and the background K units  to the body in the same way we did when making the tail. Check your angles then trim and press.

My fiesty fish

Remember that story I told you about the fiesty angel fish?  Well my little school of angel fish are definitely unique.  I pushed on when I should have just walked away from the machine and after sweing my blocks together I discovered a couple of boo boos, in particular with the placement of the eyes like in the block below.

It should look like this one:

I could have pulled the culprits apart, but have decided to live with it and  just chalk it up to experience.  As Sherri Lynn Wood said to me in a workshop late last year in Brisbane

 Whoopee!  There are no mistakes just discoveries.

Perhaps my angel fish come from somewhere much deeper in the ocean than Elizabeth Hartman's - you know - where all the weird stuff hide :-)

I think the take home message here is to just take your time.  Angelica really isn't that complicated to make. 

She just has a lot of small elements and needs your undivided attention.

Next up in our Awesome Ocean journey will be Chuckles.  If you want to sew along with me and have beautiful reef fabrics and coordinates arrrive in the mail, there are still spots available in our Block of the Month program - just $55 per month for 9 months.  Check it out here.

Are you just starting out on your Awesome Ocean Quilt?  Check out my tips for the other blocks we've made so far:

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Making Puffy the Puffer Fish

Making Puffy the Puffer Fish

For month three in our Awesome Ocean Block of the Month we are making Puffy the Puffer fish. 

I really enjoyed making these little guys and love their soft colours.  I think in the overall quilt they provide a nice counter-balance to the brighter, more saturated colours in the Octavian blocks.  It was also nice to dive a bit deeper into Elizabeth Hartman's Reef collection and introduce some more of the prints, plus new kona and Essex linen coordinates.


This bit is important

Before you start cutting, there is a small error in the pattern for Puffy.  Piece G should be 1.5 x 2 inches, not 1 x 2 inches

If you want to double check Elizabeth Hartman has included a pattern correction on her website, and you can read the details here

Don't stress if you've already cut piece G too smal. You should have enough fabric left over in your pack to cut another piece if needed.

My tips for speedy cutting

 Awesome Ocean puffy the puffer fish

Speed up your cutting time and cut the pieces for the blocks in layers.  Unless you have a super-duper rotary cutter, I suggest splitting the 8 fabrics in each group in half and cut the pieces you need 4 at a time. 

I think I mentioned this last month but thought I would show you this time.  As I cut each shape, I lay them out at the top of my cutting board with a little label.  Nothing fancy here -  I'm just using Post- Its.

I've seen somewhere on Instagram someone use pretty painted wooden clothes pegs that are marked with numbers.  You could also use binding clips if you wanted.  For now though, pins and a scrap of paper is woking just fine.

Making the Fins - tips for nice straight seams

After making Octavian last month I feel like I'm getting into the swing of things so constructing the face and body units went just like clock work.  Of course I chain pieced each seam, so they seemed to fly together.

The strips we are using to make the fins are only 1/2" finished, and with the white Kona Snow in the centre, any wobbles in your seams will be quite noticeable.

My method requires pressing these seams open.  Even if you normally press yoru seams together, its not a problem to have them opened out in this part of your block. 

Trust me - grab some scraps and try out this way first.

  1.  Sew either E or I to one side of the white piece L and press the seam open.  
  2. My patchwork foot is 1/4" from the centre needle position on both sides.  For the next seam I used lined the opened out seam allowance as a guide along the edge of my 1/4 inch foot, NOT the edges on the right side like I normally would. As you can see here, my first seam must have been the teensiest bit narrow as there is about 1/16th of an inch on that right side.  Following the seam allowance means that I am correcting this as I sew and that bright white strip will be bang on 1/2" when finished. 

Press that last seam open as well.  Another advantage of those open seams in the fin units is that you will be 100% certain that you wont have any shadow from the coloured fabrics shining through.

 Here you can see my nicely nested seams at the back of my fin unit - and yes.... I'm flashing my backside ;-)

reverse side puffy

When you sew the corner squares on, make sure that you  get those angles going the right way. Somewhere along the way I got mine in a tangle and flipped one the wrong way, and of course I didn't notice until after I had trimmed the excess.  

So don't be a dummy like me - split your fin units into two sets and double check those angles.

Despite this boo-boo, Puffy is a lot of fun to make and my little school of puffer fish is pretty sweet don't you think?  If you are loving these cute little guys ( and who wouldnt?) there's still some spots available in our BOM  for $55/month.  Join here and sew along with me 


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Awesome Ocean Sampler - making Octavian Octopus

Awesome Ocean Sampler - making Octavian Octopus

Octavian is the block we are tackling in the second instalment of our Awesome Ocean Block of the Month and I'm the first to admit I was oh-so-wrong about him. Honestly - I wasn't  all that excited and these little guys were my least favourite block when I first saw Elizabeth Hartman's Awesome Ocean sampler pattern.  

Octavian snuck up on me and worked his charms though.  He and his mates are not only sweet, but also really fun to make.  It was also awesome (sorry - I just couldn't resist) to see the Reef fabrics combined with the Kona cotton and Essex yarn-dyed coordinates for the first time.

Lets get making!

Octavian has lots of different shapes of shapes to cut; more than were needed to make the Kelp blocks, so I labelled small Post-It notesfor the pieces 'A - K' and stuck them to the top of my cutting mat.  As I cut each piece from the different fabrics I stacked them in the relevant pile.  Once I finished cutting the fabrics for all eight of the Octavian blocks, I pinned all of the pieces and the lable together.

Leave the fabrics in these labelled groups, as it will speed things up when chain piecing.

The diagrams in the pattern booklet are pretty self explanatory and Octavian's head and shoulders went together like a dream. 

Is it just me?  Does Octavian look like an alien without his legs?

See what I mean?

Don't get those legs in a tangle

 The legs are the part where you will want to stop and take a good look at the fabric placement in the original and make sure you end up with the angles going the right way.

I divided the leg pieces F - H into two for each Octavian block and chain pieced the background squares (J) in one direction.

Once I'd completed the first half,  I layed them out for a visual check before starting on the rest.

Next I reversed the stitching angle and completed the rest of the legs.

Once I had trimmed and pressed I then stitched the leg unit together by constructing two halves first. 

Piecing the legs as two units like this, instead of working from one side to the other., helps you make a neat rectangle instead of a wonky parallelogram which will cause issues down when you join the head unit.

Once the leg unit is together, bingo!  You are only one seam away from your very own little octet of Octavian Octopi.





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My top 3 ways to make Half Square Triangles

My top 3 ways to make Half Square Triangles

'Theres more than one way to skin a cat', or so they say.  There's also a lot of different ways to make HSTs. 

Everyone has their favourite method - even designers.  That's why you see so many different methods popping up in patterns.  

In the Pixie Medallion pattern, Sharon gets us to cut pairs of squares diagonally and then stitch the triangles together.  I used to do them this way, but changed after discovering my expensive computerised machine liked to gobble up those pointed ends in the feed dogs. 

So here is a round up f ,of three different methods I find reliable.  I have included the cutting dimensions for everyone stitching with us on the Great Pixie QAL ,so that if you want an alternative you can pick your favourite and whip up your HST blocks for the centre star. 

Dont forget to post a picture on social media of your progress.  You never know - you might even win one of our great prizes.  

    HST - two at a time

    Unless I have a lot of triangles to make, I often tend to make them two at a time by stitching a pair of squares together with a 1/4 inch seam either side of a ruled diagonal line.  

    HST two at a time

    Making them just two at a time is great when you want to inject a lot of different fabric combinations into your quilt block, or only need a handful of HSTs.

    The best thing about this method though is that your HST will be on the straight of grain, and you've avoided those stretchy bias edges.

    You can check this method out here in a previous blog post where I've shared a heap of pictures.  I find it much easier to be accurate by sewing those seams across the bias before cutting.

    To make the HST triangle units for Pixie's centre star using this method you will need to start with 3" squares.

     HSTs - 4 at a time

    This is the perfect method if you have some 5" charm squares you want to include in your Pixie.  It's also super quick and easy as

    • there are no diagonal lines to mark and
    • you are stitching along the grain of the fabric instead of the bias.

    Cut two 4 inch squares and place them right sides together.  Stitch a 1/4" seam along all four sides of your pair.

    Make HST 4 at a time

    Cut twice diagonally.

    HST 4 at a time

    Press and trim the units to the required size (2 1/8").

    trim HST

     HSTs - 8 at a time

    When I need to make  a heap of HST, I make them eight at a time. This is also the way Merran has made the HST units for the centre star of our Pixie Medallion.

    make HST 8 at a time

    Cut two 6" squares and stitch right sides together with a 1/4" seam either side of diagonal lines. Cut across the seams, and then cut along the diagonal lines and voila!.  

    HST 8 at a time

    Press your seams either open or toward the darkest fabric, and trim back to 2 1/8"

    There's a really great video tutorial by Fons and Porter demonstrating this method.  Wait till you hear the chipper music  It will make you want to jump up and march over to your cutting board.  Just don't go swinging those arms with an open blade  - yikes! 

    Watch the video here .

    Avoiding the quilt math

    If you are making the Pixie Medallion with us, I've worked out the math for you in the examples above so you that making those triangles for the feathered star is super simple (If you haven't started a Pixie, its not too late to join in and you can purchase a pattern here )

    So what if you want to make a HST block in another size for a different project?

    Happily Suzy Quilts has some really handy tables on her blog.  Suzy's done the calculations for all of three of these methods so that you can make any size you need. 

    Which ever way to make them, I hope you have fun.  Happy stitching everyone.

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