Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Blue Fish Orange Spots
11" x 4" (x 8.5" girth)

Hi!  I made this little fish for an exhibit at the SAQA Conference 2022 in St. Petersburg, Florida. The exhibit is called, Fresh Fish, and is open to all SAQA members and they are also requesting poetry for the exhibit from anyone! It will also be a fundraiser for SAQA, and though I am not clear why, but my little fish will not be coming home.  It will be sent into the world with an unknown future (just like the rest of us, yes?). Deadline is October 31, 2020, so you still have time!

I suspect the exhibit will be amazing, and even more so if they get a LOT of fish! To that end, I decided to both make a 3D fish and post a tutorial on how to make a 3D fish.  The entry calls for both 2D, small art quilts of fish, and 3D fish.  You can see Jamie Fingal's art quilt, The Flying Fish, at this link. She also shows a few steps in her process for making it!  Very fun and whimsical!!

I also think it would be fun to use a special hashtag on Instagram so that we can all see each other's fish or other marine life for this exhibit.  How about #SAQAFreshFish ?

Tutorial for "One Way to Make a 3D Fish":
This is not a pattern, per se, but just some steps to help guide you. Also, I tend to over-complicate things.  There are many ways to make this project easier. Sadly, for me, that is not usually how I tend to run...Ha!!

First, draw a fish.  Make it any shape you want it to be, and for this exhibit, no dimension can be over 12 inches.

Here's mine:  It is not overly impressive, but it gets the job done! Notice the two lines where the tail is?  There is a reason for that.  I will be constructing the fish body separately, and sort of sliding it in to the tail fin (which will be attached with some hand-stitching).
The next step is to trace each piece onto some freezer paper and cut out all the pieces.
Two optional pieces are shown above that are not traced from your drawing. You will need to draw the shape for the gusset and the lips. Tip: If you want them to be exact, try folding your paper in half two times, draw one arc, then re-fold and trace the shape onto the other quadrants.  The gusset piece is Y-seamed into the bottom seam of the fish and should be shorter than the length of the body of your fish.  It allows the shape of the fish to be rounder and sit flat.  It is slightly harder to stitch in, and your fish will be fine if you want to simplify and leave it out.  I like it with the gusset better.  And, it is interesting to explore different shapes and different sized gussets to see what effect they make on the overall shape of the fish.

The other piece is the lips. They are optional and a little bit tricky, but hey, if you are up for it, and like the whimsical look, go for it! If you want to skip it, there are other ways to put a mouth on your fish if you want one!

The next step is probably the most fun you will have while making this fish, so savor it!  Select the fabrics you want for your fish pieces.  They can be commercial fabrics, or leftover pieces from other projects you have done.  You can even string piece, or improvisationally piece something to be the fish body.  Have fun with it! Paint it! Fuse it! Print something on Spoonflower.  This will be where you get to express yourself as an artist.  Make it serious, make it fun, it's entirely up to you. Use your iron to press the freezer paper onto the front side of the fabric, then cut out the pieces, making sure to add 1/4" on all the outer edges for the seam allowances.
This photo shows the pieces for one side of my fish. I picked commercial fabrics for the head and body.  Then I fused some batiked circles, leftover from this project, and then I stamped circles with white paint and added some black dots.  For all the fins I used leftover batiked fabrics I had from a previous projects (maybe this one or this one?).  And the fabric for the gusset was also from a leftover batik project, seen here. You can also choose to put an eye on your fish now.  Or alternatively, you could sew on buttons for eyes after the fish is fully stuffed.

Next is the part that is less fun, preparing all the fins.  The dorsal (top) fin, the pectoral (side) fins, and the pelvic (bottom) fin are pretty straightforward.  Put right sides together, sew the seams....leaving one side open (the side that attaches to the fish body).  Then turn right side out. You may need to trim the seams and or clip the curves. You can choose to put a tiny piece of batting inside and doing some minor quilting if you wish.  Sometimes the tiny fins can be quilted using a pair of tweezers to hold it under the machine while slowly stitching.  You can also decorate with big thread and hand-stitching, or beaded trim, ... or not! :) It can be interesting to add pipe cleaners inside your fins.  When you are finished, you can bend the fins into a shape you like!  Caution: when sewing over pipe cleaners, either on purpose or accidentally, it can break your needle. So, be careful! I did not add any pipe cleaners to this fish, but I have used wires in other 3D fish. Yes, I have made a few fish before! Some more tiny 3D fish on this quilt, and just a few flat ones on this quilt.

I used a few minor differences for constructing the caudal (tail) fin.  First I clipped the inside curve where the fin will attach to the fish body.
Then I finger pressed the 1/4" curved edge to the back side of the fabric. Next, with right sides together, stitch the outer seam, leaving the clipped curve edge open.
Then turn the tail right side out.
Last, I inserted a piece of batting, cut to shape, and then quilted the furthest edges of the tail fin, being careful not to quilt too closely to the edge closest to the body of the fish.  I want to leave this edge open so that I can insert the stuffed body of the fish inside the tail fin later. Attaching the tail to the body is one of the last steps, about the same time as attaching the lips....Mine looks like this:
After all the fins are prepped, the next step is to attach the pectoral fin with a stay stitch to the fish body.
Then, sew the curved seam to add the head (right sides together).
At this stage, I placed the fish bodies on a bigger piece of batting and then did some straight line quilting down the length of the body.  After quilting, I cut the pieces away from the excess batting. The fish is nearly finished now!

Pin the dorsal (top) fin and the pelvic (bottom) fins in place and stay stitch.  The fins should be pointing inwards towards the body of the fish.  Put the right sides of the fish together and stitch around, leaving an opening at the bottom of your fish to add the stuffing. (Sorry, I don't have more photos that show these steps.  I think I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and forgot to take some!) This step is slightly more complicated if you chose to use the gusset.  The bottom of your fish will look like this:
Because both ends of the gusset are a Y-seam, you may need to stop and restart at those points.  Regardless of which side you sew first, make sure to leave that opening so that you can turn your fish right side out and then stuff him or her.

I used Polyfil. This part is fun and easy and the fish sort of comes alive!  Then close the body opening with some handstitching. My favorite is the ladder stitch for this kind of work, but you could also use an applique stitch, or just overcasting.

Slide the end of the fish into the opening of the tail fin, and hand stitch in place.

For the lips:  Fold the lips length-wise in half.  Starting at the center, stitch a scant tiny seam to the pointy end.  Leave a small gap (1/2"? or so) in the center, and start sewing again to the other end.  Using that gap, turn the narrow tube right side out.  Try to stick some stuffing in there.  Then hand stitch the small gap closed.
It will look a bit like a worm now. Then hand stitch it to your fish's face with the seam edge touching the fish face.  I pinned mine in place, and thus stuck myself a few times.  I may be understating it when I say this part is not fun...but it does get easier and faster with practice!

Here's a closeup of my little blue fish, I like the way the quilting shows in this photo.  And, also, I like how expressive the little face is, sweetly cheerful!
Who dat?
I hope you will consider making a fish for this project.  It was a nice diversion from my normal life and took me about a day to make it.  Enjoy!