Fish Quilt Step 2 – Choosing Fabric

Fish Quilt - Dan - from Shiny Happy World

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It’s the easiest, most fun way to make an applique quilt. You can do it!

The Fish Quilt pattern is finished!

In this post I showed how I quilted my background blocks.

Today I’m talking about fabrics. What color will your fish be?

I opted for the brilliant colors you see in a coral reef. Think bright, bright, BRIGHT!

Fish Quilt - Gerald - from Shiny Happy World

I used two different fat quarter bundles for my fish. Most of the colors come from the Rainbow Brights fat quarter bundles.

That bundle has a darker and lighter shade of each color in the rainbow. That allows me to combine the light and dark for contrast in one fish, like this. . .

Isabella is made with the two shades of green in that bundle.

For a little extra contrast, I also added the Little Stripes fat quarter bundle. I love stripes so much!

Even though the fabrics in the two bundles come from different companies, I picked them so that the colors would still work really well together. ๐Ÿ™‚

If I was making this for myself – and not as the sample quilt for a pattern – I probably would have also included fabrics from the Dots fat quarter bundle.

Dots Fat Quarter Bundle from Shiny Happy World

Those irregular dots and the crosshatch background would have added another nice texture to the fish – and the colors coordinate well with the other two bundles.

But I try to keep the numbers of fabrics I use in my samples to a minimum because I don’t want anyone to feel like they need to buy a TON of different fabrics to make the quilt work. Fabric is expensive! But if you have some Dots left over from making a Dinosaurs quilt – add them into the mix!

But what if you don’t want to make brightly colored tropical fish? What if you want to make fish that look like what you can pull out of any freshwater lake or stream?

For you I recommend the Warm Neutrals fat quarter bundle.

Warm Neutrals fat quarter bundle - from Shiny Happy World

That will give you fish that look trout-tish and bass-ish and perch-ish.

(All of my fish are Ish Fish. The only fish in the quilt that really looks like a very specific type is the angler fish – and even on him I eliminated the exceedingly-scary-looking-very-sharp teeth.)

Which brings me to my final topic while we’re talking about color.

Camouflage.

I designed most of the blocks so there would be a very high contrast between the fish and the background water. I really wanted those fish to pop!

But I made a few be lower contrast. Angler fish (mine is named Kevin) have a very dull, practically invisible body so that all you really see is that glowing lure. I tried to sort of duplicate that (without making him too invisible) by making his body and the background the same darkness of fabric. You can see that really clearly when I switch his photo to black and white.

I added the lighter purple fin to help you spot him a bit, but you could go all dark for a more hidden fish lurking down there.

I chose purple on the blue because they’re in the same color family – both cool – so there’s even less contrast.

(If you want to read more about my normal “rules” for choosing applique fabrics (which I break here for Kevin) check out this post.

So Kevin is the lowest contrast, and most of the blocks are very high contrast, but I added in just a couple of low-ish contrast blocks to help make the overall quilt mimic a bit the look of a school of tropical fish – where some really stand out and some are less noticeable. Like this block where the lighter purple fish blend a bit with the lighter dapples in the background.

These guys appear in another block where they have higher contrast, so it’s only this pair who tend to recede into the background just a bit.

So there you go! That’s how I chose the colors for my fish. I can’t wait to see what you all do! I hope you’ll post photos as you go in the Shiny Happy People Facebook group. It’s awesome to see samples with different fabric choices!

You can order the Fish Quilt pattern here.

You can read about how I quilted my background blocks here.

You can read about how I worked with the print of the fabric here.

You can read about how I did my final quilting (bubbles!) here.

Happy quilting!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World

Fish Quilt Step 1 – Quilting the Background Blocks

Fish Quilt Step 1 - Quilting Your Background Blocks

Want to learn how to make a quilt with an easy online workshop – totally free?

Sign up for Let’s Make a Quilt here. You’ll learn how to get started, the tools and supplies you’ll need, and how to make a quilt from start to finish using Quilt As You Go and applique with fusible adhesive.

It’s the easiest, most fun way to make an applique quilt. You can do it!

The Fish quilt pattern is finished (you can get it here) and I’m sharing some of the behind-the-scenes design decisions I made for my sample quilt.

Today – quilting the background blocks!

I used fabrics from my Blue Batiks bundle and cut all my blocks and batting pieces 11 inches square. They’ll be trimmed down to 10 1/2″ square so that gives me a bit of wiggle room. You can cut yours a little bigger if you like more room for error. ๐Ÿ™‚

I usually do different quilting in each block, but for this quilt I decided to use a double wavy line for every block. It gives a nice watery/wavy look that’s perfect for the fish.

Fish Quilt Step 1 - Quilting Your Background Blocks - sample block

You can see how I quilt those wavy lines (no marking!) in this video.

One other change for this quilt is in my choice of quilting thread. I usually match the thread pretty closely to the background fabric, but this time I wanted those waves to stand out a bit more. I chose thread with a little bit of contrast – either darker or lighter blue, and sometimes veering into a blue-green.

Here’s one with slightly lighter thread.

And here’s one with slightly darker thread.And here’s one with some blueish green thread.

It’s subtle – but I like how it adds to the dapply, watery effect.

Read all about choosing colors for your fish here.

Read about how I worked with the print of the fabric here.

Read about how I did my final quilting (bubbles!) here.

Happy quilting!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World

How to Sew a Zippered Pillow Cover – a video tutorial

How to Add a Zipper to a Pillow Back - a video tutorial from Shiny Happy World

I’m pretty picky about pillow covers.

I don’t like the envelope backs. They’re easy to sew, but they don’t cover the pillow as snugly as I like.

I like zippered covers, so they cover tightly and can be removed for washing – but I don’t like when the zipper is in one of the side seams. They never “sit” the same way as the other seams, so the finished pillow shape is always a little distorted.

I like the zipper to be somewhere in the pillow back (it doesn’t have to be the exact center) but I don’t like it to extend all the way to the edges, because the stiffness of the zipper again can distort the overall look of the pillow.

So here’s how I sew a pillow with a zipper in the back.

  1. I make the cover a little small. If the pillow is 18 inches square, I cut my fabric 18 inches square. When I sew the front to the back using a 1/2 inch seam allowance, the pillow cover ends up 17 inches square – perfect for the nice snug fit I like.
  2. I make the zipper a little short. Specifically – two inches shorter than the cut fabric. So for an 18 inch pillow, I buy a 16 inch zipper.

Here’s how I assemble the zipper back.

See how easy that is?

(Do you like that super fun, slightly wobbly gingham print? It’s part of the Gingham Play collection from Michael Miller Fabrics and I have fat quarter bundles in a rainbow of pretty colors.)

I make a LOT of these pillow covers.

My daughter doesn’t like using regular rectangular bed pillows. Instead she has an enormous pile of square pillows – mostly with quilted and applique designs on them. ๐Ÿ™‚ She doesn’t like the inexpensive “hard” pillow forms. She likes these Fairfield brand Home Elegance pillows. They feel like down pillows, but they’re a LOT less expensive and they’re machine washable. Win!

You can use any quilt block pattern to make a pillow cover.

How to Turn Any Quilt Block into a PIllow

There are basic instructions here, and the Think BIG class has instructions for making giant floor pillows!

Happy sewing!

Best,
Wendi

How to Applique Eyes – Easy Options

applique brown puppy with a spot on one eye - title image for a post explaining several different options for how to applique eyes

Ugh! How on earth do you applique eyes? They’re so small!

The eyes are definitely the trickiest part of any of my applique patterns, but I have several posts that show you easy ways to deal with them!

Applique

I usually applique eyes using solid black fabric. I like the look of it, and (after some practice) I don’t think it’s too tricky to outline those eyes. Plus I use black thread on black fabric so if my line gets wonky, nobody really sees it. ๐Ÿ™‚

applique smiling sloth face in peach on a green quilted background

For tips on outlining those small eyes, watch this video.

If you want to applique the eyes but you don’t want to do the outline stitching, use this super-strong fusible adhesive.

Heat & Bond Ultrahold

The Heat & Bond Ultrahold is too stiff for the main applique, but you’ll never notice the stiffness on such small pieces as the eyes.

Careful! If you choose this option, you need to be sure to dry your quilts on a less hot setting. If your dryer gets as hot as the wool setting on your iron, that’s hot enough to re-melt the adhesive and the eyes could come loose.

Machine Embroidery

I’ve got two different posts showing how you can embroider eye shapes by machine.

applique doll head and shoulders with close-up of her face

This one shows a “cheater” way to do it using a regular sewing machine. It only works for small eyes, like those on the Paper Dolls and Dinosaurs quilt patterns.

close up of blond paper doll applique from waist up

If you want to satin stitch larger eyes and you have an embroidery machine, this post includes a file for embroidery machines to embroider eyes in a wide range of sizes.

Hand Embroidery

Of course, you can also embroider the eyes by hand. If you go with that option I recommend using satin stitch for larger eyes.

partially satin stitched heart showing needle and thread

Here’s a tutorial showing how.

For smaller eyes, I recommend this stitch.

needle and thread embroidering an eye

It gives a nice, rounded oval.

Markers or Paint

You don’t have to sew the eyes at all! You can use fabric markers or fabric paint for them!

detail of dinosaur head with shiny black eye

I tested a bunch of different markers and paints and in this post I shared my favorites.

See? Lots and lots of options for those pesky eyes. ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy stitching!

Using QAYG with Sashing – video tutorial

applique dinosaur quilt with sashing - demonstrating QAYG with sashing

Want to learn how to make a quilt with an easy online workshop – totally free?

Sign up for Let’s Make a Quilt here. You’ll learn how to get started, the tools and supplies you’ll need, and how to make a quilt from start to finish using Quilt As You Go and applique with fusible adhesive.

It’s the easiest, most fun way to make an applique quilt. You can do it!

I’ve had SO MANY people ask how they can use QAYG with sashing. So many!

I don’t usually use sashing (or borders) in my quilts – but for this dinosaur quilt I really wanted them to divide the long panorama-style rows of dinosaur landscapes.

Dinosaur Quilt Pattern (napping size) from Shiny Happy World

So it’s the perfect opportunity for a video!

I need to clarify one thing up front. This is NOT the sashing you often see in QAYG quilts. In most QAYG with sashing, that sashing is designed to hide the seams between the blocks, and it’s usually pretty skinny (usually maxing out at about an inch wide).

This is more traditional-style sashing (or borders) that you can make any width you like.

It’s done just like adding sashing to a regular quilt – except that you quilt the fabric to the batting before you cut it in strips and sew it to the blocks.

It really is that simple.

Here’s the video showing how. . .

See how easy that is?

You use the exact same method if you want to add borders to your QAYG quilt.

I promised links to a few more helpful videos and tutorials related to this one, and here they are.

General intro to my Quilt As You Go method

You can also get a great overview of my QAYG method in this free video workshop.

How to Add Sashing to a Quilt – this is for any quilt, not just those using QAYG

Quilting from the Center Out to the Edgesย (used on the large piece of sashing fabric you saw in this video)

Dinosaur quilt pattern

And that awesome dinosaur skeleton fabric I used for the sashing? Sorry. It’s been discontinued now. ๐Ÿ™ But the good news is that there’s ALWAYS a great selection of dinosaur fabrics in the world. ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy quilting!

How to Make Easy Landscape Blocks

applique baby triceratops with a volcano in the background

Most of my quilts don’t use landscape blocks.

I usually zoom right in on the animals’ faces. ๐Ÿ™‚

I like to make it look like they’re looking (and smiling) at YOU.

I frame them in the block so they look like little portraits.

Maurice - cat applique pattern from Shiny Happy World

But that wasn’t going to work for the dinosaur quilt pattern. For dinosaurs I really needed to show the whole body.

That works just fine with my usual solid-color blocks as backgrounds.

green spotted applique apatosaurus on a purple quilted background

You could totally make the dinosaur quilt using all solid blocks like this and it would look great!

But as I was drawing them, I kept envisioning my dinosaurs in an actual landscape. I wanted the pterodactyls to be flying in the sky, above dinosaurs stomping across the earth. And I kept envisioning volcanoes and clouds and palmy prehistoric plants – and those needed to be rooted in the ground and stretching up to the sky.

I wanted landscape blocks.

So I did a lot of thinking about how to make these landscape blocks. I wanted a young, jagged, volcanic panorama – and I wanted it to be easy.

Dinosaur Panorama - four applique dinosaurs and one volcano on landscape blocks

I didn’t want all the blocks to be the same, and it seemed kind of silly to provide pages and pages of patterns for what are essentially squares with slashes across them. ๐Ÿ™‚

So I came up with an easy method to make these blocks.

  • no measuring
  • no fussy templates
  • an even mix of uphill and downhill blocks
  • an even mix of earth and sky

Here’s how to do it.

See how easy that is?

My fabrics are very bright and vibrant batiks (get the green batiks here and the blue batiks here) but you could achieve the same landscape effect with a totally different feel by using a selection of pastel green and blue solids.

purple spotted T-rex on a pastel quilted landscape block background

See? Wouldn’t that make a sweet baby quilt?

Those dinosaur eyes are pretty tiny. Too tiny to applique easily – so when I was designing the dinosaur quilt pattern I tested out a bunch of fabric markers and paints to see which ones worked the best on quilts. You can read about the results – and get my recommendations – here.

Happy quilting!

Using Fabric Markers and Paints for Small Eyes

detail of applique dinosaur face with shiny black eye

For years I’ve been recommending fabric markers and paints as an option for people who don’t want to applique small eyes, but I’ve never recommended a particular brand.

Until now.

On a recent trip to Joann’s I grabbed one of every black fabric marker and paint they carried. Then I brought them home and tested them out on some dinosaur quilt blocks.

First, let’s talk about the markers. That’s definitely the easiest option for eyes.

Dinosaur eye made with a Tulip fabric marker - recommended by Shiny Happy World

Of all the brands I tested, I liked this Tulip fine-tip marker the best.

Tulip fabric marker - recommended by Shiny Happy World

It has a bullet tip, which is nice. I used the fine tip to outline the eye, and then filled in the center using the broader side of the tip. It took two coats (I let it dry between coats) to get the really opaque coverage I wanted – but that wasn’t a problem. Here’s a close-up of the finished eye.

Dinosaur eye made with a Tulip fabric marker - recommended by Shiny Happy World

Nice tip. No bleeding. Good coverage.

Now – what if you want to get a little fancy with a 3D eye?

Applique Dinosaur eye made with Scribbles fabric paint - recommended by Shiny Happy World

About a year ago I got an email from a customer telling me she had done her eyes using fabric paint, and I’ve been wanting to test that out ever since. I think she had used a puff paint, but I wanted to try the shiny finish, thinking that would add a nice spark of life to the eyes.

I tested out several brands and this one from Scribbles was my favorite.

Scribbles fabric paint - recommended by Shiny Happy World

The black was truly black, not just dark grey. It had a nice shine on it after it dried, and the bottle has a VERY fine tip which made it easier to control. It does take a little skill to use these squeeze bottles – I recommend practicing on some paper before you try it on your almost-finished blocks.

Here’s a close-up of a finished eye.

Dinosaur eye made with Scribbles fabric paint - recommended by Shiny Happy World

A couple of things to note. . .

This finishes to a nice smooth dome – but be aware that the dome is a lot taller when the paint is wet. It will compact down as it dries.

I tried – and was unable – to pick off the eye after it was dry. Just a little testing for kids who like to pick at textures like this. ๐Ÿ™‚

You won’t be able to iron over the applique after you apply the paint – your iron will melt it. So you need to fuse down all the applique pieces, then outline stitch, then paint the eyes. You could possibly paint the eyes before outlining, but some of the edges of the dinosaur heads are pretty close to the eyes and I was afraid the rubbery eyes would grab at my presser foot and keep things from flowing smoothly.

Yes – it’s more than a little nerve-wracking to add paint to an otherwise finished block. I wasn’t joking about practicing on paper first. It took me a few eyes to get a feel for how it squeezes out of the bottle.

So there you go – my favorite fabric markers and paints perfect for small eyes if you don’t want to do tiny applique. ๐Ÿ™‚

There’s a round-up of all my different ways to do the eyes here.

And you can find that dinosaur quilt pattern here. ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy quilting!

Quilting from the Center Out to the Edges – a video tutorial

detail of modern quilt block in grey, orange, and purple with diagonal quilting lines

Want to learn how to make a quilt with an easy online workshop – totally free?

Sign up for Let’s Make a Quiltย here. You’ll learn how to get started, the tools and supplies you’ll need, and how to make a quilt from start to finish using Quilt As You Go and applique with fusible adhesive.

It’s the easiest, most fun way to make an applique quilt. You can do it!

What does it mean to start quilting in the middle and work your way out?

I get this question a LOT – so I made a video showing the answers.

That’s right – answers. Plural.

Because the answers are differentย depending on whether you’re quilting by hand or by machine!

See?

Happy quilting!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World

How to Assemble a Quilt that Uses an Alternate Grid – video tutorial

quilt showing applique woodland animals - fox, raccoon, owl, deer squirrel, bunny, bear, etc.

Want to learn how to make a quilt with an easy online workshop – totally free?

Sign up for Let’s Make a Quilt here. You’ll learn how to get started, the tools and supplies you’ll need, and how to make a quilt from start to finish using Quilt As You Go and applique with fusible adhesive.

It’s the easiest, most fun way to make an applique quilt. You can do it!

Quilts that “break” the traditional simple checkerboard grid can be really fun and dynamic, but if you’ve never worked with an alternate grid before, figuring out how to assemble the blocks can be kind of tricky. Take a look at the Noisy Farm quilt.

applique farm animals quilt

You can’t just sew all the blocks into rows and then sew the rows together!

Instead of rows or columns, you break these quilts into chunks – and there’s an easy way to figure out how. That’s what I show you in this new video. ๐Ÿ™‚

See? Now that you know how easy it is, try breaking the grid on your own! You could take the Playful Puppies pattern – a simple grid. . .

applique quilt featuring lots of cartoon puppy faces

. . . and add a bunch of half-blocks with puppy sounds using this free alphabet pattern. Arf! Woof! Yip!

Copy the layout of this Woodland Critters quilt. . .

Woodland Critters quilt pattern from Shiny Happy World

And you could have a really fun and dynamic version of the puppies quilt all your own! Noisy Puppies!

Here are a few more posts you might find helpful. . .

Happy quilting!

Stitching Eyes and Mouths – video tutorial

Stitching Eyes and Mouths - a video tutorial from Shiny Happy World

Want to learn how to make a quilt with an easy online workshop – totally free?

Sign up for Let’s Make a Quilt here. You’ll learn how to get started, the tools and supplies you’ll need, and how to make a quilt from start to finish using Quilt As You Go and applique with fusible adhesive.

It’s the easiest, most fun way to make an applique quilt. You can do it!


The most common questions I get from people about my applique patterns are. . .

  • How do you stitch around small parts like eyes and noses?
  • How do you stitch the mouth?

I made a video to show exactly how I do both of those steps!

That’s it. Remember. . .

  • Shorten your stitch length.
  • Go slow!
  • Stop with the needle down and pivot your work as often as you need to to keep a smooth curve.

Happy stitching! (Get that Silly Sloths quilt pattern here.)

Best,
Wendi
Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World