Nina’s Awesome Ocean Experience – The Salty Seahorse Block

OK, so one of the downsides to owning a quilt store (ScruffyQuilts) is that you frequently fall in love with a pattern or kit that you MUST have. Suffering from the inevitable guilt from the purchase, rationalization sets in. Yes of course it’s a justifiable purchase – after all, what better motivation to put together a shop sample?

Query: Will it be completed before the fabric lines or kits are unavailable or the pattern has lost its shiny penny quality? Probably not. Well, no matter. We’ll do a blog sharing our experience and tips as we go along – never mind that installments may be few and far between what with all the other interfering obligations and excuses.

Anyway, here is Installment #1 – The Salty Seahorse Block.

While I was back in the States for the holidays, I purchased the Awesome Ocean kit, but substituted a white Grunge fabric for the background.

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Already, I realize one of the consequences of the substitution decision is that I will need a substitute for the “white detail fabric” referenced in the pattern because the kit provides a white solid. So off to my local Irish quilt shop (Sew Dublin in Rathmines) I will go – perhaps a rich cream or light beige? Or maybe multiple substitutions for appropriate contrast and coordination?

So, it was in part in the spirit of procrastination on any momentous decision making that I opted to work on Salty first, because Salty doesn’t involve any dreaded “white detail fabric”.

I find that my Judy Niemeyer experience really comes into play with some of these Elizabeth Hartman sampler quilts. Organization is paramount! I grabbed a bunch of zipper baggies and labeled them with the name of each block.

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Then I organized my fabrics and pasted swatches into the pattern book in case things get mixed up. This is especially useful for similar shades of the solids and Essex fabrics.

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There are many seams in each of the blocks and so I figure the scant quarter inch seam will be critical. So, I will err on the side of a smaller seam, measure each block segment and trim to size.

The pattern calls for many half-square triangles.  I will make the half-square triangles as described in the pattern, except that instead of sewing exactly on the diagonal line, I will sew just to the side of it, closer to the outer corner. Then I will line up a ruler on the sewn corner to make sure there hasn’t been any bias warpage.

Now, of course, for efficiency one should cut out all the pieces first. However, I get bored easily and I need more immediate gratification. So, let’s focus on Salty.

While cutting the fabrics for Salty, I noticed that the pattern calls for two G pieces. Please note that if you are working with a directional fabric, one G piece will be 1 ½” x 2” and the other G piece will be 2” x 1 ½”.

And now to cut the background fabrics. I’m already beginning to doubt my choice of white for the background. I do like it better than the tan, but being an ocean theme I would prefer blue tones. However, the block colorways include blue, teal and green. Maybe I’ll choose something more ocean-like for the border. Ramble, ramble, ramble…

I cut the number of strips called for in the pattern for Salty, but only made the number of subcuts needed for this particular block. I put the rest of them into the Salty baggie for future use.

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Now it’s time to sew! I am following the pattern exactly except where otherwise indicated. First the head. Oila!  As you can see, I need to trim it down to 4” square. So, a little spritz of Best Press and a brief press, then trim.

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Now for the half-square triangle corners – gulp. Here goes. As you can see, I did a good job and the sides line up just fine. Phew.

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I find my Purple Thang super helpful for lining up seams. It broke from over-loving some time ago, but I kept the flat end just for this purpose. I use it to place a pin along the seam ¼” from the edge of the fabrics to be sewn together.

As you can see, I’m in desperate need of a manicure. But I digress…

After finishing Step 5, I did a Best Press treatment and trimmed to 4 ½” square.

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Cranking along, I noticed that Figure 9 doesn’t really depict the correct dimensions of piece R between the two F pieces. But looking back at the intact seahorse diagram, I confirmed that R is indeed a rectangle.

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I also noticed that if the F piece is directional, it will need to be placed with the top side to the left when it is placed right sides together for sewing the half square triangle.

For other positions of the half-square triangles encountered throughout the pattern, I must remember to play around with the orientation until I find what works to maintain the desired directionality. Alternatively, I might wish to rebel against my OCD tendencies and ignore it altogether.

And now – here are all the main pieces of Salty laid out just like the picture!

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Well, shoot.  If you look carefully at the photo above, you’ll see that I’ve been quite disingenuous about my OCD – meaning evidently I don’t obsess nearly enough.  Evidently I allowed Salty’s midsection scales to be inserted upside down.  Am I going to rip and fix?  Heck no!  Though it does bug me, I will get over it eventually.

Sometimes it can be helpful to pin down the sides of the pieces to be joined as well, just to make sure they are sitting straight. In the picture below, I will be sewing along the left edge, but I’ve also pinned the other edge of the top piece down as well.

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Ta-da! OK, so he’s a little wavy on the right edge, but that’s what sashing is for! Or a good trim, but I will leave that decision for later.

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Having figured out some of pitfalls and landmines, my efficiency will pick up by chain-piecing the remaining Seahorse blocks.  Again, Best Press is my best friend for this project!

We’re thinking of offering the Awesome Ocean pattern as a class.  Contact us at info@scruffyquilts.com if this would be of interest to you!

Do you have any tips you’d like to share?  If so, please include them in a comment to this post.