Make an Applique Coral Reef Ocean Scene Quilt with Rob Appell of Man Sewing (Instructional Video)


I dove into the textile world doing these
quilted seascapes. And I absolutely love them. After years of doing them, I’ve developed
what I think are some really fun strategies and techniques to building out your framework. I’m going to share all those with you today. Let’s get started. That’s right, I’ve been creating these
seascapes for years. And I really want to walk you through the
framework of all of this. So I don’t want you to focus too much on
the fabrics today. But more the structure. So let’s first start talking about the proportionality
before I can show you where the pieces actually go. So we’re going to kind of talk in elements. We’re going to talk about a sky, a surface,
and an underwater elements. And first thing I want to make sure is that
my underwater is larger than the surface water and the sky together. So this little seam here, I don’t know if
you can see it, hopefully you cannot. But there’s a seam right here and I want
it to be above the halfway point in the quilt. So for example this is probably nine inches,
and about 12 inches cut making 21 inches. So my underwater is about 27. That gives me the perspective I need. And then I’ve got this trick that I do that
I call the flap. And the flap is created also out of the surface
water fabrics. But before I go any further I want to slow
down and say please drop into the description below. I’ve got a blueprint of the framework of
our reef. And I also want to throw a big shout out to
Northcott Fabrics. They’ve got some fantastic fabrics right
now. And I just absolutely love what we’re working
with. So I’m using some of their landscape textures
for the sky. I’m using gradations for the underwater. Their surface water they’ve got. And then of course gradations is the textures
for the reef itself. And then in a little bit I’m going to show
you this fantastic new tropical fish line they’ve got. We’re going to fussy cut that all up. So gather as many different fabrics as you
can find to put all of this together. This was a collage style quilt and what you
use for your fish isn’t as important today for me as what we’re doing for our framework. So I mentioned the flap. Let’s get right back to that. The flap you’ll see is this piece of fabric
right up here. It is made from the surface water print. But it flaps up and down. It actually is a piece that’s about four
to five inches, just cut as a long strip by. And I’m usually using the 45 width here. This flap is going to be able to flap up and
down while I design. And I’m going to be able to slide things
underneath as you see in the quilt behind me. But first I want to lay out the watery, ripple
effect on it. So I need to find the center. So I’m going to go and literally just fold
this in half. Once it’s folded in half I also want to
point out that I have fusible web on it. But I left about a quarter of an inch from
the top. That is the edge that is going to be caught
up here in the seam as I put all those together. So if this is the top and this is the center
I’m starting down on a far corner. And as you can see with my sharpie marker
I’m just drawing these long kind of finger shapes into the water. And as I’m coming here I’m just going
to start to pick up. I want to respect that quarter of an inch. This was that centerpoint right there. So now I’m going to actually kind of rotate
my work and going back the other direction. I kind of bring my pen up towards that quarter
of an inch where it’s going to be a seam. See that waving up motion. And what we want to do is like long fingers
as if these were candy canes, not cotton candy. And then I’m going to lay this back down
kind of like that. And then what I would do is I would go over
to my cutting mat surface. I use my shark rotary cutter and I cut all
of this all the way out. And then I get ready to seam this into the
project. So last thing I’m going to point out one
last time. There’s all that paper it has been stitched
in. So the surface, excuse me, the underwater
was right side up. Then the flap itself was also right side up. Then I put my surface water right sides down
as we made that quarter inch seam allowance. Leave the paper on until you’re done with
all the design work. What’s next you’re saying. Well we’ve got to put together the framework. If we were building a house this would be
the studs that go into the walls. We need to build, look at the quilt here,
we need to build all of this purple rocky structure that all of our fun fussy cuts prints
are going to lay on top of. Now in order to do that what I’ve done is
I”ve fused a bunch of fabric and it’s all over here waiting for me. So let’s start by talking again about some
of those wonderful gradations. Coral reef is all made from rock, lava rock
if you’re watching what’s going on in Hawaii right now there’s a perfect example. So it starts out as a black or gray rock as
it comes from the volcano down. And then when it hits the water and over time
when coral and algae and these wonderful purple little animals and plants start to grow on
the rock. So I’ve got a dark and a light purple for
underwater. And I’ve got the gray for the islands and
the rock on the surface. These all have their fusible web, Heat N Bond
Featherlite has been put the back of all of these. And I literally just start with a half of
a yard of each. So in order to build up that reef structure
I’m going to design and cut as I go. I’ve got myself my cutting mat right ready
to go. I’ve got my shark applicutter and a chalk
pencil ready. I’m going to start with that darkest piece
of reef fabric or that darkest of my gradations. And I’m going to slide it underneath the
flap completely. I want to create kind of like that sand drip
you know that we do with our sand castles at the beach effect. So somewhere about halfway over I’m going
to start with my chalk pencil and I’m just going to kind of come down. And these are going to be wavy lines. Water creates a soft texture so we’re having
kind of wavy lines. And as I come down then I’m going to kind
of come back up to create one of those little fun finger columns. Those are great places to have our fish swimming
in and out and around. And then I want to bring this down kind of
narrow like this. And then I’m also just going to come down
here and I’m going to mark which is the bottom of my reef. Now my first trick is I’m going to come
over here real quick and I’m going to cut off, and I’m eyeballing it. But I do a lot of this so I’m not too worried. I’m going to save every piece of scrap that
I have leftover because I really want all of my pieces to work together. Watch this. So now I’m going to take my cutter. A lot of times it’s easier to move the fabric
when you’re dealing with a big piece like this. And of course that chalk is just an example. It doesn’t have to be the exactly the line
because we haven’t fit anything with precision yet. That precise word I have a hard time saying. Now one last thing before we drop this in. Let’s add a little more fun, let’s add
a couple of caves. So I can just take my cutter, I can just drop
this in but this cave is going to follow the structure I was doing originally. I’m going to kind of come back down rolling,
keeping those soft lines again. And then here’s my cave structure coming
back up and back down to meet where I started from like this. We can do another couple. Let’s not get too crazy with them. But these are great spots for us to go ahead
and sneak in our little creatures and characters like this. Now this piece is going to slide right back
over here. All the paper stays on everything until the
entire design is done. And the reason that is is it’s much easier
to trim your fabric if the paper and the glue is all still there. So yes I know the paper is here. This goes right into place. Now I want to show you something really cool. What I had leftover actually becomes another
fantastic portion of our reef but we don’t want people to catch us. So what we’re going to do now, and we don’t
want people to know that we’re reusing this. I’m going to clean this edge up. And I’m going to clean this edge up with
a wavy edge because it’s going to go on the top of my next piece. Then this is going to come around like this. This column will fit right down over here
somewhere along the edge. And then what I do is I take this piece you
see it’s almost the right distance. And we’re going to cut a couple of really
easy curve lines because what I can do with those curve lines is I can slide them here. And then I’m going to just finish this one
off to make it a little bit more unique and fun, like this. And then this can be positioned in here like
this. Now you can see it peek a boo. Come back with me to the quilt again real
quick. Here you see what I just did. There’s that column. There’s that cave with the fish swimming
through. And where you see these round mounds popping
up and here’s that other structure, those are these pieces just like this. There’s one more little bit of detail that
you see happening in the quilt behind me and that’s where I have the lighter effect going. Now this piece I cut freestyle so the next
piece I can literally take and I can lay this on top of. And I can just trace with my sharpie markers
this piece again and or I can freestyle cut it. And then I just shave it down a bit smaller
so it fits right on top like you see right here. And I’ve cut a little bit more detail and
textured pieces in. So once the dark piece was made that was the
framework I used to create the light piece as well. I want to talk about the fish so I’m just
going to use the dark piece for right now. I think you understand that method. So I’m just going to take a second, get
this stuff out of the way. I’ll be right back. And now the part you’ve all been waiting
for, the fantastic fish fabric. And yes we’re definitely working backwards
today because I should have really pointed out that it is the fish fabric that is the
inspiration, they are the treasure. When I find them in the quilt shop I just
go nuts. And look at this incredible piece by Northcott. I absolutely love it for a variety of reasons. One, is it’s incredibly well designed and
accurate so that I do love. Secondly, I have a lot of large scale pieces
and then some medium size fish. And so what I do with something like this,
like everything else I put fusible web across the entire back of the very heavily populated
areas. So I have a strip here and a strip here. But up in this area where I just have a few
fish, I would just go after those with little squares. I wouldn’t spend the time or the cost of
fusing all of that up. And then the other thing I love about this
line is they also offer one of the microprints. And the microprints like this are really,
really important because those are the small fish that I kind of use to cluster around
in the backgrounds and sides of the reef to really help build that perspective and that
depth within our ocean. Regardless of which print we’re going to
start with I want to show you how I kind of fussy cut these out. And there’s a couple of things I’m looking
for when I fussy cut. The first thing I want to do is I want to
get a giant bucket of fish to start with. I don’t ever fussy cut one piece at a time
for my reef. It drives me nuts. So I go to the market and I get a bunch of
fish all at once is what I’m saying. And I do that by kind of cutting out like
these generic blobs from the actual microprint or the big theme print. What’s going to be next important though
is we can’t use these kinds of straight lines up here. What I’m going to want to have that look
like later on is something like this. Notice all of the detail, all of my little
fish are cut around, my coral has all been cut around. The top edges and the side edges are really
important for the very detailed cutting because then those can be laid on top of a generic
piece and it gives us the actual structure we need that way. One last thing I want to look at when I’m
cutting before I show you how to actually do the cut, is when I’m doing something
like this, this group of fish will be swimming in the background, you’ll notice I have
right now left some of that background blue that came in from the original fabric. I need to cut that out. And in order to cut that out because I don’t
want it to show up right there, I’m going to follow the line of one of the fish. So I’m just going to come around here real
gently and I’m going to get on there. And I’m going to keep the fish though so
it’s connected as much as possible so that I keep the integrity. And one of the things when you’re choosing
fish fabrics is please look to make sure that you have fish that are truly cutible. A lot of prints unfortunately will do things
like this where if you cut out a fish then it’s going to leave a wound in the poor
little fish. Now fortunately we’re ok because that guy
is going to go right back together and it will be healed there with the back end of
the fin of that other fish. Perfect. So let’s look at this big wonderful fish. How am I going to get to this? Well I’m first going to start in this corner
because this corner is going to then fit basically into this big open space into this corner
and strategically I can lay that kind of flat end underneath there. So when I go for something like this, I want
to make sure you can see what I’m doing, I’m looking right now at this wonderful
trigger fish. I’m looking at some of this yellow coral. And so nothing do I want to cut a straight
line through. So I’m going to try to come in here and
I’m going to try to follow the structure with my little shark cutter of the actual
reef. And I’m going to come around this clown
fish’s tail. I can fix it later. I come through here. I’m hugging the top of that brain coral. Notice the fantastic body mechanics, right? I’m getting really into my job today. And as I walk through here I’m just going
to catch any little spots I can start to peel away. Now as I come up into this structure I really
want these wonderful little tube worms. And then I’m going to come up in here. And right now I’m getting an accurate line
along the fish and then I’m going to get into this generic area so I’m just going
to kind of not cut any of the fish up. But I’m just going to use my shark to kind
of separate this piece off. Now I’m coming over to here where there’s
a really neat piece of seaweed growing up there. So I’m going to take what I can from it
but also leave my clown fish. And now I’ve started to go through here. I like to get big clusters cut down. And then I really will, I’ll take the time
to come in here and I’m going to trim out everything I need to make the reef look accurate. And a lot of times I can take the background
and I can even shape in these wonderful coral pieces like this. And this actually is where I get into my zen. I just love to have the music going and have
a bunch of this stuff that I can really cut and play. So what I do next is I’m just going to stop
this cut in a second. It’s hard to stop your zen, isn’t it? Ok, and so what I’m going to do is I’m
going to start to dry fit it just so you get the idea of what we’re looking at. So now I can bring this structure in here. And you’re like, wow that is awfully large. And I do agree. It fits in there pretty big. What happens if I put some of this over it? But I just start to look at what can I use,
what can I make work? Can I slide it in deep enough that I get something
neat like that beautiful little clown fish there to pop out in that little hole. Ok so that’s making me really happy. It’s little things like that that get me
so excited on the reef. Now what I can do is I can start to layer
this in. And because this section is working ok but
this is kind of going, I’m losing my clown fish here. This is where I would come back in and I would
bring in one of these little smaller prints, one of the microprints. And this could actually cover this possibly
fairly strategically. And then what this will do, notice real quickly,
the yellows of that brain coral are starting to blend together, right? And then this is going to carry over onto
this structure and it’s changed the size. It’s changed the scale right away. And that makes for a lot of interest in our
reef. Now I can’t take the time to show you how
to do all of the cutting of all of these pieces today because I will literally spend four
or five days just fussy cutting and collaging and building all of this together. So let’s talk about the machine quilting
real quick before I let you get into your own world of the undersea treasures here. When I do my free motion machine quilting
because it is applique I need to machine quilt on the edges of everything. I start up near the center and I start sewing
around all the appliques of the fish. Quickly work my way down into the reef. And when I’m on the reef I’m sewing around
the outside of the fish and then following it down and structuring around the outside
edges but also creating texture around the actual elements, the fish, the tube worms,
the brain corals, those things. This particular quilt I used a purple variegated
thread throughout the entire base. It made life very easy. When I got up into here, this is a new strategy
I tried. I took a yellow chalk pencil, you probably
see a little bit of the highlights but I like it. And I drew in these lines that you see that
are supposed to represent the wonderful light filtering through the water. And I really like the way that these lines
were quilted in first and then I came in and back filled in the triangles of the effect. So basically quilted the entire underwater
structure. And then as we get onto the surface water,
we want this a resting place. We want the calm. We want the horizon. We want the reason why we go down to the beach
and sit and look out at nothing, right? Now the islands you see that are put into
the background, they lay right on the horizon and they’re created just like the underwater
structure was created, the reef structure, right? You’ll see that the rocks are right over
here. The rocks are popping right out above the
flap. This line of the underwater column should
kind of follow right up through. And then I used leftovers from my sky fabric. Put a little fusible web on the back of that
and I quilted that in or cut it in first in little swirling motions to create that wonderful
like shallows area. Last little trick some white thread through
here. The rest of it was done with blue because
in quilting so much of it can tell a story. So we can also use our colors to help keep
that message going. Wow, a lot of steps. And I know I said that was just the basics
of it but I just want you to think perspective, structure and then all your fine finesse cutting. And you can make yourself an absolutely beautiful
seascape with me right here at Man Sewing. Oh, hey are you still in here. I thought you would have been checking out
some of those other great videos. You know we’ve got a link there, over there. And hey don’t forget to subscribe. Make sure you never miss a minute of the action. We’ll catch you next time, at Man Sewing.