My opportunity to design the 2018 Opportunity Quilt

Approximately a year ago Tamara from my local quilt guild , the Foothill Quilt Guild, asked if I was interested in designing and coordinating the making of the 2018 Opportunity Quilt. My first thought was I am always busy, do I have time for this? Then I realised it was a great "opportunity" for me to design and make a quilt that would be seen by many people locally. So I agreed. I had 10 months to get the project completed before its unveiling at the quilt show in April 2017.

I knew I wanted to make something with a modern look. I have been following the work of the new fabric and quilt designers often involved in the Modern Quilt Movement. I loved the quilt pattern Folksy Fish by Sarah Sharp who designs under the name No Hats in the House and wondered, could we make this paper pieced quilt?

 

As I rarely use a pattern, usually designing my own quilts I realised this was my "opportunity" to design the quilt and take all the credit! Fish are a common theme in my quilts, which is probably why I was drawn to Folksy Fish initially and had plenty of designs and pictures to draw from. So September 2016 I began dyeing some fabric in bright, jewel colors and drawing a number of fish that are found in the Pacific Ocean or at Monterey Bay Aquarium. With my daughter Lucy's help we laid out the colors and the fish according to size and width of row.  I had 10 rows with approximately six fish in each row, the quilt would be good size queen quilt, so it could be used on a bed.

 Hand dyed fabrics in a basic layout for the fish.

Hand dyed fabrics in a basic layout for the fish.

 Lucy helping with the layout of the many fish patterns

Lucy helping with the layout of the many fish patterns

Happily almost a dozen ladies from the guild volunteered to help make the quilt. I had raw edge applique fish to make and also improve pieced blocks that each fish would attach to. Some ladies were happy to learn to make the fish, others wanted to piece the blocks and some wanted to make both. For each block I gave them a pattern for the fish, a base fabric in a chosen color, a selection of scrap fabrics and the size requirements for the finished block.

 Some of the applique fish coming together.

Some of the applique fish coming together.

After a successful workday many of the fish and blocks were made, many others were handed out and worked on individually. As I collected the completed blocks I put them together into their rows. At this point the fish were just pinned to their blocks until an overall layout could be made on my design wall.  Once happy I spent a long afternoon free motion quilting around all the fish .

 Fish and improvised blocks on my design wall.

Fish and improvised blocks on my design wall.

With guild members, in January 2017, I had another workday to get the rows put together and to work on the border. I designed a wave template that was repeated in the colorful fabrics. We made two borders in colors and in grays which were then pieced to form the border.

 Joining the rows to form the quilt

Joining the rows to form the quilt

I added two shoals of smaller fish that swam between blocks and finally the quilt was complete. It was now ready to go to be long arm quilted by guild member Beth. April arrived and we were ready to unveil the quilt at the local quilt show. Much to our excitement it won the top award for Best Use of Color. Now we can proudly display and sell raffle tickets for our colorful quilt 'Rainbow Fish'. This would never have happened without the guild members who were all to happy to try something new.

 The final unveiing of king size 'Rainbow Fish'. 95" x 105"

The final unveiing of king size 'Rainbow Fish'. 95" x 105"