I've been looking forward to making the Mr Manatee blocks from Elizabeth Hartman's Awesome Ocean sampler for a long time. The colours used from the Reef fabric collection and coordinates are so soft and pretty, and I think his face is adorable.
Maybe I am biased. As a pug owner I am pretty fond of a squooshed face and big round head.
My tips for making Mr Manatee
1. Careful cutting
Some of the pieces in the Mr Manatee block are pretty small (1" square) so cutting accuratly is really important.
Also have a careful look at the cutting diagram provided in your pattern booklet on the bottom of page 17 as it will help you manage those directional prints.
When cutting my blocks out I twisted a couple of my colourful fabric squares around by 90 degrees, so my coral prints ended up running across the block instead of vertically.
It didn't faze me, but its a good thing to watch out for.
The easiest way to make sure directional prints are running the right way is to place them on the top of your stack of squares as you cut so you can see which way they are running.
Cutting four layers at a time is the quickest, while maintaining accuracy.
2. Piecing those head units accurately
The head units are a fair bit of work. With all of those small pieces, a 1/4 inch seam allowance and nice straight seams are cruicial.
Remember trimming the strip back to make the mouth unit for Preppy the Whale? Elizabeth Hartman has used a similar technique for that narrow strip between the eye and nose units (piece C).
Line up the 1/2 inch mark on your ruler along the seam line:
and then cut away the excess like this.
Before stitching the next seam, go back and revisit the Preppy blog post to see some photos of my method to keep the next seam perfectly straight by using the seam line as a guide on the left side of the pressor foot.
3. Managing those directional fabrics
It can be tricky to get the small squares of colourful fabric (piece D) with a directional design like these to land the right way when stitching them to the nose unit.
The key to getting these prints to run the same way as the other pieces ( note my coral print is running horizontally here) is to place your square on your pieced nose unit so that it is running the opposite way.
Here you can see the coral pattern is placed vertically on the nose unit, but it will be horizontal like the rest of the head once flipped open.
Continue adding those D pieces on all four corners of the nose unit like this.
4. Don't forget to reverse those angles on the flippers
When making the flippers for the top body unit you will need to make sure that you reverse the angles so that your pieces mirror one another.
Divide your coordinate fabrics (piece J) into two separate piles and then you will be ready to chain piece them. You might find it helpful if you review how I did this for the Octavian octopus blocks here.
When adding the colourful fabric (piece F) the same principle applies for those directional prints. Make sure they are running in the opposite direction to the rest of the fabric in your block so they are correctly aligned when flipped open.
Bringing it all together
Once you have pieced the head unit, and made sure that your flippers are reversed, the rest of the block comes together really quickly.
I laid each block out like this so that I could have a visual check that I didn't have either of the body units or tail upside down.
This little green guy is my humility block. I lost the Reef fabric for the tail unit and the sides of his head and I replaced them with scraps from a left over strip. As a result the fabric is going every which way, but hey - done is better than perfect right?
I aligned all of the units for the other 7 blocks on top of this little guy so that I could grab them for chain piecing.
A quick press (and yes, I'm still pressing every seam open) and tadah - they were done.
Pretty cute or what?
Next month I will be making the final sea creature in the Awesome Ocean block of the month - Salty the Seahorse.
If you'd like to make your very own Awesome Ocean sampler, why not join our block of the month program? All the details are here