100 Days of Dice Compositions: Week 5 - ARTiFISHial Sea Life


A new week means time to play with a new color, design guide, and materials to create this week's Dice Composition...

29/100: Roll Dice and Initial Fabric Pull

This week's initial fabric pull includes "something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue." I pulled out an assortment of water-themed blue marked fabrics as well as a variety of text and a bit of patterning from single-use plastic bags. 

Back in January, I took a fabulous workshop with Natalya Khorover, where I learned how easy it was to stitch through single-use plastic bags to create art. Leading up to that workshop and ever since, I've been collecting bits of plastic bags that have come through our household,  in addition to bags sent to me from family and friends. 

I am excited to work with these materials to design a landscape composition...although I am leaning towards creating an underwater seascape.

30/100: Refine Fabrics and Start Layout

It took some time to fish out a few more blue bits of text and textures from my stash of single-use plastic bags. Then I just went with the flow to layer marked fabrics with single-use plastic. This is the current state of my project...will dive back in and play some more tomorrow.

31/100: Refine Background and Start Stitching

Reworked the background layers before jumping into the topstitching. Wrangling all those layers seemed more difficult than I remembered. I stitched a few rows and then stopped when I noticed the layers were bunching and shifting. I went to bed thinking about ways to salvage this project which may require additional pinbasting and/or engineering reinforcements...

32/100: Unsewing and Starting Over Again

Hello my old nemesis...we meet again. I was thankful that I stopped stitching when I did as yesterday's progress had to be completely undone as I realized what went wrong: I forgot to add stabilizer! So after carefully unsewing it all, I started all over again. Once the background was layered, I started to populate my little under the seascape with fish, coral, and seaweed. 

To help hold all the elements in place, I used some Quilters Select fabric glue between the overlapping layers. After a bit of finetuning, the entire composition was covered with a sheet of clear plastic (cut from a large bag once containing a large pillow) and pin basted for quilting. I hoped the top layer would help hold everything in place as well as conceal the raw edges that might get snagged with my open toe free-motion foot during the quilting process. 

One fish, two fish
Red fish, a new sea of blue with lots of fish!

Here's to hoping that 3xs is the charm!!

33/100: Free Motion Quilting

Thanks to the enhancements made the night before (stabilizer, glue basting, and top layer), stitching with the fish went swimmingly well tonight...phew!

34/100: Hand-Embroidered Details

Time to embellish my seascape with stitching. I started by free-motion stippling the coral reef but despite the dense stitching and use of 40wt thread, it barely showed against the plastic background.

So I switched to adding hand-embroidered details using Wonderfil 8wt Perle Cotton threads.

My seascape is teeming with marine life and hand-stitched textures: coral, seaweed, and a few fish. 

35/100: More Hand Embroidery, Trimming, and Finishing the Edges

Going with the flow to add more hand-embroidered details:
  • Embellishing the remaining fish, including using silver sequins and colonial knots for the fish eyes
  • Yellow colonial knots into the center of the coral reef blooms
  • Some running stitches and more colonial knots in a few select blue background areas
Once all the stitching was complete, I fused on the background taking great care to avoid melting the plastic on the front of the quilt! It was then trimmed down to 12" and the edges were finished with blue Puffy Paint by Tulip.

A quilt title and label are still needed to make this finish oh-fish-ial, but I need more time to mullet over. Let minnow if you have any title suggestions!

I'll be shore to take finished photos and write my blog post the next day.

36/100: Label and Blog

I was nervous about photographing the quilt due to the glare of the plastic. I woke up early and was thankful for the overcast sky which reduced the glare and really showcased the stitched textures!
"ARTiFISHial Sea Life," Finishes 12" x 12"

Once again, I was stumped on the quilt title as I wanted it to capture the impact of single-use plastics on our aquatic ecosystems. I sent a photo off to my mother and called to brainstorm. After exchanging a few ideas and puns, we came up with "ARTiFISHial" pun! A label was made and fused onto the back for an oFISHial FIN-ish!! Cod this be any punnier?

Personal Critique:

Despite some initial setbacks, I am pleased with how the various elements came together to create a fun little seascape. While there is a lot going on in the cool blue background (patterns, textures, and text), the aquatic life still manage to take focus through the repeated use of warm colors, fish groupings, and lots of hand stitched details. The three little schools of fish (and their reflective eyes) help move the eye around, as does the various bits of text and repeat textures in the background. The bubbles and waves create the illusion of the ocean's current, as does the positioning of the fish swimming in and around the composition. I am especially proud of the textures that are incorporated through the use of single-use plastic, marked fabrics, and hand-embroidered details. I hope the use of single-use plastic bags helps raise awareness about their impact on these fragile ecosystems. 

If you want to learn more about Marine Debris and how you can help make make a difference, I encourage you to visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris website for research findings, educational materials and take action ideas.

Swimming off to my next weekly Dice Composition...


  1. Mel, you have made another extraordinary piece. Your imagination never stops and I can't wait to see what you create next.

    1. Awww...thank you Barbara!! I am really enjoying this current series as it allows me to play at every step of the quilt making process!!

  2. You are one of the most original, cleverest, and most organized artists I know. How smart to create a multi-tiered learning plan that also gives you future products to use. What a great way to incorporate the plastics from that class last year. A beautiful and thoughtful piece. Congratulations.

    1. Awww...thank you Ann. There is a good chance some of these plastic bits were generously donated by you!! I am certainly learning a lot from each week's piece, especially this one as I had to revisit my notes from my class as well as my previous pieces using single-use plastic. Thank goodness for my blog notes to remind me!!


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