A “Pomacanthus Paru” Of A Different Color

Lynn Schoeffler © 2007

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Do you remember the horse of a different color from Emerald City, OZ Country? Well, meet the French Angelfish, Pomacanthus Paru, also of a decidedly different color!

Looking for an embellishment idea for this plain, woven straw bag found at a thrift shop, I originally intended an Under The Sea (UTS) theme in a safe and square shape banded by ribbon borders; but the more I thought about it, the more tame the idea seemed. Here’s what happened instead:

To start, find a purse or beach bag. What about one with turquoise stripes? Find an image of a tropical fish that you like, or use my template below, sized to fit your bag.

You will need: Peltex stiff interfacing (this is a product similar to Timtex), light-weight craft interfacing; a variety of fabrics, trims, beads, buttons and what-have-you; a blue water soluble marking pen, acid-free fabric glue, and E6000 glue. Jacquard Lumiere brand fabric paint or any lace dye.


Print or draw your fish on light-weight cardstock; cut out the shape. Using the background piece for a template, draw the shape onto a piece of muslin, with a blue water soluble pen. Make this a fairly heavy line, so it bleeds to the back of the muslin.

Right hand picture is Photo D

Begin piecing. I wanted wavy, fluid lines, so I cut my fabric patches on the bias. For each patch, cut the edge of the fancy fabric in a curvy line, along the bias edge. Turn back a 1/8 inch edge, pressing with an iron. You can clip the edge to accommodate the curve, but it usually isn’t necessary, especially if you are using light-weight cotton, stretchy silk or poly fabrics. Place the curved edge onto the first patch and pin. At this point you can baste the patch or appliqué it down. I chose to appliqué these small patches; later I might choose not to embellish the seam. I enjoy appliqué work, and I like the crisp line it leaves.

Finish the piecing, using the template to check position of patches, as in photo D.

Embellish and bead as desired; I chose these gold-enhanced MOP buttons for the tail detail. To make them lay closer to the fabric, I cut the plastic shanks off with small wire cutters. To attach them to the fabric, I used a spider web technique in Edmar Lola weight thread.

Start a ribbed spider web as you normally would, making seven spokes over the button. Start the eighth spoke at the outside edge of the button, as with all the other spokes. Loop the working thread through the crossed threads at the center of the button to anchor it. Make a loop on each strand of the web, keeping the working thread taught with your thumb (shown by the pin in the photo). Thread all the spokes once or twice, as desired, until you reach the empty space left for the eighth spoke. Thread the working needle though the connecting thread between the spokes, tighten slightly, then go down into the fabric at the edge of the button. Knot on the underneath side. To move the center of the spider’s web to one side or the other, simply push it firmly with your thumb on the web, and forefinger underneath the button at the back of the fabric. Finish all the embellishment.

If your marking pen bled through the muslin foundation fabric, you should be able to see the outline of the fish on the back of your pieced work, as in the photo. Draw over the line again if it is too faint to see well. Cut the fish shape out, leaving an l/2 inch border.

Use the template to draw the fish shape on a piece of Peltex; cut it out. Glue the Peltex shape to the back of the pieced work, using the blue mark for placement, stretching slightly to smooth out any wrinkles. As shown at the bottom of the fish shape, begin to turn the edge of the pieced work over the Peltex shape, gluing as you go. I found a plastic artist’s palette knife to be very helpful here—keep your fingers out of the glue! Hold the glued fabric with pins, where necessary.

When you come to the sharp points of the fins, cut the fabric very narrowly around each fin, add a spare amount of glue, then shape the point with your fingers. Don’t worry about making a really sharp point, because it will be covered with trim later.

Continue to glue and pin. At the inside corners near the fins, make a cut all the way to the corner with sharp, finely pointed scissors. Turn the edges as close as you can and glue, catching any raveling edges with glue. When you’ve completed gluing the shape, leave overnight to dry.


The coral is cut from a heavy manufactured lace fabric purchased at JoAnn’s Fabrics recently, and then painted with Jacquard’s Lumiere fabric paint. Although I loved my first trial of colors: Pearl Violet, Metallic Russet, Halo Blue Gold, Old Brass and Burnt Orange, the colors turned out to be too subtle against the matte tan of the purse. The great thing about Lumiere paint is that you can let it dry and then paint right back over it; so I added Super Copper, Citrine and Pearl Turquoise.

To add a little more ocean depth for my angelfish, I cut three rectangles from hand-dyed cotton fabric. Cut a rectangle of stiff craft interfacing about l/4 inch smaller than your desired shape, leaving an edge that can be turned to the back. Iron the interfacing on the back side of the fabric and press the remaining edge over the interfacing. I stitched the rectangles on with simple decorative stitches through the raffia and inside lining of the purse. Since the lining on many inexpensive purses is rather flimsy, make sure your knots are well anchored with a tack stitch or two.

Stitch the lace coral on, and bead. I found it much easier to do this in two steps, rather than trying to attach the lace with the beads.


Cut a piece of soft yarn or cord long enough to go around the top and bottom edges of the fish, leaving ends long enough for the trailing fins. Divide the yarn in half and mark. Starting at the nose of the fish and the marked (center) part of the yarn, glue or stitch the yarn along the top edge of the shape, continuing to the end of the top fin. Using the remaining part of the yarn, continue along the bottom edge of the fish in the same manner. Cut another piece of yarn to edge the tail side of the fish, again leaving a long enough piece for the trailing fins. Glue yarn in place across the tail side of the fish. When the glue is dry, carefully knot both pieces of trailing yarn at the very tip of the top and bottom fins. Decide where you will place your fish on the background and mark with a few dots of water soluble pen. Glue fish into place with E6000 glue, and let dry.

Twirl the two yarn ends together to form one piece. Thread into a yarn darner needle, place trailing yarn fin as desired, and go down through the raffia and inside lining; knot securely.

Add remaining details—I chose these wonderful glass bead fish, along with the turquoise glass rings for bubbles.

Now head to the beach, lake or pool with your new bag for a little relaxation after all that work!

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