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Cat's Cradle Quilt Block Tutorial

From our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

Cat's Cradle quilt block tutorial

Skill Level: Confident Beginner

Grid: 6x6

The two-fabric Cat's Cradle quilt block is easier to make than it looks when it's paper pieced.

We'll use the Birds in the Air unit to make it, along with a few solid squares.

You might already know this block, but by a different name. Perhaps...

  • Double Pyramids
  • Dove at the Window
  • Flying Birds
  • Harrison
  • The Harrison Quilt
  • Harrison Rose
  • Hour Glass (click for instructions to other versions of the Hour Glass)
  • Wandering Lover

Let's get started!



Hate paperpiecing? Don't worry, we've got you covered. A link to traditional piecing is below where and if you want it!





Construction Instructions

Block Size: 9"(9-1/2" unfinished)

Grid size: 1-1/2"

All seam allowances (SA) are 1/4" unless otherwise indicated.

When you are instructed to press, first press the pieced unit flat to set the seam. Then open the patch, pressing from the front. You may want to reduce or eliminate the use of steam for pressing these paper pieced blocks. Steam tends to curl the paper.

Take a minute to review our favorite technique to getting the flattest quilt blocks you'll ever see. It works even with the paper attached. And there's nothing extra to buy!

Now THAT'S wickedly sweet!


Step 1: Download the pattern

To open and print the patterns you need the Adobe Reader installed on your computer. Click here to get Adobe Reader (a new window will open so you can download it without leaving this page) if you need it and follow their instructions for downloading it.

Click here to download and print 2 pages of the 3" finished Birds in the Air (BitA) unit for our 9" finished example.

In order to print, open the downloaded file, and select the "Print" option.

Remember, you must set 'page Scaling' to 'None' in your printer's setup menu to ensure these blocks print at the proper dimensions.

Optional Downloads: (Remember to print two pages for each block)


Step 2: Cutting the fabric

Cat's Cradle quilt block design drawing

Patches 1-5 below are for the paperpieced unit and are generously sized to make positioning them on the pattern quick and easy. Patches 6 and 7 are cut exactly as needed.

All of the dimensions in the tables below are squares. That means for Patch #1 for our 9" example, from your background fabric you'll need three 2-3/8" x 2-3/8" squares. Then sub cut once on the diagonal.



Finished Block Size
Fabric Patch
#
Qty 6” 7-1/2” 9” 12” Sub Cut
Background 1 3 1-7/8” 2-1/8” 2-3/8” 2-7/8” Symbol for a half square triangle
A 2, 3, 4 9 2-3/8” 2-5/8” 2-7/8” 3-3/8” Symbol for a half square triangle
Background 5 3 3-3/8” 3-7/8” 4-3/8” 5-3/8” Symbol for a half square triangle
Background 6 2 2-1/2” 3” 3-1/2” 4-1/2” na
A 7 1 2-1/2” 3” 3-1/2” 4-1/2” na
Grid Size 1” 1-1/4” 1-1/2” 2” na



If you don't want to paper piece...

...and would prefer use traditional piecing methods for this patch, substitute for Patches 1-5 as listed below.

Finished Block Size
Fabric Patch
#
Qty 6” 7-1/2” 9” 12” Sub Cut
Background 1 3 1-7/8” 2-1/8” 2-3/8” 2-7/8” Symbol for a half square triangle
A 2, 3, 4 9 1-7/8” 2-1/8” 2-3/8” 2-7/8” Symbol for a half square triangle
Background 5 3 2-7/8” 3-3/8” 3-7/8” 4-7/8” Symbol for a half square triangle
Grid Size 1” 1-1/4” 1-1/2” 2" na



Step 3: Stitch the BitA

Birds in the Air

Make 6

From the two copies you downloaded, cut out 6 units. Don't worry about cutting exactly on the dotted lines, you'll trim the them in the final step. This trimming cleans up the edges and removes most of the thread tails.

Use a dab of Elmer's Glue Stick—the one that goes on purple and dries clear—position the back side #1 on the unprinted side of your paper pattern as shown below.


Add Patches #2-#5 as described in the BitA quilt block tutorial, click here to go to that now.

Grade the last seam allowance to prevent shadowing of the darker fabric through to the top of your block. I use scissors to do this.


Trim the six finished BitAs to 3-1/2". Align the 1/4" line of your rotary ruler on the solid black line that surrounds the block. Trim. Repeat for all three sides, for all six blocks.

If you used the alternate cutting dimensions for traditional piecing, click here for those sewing instructions.


Step 4: Assemble the Cat's Cradle quilt block

Lay out the cut squares and pieced units for your Cat's Cradle quilt block into rows, paying particular attention to the orientation of each—it's incredibly easy to get them turned around.



Stitch into rows. Press with the SAs in the direction of the arrows below.



Click here to see the back of the Cat's Cradle quilt block. I've graded the seam allowances on the last seam of the paperpieced units to prevent shadowing.

Stitch the rows together and this is what your finished Cat's Cradle quilt block looks like...



Next time...

...I'd use a smaller scale black and white print for the background. Even in a 9" block it seems to distract a bit from all the perfectly pointy triangles.

What do YOU think?

Ready for more blocks? We've got a bunch of them waiting for you. Just click the image below to go to our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library.




Link to Free Quilt Block Patterns Library



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