Cat's Cradle Quilt Block Tutorial

From our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

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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!

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General Instructions

Sample 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

You'll need the most current version of Adobe installed on your computer to download the pattern.

On the Adobe Print Menu page, under 'Page Size and Handling' set 'Custom Scale' to 100% before printing for accurate results. Click here to see what it looks like on the Print Menu page.

Print Birds in the Air Patterns

Block Size
# of copies Link to PDF
6" 2 2"
7-1/2" 2 2-1/2"
9" 2 3"
12" 3 4"

After printing, measure the 1" square to make sure the pattern is the correct size.

Step 2: Cut the Cat's Cradle patches

Cat's Cradle quilt block design drawingCat's Cradle design

Patches 1-5 below are for the paperpieced unit and are generously sized to make positioning themquick 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.

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

Cutting Chart for a
Cat's Cradle Quilt Block

~ Paper Piecing ~

Patch Fabric Qty Finished Block Size Sub
6” 7-1/2” 9” 12”
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.

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

Cutting Chart for a
Cat's Cradle Quilt Block

~ Paper Piecing ~

Patch Fabric Qty Finished Block Size Sub
6” 7-1/2” 9” 12”
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 Birds in the Air

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.

Position Patch 1

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.

Grade the seamThe darker fabric in the seam allowance is trimmed back so it doesn't shadow through the top of our block.

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.

Arrange the patches

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

Sew the rows together

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...

Cat's Cradle quilt blockOur finished Cat's Cradle

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

For even more blocks to make...

Maggie Malone's 5500 Quilt Block Designs is my all-time favorite!

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