Cat's Cradle Quilt Block Tutorial

From our Free Quilt Block Pattern Library

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Skill Level: Confident Beginner

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.

Let's get started!

Cat's Cradle quilt block tutorial

Hate Paper Piecing?

Don't worry, we've got you covered.

A link to traditional piecing is below where and if you want it!

General Instructions

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.

After printing, use the 1" square graphic on the printed pages to confirm they are printed accurately.

In our example, the 'Geese' are dark, but that doesn't mean you can't change the color values around. To make sure that the points show, choose fabrics with enough contrast. 

Print Birds in the Air Patterns

Finished
Block Size
# of copies Link to PDF
Download
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.

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Step 2: Cut the Cat's Cradle patches

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

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

Grid size: 1-1/2"

Attributed to: Kansas City Star

AKA: Dove at the Window ( Comfort Magazine), Wandering Lover ( Hearth & Home), The Harrison Quilt, Harrison (Dakota Farmer), Harrison Rose, Flying Birds (Nancy Page), Hour Glass ( Nancy Page), Double Pyramids ( Mrs. Danner)

Design Type: Even 9-patch, Double Hour Glass

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

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

Cutting Chart for a
Cat's Cradle Quilt Block

~ Paper Piecing ~

Patch Fabric Qty Finished Block Size Sub
Cut
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
Cut
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

Birds in the Air unitMake 6

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

Share your work to inspire other Quilters!

If you use our tutorials to make your blocks and quilts, there are some easy ways to share your creations so other quilters (including me!) can enjoy the fruits of your labor:

  • On Instagram please tag your blocks and quilts with the hashtag #GenerationsQuiltPatterns.
  • Visit our Show n'Tell page on the website. Click here to share photos and tell your own story, just start typing at 'The name of your quilt is...'. If you'd prefer to submit more photos than the form allows, simply email them to me at julie@generations-quilt-patterns.com.

I love seeing your work!

Our readers do, too!

For even more blocks to make...

Click here to learn about my favorite quilt book resources that inspire my patchwork designs.

For you, are quilt block patterns like potato chips...

...you can't have just one?!!

Check the amazing resources I rely on for the majority of the quilt block designs you see on this website. 

To see if they're worthy of spot in YOUR quilting library, read about them HERE.

NOTE: All the attribution and alternate names shared in the Free Quilt Block Patterns Library came from these four resources.


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