Cats in the Sampler

Materials

Light weight cottons are recommended

  • 3m of plain black fabric
  • Lots of fabric scraps in light, medium and dark tones
  • 173 x 262cm of wadding (68 x 103")
  • 173 x 262cm of backing fabric (68 x 103")
  • 0.75m of fabric for binding
  • Template plastic or tracing paper
  • Sheet of fine sand paper for hand appliqué
  • Freezer paper or similar for machine appliqué
  • Sharp fabric markers for light and dark fabrics
  • Neutral thread for hand or machine piecing
  • Black thread for appliqué
  • Invisible thread for machine appliqué and quilting
  • Quilting thread for hand quilting
  • Black embroidery thread for whiskers and tails

Finished Size

64 x 99" (163 x 251cm) This fits a 4'6" bed lengthways, but with no overhang

Skill Level

Intermediate

You can download a pdf copy of the original magazine pages for this project here, Cats In The Sampler Part 1

When I demonstrate techniques to my students, I often use scraps of fabric from my stash, making use of the value of the fabrics (light, medium and dark), rather than the colour. As you can imagine, these demonstration pieces, often in different size blocks, pile up. Cats in the Sampler was my solution for joining them all together.

Using black for the lattice and cat silhouettes has given the variety of scrap fabrics definition and uniformity. Placing the blocks on the fronts of ‘boxes’ gives an added dimensional interest to the design. This quilt would make an excellent self-teaching project with scope for hand and machine work. Speed methods have been given where appropriate. However, if you wish, you can of course sew many of the blocks using templates.

There are twenty one different types of block in this quilt (Figure.1). Over the next three articles, there will be instructions for the different styles of block. Five traditional blocks are not described in detail - one patch, log cabin, crazy, clamshell and square in a square as it is assumed you understand their construction. If you prefer, you can repeat some of the other blocks described here, or include your own favourite block designs.

OPTION If you prefer, you can think beyond multicoloured scraps to use a single colour palette, (eg light, medium and dark blues), or use a certain type of fabric such as Fossil Fern. The choices are endless!

Fabric preparation and helpful hints!

  • Sort your fabric scraps into piles of lights, medium lights, medium darks and darks and store them as such for ease of selection. The blocks are effective because of the contrasts between the values of the fabrics. So don’t just select a light and a dark each time. A light will contrast with a medium dark, just as a medium light will contrast with a dark. Spread the values around the quilt to add interest. The fabrics can be ironed in advance or ironed as you need them.
  • Always check the size of each block on the master plan before you start.
  • Always be aware of the straight grain of your fabric.
  • All seam allowances are 1/4". Check that your sewing machine sews an accurate 1/4" seam!
  • Always sew a small tight stitch with a periodic back stitch if working by hand.
  • Always press both seams in the same direction, letting the iron do the work. Iron WS first to settle the stitches and establish the seams and then the RS to remove any tucks. Never pull the edges as this causes stretching or mis-shaping.
  • Be aware of the need for accuracy when piecing. Get into the habit of ‘measuring twice and cutting once’ to save time in the long run.
  • String piece the shapes through the machine using the machine foot as a guide.
  • When assembling the blocks, sew the individual patches in rows first and then sew the rows together.
  • Finally, it is worth cutting the long strips for the vertical sashing first and putting them to one side until needed. You will need two at 2 1/2 x 99 1/2" and two at 3 1/2 x 99 1/2". If you want to change measurements of the quilt, be aware that you will need continuous strips and only cut parallel to the selvage rather than at right angles to it.
Cats in the Sampler quilt
Cats in the Sampler quilt
Figure 1: Cats in the Sampler blocks
Figure 1: Cats in the Sampler blocks

Half square triangles speed method

  1. Cut the number of squares required for the block.
  2. On the WS of all the light squares, draw a diagonal line.
  3. Place a light square RS together on a dark square and sew two parallel lines 1/4" either side of the drawn line.
  4. Iron the patches and then cut along the diagonal to give two half square triangles when opened. Iron again, pressing fabrics from light to dark.
  5. Check the size of each patch before joining to form the block.
Figure 2: Sewing half square triangles
Figure 2: Sewing half square triangles

Quarter Square triangles speed method

  1. Cut the number of squares required for the block.
  2. Sew as for half square triangles, points 1-4.
  3. Mark another diagonal line onto the WS of the half square triangles, in the opposite direction to the seam.
  4. Place each one RS together with another half square triangle, so that the light triangles lie on the dark and vice versa. The ridges of the seams will butt up together to give a good fit. Pin to secure.
  5. Sew two parallel lines 1/4" either side of the drawn line. Iron, cut and press again as above.
  6. Check the size of each patch before joining to form the block.
Figure 3: Sewing quarter
square triangles
Figure 3: Sewing quarter square triangles

Block 2 Evening Star

Figure 4: Evening Star
Figure 4: Evening Star
  1. Cut four 3 1/2" squares in both light and medium fabrics. Cut four 4 1/2" squares in both light and dark fabrics.
  2. Sew the four 4 1/2" square using the half square triangle method.
  3. Assemble the block as shown in Figure 4.
  4. Appliqué the cat from the template onto the block.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Block 3 Monkey Wrench

Figure 5: Monkey Wrench
Figure 5: Monkey Wrench
  1. Cut one light square at 4 1/2", four strips 2 1/2 x 4 1/2" in both light and dark fabric and two 5" squares in both light and dark fabric.
  2. Sew the two 5" squares using the half square triangle method above to produce four squares.
  3. Sew each light and dark strip together.
  4. Assemble the block as shown in Figure 5.
  5. Appliqué the cat and mouse onto the block.
 
 
 
 

Block 4 Flying Geese

Figure 6: Flying Geese
Figure 6: Flying Geese
  1. Cut eight 4" squares in a light and two dark fabrics.
  2. Sew as above for half square triangles and assemble the block as shown in Figure 6.
  3. Appliqué the cat and ball onto the block.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Block 5 Friendship Star

Figure 7: Friendship Star
Figure 7: Friendship Star
  1. Cut one 2 1/2" square in dark fabric and four in light. Cut two 3" squares in both medium and light fabrics.
  2. Sew the 3" squares as above for half square triangles to produce four squares.
  3. Assemble the block as shown in Figure 7.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Block 6 Battlegrounds

Figure 8: Battlegrounds
Figure 8: Battlegrounds
  1. Cut eighteen 3" squares in both light and medium / dark fabrics. This block is excellent for using up all your small squares of scrap fabrics.
  2. Sew as above for half square triangles and assemble the block as shown in Figure 8.
  3. Appliqué the cat and mouse onto the block.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Block 7 Triangle Twist

Figure 9: Triangle Twist
Figure 9: Triangle Twist
  1. Cut four 4" squares in both light and dark fabrics and eight in medium to dark fabrics.
  2. Sew as above for half square triangles and assemble the block as shown in Figure 9.
  3. Appliqué the cat onto the block.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Block 8 Northern Lights

Figure 10: Northern Lights
Figure 10: Northern Lights
  1. Cut sixteen 2" squares in both light and medium fabric and four 4" squares in both light and dark fabric.
  2. Sew half square triangles as above for the 4" squares.
  3. Join the 2" squares together to make 8 four patch blocks.
  4. Assemble the block as shown in Figure 10.
  5. Appliqué the cat and mouse onto the block.
 
 
 
 
 

Block 9 Ohio Star

Figure 11: Ohio Star
Figure 11: Ohio Star
  1. Cut sixteen 2 1/2" squares in light fabric and four in dark fabric. Cut eight 3 1/2" squares in both light and medium fabric. This makes four 6 1/2" blocks.
  2. Sew quarter square triangles as above.
  3. Assemble the four blocks as shown in Figure 11.
  4. Appliqué the cat onto the block.
 
 
 
 
 

Block 10 Cotton Reels

Figure 12: Cotton Reels
Figure 12: Cotton Reels
  1. Cut nine 3 1/2" squares in one light and two dark fabrics.
  2. <
  3. Sew quarter square triangles as above.
  4. Assemble the block as shown in Figure 12.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Block 13 Dutchman’s Puzzle

Figure 13: Dutchman’s Puzzle
Figure 13: Dutchman’s Puzzle

Eagle-eyed readers will spot that I sewed this block using a traditional method (one large triangle and two small). However, for speed, use the half square triangle method. If you want each of the dark windmill ‘blades’ to be the same fabric, use a non-directional print and carefully layout the sewn squares, before assembling the block.

  1. Cut four 4" squares in medium and dark fabrics and eight in light fabric.
  2. Sew as above for half square triangles and assemble the block as shown in Figure 13.
  3. Appliqué the cat onto the block.
 
 
Put all of these blocks on one side. Part Two will include instructions for more blocks, including the curved seam designs.

As explained in the introduction, instructions are not given for five classic blocks. You can sew these blocks now or later.

Sizes of half and quarter square triangle blocks in Part One

2 Evening Star 12 1/2in block
3 Monkey Wrench 12 1/2in block
4 Flying Geese 12 1/2in block
5 Friendship Star 6 1/2in block
6 Battlegrounds 12 1/2in block
7 Triangle Twist 12 1/2in block
8 Northern Lights 12 1/2in block
9 Ohio Star 6 1/2in block
10 Cotton Reels 6 1/2in block
13 Dutchman's Puzzle 12 1/2in block

Traditional Blocks

1 Sixteen Patch 12 1/2in block
18 Clamshell 12 1/2in block
19 Log Cabin 6 1/2in block
20 Square in a Square 6 1/2in block
21 Crazy 12 1/2in block

Cat templates for Crazy and Clamshell blocks are shown here.

First published in Popular Patchwork January/February 2001