Cats in Quilts Class Plan

by Carol Armstrong

Carol Armstrong's simple techniques will make appliqué enthusiasts out of beginning students as well as experienced ones. With a few simple tools and a stack of solid-color fabrics, each student will succeed in creating a floral project and enjoy the process.

Tips for Success

  1. Make samples of the finished projects to promote the classes.
  2. Classes should reflect the skill level of the students.
  3. Be sure the following supplies are available in your shop:
    • Textbook: Cats in Quilts: 14 Purrfect Projects by Carol Armstrong
    • 1/8 to 1/4 yard of solid-color cotton fabrics in color groups - i.e., "cat colors" (Carol recommends designs that resemble cat fur, shadowed tone-on-tone prints, and some solid colors in the same family) plus greens, yellows, blues, etc., for optional flower designs. If student intends to do a piece with binding, be sure to have her purchase a larger amount in this color off the same bolt. At least 2 yards of any color is nice to have around for appliqué fans.
    • #10 milliners needles
    • Light box - a small, inexpensive plastic version is great for classes
    • A wide selection of threads to make stitches disappear!
    • Traditional needle-punched batting
    • A good pre-shrunk, permanent-press unbleached muslin for background fabric
  4. Lead your future appliqué lovers to nice sharp scissors and a comfortable thimble for quilting (Carol uses a leather one). Of course, a rotary-cutting set is great for borders and bindings, and good markers that can easily be removed from the fabrics are a necessity.
  5. Have irons available in class


  • Textbook: Cats in Quilts: 14 Purrfect Projects by Carol Armstrong
  • Light box
  • Paper for redrawing patterns
  • Tracing paper for designing (optional)
  • Fabric markers for light and dark fabric. Do not use the air-disappearing type except for quilting at the moment or work that you will finish now.
  • Pre-shrunk, permanent-press unbleached muslin for the background
  • 1/8 to 1/4 yard of solid color 100% cotton fabrics in color groups - i.e., preferred "cat colors," plus greens, yellows, blues, etc., for optional flower designs. For beginner class, specific colors can be listed according to the motif you have chosen.
  • Matching threads
  • #10 milliners needles
  • Pins and basic sewing supplies
  • Good scissors
  • Floss for embroidering details

    If the class is to include quilting:
  • Basting thread
  • Quilting thread
  • Quilting needle
  • Thimble
  • Batting

Begin with a small project such as a framed picture or a pillow. Select a small design. Ralph or Simba on page 28 would be a good choice.

NUMBER OF SESSIONS: 3-4 sessions, each 2-3 hours long

Session One - 3 hours: Beginning with a simple design, the students will prepare everything for appliqué. Cut out the muslin for the background. Trace the design using a light box. Mark the design on the background, and mark and cut out the appliqué pieces. Mark the appliqué order number in the seam allowance for easy reference later. Note: Do not use the air-disappearing markers as they will be gone before you finish.

When the "kit" is ready for appliqué, set it aside and bring out some scrap fabrics to practice the appliqué stitch (page 13). The appliqué stitch is the most important thing to stress. Once it is easy to do, so is everything else. Have the students stitch some simple shapes and allow the stitches to improve. These are practice pieces so mistakes are fine. Allow the students to practice the stitch at home and also read the book (pages 10-20) to become familiar with the basics before the next class.

Session Two - 3 hours: In this session they will begin appliquéing the project. Take note of the specifics the chosen motif may have - for example, points or inside curves - and demonstrate these techniques. Don't overload beginners with techniques they will not use this day. Have them start appliquéing. Note: Turn and sew only the edges exposed (page 11). Walk around answering questions and appliquéing your own motif to show the right way when needed. The work goes slowly at first. This is normal. Finish the appliqué at home, if not in class.

Session Three - 2-3 hours:Have an iron and padded surface for ironing available. Embroider the details in this class. Demonstrate if the students are not familiar with the simple stitches (pages 19-20). Remove any marks that show and press the piece (page 12). Complete the project using a simple pillow technique of your choice, or students can frame their own using techniques in Do-It-Yourself Framed Quilts by Gai Perry, or they can take the piece to a professional framer.

Session Four - 2-3 hours: This session is optional, but will increase the skill level of the students. Have them practice the other techniques that were not used for the class project. Having completed a small piece, they will not be as overwhelmed as they may have been at the start. Try samples of tiny bias stems (page 17) and pre-appliqué (page 12). This is a good time to answer any questions.

Optional: Quilting is probably not part of your pillow project, but a short discussion could be included, referring to the book. Or perhaps have another session for beginners covering quilting. A good size project is 12" x 12". Include basting, marking, and random quilting in different designs to create a sampler square.

Work in a less structured format for those students familiar with appliqué. Allow students to design their own quilts using the cats, flowers, and more presented in the book. Include designs from Carol's other books, such as Butterflies & Blooms, Wildflowers, or Wild Birds, for more variety if you choose, but be sure each student purchases her own copy of the book(s) to avoid copyright infringement.

NUMBER OF SESSIONS: 3-4 sessions, each 2-3 hours long

Session One: Begin with an open-book review of light box appliqué (page 10). Review the appliqué techniques one at a time, and demonstrate the techniques that the students would like to see. You will have some students who have learned other methods. This will give them the chance to choose the best method for them. I find working without templates a wonderful freedom!

Suggest patterns from the book(s) for students to use for designing a project on paper. Refer to section on designing your own patterns and customizing the designs (page 27). The paper design can be finished at home so it will be ready for the light box at the next session.

Session Two: Mark the fabric background, cut out the appliqué pieces, and begin appliquéing the pieces to the background. Answer any questions as the actual work begins. Students may finish the appliqué work at home.

Have a short discussion about adding borders and basting the layers (pages 21-23). Students should have their projects ready for quilting at the next session.

Session Three: Let's go quilting! Possible designs can be drawn on paper. This class results in a good exchange of ideas and interaction among students. Use the book whenever needed (pages 23-25). Also, the photos throughout the book are very helpful for inspiration. Go over the quilting directions of a couple of the projects while the students look at the photo of the project. Have students finish quilting their projects at home.

Session Four: If the students do not want to frame their projects, demonstrate the basics of binding (page 26). This is a good session to have a show-and-tell of the finished or near-finished projects. Be prepared to answer any questions that students may still have regarding appliqué and quilting design techniques. Encourage the students to try another project - the world is full of wonderful cats, flowers, bugs, and more!