Kantha Cat

Materials

  • Two 11in x 9in pieces of fine prewashed cream calico or cream cotton.
  • 1 skein of Choices four strand cotton, coffee colour or similar coloured DMC flower thread.
  • 1 skein of cream stranded cotton.
  • 11in x 9in piece of fine wadding, Polyfelt or fine needlepunched wadding.
  • Quilting needles (betweens).

This is a fun piece of stitching. I am totally addicted to cats, particularly tabby ones. This interpretation of a cat, the contoured stitching around the motif and the border are all authentic kantha techniques. It could be made into a small wall panel or incorporated into a cushion or bag, or it could be part of a larger wall-hanging. I have used cream calico with a coffee coloured thread but obviously the colouring is your personal choice.

Method

  1. Trace off the design of the cat. Ink in the outline with waterproof ink, e.g. laundry marker.
  2. Tape one piece of calico to a firm surface and mark out a rectangle 5 1/4in x 7 1/4in. Remove the tape from the calico.
  3. Centre this piece of calico centrally over the tracing and tape it down. It should be possible to see the lines through the calico. If not, a white piece of paper taped under the calico will help, or tape the tracing and calico to a light box or bright window.
  4. Using a water soluble marking pen, or other suitable marker of your choice, trace the design on to the fabric.
  5. Layer the marked fabric with the wadding and the backing fabric (second piece of calico) and tack together the three layers in a grid. As the quilting is done in the hand the fabrics need to be securely tacked.
  6. With one strand of Choices thread or flower thread work a line of running stitch around the marked rectangle. Repeat with two further parallel rows of running stitch (Figure 1)
  7. Cat design
  8. Now work three further rows of running stitch to one side of the original rows, parallel to the spaces between the originals (Figure 2).
  9. Figures 1 to 4
  10. Work another three rows of running stitch in line with the original rows (Figure 3). This forms the border and ensures that the fabric is not distorted when the traditional contoured quilting is done around the design. Let the corners of the borders take care of themselves; this is not a precision technique.
  11. Back stitch the ears and side of head, and the body near the tail, as indicated by the dashed lines in Figure 4.
  12. Figure 5: Stitch up and down from neck to end of tail.
    Figure 5: Stitch up and down from neck to end of tail.
  13. Using one strand of Choices thread or flower thread, stitch the cat “kantha style”: using running stitch from the outside to the middle down one side (Figures 5 and 6), and then stitching the other side from outside to middle (Figure 7). Work down all the shapes each time, from top to bottom then back up to the top (Figure 5). Do not be tempted to work satin stitch in each shape in turn as it will not achieve the right effect. Some shapes will fill up more quickly than others; continue with the same method across the remaining shapes. The stripes on the head and the stripes at the right side of the neck are worked separately from the main body of the cat (Figure 8) but each section is worked in a similar manner, back and forth across all the shapes in that section (Figure.8).
  14. Figure 6: Continue stitching to the middle back of the cat.
    Figure 6: Continue stitching to the middle back of the cat.
    Figure 7: Stitch other side up and
     down from neck to end of tail
    Figure 7: Stitch other side up and down from neck to end of tail
    Figure 8: Work small sections on head and neck.
    Figure 8: Work small sections on head and neck.
  15. Having worked both sides of the cat there will be gaps along the centre tabby stripe. Fill these gaps by working with a running stitch in the same way as working the other stripes (Figure 9).
  16. Figure 9: Fill in gaps down back of cat.
    Figure 9: Fill in gaps down back of cat.
  17. Using one strand of cream stranded cotton begin contouring around the cat with small running stitches (Figure 10). Eventually the contours of the cat will reach the inside edges of the stitched border rectangle. When this happens continue the shape of the contouring into the four corners (Figure 10).
Figure 10: Contour stitch around cat.
Figure 10: Contour stitch around cat.

First published in Popular Patchwork September 1999