Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Patchwork Zoo: Modernized Again

Armadillo by Karen Alexander of Austin, Texas

 I was pleased to see that the Austin Modern Quilt Guild has included an armadillo block by Karen Alexander of Austin in their fundraising quilt for QuiltCon scheduled for next month. That's some piecing!
See her blog here:

See more here:

Karen adapted the armadillo pattern from the first quilt book I ever wrote. Marie Shirer and I published Creature Comforts in 1986.

It's an alphabet book with pieced animals. We did this before anyone invented the piecing over paper foundation technique. You had to make templates and then trace them onto the fabric backs.

One of our main inspirations was this 1933 series from the Prudence Penny column in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

 Like our book, the 1933 idea wasn't that practical without the idea of piecing over paper foundations. Here's a set of old blocks that are appliqued rather than pieced.

I recently figured out where Prudence got her idea.

G. Selma Sauer published a lovely little book in 1931
called the Patchy-Zoo.

She illustrated her animals as if they were patchwork---
but painting is easier than actually sewing them.

The Patchy Zoo is rather rare and expensive on the used book market.

But you could probably find every illustration floating around on the internet.
I can't find a thing about G. Selma Sauer. I hope she wasn't a one-book wonder as this is such a great book.

Our book on the other hand is way cheap.
And they have invented paper foundation piecing now.

If you have BlockBase you have many of the patterns for Prudence Penny's Patchwork Zoo. In the category Realistic-->Other Animals you will find the Reindeer.

The Polar Bear

The Penguins are under Birds

The Crocodile is Other Animals
You can print out the templates.
But you might prefer to just print out a block in the size you want and then figure out a way to piece it over a paper foundation.

See more about the Prudence Penny blocks here:


  1. That is a fun block and her blocks would be fun for a baby quilt.


  2. The quilt world is WAY to small. I about fell over when I saw "Creature Comforts" on you blog today. That was one of the first books I did the production work on when I worked for Wallace-Homestead right out of college. I'm now the Art Director for Fons & Porter's Easy Quilts. The Spring issue which hit newsstands today contains my quilt design using the latest William Morris collection.

  3. I was also tickled to see the Creature Comforts book!! I have had that for years and did not make the connection. How funny!

  4. Know exactly where my copy is....need to re-think some of those blocks now that I have grand-babies! Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Isn't that amazing, an Armadillo puts your book back in the stream of "modern". Unlike Denniele I do not know "exactly" where my copy is but will keep my eye out for it in the New Year "clean" project.

  6. This is so neat! I was wondering if you have ever seen these cat and dog blocks before? My grandmother use to make quilts out of these for her grand kids. I hd thirteen of them left and have made 3 baby quilt for new cousins using one block as the center. http://www.flickr.com/photos/luckyduckdreams/4878783469/in/set-72157625148412660.

  7. Colleen-I looked in my Encyclopedia of Applique index and didn't see anything too close. A lot of pattern companies sold simple silhouettes of dogs and cats.

  8. My niece just forwarded this article to me. Selma Sauer was my grandmother's sister , a truly sweet woman that I dearly loved. The book is dedicated to my dad and his cousin. It was her only book, but she operated a nursery school for a time. It is wonderful to see that anyone else but me and my family have enjoyed her story and art.

    1. Sorry- I meant my cousin, not my niece !

  9. When I was in college I found a copy of The Patchy Zoo by Selma Sauer in my grandmother's attic in Kansas. It had belonged to my mother as a child. In 1998, I made a quilt from the book as a tribute to my mom.
    I had read that Sauer planned other books, but I don't believe they were ever written. I have found Sauer's design patents as well as her patterns for a baby quilt and clothing appliques.
    Her Patchy Zoo quilt pattern is very different from the the one I made, which is more a replica of the book itself including the rhyming text.
    I would love to get in contact with your contributor mema or the cousin she mentioned and would appreciate it if you could put me in touch with her.
    Thanks so much for this fascinating blog.