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Kitty….

My dad was a cat man; the story goes how when my mother was in the hospital giving birth to me, my father was home helping  Scrapper, the cross-eyed cat he brought home in a motorcycle bag, deliver her first litter of kittens.

He let me have a cat that lived with him that I named Tinkerbell when I was little.  When he died (two years ago today), I believe he was owned by about 6 cats.

I asked his girlfriend if I could have some of his ubiquitous flannel shirts (EASY to shop for at Christmas, plaid flannel never goes out of style)….I didn’t know what I wanted to do with them but I needed to own them.

They hung around the studio for a while, while I was trying to decide what I wanted to do, and then it occurred to me. Rather than making only one quilt with the shirts, or a number of wall hangings for all us kids, I could make stuffed animals—and cats seemed the obvious choice.

This is Meece:

IMG_4739

I found a simple stuffed animal pattern on the web. Sorry, I don’t recall where, it was a while back. I wanted something with a minimum of parts, and nothing too fussy.

I totally ignored the fabric requirements. The pattern was only for the actual shapes.

This is what I did: (and, no, I didn’t take pictures)

  1. Wash all the shirts. Their weights do not have to be the same. (I had 4)
  2. Reverse engineer all the shirts (fancy way of saying take them apart!!!!) I used a seam ripper and pair of snips. Cut off collar, button placket and cuffs. SAVE BUTTONS. Open up the entire remaining shirt, seam by seam. LEAVE pockets intact. Do not worry if there are balding patches or parts that haven’t faded.
  3. Press with steam. Use starch if the fabric is really flimsy.
  4. Using a straight edge and rotary cutter, straighten the edges. Don’t cut fabric into perfect shapes. This is really about just eliminating some of the curvier edges. (you will end up with many sided, uneven geometric shapes )
  5. Purchase the thinnest available fusible interfacing, and according to manufacturers directions, iron all fabric pieces onto interfacing, wrong side touching fusible.  Cut away excess interfacing.
  6. Try to not worry about grain, pattern or any of that. Just take two pieces that have a similar length side and sew them together, with right sides together. (standard quilter 1/4 inch)  Press seam open. Grab another piece and attach this to one of the sides of the previous piece.
  7. You are basically making a big piece of fabric. Resist the urge to square off! You may need to snip off a bit so you can find a flush edge.
  8. Stop when you feel the piece begins to get unwieldy, or you can’t find a good place to sew onto.

Now, you are going to make cats! How many are you making?IMG_0044

  1. Find the primary pattern piece (biggest body, and face, for example.) Place the paper pattern anywhere on your new piece of plaid patchwork.  Keep in mind WHERE the POCKETS will end up when doing so (right side up, etc)
  2. Do not obsess about grain or any color matching.
  3. Cut out those shapes the number of times you need to make your cats.
  4. DO NOT toss your scraps! Keep cutting out your pattern pieces. 
  5. When you have a lot of scraps, sew them back together, like you did at the beginning. (straighten a bit, sew together, iron.)
  6. Continue cutting pattern pieces, “making” more fabric whenever necessary.
  7. Build your cats. Sew and stuff according to directions.
  8. Hint: Sew buttons on for eyes and stitch black whiskers before sewing or stuffing head.
  9. I made a little ‘dog tag’ out of Shrinky Dink material that I ran through the printer with a photo of Dad and a phrase on the back, which I put on the cats as a collar.IMG_4740IMG_4741

I sewed all the scraps back together a few more times, and made little 5 inch tall stocking ornaments that I did a quick blanket stitch around the top.  2012-11 NOV 28-2

The cats all found homes with his sons, his granddaughter, his sister, his girlfriend and myself. The stocking ornaments were given to other family and friends.

A hint or two : This fabric is valuable in that it is a memory and you have only a finite amount.. If you are making a lot or cats, or you are not comfortable sewing, you may want to make a mock up out of muslin, so you can see if there are adjustments to the pattern you want to make, before you start cutting.  You can always sew the mistake pieces back onto the new fabric you are making, and try over, but…. 

Also, if you feel that there won’t be enough fabric, you may want to run to Goodwill and buy a shirt so you have a little insurance. Or you could mix in some other family fabric item.

There is no reason this can’t be made from women’s dresses, dress shirts and kids clothing,—and/or! It’s a patchwork cat, after all!

(linking to Off the Wall Friday!)

Joie de VIV!

There are very few people in the world who are truly one-of-a-kind.

My cousin Vivienne (Viv) was one of those special souls, and my heart is heavy as I think of her being gone from this life; yet I know that wherever it is she has found herself, she is busily making new friends.

Vivienne was always the person I and any of my friends who met her wanted to be when we grew up, despite the 50 year age gap. She was ageless and timeless. Her smile, or the sound of her voice could light up your heart.

Vivienne never met a stranger. Honestly. I recall one story she told me of being on a plane to somewhere (she was a traveler) and how she held a long term conversation with an oriental couple, who spoke no English, and they actually exchanged Christmas cards!

Vivienne had a unique and incredibly positive outlook on the world. She was not spared difficulty in her life, but she saw every glass as ¾ full. It was difficult to complain around Vivienne because complaints seemed to slide off of her; there was no room in her world for complaints. She saw only the beauty.

The last time I saw Vivienne was on my wedding day, 7 years ago. Vivienne was the adorable brunette in the baseball cap and red cowboy boots, maybe you remember her?

My friend Mike, who was our photographer, was hired because of the way he shoots photos, very similar to my style. Mike was lurking around, catching those wonderful moments. Mike came upon Vivienne, all 5 feet of her, giving my new husband a lecture. Not surprisingly, he took this wonderful photo. (look to the left, for the Flickr box)

Then Vivienne spied him, gently chastised him for taking a photo of her “bad side,” and promptly posed with me, her face turned to expose her “good side.”

What Vivienne failed to realize was that she only had a good side.

Vivienne Cecile Morgan Kuhrt, October 14, 1914-June 11, 2009

Snail Mail

I received a letter the other day. No, really, a LETTER. The kind with a stamp, and a handwritten address, found in the mailbox at the end of a day away from home, nestled amongst all those envelopes offering me $64,000 in home equity loans and the local grocery ads.

 

I felt this shimmer of excitement as I turned it over in my hands. I walked to the backdoor, the stack of mail in one hand, my keys, pocketbook and other flotsam of the day in the other.

 

What would the letter say? Would it be good news, offering me the answer to the questions I had posed just weeks back, or an apologetic refusal? It was a response to a letter I indeed had mailed out weeks earlier. I had almost forgotten I mailed it. I ran through all sorts of possible responses as I did the things that required me to enter my home without stepping on a cat and falling face first onto the dining room floor. I tossed everything down and with a strange thrill of anticipation I opened my letter, and it was a note card, handwritten. Script. With a pen!

 

I recall this with such fondness because I challenge you to think—when was the last time you wrote a letter? (And the letter I wrote in order to gain this response barely counts, as I composed and typed it out on my keyboard and merely signed the bottom.)

 

Unless you are amongst the small majority of souls, I bet it was Christmas; and it was a sheet you stuck into a card. Was that sheet typed and copied? Have you sold your soul to Hallmark.com, because you flip the calendar to today and discover it’s someone’s birthday; right now, this minute??

 

I communicate with the outside world in a similar fashion that most of you do. Email –(almost exclusively with some folks); Cell or Texting. Voicemail.  Instant messaging. Instant, or almost instant response. Instant gratification for the sound-bite generation. Heck, my handwriting, my script especially, has become a tortured example of chicken scratch. I leave Post-It sized notes for my staff, that’s about the sum of my cursive writing practice lately (sorry Miss Maniscalco; all that effort for naught)

 

I remember letters though. I have an entire box of old letters dating back, wow…dating back thirty years or better. Some few precious ones are from my great grandmother—now there was a woman who took pride in her penmanship! Letters from old boyfriends,  and best friends long forgotten. Some bring back fond memories of high school; specifically sitting in Bio Lab, writing to Jeanine, who lived 4 hours away, about all sorts of earth-shattering things; like Shaun Cassidy.

 

Then there are those letters from Rene. Billy, my mailman of old, could tell you how obsessed I was waiting on my letters from Rene. The anticipation from the moment my last letter had been mailed, counted out to the time it should take to travel from home to Quebec and back, give or take a day for response. My heart would flutter as I heard the mail truck. I would greedily dig through the stack each day once my appointed turn-around time occurred.

 

Weeks could pass between writing and receiving a response!

 

Those were the days…

 

Thank you Crystal, my long-lost, just found cousin, for reminding me!

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