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!)

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Michael…

Michael Jackson didn’t change my life.

But, he has always been a part of it. His music, and that of his brothers; the cheesy Saturday morning cartoon that we watched (after eating breakfast and getting dressed and making our bed, of course), the advent of music videos; all of this can be inexorably linked to Michael in my world.

Not to mention, the purchase of my first record album. (Well, possibly the second, depending on whether Glass Houses by Billy Joel was rung up first by the cashier at the record store in Grand Central Station that day in 1980 while we waited for our Amtrak train.) I had birthday money to burn, if I recalled correctly, and Glass Houses and Off the Wall came home with me.

I played that album to death. I remember lying on the floor in the living room at night, the two stereo speakers on the floor on either side of my head,(Remember, youngsters—this was not only before the internet, and before the CD but before the Walkman and ear buds made it into common use!) blasting those albums.

I don’t have either album any longer. And while I am heading to a Billy Joel/Elton John concert next week, I have to admit there currently are no Michael Jackson tunes amidst the 3400 songs on my IPOD.

Today I turned on the television while I walked 1.3 miles on the elliptical (hey, I am working towards working out, ok??) Believe it or not, this was the first time I have watched television since Michael died. I have so far avoided all the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth.

My first reaction to his death, and one that still stands, is that there is a sad, tortured life that has been freed.

Still, I tuned in to CNN and caught the last 15 minutes of the memorial, and they were singing We Are The World. A song that always sends shivers.

The heartbreak, however– the part that brought tears to my eyes, to mourn a man I rarely considered– was when Paris took the microphone. While I applaud Michael in his ability to shield his children from the craziness that is Hollywood, I think we never imagined him in the role that Paris and her brothers knew.

I think then and there Michael became to all of us something more than just a singer, an entertainer, a dancer; more than a late-night joke, more than a whisper of tabloid headlines.

He became a father.

And his death leaves three young, innocent and distraught children without the stability that he had yearned for both himself and for them.

Peace be with them.