Saturday, August 17, 2013

Cats and Quilts

Slow news day? No. Worse. Slow news week. Regular readers know that when there's nothing going on over here with the grandkids, I dig out my cats. This essay is full of them. It is one I wrote in 2009 to enter in a local writing contest. I have always been fond of it, not only because it placed first in the non-fiction category, but because it chronicles two interests of mine that don't involve obsessing over grandchildren.....ones I indulge in solely for my own emotional serenity.....

Hi! I'm Iggy. Who are you?

Cats and Quilts

Cats and quilts. What other combination of living/non-living entities stimulates the senses with such warmth, domesticity, and beauty? Gently covering us with an unhurried sense of well-being, both are resting places for the soul.

I have owned cats and quilts all of my life. Grandmother made the first ones - the quilts, of course -  and now I make my own. But my cats have always come from the same source - any place of hunger or desperate need from where I snatch them up unwanted, rid them of fleas, schedule a spay or neuter and then provide welcome into our large, happy, comfortable home with only one instruction: "Live here in safety and prosperity for the rest of your life." Over the years, several dozen have taken me up on this offer, and many of them have shown a remarkable interest in the craft of quilting.

Yep! I still have this old rag!
Someone is going to have to invent a new
geometric shape if it ever needs to fit
squarely inside a lens frame!
The first attempt at my own handwork, some twenty years ago, was a red and cream Schoolhouse wall hanging. It was a curious match of blocks stitched with both velvety top-of-the-line 100% cotton prints and flimsy, bargain basement "blends." Teamed with a saw-tooth border, each side came to a screeching halt at the corners with a partially whacked off "tooth" - so it would fit, of course! After it was pieced, I laid it ceremoniously in the center of the living room floor and my family stood about and waxed eloquently on its virtues of beauty and grace. During a moment left alone, the only truly honest member of the family, "Erma," a smug little tortie, strolled directly to quilt-center and promptly "urped up" a generous, slimy hairball in wordless opinion. The machine washing that ensued frayed the cheap fabric, and all of the reds - none of them pre-washed, of course! - bled all over the place.

big fan of all kinds of entertainment-
Halloween costumes included!

By the time my skill improved to the point where I could semi-proudly display a seasonal wall hanging above the fireplace, another tortie, "Raisin," had come to live with us. Whenever the family room filled to capacity, Raisin would leap onto the mantle and push herself behind the quilt. There she would energetically pound the wall and batter the piece, creating a truly amazing show of gyrating fabric. Periodic peeks from behind gauged the effect on her audience. Of course we enthusiastically applauded, cheering on her efforts to entertain us!

"Joey" came home after surviving the first three months of life beneath the carcass of a car in a crime-ridden neighborhood. Since quilts were, indisputably, not a luxury he enjoyed in those surroundings, he is, even now at age three, unable to grasp their purpose. Yet he regards them with a quiet, focused interest.

currently residing in Cat Heaven
"until we meet again..."
I miss you, little sweetie!

When the mood strikes him, this now handsome prince of a cat - black, white and long haired, comes to sit on the arm of my chair, serenely watching, but politely not touching, my work. I take the time to explain to him what I am doing and how far I have progressed in my pursuit of quilting. He seems to relate this to his own experience and understands that, today, I quilt competently in queen-size with the same confidence he himself anticipates daily meal service.


We have "Rosie" and "Katie" here now too. They are sisters. Rosie, with white boots and a cute black nose, is a tomboy - raucous and clumsy. She has better things to do than interact with quilts for any purpose. Evaluating them, entertaining with them, or learning how to stitch them does not interest Rosie.


Katie, on the other hand, a very feminine and petite calico, waits for me to settle down with the frame in my lap. This is her signal to leap up and "help" me from the reverse side. We play the game of seeing who can pull the thread through faster to her own side. When Katie wins, I patiently rethread the needle. When I win, the thread is returned coated with cat saliva. I'm not saying this is the easiest way to hand quilt, but at least sewing supplies remain untouched at my side. Except for the thread, I guess. I see now that it is gone again. Probably carted off by Sylvester........

Oh gosh, I haven't mentioned him yet? Hmmmm. Well, Sylvester is a ferret. Yeah....(sigh). We have one of those too!


After ten hilarious, inquisitive years Sylvester is currently thieving up a storm in Ferret Heaven.
Guess it's okay to steal things there!

Raisin is 16 years old. This little old lady has slowed down a bit since my essay was written, but what a life she has led! As the pet of our oldest daughter, she has mingled well with "millennials," first moving on to a classy urban condo where, for five years, she feared nothing but window washers. When that gig was up, she sampled suburban living, gracefully yielding "only-child" status by accepting first one, and then a second set of twin (human) siblings. Now she basks in the sun during the day and shares daddy's pillow at night.

After three seemingly healthy, happy years, Joey passed away suddenly, in my arms, of a congenital heart condition in 2009. I will never stop missing my purr-fect little quiltin' buddy.

Rosie and Katie are still here.

And so are newcomers Mickey, Charlie, Annie and Iggy...none of whom have ever shown a single "stitch" of interest in the fine art of quilting!

I am far from being a perfect patchmaker, but I have learned from my mistakes....
Deciding to make myself a Christmas quilt, I had the sense to pre-wash the fabric!

The nicest thing about squares is that they don't have points to match!

May you always be covered with the peaceful warmth and beauty of a comforting quilt and a purring, contented kitty, or preferably - like me - many of each!


  1. Can you say "I almost peed myself laughing" publicly in a blog comment ? No wonder you won the contest. I had to RECOVER from cracking up about the schoolhouse quilt to even be able to continue reading. 1 ) I still sew like that, ha ha 2 ) the cat opinion and prize ...oh my.


    Love the triple irish chain and floral applique quilt....just beautiful, Joyce!

    Ok off to text my sister as she has to read this. LOL!

  2. me again...looking at the irish chain again ( I THINK it is ? ) ...just love the soft colors in it! It is bright with the yellow popping up here and there but the general scheme is soothing.

    Makes me want to go back to bed this morning!

  3. While I do not quilt -- I do sew and every cat I've ever known has loved helping with it! They especially (Twiggy) love laying on the pattern I'm trying to pin.

    You are just like us -- if Amara isn't here to entertain us then we count on the cats and they never let us down. They each have their own little traits and personalities and while Twiggy and Twursula are sisters -- they are just like me and my real sister. They don't look anything alike. They don't act at all alike and they don't usually get along! Sibling rivalry at it's finest!

    Love this post!

  4. What a beautiful, funny essay. I laughed at you saying you dig out your cats, haha. I've never had a cat but I find them interesting. I really enjoyed reading about yours. You have such a big heart to take in all of these animals, I think it's wonderful. And your quilts are gorgeous, I love them all! Thanks for sharing this lovely essay.

  5. Oh you deserve first place,for sure!!! Lovely cats, lovely quilts, lovely story. I feel like I know the cats, each personality, each peculiarity - they are so full of fun. The quilts are wonderful - love the school house. I have a similar story - but of bigger proportions. My cat, Miss Kitty, was upset about something and she decided the quilt top (unquilted) was a potty box - I dashed to the laundry room - rinsed the quilt top and tossed it in the washer - oh nooooooo bit mistake - it was a Dresden Plate, painstakingly hand pieced and a lot of the seams frayed and I had to take the top apart and make most of the blocks over again. I learned to not wash unquilted tops in an agitator machine - just soak and swish lightly if yoy must wash them.

    The Double Irish Chain is soft and delicious and I love the christmas quilt, perfect colors and perfect design.

    Looking forward to more posts - about grandchildren or about cats and quilts (and a silly ferret)(if you get another one)

  6. Such a wonderful post, really enjoyed it. Glad you are such a cat lover.

  7. Oh, I loved this post!!! I am a fellow cat lover, they are such adorable pets. We have two, one was a stray cat and we decided to take him in as he kept getting into fights and was in a very bad way. He has been with us for 5 years now and is the most loving cat! The other does her own thing, she doesn't like to be fussed but occasionally lets us pet her. She likes her space! They all have such unique personalities. I loved all of your photos. :) x

  8. What a delightful post - of course you won first place. I love the integration of life and comfort. Thanks for sharing.

  9. What a prize-winning post! The cats are so gorgeous! The ferret is so cute too!

  10. Where to start once the fact that it certainly is an award winning essay is put to rest. As an adult I haven't been a cat person, but as a child I had cats. I never had a longing for a ferret although he is really cute. The quilts are a whole other topic. Anyone who has attempted a quilt understands every challenge you described and can appreciate square/not square, colors running, and how beautiful each one is all by itself. Love the Christmas quilt but the soft little squares one is gorgeous as well. You are one talented lady whether you are crafting or entertaining the grandkids. I can hardly wait to see what is next. :-)

  11. Ohmigosh, those are beautiful quilts! And quite the gaggle of kitties! We only have 4, but we have 4 dogs too. :O)

  12. Oh I loved that! I needed some feel good and I always can get it here :) You quilt beautifully and I love your kitty cats! They are so much fun to have around and all have so much personality. Lovely funny story.

  13. These are both lovely! I wish I had the patience to do more quilting! Cute kitty ;-)

  14. Loved your cats. We have three and like you I resort to writing about them when I have nothing else to write about. My fur babies (Salem, Smokey, and Boots) really enjoyed this post.

    Blessings from Marie @

  15. I absolutely LOVE seeing your quilts! And are those jellybeans in your background? How fun! Enjoy your afternoon and those sweet kitties!

  16. Very nice essay that i understand completely. My mother quilts and made a small quilt just for her cat (that's another story!) Visiting today from Inspiration Spotlight party.

    Michelle @ On A Wing And A Prayer

  17. Stopping in from the Grand Social. I adore both quilts and cats. I tried quilting, but it makes me crazy when I can't get it just right. Therefore, I don't quilt. We don't currently have a cat, because now that the kids are gone, we want to be free to travel without notice.

    Your Raisin is gorgeous!

  18. Ha ha! I am trying to get some more grandkids so that I don't have to get some cats. Not a bad backup plan though. Thanks for sharing at What'd You Do This Weekend.

  19. Lovely quilts. I have only made a few simple ones for each of my kids as babies. I have had some help from my kitties too. Standing under the quilting frame attacking the thread and needle if they see it or just playing peek a boo and attacking my toes!

  20. Such a beautiful story and journey! I miss having cats, but allergies prevent us from having any more. What you're doing is truly wonderful, and your quilts look lovely too!

  21. I love the cat in costume. What a patient cat. I don't think I've ever met a cat that would sit still long enough for a costume!

  22. Love the quilts and the cat pictures. My husband and I are currently pet-less so that we can take off and travel, but I do miss cats! Calicos are my favorites, but as a child we had a series of striped tabbies with white bib and paws like Iggy.

  23. Hey there! Thanks for stopping by Bowdabra and linking up your great post! Stop by again next week and link up some more awesome projects!

    Have a wonderful week!

  24. That is such a cute story. There is no better heaven on earth than cats and crafts! I admire you for taking them in when there were in need. Thank you for linking up at Sewlicious Home Decor!


  25. Hello again! Love your essay, the quilts, your pets. I'm going back to read it again because it's delightful! Now that I'm feeling better, able to sit in this chair longer and more often, I'm trying to catch up. See you again soon!

  26. What a great post!! I am visiting you via Wow Us Wednesdays and look forward to seeing you at My Dream Canvas.

  27. Oh my gosh, what a heart of gold you have for all these sweet, innocent kitties (and ferret!). They are all so gorgeous! I love how some like to 'help' and some like to observe. You are extremely talented. Being a painter, I haven't a lick of talent when it comes to sewing and I'm always in awe of those who can make quilts or sew slipcovers or do anything that requires needles and thread! Thanks so much for sharing this post with me! I loved it!

  28. I love and collect quilts plus love to make them. Looking at the pictures of your at makes me miss ours. Thanks for linking up with blogging grandmothers.

  29. Your fur babies have had interesting lives.I love the way you tell their story. Thank you for sharing with #blogginggrandmothers. I have shared on my social media.

  30. Love the quilts! I cut up some old jeans and keep saying I'm going to make a denim quilt. Cute kitties. I have never had a cat as a pet, only dogs...and the reason, I'm afraid of cats! They leap at me and hiss at me :( Thanks Joyce from Grammy Dee, #BloggingGrandmothers #LinkUp #BlogParty, social media shared.