Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sewing cat beds for animal shelters

 Another love of my life is cats.  Some other wag said "Cats are magic!" and try as I might, I cannot improve on that.  Cats have their own distinct personalities and we (who are not their 'owners' except as we kid ourselves) are never allowed to forget that.  Yet (in my experience) the great majority of cats freely choose to give abundant affection. [I only ever met two who didn't and both of them had been seriously abused by humans in their kittenhood].  I have been lucky enough to have shared my roof with several cats, now deceased and I miss them profoundly.  I can say, without exception, those felines never gave me cause to weep, except as associated with their own ill-health or death.  I celebrate them, their love, their beauty, their sense of fun and their ineffable magic!

So, in my spare moments, I like to sew for cats.  As I mess about with my sewing machines (often spending hours per bed) I enjoy the work because I am doing it solely for love of cats and a great personal need to not lose my grip on that love.  In truth, I must donate the finished articles to shelters and I have experienced considerable difficulty in finding institutions locally which are 1) willing to even accept them and 2) treat them with just a little consideration for all the work I put into them.

 This one shows my baby steps in trying out 'free motion' work.  The quilter ladies talk much about this technique, so I thought I should give it a try.  I'm still pretty hopeless at this but you can see (by the squiggles) that I'm kinda getting there.  One big problem is the fabric colliding with the pillar thing on the sewing machine.  It forces me to stop and turn the fabric and in so doing, it crimps one's style.

 This is one of my denim beds.  That is delightful stuff to sew on as the stitches seem to enjoy a good 'chew' on the sturdy fabric.  The red bit at the top is also denim and the free-motion work shows up so much better on the solid color.

That's the back of the same bed.  You can see I have a certain affinity for applique work (to put it mildly).  The stark outlines show up nicely even on 'busy' fabric like this daisy-patterned denim.

 One problem with fleece fabric is the tendency to puff up with free motion.  One could use a walking foot to alleviate this effect but sometimes it can look quite cute, or so I console myself.  Also vision is much blocked by the use of those clunky walking feet.

I like to use up odd bits of fabric (I was born with a severe bent towards frugality:  In those days they called it 'mean').  This is an old electric blanket with the wires pulled out.  I cover up holes in the same way.

Sorry about the chalk marks.  The shelter which was the recipient for most of these beds insists on a final 'sew through' seam even though there's nothing inside the beds which could come adrift in the laundry (harumph!).  It kinda ruins the effect of the free motion work, so I tried on this one (rather unsuccessfully) to conform that seam to the existing lines.

A lot of these pieces of fabric are garments gone-wrong or long-since abandoned.  Unfortunately, I think you can still tell...urk!

Look what a splendid piece of Halloween fabric this is!  A darling friend sent me a load of strips and it's amazing how it adds zing to the whole.  I tried my hand at 'quilting' on this one (just parallel [ahem!] lines of stitching over the top.  My hat's off to quilter ladies:  It takes an infinity to achieve that look, even with lines over an inch apart (and fiddling with stupid little quilt guide thingies!).

I also got a donation of this camouflage fabric which does absolutely nothing for me.  I often use these brilliantly colored strips to jig-saw together pieces of odd fabric, but in this case I sewed on a few ribbons of the stuff just to satiate my personal lust for color.  Note the little kitty faces on the detail fabric!  Ain't that a kick?  It was a huge free bag of manufacturer's off-cuts that I got in a local garage sale (even before I conceived of making beds for shelter cats!).  If the wonderful woman who thought to rescue that fabric is still out there...thank you!

I've just got to award laurels to modern fabric designers!  What a masterpiece with the little birds and that glorious fruit.  I have sewed slogans on, by the way, to mark the beds since I was told that some of them were disappearing from one of the shelters.  There was no vainglory, in the beginning anyway.  But I am beginning to feel justified in 'signing' my efforts.  I've never done it on cross stitch.  I should give that some thought.

Boring strips of fabric joined on to others that absolutely zing!  I usually sew strips like this onto thin quilt batting to give some heft to the finished item.  It also gives a hint of puffiness to the appliques.  You can see my chalk marks there as I use a cardboard template to try and give at least some orderliness to the angle of turn for those wretched 'top' seams.

Another dear lady gives me bits of leftover quilt batting and I often jigsaw that together too before I even start with the top fabric (great way to use up that wretched cheap thread that I have lying around).

Look at the little hound-doggie heads on that fabric!  I love dogs too but my heart is mostly kittled.  Those top seams do cause a lot of distortion.  I use an ancient cast-iron Pfaff for that job, lest I wreck my more delicate modern machines!

Hey, what use is sewing if one can't do crazy experiments?  I'm not too sure this was one of my success stories (eek, there's a lot of drag along the bottom edge).  What I was attempting here is 'cording'.  There's a little hole in one of those devilishly-engineered presser feet that accepts heavy thread (I used old, waxed top-stitch thread).  This gets pulled along as the machine sews and it lays along the top like a piece of ribbon.  So I zig-zag stitched (narrow stitch width but long stitch length) to anchor it down.  Now I'm worried that kitties may pull it up with their claws. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cross Stitch I've done

 I'm new to blogging, so forgive the simplicity of my presentation.  I wanted a place to post some of my finished cross-stitch pieces.  I'm from the UK but have lived in Oregon for the last 3 decades. A lot of my pieces were chosen because I was feeling nostalgic for the old country.  It seems that architecture features strongly in my feelings of homesickness.  I am especially drawn to buildings with some history to them.

I started stitching pieces like this with a view to exorcising that strange sickness of the mind that pulls us back to times gone by and scenes filed away deep in the memory.  The Silhouettes series evokes those sepia postcards of everyday scenes from the early part of the 20th century.

The 'Mermaid' is a Tudor building in Rye, Sussex.  I've never been there but there is a pub in Sheffield (my old home-town) called the 'Old Queen's Head' of which it's reminiscent. 

I've completed a set of these cottages from 'Cross my heart'  This one is Swiss cottage and was the most difficult.

 This is another one in the same series

 This is a big design from a Cross my Heart booklet of several.  It was hard to do and took ages!  It's now on my footstool

This is one I'm currently working on.  It's a Kinetic kit called Mermaid Inn, Rye.  It's a monster and is approaching the half-way point

This is one of the Silhouettes by Heritage designs.  I've done loads of these.  This is a lock scene

Another Silhouettes design and my favorite.  It's called 'tram stop'