Creating With Cats: Quilted Kitties for Fun and CharityPosted: October 1, 2011
So I walk into my customer’s house on a visit to photograph her portrait, and I’m faced with the cat faces on this quilt. It’s difficult to greet and carry on a conversation being distracted by something I desperately want to investigate, but time is short and I hope I’ll be back at some point to satisfy my curiosity with a good study of the quilted cat images in front of me, and then I see another one…
Art, craft and animals
Nearly every artist and crafter I know lives with at least one animal companion. It may just seem like that to me because people with animals tend to gravitate toward each other, but even in the professional art organizations of which I’m a member that have nothing to do with animals conversations often tend toward our pets because most of us live with one or more, or are even involved in rescue.
And as I’ve met many animal fanciers among my creative friends, I’ve also met quite a few creative people among my friends who live with animals, especially those who have commissioned portraits.
Missy Bauer and her passion for quilting
Recently I was back for a visit with this customer when I included the portrait of her cats Milan and Felix in the exhibit at my book signing because they are included in Great Rescues. As I studied and photographed the quilts we discussed fabric and patterns and using our creative passion for good, donating quilts to charity, especially to animal shelters.
Missy is a serious quilter, producing six to eight quilts tops a month, sending them off to one of three people who back, quilt and bind them for her.
“They’re all from patterns, but I really enjoy putting the fabrics together,” Missy said. “I have fabric designers who are my favorites and I buy the fabrics I really love and I put the quilts together from what I have.” Not cat-related except for Milan posing for another photo, I loved the color combination and the patterns in the quilt on the back of her couch.
I finally had a chance to study the Let Sleeping Cats Lie cat quilt and take a number of photographs, and I noticed the intricate quilting patterns, then noticed it wasn’t the same quilting pattern over the entire quilt.
“She (the quilter) wanted to use different patterns I different areas, and believe it or not that is done freehand,” she said, pointing at the detailed swirl and wave pattern.
We turned to the 12-month cat quilt. “This square is my favorite in this quilt, it makes me smile whenever I look at it,” she said, pointing to the cat with two flower pots for ears representing May.
One of her own design
Unlike all the other quilts, the next quilt Missy showed me was one she designed herself using “In the Beginning Fabrics” in patterns designed by Julie Paschkis.
“I have one more cat quilt right now, but it’s not done yet,” she said, heading down her hallway to a rack of folded quilts and quilt tops at the end of the hall. “The one needs to be quilted, and I really, really like it.”
Oh, my, so did I! I watched the bright colors and whimsical animals and plants appear as Missy unfolded the finished top to see the squares surrounding blocks and shapes and then the border. It’s too bad it was difficult to photograph more of it; the quilt was too big to slap onto her flannel wall panel or hold up, but it’s a totally magical quilt.
“Garden Patch Quilt” for charity
Missy then mentioned a “charity quilt” she was currently working on which she intended to donate to a shelter or animal rescue to auction for donations and began pulling appliquéd patches out of a plastic bin, each with a colorful and whimsical kitty.
“This is a monthly quilt,” she explained. “The artist publishes a new block every month. I am up to 19, but I think there may be as many as 23 blocks. She’s not sure—the artist may draw more. You can find them on StoryQuilts.com, and this one is called Garden Patch Cats.”
At the size of these blocks, approximately 18” x 18”, that would be one huge quilt! Missy explained that she intended to trim the blocks down and fit the kitties together to make a more asymmetrical quilt, though it was still destined to be a large quilt. “I just hope I can keep it to king size!” She mentioned that people would probably use it as a wall-hanging rather than a bed quilt, but just because it would hang on a wall didn’t mean it could be limitless.
And here are Pepper Puss, Eggplant Purr-mesan, Catus Romanus and Podcats and not only are they named after garden vegetables, but each pattern also comes with a recipe. All of this information would be forwarded to the lucky winner of the quilt.
So what shelter will be the lucky recipient of this quilt when it’s finished? “I’m not sure,” she said, “I’m looking around for an organization that would want something this big and be able to auction it off for a good amount of money for the benefit of the animals,” she said.
While her two kitties Felix and Milan and Murphy the Corgie were wandering in and out she introduced me to Nacho, a tabby cat curled quietly on a bed in the corner. “She kind of lives in here,” she said. “Sometimes I put her over here by the window and she enjoys looking out. The dog is okay with her, Felix is okay with her, but Milan is her nemesis so she kind of stays in here on her bed,” Missy continued. Well, it’s such a cozy room and filled with mom’s love of what she does, at least when she’s not at work during the day, what kitty would mind?
You can see the stocks of fabric she has in this tiny room, immediately available so she can begin a new project without the need to go out shopping for materials. In crafter talk, this is called a “stash”.
Learning to sew through 4-H
Missy grew up on a farm near York, PA, which generated not only her obvious love for animals, but also her skills as a sewer.
“Out there in farm country, we had 4-H, and my grandma was a 4-H Sewing teacher,” Missy explained. “She would put a bunch of us kids in the basement with the sewing machines and say, ‘Here, do something’, so I started out with clothing and went from there,” she continued.
“I still have my great-grandma’s treadle sewing machine that I learned on in my basement,” she added, smiling fondly.
One of Missy’s other charities is Quilts of Valor, where quilts are made to be given to wounded veterans. “I may choose one I’ve already done or make one in patriotic colors, but I also make pink ones for breast cancer and I’ll donate a pink one—women serve too!” she said. While she donates the quilt, her quilters donate their time to her when then know it’s for Quilts of Valor.
“This last time I donated one I got to meet the recipient,” she said, “and that was really special for me to hand it to him and talk to him about his injury and his recovery.”
Where you can find Missy’s sewing
In addition to her volume of quilts, Missy also makes “bags”, large fabric purses in a wide variety of patterns with lots of pockets for stuff. In addition to the ones pictured here, you can see more in her Etsy shop.
And handling the new brightly-colored kitty quilt pictured above, she said, smiling, “I have a lot of this border fabric left, I mean a lot, and I’m sure it’s going to end up being a bag or two.”
Missy lives with her husband, Vic, three cats and one dog, Murphy. Her husband also grew up in farm country, though they met in graduate school at California University of PA. Both are fitness trainers, she for a high school, he for Duquesne University. I’ll be writing more about both of them at another time when I profile them as animal rescuers.
If your organization might be interested in the Garden Patch Cats quilt as an auction item for the benefit of animals, please contact Missy by conversation through her Etsy shop. She’d like to make sure it goes to an event where something that big and unusual will bring the highest bid for the benefit of the animals. Likewise,if you’d like one of her bags, are interested in one of the ones made from the special cat fabric or you have an idea for a custom bag, contact Missy through her Etsy shop.