Saturday, October 20, 2012


I don't think of blue as my favorite color. In truth, as I was growing up, blue was kinda off-limits for me. I was the brown-eyed child sandwiched between two blue-eyed sisters. If either Mary Frances or Elisabeth wore blue, they looked terrific. I wasn't quite sure what my favorite color was...until I met deep purple. It was the crush on purple when I was thirteen that inspired me to paint my whole bedroom that color. Whereupon Mom nixed the idea, had the purple paint re-mixed with white, and said I could leave the wall not visible from the door purple but the other walls had to fade to the new lavender color.

But like lots of folks, blue--as in blue jeans-- is part of my Woodstock generation's cultural DNA.

The color blue comes up all the time in my quilts. Purple has faded into the distant past. The one sampler quilt I made in purple is still a quilt top and will likely never get finished. So here's to blue in all its shades. From deep indigo to twilight blue, to haze and sky and faded grey-blue on our house.

All my dishes are various shades of blue because my theory is that even an all-white meal like eggs, cream gravy, and white grits looks appetizing against the color. FYI: the dark red bowl pictured in the dish drainer is used only for serving green beans and for salad, again because the color contrast is visually pleasing.

The miniature hexagon quilt was made from fabrics in a line called Victorian Blues that I did for Michael Miller in 2002.

Must be that I think of blue as a neutral--it often appears in my quilts as background. Making the Bethlehem Star quilt below got two ticks off my bucket list: the quilt is a central Star variation and is completely hand-made: hand-pieced, hand quilted, and hand bound.

By continuing to do sashiko, it looks as though I will be swimming in blue for some time. This piece is a shimaco or sampler book page overlaid with asinoha (hemp leaf) stitching.

This wall hanging-size quilt I just finished is called Nantucket Spin and the original design was by Laura Gilvin from Studioe fabrics. I pieced it and then did some messing around with the borders. Machine quilted by Vicky Garner.

And of course a blue-eyed kitten on another quilt top can end this posting nicely.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Tutored in October

October has always been an active and emotional month for me. I am working away on samples and speeches and classes for the biggest quilting event of the year--the International Quilt Market (trade show) followed by the International Quilt Festival in Houston, TX.  The Market-Festival marathon takes place in the last week of the month. Just in case you're a civilian (non-quilter) reading this and thinking, "Huh? Quilt show? Big deal!", this is the event where Houston grows by 45,000 in a week as needlework enthusiasts converge from all over the planet. It is a Very Big Deal.

This year on the 16th also marks the 10th anniversary of my mother's death. That one threw me for a long time because it was so unexpected. I don't even know how to talk about her death other than to realize my attitude all month may indeed be influenced, in some boomerang effect, by that milestone event. Then as I was clearing out computer files, I came across an epitaph I'd written for Sheba, our grey tabby cat, who passed away one October. Tears.What brought on all the melancholy?

I think it might be fear. Tomorrow I take Joey, my Siamese-mix kitten, to the vet to get fixed. Like my friend Kat Taylor, I call it 'tutored' after the Larsen cartoon. Joey's been sneezing off and on and being an uber-anxious pet-parent, I've hauled him in twice for examination. They are getting tired of seeing me. Conclusion: Joey, being the food hoover he is, has snuffled up every dust bunny, crumb of food, basically anything on the floor ever since he came to live with us. Yesterday I caught him trying to eat the lint in the dryer screen. The vet thinks his sneezing might be the result of his indiscriminate noshing. He will probably come through the operation just fine. But fear is there.

So I'm posting Sheba's epitaph here and then will delete it from the computer. Sometimes I wish it was that easy to delete memories but the ability to relive and remember is at the heart of our humanness.

                                                    Epitaph for a Loved Cat

About fourteen years ago our old bruiser of an alley cat, name of Mikey, brought home his own ‘pet,’ a small gray and white patched female kitten. We were sitting on the back steps and here he came strolling up the walk from the garage and this kitten following after. About half-way down the walk, Mikey sat down and the kitten came around to him and snuggled between his front paws and they looked at us. That’s how Mikey introduced us to his charge and after that, the two cats were great buddies. They slept together, rolled into one large furry doughnut, and the kitten, who grew into a large handsome gray tabby with white boots, we named Sheba, as in ‘the queen of.’ 

Sheba was a wild child. She loved climbing your pants to get your attention, ate every meal like it would be her last, and never allowed us to pick her up or snuggle with her. Perhaps she never got over being a stray kitten. But first and foremost she was Mikey’s best friend. When Mikey died, Sheba was distraught. She searched for him for months and sat in the back bedroom window watching the yard, as if he might come strolling up the walk. Eventually she transferred her affections to Rod. She listened for the sound of his car and greeted him at the door. In time she even greeted me but men—Rod, her mentor Mikey, male friends and even visiting tom cats—were the primary objects of her affection. Her favorite thing was to greet Rod by standing on the table as he sat in a chair. She’d carefully lick his head, rearranging his hair into swirls and tufts. If he didn’t allow her to “groom” him, she got very anxious and made little meeping cries until he sat still for his beauty treatment.

Sheba was dumb as a rock about the dangers of the outdoors. If she broke free from the porch, she ran immediately to the street to lay down and roll on the warm asphalt so Rod devised a string harness with lightweight aluminum clips. When Sheba wanted to go out, she stood at attention at the door and we clipped her into her harness and let her out, secure in the knowledge that the heavy weight at the other end would keep her from straying too far. She was an expert at getting tangled around any object in the yard and would lay down in resignation and meow piteously for us to come and free her.

Occasionally, on cold nights, Sheba would jump in your lap and then lay down on your chest. As she became older and achieved her lifetime heft of 15 lbs. this maneuver could take your breath away, literally. She usually bedded down with Rod, first on his bed and then on a nest he made for her out of his old sweater on an upended box. In the summer she preferred the side porch and often stayed out there all night, communing, we suppose, with the nighttime creatures and other cats wandering through the yard.

She had slowed down this past year and we thought it was age and rheumatism but when she stopped eating, we knew something was seriously wrong. An x-ray revealed that she had a tumor around the heart, not something medicine could do a lot about. We mutually decided to spare her more pain and have her put to sleep and asked Dr. Roxanne to come to our house to give the injection.

Sheba was very weak and hadn’t eaten in two days. She lay sprawled out on the porch table and we sat on either side. It was deep dusk and the little Christmas lights were on and an oil lamp on the table provided more light. Dr. Roxanne arrived, driving a big truck, with her dogs beside her on the front seat. She came up on the porch and talked quietly to us, and then gave Sheba a shot. We heard an owl hooting in the backyard. Almost immediately Sheba quieted since the injection was a sedative and painkiller. She laid down, curled up one paw, and laid her head on it, and closed her eyes. We petted her and talked to her. After checking her pulse, the vet shaved a tiny patch on Sheba’s front paw and gave the final injection. It was over in less than a minute. Dr. Roxanne packed her bag and left and her dogs, who had stayed in her truck, never yipped the whole time. We sat there, our hands on Sheba’s soft fur, and cried. The owl stopped hooting and flew away. It was now completely dark. I said to Rod, “Did you know the ancient Romans believed that owls carried the souls of the dead to heaven?” And he said, “Then I guess she’s gone to be with Mikey.”