I think I’ve written before about how much I love the thrift store. And about how I like to collect and save strange things. Obviously, I’ve combined them and I now have a bunch of odd things I bought cheaply. Sometimes, they can generate new ideas that I might not have had otherwise!
Whenever I go to a thrift store, I always look to see if they carry vintage clothing patterns. The older, the better, as far as I’m concerned. They appeal to me on so many levels – the styles, the history, the awesome illustrations on the packages (far superior to photos, I think), the idea that I could maybe make the outfit if I wanted to. I never really do, but I could. I have about 25 of them at this point, and I love them all. Most places sell them for a quarter or two, and the places that think they’re all fancy might charge a dollar.
So, when I came across this pattern for a variety of stuffed animals, I went ahead and bought it. Even though it’s not the type of thing I’m normally drawn to, I thought it was sort of cute and might be fun to make. I’m guessing it’s from the mid-1970s, and has just the right amount of goofiness for me to take it on as a project. I decided to make the cat.
I selected a black and white scheme, including a stripe that is kind of disorientating to look at. I pulled out the pattern and started cutting, realizing right away that the cat’s face was a weird shape with little pointy cheeks. I didn’t like that, so I changed to make the face more oval. Then I decided to make the face more interesting with a bit of applique, and also to tone down the insane stripe just a bit. I liked how the face came out – it reminds me of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland: silly, weird and crazy looking.
So I went ahead and made the rest of the cat and put it together. It was horrible! It was just a big lump with a dumb unconvincing tail and the ears would just flop over the face, which was the only redeeming feature of the thing. And I had pretty much made the face up on my own. I said, “Oh, well,” and put it somewhere and forgot about it. When we were packing to move I found it again, but I couldn’t put it in a box as it was. I took it apart (except for the face) and packed the pieces.
It’s been sitting on a shelf in my studio, the shelf that holds things I’m supposed to work on right away. It’s been there longer than I care to say, but I took it out last week and thought about how I could make it into something I liked. I’m going to applique it to a sequined background!
The Cheshire Cat resemblance always stuck with me, so I decided to turn it into one. It’s grinning at you while the body is vanishing before your eyes. I’ve tried to figure out how to incorporate some sort of paws but nothing that I’ve tried works very well, so I figure they vanished first. Or I can pretend he’s a floating cat. He does need some whiskers, though.
Anyway, I’ve got my patches cut, I just need to applique them onto the background. It’s a pretty strange piece, taken by itself, but I like it a thousand times better like this than as a stuffed animal so I’m going to finish it. The face is still weird and creepy, but also fun, and I like the new context. Alice in Wonderland has been one of my very favorite books ever since my mother read it to me a million years ago.
I bet I’m not the only one who’s had to change course when a project wasn’t working out. It’s kind of what quilters do all the time! Sometimes I’ll need a little time and distance to get a new perspective on a problem, so I put it aside and come back to it later. It almost always helps me arrive at a solution I’m happy with.