Cantankerous Kitty and the Birthday Quilts

Scott Hastings pretending to be a cutie
Scott Hastings pretending to be a cutie

Let me introduce you to our cat Scott Hastings, who passed away last month.

Now, don’t be swayed by the photos – he was not exactly a little cutie!

He was a remarkable guy who blew through his nine lives in about two years and lived the next 16 years on borrowed time. He almost died from a million things including being shot by a BB gun many times, broken spine bone, crazy bacterial infection, multiple face surgeries after cat fights, lacerated tongue with plenty of stitches, just to name a few.

Scott Hatings in a rare moment of repose
Scott Hastings in a rare moment of repose

We named him Scott Hastings after the ballroom dancer from the movie “Strictly Ballroom,” and he went by many nicknames, Grumpy Dude being the favorite one towards the end there.

Scott was the LOUDEST, most vocal cat I’ve ever seen, and as he went deaf in the last few years, he took to howling in the bathtub – charming.

He was really my son’s cat. He picked my son out at the pet store by snagging his shirt with a claw when we walked by. He was a bit older than the age of a kitten we wanted, but it was clear from the start that he was going to be Nathan’s cat.

Cowboy Trip Around the World, by Alethea Ballard; 1993
Cowboy Trip Around the World, by Alethea Ballard; 1993

I have made a quilt for my son about every 10 years. When he was 8, I made this Trip Around the World, which was on his bed or his wall for ever. It was made of all cowboy fabrics and a great starry border fabric from Robert Kaufmann fabrics.

Fly By Blue, by Alethea Ballard; 2003
Fly By Blue, by Alethea Ballard; 2003

Then, at 18, I made a very manly quilt for Nathan, which ended up in my book Maverick Quilts. It’s all from 1/4 yard pieces of blue batik with great green “butterflies.”

Bit O'Blarney Quilt, by Alethea Ballard; 2013
Bit O’Blarney Quilt, by Alethea Ballard; 2013

Now that he’s 28, I figured it was about time for a new quilt. I made him an Irish flag quilt with his favorite lucky charm, shamrocks, on it.  I absolutely love it and I think he does, too!

Sharing the birthday quilt, mother & son
Sharing the birthday quilt, mother & son

Most of the fabrics in the quilt are of something that has meaning to us and I was able to use many of my conversation prints – always a good thing. From the State of California to golf to football to barbecuing, all of Nathan’s interests are there.

Of course, I had to include Grumpy Dude, right?

I started with a fabric that had an orange cat. But it was too light, and didn’t have Scott’s white bib, his deep orange parts, or the right face shape.

So I got out the fabric paints, added fabric medium, and went to town.

cat image on fabric - no paint
Cat image on fabric – no paint
Adding white to fabric
Adding white to fabric
Finished portrait of Scott on fabric
Finished portrait of Scott on fabric

Not too bad, right?

Scott and Priscilla the Silver Purse
Scott and Priscilla the Silver Purse
Detail of Bit O'Blarney Quilt, by Alethea Ballard
Detail of Bit O’Blarney Quilt, by Alethea Ballard

I’ll finish the binding on the quilt any minute now and give it to my son to keep!

Post script: Scott passed away at home after being able to say goodbye to Nathan. He’s buried under the redwood tree he used to climb.

Fabulous Floral Quilts – Old and New

Detail of Laura Fraga's Little Brown Bird quilt - incomprable!
Detail of Laura Fraga’s Little Brown Bird quilt – incomparable!

If you haven’t gotten down to the Museum of the San Ramon Valley in Danville to see the Quintessential Quilts – a Floral Fantasy show, you still have ten days to hustle down there.  I’ve worked with the museum volunteers to create a really beautiful collection of quilts which showcase flowers. We were able to gather quilts with flower appliques, flower fabrics, painted flowers, embroidered, embellished and everything in between!

We have fresh flowers delivered twice a week, compliments of our local floral businesses, gardening groups and stores. The rooms smell lovely and it’s a delightful little exhibit.

"Adam" in the Man Cave at the San Ramon Valley museum
“Adam” in the Man Cave at the San Ramon Valley museum

We’ve also been able to include some very interesting men’s quilts in the “man cave.” We wanted to be sure everyone know men quilt, too. Even if they don’t do loads of floral quilts!

My teacher Margaret Linderman and I will be doing a free demonstration and our raw-edge floral work on Saturday, September 28 from 11:00 to 12:00.  Come early to get parking. The farmer’s market is going on at the same time and it’s a bit of a busy corner of the world!

The 1850 Whig Rose quilt and vintage friends
The 1850 Whig Rose quilt and vintage friends
Jennifer Rounds' Zen Roses next to vintage quilts
Jennifer Rounds’ Zen Roses next to vintage quilts
Wonderful wall hangings and wearable art
Wonderful wall hangings and wearable art
Wonderful vintage doll and Sunbonnet Sue corner
Wonderful vintage doll and Sunbonnet Sue corner

Be sure to come by Saturday, September 21, to see the lovely Sandra Newman demonstrate hand sewing hexagons. She’s created some packets for everyone to try them out and then you can see her beautiful work, too! Also from 11:00 to 12:00.

New York Beauty detail, photo from Pati Freid
New York Beauty detail, photo from Pati Freid

This week I was delighted to read a blog post about the New York Beauty quilts and the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textile’s current exhibition.

Take a minute to go over to the wonderful blog, See How We Sew, and read Pati Fried’s interesting views on these quintessential American quilts! http://seehowwesew.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/new-york-beauty-quilts-finding-inspiration-in-our-past/

Detail of Pickle Dish-Ish, by Alethea Ballard; 2013
Detail of Pickle Dish-Ish, by Alethea Ballard; 2013

I’ve always loved the New York Beauty quilt design and perhaps need to make one soon in my new quilted applique quilt series!

All-American Flag Quilt

Star section detail from All-American Flag Quilt, by Alethea Ballard
Star section detail from All-American Flag Quilt, by Alethea Ballard

It’s true. I am very patriotic. I don’t have pictures of Uncle Sam all over my house or anything like that, but when it comes to the old red, white & blue, well, it definitely runs in my veins!

I do love to hang the Stars and Stripes at my house, especially on holidays!

All-American Flag Quilt, by Alethea Ballard; 1998
All-American Flag Quilt, by Alethea Ballard; 1998

Years ago I made a picnic quilt to use on the Fourth of July. I made a star section out of an old dark-blue pair of my husband’s Dickies work pants and some white cotton sheeting. I cut up a pair of husband’s jeans and some of my son’s jeans and made the “white” stripes. (Terrible, but true, one of the pairs was actual acid wash jeans – so that just dates the quilt right there!) There had been a sale on 60″ wide red denim at JoAnn’s and I had bought three yards, so I had the red stripes and the back covered! I stitched it all together and, voila, Sam’s your uncle!

Jeans and tying add interest to the All-American Flag Quilt, by Alethea Ballard
Jeans and tying add interest to the All-American Flag Quilt, by Alethea Ballard

We’ve used this quilt many times, on many picnics and holidays and it still looks great!

Detail of All-American Flag Quilt
Detail of All-American Flag Quilt

I’d really been wanting to make a pattern so that I could share this quilt with my students and y’all, so I decided to make a new version using all red, white and blue shirts. I didn’t have any of my own, so I crept into my husband’s closet and right then and there stole a shirt. Two minutes later I was cutting it into 6 1/2″ sections and the next thing I knew the quilt was on its way! I used the back yokes, the sleeves, pocket and even the button section.

I promptly headed to the thrift store and bought (not stole) some gently-worn shirts, and the rest is history!

All-American Flag Quilt - men's shirt version, by Alethea Ballard; 2013
All-American Flag Quilt – men’s shirt version, by Alethea Ballard; 2013

I sold this version to a wonderful lady from Carmel Valley, so this is the only photo I have – I wish I had taken some close-ups! All of the parts of the shirts really added visual interest to this quilt. Again, I had three yards of on-sale denim just lying around, this time a soft blue, and the back and border was a snap!

Now I’ve created a great downloadable pattern at my Etsy.com Pattern Store. It has loads of color photos and complete instructions for making the quilt. I even include information about stitching it and doing the tying!

But wait! Yes that’s right folks, you also get a YouTube video! Yes, you heard that right. I’ve made another dorky video (just like when I was a Home Ec teacher). This one shows how to make half-square triangles without having to cut triangles to make them! Yeah!

Alethea's YouTube video has a tutorial on how to turn humble squares into stars!
Alethea’s YouTube video has a tutorial on how to turn humble squares into stars!

I’m on track to make more dorky films, so be sure you sign up to follow the Maverick Quilts YouTube channel when you’re there for the nerdfest!

Stripes from red denim and jeans
Stripes from red denim and jeans