I know this is out of sequence.. but I thought I should toss this in separately since so many people went crazy over it at the time (March of 2017) and well, it deserves its own post I guess! At least this special cat would think so. This is Tatey’s portrait. Tatey is a Siberian Forest cat, my grandkitty. She lives in Indiana and is the boss of my daughter Asa, granddaughter Emme, and son-in-law, Jay. Yes, I said BOSS!

My daughter’s birthday was coming up in April and I wanted to make her something special. I had only been quilting a little over 2 months and I was nowhere near ready to attempt a project like this, but inexperience was not going to stop me from trying! I’d been looking at quilted things online and realized you could “thread paint” with your sewing machine, using the stitches to create art! And I saw these amazing ink pencils and blocks called Inktense which are activated by water or a fabric medium. I chose water. In case you’re wondering what kind of crazy person attempts their first ever fabric painting and thread painting project by doing a cat portrait, now you know! Yep, I realized long ago I’m either crazy or fearless, and the truth is a bit of both. Actually worst fear was this would not look like Tatey at all– that it might look like a distant cousin if I were lucky! I can draw, but portraits are a totally different kind of talent. If Tatey could talk, she might look at this and say, “That’s not ME!” Hopefully, she’d be kinder to me, her Noni!

So, I drew a rough sketch on paper, then used a light box and traced the key features onto the fabric. I then went to my domestic sewing machine, lowered the feed dogs and used the darning foot to free motion thread painting using a sand color thread. Next, l just went for it, drawing, sketching, filling in color with the Inktense pencils, then added water. This pic is the actual result of that combination, plus I added some folded fabric in front of the Tatey’s face because I wanted her to look like the sneaky girl she often is, peeking over something. NOTE: I didn’t realize I’d be doing a blog one day, so I apologize that there aren’t more step-by-step pics of this project. 


Here’s a neat pic of sunlight coming in the window at a severe angle, showing off the texture nicely, even if it makes Tatey look a bit more menacing than usual. You can see how I left the eyebrows, nose, and mouth puffy! I did stitch in directions like how I knew the fur grew, a logical thing to do for a realistic portrait (you don’t have to be a genius like me to figure that one out).

Next, I wanted to quilt a background on green fabric so it seemed like maybe she was peeking out a window through a lot of foliage. I have to say, I was quite bummed out because I knew I was months away from being able to anything fabulous, but I was going to do it anyway and just hope it didn’t look too bad. For this, I rented a sit-down machine which had manual stitching. I did not draw on my fabric, I figured why not just go for it and eyeball the whole thing? And, why not use contrasting thread so every stitch and boo-boo (character) would stand out (this does take guts, just so you know)?! What’s the worst that could happen? I knew I could take the portrait out of the center if I needed to; I do own a seam ripper, ya know! Here, I’d just gotten the main elements in, vines and leaves. Next, I filled in around them with tiny swirls in a thread color that matched the color of the fabric; this helped the main elements stand out more.


I knew I wanted this to be a pillow, so that’s what it became. I regretted not making a 3″ flange all around the thing–I didn’t think of that until months later. So, this is how it turned out. You’ll notice I darkened down behind Tatey; I decided I wanted it to look like a darkened room behind her.


And this is Emme with her mama’s birthday pillow she stole from her! ha. Emme loved it and says, “Now I can hug Tatey anytime I want, even when she doesn’t want me to.”  Did this look like Tatey? My daughter said, “I thought it was a photo!” Yay! I did not embarrass myself; always important, no matter how crazy or fearless you are!

© Beverly Guhl, 2018