No ordinary cats for #themeowthemerrier

(and a quick finishing tutorial)

As designers, we were set a challenge for the Fall 2021 Needlework Expo to feature a cat. It’s amazing to see how different designers respond to this brief and create such different designs. You can see them by using #themeowthemerrier

I was playing around with ideas when I remembered this quotation by the great French writer, actor and rebel, Colette (Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, 1873-1954): ‘There are no ordinary cats’. Indeed. Framed in a French-inspired border, this little creature is just perched, ready to spring.

This little extraordinary creature was fun to play with, especially as I was wanting to try a Halloween design. Halloween is not a tradition in Australia, although it is rising in popularity in recent years. I love the idea of it – to celebrate the spooky, the otherworldly and the sinister – but in practice, it’s hard to connect to here. Halloween falls in the middle of Spring in the Southern Hemisphere and it just doesn’t feel right. Perhaps we can hold our own in our late Autumn, when things get cool and dark. Or invent a Spooky Spring aesthetic? Now, that’s an idea…

In the meantime, I hope this little cutie makes you smile. I’ve stitched the design using Classic Colorworks, Weeks Dye Works, Gentle Arts and DMC, and the chart includes a full DMC conversion. It would be easy to customise the colours to your favourites – you could do the border in any colour you like, and perhaps even a ginger cat?

The linen I used was 37-count ‘Corn Tassel’ by Legacy Linen. Again, you could easily use other neutrals that you have in hand.

When it came to finishing the little pin pillow, I was playing around with ideas to fit into an Autumn/Halloween theme and found some recycled silk sari ribbon in the perfect colour. I love sari ribbon – I use it for everything. I love the crinkly texture and frayed edges. And I love how it is low-waste, turning something unwanted into something else. So I decided to use it to trim my pin pillow and I love how it turned out.

Here are some quick finishing tips for using silk sari ribbon:

  • Make sure your ribbon is a bit longer than the circumference of the pillow – it can scrunch up a little as you sew it on.
  • The sari ribbon comes quite crinkled. You can use it like this, as it creates wonderful texture. The only thing I do to prepare it is to trim off any stray, long threads of silk, as these can get in the way when stitching. Some lengths of the ribbon can contain part of a seam where lengths of silk have been joined together. You can leave these as is, or simple cut the seam out and use two shorter lengths if you want a more even look.
  • Sew together your pin pillow using your preferred method. When it is complete (and right side out), place one end of the ribbon along the seam of the pillow and whip-stitch it in place using a colour of thread similar to the ribbon (I used Classic Colorworks ‘Autumn Spice’ used in the design.
  • As you pull in the whip-stitches around the ribbon, it will naturally form into a rounded shape.
  • Keep whip-stitching around the ribbon, and sew around the edge seam of the pillow. Make your stitches closer together at the corners, to help form the shape.
  • As you come back to where you started, simply sew a little over your starting point, end your thread and then trim the ribbon flat.
  • The nature of the ribbon means that the texture will be slightly variegated, as the colour of the ribbon can shift through the length, and some areas may be thicker than others. The frayed edges of the ribbon can peek out too – for me, this adds interest. I hope you like it too…

This design is available from needlework stores (see my Stockists page) and will be available as a chart and a pdf in my Etsy store at the start of October. Also look out for finishing packs and sari ribbon there – coming soon!