Fur, Feathers and Fins: Quilting the Animal Kingdom

Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” Anatole France

Quilters love animals. It can’t be denied. The proliferation of one-of-a-kind fabric tributes to creatures with fur, fins or feathers is beyond count. The subject matter draws on the heart strings and puts the thread to the bobbin.

Gone Fishing

Fish “hook” people with their tranquil gliding in the transparent waters of an aquarium. The sounds of waves and the constant motion of the fish stimulate happy hormones in those of us fascinated by the wiggling tail fins. If the fish tank is in a bedroom, sleep is more secure with the glow of lights. Blood pressure drops. Hyperactive children calm themselves. Alzheimer patients who gaze at fish need fewer supplements and present less aggressive behavior. No wonder that quilters want to recreate those positive feelings onto cloth.

Fish lend themselves to applique. The brilliant colors, the shiny textures, the variations in shapes that overlap on blue backgrounds with stylized stitching. The resulting quilt reminds the one cuddled in mermaid fashion that life in the sea is relaxing.

Into the Woods

Furry creatures dominate the comforters of many a stitcher. Whether the memories of camping in the woods, or hiking a tree-covered trail, the wildlife that scampers in the underbrush stirs the imagination. Raccoons, owls, deer, moose, rabbits or squirrels bring fuzzy fabrics to life in the imagination of the one celebrating life in a forest. The reaction to these quilts is always: “Ahhh. How cute is that?”

Polly Want a Quilted Cover?

Birds make companions for a lifetime, unlike guinea pigs who need funerals every few years. Social interaction between feathered friends and humans provides friendship and encourages empathy because a bird always understands the gravest stories. But, as A.A. Milne observed, “Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”

Nurturing needs are met with birds which require personal attention to stay healthy. Early dementia is lessened by teaching tricks to birds. So, the quilter who decides to create a bird comforter may cut and attach each feather individually, or use free motion stitching for the definition of feathers. Because birds cover a range of colorful hues, choosing fat quarters is enjoyable. Paying homage to a daily comrade makes stitching into enjoyable work.

Pets and More Pets

Whether quilting a memorial to a pet which has passed on, or to celebrate a daily companion, creating a beloved cat or dog from cloth presents an opportunity to pour many emotions onto the finished product.

Consider the cat lover. There is a challenge to presenting the individual personality of a feline. How does fabric project the inquisitive, friendly, playful, active, loving and independent aspects of a kitty? How can a quilt mimic the feelings of lowered stress and high blood pressure from a purring mass of fur on a lap? As a cat owner, the quilter herself may be introverted, smarter, more sensitive and more nonconformist than other pet owners. As such, the amazing variations on cat quilts is endless as these feline-loving sewers stitch away on their machines like kitties rolling in catnip. A labor of the heart.

The die-hard dog lovers insist that their dogs share the characteristics of humans. There is some truth to that statement according to Stanley Coren, PhD who says, “Dogs experience emotions like humans do. But the depth to which they experience them is like a preschool child, not an adult.” We have all known dogs who exhibit shyness, joy, anger, distress, excitement and affection. Significantly, canines feel grief when a human or animal companion dies. Because of this sharing of feelings, quilters desire to capture their dog friends with stitches and cloth onto a cuddly comforter. The variety of products is endless.

Barnyard Animals

The farm animals cannot be forgotten. Their feathery, fuzzy, furry and fleecy bodies grace many a quilt. Especially sewn for babies, toddlers and children, the cuteness of geese, chickens, sheep, cows, horses, and pigs cannot be matched. The sentimental nature of these animals and our own attachment to their literary and poetic connections bring out the patchwork and applique in the best of us. The subject material is a sure winner for a quilt that will be treasured for years.

Quilters and animals. The combination is predictable. The fabric creations are limited only by the imagination and skill of the stitcher. Our animal friends have become our warm, cuddly comforters.

“When I look into the eyes of an animal I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul.”  Anthony Douglas Williams


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Main photo credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/animal-big-cat-jungle-safari-206622/

Quilt examples: Pinterest

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