For All the Quilters Living with Cats

August 13, 2010 at 11:32 am 1 comment

This is Fergus.  He just taught me something I did not know about quilt fabric.

Burger Fergus

And no, he can NOT has cheezburger.

I chose this picture because it illustrates two traits of Fergus’ character that are extremely pertinent to this story:  he has a voracious appetite, especially for people food that he’s not permitted to have, and he has no sense of consequences.  See, like most domestic cats (really, like most adult mammals that aren’t us) Fergus cannot properly digest dairy products.  He loves the taste of them, but they make him sick.  However, since the act of becoming sick comes hours after the eating of the tasty cheese, or licking out the cereal bowl, or the yogurt carton, or what-have-you, his tiny brain doesn’t link the two events.  And then there’s a mess for me to clean up.  Fergus has the additional endearing trait of possessing a knack for finding the absolute highest point from which to then vomit, so he gets to target as many surfaces on as many levels as possible.  I’d need Dexter Morgan to track the spatter patterns sometimes.  (This is why my husband and I have had so many “talks” about the necessity to rinse out one’s cereal bowl.)

Of course, at some point while I still had the mini-retreat setup in my dining room, including a nice little pile of fabric for Matt and Alyssa’s quilt stacked up on the end of the hutch/cutting table, Fergus climbed up on the adjacent armoire and let his stomach contents fly from six feet up.  Gross, but not a huge problem; after all, one of the many lovable things about fabric is that it’s washable.  I threw the offending fabric in the washing machine (thank goodness I am a convert to prewashing my fabric in recent years, especially for gifts, but that’s a tale of woe for another day) and it emerged none the worse for disgusting wear — or so I thought.  When I went to re-press the individual pieces, I found one exception:

Fergus Effect fabric

See how the gold etching has vanished from the design in the upper left corner? It follows the contour of the stain, except there's no stain -- just no gold there!

I love metallic fabrics, white-on-whites, Fairy Frosts, and many other variations on applying a surface “paint” to a printed fabric.  And while Dierdre McElroy does warn in her lectures and on her “The Perfect Stitch” DVD that they can wear off, and therefore might not be the best choice for an heirloom quilt, I tended to think of that as a decades-long process, not an immediate concern.  Yet apparently, a relatively short period of contact with a cat’s used food is enough to strip that surface treatment right off.

My takeaway lesson from this experience is that not only is a “painted” fabric a poor choice for an heirloom quilt, but it is also a potentially poor choice for a baby quilt.  After all, babies spit up at least as often as cats, and while they may not produce as much stomach acid, I would imagine the effects could be similar.  It would be interesting to approach this as an actual scientific experiment, using an acid solution comparable to human stomach acid, and comparing the results to repeated washing in regular laundry conditions to see how long standard use takes to remove those surface finishes.  (Science Fair project, anyone?)  I know I’ve washed many quilts containing metallic fabrics numerous times without seeing any visible degradation, which is why I was so shocked to see just how dramatic the Fergus Effect truly was.

So thank you, Fergus.  Without your unfortunate digestive issues, the body of quilt fabric knowledge would be poorer.

(He really is a very sweet cat, whose affectionate nature more than compensates for the occasional vomit issue.)

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Entry filed under: WIPs. Tags: , , .

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