Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Nell was a lucky girl...

Black cat medallion from crazy quilt, c. 1890, by Nell Breyton.
Some things are just meant to be together. Peanut butter and chocolate is one of my all-time favorite pairings. Remember the "two great tastes that taste great together, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups" commercials from the 70's? I always loved the scenarios, which usually involved two people colliding, mixing's one chocolate with the other's peanut butter. (L.O.L.)

There's wine and cheese, salt and pepper, meat and potatoes, and whiskey and cigars...if you like that kind of thing. I've noticed another great pairing a lot lately on Blogger and Facebook - cats and quilts. I shouldn't have been surprised. After all, there's a wonderful book by Sandi Fox called Cats on Quilts, and I have a copy of the book.

Cats On Quilts by Sandi Fox - a must for all cat and quilt lovers!
This year, I found a quilt that probably should've been in that book. It is a crazy quilt with a black cat center medallion, made in the late 1800's and signed by Nell Breyton of Edwards, Saint Lawrence, New York. The quilt, which is actually a heavy tied comforter, is a wonderful representation of the cat, whose placement in the center shows its importance. When I first saw this image of the cat, it reminded me very much of my cat, Boo.

Little Boo found the sunny spot. "Can't you see I'm trying to nap?"
Boo came to me in 1997, when I was living in Lawrenceville, a neighboring town to Princeton, New Jersey. At the time, her name was Sammy. A gal in one of the downstairs apartments knew I'd recently had to say goodbye to my other cat, Groucho, and she knew someone who had a cat that needed a home. One day, they brought the cat to my apartment. 

The cat, then called Sammy, was full grown, but much smaller than Groucho had been. All black except for a little white patch on her belly, and a faint wisp of white on her throat, and she had yellowy green eyes. Her nose and whiskers were all black, too, but I didn't get to admire her face because she hid it in my arms as soon as she was handed to me.

Her shyness really took me by surprise. I had to learn to live with a little girl cat after having a big boy cat for so long. Groucho was an alpha male tuxedo cat with a moustache, a drop belly, and half a tail - Mr. Personality - and he owned it! Sammy was just the opposite. She had a sweet little face, never made a sound, but she often had a surprised look. Her name evolved to Sammy Boo, and eventually just Boo. I'm fond of calling her Little Boo, and a wide variety of other names when the fancy strikes. 

Cats must have many names, I'm told.

Over twelve years later, including a long drive from New Jersey to Oregon in 1998, Boo and I are still together. Eight of those years we shared with Shadow, another alpha male cat whose outgoing personality was just like Groucho's. Shadow came from Oregon, and disappeared here, too. During the Shadow years, Boo was very anti-social. The two cats didn't like each other. After the other cat went away, Boo came out of her shell. 

Boo is often playful, but is mostly just a very humble, gentle cat.
We don't know exactly how old Boo is, but I think she was at least three when I got her in 1997, which would make her at least 16 now. Like a lot of old kitties, she's had health problems. She's not going to be around forever. So, when I saw the quilt, I thought, "what better way to represent my best little friend in my quilt collection?"

Crazy quilt, c. 1890, by Nell Breyton. 
I can't look at the quilt and not think of Little Boo. Even though the cat figure is very simple, it captures her stance and expression better than I've ever been able to photograph it. The quilt makes me wonder if cats are reincarnated. I'd always thought Shadow could have been Groucho reincarnated. They acted so much alike. So if cats are reincarnated, I wonder...did Nell Breyton know Boo in a former life? 

Nell was a lucky girl, nonetheless.


  1. Love the quilt! Simple, but very special, just like our little furry friends.

  2. The back is made of scratch feed sacks, turned inside out, Red Feather, also from the upstate New York region.

  3. That cat quilt has quite a personality (like most cats!)

  4. It's amazing how a simple folk art rendition, a basic cut-out shape can capture a gesture and a personality. The quilt came from Stella Rubin, by the way. She has many wonderful old quilts!!

  5. your little boo is so sweet! I've got an obese black cat named Howler, as well as three others. love the quilt.

  6. Howler! What a great name for a cat. It's just like what they call the letters from home in Harry Potter. Boo is more of a mute, but when she does speak I feel blessed that she allowed me to hear her sweet little voice.