Pet portraits popular with owners who quilt

“Caught in the Act,” an art quilt made by Barbara McKie of Lyme, Conn., features a cat named Taz drinking from the faucet at the kitchen sink. The quilt is part of a juried exhibition titled “2013 Festival Awareness Project: “It’s Raining Cats and Dogs,” which premiered last October at the International Quilt Festival in Houston.

Roxy and Lucy Furr are Italian mastiffs that belong to Suzan Engler’s little brother. Engler of Panorama Village, Texas, digitally manipulated a photo of the pair, printed it and thread-painted over the surface. The quilt is titled “Somebody Say Treat?”

“Snow Buddies” by Ruth Powers of Carbondale, Kan., showcases her two dogs, a 165-pound shepherd mix and a 145-pound komondor.

Art quilter Virginia Greaves of Roswell, Ga., says this little Yorkie gets so excited when a visitor comes, she acts like she’s going to explode. Thus, the title of the quilt: “Firecracker.”

“Best Friend” by Barbara Yates Beasley of Boulder.

“Tiger” by Jeannie Moore of Escondido, Calif.

Quilts and family pets have a common denominator: Both can give their owners that special warm and fuzzy feeling.

Sometimes a favored pet curls up on a cozy patchwork cover, and its owner can’t resist cuddling right alongside. Six of every 10 pet owners, according to a 2011 survey, treat their animals as though they are members of the family.

It’s no wonder then that some quilters are busy stitching portraits of their pets, the theme for 2013 and again for this year’s Festival Awareness Project: “It’s Raining Cats and Dogs” to be exhibited at the fall International Quilt Festival in Houston. The exhibits are accompanied by fabric pet postcards made and donated by animal lovers worldwide, then sold for $20 each to raise funds for Friends for Life, a no-kill animal shelter in Houston.

The postcards raised $20,000 for the shelter in 2012 and double that amount – more than $40,000 - in the fall of 2013. The three-year project is headed by Pokey Bolton, chief creative officer for Quilts Inc. and a devout animal-lover.

“Thanks to your support, animals who wouldn’t have had a chance at life, will. They will be spayed/neutered, medically attended, cared for in foster situations, and find forever homes,” Bolton blogged to all those who participated after the proceeds were tallied in November. Bolton actively promotes the rescue of shelter animals, having taken several into her own home.

Barbara Yates Beasley of Boulder has done the same, adopting a Dalmatian mix from a local shelter in 2002. The dog’s name is Drew, and Beasley says he is “my best friend, loyal companion and the muse for my art.”

Her art quilt, titled “Best Friend,” depicts Drew through raw-edged fused appliqué and free-motion stitching. It is one of dozens juried into last year’s “It’s Raining Cats and Dogs” exhibit. Her design source was a photograph of her black-and-white pooch, and the quilt is the 10th in a series of portraits featuring Drew.

Another quilt artist, Jeannie Moore of Escondido, Calif., immortalized her cat named Tiger as a tribute “to her 16 years of unconditional love, purrs and cuddles.” Moore also used a photograph of her pet basking in the sun, then combined modern quilting and a newspaper transfer technique for a subtle background.

Mixed media is her forte, and her quilts take on a painterly style with the use of Tsukineko inks. Stitching, or thread-painting, on the painted fabric makes the animal come alive, she explains of her entry titled “Tiger.” (Thread-painting combines long and short machine stitches, blending colors to fill in an image for a more realistic result).

“I’ve always loved having my Tiger alongside of me while I work in my studio,” Moore says in her artist’s statement.

A close-up photo of another cat, named Taz, focuses on the feline slurping water from the kitchen faucet in a quilt titled “Caught in the Act.” Her expressive green eyes dominate in the quilt made by Barbara McKie of Lyme, Conn. The techniques include digital imagery, thread-painting, trapunto and free-motion quilting.

Roswell, Ga., quilter Virginia Greaves quilted “Firecracker,” a portrait of a cute little Yorkie that “packs a big punch.” When a visitor comes to the house, the dog gets so excited, “she acts like she is going to explode, just like a firecracker,” Greaves says.

A much larger breed was the choice of Suzan Engler of Panorama Village, Texas. A pair of Italian mastiffs belonging to “my little brother who likes big dogs” are the subjects of “Somebody Say Treat?” Engler digitally manipulated a photo of them, printed it and thread-painted her entry. The dogs’ names are Roxy and Lucy Furr.

“When I saw Lucy’s eyes, I was inspired to try to document her piercing stare in a quilt,” Engler says.

Intricate machine-piecing is the signature method of quilter Ruth Powers of Carbondale, Kan., known for her pictorial fabric art. She replicates her two dogs, a 165-pound rescued shepherd mix and a 145-pound komondor, in a quilt titled “Snow Buddies.” The difference in the textures of their coats is remarkable.

All quilts in this exhibit highlight the bond between humans and their pets, and the realism portrayed on the quilted surfaces shows the impressive talents of today’s quilt artists.

In the third phase of the Festival Awareness Project, Quilts Inc. is sponsoring a judged contest of the same subject, “It’s Raining Cats and Dogs” for 2014. This time, two cash prizes are offered, $2,500 for first place and $1,000 for the runner-up. Awards are based on the interpretation of the theme, excellence in design and craftsmanship.

Entry forms will be available 
April 4, with a June 6 deadline for digital entries, after which the finalists will be chosen by a jury. Selected quilts then must arrive by Aug. 1 in Houston for display at the fall festival.

If you have a pooch or kitty you want to show off, you can find all the details for submitting entries at or

As a proud pet owner, why not share your four-legged friend’s sweet disposition with thousands of festival-goers from around the world?

Email Sherida.Warner@



According to the 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, 36.5 percent of households own dogs, and 30.4 percent own cats. Overall, there are 70 million pet dogs and 74.1 million pet cats living in American homes.


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