Sunday, October 4, 2015

Crazy Crafty: Le Chat Noir

I'm seriously considering changing the name of this blog to "True Confessions" - mostly because I have spent the last two months cleaning out the family garage.  You read that correctly - the last two months!  After nine donations to the thrift store, ten oversized trash barrels filled, four truckloads hauled away by a scrap metal company, a large hazardous-waste removal (paint, car fluids, chemicals, etc.), three take-what-you-want days for family and friends, and two illegal visit to a commercial dumpster, the garage could still appear as the "before" reel on an episode of Hoarders (a necessary preamble so as to set the scene for one of the most frightening experiences of my life).  Warning: It's about to get all American Horror Story up in here.

Many years ago, around Halloween time, I was working on a term paper for an Ethics class.  As I am wont to do, I put off the paper until the last minute, foolishly believing that the time constraint would inspire genius.  Distracted by the many wonders of a ceiling fan, I lollygagged in our spare room (a room that happens to share a wall with the garage) waiting for inspiration to strike.  As the fan circulated the air, it also began circulating a faint-but-foul odor throughout the four walls of my paper-writing prison.  Recognizing the importance of gazing endlessly into the void of Microsoft Word, I decided that the odor would be another problem for another day.  The following day, the temperatures rose in direct correlation to the threat level of the odor.  But papers must be written!  I vainly hoped that somebody else in the house would notice the smell first, allowing me to coyly bat my eyes and innocently respond, "What smell?" when they inquired if I had also picked up on the scent (because, you know, ethics).  Unfortunately, I was to learn later that I was up against champion contestants in the I-Smell-Nothing Game.  By the third day, neither the term paper nor the the smell were improving.

Now unlike the garage, the spare room is rather tidy with very few places for a lingering odor to hide out.  So, after a cursory inspection of my surroundings, I plodded outside to the garage.  The roll-up door retracted only an inch before I knew that the call was coming from INSIDE THE GARAGE!!!  Faced by mountains of boxes, a piano, surfboards, Christmas decorations, guitar parts, thrift store treasures, power tools, garden gnomes, and long-forgotten furniture pieces, I knew that the better part of my afternoon would be dedicated to ferreting out the unholy odor.  It became a real game of cat-and-mouse as nose-blindness set in.  Gingerly shifting the contents of the garage, I grew increasingly panicky as I waded deeper into the abyss.  Next to a tumbled tote of my Halloween decor, I found a few realistic ravens, some plastic spiders, and one of those hissing, black cats with the glaring eyes and bared teeth.  It wasn't until I leaned over to return it to the bin with the rest of the decorations that I remembered I didn't have a Halloween Cat!  Neighbors gathered after they heard the scream.

The call to Animal Control went something like this:

"Hi, um, [sniff] we have a cat in our garage...but it's not our cat.  Actually, I'm allergic to cats so we couldn't have a cat even if we wanted one.  Oh yeah, [sniff, sniff] and this cat is dead.  But we didn't kill it.  It's just dead.  And my sister and her husband moved to Hawaii and left half their stuff, so the garage is really full, so the cat is kinda hidden and I'm afraid of cats because I'm allergic to them.  So do you guys come and get cats?  Because we don't want it.  And also, we're not hoarders [sniff]."

Convincing, no?

Inspired by the Halloween season and a desire to fill the serious feline void I discovered in our holiday decor, I set out to make a proper, odor-free, Halloween Cat with materials found only in my fabric stash.

Et voilĂ !  Le Chat Noir
I was forced to dress it in a jaunty, little Halloween outfit...just
so I could tell it from all the other dead cats in the garage.

I never think of myself as the type of person to sit around making precious little 
outfits for dolls but I guess Halloween is a time for many a cruel discovery.

The jacket is a few scraps of my favorite Marimekko print and the pants are made
of an autumnal-plaid remnant that will be featured in a forthcoming Sew What?! post.

Having used the faux fur for a few different projects, I didn't realize until the cat was near
completion that it was quite so shaggy.  At one point I could have continued making
the cat or gone all the way and made a replica of Eddie Munster's beloved Woof-Woof.
Instead, I held the course, choosing to give it a little haircut along the way.

The "eyes" have it!
The face went through many iterations; in the end, I decided that simple was best.
The crescent-shaped eyes are made of vintage buttons and vinyl.

I thought I was done, but looking over the cat, I decided that it needed a finishing touch - a hat.
Believe it or not, I just happened to have a miniature, coral-orange, conical hat in stock that I
trimmed with rickrack and a black pompom.

By the time I finished Le Chat Noir, I was reminded that as hard as I try, I will never be a "cat person."

The closest I might come would be this rather literal interpretation of "cat person."
As if I wasn't already questioning my decision to make a stuffed cat, I now realize it
could have been worse; I could be the crazy cat stuffed into the cat's pajamas!!!

Epilogue:  Just in case you were wondering, the Animal Control technician assured us that the cat was elderly and had died of natural causes.  He explained that often times cats, aware that the end of their ninth life is drawing nigh, will seek out a comfortable place to expire.  I was placated by his attestations of our innocence...but not by the fact that the cat's "comfortable place" was the cushion of the vintage sofa given to me by my grandmother.  Undoubtedly you've heard of the remarkable images imprinted on the Shroud of Turin; well, imagine the shroud is threadbare upholstery and instead of the vestigial visage of Christ our Lord, the shadowed simulacrum of a former feline.  Yep, I am definitely not a cat person.

"The Great Cat Family" (1956)


Mr. Tiny


  1. I can't tell which is more alarming - the old photo of people in literal cat suits or the story of the hidden dead cat! I cannot judge at all for the latter...when we cleaned out our garage, we made 3 trailer sized donations to goodwill and filled a dumpster with trash...and I sold $800 worth of stuff on eBay. It takes a village. I'm very surprised somewhere in that process that we didn't find a dead animal. We were fully prepared for that situation as it is not our of the question for small creatures to be rummaging around in our walls or attic...this is Tennessee. I mean if I were a cat looking for a place to die, a pile of old musty clothes seems ideal, right?

    1. The "incident" is definitely not one of my family's proudest moments but, as part of my recovery, I felt I had to share. The only consolation was that the guy who retrieved the cat said that forensic evidence placed the cat at the scene only as long as I smelled it. Not to be too graphic, but if there had been noticeable decay, I don't think I would've ever been able to set foot in the garage again!

  2. I am impressed by the fact that you are not a hoarder. That show is vile. Those people are not sympathetic, Bloggers, and blog readers tend to love stuff but filth?

    1. "Hoarder" is a word I often use to comic effect; I would definitely say that while I am concerned with cleanliness, I am definitely a recovering "collector."

  3. I recall an incident from my childhood involving a dead cat, or rather kitten. My dad was a 'batchelor" for 12 years between the time of his first wifes passing and his marriage to my mom. What was the best parlor became a hoarders paradise. He ran a gas station, so half the room was filled with tires, the other half unwanted furniture and stuff. Our cat burrowed into the middle of the biggesr furniture pile to give birth to her kittens. Unfortunately one was stillborn. I still remember my mom tearing apart the pile to remove the little corpse.

    1. Oh, that's awful on every level. Somehow it seems sadder with a kitten than with an old, black cat.