Returning to an Old Project
“…what a creative inspiration he was for me as a painter and writer and photographer, even as a designer of stylish crochet items.”
I wrote those words in July 2009, and shared the above photo of a crochet project I had been inspired to design and make in memory of Namir. I had always intended to make a few, write up the pattern and get it out there, and now, nine years later, I finally am. Namir won’t mind that I waited so long. We remember him all the time.
We lost Namir on July 1, 2009, and on July 13 I wrote a memorial to him and all we went through together with his heart disease and idiopathic cystitis, all the medications and treatments, the progression of his heart disease and the final days and decisions, to share with others and be sure that, if only one other person read it, Namir would not be forgotten. I had started The Creative Cat in February that year, but had been writing about my cats on my main website for years and felt more comfortable publishing a long, detailed and somewhat personal narrative on that site. I’ve referred to it each year as the anniversary of his passing comes around but not published it on The Creative Cat.
Yes, I crochet. I enjoy it, and I’ve crocheted since I was a child making the usual afghans and ponchos and scarves, but even with that I began designing my own patterns as a teenager. I lost track of it for a few years but in the mid to late 1980s I reconnected with my love of lace and doilies and began crocheting again. At about the same time I was spending a good bit of time at doctors and in hospitals and finally a nursing home with my father and his Parkinson’s syndrome and lung cancer, then soon after in more doctors’ offices and hospitals with my mother and her back surgery and other surgeries and many appointments. I planned to always have a nice long crochet project in the works for those nice long waits, to keep me calm and occupy my hands, giving me a tangible item I could show for my time.
When I moved to this house I kept my crochet and yarns in the attic with all my other craft items, keeping this tiny house clear of things I really didn’t need aside from an occasional small project. My mother was by then in the personal care home and still in need of many doctor appointments and with many hospital stays. In 2006 I decided I needed my crochet items again and brought the big yarn box down from the attic; I remember it was that year because of Lucy’s reaction to the yarn. Later, when she became ill with FIP and I ended up spending time in veterinary hospitals or the emergency clinic with her I created a project dedicated to her which I’ll share here sometime soon.
Making Namir’s Kitty Hugs Pawprint Collar
So it was that I had some yarn and an idea when Namir was showing decline that final spring in 2009. I mention it first in the section entitled, “The Hummingbird”:
For about two years, I had been noodling around with a design for crocheted items with pawprints incorporated. While I was sitting with him after he had died, I decided on the final design (below) and that I would make it in gray and white to honor him. I would need a certain gray yarn, but decided I could shop for it after I had visited the cremation service, just to give myself something else to think about for a while, and make sure I spent some time away from the house that evening. Working with my hands, especially spending time on crochet, is always very soothing for me, and creating this item would be therapeutic because I could sit and think about Namir while my hands kept busy.
I had nearly finished this project and decided to take the last of it outside with me. Cookie jumped up on the picnic table before I even got down the steps from the deck, and Cookie, at 17 and very dignified, isn’t known for her speed. She knew exactly what we were doing.
I did indeed go shopping for yarn the evening of that day, and it was very therapeutic. I shopped for clearance yarns or sale yarns at a few stores and knew the people in each place well. I felt among friends, but with no pressure to talk about what had happened that day. I hate the first return home after having lost one of my feline household, and I’ll avoid it at all costs. Having the yarn in hand to put this project together I returned home with a purpose, almost happy.
I lost Namir and bought the yarn on July 1, took the photograph above on July 8 and published the essay with the finished collar on July 13. I must have gotten right to it. I really don’t remember. What I do remember is that when I first put it around my neck and buttoned it with the pompon it was better than I’d thought—not the design but the yarn. Namir must have been guiding my hands that night because I needed a good dark gray, which isn’t always available, in both a worsted weight and an eyelash or fun fur yarn so it would appear like fur, and hoped it would be very soft. With the paws on the ends of the collar it was as if your kitty was putting his arms around you and giving you a hug. That was just what it felt like when I put it on.
I shared the photo and idea later in its own section:
Here is the crochet piece I mentioned. It’s a little collar or neck scarf that buttons closed with a cat toy in this case, but even a regular button can be used, and it has the big pawprints on either end so it looks like your cat is giving you a hug. It started out as a longer scarf. but the pawprints weren’t lining up in a way that made sense to me. Namir had darker gray fur with the usual silvery tinge, and although his legs were mostly white I decided to keep it to the paws only. I used a generic fake fur or eyelash yarn and worsted-weight yarn crocheted together for the “legs”, and plain white yarn for the paws because the detail gets lost with the fun fur, but I’ve been working on other coat patterns and possibilities for the paws—black and orange crocheted together for the tortoiseshell, orange base yarn and white fake furn yarn for a light orange cat or two shades of orange to simulate the stripes, and there’s even a camouflage yarn that—I hope—will look very much like dark tabby stripes. The combinations have so many possibilities, and I want to create one for each cat who’s shared my home, and then some.
I won’t be selling the items, though I’ll probably use them for donation items for shelters and animal organizations. I hope to sell the pattern, though, and I’ll be asking a friend of mine who knits to see if she can work it out in knitting for those who don’t crochet.
Later I used the pawprint design to make pawprint washcloths, but I never made another collar or wrote up the pattern for it. My mother had started declining and my time was very fragmented, so I used just the pawprint part, which was a pattern I could remember and pick up at any point, to make washcloths which I could easily sell, and then also designed flower washcloths which sold well too.
2009, and now
Of course, later in July that year I decided it was time to design those Animal Sympathy Cards I’d been visualizing for years, and those too are inspired by and dedicated to Namir. The collar has been tucked away in my yarn stash since then. Every so often I’ve taken it out and thought about following through with the plan, but it just never felt right. Now that my time is more devoted to creative projects I can return to this and other ideas. When an idea is tied to a feline I’ve lost I don’t like to rush ahead or feel I’m not giving the idea and the memory their due. The washcloths and flowers were not memorials so I could whip those off and sell them as fast as I could.
So I’ve pulled out the original and I’ve picked up enough free yarn from yard sales and other sources that I have a good stash of all the right colors to make the other collar patterns too. But most of all I want to sell the pattern, and let the sale benefit cats. And Namir will always be remembered.
You can read “My Good Friend, Namir” on my original website. It was always going to be my first book, too, so maybe I’ll get to that as well.
In August 2009 I also wrote “Perhaps the Storm is Finally Over”, which I did publish here that year, and with that I determined that writing about loss and decision-making were important and were subjects I should be publishing about here. I’ve shared that article here nearly every year since then.
Read other stories and essays about Pet Loss as well as my Pet Loss in the First Person series. Also read other articles in Creating with Cats and The Artist’s Life. I couldn’t decide which category this article fell in but decided it was just as good in all three.
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