One thing that has always entranced me is the illustrations of buildings and places from the India of the nineteenth century. As the British travelled across this vast and fascinating land that they had recently colonised, they made a record of its diverse flora and fauna, its people and its rich architectural heritage. An artist usually travelled with the demographer/geographer/biologist/historian and the final document presented to the world was beautifully illustrated …such intricate drawings, with the minutest details!
Ever since I learnt to sketch with India ink on paper, I wanted to be able to draw like that! (One had those nib pens, that you dipped in bottles of ink and you controlled the width of the stroke by the angle of the nib and the pressure applied!) I never got around to it, but you can see some of my drawings from those days, about 40 years ago, here.
When I started quilting, I wondered if I could replicate those ink drawings with thread. I finally got around to trying it a few days back!
I would start with something not too complicated, I decided. This seemed a good candidate!
I reduced the contrast and brightened the image, till I had an outline of the basic shapes monuments and trees. I then changed the image size to 8″ x 10″ and printed it on printer- ready fabric. Added a 2.5″ wide mitred border in black and prepared the quilt sandwich with thin poly batting.
It was free motion quilted on Hasina, my Topaz 20 ( embroidery needle size 70) using YLI Softtouch thread.
Here are some pictures showing the progress of the quilting!
I wondered how it would look if I coloured it lightly, but was scared to ruin it. Then I had a brilliant idea! I flipped the quilt over, and tinted some areas of the back of the quilt with Inktense colour pencils! And added the border with some fancy stitches.
When I flipped it over, I loved the back as much as I liked the front! Or perhaps more!
Now began my search for the monument that had been the inspiration for the wood engraving.
The legend read, ‘Tchatri at Tintoui in Bheel Country’ and I presumed that these would be the chhatris ( pavilions or canopies built over a place where a member of a royal family was cremated) near Udaipur in Rajasthan. The Bheels a proud, warrior tribe have long inhabited the forests near Udaipur. But I wondered about Tintoui.
A search on google maps took me to Tintoi in Gujarat, South of Udaipur, presumably also ‘Bheel Country’ – you can see how the hill forest to the West of Udaipur continued southward to the North of Tintoi.
Now to hunt for a chhatri near/ in Tintoi! Is it possible that Tintoi, now a small village, was earlier the name of a much larger surrounding area? Further research revealed that Sabarkantha District in which Tintoi Village was located also had ancient monuments in a forest area, called the Polo Forest! From there it was easy!
Not only was I on the right track, I also found my pair of chhatris, sadly much worse for wear over the last 140 odd years! But totally recognisable, including the tree with its slanting trunk! The website of Gujrat Tourism provided me the best picture of my chhatris! !But…the chhatris seem to be ‘flipped horizontal’ or a mirror image of the wood engraving! How was that possible? Then it struck me. The original engraving was true to the monument, but when it was printed on paper, a mirror image was created! Check the back of my quilt!
Isn’t that amazing!?
You can imagine how delighted I was. The Polo Forest is definitely on my bucket list of places to visit now!
I leave you with this image of my finished mini quilt. But I will be back soon with another thread sketch, for this is addictive, I tell you!
I have spoken often here about my mother-in-law, an incredibly talented seamstress and renowned cook. It was her 100th birth anniversary this year and what better way to pay a tribute to her than by a celebration of her many gifts?
Long ago, I had seen a blog-post about how a quilter printed her mother’s handwritten recipes on tea-towels. I decided to do something similar for her two daughters and daughters-in-law (including self) and grand-daughters who had been supervised and trained by the strict matriarch in the kitchen!
I had inherited Mummy’s recipe diary, in which were some of the recipes she was famous for! Her creamy hot soups and some delicious cold soups; her dhoklas that melted in your mouth and what her grand-children remembered most–her gulabjamuns and rasmalai. There were other recipes copied from women’s magazines like Chic and Femina, the source conscientiously noted in her neat hand-writing in the green 1972 diary!
Armed with this treasure, I mulled over how I was going to go about it. The first thing was to scan those recipes on my iPad. I then played around with photo-apps to give them a further vintage look.
The fabric was not difficult to decide on. Did I mention Mummy was no mean gardener? whose winter garden was ablaze with hollyhocks and sunflowers, dahlias and chrysanthemums, salvia and delphinium, sweet-peas and snapdragons, nasturtiums and pansies, to name just a few? and summer garden was fragnant with lilies, the raat-rani, jasmine and frangiapani? But…her favourite were always her roses! (Her green diary, incidentally, also had her notes on growing roses!) Well. So roses it was to be. I was in the US, visiting my son and bought these beautiful fabrics–so fifties and sixties–that she would have loved. I also bought some printable fabric sheets (Printed Treasures) and once home, got down to work. There was a deadline too, as her daughters and one grand-daughter were to visit in May for a family get-together.
The first step was to quilt the recipes with some straight lines to look like ruled paper.
Initially I used pale blue thread to quilt a couple of recipes to resemble the lines ruled in the diary. Not sure if I liked the result, I matched the thread to the background on another few. But the Resident Consultant objected to both, saying that you could no longer read his mother’s recipes. So I switched to invisible monofilament. That certainly looked better.
In the meanwhile, there was one domestic crisis after the other and I had no time to finish what I had started, even as the guests arrived! I had to become the rude and reclusive hostess who abandoned them every afternoon and retreated to her bedroom ( where I had shifted my sewing machine). The recipes were taking forever to quilt!
Finally, I had about a dozen different recipes quilted and ready. The next step was piecing the background–with this lovely fabric on which pink roses bloomed on a green background and borders fussy cut from striped fabric.
And here is how the final product looked!
Since the Niece was to leave before anyone else, she was shown her gift and promised to secrecy.
Are you wondering what that strip of fabric with text is doing at the back of one of the mats? Well one of the recipes said ‘P.T.O’ and was carried over to the next page! So the ‘carried over’ portion was attached to the back of the mat.
By now, I had decided to abandon the idea of quilting individual recipes and instead backed them with the Heat-n-Bond (red) double sided iron-on stabilizer that had been lying around for almost ten years. I was not sure how much of its holding properties the stabilizer still retained, so I stitched down the edges in any case. I was also bored of the straight-stitch echo stitching, so tried out the various stitches on my machine. It still took much longer than I expected!
But the reaction of my sisters-in-law was worth every stitch on these mats!
The border fabric did give a lot of trouble, because of the thin blue strip at the edge. I had to attach the binding from the back and sew it down oh-so-carefully by hand to the front.
Sis-in-law #Three, the Brother’s wife, who lives in an apartment just below ours, was in on the secret gifts for the visiting Sisters. But she did not know she was also one of the intended recipients! However, I managed to complete only one of her mats in time. Here is that one, to match her eyes and her favourite colour.
Yes, I know these are not roses, but this green fabric was too pretty to be not used here!
A couple of close-ups, before I sign off and start working on the remaining mats…
For those of you who want to know, this is not a quick project:
Choosing the recipes.
Scanning them. I did that on my iPad using the Fasterscan app, because the recipes were in a diary. Had they been on loose sheets , I could have scanned them directly on my printer-scanner.
Preparing the pics for printing through cropping etc and working on them on photo-editing apps. This too was done on my iPad, using first the Fasterscan app which permits me to ‘pull out’ the edges and straighten the ‘documents’ horizontally as well as vertically. I then imported these to PhotoEdit to work on the final look.
Transferring the recipes to the PC. I like to use the Phototransfer app for that.
Arranging them to fit on letter-sized paper ( the same as my Printed Treasure fabric sheets) in the paper layout option on Excel. The purpose is to minimize fabric wastage while printing, as each commercially-available fabric-printer sheet is quite expensive. I like Excel because it permits you to play around with the size of each picture individually or arrange the pics in a group and to resize them or move them around at will.
Once satisfied with the placement, saving them as PDF files. I do not recommend you print directly from Excel, as the print is skewed.
Printing on paper-backed fabric. It is important to check that the printer-settings are on the same size paper (letter in my case) as thefabric sheet and not A-4. Check the orientation (landscape/ portrait) to match how you laid out the recipes in your file. Lastly, the print quality should be kept at ‘high quality’ not standard or quick.
Sewing/ piecing the mats ( borders always look nice). I was not very particular about sizes as each set was to go to a different person. The pairs are anything between 12-14″ on the shorter side and 17-20″ on the longer.
Cutting out the recipes and peeling off the paper. I mention this, because it is a tedious job!
Quilting the lines on the recipes. In which case you add a thin batting and backing. These do look prettier and add a 3-D effect to the mat, but do you have the patience and the time? They also involve an extra step, securing the raw edges of the quilted pieces.
If you skip the quilting, then ironing on the stabilizer.
Ironing the recipes to the mat after peeling off the paper backing of the stabilizer. If you have quilted the recipes, you can attach them to the mats directly while quilting the mat sandwich.
Preparing the quilt sandwiches.
The quilting. Like I mentioned secured all raw edges with a zigzag stitch and then echo quilted, with straight stitches in the first two mats and decorative stitches in the next four. In the last (the green mat), I ironed on a thin, thin strip of the fabric with no-sew stabilizer as a border around the recipes.
The binding! Like I mentioned, hand sewing the binding on one set meant an extra hour or so for that pair!
The dedication on the label. Would you believe I spelt ‘celebration’ wrong, missing out the first ‘e’, discovering it only after the labels had been nicely ironed on? I had to change the ‘c’ to ‘e’ and insert a capital ‘C’ in front of it! Quite shabby, but couldn’t be rectified at the last moment!
Nevertheless, all in all, this is likely to be the most satisfying bit of quilting that I have done. Probably also something that will be the most treasured by the recipients! And I think my mother-in-law would have approved too!
I hope to be back here soon, once the rest of these mats are done.
The peacock is the theme of the India Quilt Festival, 2019 and I have designed a quilted peacock feather that you can make–as a participant in q quilt-along–to feel a part of the first ever quilt show in India! This is the fourth and final post in this quilt-along. I have given the list of materials required in the first post, the cutting instructions in the second and the tracing instructions in the third post of this series.
Now the real fun begins. I promise you that this is addictive!
Quilting the Peacock Feather
I would have liked to have a free-motion quilting foot, but a walking foot will work equally well for this small feather. I do not have even a walking foot, but I have not added a batting to my feather, so I think a regular foot will have to work here! Let us see how it goes.
The first thing I have to do is quilt the centre of my feather (which you may remember, I do not have in place at all!) So I flip over to the backing side and quilt the outline of the centre of the feather. I turn it around and realize I had white thread in the bobbin, so the outline shows up in white on the front. I am not very happy with this, but eventually, it will not matter.
2. Now I know exactly where the centre of my feather lies! I pin it in place, and zigzag over the edge of the outermost green layer. I then zigzag over the other three layers, beginning with the centremost to get the pin out of the way.
I have used dark blue thread, but you could use a deep yellow, or a dark green or even black—anything that will contrast nicely with your fabrics. If you do not have a zigzag stitch on your machine, use the straight stitch. A tiny satin stitch will work equally well! The great thing about this feather is that you do whatever you are comfortable with. The intent is to have fun! And now the fun begins.
3. With centre in place, I turn the sandwich over and start quilting over the lines in the pattern traced on the backing. I do the central spine of the feather first.
The trick is to quilt slowly; it is quite simple really, just quilting over a line drawn on the fabric!
4.I then start doing the rest of the feather, beginning again at the bottom. Start from the central spine, travel to the outer edge, travelling up the edge a little to the next line…
…stop the machine with needle down, turn around the sandwich and travel back to the centre. Travel up a little to the next line and repeat!
Once one side of the spine is quilted, I sew over the lines on the other side. In less than 10 minutes, I am done! The best part is that one does not need to panic if one strays from the lines. Your feather need not look exactly like mine, after all.
5. I am ready to add details to the feather now. I start, literally, to quilt between the lines. Note that I go beyond the outline in several places, just travelling with the flow!
Another 10 minutes, and I have finished quilting my feather!
The Final Step
6. Now I am ready for bringing my feather to life! I pick up my really sharp scissors and start trimming the feather along the quilted outline. At first, I am a little circumspect.
But then I become more adventurous, travelling almost up to the central spine with my scissors to make my feather look realistic. Let me check it from the back.
Time for the final reveal?
For a list of materials required and the PDF pattern for the quilted feather, refer to the first post about this quilt along. For the cutting instructions for the feather, refer to the second post about this quilt along. You can download a PDF file containing cutting instructions from that post. The tracing instructions (including a PDF file) are given in the third post, a continuation of my second post. The download link to the quilting instructions is below. If you want to make a larger 10.5″ or smaller 5.5″ feather, download the pattern below. Remember you need to keep the feather and background fabric at least 2″ bigger than the finished feather, on all sides!
I am back from my walk, and took this pretty picture of oak leaves to share with you.
So, let’s move to the next step, shall we?
Tracing the Pattern
I will trace the pattern on to the backing fabric. I have used white; you could use any light colured fabric, perhaps a blue or a green?
The pins are in place to mark the top and bottom edges of the feather and the centre.
I placed the white fabric on the paper print-out of the peacock feather outline and traced it using an ordinary HB lead pencil! I would recommend you use a washable marker if you have access to one. Remember the tracing is to be made on the right side of the backing.
I had a glass table to work on so it was easy to see through the white fabric. You could tape the paper pattern on a glass window and the background fabric on top of that.
When I was tracing from the pattern, I realized that the centre was not marked very clearly on the pattern. Now, what?
I placed the fabric centre of the feather, wrong side up on the tracing and drew the outline on the backing.
Simple solution, right?
Now my backing is ready. I remove the paper from below, but I leave the pins in place to mark the top and bottom of the feather and the centre on the backing. These are important.
Preparing the Quilt Sandwich
I don’t have any batting, so I don’t make a regular sandwich at all! But, as for you, it is time to prepare the quilt sandwich as you usually do…
Layer 1–the black background fabric for the feather on the bottom, placed wrong side up.
Layer 2–the batting (or a piece of flannel/ other thick fabric, if you do not have batting)
Layer 3–the backing right side up (with the tracing on top).
Now I carefully pin the three layers together, in exactly the same place as on the backing. This gives me the edges of my feather, and helps me in the placement of the blue-green fabric that will form the main body of my feather.
Where is the centre of the feather, you ask? For that you will have to wait–till I am ready to start quilting. Meanwhile, I am waiting for you to share your chosen fabrics on Facebook! Happy cutting, tracing and pinning!
Cutting the fabric for the quilted peacock feather…
The peacock is the theme of the India Quilt Festival, 2019 and there are going to be a lot many peacock quilts there, I can promise you! Would you not love to have a peacock feather quilted by you flocking there? A part of Tina’s secret project? Hurry then, and get your fabric and materials in one place and get ready to start!
Cutting the Fabric
I am on my way!
I first cut the fabric for the centre of the feather, which has the four colours from inside out–deep blue, light blue, deep yellow and green.
I begin with the outermost green portion of the centre of the coloured print out. I carefully insert my scissors along the outer outline of the green and cut out the entire centre.
2. I pin it on the right side of the green fabric and cut out the oval pointed piece. I do love this pretty green, don’t you?
3. I now trim the centre of the print out to the next, yellow portion. I pin it on the right side of the yellow fabric and cut out the fabric, just like I did the green.
I could have printed the pattern on freezer paper and avoided the pinning! For a more complicated pattern, I would definitely use freezer paper. Then I could iron it on to the fabric instead of having to pin intricate pieces and struggling to keep them in place.
4. I pin the yellow piece in its place on top of the green one. To ensure that I have it correct, I place the green paper ring on top of the green fabric and then adjust the yellow fabric inside the ring.
5. I am now ready for the next part of the centre, the light blue. Again, I trim away the yellow ring, cut out the light blue fabric and pin it in place. And so, the deep blue!
I finally have the entire centre fabric cut out and I place it on the fabric for the main body of the feather to see how it looks. Ooh, I do love this, I think that hand-dyed fabric is just so perfect for the peacock feather!
I have to go now, first for a walk and then to get some groceries, but I should be back in a few hours to finish this!
Before I go off, I put the tiniest dab of glue on each layer of the centre so that it doesn’t shift while I am away! Note that I am not going to stick it on the blue-green fabric; it is there only keep the four layers of the centre together. I am so excited to see how this will look finished!
Refer to the first part of this quilt-along for the PDF pattern for the middle-sized 7″ peacock feather that I made and for a list of the materials required.
If you want a print-out of the instructions above, download the file below. You will need Adobe Reader on your computer to be able to read this. It can be downloaded for free online!
I have been feeling so bad that I will not be able to attend the first ever India Quilt Festival in January 2019, at Chennai. So many of our Indian quilters, and a few international ones too, have sent in their quilts; there are nearly three hundred entries! But so many of us couldn’t; we didn’t have the time, or perhaps we didn’t feel confident enough. And being there…seeing all those beautiful quilts, meeting and learning from some of the best quilter-teachers in the world! Wow, that would be a dream come true for so many of us. Would we not love to participate in some way, however small?
So when Tina Katwal, the heart and brain behind the show, asked me if I would like to do something for the festival–so that all of us sitting at home could be part of the show–I said yes immediately. She had something in mind (let that be a secret for now) but for that I needed to design a peacock feather, easy enough for even a beginner quilter to put together with fabric scraps. We would be making our very own peacock feathers, using my pattern, and sending them to Chennai for Tina’s secret project…Sounded like an exciting idea!
For those of you who do not know, India’s national bird, the peacock, is the theme of the festival and one of the themes for the judged quilt show too!
I designed the feather on the Bamboo Paper App on my iPad—that was in September, just before I left to visit my son.
I decided last week, finally, to start working on the feather, but…I have no quilting supplies here! Thankfully, I did carry with me the fabric that I would be using for the feather. And, I have converted the sketch to a PDF file. So let us see how we can convert this to a quilted object. I thought a quilt along would be a good idea so that we could help each other if we got stuck.
Would you like to quilt along with me? Then, first, let us get together everything we need for this quick project. I presume you have Acrobat Reader (downloadable free online) on your computer, access to a colour printer to print out the pattern, and of course, a sewing machine with a walking foot or a free-motion quilting foot. (If not, you would need a willingness to hand quilt!)
Today, we get our fabric together and print out the pattern. The fabric requirements are for a 7″ feather. I plan to add patterns for a larger 10.5″ and smaller 6″ feather, if this works out okay.
Black (or any other dark coloured) fabric: 8” x 10” piece
Blue-green fabric for the main body of the feather: 6” x 8” piece
Light green fabric: 4” square
Gold/ Mustard yellow fabric: 3” square
Sky blue fabric: 2” square
Dark blue fabric: 1.5” scrap
Light blue/ light green (I have used white)
Batting: 8” x 10” piece. You could possibly use any thick fabric or a piece of flannel instead. That should help in making the feather stiff (and will be easy to work on even if you don’t have a walking foot for your sewing machine.) I do not have any of these, so my feather will be not be a true sandwich.
Machine Sewing Thread: Black/ blue/ green/ mustard to contrast with your background fabric. I am using a royal blue thread because…you guessed right…that is the only thread I have here!
Stabilizer–any light fusible of your choice, if you have it at hand. I don’t have any, so…
Here is a picture of my fabrics! Aren’t they delicious?
The other thing I am going to do today, is print out the pattern.
Important: The pattern will print in landscape mode, so make the necessary adjustments to your printer settings. Use A4 size paper and print true to size or at 100 percent. Do not adjust image to paper size
I have my pattern printed. You can see that the pattern is in two pages and that the outline is a mirror image of the coloured feather.