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 the fabric 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.