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!
You have seen those 3/4″ ninepatches, of course, in my previous post. I do not recommend this quilt in this size, unless you are seriously crazy about miniatures, which is why I did consider calling this quilt The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.
Here are some pictures of the process.
First I machine sewed the nine-patches. This method had given me two sets of nine-patches in reverse combinations, half with the pink in centre and halfwith the white in the centre. So, I designed the quilt to make best use of the nine-patches. I also made six lime green and white nine-patches, to add some zing to the pink quilt.
Then I fussy cut 3/4″ triangles, with freezer paper at the back to make pieces for English paper piecing. 24 of them had a green flower in the centre and 18 of them had a white flower in the centre. Again, this was to make best use of my fabric where white flowers alternated with green on a pink background. I needed 13 hexagons for my original design; these were also fussy cut, with freezer paper.
Now I was ready to put together the blocks. I am not sure I used the most efficient method, but it appeared to be the best when I embarked on it. I tried English paper piecing some of the blocks, but gave up and resorted to machine sewing, appliqueing and even hand sewing!
I began with the centre block.
Once this was done, I expanded on it by adding the surrounding hexagons with their teapots and more nine-patches…
I then made the six blocks that were planned for the edge and started to put everything together…
Ah! Finally done! But wait…
It needed something more! Back to the drawing board …er…Quilt Assistant software on my laptop. More fussy cutting and six more hexagons. This time the cupcakes. Well, what is a tea-party without cakes, in any case?
I appliqued the whole piece to a white background, and cut away a circle from the background centre. Next, I added two layers of thin polyester batting. cut away a circle from the inner layer so that only the white background had a double layer.
I did think of hand-quilting it, but it was too much of an effort. So stitch in the ditch it was! I started echo quilting it, but soon got bored of that so just finished off with some straight lines. My Husqvarna Viking does not need a change to a walking foot, so the entire quilting was done with the regular B foot!
A picture of the back. The binding was also fussy cut from a fat quarter and done in four pieces; I finished it to give a mitered look on the front.
As usual, I had to do a mathematical check of the number of pieces! That is 548 pieces, excluding the binding and backing.
But all in all, I am quite happy with how this finally turned out. I am in the mood for another crazy mini. What do you suggest? I would like it to finish at the same size. Happy Quilting to you all, while I go and make myself a cup of…coffee. I am not a tea person.
Ever since I started quilting, I have wanted to make quilts depicting essentially Indian themes, and the colours seen on my country’s roads and highways were right up there on my list! Remember, a couple of months ago I had shared the story of the purple autorickshaw designed and paper pieced by me? I had also designed a truck and a cycle rickshaw around the same time, which I never did get around to making.
Then, last month I attended a attended a workshop by Pam Holland on painting your own fabric and a chance remark set me off on a new quilting adventure.
I had not been able to finish this quilt in the workshop and was still wondering how I could personalize it when my little seven year old niece looked at it and remarked, “Is that a road runner?” I knew it didn’t and that she was only trying to show off that she knew there was a bird called the road runner, but this got me thinking of a different kind of road runner!
The Indian truck driver is a much maligned person. He travels for long, unregulated hours, often away from home for days on end. His dearest companion then is his vehicle, which he often refers to as his beloved and pampers and decorates to his heart’s content! His artistic bend of mind will be obvious to anyone who sees the often elaborate paintings on the truck. You only have to read the couplets painted on his truck to recognize that not only is he is a poet at heart, but a budding philosopher too! So this is how I set about constructing my very own Road Runner, around Pam’s lovely, colourful design, incorporating some of the essentials of trucks from our highways!
Only solids are used here, the bird, leaf ‘prints’ etc are painted. The fabric is fused and either zig-zagged or raw edge appliqued to the background.
The truck is tilted (to the right), as are many of the overloaded trucks on our highways! As the Husband and Resident Design Consultant pointed out, the truck was ‘not proportionate’ nor looked ‘overloaded’. So I had to load the truck, and add ‘iron’ rings to attach the ‘ropes’ to tie the ‘goods’ in place. I found some polyfibre fabric in a beautiful neon orange for the ‘canvas’. More proportionate now?
The decision to use the polyfibre turned out to be a perilous one, as the fabric melted when I was ironing on the yellow ‘frame’ …
I decided to make this a design element and ‘patched up’ the fabric, with obvious darning stitches.
The upper boards are hooked on to the lower ones with heavy iron chains, which were crocheted in black woolen yarn and attached to either side.
The quilting was kept simple. Angled wavy lines softened the image without intruding on the main design. I had to attach a strip of fabric to the backing as it was not big enough. I brought it to the front to add length to the front too. The same fabric was stripped to make the binding.
When we were all done, including the binding, I realized the truth of what the Resident Design Consultant said. The tyres were all wrong; the tyres on the left would be more visible than on the right, if the truck body was tilting to the right. So I had to fuse and stitch a fresh pair of tyres on the left. This is best appreciated in a picture of the back.
As it happens with me every single time, I first machine stitched the binding, before ripping it and finishing it by hand! Looks so much better this way!
The Stories on the Road Runner
As I went along, I added many details, legends and stories of India’s beautiful trucks, which are best explained through pictures.
So let us begin with the ‘official’, mandatory information. First, of course, is the registration number, RJC 325. I thought a great deal about this, before settling on the registration number of the first ever car my father bought, when I was nine years old. A gorgeous Austin A70 in silver grey it was; what can be more precious than the memory of your first ever car?
Proudly displayed on my Road Runner is the ‘National Permit‘, which, as it implies, permits my truck to ply on all highways in India!
The name of the company that owns the truck is displayed, usually with the telephone number (which is probably on the side and you can’t see in the back view of the Road Runner). Spelling mistakes are a delight on any truck worth its load, aren’t they? This truck has several of them!) Here, the Road Runner shows its truck registration number again. The ‘S.P.’ and ‘N.P.’ tell you that the truck has a state permit as well as the national permit, just so that you know it!
The ‘Tata‘ is not the driver bidding you goodbye, as you might be led to believe. Most trucks in India are manufactured by the Tata Motor Company, India’s largest automobile manufacturer, as is this one.
My truck also carries the information about the speed limit, which is the unbelievable 40 kilometers per hour; most trucks travel at at least double that speed!
The ‘O.K.‘ in the centre usually is accompanied by the manufacturer’s name – so that most trucks would say ‘ Okay Tata‘ meaning, presumably, that this particular vehicle has been inspected and okayed by the company. However, in the case of this truck, the painter thought it looked nicer here!
Then comes the exhortation ‘Horn Please“, the most prominently displayed message on my Road Runner. It likes to drive in the fastest lane ( even when traveling at the maximum permissible speed limit of 40 kms. per hour!) and if you wish to get past the Runner, you have to first ‘blow horn, please’ before ‘waiting for s(a)ide’. …Patience, patience!!
All vehicles on Indian highways are required by law to not drive on full beam, so that drivers coming from the opposite direction on narrow, single or double roads are not blinded by the oncoming beam. Hence the reminder, ‘Use dipper at night‘…
A driver’s life is risky and naturally, he is a superstitious personage and seeks all the good luck and blessings possible. A legend that most trucks in North India prominently carry, besides ‘Good Luck‘ and ‘Trust in God‘, is ‘Mother’s blessings‘. The mother could be the driver’s mother or the Mother Goddess, Devi Ma Herself! This one carries ‘Maa ka aashirwaad‘ in the Devanagari script , just below the logo for the national permit.
Another form of the Mother’s blessings is this red stole, obtained from temples dedicated to the Goddess, which is tied to the side of the truck, often on the side mirror.
Also to ward off bad luck and accidents is a braid, plaited in black and red threads, tied to the back of the truck.
This is a brand new truck, so the green chilies and lemons strung together and dangling at the back look fresh. They will also keep the evil eye away. I also considered attaching there an old shoe, which would have served the same purpose, but …
If someone is still audacious enough to dare cast an evil eye on my truck, here is a ⚠️ warning that ought to scare him!
“May you face be blackened,
There were many lovely truck quotes which I wish I could have included, but perhaps they can wait for my next truck. My favourites translated:
The philosophical truck driver, “Think! what will go with you?” and “No one gets anything more than his due before it is due”..
The questioning: “O Maker, why did you make the one who makes vehicles? You have made homeless the one who drives these vehicles!”
The cynical one, who has obviously been betrayed by the one he thought waited for him: ” Take posin, but do not belive on girls!”
All that will have to wait for Road Runner 2.
Well, to get back to my Road Runner, here it is… it is perfectly squared, unlike how it may appear to you!
Meanwhile, I have started planning on how I am going to finish the cat quilt, also from Pam Holland’s workshop. I hope you will be watching this space…