In the first week of March, I attended a set of three workshops by celebrated quilt artist, Pam Holland, facilitated by Husqvarna Viking, Pfaff and Handi Quilter India.
This thread sketching was Workshop #1; the beautiful design is by Pam. We traced the rough outline on white fabric, made a sandwich and then quilt-sketched directly on it, filling in the details as we went along. During the workshop, we were only able to complete the tresses, we carried our work home to finish the background.
I decided to add some interest to the figure and personalise my quilt. I considered adding some old lace ( made by my mother in law) to the dress and also adding a decorative silver frame
I did cut out an oval frame and marked it on the sandwich.
I then started quilting the area within the frame with diagonal lines, to give the effect of glass.
What took 10 minutes to sew, took one and a half hours to rip out.
The quilting lines outside the frame are crisscrossing vertically and horizontally. I have never done such intensive quilting before and it took me several hours to finish! Before I ‘decorated’ the quilt, I finished the binding and three tabs for hanging, in matching black fabric.
What do I do with the silver grey oval frame? Do I add it? Was it an overkill? Ah, what if I fuse it to the back? So that is what I did!
Back to the front! I found an old tarnished necklace chain and strung some pearls through it to make a neck piece! A few more pearls strung on gold thread made the earring. But how do I attach it to the quilt? I tried several things, none of which worked. Desperate measures were required (and taken)! I made a hole through the quilt and took the chain to the back! The metallic gold thread on which the earring was strung, was also pulled to the back.
This is what I did at the back.
Here is the finished quilt – the back!
Tresses and Pearls …
Tomorrow I start working on my incomplete projects from Workshops #2 and #3…hope to get back soon with those!
Eight mini quilts designed and quilted for a class reunion.
A few months ago, eight classmates, who studied together in Grades 8 and 9, got connected after nearly fifty years – on an online chat group. Within a couple of weeks, they were talking of meeting in real life. The venue was to be my city and the occasion, my birthday! Naturally, I had to think of a very special gift for my seven girlfriends, three of whom would travel from 250kms, another three from a 1000kms and the seventh from right across the world!
It was not be just another bag, or cushion cover, or mugrug or whatever! It had to have a deeper significance, something that resonated with all of us. I thought of our ties of friendship, which time could not weaken, for we, each of us, knew each other when we did not know who we would become, before we learnt to wear masks to fool the world…And now that we had found each other, we were not going to lose each other! Mini quilts these were to be!
I visualized eight girls holding hands, in a circle perhaps? Scrolling through Pinterest, I came across a hand-embroidered design of two sisters holding hands and pointing out to a rainbow and something clicked in my mind! The designer, Jessica, mentioned how she had modeled the hair of the two little girls after her own daughters.
The Design Process
I liked the fact that you saw the back of the two girls, and so I decided my girls would also have their backs to the viewer, representing our collective roots in the past. I would have the eight friends hold hands, to represent what we meant to each other, literally and figuratively. Gazing at distant horizons, we would be seeking our own rainbows, together and individually… I also wanted the quilt to be special for each girl. I thought then of one colour from the rainbow for each girl. The eighth colour could be aqua. The dresses of the girls would be appliqued in fabric in their respective colours. But I baulked at the thought of having to appliqué 64 dresses! Another design decision was taken. Each girl’s quilt would have just her dress appliquéd; the rest would be just ‘thread-sketched’.
It so happened that the eight girls names began with Sa, Ra ( two of them), Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha and Nee which are the names of the musical notes in Indian music! The girls, therefore, stood in that order. Why did I begin with the red and end at the violet, instead of vice versa? Because I could be either green or aqua, depending on which way I started, and I preferred the aqua to the green!
To echo the rainbow theme, the backing would be strip pieced in the eight colours. I even had the perfect fabric for it, a Bali Batik jelly roll gifted by my friend, Elvira Threeyama of Chez Viez Quilts. Each girl could sign on her own colour strip at the back, and we would each have quilts signed by all the others.
The next step was to scroll through all our class photographs to zero in on the hairstyles of the eight friends. I drafted the pattern of eight little girls, with hairstyles matching their hairstyles from high school, standing in a straight line. The girls were wearing shifts, like in the original pattern by Jessica of Cutesy Crafts. I was finally ready to ‘test’ my pattern.
The ‘Test’ Quilt
The first quilt was to be my quilt; all the experimentation was to be done on this! My pattern was to finish at 15″ x 21″ approximately. To make best use of my jelly roll strips, I cut them into three pieces, approximately 14″ long and added a 3.5″ black strip at the bottom and two 3.5″ black strips on either side to make up the width and length. Once I had my backing strip-pieced and ready, I got around to preparing the ‘top’.
I taped the pattern to a sunlit window and traced it to my light coloured fabric with a pigment ink marker with a micro tip. For the quilt sandwich, I used a polyfill batting. Using Pam Holland’s method, what she calls ‘ Quilting with Character and Charisma’ I machine quilted over my traced figures very slowly, adding in details as I went along. Once I reached ‘my’ figure, I did ‘raw-edge appliqué’ around the aqua dress (which I had glued on with a dab of school glue to ‘my figure’). This quilting took me about two hours, including the dress 👗 preparation.
To trace the rainbow, I marked a point at the centre bottom and rotated a 12″ ruler on the quilt, marking with a pencil as I went along. I used the needle-to-presser foot edge distance to space and quilt the various colours of the rainbow. I also did a bit of ‘outlining’ in the other dresses with thread!
-The indigo and violet were too dark and the quilting did not show up at the back. I would need lighter shades for the rest of the quilts.
-I also forgot to reverse the colours in the backing and the ‘violet’ girl lined up on the red strip! The girls did not ‘stand’ in their respective colours, but nothing could be done about this, as the coloured strips were two inches wide.
-Black was not a good choice for the ‘additional’ strips. A lighter colour, preferably the same as the front, was needed.
For the life of me I could not see myself quilting seven more rainbows! Very tedious!
If I had to make seven more of these quilts, I would have to make it more interesting for myself! Perhaps they could all wear bell bottoms, which were such a rage in the late sixties, in one? Skirts in another? Lacy frocks in yet another? What about ‘lungis’ (sarongs) also very popular then?
So that is what I did!
The Dedication and the Quilt Label
For the quilt labels, I downloaded free vector images of hot air balloons from the Internet and printed them on special computer printer fabric, which I had bought on my last visit to the USA. I then quilted these on to the front of the quilts.
On the back, I fused the dedication cum label!
I originally planned to bind the each of the quilts in its special theme colour. I began with the yellow, but then thought black would look nicer. Here are the bindings!
Before I conclude this story and start posting more pictures, I have to share with you what we did at the reunion! Besides catching up on each other’s lives in late night sessions, talking non-stop, giggling continuously, screeching and screaming and having the time of our lives.
Of course, we signed our quilts for each other. We also went and bought tied and dyed ‘leheriya’ stoles, in the colours of the miniquilts; each wore a stole in ‘her’ colour! Don’t forget to check out the photos of the eight friends in their stoles!
Before I forget, why is this quilt called ‘Palat!’? Palat ! is a Hindi word meaning ‘Turn Around!’ Almost every one with whom I shared the quilt told me they wanted the girls to turn around and show them their faces!
So here come the pics! Beginning with the girls as they did ‘Palat!’
Here are the pictures, front and back of each of the quilts.
And here are the close ups of the eight dresses!
The eight quilts, laid out to receive their intended owners…
…who were delighted to receive them!
Well, so that was the story of my Palat! Miniquilts. Do stay tuned in to find out what I have been up to in the last few days!
I did tell you my quilt won the first prize in the Husqvarna Viking India, Pfaff India, Handi Quilter India Quilt Competition 2015? I also promised to share with you the story and the making of this quilt! So here it is, my quilt “Seasons in the Sun” !
The Facts and Figures
Theme of the Competition : The Joy of Flowers
Original Design based on a personal photograph, no copyright issues.
Size – 36.5 x 50.5 ( after blocking).
Fabric Used – Cotton fabric `Fossil Fern’ by Benartex and poplin solids by Umaid Mills, India ( entirely from my stash).
Stabilizers – Heat n Bond Red and Pink, local fabric fusing single sided as well as double sided.
Polyester batting 150 gsm
Threads – Cotton, invisible nylon, polyester blend and rayon silk.
Machine Used – Husqvarna Viking Topaz 20
Free motion quilting mainly; built-in HQV auto sensor used for other quilting ( on large appliqué pieces)
Techniques – Regular piecing, foundation piecing, raw edge appliqué and fabric fusing (with paper backed stabilizer), painting using Derwent Inktense pencils.
The Story of the Quilt – The Quilt that Wouldn’t Not Be!
When I first read the theme for the Competition, my reaction was, “Oh, no!” I have painted a lot, but flowers, landscapes and still life only bore me. If it was to be the joy of flowers, the only thing that came to mind was this beloved photograph, faded beyond recognition and the negative lost! I made every excuse not to make it. I had no idea how to do an art quilt. I prefer piecing and for the life of me how was I going to piece this? If I had to appliqué, I like only needle turn hand appliqué! Raw edge appliqué is really lazy, isn’t it? And most importantly, where did I have the time? So I propped it up on the table in the spare room and surfed the Internet for ideas for over two months.
I found hundreds of flower photographs and dozens of exquisitely crafted flower quilts; sadly, none of them called out to me to make anything like them! I obsessed with This Quilt, dreamt of how it would look! I lay awake drawing up and rejecting various techniques for constructing it. Finally, I knew that I had no option but to venture on what was likely to be a disaster…and started studying portrait quilts.
Seasons in the Sun
This photograph transports me back almost thirty years. It was our first car, a second hand Maruti 800, and we were on our first trip to the enchanting Simla Hills with our almost–four year old son. It was in the times when vacations meant a holiday with your grandparents or cousins or even a pilgrimage. The economical car had just been around for a couple of years; The Great Indian Tourist was yet unborn and the Himalayas were largely untouched by any outsiders but pilgrims.
We stopped for the night at almost every other turn of the road, spending the day exploring the area or just lazing around in our hotel, having dinner under the Milky Way so bright that you could almost reach out and touch the stars. Small settlements – Parwanoo, Kasauli, Barog, Kiarighat, Chail – it took us five days to get to Simla from Chandigarh, a distance of just over a hundred kilometres! We did not care for crowded Simla and travelled further up North to Kufri, Naldera, Narkanda. And then to Mashobra on our way to Wild Flower Hall, an old colonial style palace.
There had been flowers in every crevice in the rocks everywhere we went, but in Mashobra the flowers went wild! The hills were covered with white, yellow and lavender. We stopped on the roadside, laughing for no reason but the joy of being alive! Our son ran up the hillside and as he looked down at us, squinting in the bright sunlight, this photograph was taken.
We have been back many times, but strangely, this is the only trip that is etched in my mind in every detail. So this picture brings back to me the heady smell of pine, the singing of the wind as it flows through the thickly forested slopes, woodroses and pine cones on the slippery pine needle covered ground. But mainly it is the flowers…flowers covering every inch of the ground…flowers dancing in the scented mountain breeze…
Life caught up with us, bringing us many trials and much sorrow, but this picture never fails to raise hope and a smile in my heart, just like all those wild flowers daring to bloom against all odds. A feeling of exhilaration, of the pure joy of flowers…
I dedicate this quilt to our very special daughter, Tana, who has bravely and inspirationally borne much pain and disability and to whom I have made this promise:
I also dedicate it to Rushu, the best brother in the world, the little boy in this quilt, who has stood by her at every step of the way. I have made a mother’s promise to him also – to make the head (slightly flattened from the top) of this portrait okay. Now that we are though with the competition, I shall get around to doing that.
This may not be the quilt I am most proud of, but I have no doubt it will be the quilt I shall love the most, as I grow old and dream of seasons in the sun …
I scanned the photograph and increased size to 36” x 45” approximately. Printed 32 pages through an Excel file and spread them on the dining table to make the template for the quilt. We ate on the sofa for almost two months, except the few times when we had guests and grumbling, I had to shift my stuff to the bed in the guest room.
Confusion, Deliberations and Decisions
This done, I wracked my brains on how to go about the actual piecing/ applique.
As you can see the bottom half of the quilt required a great deal of work and the top half was open expanse. I originally planned to do the boy’s portrait first on a blue background, then just cut up the selection of green and browns (from 12 different delicious fat quarters) into strips, place them randomly to denote the wild riot of foliage and do a fine stippling to hold them in place. The flowers and trees etc would come up last.
This did not appeal to me. I wanted a `quilty’ quilt. Otherwise I would paint a picture, wouldn’t I? I am more of a ‘piecer’ and raw edge applique did not seem like real quilting to me. These were mere excuses, I think! The real reasons were – my brain understands order better than chaos (those stems and flowers were a senseless riot!). Most of the selected fabric in my stash was in the form of fat quarters. It would be easier to handle reasonable sized blocks. This meant, roughly, that I would get the background ready first, make the portrait separately and applique it on top of the background and then add flowers and stems as necessary.
For the background, I decided to adapt a technique taught by Wendy Saclier in a workshop for crazy quilting published in ‘Quiltskills – Workshops from the Quilters’ Guild, Australia’ by The Patchwork Place. I would piece the quilt in the form of a grid of 5” squares set on point. The quilt would have a 7 x 5 grid plus the setting triangles; the next step was to mark the grid. I had to increase the width of the picture to accommodate the full squares.
Another creative decision ( sounds very important, doesn’t it?) was to change the colour of the flowers to yellow from white. The colour of the shirt which was gold, blue and white would then have red instead of the yellow, and the trousers blue instead of yellow!
Laying the Foundation
I cut foundation pieces in green fabric started the piecing from the left bottom corner. I was not following the picture exactly, just a sense of the direction in which the plants are leaning, the foliage clearing up and the colours lightening as you move from left to the right. I also used larger pieces of fabric towards the top and to the right, to emphasize the feeling of ‘openness’. An additional problem was that the stems were not only vertical, but horizontal and slanting too. The foundation piecing was basically, therefore, improvised, just lightly marking the strip direction on fabric with a pencil.
Much as I loved this challenge and the results, each block took ages to grow.
Scaling the Skies
Skipped to the sky after seven days and only one corner completed in the desire to see the quilt come up faster.
I posterized the picture ( Used Microsoft Office Paint to reduce the number of colours), took an A4 sized print out and used that as a guide for colours, which were not too clear in the enlarged poster. This was a trick I picked up from Marilyn Lee, master art quilter, who is generous enough to hold free classes on Facebook. Check out her `Classy Quilts : The Art of the Art Quilt’ page. I only wish I had found her a bit earlier than I did.
Half the top plus pieced in a couple of hours!
The Flower Strewn Hills
Back to the lighter foliage on the right bottom corner. Much faster and piecing part of top almost done.
Then moved to the left, to start the work on the background this side.
Adding more foliage…
Left the centre panel, where the boy is half crouching, un`blocked’. Top background done, time to paint … er…appliqué on it.
Stick ‘n Sew
I used a combination of fabric fusing and sewable stabilizer to appliqué. The trees in the background came up first. I used the fern stitch on my machine to sew them to the background, to mimic the look of pine needles. By the time this quilt was completed, the `unsewable’ fusing on the darker fabric had started peeling off and had to be sewn back in place. The greenery on the distant hillside on the right came off altogether, and I had to paint and quilt in that area!
Back it Up!
Meanwhile, we had only 3 weeks left for the deadline. So I made the backing, before starting on further applique. The amount of applique would depend on how much time I had at hand! The backing used the only matching yardage in my stash. I wanted to emphasize the `slope’ hence added a solid to separate the two main fabrics. I discovered that the slope had been cut in the wrong direction, but I did not have fabric to re- do it and eventually, it really did not matter!
I cut and sewed a piece of denim from my old jeans for the trousers in place on the background. The boy’s torso was built up separately on white fabric, to be joined to the main quilt top through quilting.
Here is a close up of the shirt completed.
The Joy (?!?) of Flowers
Now to start on the dozens and dozens of flowers and stems…Once the trees were in place, I cut out dozens of flowers and stems of all lengths and widths from 1/8″ to 1/3″ approximately. I was first numbering them, following the template poster, but very soon realized the futility of it and gave that up!
I used a zigzag stitch for most of the appliqué, as it best resembled the movement of a pencil across paper, when ‘shading’. To emphasize a 3-D effect, I sewed the stems down with invisible thread on one side and a contrast colour thread on the other. The flowers were also stitched down at the edges with invisible thread, the separation of petals was done with yellow rayon thread later.
Halfway through, I made the cardinal error of adding a stabilizer to the top to facilitate the appliqué. This would prove really troublesome when quilting.
Yet more flowers and stems from fabric which had paper backed adhesive attached to it, placed and ironed on the top…
I left only the uppermost layer of flowers and the boy’s arms and head undone. They would be sewed / attached during and after the quilting. Finally ready to layer the top with the batting and backing and start quilting!
When the Quilting Gets Tough…
The quilting was tough literally and figuratively. The various layers of one sided interfacing, that I had used as stabiliser, made the top stiff and the needle gummed up. To add to my misery, I had spray basted the sandwich! Till I was forced to peel off the top and cut away the layer of stabilizer where I could. It was so difficult to sew in some parts that at one stage, I actually flung the quilt on the floor in despair. I had tiny holes in the fabric, especially where I was using invisible thread. ( Spraying them with water removed those later, but right then they were really scary). I changed to a smaller sized needle and that seemed to work better. I used a close zigzag stitch / satin stitch in most places in the foliage area to quilt stems which would hold the layers together. For the sky, I used a regular straight stitch and zigzag stitch.
I considered attaching the orange flower centres with applique, but scrapped the idea, because they would stand out in strong contrast, detracting from the whole picture. Inktense pencils were used instead. I also used them to add depth and greenery to the distant hillside, as the adhesive had come off the raw edge applique done with non sewable Heat n Bond. The arms were similarly shaded, I did not have fabric the right colour.
I was running out of time and the head had been giving me several problems right from the beginning. I had posterized the face to obtain a clear demarcation of colour to help in the patchwork. The eye portion stood out like two black holes against a pink face! I made up and scrapped two faces and the arms as they were too pink and looked nothing like my son. Now I scanned several photographs to get the right colours.
I finally found four fabrics in my stash which I could use for the face; I worked directly from the original photo instead of the print out. Nevertheless, whatever I did, the colour of the lips posed a problem. I even considered leaving the face blank, but it would not work with so many details in the other areas. I attached the cut out for the face; got the eyes, eyebrows, forehead, cheeks, nose, ears, neck and the neckline of the t-shirt ready separately to be built on it. The lips would be done with Inktense pencils!
Bind it Up!
Leaving things where they were, I did the binding now; seven different fabrics in greens and browns were used for the ‘land’ area and three blues for the ‘sky’ area. It was machined from the front and hand sewn at the back. This was the most relaxing part of the entire quilt making.
Let’s Face It!
I finally tried to sew the face parts, but the face area was too stiff to be stitched on. I had no choice but to rip it off. In the process of removing the face, I was ready to burst into tears as I made a cut in the backing fabric!. That is when I had the brilliant idea of attaching a ‘head’ to the back, to cover up the cut! I did the face anew, again using the original picture as the guide. I built it on freezer paper, which could be peeled and ripped off after stitching. This seemed to me much more satisfactory than using adhesive or stabilizer. I wish I had taken photographs but I was hard pressed for time! As mentioned earlier, I had only 4 fabrics in the correct skin tones so used Derwent Inktense pencils to give the face a more realistic look and merge the areas where two fabrics met. The eyebrows, eyes and neck had to be fused as I could not appliqué the tiny bits. (I have painted under them in case they decide to fall off). The completed face was attached to the quilt top from the edges.
The Finishing Line
When I stepped back to look at the quilt, there were areas which needed a touch or two, for which the Inktense came in use again. I skipped the sleeve as this will be framed under glass to protect it from the dust in this part of the world.
Cleaning up of the quilt for threads and blocking it on a mattress with a sheet on top of the dining table. I drew lines on the sheet and used a spray bottle to spray the quilt liberally with water; stretched it with pins at a distance of about 2″ on the lines and left it overnight. The rebellious areas had to be steamed into obedience with a steam iron held about an inch above the top.
Finally, the photography session. Including one of my photographer, who climbed a playground slide to snap a pic from high ground.
Here are all the pictures taken by the professional photographer. If you open these in a separate window, you should be able to see all the details.
Do let me know if you have any questions on the techniques and methods!
End of story: I repeat myself. Not the most technically perfect quilt I have made, but I love it!
This is a very special quilt, perhaps the closest to my heart! I started making it in February this year, as a Valentine’s Day challenge entry for my facebook quilting group, Desi Quilters. I had just managed to get the pieces ready for English paper piecing, when my daughter fell seriously ill.
She was hospitalized for 2 months, when there was someone very special who gave us faith she and we would come out of it, stronger than before.
“Cruel harsh winter
Ablaze with flowers of hope.
Summer’s in my heart.”
The unfinished pieces lay there forlorn and rolled up, to emerge in September, for yet another group challenge, ‘Flowers’. Finally completed, here it is.
This piece is also special, because it is the first time I tried free motion quilting, quite successfully, I thought!
(The use of the lighter brown in the bobbin case was not intentional – I just ran out of the darker thread :-p)
I added a few French knots to give some dimension to the flowering trees.
Today we are faced with yet another situation where we need strength and hope, lots of it!
My faith continues to give me belief we shall overcome this too! “…but winter always turns to spring. Never, from ancient times on, has anyone heard or seen of winter turning back to autumn. ” Nichiren Daishonin
बीहड़ उजाड़ मन.
गुलमोहर अमलतास बन
झूमी आस किरन…
I thought long and hard and hit upon hippie art, very popular when I was growing up! And I had the perfect fabric for it, with bright flowers and paisleys! The text had to be pieced according to the challenge rules, and what word better than `PIECE’ to piece? I love playing around with words, so the first part of the quilt was designed with a peace symbol! I used Elizabeth Hartman’s (of Oh,Fransson!) method to piece the text, using lightweight stabilizer – the pieces are ready at 1/2″.
For the pieced ring border of the Peace symbol, I did something I thought was super clever! I’ll talk about that later! I quilted this block with a kind of paisley pattern in contrasting yellow and pink , using the walking foot. I quilted as I went (QAYG), as I had long wanted to try this method ! (Also, wanted the quilt to be be in an almost- ready position to be submitted at the deadline, in case I could not complete all the blocks 😉 !)
When we were teenagers, a favourite doodle was a name or slogan written in a circle in this `font’! ( We were all in love with Rhett Butler of Gone with the Wind, so our rough notebooks were full of imaginatively decorated doodles of `Rhett’ in circles and hearts!) So this bit of art was a must for my quilt! After much brainstorming, I hit on SEWL – a play on SOUL! (DH thinks the word-play is incomprehensible; I am quite proud of it, sew there!) So in went the `SEWL’ into a circle with rays radiating from it.
To construct the rays block, I used an 18″ square freezer paper. I marked the centre of the paper and drew drew three concentric circles, at 5″, 7″ and 9″ . A protractor was used to draw the rays – there are 24 rays in all, 15 degree angles. I pieced the block in halves, using the freezer paper technique, folding away each ray as I pieced it. I wish I had taken pictures 😦
Now came the brilliant part (IMNSHO – where H stands for humble!) I cut out the smaller ring (5′ inner and 7″ outer radius) and used it to border my `PEACE’ symbol! This ring had to be raw edge appliqued.
The rays were ready to be used as the background on which I appliqued the SEWL circle, after turning in the edges. I fussy cut the highlighter fabric to decorate the block, using raw edge machine stitched applique. I quilted around this applique to highlight and raise it, but this was a disaster of sorts! It made the work look terribly untidy. 😦
So I had PIECE and I had SEW, but wanted something more! After browsing through hippie slogans a hundred times, the brain wave struck…tranquility! So the final block was designed.
For this block, I was inspired to attempt Chenille quilting, explained so beautifully by by the talented quilter Vani Roy in a Chenille Quilt Along on the Desi Quilters’ facebook forum. The block was designed as a long narrow horizontal panel below the other two blocks, to give a feeling of expansiveness. The oversized full moon linked up the three blocks. I also wanted to add a bodhhi tree, but TRANQUILTY is a huge (pseudo)word! I quilted the whole text, and fused the letters QUILT on it. I did minimum quilting on this block, because I did want it to look to busy. The wall hanging is now a perfect size for my sewing corner!
Do feel free to make your own wall quilt inspired by my quilt! But I would love it if you would link back your quilt to me 🙂