‘The Tchatri at Tintoui’…Sketching With Thread and Some Detective Work

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!

Thread sketching the chhatri
A close up of the tree
I love the back as much as the front!

I quilted the background with Invisafil smoke.

The background done in Invisafil smoke and the quilting is almost done, bar the finishing touches!

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.

I think I like the back better than the front, but no one seems to agree!

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!

Tresses and Pearls – An Art Quilt

A design by Pam Holland – I have named my quilt ‘Tresses and Pearls’!
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 

What about framing it? Would some lace add interest to it? Or a earring?
Perhaps pearls would be prettier? An oval cut out frame?

I did cut out an oval frame and marked it on the sandwich.  

The oval frame was cut out from a pair of silver grey, raw silk trousers, which had started fraying.

I then started quilting the area within the frame with diagonal lines, to give the effect of glass. 

I added some layers to the back unintentionally…
I considered turning the IKEA bag into a stole!

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! 

I may need to do some sewing by hand to ensure the ‘frame’ remains fused to the background.

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.

Pearls for the lady!

This is what I did at the back. 

The jewellery at the back…

Here is the finished quilt – the back! 

Do I need to do something about the ‘dress’?

Tresses and Pearls …

Tomorrow I start working on my incomplete projects from Workshops #2 and #3…hope to get back soon with those! 

The ‘Palat!’ Mini Quilts!

Eight mini quilts designed and quilted for a class reunion.

One of the eight `Palat!’ (Turn Around!) miniquilts…

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.

The ‘Palat!’ miniquilt : I used a ‘Fabrico’ ink pen to colour the socks and hair ribbons red, like in our school dress.

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!

My ‘Palat’ Miniquilt, with the rainbow in place.

The Learning

-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.

The Aqua ‘Palat’ Miniquilt – the back left a lot to be desired!

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!

‘ ‘Palat!’ : Sa’ in her red bell bottoms! See her hair? Where I began and ended the quilting!
The ‘Palat’ Miniquilt – RaY in her orange box-pleated skirt


The ‘Palat’ Miniquilt -Ru thinks I have short-changed her and given her the plainest dress! Don’t miss the strands of ‘hair’ below her ribbon!
A thin satin ribbon makes up the belt of Ga’s frock! I later added a tatting lace to the frock…
The ‘Palat’ Miniquilt : Actually, my quilt is the saddest looking! The embroidery on the dress is also pretty shabby!
The ‘Palat’ Miniquilt : I love Pa’s A-line dress! See that little lace I made, by cutting out holes at the edge?
Dha wears an indigo coat with a huge box pleat at the back, accessorized with boots and a crocheted muffler! I did rows of chain stitch around the neck to hold the muffler in place.
For Nee’s blouse I found a piece of fabric from a dress that had actually belonged to her some 50 years ago! This was a hexagon from scraps she had given to me for my hexagon quilt!

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.

The ‘gift tags’ on the quilts were hot air balloons, printed on fabric and then raw edge quilted to the front.

On the back, I fused the dedication cum label!

The back carried the names of the eight friends and the quilter’s name and date.

The Binding

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!

The binding…


The Reunion

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!’

When the girls turned around…

Here are the pictures, front and back of each of the quilts.

The backs of the eight quilts…
…and the fronts of the eight minis.

And here are the close ups of the eight dresses!

Close ups of the dresses…
The two who wore bell bottoms.
…and three who wore shifts!

The eight quilts, laid out to receive their intended owners…

I laid out the miniquilts on the dining table and invited the girls over to help me lay the table…

…who were delighted to receive them!

To say they were surprised would be an understatement!

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!