Thursday, October 29, 2015

My heart's delight : portrait of Aadi

It is every quilting mother's dream. To be able to make a portrait of her child. I did that this past week.

Remember Sandra Bruce's self portrait? I had interviewed her some time back. You can go here to read that interview. It was about 3 years back! Ever since I have wanted to make a portrait using her technique.

I visited her during my USA trip. And she wrote a wonderful post about it on her blog! (We do have a mutual admiration club!)

So back to the portrait...

I had this photo of Aadi, that has always been my favorite one. It was clicked by one of the members of the Amateur Photographer's Club in Sangli sometime back in 2008! Aadi was barely 11 months old then. We had gone for a stroll in a garden early in the morning. The club members were there and asked me permission to click photos of Aadi. I told them they could as long as they give me a copy of every photo they take and the permission to use them the way i want to. The did. and a few days later I had a CD with some of the most awesome snaps of Aadi delivered to my home. I still do not know the name of the person who actually clicked this photo. But I am very much indebted to him.

I knew this picture would make a great portrait. Until now I have only made portraits in gray scale. This one screamed at me to be made in color. What was holding me back, you ask? I was scared I would not be able to do it. But I decided to just go and do it! 

So I gathered all my supplies. In the end, I decided to crop out the background and use white instead. That made it easier on me. I did it one square at a time. I looked for prints that matched the position onthe photo. If I did not have prints like that, I improv-pieced the squares. Some I decided to applique because they were too complicated to be pieced. 

 I was on the edge of my seat, more  sure than not, that I am not going to be able to do this! Till this moment.

I got the eye right!!! That was the moment I knew I was going to be able to make it.

And then I got the other eye right too!!! That one was difficult since it had to match the first one. Between those two eyes I think I have 6 pairs of attempts before I got them right!

And at the end of 4 days all the squares were ready!!! Time to do the unthinkable. Piece them together! I managed to do that in another couple of days. The quilting took 2 days...

And at the end of the week : my quilt was ready!!!

Here it is, "My heart's delight : portrait of Aadi"

I decided to keep the quilting simple. And most often matched the thread with the background. I wanted the piecing to be the "hero" of this quilt rather than the quilting.

Here's a more detailed shot of the quilting.

I quilted his three favorite nursery rhymes (when he was 11 months old) in the background. I have no score of how many times I must have sung them to him! So you see  "Wheels on the bus", "Incy wincy spider" and "You're my sunshine" on the white background. I also wanted to include some Marathi songs, but there was no more space left.

I used a 'curly' design to quilt the hair. It turned out awesome!!!

I let Aadi pick the backing for this quilt, and he chose this one! Nummers from Ikea. Its perfect for this quilt!

Quilt stats

Name : "My heart's delight : portrait of Aadi"
Size : 40" x 40" - 200 squares 2.5" (10 appliqued, 76 pieced others whole)
Material used :
Fabric : Hand dyed fabric (for the skin), assorted Black and white prints (for the hair), Some local scraps (for the dress), Bella Solid White and Snow (background)
Thread : Aurifil 50 wt in Tan for piecing and applique. Assorted shades - black, pink, white, grey, blue and red for quilting. Aurifil 40 wt White in bobbin.(only because I was running out of 50 wt in white)

Pieced and quilted on my Bernina 710 using the Dual Feed System and BSR.

Aurifil & Bernina managed to go through several layers (at one intersection it must be close to 7) without ANY incident of thread breakage! Go "Berifil"!!!

Other material : My laptop, freezer paper and my brain (lot of it)

Experience : Amazing!!!

Thank you Sandra, for inspiring me to make this quilt and for sharing your process with me. Though I ended up doing it my own way - it was fun to see how I started out at the same point as you, with the same concept and reached the same destination, travelling down my own road!!! Your support has been phenomenal. This quilt is going to change my life! I know it! And thank you for being such a lovely friend!!!

Do you like "My heart's delight?"

I'm entering it into the Bloggers Quilt Festival  on Amy's Creative Side.

You can find my quilt in the Art Quilt category. Please vote for it if you like it!


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

When a quilter sees a monster...

Kids see monsters all the time. i'm sure many moms like me have, more often than not, put a label "Monster Spray" over a spray bottle filled with a room freshener.

But what happens when the quilter mom sees a monster?

She makes it into a quilt, of course!!!

I was playing with some fabric dyes yesterday. While ironing out the fabrics, I saw a shape of a monster in it!!!

My mind started whirring with ideas. So much so that I totally forgot to take a picture of it!!!

I snapped this one just as I set it up on my machine to make the "Monster in my Dye" quilt!

If you turn your head to the left, you can see the monster's face!

I took him and made it into a quilt! I'm sure my son will love it when he sees it!!!

I added a small piping before I added the binding! I love the effect of it!

Here's a detail shot of the face... The quilting turned out awesome!

Quilt stats :

Name : "Monster in my Dye"

Size : 14" x 16.5"

Material Used
Fabric : Hand dyed cotton poplin - local market buy
Thread : Aurifil 50 wt in different colours - Blues, Green, Red and White!

Technique : Whole Cloth quilt!

Experience : Scary !!! LOL! Lot of spontaneous fun!!!

Do you like my monster?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

'Unpicked' - A Bernina Pictogram Project

Earlier this year, I was invited to participate in a group project on the BERNINA International Blog.

Last year, with the help of Jutta Hellbach a well-known German artist, BERNINA put together a creative Project on the Web called “People”.  European artists got the opportunity to create a piece of textile art which had to feature a Pictogram. These panels were then displayed as an exhibition at Quilt and Textile Events around Europe.

When I saw the invite I knew I wanted to be a part of it! And immediately informed Bernina India so.

Early last week, I received my package. 

When I looked at it I was happy with the colours and the material. But nothing more really 'clicked'.

By the end of the week, I had nothing much to work on. Inspiration struck when I listened to a report in the news about the increased incidents of female foeticides. 

What is Female Foeticide?

Female Foeticide is deliberately getting rid killing a fetus in the womb after a confirmation that it is a female from an ultrasound sex determination. There are a lot of reasons behind that. But the root of it all is gender inequality. Even today, parents of girls have to pay dowry to 'secure' her future with a 'good' husband! It is the sad truth of the community around me. My state ranks 6th in the Sex Ratio in the country - standing at 114 boys for 100 girls. (Researchers say the normal ratio is between 103 to 107)

Here is the quilt that I made.

It is a very strong quilt, I must admit. The process of making it was emotionally draining. Every stitch that I unpicked, made me think about doctors doing this to an actual fetus! In some cases, since its illegal, the mother (more often than not, against her wish) is taken to a non-doctor. The measures that they use to 'unpick' the girl from her mother's womb puts even the mother's life at risk. But they do not care about her life either. After all, she is just another Woman! 

I also used Marathi and Hindi words for Boy and Girl in the quilt - मुलगा (मुलगी) & लडका (लडकी)

I am very glad that even though I was born at a time when sex determination was not illegal, and gender based discrimination was the 'normal' way of life, my parents brought me up as a strong, confident and self assertive individual. They never let the fact that I was a girl come between me and my goals! They taught me to be independent. They taught me to respect others and earn their respect. They made me the person I am today. I can never thank them enough for it.

At the same time, I am also thankful that my better half, Rohit, and his family isn't gender biased either. I have never been given any less respect or opportunity because I am not a 'son' of the family. In fact, sometimes I think they are more biased on my side than his! All my endeavors have been met with appreciation and encouragement! Without their support I would not be able to do what I do today.

I hope that every girl gets the same love, respect, encouragement, opportunity and appreciation that I get from both my families! 

Because, you're worth it!

Quilt Stats :
Name : "Unpicked"
Size : 22 cm x 28 cm 
Material Used : Felt, Mettler and Aurifil thread
Technique used : Free Motion Quilting
Experience : Beyond words!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Why quality matters?

"Why don't you use cheaper material to make my quilt?"

I get asked a lot of variations of this question when I take custom orders and my customers hear the price I am quoting.

I have already done a post about pricing, if you haven't read it, I urge you to go back to it and read.

When I started quilting, I knew nothing about sewing machines, thread or fabrics!!! It took me a long time and a lot of hard work to figure out what works best for me. One by one, today I will explain why I wont use something that is cheaper to make something for you. It matters to me that you all understand it. Because, I believe, it is important.

First up : Sewing Machines!!!

I had my grandma's treadle - Durby -  and I was absolutely happy with it. I thought I had the best machine in the whole world. Then I bought the Bernette e56 - Betty- and I was on top of the world! Of course it had to be the best sewing machine in the world! I paid a lot of money for it! But then I got the Bernina 330 - my awesome Emily - and I realized how much better my stitching got with the better machine. Yes, I had a lot of experience by then, but also yes, the machine made a difference, Once again I thought I would never need a better machine than that! So when I ultimately found my soulmate Ross (My Bernina 710) I do not expect him to be the best machine in the world! I know that before I know it, I will be thinking about an upgrade. I have used a lot of different brands, but the hassle-free operation and maintenance of the Bernina plus its user-friendly interface has made me stick to it long before I became the Brand Ambassador for them.

Second : Threads

It was the same with the threads. When I started out, I just bought 'thread'. I didn't even know there were any other factors apart from colour to consider! But 5 years in the quilting world has made me a lot wiser. I have tried A LOT OF threads. Right from unkown local manufactured spools to my latest obsession, Aurifil. I used to have a lot of tension issues and blamed my sewing machine before I laid my hands on this awesome made-in-Italy-Egyptian-cotton spool of goodness. Its not that I do not use any other brands, I do. But I only do so if I do not have a spool of Aurfil in the colour and weight I need. After I used Aurifil for the first time in September 2012, I realized what I should look for when I buy a spool of thread. Its not just the colour. It is the way it has been woven that determines if I am going to break it often or have tension issues. I started looking at all the threads I use differently. I prefer cotton, mainly after I had to iron a totally crumpled linen pouch on a 'cotton' setting on my iron and doing so just burnt all the poly thread that I had used to do the quilting! I also need to be sure that the colour of the thread does not run! I learnt that one from experience too! A beautiful pink-grey quilt for a little girl has shocking pink 'highlights' throughout the quilt! When I use Aurifil I do not have to think about all the issues. I know that they have been thought of, by the company!

Moving on to : Fabrics

Fabric is, of course, my favorite of all the supplies i need to make a quilt! And yes, it is the most important one and also plays the major role in making a quilt what it is.

When I started out, like I have said a million times before I didn't know anything about fabrics. In fact I started out as an 'up'-cycler! I took old clothes and made them into something useful. I got to play with a lot of different fabrics. With every item I made (it was not just quilts then) I learnt a little bit about what I should do and what I should not. It was a long road filled with many failed attempts. But in the course of 5 years, I have come a long way and today I can tell the quality of fabric by feeling it.   I had seen a lot of people do that in a fabric shop before I started quilting, I did it too, but never really knew what they (or I) were doing. But now i can.

I prefer buying solids here in the local fabric shops. One - they come in a lot more colours than the branded ones. And two - its easier and better to match colours to actual fabrics than to screen images. I usually take along a few wet wipes. I rub them onto the fabric in a discreet corner to test for colour fastness. Indian fabrics are notorious for bleeding colours! I have observed that the Umaid mills Poplin usually runs less. But any brand I buy, its the pinks and the turquoise ones that bleed the most. So I usually soak them in colour fasterners. My FIL used a mixture of Salt and Jaggery. I have tried that and it works as good as the store bought colour fastners.

I buy a lot of prints here in India, but I love the designer prints that I order online. For prints that I buy in India, I always check for mis-prints. That seems to be an issue with a lot of cheaper print fabrics available. Also a lot of it is garment weight - that is a lot lighter than I need for quilting. So I have to take all these things into consideration when I buy fabric. And price is the last thing on my mind when I do that.

I want my customers to love my quilt as much I do. I spend a lot of time thinking about the quilt and dreaming about how i will make it and what it will look like. It feels like nurturing a baby! And like any other parent I only want what is the best for my baby! I cannot compromise on the quality of the supplies that I use. If you are a dear friend or a returning customer, I sometimes will compromise on the 'making charges' of my quilt to make it more affordable to you, but NEVER on the quality of the material.

Even if you are okay with it, I am not!
And I will NOT use cheaper material just so that a lot more people can buy it.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Abhalmaya : The largest portrait quilt I ever made

My mentor in Architecture - Pramod Chaugule, wanted me to make a portrait of his father, who is known as Pappa among all those who are close to him. So after two years of pestering me I agreed. Why was I putting it off? He wanted me to make a HUGE quilt. And I wasn't ready for it!

Like I said in my earlier post, I started making this quilt in June. It was a daunting project and for a long time I could not decide which technique to use.

In the end I decided to make it into a pixelated porrtait.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the colours, and in the end acted smart and just created the pattern on You Patch. If anyone of you wants to make a pixelated quilt, PLEASE save yourself a lot of time and headache and frustration and just design your pattern on You Patch. They're quick, easy and most important, they tell you the shades of Kona Solids that you can use! It just eliminates all the hassels of fabric selection.

But of course I could not have done it the easy way, could I?

First, all those blocks... They made my head spin! So many pieces to cut in so many different sizes! And I suck at precision peicing! My 6.5" Tula pink blocks are ALL of different sizes!!! Don't ask me how.

So what do I do?

I had some Pellon Tru-Grid that I had ordered from the USA a few weeks back. So I decided to just calculate the number of squares I needed of each colour and fuse and stitch them, one block at a time! Easy, right?

Wrong again.

Firstly, I did not have all the Kona shades I needed and ordering online isn't an option when you live on the other side of the world.

And secondly, the very intelligent me had ordered a nun-fusible variety of the Pellon Tru-Grid!!!

I was almost in tears when I realized that!

But you know me. I always find a way out! So I matched the Kona Solids to whatever fabric I had and used a glue stick to 'fuse' the pieces!!! This is how I organized my fabric squares while I worked with them!

Thus began my adventure with the 4096 (8 x 8 blocks of 8 x 8 squares each)

Was it an easy road from there. Well yes, until I finished 3/4th of the quilt and made a startling discovery!

I had completed 48/64 blocks. Just finished putting them all together and laid it on the ground. I almost had a heart attack!

It looked NOTHING like the photo! I was, again, on the verge of tears! All the things had been finalized by then. Pramod Sir was eagerly awaiting snaps of the portrait! And I just could not see it!

I sent for Rohit. I thought a new set of eyes might see what I'm not seeing. And meanwhile, I thought i'd just click a photo of it and send it to my quilting peeps to investigate what went wrong.

When I looked at the screen of my iPhone I was surprised and so happy!!!

This is what I saw!!!

It totally looked like Pappa!!! Phew!!! The last 16 blocks came together super fast and the quilt top was ready.

Time to baste it!!!

I actually had to move out ALL the furniture from Aadi's room to baste it! It took 3 gruesome hours, down on my knees!!!

Now came the time to decide how to quilt it. I had a whole array of Aurifil threads in Greys. I had a very hard time determining how I was going to quilt it. 

In the end I chose to go with a simple stippling design with the Monofilament thread in the top and 50 wt White thread in the bobbin.

It took me 3 days of a quilting marathon to finish this one! But it was ready - 15 days before the exhibition - bound and with a sleeve!!!

This quilt was placed behind a curtain at the exhibition. About 5' from it we had put up a board that read "Look though your mobile phone camera". It was like magic! People loved it. It sure was a crowd puller. Kids called it a magic quilt! They were totally fascinated by the quilt.

Quilt stats :

Name : Abhalmaya (Love - as big as the skies)
 Size : 88" x 85" (The largest portrait quilt I've made)
Material used : Solids by Moda, Michael Miller, American Made, Robert Kaufman and Umaid Mills India
Thread : Aurifil Clear Monofilament thread on the top and Aurifil White 50 wt in the bobbin
 Technique : Patchwork!
Experience : Awesome! Terrifying!! Energizing!!!

Friday, August 28, 2015

The best moment of my life!!!

Yes, that's what has kept me busy all these days!!!

I had my first solo exhibition, here in Sangli; and it was a hit!!!

The idea began forming three years back. It was my mentor in architecture - Architect Pramod Chaugule - who suggested I should have my own exhibition! I was totally terrified of the idea! In fact, I just stopped meeting up with him.

Then last year they celebrated his father's 81st birthday. He wanted me to make a portrait of his father, but the fact that he wanted it in a big size was scaring me.

In June this year, I promised him I would make that portrait of his father. We decided to finish it by August 8th. He also offered to sponsor my first solo exhibition!

I was happy, excited, terrified, scared, ecstatic and frightened - all at the same time!

But I also felt confident about it. I got to work. We decided to make 88 quilts for the exhibition on 8/8.

I started working on the quilts in June. By the end of July I was at a comfortable place. The big quilt was ready and 85/88 quilts were almost ready. I actually managed to finish off 96 quilts! We then choose 88 to be displayed in the gallery.

On the days of the exhibition my awesome friends came down to help me with it. Kausalya, Charu and Simi were the ones who, along with my intern Preeti and my cousin Purva helped me pack everything and put it up in the gallery! Aren't quilting friends the best? They absolutely do not mind flying across the country to help another quilting friend!!!

The gallery was in the local mall. A place with a high footfall on the weekends because of the fact that it also has a multiplex. We worked late into night preparing for the opening the next day!

It was awesome to see it all come together...

The exhibition hall looked fabulous!!!

I had one wall of my Gelli Printed quilts, framed.

The other wall was taken up by the Naturescapes series (which was all SOLD OUT at the end of the second day!!!)

Then came the large-ish quilts.

Followed by small quilts and my favorite portraits...

At the far end, curtained off was the 88" x 85" portrait of Pramod Sir's father. No-one knew about it except me, my quilting friends, Pramod Sir himself and his two children. It was supposed to be a surprise for his entire family. His father was turning 82 that day!

The Hon. District Collector, Mr Shekhar Gaikwad was the chief guest. The whos who of Sangli was present for the opening!

Thats me and the Collector's family on the left and Preeti with Pramod Sir and his parents on the right. And yeah thats the HUGE quilt I made!!! It deserves a separate post of its own.

And this is Pramod Sir's father. I'm glad that I could capture the serene and content expressions on his face in the quilt!

But the grand opening, as awesome as it was, could not beat what happened next!!!

Okay, a little background here. When I was in my 6th grade, a wonderful lady was posted as the Superintendent of Police - Meera Borwankar. I was a teen who was super impressed by her. She was my first idol!!!

Okay fast forward 25 years to today (okay not today, but the day of my exhibition). As soon as the Collector left and we took a breath of relief, Pramod Sir got a call from him. He met Ms Borwankar at a function and wanted to bring her to see the exhibition. Currently she is the ADGP (Additional Director General of Police) Prisons!!! I think I forgot how to breathe for a while!

She is the lady who had inspired me to fearless! She is the one who had shown me that a girl can do anything not just as good as, but sometimes, better than a man!

It was the most memorable moment of my life! Meeting Ms Borwankar in person.

She not just kooled at the quilts, but asked me questions too. She looked like she was really enjoying it! How was I feeling? Honestly, I was totally star struck! It was like meeting Amitabh Bachchan - or what I think meeting him will feel like!

She was also wonderful to my Son - Aadi. He was acting very coy, but she coaxed him to answer her questions and he was all red!!! I had just told him about her a few days back, when Yakub Menon was executed. He wanted to know why they were killing him. So we told him about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai and Yakub's role in it. Ms Borwankar was the one who was overlooking the execution. 

Nothing had prepared me for this moment! I had goose bumps, my heart was in my throat. I had butterflies in my stomach. I was dancing in my head. I was at the top of the world!!!

At that moment, I did not care if I sold any quilts! It just did not matter!

Thats three generations of Dandekar Daughter-in-laws! Me, my Mother-in-law and her Mother-in-law! 

And thats me and Rohit at the end of the 2 days!!! Exhausted and happy!!!

It is because of the unfailing support of Rohit and his parents that I could go ahead with this exhibition!!! So happy to have them in my life!!!

I am glad that I did this exhibition. One, I sold a lot of stuff, of course! But more important - people in Sangli came to know what I do. I always felt that what I did was not appreciated, or even understood, by my local peeps. I know I have not reached every person in Sangli yet, but yes, now a lot of them know that I do something much more than 'just regular sewing'.

What next??? No idea! But I would like to exhibit in other cities too. Maybe Mumbai or Pune! Who knows!!!