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!!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Quilting Workshop : Sewing with Shruti

I am happy to announce a two day workshop in Mumbai on the 4th and 5th of September 2015.

Day#1 would be a split into 2 sessions: A and B

 Session A: Stained Glass
This is a technique I have always been interested in. I have been working on making modern versions of the stained glass quilts.

In this workshop, you will be learning how to make a Geometric(constructed) and Organic(applique) stained Glass quilt TOP.

Session B: Improv pieced Letters

I made a lot of improv pieced letters for my Sassy Batiks quilt. And I would love to share the process with all of you.

You will be making an A4 size, One alphabet using the Improv Piecing Method.

Day#2 would be a split into 2 sessions: C and D

Session C: Tote Bag making

My wonderful friend Kausalya Pandit will be conducting this workshop. She is a pro when it comes to making Tote Bags.

You will be making a  tote bag from  first principles and completing it with a zipper pocket and a simple pocket in the lining.

Session D: Abstract Quilt Design

Making abstract quilts involves a lot of planning. But the main problem a lot of people face when it comes to making Abstract Quilts is the fact that a lot of people cannot DESIGN it.

In this workshop I will be teaching you creative exercises to help you design and plan an abstract quilt. You will go home with one A4 size quilt top.

Now, moving on to the details of the workshop, contact details etc.

Pricing: Rs3000/- for each day

Time: 10:30 am to 6:30 pm(both days)

Dates : Friday, 4th & Saturday, 5th September 2015.

Venue: Bernina Creative Centre 

Company Showroom & BERNINA Creative Center
A – 101 / 102 , First Floor ,
Eversun – DLH Junction ,
Near Apna Bazaar & D.N.Nagar Metro Station,
Sahakar Nagar,
Andheri (West)
Mumbai – 400053
Contact Person : Mr. Ajay Gupta
Tel : +91 22 26749218
Fax : + 91 22 26743426
Mob : + 91 9820213400

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Calling out to Bella Parade Winners!!!

Hi all!!!
the Bella Parade ended more than 3 weeks back. All my parcels are packed now and those whom I met in person, have been delivered.

Here's the final list and status of the shipping!

Day 1 : DOVE : Andrea York (Ready to Ship)
Day 2 : PARFAIT PINK : @priza_7 (Ready to Ship)
Day 3 : TURQUOISE : Olivia Hascher (Awaiting Address)
Day 4 : TANGERINE : @freshdewdrops - Instagram (Awaiting Address)
Day 5 : SPROUT : Phyllis (Awaiting Address)
Day 6 : Sunshine : Heather J (Ready to Ship)
Day 7 : COBALT : jacklynngt - Instagram (Ready to Ship)
Day 8 : DILL : Sangeeta Chabbra (Ready to Ship)
Day 9 : AMELIA ORANGE : Clara (Ready to Ship)
Day 10 : BOYSENBERRY : Sneha Deshpande (Delivered)
Day 11 : NIGHT SKY : Revathi (Ready to Ship)
Day 12 : COUNTRY RED : Prabha Mathew (Ready to Ship)
Day 13 : CAPRI : Darlene Jacolik (Awaiting Address)
Day 14 : SUNFLOWER : Afton Warrick (Ready to Ship)
Day 15 : LAVENDER : Afton Warrick (Ready to Ship)
Day 16 : CAYENNE : Archana Bhargava - Twitter (Ready to Ship)
Day 17 : ACID GREEN : Kat Scott (Ready to Ship)
Day 18 : BRIGHT TURQUOISE : Lisa (Ready to Ship)
Day 19 : DUSK : Shraddha Vyas (Delivered)
Day 20 : AMELIA LAVENDER : lschweitzer - Instagram (Ready to Ship)
Day 21 : COASTAL : Denise Mitchell (Awaiting Address)
Day 22 : FUCHSIA : lschweitzer - Instagram (Ready to Ship)
Day 23 : ROYAL : pajtr (Ready to Ship)
Day 24 : ZEN GREY : AmyTLo (Ready to Ship)
Day 25 : PASTEL BLUE : Nissy Ephrain (Ready to Ship)

Week 1 : Prajakta Telang (Delivered)
Week 2 : Aarti Durvasula (Ready to Ship)
Week 3 : Kausalya Pandit (Delivered)
Week 4 : Bea (Ready to Ship)

Grand Finale : Sneha Deshpande (Delivered)

All those whose names are marked in RED, please email your shipping addresses to shruti[at]13woodhouseroad[dot]com

I will be shipping out the (Ready to Ship) packages tomorrow - Friday 21st Aug.

I will wait for ONE WEEK for the winners to get back to me with their addresses or else draw a new winner!!!


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Bella Parade 2015: Final Giveaway

Oh! The Bella Parade comes to an end and we have all enjoyed the journey thoroughly.

I am a week late with the results. My apologies.
I wasn't well for the first two days of the week, and then India lost its most beloved Ex-president - Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. It did not feel right to celebrate anything while the nation was mourning!

But now, I'm here with the winners list!!!

Ready to know who won???

This is the last week and you could be eligible for this HUGE prize!
To see who won it, please read through till the end of the post!! have fun...
A HALF YARD bundle of Bella Parade Solids and 100 spools of Aurifil!!! (4 different weights of all 25 colors!!!)

Here are the winners of the daily giveaways for the week...

Day21: The Bella solid was COASTAL
and the winner is  Denise Mitchell
Day22: The Bella solid was FUCHSIA
and the winner is @lschweitzer (from Instagram)
Day23: The Bella solid was ROYAL
and the winner is pajtr
Day24: The Bella solid was ZEN GREY
and the winner is @AmyTlo rom Twitter)
Day25: The Bella solid was  PASTEL BLUE
and the winner is Nissy Abraham Ephraim

Congratulations to all the winners and thank you for all the lovely comments you have posted. I am glad so many of you have participated and made this a fun journey together!

The winner of the mega Grand finale giveaway is

As the Bella Parade comes to an end, all Fabric and Thread  will go out in the post after 10th Aug...
I have a super exciting reason for the same... Stay tuned to know more...

Meanwhile, send me your addresses to shruti[at]13woodhouseroad[dot]com
Stay tuned for more fun in future!!