Friday, January 31, 2020

Making a quilt for someone you love

I have made so many quilts since the day I started quilting. A lot of them have been gifts to people I love. I did not realize it before, but I do know it now that there is a method I follow - unknowingly - when I am making a quilt for someone special. Today, I'm sharing it with you all.

So I have made numerous quilts since 2010. When I started quilting, I usually made baby quilts (with a few exceptions). And Aadi was little at the time. He was my favorite prop to photograph my quilts. So he always thought that every quilt I made was for him!

The first quilt I specifically made for someone special - not decided-to-gift-it-to-them-because-they-love-me-enough-to-overlook-the-flaws - was the one I made for Aadi. After giving away or selling all his quilts I knew I had to make one for the little guy. I had just received a panel of Cat in the Hat in a swap and I decided to make a simple quilt using it. He had recently watched Horton hears a Who and loved the panel. So I was sure he'd love these characters too. I wasn't wrong. You can see his glee in that picture!

Next was quilt I made for my car loving nephew - Parth. He was about to become a teenager and wanted a larger quilt. I ordered some racing car fabric for him specially and made one titled Vroom!

Next was the quilt that changed my world! I made this quilt specially for my husband - Rohit, my Father-in-law and my brother-in-law to celebrate 100 years of the family business. It is a portrait of Dada Ajoba - Rohit's great-grandfather who started the family business in absolutely adverse conditions and grew it to heights! He is the inspiration behind all Dandekars! Making a portrait of him was an honour in itself.

Next was a Hawaii Quilt I made for my brother - Chaitanya and his new bride - Rucha. It was a small quilt meant to go on the floor of the really tiny apartment that they called their first home. It has been loved over the years and it gives me so much pleasure seeing it being used for their son now!

Then came the iQuilt I made for my little brother - Chaitanya. This one was special because it marked the beginning of another era in portrait quilt making for me.

All of these quilts, and many more that I have made for my parents, friends, cousins, nephews & nieces, have gone through a similar process, though they look nothing like each other. So what is this process that I go through when I make these?

I spend a lot of time thinking. I normally spend a lot of time thinking about all the quilts I make. But usually I am thinking about something else and a quilt design pops into my head. Here - I am thinking specifically of what to make. Will it be a quilt to put on the wall or one meant to snuggle under?

I choose each fabric carefully. Again, this is true for every quilt that I make. But the difference here is that I think about every fabric with respect to person it is intended for. Do they like the print? Do they like the colors? Is it soft enough to cuddle under?

I put it together carefully. Again, not that I am careless with my other quilts, but I do take special care while putting these together. Maybe mainly because I do not want to go through the agony of finding the perfect fabric for it again.

I reminisce when I make them. I find that every time I am making a quilt for someone, I tend to think about them and my relationship with them while making it. It brings back so many memories that I fall in love with them - again!

I love the look on their faces when they receive it. It is the ultimate payment for a labor of love. The expressions on their faces are absolutely priceless and I am so happy to be able to actually gift them a hug!

Have you made a quilt for someone you love? How was your experience when you made it?
Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Free Motion Quilting - Why I love it?

Do you know what is my favorite part of making a quilt? The actual quilting process. The process where I take my finished quilt top along with the batting and backing to the sewing machine and stitch those layers together. I have made a lot of quilts with Straight line quilting lately, but my first love has always been Free Motion Quilting.

I first attempted Free Motion Quilting in 2010 - on a quilt I had made using my Mom's old clothes. I had the brilliant idea of using an old curtain as batting. It made the quilt super heavy to move. I was using my lovely little Betty (Bernette e56) at that time. 
After a tiring 2 days of stippling the quilt, 3 fingers of my right hand were numb for 8 days. So much so that I thought I had permanently damaged them. I pricked them with a pin every morning to check and was about to tell my husband that I needed to see a doctor for my numb fingers the day the pin hurt! Thankfully, there was no permanent damage, I realized my mistake and never repeated it again.

But that wasn't when I fell in love with Free Motion Quilting. I was just exploring it at that point. I was stumbling around and still trying to get comfortable. 
Then I got my Bernina 330!!! That was a game changer! Suddenly Free motion Quilting started feeling almost effortless. I have made some of my most striking quilts on it.

When I was using Emily - my Bernina 330 - I was sure that I did not need the BSR (Bernina Stitch Regulator). I thought I was skilled enough to do the job. And if I used it, I will never develop the skill and control I need to be a good Free Motion Quilter.

I made some super extensive FMQ-ed quilts before I was introduced to the magical BSR!

The BSR changed my life! I know its a very dramatic sentence, but it did wonders for my work. It took my FMQ to a whole new level. I had better control and my stitches were awesome.

My confidence grew and so did my finishing.

I felt like I had more control over my quilting than before. And the quality of my work grew exponentially. I will forever be thankful to Sabine Schiner who gave me the BSR when I bought Ross - my Bernina 710.
I love how FMQ softens the look of the quilt.

I also love how it adds character to a quilt. And makes artwork out of mere mug rugs!!!

And sometimes it creates pure drama.

It has the capacity to elevate the quilt dramatically.

I love how Free Motion Quilting makes my quilts look. Have you tried it? Do you love it or hate it?
Friday, January 24, 2020

My "Swayam" experience

It was on my way to the airport for my 2019 QuiltCon trip that I met Shilpa at my uncle's home and a new experience began. Shilpa had tried to reach out to me earlier, but somehow we never connected. After the unveiling of my Shivarjayabhishek quilt, she stayed in touch with me and we arranged to meet at my uncle's home in Mumbai. She was the twin sister of his son-in-law so it would be the perfect place to meet up. At that time I never imagined what was in store for me. The chat with Shilpa ended with an assurance from me to meet up after I come back and discuss the possibility of me speaking at a future Swayam event.

The event actually happened on July 2019 and it was an absolutely memorable one.

In May I met up with the content team of Swayam and they helped me prepare my talk. I was used to speaking in English. And though it is my mother tongue, I realized I did not speak fluent Marathi on stage. But Navin, Shilpa and Bhagyashree patiently helped me put in words what I meant to say. My first draft script was 30 pages! And I had about 20 minutes to speak. It was a tough job to edit it down without loosing important content. But the team was just brilliant..

As the date was nearing, we were constantly speaking on the phone. The week before the event, they even finalized my attire! That is how much seriously hard they work! On the day of the event itself, I felt confident and composed because I had prepared well. I usually speak extempore in my talks. This was the first time I was following a script.

There was another aspect that I was slightly nervous about. The talk was followed by a short Q&A session with Dr Uday Nirgudkar. For those who are not aware he is one of the senior journalists in India. And intelligent, learned (and always in the learning mode) he has studied a huge range of subjects that include, but are not limited to, IT , Infrastructure , education technology , finance , BPO and global marketing and politics. He has keen interest in arts and literature. Facing him was the biggest fear in my mind.

Another thing I was excited about was the presence of Padmavibhooshan Dr Raghunath Mashelkar as the chief guest. To get the blessings of a man who is so innovative and inspiring was just brilliant.

The first speaker was Dr Ujjwala Sahane. She told us her heart touching story of despair, gut and sheer bravery! Mother to a child who suffered a hearing impairment after a stroke at the age of 9 months, she took us with her on the journey of her deaf and mute daughter to become a well renowned Bharatnatyam Dancer. We witnessed the performance by Prerana (she was named Priyanka at birth, but her parents  changed her name to Prerana - meaning inspiration - because they wanted her to inspire others like she inspired them). Had I not known earlier that she cannot hear, I would have never believed it! She did not miss a single beat!

I was  set to speak after that. I was so touched by the story of Dr Ujjwala and Prerana that it took me a few moments to find my zone when I started speaking. You will see me fumbling for words in my talk in the beginning. But after a few minutes, I was more comfortable and later even enjoyed the talk myself.

After me was this energetic young guy - Amrut Deshmukh - known to Indians as the Booklet Guy! He made the app Booklet where he publishes a summary of one book every week! His story too was simply amazing! The way he started - by sending out broadcast messages on  WhatsApp - and then WhatsApp actually banning him for spamming - to now having a dedicated app for his service! He is such an inspiring person. I love books, but I made sure I concentrated on 'what' I was reading after listening to him!

The audience was amazing. A lot of them came to meet me after the event. It was truly humbling to see the love pouring from so many of them!

This was all the speakers, sponsors, Dr Nirgudkar and Dr Mashelkar at the end of the event.

Apart from the wonderful opportunity they also gave us each a wonderful personalized trophy to take home. I know I'm going to cherish it all my life.

But the main heroes of this wonderful event were the members of the organization team - The Swayam crew. These guys worked tirelessly to make it a seamless experience for everyone - speakers  as well as the visitors. The program began on time AND also ended on time! It is an almost impossible feat when there are at least 5 people giving a total of 8 talks! But these guys are known for doing it with perfection.

We all left the auditorium that day taking home much more than what we expected to get.

Here's the video of my talk at Swayam. Though I'm speaking in Marathi, the video has English subtitles for all my non-Marathi speaking friends.

And here's the video of my interview with Dr Nirgudkar. He asked questions that I had never expected and maybe I gave him an answer or two that he never expected either!!! At the end of it I realized, there was absolutely nothing to be afraid of.

Here is a link to the Swayam YouTube Channel. I really recommend you watch a few  of their videos. They are all really inspiring stories of grit, talent and wish to be someone different! Each speaker has been chosen for what they offer to the society. And it is a treat to listen to them all.

You can find them on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter. You can also visit their website to know more about what they do.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

BERNINA needle punch tool - product review and tutorial

I have been a Bernina Brand Ambassador since 2014. One of my first purchases was a needle punch tool that I used to make a lovely quilt using some soft Merino Wool fibres I had purchased from the Bernina Creative Center. Today I am going to show you how you can use the BERNINA Needle Punch Tool.
First a little about the product. 
1. Different tool for different hook types. The hook type of your machine determines which tool you will be using. The mechanism of the machine varies depending on the hook type. My 330 has a CB hook while my 710 has a Rotary hook. I have the CB hook tool which does not work on the 710. So make sure that you tell your dealer the model number of your machine before buying it.
2. The needles are sharp. The needles that accompany the tool are not just sharp, but also have serrated edges. So handle them carefully.
3. The needles are delicate. The needles are very delicate and can bend even with the slightest pressure. A bent needle usually breaks in the process. So be careful when handling it and even while using it.
4. You have to work VERY slowly. The needle punch tool is not meant for sprint sessions. You have to work very slowly to make it work without breaking. Be careful while moving the fabric and the edges of the needle might get caught in it and bend/break.
All said, I love this tool for the innumerable opportunities it opens up for me. I can not only use it to felt wool, but also to  create a textured surface by punching roving (fibers that have been carded and combed, but not spun), yarn, or fabrics into a base or background fabric. 
Today I will show you how to make this cute little mini quilt using some merino wool.

Material Required :
Felt – Assorted Fibers
Cotton batting (used as base to felt fibers) you can also use a Felt Sheet instead.
Thread (for quilting)
Backing and binding fabric
Bernina Needle Punch Tool – Check the compatibility with your machine and buy accordingly
Bernina Free Motion Quilting Foot (Number 29/29C) (for Quilting)
Instructions :

1. Gather all your Felt Fibers.

2. Cut them up into strips slightly longer than your batting(or felt sheet) piece. Start laying them on the piece of batting (or a felt sheet) in one direction. Continue till you cover most of the surface.

3. Now cut strips slightly larger than the width of the piece. Start ‘weaving’ your felt fibers into the strips you laid out before. Continue till you are completely satisfied with the look.

This is what my piece looked like after I was done. I did remove a few pieces and cut away a few while I felted it.

Carefully pick up your piece and take it to the machine.

4. Attach the Bernina Needle Punch Tool to the machine as per the instructions included.


5. Start from the center and work at a slow speed, making sure that all the fibers are needle felted into the batting / felt.

6. Now using the Bernina Free Motion Quilting Foot (Number 29/29C) or the Bernina Stitch Regulator quilt the top using a design of your choice.

I used a black Aurifil 50 wt thread both on the top and bottom to quilt it.
Have you tried the BERNINA needle punch tool? Make sure to visit your local dealer and try it out. You will love it. The possibilities are endless!
Friday, January 17, 2020

Making cheaper quilts

The Indian market is very different from its international counterparts. I have been selling the quilts I make for a very long time and when I decided to participate in a especially well known exhibition (show) at the end of this year I knew I had to make a bunch of quilts that will sell at a lower cost so that I cover my costs.
I normally make quilts that sell for INR 5000 and above for Single Quilts (60" x 90") and INR 8500 and above for Double Quilts (90" x 90"). I usually make them in these two sizes only unless it is a custom order in which case the cost goes up to INR 7500 for a single quilt and INR 10000 for a double one. The cost basically depends on the cost of the material and complexity of the design. 
When I was approached earlier this year by an organization that arranges an annual curated exhibition, I knew it was an offer I could not refuse. But the costs involved really made me think it over again. In the end I knew it was worth it to participate and decided that I am going to take a risk. 
But before I even got started making the quilts themselves, there was some thinking to do. And a lot of calculations.

My quilts are admired a lot by people who see them, but very rarely are sold in India, especially in exhibitions. I asked a lot of people for feedback and they told me that they found my products to be costly. A lot of them said that the price was justified, but out of their price range.
So I knew that if I have to make great sales at the event, my quilts have to be priced lower, a lot lower than they are tight now.
I knew I could not reduce the cost of material. And of course, now that I have a studio assistant, I could not even think about reducing the labor cost. So how do I make a quilt that is cheaper?
By simplifying the process, of course! 
First, I decided that I want to make all my quilts using stripes of different colors. I'm calling my collection "Stripped ease". Because it is striped and is easy to make and the word is kind of memorable!
I also decided that I am going to use all solids for the front of the quilt, thus bringing my material cost down by almost 15%. 
I decided to keep using printed fabric for the back, but found a cheaper alternative. There is a shop here that sells export reject bedsheets (gasp! Yes I'm using sheets to back my quilts!) The quality of these sheets is absolutely awesome. They are also 100% cotton and come in lovely prints. They are usually export rejects because the sheets and pillow covers packaged together do not match! Who cares if it does not match!!! I also get a bonus 1 meter of fabric for free!!! All of this brings down the cost of the material by another 10%. 
Now the design. I tested my design and I managed to make a DOUBLE QUILT from start to finish - fabric selection to hand binding - in 5 hour only!!! FIVE HOURS!!! That was awesome. But I'm sure that is not how I want to make it. So I tried assembly line quilting and made 4 single quilts in just under 15 hours!!! Cutting and piecing took about 4 hours (for ALL the quilts). Quilting another 4 hours. And binding took another 7. That cuts down even the labour cost!!!
So I ended up making a range of signature quilts that I can sell for for just INR 3500 (Single) and INR 5500 (Double)!!!
this is just one of the many designs I will be working on. Each quilt will be unique in its color combination and composition. And it will keep the user warm on the cold winter nights.
The backing of this one is a lovely Ikat style bed sheet in shades if blues. The red binding really makes the quilt pop!
I also know that I'm going to have to make about a hundred of them, so having a simpler process will help in finishing them on time.
What ideas do you have to make quilts that you can sell at a cheaper price so that you can make more profits without feeling that you did not get your fair share of the profit? Do let me know in the comments!!!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Tiny, Precise, Piecing: Tips by Emily Lang

Welcome all, here's the first guest post on my blog! Yay!!! 
Today on my blog, I have invited my BFF, my sister from another mother - Emily Lang. Yes, she is the one my Bernina 330 is named after! She is super well known for all the tiny piecing that she does. That's the reason she is talking today about tiny, precise piecing!
Hello! I’m Emily Lang, you might remember me from past guest appearances here on Shruti’s blog, or from my own blog and instagram, Mommy’s Nap Time. I've been sewing for about twenty years, and fell in love with quilting after my daughter was born. I love to design quilts, and I love quilt math! Writing patterns is my passion, and I have published over 30 patterns available in various quilt magazines worldwide. Check out my newest pattern Shades Quilt available on Craftsy.
I’m here today to talk about tiny piecing, and ways to maintain precision while piecing with small pieces.

  • Use your scraps! Tiny piecing only requires small scraps, so grab some of your favorite fabrics and cut some 1” x 4” strips, and some 2 1/2” x 2 1/2” squares.
  • Cutting matters! It is very important to measure and cut accurately. There is no room for error in cutting accuracy, every little millimeter of wobble will show in the end product!
  • Switch your needle plate out for a straight stitch needle plate. This needle plate has a smaller opening, and is less likely to pull your fabric in!
  • Lower your stitch length. For regular piecing I would use a 2.5 stitch length, for tiny piecing I would take it down to just under 2.
  • To avoid loose stitches at the beginning of your seam, stitch through a scrap before beginning your seam, leave the threads connected, and start chain piecing your small pieces. Some people call this a leader / ender, but I just use the same scrap until it’s too messy to use anymore.
  • Always sew with a scant 1/4” seam allowance. Accuracy is much harder when we try to use an 1/8” seam allowance, there isn’t any need to reduce the seam allowance.
  • Press the seams open. This reduces bulk and helps to see when lining up the little pieces.
  • For half square triangles (HST) cut larger squares (2 1/2” x 2 1/2”) and sew the HST units in the normal fashion. After you press the finished HST, trim each one to 1 1/4” x 1 1/4”. It’s easier to accurately sew a larger unit, trimming it will provide the teeny end product, without the craziness of sewing a 1” bias seam!
  • Sew all the little bits together. Log cabins, friendship stars, improv., anything is possible!

With these tips you’re ready to start a mini project! The practice piecing here would make a great front for a zippered pouch, or it might become a mug rug or mini quilt!
Friday, January 10, 2020

My bullet journal

I have been talking about my goal setting and planning for the new year part in the last two posts. In keeping with the topic, I would like to share something today that I have never shared on my blog before. My bullet journal.

I discovered bullet journal in 2016. At that time I had discovered and fell in love with Chronodex. Though it was visually more appealing, drawing the chronodex itself every day was a task. I found myself using it less and less when I was busy. So the whole point of using a journal to organize my life was lost.

But I ended up with a beautifully documented 6-7 months!

Around this time, Pinterest took me on the Bullet Journal Train and sure I did enjoy my ride!!! I loved the freedom it offered. And over the months the appearance has sure chaanged. I feel it has transitioned along with my own growth as a person. Somewhere in these years I crossed over the big 4-0 and I feel I have become a much mature person today.

The early days were bright and colorful, sometimes chaotic. BTW, I never stuck to the Dukan diet. It was too much work to cook separate meals for myself.

This was the time when I launched my old website. This page documents all the preparations I did for that.

I also played around with some layouts and styles. Some looked pretty but really did not have any space for any specific planning.

By 2019, my journal had started becoming more and more minimalist! But The entire March 2018-February 2019 phase was so busy that I barely used my journal except for writing what needed attention/was planned that day.

But I did splurge my journal with attention on special occasions. And I love making random lists in it.

At this moment, I am using a combination of a journal with a weekly layout and a notepad with a daily list. The journal has a monthly view for each month where all major events are marked. I add other things as needed.

Then comes the weekly view. Every week is marked and then details are filled.

Along with this weekly layout in my journal, I use a list for every day. This list has been inspired by Palula Rizzo's The Power of Lists. When I read the book, I liked the concept and it has been working really well for me. 

 Apart from these, I also have a gratitude journal that I write in every day (just 3  things I am grateful for) and a financial journal (that tracks my income and expenses everyday). I also have a private journal that I write into when I feel like. Aadi's studies has a separate journal where we keep track of what we are working on and what we have to work on. That is his training for using a journal for himself. He loves my colourful journals and hopes to some day have one for himself too. I would love it if he has one.

One of the most important thing I realized as I went through my old journals for this post is the memories they document. So many things come back to me when I look at a page - and not all of it is written in it! Sometimes its juts one line drawn or just a small star somewhere o nthe page.