Tuesday, January 26, 2021

I'm off on a new journey!!!

 I cannot believe that my last post on the blog was way back in February 2020. So much has happened since then. Well, the  entire world has changed between these two dates and so has mine!

Most of those who follow me  on my social media might be aware of it, but somewhere during these last 10-ish months, I got some time on my hand to look at my life objectively. And I decided to make one huge change.

You all know that I took up quilting on a sabbatical from my career in Architecture roughly 10 years back. At that time, I decided to slow down because I was in a phase in my life where earning money was not a priority. As I progressed through the past 10 years, I started looking at what I thought was a hobby and turned it in to a business. 

I was happy with how things were progressing, but I had a big setback in August 2019 due to the floods at my home. My studio had about 36" of water in it for 4 days. A lot of my fabric, notions and furniture were damaged. The studio also sustained severe structural damage as the building was over 80 years old.

I moved whatever little was left from my stash to my home and started working from there. But I could feel the magic fizzing out. After making the huge Shivarajyabhishek quilt, I had started feeling burnt out. So I focused on teaching and was busy filling up my calendars for 2020 and 2021. 

And then, COVID happened! All my plans were thrown away. I did not want to teach online as it does not give m e the same satisfaction of a face-to-face class. So work trickled out and I focused on using up whatever stash of fabric I had on hand and made masks.

I started donating masks to those who needed them - Doctors, patients, children, healthcare workers, Essential workers, reporters etc. And then I saw the policemen working with handkerchiefs tied to their faces. I wanted to help them. So I went ahead an asked how many masks would be required for the entire district police force. 

When they got back to me with the number, around 10000, I knew I could not do it alone. I called up a friend and a fellow  bagmaker - Nilima - and told her that I really wanted to do this, would she help me with organizing a drive to get those masks made by women in the city. She agreed and we got to work and before the day ended, we had a group of 25+ women awaiting further instructions. All they knew was they had to use their own material to make the masks and they had to make them fast! 

Within a week, we had made more than 12000 masks for them and donated to them. This activity not only gave us  the satisfaction of giving back to the society, but more importantly filled our lockdown with a purpose.

 I got up early each day and worked on this project apart from whatever else I had to do around home. Since the boys were home too, we did have a lot of fun together too! Rohit has recently started farming, so we spent a lot of time there too.

We also adopted these two wonderful siblings and they have brought us a lot of joy and laughter! The black and  white one is a boy and we have named him Siri. The golden one is a girl and we have named her Alexa!

Now they're a lot bigger and not so quiet anymore!!! 

But apart from all of this, 2020 is the year I will remember in a much different way!

While all of this was going on, I realized that my future as a travelling quilting instructor might be on hold for quite some time now and I needed to find an alternative.

That was when I found WhitehatJr. It is a leading Indian Edutech company that teaches kids between the ages of 6-16 to code. I was an architect and then a quilter, so how am I qualified to teach coding?

Well, when I made my 40 things to do before 40 list, I had put "Learn a  new language" on my list. And instead of learning a human language I went ahead and learnt C,C++. I had no idea it would be useful later!!! 

Also, I had been taught LOGO, COBOL and BASIC in school and I had followed  it up with a MS-DOS certification after school. So my basics were clear. I went through three rounds of interviews followed by many many hours of training and assessments (I still have to do that) before I was eligible to teach. And what a  wonderful journey it has been!!!

I have met students from so many different places all over the world - From Florida to Los  Angeles to Dehradun to Pune!!! It feels awesome to play a pivotal role in igniting these bright minds! 

More than anything I was happy to have a purpose! To work towards something. To learn something new. My laptop has replaced my sewing machine. And I am working crazy hours (2.30 am to 6.30 am - for US kids - and then again 3.00 pm to 7 pm - for Indian kids), but I am enjoying it and am happy!!! 

It hasn't been easy. From being the master of your own time, to making plans at least 3 weeks in advance, it  is quite difficult and needs a lot of preparation. But I will talk about it in my later posts.

This is only to let you all know that my blog will cease to be dedicated to the quilting aspect of my life and have a lot more glimpses from my new world too!!! 

So feel free to unsubscribe if you feel so. 

The quilting industry has given me so much. Wonderful opportunities, success, fame and glory! But deep in my heart, I know its time to say goodbye to it. I will continue to quilt, but no more in a professional capacity. You will see my quilts  pop up here once in a while, but those will be the ones I will make for my pleasure rather than for sale.

Friday, February 28, 2020

10 Things that told me it was a business not a hobby.

On this blog, from time to time, I  share some of my experiences while I was converting my passion of quilting into a profitable business.
Today I will tell you about the 10 things that made me realize that I what I wanted to pursue was not a hobby, but a business.
When I started quilting in 2010, I always thought of it as a means to occupy myself while I was on a sabbatical. I was an architect earning a five figure monthly income in a small town. I was working with one of the best architects in the town and had complete creative freedom in the office! I could see myself going places! I had plans of doing my Masters and maybe even a Doctoral Degree. 
But then, I fell sick! I contacted Chikungunya. I was among the few unfortunate people for whom, the joint pain lasts for months.
I taught myself to sew when I was working with the women in the slums of Sangli - 'up'cycling old clothes into beautiful items of use.  To be honest, in the beginning, I did not even enjoy it much. I had the typical mindset of an Indian career woman - who thought sewing was 'below' her. I had grown up watching Niroopa Roy in old Bollywood movies! 
Over months and years, I taught myself how to sew. And with every stitch, I got better... And my confidence grew. I did not even realize when I fell in love with it!
Earlier I had made quilts for my family and friends, some of them paid me for making it while some didn't. But I was happy and content with how things were progressing!
And one year (I think that was in 2012) I exhibited my work for the first time at a local craft fair. I was super nervous. At the end of it I was pleasantly surprised. I sold 7 quilts! I have been participating in that craft fair (we call them exhibitions in India) every year since then (with the exception of 2015 when I did my first solo exhibition of quilts in August). 
That was the time I realized I could earn money from selling the stuff I made. But I still considered it as a 'temporary' phase - to occupy myself while I recovered and my son grew up. 
It was in December 2012, that I realized my own potential. My husband's family business was completing 100 years! A huge milestone. I wanted to gift my husband, his father and brother something precious to celebrate the occasion. It takes a lot of efforts to keep up the legacy left by someone. And all three of them have done a brilliant job of it! Being out of work for over two years meant I had a shoestring (maybe only half of a shoestring) budget.
On one of my regular Pinterest adventure, I discovered the world of Portrait quilts! I came across the fabulous self-portrait by Sandra Bruce. I sent off an email to her and after discussion, I actually ended up NOT making one in that technique. I chose to make one using raw edge applique instead. It took me three months to complete the quilt. And I made it using more than 3500 (that's when I knew counting was hopeless) pieces of fabrics! Some as tiny as 5 mm! The day I finished making the quilt, I knew that I knew what I was doing! I knew I was good at it! I knew this was going to be something more!
 I knew deep down at that time that I wanted to do this all my life.
I knew I wanted to give up AutoCad and play on my Bernina instead.
But I still did not know that it would be my business.

What are the 10 things that made me realize that quilting would be my business and not a hobby?

I come from a business family. And I wouldn't be wrong if I say that I have been a business woman since I was in eighth grade. I used to make Diwali Lanterns from Styrofoam (Thermocol) sheets at that time and sell them in my uncle's shop. I involved my brothers in the 'venture' and even shared my 'profits' with them for helping me sell. I planned 'targets' and celebrated 'successes'. I also 'reviewed' my strategy when sales slowed down and changed my 'approach' by lowering my prices when the competition became fierce (The son of the shopkeeper next to my uncle's shop also started making and selling lanterns - he was 5 years older and better at it than me!).
I also had a successful practice as an Architect before I got married to Rohit and moved to Sangli. In the three years of practice as an Architect, I had single-handedly completed over 12 projects - that included residential, commercial and even industrial buildings - and jointly (with a dear friend) finished 6 others! I had ample experience when it came to running my own business and what it looked (and felt) like.
Here are 10 things that told me that what I was doing was a business and not a hobby.
1.  I changed the name of my blog. Earlier, I had been blogging as 'Shrutiz'. It was a poor little blog on Wordpress. I knew that if I wanted to be successful as a quilter, I wanted a name that will not 'brand' me. I wanted a name that would help me be a part of the crowd and let people look at my work with an unbiased view. After a lot of thought, I settled on 13 Woodhouse Road. It is actually the pre-independence address of my home! It was later renamed to North Shivaji Nagar. 13 Woodhouse Road gave me an identity that was not cloaked by my 'Indian-ness'. I was one of the crowd. Now I knew that the comments - good or bad - I received were directed at my work and not at me.
2. I started planning. This was the first tell-tale sign. I would take a calendar and write down what I wanted to do and when. I would also plan my blog content accordingly or plan my quilts according to what was happening on my blog. I was thinking ahead - about 2-3 months. That was new. While it was a hobby, I just made what made me happy in that moment! 
3. I started thinking about pricing. I started looking at my quilts with money on my mind. I wasn't selling them at this point, but I kept on working out how much I would make if I sold it. I did not just wonder. I wrote down my costs and added labor cost and then some profit. My pricing system was not refined. But I was working it out - on paper! While it was a hobby, I was happy to get just the cost of material! But now I wanted more!
4. I started paying attention to trends. I started reading blogs by other quilters, who were selling their work, and observing what the trends were. Which were the fabrics they were using? I started spending a lot of time looking at the 'coming soon' sections of the online quilt shops I ordered from. I was once again, looking ahead, almost a month or two. I was no longer working with what I have and what I love. I explored color combinations that I would normally not work with because it was 'in'.
5. I started paying attention to my own work. I compared my work with some of the biggest names in my field. I worked hard to improve my work. I worked on my finishing. When I visited blogs of people like Elizabeth or Rita , I zoomed into their images and looked at it in detail. I followed their tutorials. I imitated their color choices. I worked hard to make my work look like theirs. Earlier, I had been doing what I loved, I did not care if it was not the 'best'. I was doing it to make myself happy. 
6. I started experimenting. I took all the knowledge I had assimilated and started experimenting with what I had.
No batting? Use fleece blankets!
No designer fabric? Buy lovely tea towels from D Mart and cut them up! 
I experimented to make myself stand out. 
I clicked pictures of stuff online and descriptions of them, printed them out and scoured the local markets to look for alternatives. I did this not just for ease, but to bring down the cost of making my quilts. Earlier I did not bother with my cost price as it was for myself!
7. I was ready to stand out. I started making quilts that were 'me'. I found my own language and developed it. I looked at anything I liked and made it 'my way'. Sometimes, it meant using a totally new technique or otherwise, new material even! I wanted to leave a mark on people.
8. I went to the USA for QuiltCon. I decided to spend more than 2,50,000/- Rupees (I ended up spending much more than that) to visit Austin, Texas for QuiltCon. I had no plans for any sightseeing. All my attention and my money was focused on assimilating all the knowledge that I could. I also raised my own money for the trip! I sold my quilts to raise the sum. I set myself a target and worked towards it. Earlier, I had never been so focused on money goals for something that was supposed to be a hobby. I remember, when I went to Dubai, I wanted to buy a designer purse much more than I wanted to buy quilting supplies on my first visit to a brick and mortar quilt store. I was excited about the visit to Classic Quilts & Quilting, but the thought of all my adventures was much more exciting.
9. I streamlined production. For an upcoming craft fair, I hired someone to make stuff for me. When I realized I could not make enough stuff to make the profit I wanted to at the annual craft fair, I hired a woman to make some stuff for me. Soon she had to bring a friend along and I had staff for the manufacturing. I made notes and found the fastest way to get stuff made from them. I worked out how to create an assembly line to make everything that I wanted to make for the fair. Earlier, I would have shown up at the fair with whatever I had made and hoped that they sold.
10. I decided not to go back to my job. In the end it all came to the day when I said to myself, "This is what I want to do for the rest of my life." And I also wanted this to give me enough income to replace my full time day-job. I did not need to earn that money. I was fortunate enough to have a husband who could support me if I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. But I wanted my own identity.
It was at the end of 2013 that I finally announced my decision of not going back to my job. I started exploring avenues of making money other than making quilts and selling them. I started teaching how to make quilts my way. My classes prospered and it gave me confidence to take the plunge and make this into a full time business.
I have been running this venture as a business for a couple of years now, and fortunately, have had my share of success. I have also seen failures - even BIG ones. But they have only helped me grow my business further. 
This blog is the space where I share all my experiences of being a business woman along with being a quilter. I am hoping that my words might be able to guide someone to convert their passion into profit!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Rock that Exhibition - FREE eBook download

Have you ever participated in an Exhibition or Craft Fair or Craft Show whatever you might call it and been overwhelmed by all the work you need to do to get your stall up and running? Or is this the first time you intend to participate in one?
I have written an eBook which will give you a clear step-by-step plan not just to prepare for the exhibition but also to make a profit that you desire.

Here is a quick sign-up link for you to download the ebook.

If you want a quick sneak peek at what you will find in the eBook, here's a small excerpt from it.
The second chapter in the book deals with how to prepare for preparing all the stuff that you will need to make for the exhibition. The following is a part of that chapter that helps you decide which products to choose to make.
What products to make
            If you are anything like me, there is a list of 1000 ideas for products that you can make ready in your head at all times. It becomes VERY difficult in choosing what to make for an upcoming exhibition. Word of caution, It makes sense to make only 8-9 different categories and then making a lot of variety in each category, especially if you are short on time.
            If you have a lot of time, go ahead and make anything that you want. Choose the best 15-20 products that you make and make 50 of each (or even more)!
            If you are short on time, here are a few guidelines to help you decide what
to make:
  • How much profit margin does each product have? Choose the ones that will make you the most money – you will reach your target faster. If I make exclusive tote bags I can earn a 100% profit per bag i.e. ₹1250 as against the ₹70 profit that each pouch will earn me. I will have to sell 18 pouches or 1 tote bag to earn the same amount of profit. So if I was short on time, I would make 20 tote bags instead of making 360 pouches.
  • Select the products that you have made numerous times. Now is not the time to experiment. It will be a time waster. Work on products that you’re confident about. I am much more confident with tote bags with magnetic snaps. I will not usually start making zippered tote bags for the upcoming exhibition. But I will definitely learn how to make one as soon as this exhibition ends so that I can make them for my next one.
  • Can you get help? Hire somebody or ask your friends to make some things for you. More often than not, help is just a phone call away. I am very lucky in this aspect. I have a bunch of friends who come over to help me with fabric selection, packing and pricing. I also invite my students (who already know how to make the item) to help me with preparation of my exhibition.
  • If you have a product that is simply unique to you – MAKE IT! Even though you have a strong suspicion that it might not sell, make it and display it prominently just so it attracts the crowd. Sometimes, your intuition works best. So even if you have a product that takes longer to make and earns comparatively lesser margin go ahead and make it!
Follow your gut!
Don't forget to sign up to get your link to download the FREE eBook. Click here to sign up.
Whats more? I have even made a Facebook group for all the people who are using the book to help them increase their sales at the Exhibitions. The link to the Facebook Group will be in the email that you get when you sign up. 
I'm hoping you will join all of us in the Facebook Group to cheer each other as we slay our goals!!!
Friday, February 21, 2020

Batch Working : How I use it to keep me sane

I am a creative person with a thousand ideas running through my mind at any given time. And it is really difficult for me to stay on top of everything. There is just too much to do. How do I manage to work on everything that I want to do? I am sharing my secret with you. It will definitely help you be more productive in your work.
If you have been following me you know I love to do a lot of things. I make quilts, I teach quilting, I teach online too, I also have a long arm machine in my studio and do a lot of long arming. I also mentor creative entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses. I blog, I am an influencer, I am a board member of an international organization and I also work on one of its task forces. Apart from all of this, I also am a wife to a wonderful husband and a mom to an energetic tween. I love every aspect of my life and aim to live it to the fullest. I not just want to do everything, but to enjoy it too.
How do I manage to do it? Firstly, I do not do it all! Neither do you have to. Realistically, you cannot do it all. So let us find the next best thing to do. Do as much as you can: one thing at a time.

The best way that works for me is to do my work in batches. I combine activities together and work on them at a time, be it at home or in my business.
I have set aside Tuesday afternoons for my “home” duties. This usually starts with making a meal plan. We cook each meal fresh (so no making in large batches and freezing meals for me). So that means planning for 3 meals every day. I already have a reference plan ready (an outline of sorts – like Monday breakfast is leftovers / eggs) I just spend 30 minutes finalizing the actual meals. Then I make a list of stuff I will need for the meals. I then go to my kitchen and check the items I already have on hand, crossing them off my list. Now what is left in the list is my shopping list! Armed with this list and another one of other stuff around the house that I need to buy, I head for a quick shopping trip to the market. Doing this on a Tuesday means I’m not distracted with Aadi being at home. I put away everything as soon as I reach home and my maid preps all the veggies for the week as per my schedule. I also schedule my weekly cleaning and organizing chores for the same evening. That way I only have to spend one evening a week taking care of the essential t hings at home. I am lucky to have maids to come and clean every day for me. That also leaves me with enough time every day to spend on my business and keeps my weekends free to enjoy with my boys!
Batch working
In the business front too I work in batches. I do too many things in my business, making quilts, teaching quilting, creating online courses for quilters, long arm quilting, mentoring women entrepreneurs, creating courses for women entrepreneurs, writing my blog, supporting local rural quilt makers, making quilts for my own pleasure, participating in craft shows and exhibitions, public speaking, and so much more!!! And I take all of it seriously. 
I usually keep aside evenings and Tuesday mornings for my online work. It includes a different thing for every week of the month. The first Tuesday of each month is spent planning the month. I also keep an eye on the following month so that I have no surprises coming up. I take out my calendar and mark days that Aadi has holidays (I have a lot of interruptions when he is home) and then proceed to mark the "Focus" of the day on each day. That way I am aware every day what my focus for that week is. 
I teach quilting in my studio 2 days every week (only mornings). So Monday and Thursday mornings are blocked for my classes. The afternoons on those days are usually spent on creating stuff enough that my assistant Rukaiyya is busy for the week. 
I keep my Saturdays loose. I spend them as I want. If I have too much going on, I even use the day to just unwind and relax. Or if I know I have a busy week ahead, I use the day to work either in the studio or in my home office. This gives me wriggle room every week. That way I do not feel tied up. I also make sure that I spend the afternoon cuddling with my son on Saturdays so that both of us can stay up late when we go out for dinner in the evening. 
Some key points I take care to remember when I am working in batches :
  1. Look at the month as a whole. Also keep an eye on the following month.
  2. Do not focus on just one area. I also use a yearly calendar to mark the months I travel to teach. That way I know what is coming up next.
  3. Combine similar activities together. I combine working on projects for Rukaiyya to finish with my quilting classes days because the time is not enough to concentrate on my huge quilt, but not so less that I can just ignore it. 
  4. Make sure you get some fresh air - EVERY DAY
  5. Plan with consideration to timelines. Be aware of your deadline. That way you know how much time you should be spending on something.
  6. Say NO to things that you cannot accommodate. You will easily find me refusing opportunities to speak on weekends. Unless it is a very important event to me or it is one of my quilting workshops, I don't usually take up any engagements on weekends (especially Sundays)
  7. Delegate. Find someone who can do your tasks and let them do it. I know it is hard. They might not do it your way, but they will get it done. And given enough time they will do it 'almost' like you did. I always hand bound my quilts. I was so sure that no one else will be able to do it like me that I never bothered teaching anyone else. Btu once I taught Rukaiyya she has been doing a flawless job
Most important thing : Enjoy what you do! The most important things is to enjoy what you are actually doing! There is no point in beating yourself up over not doing something properly when you do not love it in the first place!!!
Do you also use batch working to increase your productivity? If yes, how do you do it? Any ideas that will smooth out my wrinkles? If you haven't tried it before would you like to give it a go? Or is what you are doing working for you already? I'd love to know!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Shivarajyabhishek : My humongous dream project

Last year in January, I completed what was my dream project for a long time now. The Shivarajyabhishek. We are celebrating the 390th birth anniversary of Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj tomorrow (19th February 2020). I just realized that I haven't really shared the story behind the quilt. So here it is.

Before I delve into the details of the quilt, I’d like to say something about the subject. The quilt depicts the scene of the coronation of Shrimant Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

According to Wikipedia: Born as Shivaji Bhonsle in 1627/1630 – his year and date of birth are disputed, he was an Indian warrior king and a member of the Bhonsle Maratha clan. Shivaji carved out an enclave from the declining Adilshahi sultanate of Bijapur that formed the genesis of the Maratha Empire. In 1674, he was formally crowned as the Chhatrapati (monarch) of his realm at Raigad.

Over the course of his life, Shivaji engaged in both alliances and hostilities with the Mughal Empire, Sultanate of Golkonda, and Sultanate of Bijapur, as well as the English, Portuguese, and French colonial powers. Shivaji's military forces expanded the Maratha sphere of influence, capturing and building forts, and forming a Maratha navy. Shivaji established a competent and progressive civil rule with well-structured administrative organisations. He revived ancient Hindu political traditions and court conventions and promoted the usage of Marathi and Sanskrit, rather than Persian, in court and administration.

Shivaji's legacy was to vary by observer and time but he began to take on increased importance with the emergence of the Indian independence movement, as many elevated him as a proto-nationalist and hero of the Hindus. Particularly in Maharashtra, debates over his history and role have engendered great passion and sometimes even violence as disparate groups have sought to characterise him and his legacy.

Shivaji was crowned king of the Marathas in a lavish ceremony at Raigad on 6 June 1674. In the Hindu calendar it was on the 13th day (trayodashi) of the first fortnight of the month of Jyeshtha in the year 1596. Gaga Bhatt officiated, holding a gold vessel filled with the seven sacred waters of the rivers Yamuna, Indus, Ganges, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri over Shivaji's head, and chanted the Vedic coronation mantras. After the ablution, Shivaji bowed before Jijabai and touched her feet. Nearly fifty thousand people gathered at Raigad for the ceremonies. Shivaji was entitled Shakakarta ("founder of an era") and Chhatrapati ("paramount sovereign"). He also took the title of Haindava Dharmodhhaarak (protector of the Hindu faith).

Being a native of the land that was once under his rule, and growing up hiking to one of his forts – Ajinkyatara - at every possible opportunity, I have always respected him. There was just so much to learn from him and to be inspired by! When I started quilting, and especially making portrait quilts, I wanted to make one that will pay tribute to the mighty king that he was. Especially today, when the nation is in a state of unrest, communal tensions on the rise and a general state of apathy and intolerance around us, we all need to be reminded of the glorious and righteous past that we have had.

Many artists have made an effort to pay their tributes through their art be it films, songs, poetry, literature, painting or even rangoli! It was 4 years back that the idea started taking form in my mind. I wanted to make a portrait of Shivaji Maharaj. But every idea that came, did not feel right. It did not feel BIG enough to do justice to the hero.

I decided to make the scene of his coronation. It had everything, grandeur, glamour and grace. I thought I would make the quilt at a HUGE 96” x 40”. But still, the size was too small for all the details I wanted to put in it. I knew I could not make it larger, not on my Bernina 710 – Ross!

I wanted to make it bigger. Like at least 8 feet tall. I had no idea how I was going to make something that big. I needed a full sized print to create a pattern and the idea of printing out God-knows-how-many prints on my meagre A4 printer and then taping them together was not at all appealing. There would be just too much area for errors. Also, the images I had did not have a good enough resolution to be printed that big. Plus how was the paper going to survive being a reference point for the quilt?

I remember exactly when I found the solution. And no it was not in the shower (where I get the most brilliant ideas). I was on my bike, coming back after dropping Aadi to the swimming pool and was waiting for the signal to turn green. As I looked at a HUGE billboard I remembered seeing one with the exact same painting on it. I had an hour to spare that I had planned on spending grocery shopping. I just ditched my plans (the groceries can wait) and drove to Eagle Arts – the place I knew printed billboards. I was simply overjoyed that they were actually the ones who had printed that billboards and YES(!) they still had the image saved on their computer. They could print it to 256” x 96” (that was as big as their printer could print). I immediately placed an order for the print. Added advantage – the billboard material would be durable enough to survive whatever I put it through while working on the quilt!

The next day I received my print and I was roaring to go. But first, of course, fabric shopping! I laid the print on the floor and opened only the first 60” – There was no space ANYWHERE in my house / studio where I could open the print completely so I was always looking at it 40-60” at a time. I had made swatch cards from the Moda shade card during Bella Parade last year. I got those and just flung the colours I could see on the quilt. Then I gathered them all, went to the local market and matched the shades and bout over 75 meters of fabric!!! Since then, I have had to buy about 700 meters more.

I laid the print on the floor and covered it with a non-tearing tracing paper film (known as Garware film here). It is more transparent than the usual tracing paper and does not tear unless cut with a blade. It comes as a roll that is about 40” wide. I manually posterized the image as I went and made a pattern. I then planned on tracing it onto the background fabric, but could not find a big enough space to trace it. So I traced it onto a lightweight iron on interfacing that was also 40” wide. I then ironed that onto the fabric and stitched through it at every 9” to hold it in place just because I did not trust the glue.

I covered it with freezer paper and traced the entire pattern – AGAIN! That is when the actual work began! I cut each shape from the freezer paper first. I used the original billboard print to identify the colour of the piece and iron the freezer paper on to the required fabric. Then I cut the fabric piece and then used glue (regular white glue, nothing fancy) to stick it to the interfacing.

I got two large MDF boards and 2 foam boards. Both were 4’ x 8’ in size. I used an adhesive to glue each foam board to an MDf board and set them upright side-by-side to use as my design wall (bad idea – why? Will come there later)

This is how I worked. Can you see something in the picture? Yes, I actually take naps in my studio and my intern thought it would be funny to cover me with fabric and take pictures!!!

Like I said before, I earlier had my boards leaning against the wall as I worked on the quilt. This was a good way to photograph my progress and compare it. Here is a video I made of all the progress I made.

The boards tuned out to be too thin to bear the weight and they caved it. No, I realized it before they actually toppled on me and now I have changed the arrangement a little. Here’s what my Shivaji room (because this room had nothing but the quilt) looked like after that!

I completed a third of the quilt by Diwali. But the deadline was fast approaching and I still had a long way to go. It was already October and the quilt was supposed to be displayed at the first India Quilt Festival happening in January. Panic stared seeping in through the edges.

I decided I needed to get my game better and plan. So here's a simple method I came up with to track the progress of the quilt.

My method was simple. I just marked the squares as the work progressed. Now I knew how much more was to be done, and the picture was not very promising.

Then came my a family trip to Ahmedabad. This trip was planned long back and by this point I knew I needed a break. So it went really smoothly. But what I did not know that at the end of the trip I would have a BIG surprise.

Aadi had fever on our flight back. The fever soon went super high and a couple of days after we came home, he was diagnosed with Dengue. I knew I could not return to the studio for a while.

I decided to move my quilt into Aadi's room instead. He was sleeping our bed with me by that time. And we had a spare mattress laid on the floor next to our bed. So I decided to shift him into my room and took over his room completely.

After that, this quilt took over my life. For the next 2 months, I woke up at 1.30 in the night and worked on the quilt till 6 am, taking a small break to help Aadi get ready, and then back to work till 11 am. Only then would I bother to take a bath. After having a quick lunch, I would be back at work till 2.30. Then I would take a nap till 4.30. After that, back to the board till 8.30-9 in the evening. I rarely did anything else. I had become a  recluse. Anyone who visited me, had to sit with me in this room and see me work- sometimes even work themselves.

But my patience paid off and on 6th January 2019, it was almost 10.45 pm when I actually stuck the last piece on my quilt. Both my boys had gone out for dinner (yet again without me) and I actually did a little dance when I was done!!!

The next day, I got the quilt top professionally photographed. Volunteers turned up at a really short notice to help me hold the quilt top. Pradeep Sutar did a fabulous job of the photography.

I really love this shot he took of me. I was actually talking to a friend when he clicked this. But it looks perfectly staged!

Then off I went with the quilt top to Pune to start the quilting with Manisha Iyer from Baani Studios. She was really generous. Not only did she do a fabulous job of the quilting, but she gave me the much needed rest. I used to be at her studio the whole day and she made sure I was eating well and taking rest. Those who know her know very well that she is one of the sweetest and the most generous friend one can have.

In 5 days she finished not just quilting the huge quilt, but she squared it up, faced it for me AND added the sleeve!!! This quilt connected us like never before!

Now the quilt was ready to be photographed. But I did not have a place to hang it. Problem was solved by my little brother. We decided to lay the quilt on the ground and use his drone to photograph it.

And to give you an idea of how big the quilt was and how good a quilting job Manisha had done so that the quilt was perfectly squared and lay really flat here's a picture with the quilt, Chaitanya and the drone.

After this came the day of unveiling the quilt! Oh, I forgot to mention, while this was happening, I was not sharing any pictures on social media. I had started a crowdfunding campaign for the quilt and one of the perks of contributing was membership to an exclusive Facebook group where I would share the progress of the quilt. For everyone else, it would be shared on the day of unveiling.

To unveil the quilt, I decided to invite my school art teacher Mrs Bharati Kshirsagar. She was actually the first teacher I ever had in my school. I still remember her standing at the top of a long flight of stairs waiting to welcome me into the school on my first day there. The best part, even she remembers me climbing up those steps.

I looked super tired in the photo - I was! But pure adrenalin is what had kept me going. If you look at the photographs of the event, I dont look as tired there.

The event itself was organized by Abhalmaya Foundation. Ever since I started working on the quilt, Pramod Sir (my mentor) was keen on seeing its progress. So he when it came to organizing the event of the unveiling, he just said, "Leave it to me and you concentrate on finishing the quilt." And I did just that.

Here's the quilt in all its glory.

My entire family was there to cheer me.
From L-R Top row - Rohit, Amol (friend), Parth (nephew), PAppa (Pramod Sir's father), my father, my father-in-law, Dada Dandekar (my Father-in-law's cousin) and Pramod Sir
Lower row - My mother-in-law, Pramod Sir's mother, my mother, my mother-in-law's mother-in-law, Aadi, me and my school teacher Mrs Kshirsagar

Making this quilt taught me a lot of things - patience, consistency, priorities, and skills. It also gave me a glimpse into people’s minds and what they thought about me. I believe after a 10 month effort, I have emerged on the other side as a better person!!!

The quilt rocked at the India Quilt Festival. 

I also taught the technique I used to make this quilt in my "Choose your warrior" workshop. 

It was recently displayed at the Quilt Festival in Houston and was very well received. 

Just this Sunday I had taken it with me to my lecture at the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild and people went crazy over it.

What next? I do wish to display it in a few more places. Let us see where it takes me! If you have a venue in mind or would like to organize a display of the quilt and/or have me come and speak about the making and/or teach the technique at your guild, drop me an email

Did you see this quilt in person? What did you think about it?
Friday, February 14, 2020

Understanding your Why

Have you ever wondered why you do what you do? 

Running a business can be overwhelming. There will be times when you will wish you could take a break or even give it all up. It is in these testing times you will need to go back to the basic reason why you started your business in the first place.
Some people start a business to earn money while some start because they are passionate about something. Women who are creative entrepreneurs usually fall in the latter category. More often than not, it begins with someone saying “This ____________ that you made is so good. Can you make some for me?” One thing leads to another and passion starts making profit.
Launching your business is pretty exciting. There is so much adrenalin rush during those baby steps! Your first order, your first set of business cards, your first payment coming through, the first time you were featured by the press, the first time you were recognized in public! There are so many firsts. They all feel like the first steps or the first words of a baby.
But as the business grows, so do the troubles. First you need to go through the hassles of actually starting and registering a business. That usually includes a lot of paper work. It is followed by book keeping. Soon, the business aspects grow larger than the creative aspects of the venture. Competition grows, your own expectations rise and every day becomes harder than the previous one. The fun is sometimes lost and you start wishing you could just close it all down, especially when it was your passion that made you start it when you launched.
Or sometimes the project before you might be so daunting that it feels like it is taking forever and you are almost just ready to throw in the towel.
I have felt all of these! When I decided to grow my business, I started with a lot of enthusiasm. My new website was up and running and blog posts scheduled for a month in advance. But then, I decided to start blogging every day. And that is when everything started to spiral out of control. It was just too much work. Researching topics, writing blog posts, scheduling social media, all of it became too overwhelming. And I just stopped writing. I thought, I won’t be able to write every day, so I should just stop. It took me close to 9 months to realize done is better than perfect and I started writing again. So you will see me usually blogging 3 times a week, but I won’t beat myself up if my post is late or I miss a whole week!
Another example when I need to remind myself of my why is while I work on my daunting project of Shivarajyabhishek Quilt. It is the largest quilt I have ever attempted AND it is filled with detailed portraits. As much adventurous it is, it is also overwhelming. And every few days, I need to ground myself and remind myself about why I started the project in the first place.
But not everyone has articulated their why in words. Who has the time to dwell on it when they are starting a new business? There are a thousand things that need your attention. And sometimes “Because my brother/husband said so” is a reason that we actually start a business. How do you justify your reason to yourself in that case?
It is not very difficult. All you have to do is say what you are doing and complete the sentence with a “so-that” addition to it.
I started Passion to Profit so that I could share the knowledge I gained by starting my own entrepreneurial venture with other home-based creative womenpreneurs from India.
I started my Shivarajyabhishek quilt so that I could use quilting as a medium to pay my respect to one of the greatest warrior kings of India by showing off the quilt and its story at international quilt shows.
Just stating the reason behind the action reminds you of your purpose and motivates you to gear up to complete what you started!

Do you have an overwhelming task or not-so-fun work to do? Try this way of articulating your why, and do let me know if it worked for you.
Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Working for free : When is it okay and when it is not

Do you remember this wall in my living room that I painted a while back? When I painted it, I got quite a few people asking me if I would do it for them. This is what I said to them, "A lot of people have been asking me if I will paint a wall for them at their home. Well for that to happen you have to be one of the following - my mom, dad, in-laws, brother, husband, son, nephew, niece, cousin, my best friend, or the PM of India!!! So if you are not one of the above, wait till you are." And I wasn't even talking about doing it for free. I did that wall because I love my home and want it to feel the way we want it to, as a family. It is not something that I do professionally. And not something that I want to do either. So I know if one of those people asked me to do it I would do it for free. I love it and I love them! Its super simple.
But when it comes to quilting, not so much. When I started out, it was just a hobby and I did a lot of 'Free work'. Even my blog was a hobby then and I used all the opportunity that I got to make those quilts to learn new techniques.
But ever since I made it into a business, I knew I would not do that. And if I did, there had to be a strong reason to do so.
Here are the reasons I do not work for free :
  1. It is not free for me. Making a quilt or teaching how to quilt is not free to me. If nothing else, I'm taking time away from my family and giving it to the project in hand. I am employing a maid to do the cleaning or hiring a cook to make dinner. Or even telling my husband I cannot go with him out for lunch. All of this is something I am paying for. Either in cash or in some other way. So even if the person asking me to work for free is providing me with all the material, I am still bearing this cost in addition to the overhead costs like using my machine, space etc. Even if it is just a blog post, the least I am using is electricity and internet, neither of which is free!
  2. I deserve better. If I use my first reason a lot of people will say, "I will pay you for all of those - overheads and the substitute staff you pay". Will I then do it? No. Because I deserve better. Because I deserve to be paid for my time, intelligence and my work. And I will not accept anything less than that. When talking about my work or while talking to the creative entrepreneurs that I coach, I always say "If you do not value your own work, no one else will." It is very important for us as entrepreneurs to value our work. That is why I insist people work out the selling price of an item even if they make it with an intention to gift it. You must know what 'value' you have gifted.
  3. I want to set a good example. Being in this industry for a while now, a lot of quilters look up to me as a mentor or an inspiration. I do not want to set a bad example for them by offering my work for free. I do not want to start something like a race to decide "who is the cheapest". I am an industry leader and i take my role very seriously. When I charge my time's worth, I know that I am justifying not just my own time, but the time that every one of my students, followers and clients is putting into making their unique creations. 
  4. People do not value what you offer for free. I have learnt this from experience. Unless people see you closely working hard, they do not value what you are doing. Your work has to take something away from them - be it time (like your close family) or money (like other paying clients) for them to value it. If you offer free advice, it looses its value just because the person has not paid its due price!
So does that mean that I never work for free?
Not at all. I do. And much more often than you would think. So when do I think it is justified to work for free?
  1. When you value the person who you are working for. When the person who you are working for is someone who deserves your time and effort, it is justified to work for free. Your husband. YES. Your child. YES. Your parents. YES. Your closest friends. YES. Any person who is invaluable to you. YES. How valuable a person is for you dictates whether you will work for free for them. If Elizabeth Hartman or Jacquie Gering would ask me to make a quilt for them, I would never even hesitate to say Yes! But if it is someone who is not that close or not someone who I is so valuable for me, I will definitely say No.
  2. When it is for charity. If I am making something for a charity that I support, I will always be ready to work for free. I have received a lot from the society and I believe I should give back to the society as much as I can. If making a quilt for a war veteran, an orphan, a homeless person or even an old lady too frail to look after herself puts a smile on their face, it is all worth it.
  3. When the favor is reciprocated. I am willing to work for free, if it is a part of a reciprocated favor. Of course, then it will be called bartering and technically I wont be working for free. I understand that especially as a new entrepreneur it is not always possible to pay for some expensive things even though they are really important. In these cases, you can offer your work in return for it. If I could not pay my coach/mentor her fees, but if she were ready to coach me for free in return of me making a portrait quilt of her, I would go ahead and do it. In these cases you must make sure that the items you make for each other are of almost equal value.
I understand that in the beginning of your business, it is easy to give in and work for exposure. In the end it comes down to simple maths. The business that you get through the exposure should generate more profit that the value of the product that you are offering for free.