Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Quilting Break in Chiang Mai (part 2)

The four days of my workshop was spent in learning an amazing technique, complex and complicated, on how to make pictures with fabric.  I have been quilting for a bit and have an understanding of some basic techniques, but this was very different. There were 2 of us doing the workshop which was great as so much learning takes place  by observing another work. Karen had a unique style of teaching, as, besides handouts and constant support and advice,  she also made a small quilt and modeled a lot of the skills we were being taught! 

I woke up really early on the first day of my four days workshop, excited and eager to start. I had been wanting to do this for such a long time! We started at 8 and worked till 5, with a short break for a quick lunch! This was the schedule we maintained for the entire duration and we soon realized why this was such hard work!

The first step was to draw a clear line drawing of the picture we wanted to make. Karen had asked me to choose a bird, or a fish as my first picture, as she felt this would be easier to do than a person as a first attempt. So I chose the picture Priya had sent me of her bad tempered cock….such a beautiful fellow though! So I made a sketch, and then made the line drawing.
Priya's rooster and my reference picture

The line drawing
The next step was to put a thinner paper on to the line drawing, take a ruler and pencil and trace and square all the curves into points, and thus have an angled version of the picture
The squared head
We then coloured each segment into separate coloured groups, as this second drawing was going to be our ‘map’ and what we would use as reference once we started piecing so it had to also be totally accurate. 
Colouring the picture
Once the colouring was done we decided how we would divide the picture into segments for piecing.
We then divided the picture into large working segments, numbered all the pieces in each segment and used a high lighter to mark these segments. 


Numbered segments
We then traced another copy of the design onto another sheet of paper, and this became the piece on which we would create the colours of our picture by auditioning the right fabric! Such a super process!

Finally the drawing was traced onto freezer paper and the pieces marked with little coloured ticks, so that we would be able to match them while piecing! Since the marking would have to be on the wrong side, everything had to be done in reverse!!!

Finally on the last day we started putting it together! Not to mention that sustenance was always great!

4 days later

Friday, February 8, 2013

Star of Africa

I am participating in an international Bee! This is the block for the November Bee Janine, but I guess its better to be late than never! 
Janine sent us the dimensions of the block, 9 inches square and wanted us to make the butterfly design using national colours and writing a message in your own language! So I chose the colours of the Indian flag (changed the green a bit) and used block printed cotton. I used chain stitch for the embroidery as we use it a lot in Indian embroidery. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Quilting Break at Chiang Mai (part 1)

Chiang Mai 23rd – 27th Jan 2013

So there I was, in Chiang Mai, getting all set for 5 days of focused quilting, a wonderful and exciting experience I had been so looking forward to. The best birthday gift I could have ever got! Karen and her husband Mark Sengel met me at the airport. They are both retired international school teachers, quite off beat and totally chilled out, we became friends immediately! They live a  little out side Chiang Mai, in the middle of a tamarind orchard which house their landlady in a very posh wooden house, the Sengels in another little cottage, and me in the very new guest house which had just been completed and I was the first occupant. The place was idyllic, with amazing trees, and orchids growing everywhere, with a slightly over grown back vegetable patch….but all together totally charming.  

 The Sengel's House
My guest house

10 expat women who form the ‘Chiang Mai in Stitches’ who meet every alternate Wednesday from 10 am to 2 pm, had their meeting on the day after I arrived, which  I was fortunate to attend. Women of all ages, the eldest being 80, all with a common interest in some form of craft, meet and chat, have a show and tell, carry on with projects they are completing, and someone sometimes tries to teach something new! 
I had taken the kantha that Baba’s grand mother had made over 120 years old...and still looking great), and one of the new ones that I had recently had made from my old saris.  Of course there were many ooohs and aahss,  people touched the fabric and exclaimed at the work, the softness of the silk! Karen’s sister from the US was visiting, retired from an IT job, also a quilter, showed us how to make rope coasters with fabric scraps tied around rope. It was all machined together with a zig zag stitch, and was great fun. I made 2 coasters for our bedside at home!

What I found invigorating  was being amongst a group of women, who so totally enjoyed their day together, remained focused on the needle work, sharing ideas and offering help, no unnecessary gossip, just 5 hours spent in easy peaceful camaraderie, and relaxation. It was great to be able to talk to others who shared the same interest for needle work like me. A lady from Germany wanted ideas on how to make a black and white quilt for her granddaughter, and was encouraged to share her original ideas, which were then built upon. Another showed her completed pieced  quilt top and wanted ideas on quilting. Karen’s sister had made lemon squares and there was hot coffee….it was a great way to get an idea of what I was going into…all very serious needle women!

 Show and ancient tribal dress from Laos. The embroidered side is worn when the person dies
Leslie's first attempt at piecing a picture of lemon grass and turmeric 

I spent the evening chatting with Karen, teaching mark, who is a very interested cook,  how to make a chicken curry and aubergine with yogurt, and looking at all her amazing quilts!

Her teacher is a quilter called Ruth McDowell,  in the US who has fine tuned the method of making a complex pattern in geometric sections, from a picture and piecing cloth together, to reproduce a version of the picture in fabric. Karen has understood and mastered the craft and having lived in Thailand and Japan for the last 15 years, has used it to create wonderful pictures of life in Thailand and Japan. That’s possibly what attracted me most to her, the use of local subjects, local indigenous fabrics and colours! 
Check out Karen's website at 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The WIP finishes!

Lessons learnt...DO NOT ever use thin fabric or fabric with a loose weave....its a nightmare in the making! The fabric should definitely be of a CLOSE weave. There is so much cotton available in India, but the weaves are so varied, one really needs to be very careful. Or the other thing would be that if the fabric is of loose weave, to starch it, or, as I recently learnt in Karen's workshop, use freezer paper!
Quilting the cushion was such a problem as the fabric kept wrinkling. Anyway I did a combination of machine and hand quilting. This was done more to be able to work out the unnecessary wrinkles as I have more control by hand!!! But it looks great with the red thread and outlines the stars well. I also feel that the light blue fabric should have had a less defined and smaller print! But on the whole am pleased with the effort!
Lets hope Inky is too, as this is her birthday present.