Indigo Station

My mystery indigo project is finished and I am quite proud of it! 

This is what I began with…

The sofa seat in its grey avatar…

Under this badly fitting, really loose, grey cover was this…

…The grey cover was removed to reveal this rusty orange inside.

This sofa seat has seen several avatars before this and has an ignominious past, but that story will have to wait! What is relevant here is that I thought it needed a fresh new look! Encouraged by my successful transformation of a couple of folding wooden chairs a couple of weeks ago, I embarked on a much more challenging project now. 

Quilted fabric to give a new look to old canvas backed chairs!

The Irish chain block has been on my bucket list for ever and that is what I decided to use for this. The only problem was I had no idea how one went around making new upholstery for a sofa seat and the net wasn’t particularly helpful. I would have to make and use my own pattern. As it was going to be a loose cover, one would not need to be very accurate. 

Making quilted fabric and then cutting and sewing it to fit the seat was not an option, because then it would be impossible to ‘match’ the blocks. Each ‘panel’  in my ‘quilt as you go’ project would have to be designed to fit in with every other, blocks and corners matching. I would need the two sides, the seat plus overhang, the back rest, the rear besides the two strips for the front of the arms:

These are the basic measurements…

The good news was that most measurements were such that a 7.5″ square would be a great unit to work with. The piecing was quick and the panels came up in no time. 

The piecing of the four panels in progress…

For the rear of the seat, I decided not to do any piecing, I would use a yardage of the printed fabric. For the quilting, I followed the print of the backing fabric and yet it took much longer than I had anticipated. However, it has a wonderful texture, so all the time was well worth it! 

The heavy quilting was tedious but adds great texture!

Finally the panels were done and stitched together. And then I got stuck! 

What do I do with all that fabric and the loose ends?

How on earth did one deal with that? There was so much fabric and I had no idea how to stitch it in place. So I fitted the cover inside out over the seat. I took a needle and thread and just gathered all the extra fabric into one big dart/ seam. It worked! My quilted sofa seat cover was ready, except for one thing. It seemed to be hanging loose all around at the bottom. 

The solution was inspired by what had been done in the old, grey sofa cover. I sewed a doubled up strip at the bottom edge and pulled a string through it. ( The string also came from that old cover!) 

The string at the bottom edge.

This ‘stringed’ portion goes under the seat. 

So here we are, all done!!

The back…

The right side…

The left side…

And the seat finally in its corner, all dressed up in its new clothes! 

A friend had suggested the name ‘Indigo Express’ for this project, but I think ‘Indigo Station’ describes it better! What do you say? 

A New Look for Old Chairs…

We bought these chairs some 34 years ago and it shows! 

The black canvas – stained and faded…

Forlorn, they lie in our (blue) guest room, rarely used by either my husband or me…

The canvas has been nailed on to the wood, about 20 nails, now rusted,  along the frame length of 17″! Trying to pry them out would most likely tear the wood. If I wanted to change the fabric, the best option would be to let the black canvas stay and add fresh fabric over and across it. So that is what I did…

The chairs have new clothes…

I used some indigo dabu ( mud resist block printed) hand-block printed cambric and muslin pieces left over from a quilt I made for my son some nine years ago! The cream muslin is also from the same quilt! It took me about 3 hours to cut and sew the eight  7.5″ log cabin blocks. (Can you believe that this is the first log cabin block project I have ever sewn? ) I then added a 1″ border on the top and bottom to increase the length to the required 17″ and added 4.5″ strips on either side to wrap around frame of the chair back.

The polybatting was also leftover 18″ lengths from a previous project! I quilted the front(s) with a simple stitch in the ditch,  and strengthened the ‘wrap’ width with straight line quilting. Binding done – all that was need was fixing it to the chairs. I glued the rough side of Velcro strips to the back of frame, and sewed the ‘fuzzy’ strips to the quilted pieces. So here we are…the chairs have their new quilted backs…

The new ‘back’ is stretched over the old canvas, to the back and fastened with Velcro strips.

It took me about six hours in all, beginning on Wednesday and finishing today, Sunday, to complete the project ( if I don’t add the time to visit the market to buy Velcro strips!)

I do think I need to get back to my various UFOs ( unfinished objects) and PHDs ( projects half done) now. But before that, I have one more, not so quick project to begin and finish! 

The Road Runner

India truck art quilt

The Road Runner

Ever since I started quilting, I have wanted to make quilts depicting essentially Indian themes, and the colours seen on my country’s roads and highways were right up there on my list! Remember, a couple of months ago I had shared the story of the purple autorickshaw designed and paper pieced by me? I had also designed a truck and a cycle rickshaw around the same time, which I never did get around to making.

Then, last month I attended a attended a workshop by Pam Holland on painting your own fabric and a chance remark set me off on a new quilting adventure.

(You can see what I learnt in Workshop #1 here.)

The painted fabric – design and technique by Pam Holland

I had not been able to finish this quilt in the workshop and was still wondering how I could personalize it when my little seven year old niece looked at it and remarked, “Is that a road runner?” ¬†I knew it didn’t and that she was only trying to show off that she knew there was a bird called the road runner, but this¬†got me thinking of a different kind of road runner!

The Indian truck driver is a much maligned person. He travels for long, unregulated hours, often away from home for days on end. His dearest companion then is his vehicle, which¬†he often refers to as his beloved and pampers and decorates to his heart’s content! His artistic bend of mind will be obvious to anyone who sees the often elaborate paintings on the truck. You only have to read the couplets painted on his truck to recognize that not only is he is a poet at heart, but a budding philosopher too! So this is how I set about constructing my very own Road Runner, around Pam’s lovely, colourful design, incorporating some of the essentials of trucks from our highways!

The Design

Only solids are used here, the ¬†bird, leaf ‘prints’¬†etc are painted. The fabric is fused and either zig-zagged or raw edge appliqued to the background.

Constructing the truck around the original picture…


The truck is tilted (to the right), as are many of the overloaded trucks on our highways!¬†As the Husband and Resident Design Consultant pointed out, the truck was ‘not proportionate’ nor looked ‘overloaded’. So I had to load the truck, and add ‘iron’ rings to attach the ‘ropes’ to tie the ‘goods’ in place. I found some polyfibre fabric in a beautiful neon orange for the ‘canvas’. ¬†More proportionate now?

The truck is loaded, and I am ready to ‘tie’ the ‘canvas’ down.

The decision to use the polyfibre turned out to be a perilous one, as the fabric melted when I was ironing on the yellow ‘frame’ …

The polyfibre melted as I was fusing the yellow frame rod in place.

I decided to make this a design element and ‘patched up’ the fabric, with obvious darning stitches.

The ‘canvas’ is patched up…

The upper boards are hooked on to the lower ones with heavy iron chains, which were crocheted in black woolen yarn and attached to either side.

Note that the chains hang down vertically…not angled like the truck. See the ‘Stop’ painted under the chain on the left?

The quilting was kept simple. Angled wavy lines softened the image without intruding on the main design. I  had to attach a strip of fabric to the backing as it was not big enough. I brought it to the front to add length to the front too.  The same fabric was stripped to make the binding.

The binding was made with strips a ‘border’ I had lying around from previously used fabric.

When we were all done, including the binding,  I realized the truth of what the Resident Design Consultant said. The tyres were all wrong; the tyres on the left would be more visible than on the right, if the truck body was tilting to the right. So I had to fuse and stitch a fresh pair of tyres on the left. This is best appreciated in a picture of the back.

See the two sets of stitching lines on the bottom of the tyres on the right?

As it happens with me every single time, I first machine stitched the binding, before ripping it and finishing it by hand! Looks so much better this way!

The Road Runner – finished? No, not quite…

The Stories on the Road Runner

As I went along, I added many details, legends and stories of India’s beautiful trucks, which are best explained through pictures.

So let us begin with the ‘official’, mandatory information. First, of course, is the registration number, RJC 325. I thought a great deal about this, before settling on the registration number of the first ever car my father bought, when I was nine years old. A gorgeous Austin A70 in silver grey it was; what can be more precious than the memory of your first ever car?

The registration number is that of my Dad’s first ever car!

Proudly displayed on my Road Runner is the ‘National Permit‘, which, as it implies, permits my truck to ply on all highways in India!

The permit to ply on all highways in India is proudly displayed in the colours of the Indian flag.

The name of the company that owns the truck is ¬†displayed, usually with the telephone number (which is probably on the side and you can’t see in the back view of the Road Runner). Spelling mistakes are a delight on any truck worth its load, aren’t they? This truck has several of them!)¬†Here, ¬†the Road Runner shows its truck registration number again. The ‘S.P.’ ¬†and ‘N.P.’ ¬†tell you that the truck has a state permit as well as the national permit, just so that you know it!

The ‘Tata‘ is not the driver bidding you goodbye, as you might be led to believe. Most trucks in India are manufactured by the Tata Motor Company, India’s largest automobile manufacturer, as is this one.

The vital details include the name of the owner company…

My truck also carries the information about the speed limit, which is the unbelievable 40 kilometers per hour; most trucks travel at at least double that speed!

The ‘O.K.‘ in the centre usually is accompanied by¬†the manufacturer’s name – so that most trucks would say ‘ Okay Tata‘ meaning, presumably, that this particular vehicle has been inspected and okayed by the company. However, in the case of this truck, the painter thought it looked nicer here!

Then comes the¬†exhortation ‘Horn Please“, the most prominently displayed message on my Road Runner. It likes to¬†drive in the fastest lane ( even when traveling at the maximum permissible speed limit of 40 kms. per hour!) and if you wish to get past the¬†Runner, you have to first ‘blow horn, please’ before ‘waiting for s(a)ide’.¬†¬†…Patience, patience!!

All vehicles on Indian highways are required by law to not drive on full beam, so that drivers coming from the opposite direction on narrow, single or double roads are not blinded by the oncoming beam. Hence the reminder, ‘Use dipper at night‘…


The various legends carry loads of information…and exhortations!

A driver’s life is risky¬†and naturally, he is a superstitious personage and seeks¬†all the good luck and blessings possible. A legend that most trucks in North India prominently carry, besides ‘Good Luck‘ and ‘Trust in God‘, is ‘Mother’s blessings‘. The mother could be the driver’s¬†mother or the Mother Goddess, Devi Ma Herself! This one carries¬†‘Maa ka aashirwaad‘ in the Devanagari script , just below the logo for the national permit.

Seeking the mother’s blessings, ‘maa ka aashirwaad’…

Another form of the Mother’s blessings is this red stole, obtained from temples dedicated to the Goddess, which is tied to the side of the truck, often on the side mirror.

The red stole from a Devi temple wards off evil and keeps the truck and its driver safe.

Also to ward off bad luck and accidents is a braid, plaited in black and red threads, tied to the back of the truck.

A braid hung at the back keeps bad luck and accidents away…

This is a brand new truck, so the green chilies and lemons strung together and dangling at the back look fresh. They will also keep the evil eye away. I also considered attaching there an old shoe, which would have served the same purpose, but …

…as do green chilies and lemons strung together…

If someone is still ¬†audacious enough to dare cast an evil eye on my truck, here is a ‚ö†ÔłŹ warning that ought to scare him!

“May you face be blackened,¬†

O One-with-the-evil-eye!”

May you become an outcaste, if you cast an evil eye on me!

There were many lovely truck quotes which I wish I could have included, but perhaps they can wait for my next truck. My favourites translated:

The philosophical truck driver, “Think! ¬†what will go with you?” and “No one gets anything more than his due before it is due”..

The questioning: “O Maker, why did you make the one who makes vehicles? You have made homeless the one who drives these vehicles!”

The cynical one, who has obviously been betrayed by the one he thought waited for him: ” Take posin, but do not belive on girls!”¬†

All that will have to wait for Road Runner 2.

Well, to get back to my Road Runner, here it is… it is perfectly squared, unlike how it may appear to you!

Meanwhile, I have started planning on how I am going to finish the cat quilt, also from Pam Holland’s workshop. I hope you will be watching this space…

Tresses and Pearls – An Art Quilt

A design by Pam Holland – I have named my quilt ‘Tresses and Pearls’!

In the first week of March, I attended a set of three workshops by celebrated quilt artist, Pam Holland, facilitated by Husqvarna Viking, Pfaff and Handi Quilter India. 

This thread sketching was Workshop #1; the beautiful design is by Pam. We traced the rough outline on white fabric, made a sandwich and then quilt-sketched directly on it, filling in the details as we went along. During the workshop, we were only able to complete the tresses, we carried our work home to finish the background.

I decided to add some interest to the figure and personalise my quilt. I considered adding some old lace ( made by my mother in law) to the dress and also adding a decorative silver frame 

What about framing it? Would some lace add interest to it? Or a earring?

Perhaps pearls would be prettier? An oval cut out frame?

I did cut out an oval frame and marked it on the sandwich.  

The oval frame was cut out from a pair of silver grey, raw silk trousers, which had started fraying.

I then started quilting the area within the frame with diagonal lines, to give the effect of glass. 

I added some layers to the back unintentionally…

I considered turning the IKEA bag into a stole!

What took 10 minutes to sew, took one and a half hours to rip out.

The quilting lines outside the frame are crisscrossing vertically and horizontally. I have never done such intensive quilting before and it took me several hours to finish!  Before I ‘decorated’ the quilt, I finished the binding and three tabs for hanging, in matching black fabric. 

What do I do with the silver grey oval frame? Do I add it? Was it an overkill? Ah, what if I fuse it to the back? So that is what I did! 

I may need to do some sewing by hand to ensure the ‘frame’ remains fused to the background.

Back to the front! I found an old tarnished necklace chain and strung some pearls through it to make a neck piece! A few more pearls strung on gold thread made the earring. But how do I attach it to the quilt? I tried several things, none of which worked. Desperate measures were required (and taken)! I made a hole through the quilt and took the chain to the back! The metallic gold thread on which the earring was strung, was also pulled to the back.

Pearls for the lady!

This is what I did at the back. 

The jewellery at the back…

Here is the finished quilt – the back! 

Do I need to do something about the ‘dress’?

Tresses and Pearls …

Tomorrow I start working on my incomplete projects from Workshops #2 and #3…hope to get back soon with those! 

The ‘Palat!’ Mini Quilts!

One of the eight `Palat!’ (Turn Around!) miniquilts…

A few months ago, eight classmates, who studied together in Grades 8 and 9, got connected after nearly fifty years – on an online chat group. Within a couple of weeks, they were talking of meeting in real life. The venue was to be my city and the occasion, my birthday! Naturally, I had to think of a very special gift for my seven girlfriends, three of whom would travel from 250kms, another three from a 1000kms and the seventh from right across the world!

It was not be just another bag, or cushion cover, or mugrug or whatever! It had to have a deeper significance, something that resonated with all of us. ¬† I thought of our ties of friendship, which time could not weaken, for we, each of us, knew each other when we did not know who we would become, before we learnt to wear masks to fool the world…And now that we had found each other, we were not going to lose each other! Mini quilts these were to be!

I visualized eight girls holding hands, in a circle perhaps? Scrolling through Pinterest, I came across a hand-embroidered design of two sisters holding hands and pointing out to a rainbow and something clicked in my mind! The designer, Jessica, mentioned how she had modeled the hair of the two little girls after her own daughters.

The Design Process

I liked the fact that you saw the back of the two girls, and so I decided my girls would also have their backs to the viewer, representing our collective roots in the past. I would have the eight friends hold hands, to represent what we meant to each other, literally and figuratively. Gazing at distant horizons, we would be seeking our own rainbows, together and individually… I also wanted the quilt to be special for each girl. I thought then of one colour from the rainbow for each girl. The eighth colour could be aqua. The dresses of the girls would be appliqued in fabric in their respective colours. But I baulked at the thought of having to appliqu√© 64 dresses! Another design decision was taken. Each girl’s quilt would have just her dress appliqu√©d; the rest would be just ‘thread-sketched’.

It so happened that the eight girls names began with Sa, Ra ( two of them), Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha and Nee which are the names of the musical notes in Indian music! The girls, therefore, stood in that order. Why did I begin with the red and end at the violet, instead of vice versa? Because I could be either green or aqua, depending on which way I started, and I preferred the aqua to the green!

To echo the rainbow theme, the backing would be strip pieced in the eight colours. I even had the perfect fabric for it, a Bali Batik jelly roll gifted by my friend, Elvira Threeyama of Chez Viez Quilts. Each girl could sign on her own colour strip at the back, and we would each have quilts signed by all the others.

The next step was to scroll through all our class photographs to zero in on the hairstyles of the eight friends. I drafted the pattern of eight little girls, with hairstyles matching their hairstyles from high school, standing in a straight line. The girls were wearing shifts, like in the original pattern by Jessica of Cutesy Crafts. I was finally ready to ‘test’ my pattern.

The ‘Test’ Quilt

The first quilt was to be my quilt; all the experimentation was to be done on this! My pattern was to finish at ¬†15″ x 21″ approximately. To make best use of my jelly roll strips, I cut them into three pieces, approximately 14″ long and added a 3.5″ black strip at the bottom and two 3.5″ black strips on either side to make up the width and length. Once I had my backing strip-pieced and ready, I got around to preparing the ‘top’.

I taped the pattern to a sunlit window and traced it to my light coloured fabric with a pigment ink marker with a micro tip. For the quilt sandwich, I used a polyfill batting. Using Pam Holland’s method, what she calls ‘ Quilting with Character and Charisma’ I machine quilted over my traced figures very slowly, adding in details as I went along. Once I reached ‘my’ figure, I did ‘raw-edge appliqu√©’ around the aqua dress (which I had glued on with a dab of school glue to ‘my figure’). This quilting took me about two hours, including the dress ūüĎó preparation.

The ‘Palat!’ miniquilt : I used a ‘Fabrico’ ink pen to colour the socks and hair ribbons red, like in our school dress.

To trace the rainbow, I marked a point at the centre bottom and rotated a 12″ ruler on the quilt, marking with a pencil as I went along. I used the needle-to-presser foot edge distance to space and quilt the various colours of the rainbow. I also did a bit of ‘outlining’ in the other dresses with thread!

My ‘Palat’ Miniquilt, with the rainbow in place.

The Learning

-The indigo and violet were too dark and the quilting did not show up at the back. I would need lighter shades for the rest of the quilts.

-I also forgot to reverse the colours in the backing and the ‘violet’ girl lined up on the red strip! The girls did not ‘stand’ in their respective colours, but nothing could be done about this, as the coloured strips were two inches wide.

-Black was not a good choice for the ‘additional’ strips. A lighter colour, preferably the same as the front, was needed.

The Aqua ‘Palat’ Miniquilt – the back left a lot to be desired!

For the life of me I could not see myself quilting seven more rainbows! Very tedious!

If I had to make seven more of these quilts, I would have to make it more interesting for myself! Perhaps they could all wear bell bottoms, which were such a rage in the late sixties, in one? Skirts in another? Lacy frocks in yet another? What about ‘lungis’ (sarongs) also very popular then?

So that is what I did!

‘ ‘Palat!’ : Sa’ in her red bell bottoms! See her hair? Where I began and ended the quilting!

The ‘Palat’ Miniquilt – RaY in her orange box-pleated skirt

The ‘Palat’ Miniquilt -Ru thinks I have short-changed her and given her the plainest dress! Don’t miss the strands of ‘hair’ below her ribbon!

A thin satin ribbon makes up the belt of Ga’s frock! I later added a tatting lace to the frock…

The ‘Palat’ Miniquilt : Actually, my quilt is the saddest looking! The embroidery on the dress is also pretty shabby!

The ‘Palat’ Miniquilt : I love Pa’s A-line dress! See that little lace I made, by cutting out holes at the edge?

Dha wears an indigo coat with a huge box pleat at the back, accessorized with boots and a crocheted muffler! I did rows of chain stitch around the neck to hold the muffler in place.

For Nee’s blouse I found a piece of fabric from a dress that had actually belonged to her some 50 years ago! This was a hexagon from scraps she had given to me for my hexagon quilt!

The Dedication and the Quilt Label

For the quilt labels, I downloaded free vector images of hot air balloons from the Internet and printed them on special computer printer fabric, which I had bought on my last visit to the USA. I then quilted these on to the front of the quilts.

The ‘gift tags’ on the quilts were hot air balloons, printed on fabric and then raw edge quilted to the front.

On the back, I fused the dedication cum label!

The back carried the names of the eight friends and the quilter’s name and date.

The Binding

I originally planned to bind the each of the quilts in its special theme colour. I began with the yellow, but then thought black would look nicer. Here are the bindings!

The binding…

The Reunion

Before I conclude this story and start posting more pictures, I have to share with you what we did at the reunion! Besides catching up on each other’s lives in late night sessions, talking non-stop, giggling continuously, screeching and screaming and having the time of our lives.

Of course, we signed our quilts for each other. We also went and bought tied and dyed ‘leheriya’ stoles, in the colours of the miniquilts; each wore a stole in ‘her’ colour! Don’t forget to check out the photos of the eight friends in their stoles!

Before I forget, why is this quilt called ‘Palat!’? Palat ! is a Hindi word meaning ‘Turn Around!’ Almost every one with whom I shared the quilt told me they wanted the girls to turn around and show them their faces!

So here come the pics! Beginning with the girls as they did ‘Palat!’

When the girls turned around…

Here are the pictures, front and back of each of the quilts.

The backs of the eight quilts…

…and the fronts of the eight minis.

And here are the close ups of the eight dresses!

Close ups of the dresses…

The two who wore bell bottoms.

…and three who wore shifts!

The eight quilts, laid out to receive their intended owners…

I laid out the miniquilts on the dining table and invited the girls over to help me lay the table…

…who were delighted to receive them!

To say they were surprised would be an understatement!

Well, so that was the story of my Palat! Miniquilts. Do stay tuned in to find out what I have been up to in the last few days!

The Purple Autorickshaw…

Finally it can be revealed…the foundation paper pieced autorickshaw I made for a visiting quilter friend! 

I used my friend’s favourite Kaffe Fasset fabrics for this little 18″ x 18″ quilted wall hanging.

The Purple Autorickshaw – the quilting from the back.

The Purple Autorickshaw – foundation paper pieced!

A close-up of the quilting.

The driver was an afterthought, as I thought the empty autorickshaw looked abandoned and a bit forlorn!

The cheeky looking auto driver is modeled after a free online image.

A closer look at the back!

Do not miss the registration number ( from the fabric selvedge)!

The label! Like real autorickshaw s, it carries the date of ‘registration’, the ‘owner’s name’ and the name of the ‘manufacturer’ too!

As you can probably see, I had a lot of fun making this little purple and green autorickshaw, but the best fun was the expression on my friend’s face when she read the owner’s name on the label!