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 appliqué 64 dresses! Another design decision was taken. Each girl’s quilt would have just her dress appliquéd; 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 appliqué’ 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 👗 preparation.
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!
-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.
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!
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.
On the back, I fused the dedication cum label!
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!
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!’
Here are the pictures, front and back of each of the quilts.
And here are the close ups of the eight dresses!
The eight quilts, laid out to receive their intended owners…
…who were delighted to receive them!
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!