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 ⚠️ 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…

Seasons in The Sun – My Prize Winning Quilt

I did tell you my quilt won the first prize in the Husqvarna Viking India, Pfaff India, Handi Quilter India Quilt Competition 2015? I also promised to share with you the story and the making of this quilt! So here it is, my quilt  “Seasons in the Sun” !

Seasons in the Sun
Seasons in the Sun

The Facts and Figures

Theme of the Competition : The Joy of Flowers

Original Design based on a personal photograph, no copyright issues.

Size – 36.5 x 50.5 ( after blocking).

Fabric Used – Cotton fabric `Fossil Fern’ by Benartex and poplin solids by Umaid Mills, India ( entirely from my stash).

Stabilizers – Heat n Bond Red and Pink, local fabric fusing single sided as well as double sided.

Polyester batting 150 gsm

Threads – Cotton, invisible nylon, polyester blend and rayon silk.

Machine Used – Husqvarna Viking Topaz 20

Free motion quilting mainly; built-in HQV auto sensor used for other quilting ( on large appliqué pieces)

Techniques – Regular piecing, foundation piecing, raw edge appliqué and fabric fusing (with paper backed stabilizer), painting using Derwent Inktense pencils.

The Story of the Quilt – The Quilt that Wouldn’t Not Be!

When I first read the theme for the Competition, my reaction was, “Oh, no!” I have painted a lot, but flowers, landscapes and still life only bore me. If it was to be the joy of flowers, the only thing that came to mind was this beloved photograph, faded beyond recognition and the negative lost! I made every excuse not to make it. I had no idea how to do an art quilt. I prefer piecing and for the life of me how was I going to piece this? If I had to appliqué, I like only needle turn hand appliqué!  Raw edge appliqué is really lazy, isn’t it?  And most importantly, where did I have the time? So I propped it up on the table in the spare room and surfed the Internet for ideas for over two months.

Seasons in the Sun - the original photograph that inspired the quilt
Seasons in the Sun – the original photograph that inspired the quilt

I found hundreds of flower photographs and dozens of exquisitely crafted flower quilts; sadly, none of them called out to me to make anything like them! I  obsessed with This Quilt, dreamt of how it would look! I lay awake drawing up and rejecting various techniques for constructing it. Finally, I knew that I had no option but to venture on what was likely to be a disaster…and started studying portrait quilts.

Seasons in the Sun

This photograph transports me back almost thirty years. It was our first car, a second hand Maruti 800, and we were on our first trip to  the enchanting Simla Hills with our almost–four year old son. It was in the times when vacations meant a holiday with your grandparents or cousins or even a pilgrimage. The economical car had just been around for a couple of years; The Great Indian Tourist was yet unborn and the Himalayas were largely untouched  by any outsiders but pilgrims.

We stopped for the night at almost every other turn of the road, spending the day exploring the area  or just lazing around in our hotel, having dinner under the Milky Way so bright that you could almost reach out and touch the stars.  Small settlements – Parwanoo, Kasauli, Barog, Kiarighat, Chail – it took us five days to get to Simla from Chandigarh, a distance of just over a hundred kilometres! We did not care for crowded Simla and travelled further up North to Kufri, Naldera, Narkanda. And then to Mashobra on our way to Wild Flower Hall, an old colonial style palace.

This picture is from Wikipedia of the building of Wild Flower Hall, which got totally burnt down later in 1993; a five star hotel has come up in its stead

There had been flowers in every crevice in the rocks everywhere we went, but in Mashobra the flowers went wild! The hills were covered with white, yellow and lavender. We stopped on the roadside, laughing for no reason but the joy of being alive! Our son ran up the hillside and as he looked down at us, squinting in the bright sunlight, this  photograph was taken.

We have been back many times, but strangely, this is the only trip that is etched in my mind in every detail. So this picture brings back to me the heady smell of pine, the singing of the wind as it flows through the thickly forested slopes, woodroses and pine cones on the slippery pine needle covered ground.  But mainly it is the flowers…flowers covering every inch of the ground…flowers dancing in the scented mountain breeze…

Life caught up with us, bringing us many trials and much sorrow, but this picture never fails to raise hope and a smile in my heart, just like all those wild flowers daring to bloom against all odds. A feeling of exhilaration, of the pure joy of flowers…

I dedicate this quilt to our very special daughter, Tana, who has bravely and inspirationally borne much pain and disability and to whom I have made this promise:

“On the wings of golden sunshine

Soaring ever higher

Blazing a trail of hope and freedom

For others who live in drear

From the jungles of your mind, you’ll fly

Into flower-kist mountain air. “

(Concluding stanza from my poem “The Dance of the Butterfly – A Mother’s Promise”, written in November 2011)

I also dedicate it to Rushu, the best brother in the world, the little boy in this quilt, who has stood by her at every step of the way. I have made a mother’s promise to him also  – to make the head (slightly flattened from the top) of this portrait okay. Now that we are though with the competition, I shall get around to doing that.

This may not be the quilt I am most proud of, but I have no doubt it will be the quilt I shall love the most, as I grow old and dream of seasons in the sun …

The Preparation

I scanned the photograph and increased size  to 36” x 45” approximately. Printed 32 pages through an Excel file and spread them on the dining table to make the template for the quilt. We ate on the sofa for almost two months, except the few times when we had guests and grumbling, I had to shift my stuff to the bed in the guest room.

Seasons in the Sun - The Quilt  

The print out of the enlarged image laid out on the table.
The print out of the enlarged image laid out on the table.

   Confusion, Deliberations and Decisions

This done, I wracked my brains on how to go about the actual piecing/ applique.

As you can see the bottom half of the quilt required a great deal of  work and the top half was open expanse. I originally planned to do the boy’s portrait first on a blue background, then just cut up the selection of green and browns (from 12 different delicious fat quarters) into strips, place them randomly to denote the wild riot of foliage and do a fine stippling to hold them in place. The flowers and trees etc would come up last.

This did not appeal to me. I wanted a `quilty’ quilt. Otherwise I would paint a picture, wouldn’t I?  I am more of a ‘piecer’  and raw edge applique did not seem like real quilting to me.  These were mere excuses, I think! The real reasons were – my brain understands order better than chaos (those stems and flowers were a senseless riot!). Most of the selected fabric in my stash was in the form of fat quarters. It would be easier to handle reasonable sized blocks. This meant, roughly, that I would get the background ready first, make the portrait separately and applique it on top of the background and then add flowers and stems as necessary.

For the background, I decided to adapt a technique taught by Wendy Saclier in a workshop for crazy quilting published in ‘Quiltskills – Workshops from the Quilters’ Guild, Australia’ by The Patchwork Place. I would piece the quilt in the form of a grid of 5” squares set on point. The quilt would have a 7 x 5 grid plus the setting triangles; the next step was to mark the grid. I had to increase the width of the picture to accommodate the full squares.

Another creative decision ( sounds very important, doesn’t it?) was to change the colour of the flowers to yellow from white. The colour of the shirt which was gold,  blue and white would then have red instead of the yellow, and the trousers blue instead of yellow!

Laying the Foundation

I cut foundation pieces in green fabric started the piecing from the left bottom corner. I was not following the picture exactly, just a sense of the direction in which the plants are leaning, the foliage clearing up and the colours lightening as you move from left to the right.  I also used larger pieces of fabric towards the top and to the right, to emphasize the feeling of ‘openness’. An additional problem was that the stems were not only vertical, but horizontal and slanting too.  The foundation piecing was basically, therefore, improvised, just lightly marking the strip direction on fabric with a pencil.

Improvised foundation piecing on the fabric squares for the foliage
Improvised foundation piecing on the fabric squares for the foliage

Much as I loved this challenge and the results, each block took ages to grow.

Beautiful, but the criss crossing stems  took ages to piece .
Beautiful, but the criss crossing stems took ages to piece .

Scaling the Skies

Skipped to the sky after seven days and only one corner completed in the desire to see the quilt come up faster.

The picture had to b extended to the left to accomadate the size of the squares
The picture had to be extended to the right to accomadate the size of the squares

I  posterized the picture ( Used Microsoft Office Paint to reduce the number of colours), took an A4 sized print out and used that as a guide for colours, which were not too clear in the enlarged poster. This was a trick I picked up from Marilyn Lee, master art quilter, who is generous enough to hold free classes on Facebook. Check out her `Classy Quilts : The Art of the Art Quilt’ page. I only wish I had found her a bit earlier than I did.

The colours were all wrong in the enlarged picture. Something needed to be done!
The colours were all wrong in the enlarged picture. Something needed to be done!
The posterized A4 size print out used as a guide...
The posterized A4 size print out used as a guide…

Half the top plus pieced in a couple of hours!

The Flower Strewn Hills

Back to the lighter foliage on the right bottom corner. Much faster and piecing part of top almost done.

The `distant' flower covered hills in yellow. The details would be brought out by the quilting
The `distant’ flower covered hills in yellow. The details would be brought out by the quilting

Then moved to the left, to start the work on the background this side.  

Running out of fabric, had to paint a couple of squares on the left.
Running out of fabric, had to paint fabric for a few squares on the left.

   Adding more foliage…

The picture start taking shape...
The picture start taking shape…

Left the centre panel, where the boy is half crouching, un`blocked’.  Top background done, time to paint … er…appliqué on it.

Stick ‘n Sew

I used a combination of fabric fusing and sewable stabilizer to appliqué. The trees in the background came up first. I used the fern stitch on my machine to sew them to the background, to mimic the look of pine needles.   By the time this quilt was completed, the `unsewable’ fusing on the darker fabric had started peeling off  and had to be sewn back in place.  The greenery on the distant hillside on the right came off altogether, and I had to paint and quilt in that area!

...slowly and steadily!
Raising the trees!

Back it Up!

Meanwhile, we had only 3 weeks left for the deadline. So I made the backing, before starting on further applique.  The amount of applique would depend on how much time I had at hand! The backing used the only matching yardage in my stash. I wanted to emphasize the `slope’ hence added a solid to separate the two main fabrics. I discovered that the slope had been cut in the wrong direction, but I did not have fabric to re- do it and eventually, it really did not matter!

The backing ...
The backing …

The Boy

I cut and sewed a piece of denim from my old jeans for the trousers in place on the background.  The boy’s torso was built up separately on white fabric, to be joined to the main quilt top through quilting.

Finally seems to be getting somewhere!
Finally seems to be getting somewhere! The trees are in place; the figure is ready to be built up.

Here is a close up of the shirt completed.

The shirt -  I cut out the paper template torso into pieces. Traced them on to Heat n Bond backed fabric of matching colour. Placed it on shirt outline, fused and stitched.
The shirt – I marked out the colour separation and cut out the paper template torso into pieces. Traced these on to Heat n Bond backed fabric of matching colour. Placed it on shirt outline, fused and stitched.

The Joy (?!?) of Flowers

Now to start on the dozens and dozens of flowers and stems…Once the trees were in place, I cut out  dozens of flowers and stems of all lengths and widths from 1/8″ to 1/3″ approximately.  I was first numbering them, following the template poster, but very soon realized the futility of it and gave that up!

Initially, the stems and leaves were labelled with corresponding numbers on the giant printed poster. After covering 10 square inches and 40 stems, I gave up.
Initially, the stems and leaves were labelled with corresponding numbers on the giant printed poster. After covering 10 square inches and 40 stems, I gave up.

I used a zigzag stitch for most of the appliqué, as it best resembled the movement of a pencil across paper, when ‘shading’. To emphasize a 3-D effect, I sewed the stems down with invisible thread on one side and a contrast colour thread on the other. The flowers were also stitched down at the edges with invisible thread, the separation of petals was done with yellow rayon thread later.

Placing the flowers
Placing the flowers

Halfway through, I made the cardinal error of adding a stabilizer to the top to facilitate the appliqué. This would prove really troublesome when quilting.

My daughter supervises the proceedings
My daughter supervises the proceedings

Yet more flowers and stems from fabric which had paper backed adhesive attached to it, placed and ironed on the top…

The flowers and stems slanting to the right...
The flowers and stems slanting to the right…


Background done, now for the quilting and final applique work
Background done, now for the quilting and final applique work

I left only the uppermost layer of flowers and the boy’s arms and head undone.  They would be sewed / attached during and after the quilting. Finally ready to layer the top with the batting and backing and start quilting!

When the Quilting Gets Tough…

The quilting was tough literally and figuratively. The various layers of one sided interfacing, that I had used as stabiliser, made the top stiff and the needle gummed up. To add to my misery, I had spray basted the sandwich! Till I was forced to peel off the top and cut away the layer of stabilizer where I could. It was so difficult to sew in some parts that at one stage, I actually flung the quilt on the floor in despair. I had tiny holes in the fabric, especially where I was using invisible thread. ( Spraying them with water removed those later, but right then they were really scary). I changed to a smaller sized needle and that seemed to work better. I used a close zigzag stitch / satin stitch in most places in the foliage area to quilt stems which would hold the layers together. For the sky, I used a regular straight stitch and zigzag stitch.

Progressing slowly...
Progressing slowly…

I considered attaching the orange flower centres with applique, but scrapped the idea, because they would stand out in strong contrast, detracting from the whole picture. Inktense pencils were used instead. I also used them to add depth and greenery to the distant hillside, as the adhesive had come off the raw edge applique done with non sewable Heat n Bond. The arms were similarly shaded, I did not have fabric the right colour.

Burying the threads took a full day as I used 3 blues, 5  greens and 4  yellows for the quilting.
Burying the threads took a full day as I used 3 blues, 5 greens and 4 yellows for the quilting.


I was running out of time and the head had been giving me several problems right from the beginning. I had posterized the face to obtain a clear demarcation of colour to help in the patchwork. The eye portion stood out like two black holes against a pink face! I made up and scrapped two faces and the arms as they were too pink and looked nothing like my son.  Now I scanned several photographs to get the right colours.

I enlarged and studied several photos to get the face and colouring right.
I enlarged and studied several photos to get the face and colouring right.

I finally found four fabrics in my stash which I could use for the face; I worked directly from the original photo instead of the print out. Nevertheless, whatever I did, the colour of the lips posed a problem. I even considered leaving the face blank, but it would not work with so many details in the other areas. I  attached the cut out for the face; got the eyes, eyebrows, forehead, cheeks, nose, ears, neck and the neckline of the t-shirt ready separately to be built on it. The lips would be done with Inktense pencils!

Bind it Up!

Leaving things where they were, I did the binding now; seven different fabrics in greens and browns were used for the ‘land’ area and three blues for the ‘sky’ area. It was machined from the front and hand sewn at the back. This was the most relaxing part of the entire quilt making.

Love the binding!
Love the binding!


Binding machined from the front and hand-sewn on the back.
Binding machined from the front and hand-sewn on the back.
I am verrry proud of the binding;!
I am verrry proud of the binding;!

Let’s Face It!

I finally tried to sew the face parts, but the face area was too stiff to be stitched on. I had no choice but to rip it off. In the process of removing the face, I was ready to burst into tears as I made a cut in the backing fabric!. That is when I had the brilliant idea of attaching a ‘head’ to the back, to cover up the cut! I did the face anew, again using the original picture as the guide. I built it on freezer paper, which could be peeled and ripped off after stitching. This seemed to me much more satisfactory than using adhesive or stabilizer. I wish I had taken photographs but I was hard pressed for time! As mentioned earlier, I had only 4 fabrics in the correct skin tones so used Derwent Inktense pencils to give the face a more realistic look and merge the areas where two fabrics met. The eyebrows, eyes and neck had to be fused as I could not appliqué the tiny bits.  (I have painted under them in case they decide to fall off). The completed face was attached to the quilt top from the edges.

The Finishing Line

When I stepped back to look at the quilt, there were areas which needed a touch or two, for which the Inktense came in use again. I skipped the sleeve as this will be framed under glass to protect it from the dust in this part of the world.

Cleaning up of the quilt for threads and blocking it on a mattress with a sheet on top of the dining table.  I drew lines on the sheet and used a spray bottle to spray the quilt liberally with water; stretched it with pins at  a distance of about 2″ on the lines and left it overnight. The rebellious areas had to be steamed into obedience with a steam iron held about an inch above the top.

Blocking the quilt with pins on a mattress
Blocking the quilt with pins on a mattress

Picture This!

Finally, the photography session. Including one of my photographer, who climbed a playground slide to snap a pic from high ground.

Photographing the photographer as he tried to get a bird's eye view of the quilt...
Photographing the photographer as he tried to get a bird’s eye view of the quilt…

Here are all the pictures taken by the professional photographer. If you open these in a separate window, you should be able to see all the details.

Do let me know if you have any questions on the techniques and methods!

Rushu and me - posing with the quilt!
Rushu and me – posing with the quilt!
Close Up Trees
Close Up Trees – The colours are not quite right in the professionally taken pics!
A close up of the flowers against the skyline
A close up of the flowers against the skyline
My personal favourite area of the quilt...
My personal favourite area of the quilt…
...and the most beloved area of my quilt!
…and the most beloved area of my quilt!
The Joy of Flowers
The Joy of Flowers
The head hides secrets!
Seasons in the Sun - The Original and The Copy
Seasons in the Sun – The Original and The Copy

End of story: I repeat myself. Not the most technically perfect quilt I have made, but I love it!

Hand Applique Using Back-Basting Method

This is a hand appliqué method that works best when doing patterns that involve multiple curves and reverse appliqué. It is a carry with you project – no tedious ironing, templates, freezer paper , glue, pins…It is also very accurate!


You will need:

  1. Pattern – . As a beginner, you may want to choose something that does not have too many sharp curves. A simple pattern with not too many small pieces is a good idea!
  2. Background fabric – Most patterns will give you details of how much fabric you will need. But remember – at least ¾” to one inch larger than finished piece/ block on each side. For a 10″ X 10″ block, take background fabric 11 1/2″ to 12″ square. Trust me, you will not regret it!
  3. Applique fabric – enough to fully cover the appliqué pattern completely plus approx half inch all around
  4. Painter’s (paper) tape
  5. Small, sharp scissors. Special appliqué scissors are also available!
  6. Thread for basting – try to pick a colour that will show up on both the background and appliqué piece
  7. Thread – colour matching the appliqué piece
  8. Small sharp fine needles – keeping a couple of extra needles threaded is always a great idea when doing hand sewing of any kind.
  9. Toothpicks (yes!). A knitting needle may prove useful for some patterns!
  10. Thimble, if you use one
  11. Couple of sharpened ordinary lead pencils, or washable ink pens for fabric. You may want a white/ light coloured pencil/ pen if your fabric is dark.



I shall be showing different blocks through this entire quilt along, so please do not get confused L!

  1. Print out or trace out your paper pattern . You may need to tape together the sheets – matching given dashes or dotted lines – if the pattern is larger than A4 (like here). The online patterns usually carry instructions on how to go about it!

This pattern is all taped together and ready to be used. If your pattern is symmetrical – like the one above, you need to mark the centre of the pattern.

  1. Trace the pattern to the wrong side of the background fabric.


Tracing the Pattern

  • Tape the pattern to a light box, or glass window, sunnier the better! Here is a pattern taped on to my window . (It was so sunny that you cant really see anything in this picture!)

  • Preparing the fabric: Take background fabric at least ¾” to an inch larger than your finished piece on each side . When appliquéing, the fabric gets `pulled in’ unevenly, and you will need to square it to the right dimensions, once done.
  • Spray starch and iron your background fabric, so that there are no creases!
  • Fold and iron (the centre part only) fabric twice to mark the centre with sharp creases.


  • Tape the background fabric, right side facing the light on top of the pattern. So now the wrong side of fabric will be visible to you …Match the centre of the fabric to the centre of pattern. And trace with fabric pen in contrasting colour. I use a lead pencil, which would not work on light coloured or white fabric.



    Now we have our pattern traced on the wrong side of the background fabric! And we are ready for the next step.

  1. Pin/ tack or tape your appliqué square to the right side of the fabric, smoothing it out . Hold it against the light to ensure your pattern is completely covered, leaving a seam allowance all around.

  2. Flip over to the reverse side and go over the pattern with a running stitch in contrasting thread.



    Tip: You can afford to take large stitches on wide curves and straight edges. The sharper the curve, the smaller the stitch!

  3. This is done! Here it is from the right side.


    Here is another block, the appliqué fabric basted in place on a corner. This is when I had just discovered that the joys of paper tape vis a vis pins!




  4. Roughly trim around the pattern, leaving just about a ¼” allowance . For the time being, do not attempt to trim into sharp curves and the reverse appliqué portion!

    A few tutes recommend skipping this step altogether, and trimming only as you go along.

    In any case, we are ready to appliqué. Now you can carry this with you anywhere (or put it away for a year)– and take it out and finish it any time 🙂

  5. Start location – Start in an area which is straight or a fairly wide or gentle curve. In my block above, I could have started on the straight basket base. I am starting on the wide handle above.


  6. Even out the seam allowance here. A ¼ ” or less seam allowance works great on wider curves. With a washable fabric marker pen ( I’ve used a lead pencil), go over the basting line a few inches ahead of where you will be working. This will work as a guide for the seam line. As we go along, we continue to mark the seam line in this manner.

    Several tutorials suggest using the hole made by the basting as a guide. My ageing eyes prefer a drawn line!


  7. Clip the thread , remove a few stitches with your needle (or the toothpick). Turn the fabric under and start stitching! I was taught to take a few back stitches at the back when beginning a hand sewing project, so that is how I fasten my thread! More often than not, I forget to` bury’ the tail between the appliqué and the background fabric – which would look much neater. L
  8. Generally one would slip stitch it ( like an invisible hem). You could also use a decorative button hole or a feather stitch …


    and so you go on, removing the basting ahead of you, turning in the seam allowance and joining the appliqué piece to the background! Simple, isn’t it? Use the toothpick to negotiate the more difficult parts. And remember to keep flipping over to see you are on the right track…



Seam allowance – Trim your seam allowance as you go along. Your seam allowance is not a constant. For wide, gentle curves and straight edges, keep it at ¼” . Since there are no exposed seams, for smaller pieces you can reduce the seam allowance.

Another tip is sharper the curve, the smaller the seam allowance.

Curves – Notch all curves – as you approach them.

You would generally read that it is not necessary to make notches in convex (fat) curves, and that is quite true. But I find that doing this reduces the seam bulk and gives you a smoother curve.

As for concave (hollow) curves , it is imperative to make notches. Again, the rule is, sharper the curve, the closer the notches!



Sewing sharp (pointed) outer corners – as in leaves, petals…As you approach a pointed outer corner, trim the corner seam allowance to a blunt 1/8″ or less. Notch as liberally as you dare! Remove the hand basting stitches only up to the corner.

Stitch right up to the point and fasten the thread by taking one or two back stitches on the wrong side.

Now remove the basting on the other edge. With a toothpick, ease in the fabric gently, rolling it over inside the tiny space. You may need to trim the seam allowance further as you do this.

Sewing sharp pointed inner corners – As you approach the corner, reduce the seam allowance on both the edges that meet at the corner steadily. ( I make a cut which stops just before the corner point, so that the allowance at the corner may be literally just a thread or two!)



Remove the basting on both edges . Now, with the toothpick, ease in the seam allowance on both the edges. Remember, gentle is the word!


Sharp curves (not pointed) –Make two notches on either side of the corner, instead of a single cut as for a pointed corner.




The Stitch – I’ve not come across any description of it anywhere, so I do not know what it is called. It is something like the ladder stitch, or even the blind stitch, but not quite… invented it when trying to make my appliqué stitch invisible!

  • It is basically a running stitch. The lower stitch is visible on the wrong side. The upper stitch is hidden, in the fold just above the seam turning, but below the visible part of the appliqué.
  • I begin by bringing the needle straight up, on the right side on the appliqué, just a thread or two inside the edge.
  • Then I go right back in the same place, but not all the way to the wrong side of the fabric. I stop in the fold above the seam allowance. Travel a few millimetres in that fold and then go down to the wrong side. Take a stitch and come up to the right side again as in the previous step.
  • The stitch is totally invisible on the top! Except for a tiny hole, which can be smoothed away.

On the wrong side it shows up  just a thread or two inside the pattern line.

I find hand appliqué really relaxing! I am sure you will, too!

All the blocks shown are from the Just Takes 2 2012 quiltalong…and here is a great hand basting tutorial from the same site.

You can see my quilt top containing all the above completed appliqué blocks here.

The Hippie Happy Quilt

My Desi Quilter Challenge Quilt
Fused Text `Quilt’

Now it can be revealed!

My online quilting forum Desi Quilters’ monthly challenge for January was to come up with a quilted wall-hanging for my sewing place with text in it! And the entries were to be anonymous too – for the group.

I thought long and hard and hit upon hippie art, very popular when I was growing up! And I had the perfect fabric for it, with bright flowers and paisleys! The text had to be pieced according to the challenge rules, and what word better than `PIECE’ to piece? I love playing around with words, so the first part of the quilt was designed with a peace symbol! I used Elizabeth Hartman’s (of Oh,Fransson!) method to piece the text, using lightweight stabilizer – the pieces are ready at 1/2″.

Peace / Piece Block
Peace / Piece Block 10″X 17″

For the pieced ring border of the Peace symbol, I did something I thought was super clever! I’ll talk about that later! I quilted this block with a kind of paisley pattern in contrasting yellow and pink , using the walking foot. I quilted as I went (QAYG), as I had long wanted to try this method ! (Also, wanted the quilt to be be in an almost- ready position to be submitted at the deadline, in case I could not complete all the blocks 😉 !)

When we were teenagers, a favourite doodle was a name or slogan written in a circle in this `font’! ( We were all in love with Rhett Butler of Gone with the Wind, so our rough notebooks were full of imaginatively decorated doodles of `Rhett’ in circles and hearts!) So this bit of art was a must for my quilt! After much brainstorming, I hit on SEWL – a play on SOUL! (DH thinks the word-play is incomprehensible; I am quite proud of it, sew there!) So in went the `SEWL’ into a circle with rays radiating from it.

Soul / Sewl Block
Soul / Sewl Block 17″ X 17″

To construct the rays block, I used an 18″ square freezer paper. I marked the centre of the paper and drew drew three concentric circles, at 5″, 7″ and 9″ . A protractor was used to draw the rays – there are 24 rays in all, 15 degree angles. I pieced the block in halves, using the freezer paper technique, folding away each ray as I pieced it. I wish I had taken pictures 😦

Now came the brilliant part (IMNSHO – where H stands for humble!) I cut out the smaller ring (5′ inner and 7″ outer radius) and used it to border my `PEACE’ symbol! This ring had to be raw edge appliqued.

The rays were ready to be used as the background on which I appliqued the SEWL circle, after turning in the edges. I fussy cut the highlighter fabric to decorate the block, using raw edge machine stitched applique. I quilted around this applique to highlight and raise it, but this was a disaster of sorts! It made the work look terribly untidy. 😦

So I had PIECE and I had SEW, but wanted something more! After browsing through hippie slogans a hundred times, the brain wave struck…tranquility! So the final block was designed.

TranQUILTy block
Tranquility / Tranquilty block 27″ X 11″

For this block, I was inspired to attempt Chenille quilting, explained so beautifully by by the talented quilter Vani Roy in a Chenille Quilt Along on the Desi Quilters’ facebook forum. The block was designed as a long narrow horizontal panel below the other two blocks, to give a feeling of expansiveness. The oversized full moon linked up the three blocks. I also wanted to add a bodhhi tree, but TRANQUILTY is a huge (pseudo)word! I quilted the whole text, and fused the letters QUILT on it. I did minimum quilting on this block, because I did want it to look to busy. The wall hanging is now a perfect size for my sewing corner!

Wall quilt quilted with walking foot using QAYG method
Hippie Art Quilt – ready for my sewing Corner

Do feel free to make your own wall quilt inspired by my quilt! But I would love it if you would link back your quilt to me 🙂

Just takes 2 quilt – progress

The progress on my just takes 2 mystery quilt has been painfully slow 😦 The mystery quilt by Gay Bomers of and Brenda of Dear Jane ran through 2012, and the last set of the 100 blocks that make up this quilt, and suggestions for the border were revealed this month ! I am still stuck in April, May sometime! 😦 😦 😦 But finally, I am planning to go full steam on it from tomorrow, so am making a record of blocks finished

Here are three hand -sewed blocks I finished since I last blogged about this quilt, months ago!

The first applique( Hawaiian look) block uses the back basting technique. I traced the pattern to the wrong side of the background and basted the applique piece over it, turning it in as I went along. It also has reverse appliqued diamonds in the centre.

Just takes 2 quilt block
Hand appliqued quilt block – back basting method used

The second block, Grandma’s Favourite Compass is paper pieced by the EPP method . The circle was hand sewed to the background.

Just takes 2 quilt block
Grandma’s Favourite Compass quilt block -English paper piecing and hand sewing

For the third block, I appliqued after tacking the leaves on to paper,like you would for EPP). I then slit the background fabric to remove the paper.

just takes 2 hand appliqued quilt block
Hand appliqued Quilt block

Here are the first 28 blocks put together, to make up Section A of the quilt 🙂


Section A of justtakes2 quilt - first quarter of the quilt finished!
Section A of justtakes2 quilt – first quarter of the quilt finished!

Pictures of many of these blocks are here and also here as well as here.

And here are some more completed blocks. The bottom left Cathedral windows block needs some more work, I just discovered!

Blocks from Section B of justtakes2 quilt
Blocks from Section B of justtakes2 quilt

So this is where we stand today! I do have a few 4-patch strips that I have not photographed, but which count as blocks, anyways!

I have finished tracing out two more applique blocks – which will probably take me ages to finish! I shall sew them in the evenings, sitting in front of the TV. During the day, shall do the machined blocks!

Target – at least 2 blocks per day; 15 by Sunday!  Also I am determined to finish all blocks of Section B during 2012…

At the end of each day,  I shall post pics of the day’s progress! Do look in to have dekko and drop a line of encouragement!

The determination to win is the better part of winning.  Daisaku Ikeda


I’d like to be, under the sea…

In an Octopus’s Garden…in the shade!

Appliqued Octopus
Machine appliqued Octopus

I made this quilt for a challenge with my quilting group Desi Quilters, for which one had to make a quilt using strips. I had always wanted to make a Convergence Quilt and I had the perfect print for it!

For making Convergence quilts, a great resource is the book Ricky Tim’s Convergence Quilt  available on I found a great tutorial on Rafael’s Mum’s blogspot ” Adventures in Quilting and Sailing., and set out to work on my four fabrics. For those of you too lazy to go look up that blog , for a wall hanging / baby quilt about 40″ X 40″, you need two or more  fabrics, though generally one uses 4 fabrics, like I did. So, the recipe is:

4 fat quarters of nicely contrasting fabric.  It works best when the main fabric is a large diffused (all over ) print or batik with strongly contrasting colours.

1 yard 40- 44″ wide fabric for the border

1.5 yards of 40-44″ fabric for backing

48″ X 48″ batting ( I used an old woollen shawl :-))

So here  are my four fabrics ( remembered to take a picture only after I had already started working on it)

Convergence quilt fabric
Trying out arrangements for the quilt fabric

And here is the how the  top would look once finished… I added a 1/4″ inner border to frame the strips, before adding a wide 7.5″ border (cut at 8″) on the outside.

Quilt top finished
Quilt top

I quite love it! As I was sewing it, a song kept playing in my head – no points for guessing which!

We would be warm,

Under the storm,

In our little hideaway

Beneath the waves…

So I had to get my Octopus. After browsing through hundreds of octopus images, I zeroed onto these two, that I absolutely adored:

Debra Harry’s Octopus Quilt  and a quilt on The Calico Cat’s blogspot.

I decided to base my Octopus on Debra Harry’s Octopus.  For the fabric I turned to a Fossil Fern charms pack  gifted to me by a wonderful friend Chumkie, from my Desi Quilters group.

I needed a range of shades in the same colour. Brighter for the tentacles in the foreground, and darker in the tentacles to the back. Also, the underside of the tentacles had to be a much lighter shade. It was like painting with fabric!

These are the various colour combinations I thought of –

I do not like purples and thought it would be good to get rid of them here 😉
Pink Fossil ferns
Pinks? Too predictable!
Earthy browns? too dull…

( A good idea is to lay out your fabrics together and take a picture. You get a much better idea of what ‘clicks’ and what does not!

Once the decision for the fabric was made, I sketched the Octopus on newspaper and cut it out, placed it on the quilt to see how it looked. Too small! So I sketched a bigger one and that seemed just right. Sorry, I did not take pics of this stage either.

I then drew a grid on freezer paper – showing where the Octopus would be placed vis-a-vis the strips. You see, I wanted  a few of the tentacles to come from behind the strips.  [Secret – I had only charm squares to work with, so I could not have too long a piece anywhere 😉 ]

I the sketched my Octopus on the grid, freehand, as you can see!

Octopus sketch
Octopus sketched on freezer paper marked with quilt grid

Note that the image is the reverse (mirror image) of how it shall appear on the quilt. The top line is the upper border – I wanted a tentacle stealing out to the border! I numbered each tentacle, and each part that would be in a different fabric on that tentacle. 1, 2, 3, 4 would be the foreground tentacles in a brighter colour

A close up of the Octopus would explain what I am saying…

Octopus Garden Quilt
A close up of the Octopus to show the gradations in colour between the tentacles in the foreground and those at the back. The undersides were done in a lighter colour

Each small piece was then traced on to Heat n Bond Lite (pink), leaving an extra 1/6″ on the edge that was to be overlapped by another piece. All the pieces were laid on the fabric top, the paper removed one by one, and the fabric was ironed on to the quilt top.

I machine stitched it with invisible nylon thread on the top and white cotton in the bobbin. I could have been neater 😦

Learning: Here I realised that I should have handled it one tentacle at a time. Ironed one (the lowermost), stitched it, then the next… because by the time I was through with ironing it, edges had started to come off! The very small pieces even came off as I was stitching. That is why a few of the tentacles are wonky! I suppose I should overstitch the edges with satin stitch, now that I own a Brother, but I think I like the raw edged look:-) Or maybe, I am just too lazy.

For the backing I had fabric that was just 36″ wide and a quilt nearly 44″ wide. So I decided to add a contrast turquoise to make it measure up!  Alsa! The turquoise was  also a yard width, and only a metre (40″). Eureka! add some of the main print from the front in the shape of a coral rock! I had always wanted to experiment with wavy edges – so they came in next. Here is the end result

Convergence Quilt - Octopus Garden quilt back
Octopus Garden quilt back

I used an old shawl as the batting and quilted it with waves.

For the binding I joined the two solid backing fabrics and cut them diagonally to obtain a bias binding. Originally I machine stitched the binding ( from the back to the front!) because I was in a hurry.  I thought it was quite hideous, and ripped, folding down the edges with invisible hemming.


I’d ask my friends to come and see

An Octopus’s Garden with me!

Convergence Quilt with appliqued octopus
Octopus’s Garden Quilt

Of course, my Octopus has been christened  Paul,after  my favourite Beatle!

Convergence Quilt - Octopus's Garden
We’d sing and shout, and swim about
the coral that lies beneath the waves…

I do plan to add some embellishment to this quilt, so watch this space… 🙂

Quilt for a little girl

I designed and made this little quilt for my little grand niece.

It is a number / counting quilt – also a land, sea, air quilt – made with silks and satins and oodles of love. Anyone is free to copy it in any which way they like.