I bought this panel of the Frozen princesses To make a quilt ( or wall hanging) for my grand-niece who is a great fan of the two!
She was due to visit us and I thought of a quick gift for her. But how boring would this be!
So I came up with this idea.
I printed her face on a printer-ready fabric sheet after calculating the size I would need to make it.
Everything got more complicated than necessary because I planned to put K on the right side. I cut out the pink princess ( is that Elsa or Anna?) before I realised that that would make my darling Princess K an ‘outsider’ because the other two had interlocked arms.
So I disengaged their arms and locked them with Princess K’s who moved to the centre. Ah, that’s the way I like it. The Disney Princesses look at her admiringly ( and a bit enviously?). The Resident Consultant did not think much of my original idea of a silver dress for his Princess. So I retained the silver yoke and made her blue dress from…a rayon grocery bag! ( Jaipur is a big exporter of women’s clothing. With single use plastic being banned in India, our shopkeepers are using bags made from export-surplus fabric and export-reject dresses).
The quilting was kept to a minimum. ( Also because I had just over a couple of hours for the quilting and finishing). I folded the lighter pink border to the back of the quilted piece, leaving the darker plum inner border to frame the quilt. No binding. The top border became the sleeve.
Not that my Princess minded the short-cuts taken to finish her portrait! She couldn’t believe what she saw.
“How? wow! how? wow…”, she exclaimed!
And here is the Princess herself, posing with her quilted wall-hanging.
Now that done, I have to decide what comes up next!
Completed Quilt#2 in my 19th century wood engraving print series! 7” x10” The original print dated 1883, is 3.5”x5” and the image is from periodpaper.com.
The monument shown is, I believe, Pali Darwaza or the ‘first gate’, at Rajgad ” king of all forts “, near Pune, in Maharashtra, India. Rajgad, known as the unconquerable fort, has a history going back to at least the 15th century, but is best known because of its association with the great Shivaji, whose capital it was for over 26 years! Interestingly, this is a reverse image of the original monument, possibly because the original engraving on wood was correct, but when printed on paper, it got reversed. Look at this picture, from Wikipedia, taken from above, would you agree?
Here is the reverse of my quilt, picture taken before I quilted the background.
I photoshopped the original picture to reduce the contrast and gave it an antique paper finish, before printing it on A4 size printer ready fabric sheet.
Tha sandwich was made with thin poly-batting and free-motion quilted with YLI Softouch ( black) and variegated Gutermann (sand) on Hasina, my Husqvarna Viking Topaz 20. I wanted to clarify that is not first thread painted and then quilted. Finished the edges with a simple zigzag ( which makes it eady to frame under glass, in case the recipient decides to) and a corner curled in to give it a dog-eared look! Here is a close-up!
Can you guess that you are going to see more of these thread sketches here?
One thing that has always entranced me is the illustrations of buildings and places from the India of the nineteenth century. As the British travelled across this vast and fascinating land that they had recently colonised, they made a record of its diverse flora and fauna, its people and its rich architectural heritage. An artist usually travelled with the demographer/geographer/biologist/historian and the final document presented to the world was beautifully illustrated …such intricate drawings, with the minutest details!
Ever since I learnt to sketch with India ink on paper, I wanted to be able to draw like that! (One had those nib pens, that you dipped in bottles of ink and you controlled the width of the stroke by the angle of the nib and the pressure applied!) I never got around to it, but you can see some of my drawings from those days, about 40 years ago, here.
When I started quilting, I wondered if I could replicate those ink drawings with thread. I finally got around to trying it a few days back!
I would start with something not too complicated, I decided. This seemed a good candidate!
I reduced the contrast and brightened the image, till I had an outline of the basic shapes monuments and trees. I then changed the image size to 8″ x 10″ and printed it on printer- ready fabric. Added a 2.5″ wide mitred border in black and prepared the quilt sandwich with thin poly batting.
It was free motion quilted on Hasina, my Topaz 20 ( embroidery needle size 70) using YLI Softtouch thread.
Here are some pictures showing the progress of the quilting!
I wondered how it would look if I coloured it lightly, but was scared to ruin it. Then I had a brilliant idea! I flipped the quilt over, and tinted some areas of the back of the quilt with Inktense colour pencils! And added the border with some fancy stitches.
When I flipped it over, I loved the back as much as I liked the front! Or perhaps more!
Now began my search for the monument that had been the inspiration for the wood engraving.
The legend read, ‘Tchatri at Tintoui in Bheel Country’ and I presumed that these would be the chhatris ( pavilions or canopies built over a place where a member of a royal family was cremated) near Udaipur in Rajasthan. The Bheels a proud, warrior tribe have long inhabited the forests near Udaipur. But I wondered about Tintoui.
A search on google maps took me to Tintoi in Gujarat, South of Udaipur, presumably also ‘Bheel Country’ – you can see how the hill forest to the West of Udaipur continued southward to the North of Tintoi.
Now to hunt for a chhatri near/ in Tintoi! Is it possible that Tintoi, now a small village, was earlier the name of a much larger surrounding area? Further research revealed that Sabarkantha District in which Tintoi Village was located also had ancient monuments in a forest area, called the Polo Forest! From there it was easy!
Not only was I on the right track, I also found my pair of chhatris, sadly much worse for wear over the last 140 odd years! But totally recognisable, including the tree with its slanting trunk! The website of Gujrat Tourism provided me the best picture of my chhatris! !But…the chhatris seem to be ‘flipped horizontal’ or a mirror image of the wood engraving! How was that possible? Then it struck me. The original engraving was true to the monument, but when it was printed on paper, a mirror image was created! Check the back of my quilt!
Isn’t that amazing!?
You can imagine how delighted I was. The Polo Forest is definitely on my bucket list of places to visit now!
I leave you with this image of my finished mini quilt. But I will be back soon with another thread sketch, for this is addictive, I tell you!
The peacock is the theme of the India Quilt Festival, 2019 and I have designed a quilted peacock feather that you can make–as a participant in q quilt-along–to feel a part of the first ever quilt show in India! This is the fourth and final post in this quilt-along. I have given the list of materials required in the first post, the cutting instructions in the second and the tracing instructions in the third post of this series.
Now the real fun begins. I promise you that this is addictive!
Quilting the Peacock Feather
I would have liked to have a free-motion quilting foot, but a walking foot will work equally well for this small feather. I do not have even a walking foot, but I have not added a batting to my feather, so I think a regular foot will have to work here! Let us see how it goes.
The first thing I have to do is quilt the centre of my feather (which you may remember, I do not have in place at all!) So I flip over to the backing side and quilt the outline of the centre of the feather. I turn it around and realize I had white thread in the bobbin, so the outline shows up in white on the front. I am not very happy with this, but eventually, it will not matter.
2. Now I know exactly where the centre of my feather lies! I pin it in place, and zigzag over the edge of the outermost green layer. I then zigzag over the other three layers, beginning with the centremost to get the pin out of the way.
I have used dark blue thread, but you could use a deep yellow, or a dark green or even black—anything that will contrast nicely with your fabrics. If you do not have a zigzag stitch on your machine, use the straight stitch. A tiny satin stitch will work equally well! The great thing about this feather is that you do whatever you are comfortable with. The intent is to have fun! And now the fun begins.
3. With centre in place, I turn the sandwich over and start quilting over the lines in the pattern traced on the backing. I do the central spine of the feather first.
The trick is to quilt slowly; it is quite simple really, just quilting over a line drawn on the fabric!
4.I then start doing the rest of the feather, beginning again at the bottom. Start from the central spine, travel to the outer edge, travelling up the edge a little to the next line…
…stop the machine with needle down, turn around the sandwich and travel back to the centre. Travel up a little to the next line and repeat!
Once one side of the spine is quilted, I sew over the lines on the other side. In less than 10 minutes, I am done! The best part is that one does not need to panic if one strays from the lines. Your feather need not look exactly like mine, after all.
5. I am ready to add details to the feather now. I start, literally, to quilt between the lines. Note that I go beyond the outline in several places, just travelling with the flow!
Another 10 minutes, and I have finished quilting my feather!
The Final Step
6. Now I am ready for bringing my feather to life! I pick up my really sharp scissors and start trimming the feather along the quilted outline. At first, I am a little circumspect.
But then I become more adventurous, travelling almost up to the central spine with my scissors to make my feather look realistic. Let me check it from the back.
Time for the final reveal?
For a list of materials required and the PDF pattern for the quilted feather, refer to the first post about this quilt along. For the cutting instructions for the feather, refer to the second post about this quilt along. You can download a PDF file containing cutting instructions from that post. The tracing instructions (including a PDF file) are given in the third post, a continuation of my second post. The download link to the quilting instructions is below. If you want to make a larger 10.5″ or smaller 5.5″ feather, download the pattern below. Remember you need to keep the feather and background fabric at least 2″ bigger than the finished feather, on all sides!
I am back from my walk, and took this pretty picture of oak leaves to share with you.
So, let’s move to the next step, shall we?
Tracing the Pattern
I will trace the pattern on to the backing fabric. I have used white; you could use any light colured fabric, perhaps a blue or a green?
The pins are in place to mark the top and bottom edges of the feather and the centre.
I placed the white fabric on the paper print-out of the peacock feather outline and traced it using an ordinary HB lead pencil! I would recommend you use a washable marker if you have access to one. Remember the tracing is to be made on the right side of the backing.
I had a glass table to work on so it was easy to see through the white fabric. You could tape the paper pattern on a glass window and the background fabric on top of that.
When I was tracing from the pattern, I realized that the centre was not marked very clearly on the pattern. Now, what?
I placed the fabric centre of the feather, wrong side up on the tracing and drew the outline on the backing.
Simple solution, right?
Now my backing is ready. I remove the paper from below, but I leave the pins in place to mark the top and bottom of the feather and the centre on the backing. These are important.
Preparing the Quilt Sandwich
I don’t have any batting, so I don’t make a regular sandwich at all! But, as for you, it is time to prepare the quilt sandwich as you usually do…
Layer 1–the black background fabric for the feather on the bottom, placed wrong side up.
Layer 2–the batting (or a piece of flannel/ other thick fabric, if you do not have batting)
Layer 3–the backing right side up (with the tracing on top).
Now I carefully pin the three layers together, in exactly the same place as on the backing. This gives me the edges of my feather, and helps me in the placement of the blue-green fabric that will form the main body of my feather.
Where is the centre of the feather, you ask? For that you will have to wait–till I am ready to start quilting. Meanwhile, I am waiting for you to share your chosen fabrics on Facebook! Happy cutting, tracing and pinning!
Cutting the fabric for the quilted peacock feather…
The peacock is the theme of the India Quilt Festival, 2019 and there are going to be a lot many peacock quilts there, I can promise you! Would you not love to have a peacock feather quilted by you flocking there? A part of Tina’s secret project? Hurry then, and get your fabric and materials in one place and get ready to start!
Cutting the Fabric
I am on my way!
I first cut the fabric for the centre of the feather, which has the four colours from inside out–deep blue, light blue, deep yellow and green.
I begin with the outermost green portion of the centre of the coloured print out. I carefully insert my scissors along the outer outline of the green and cut out the entire centre.
2. I pin it on the right side of the green fabric and cut out the oval pointed piece. I do love this pretty green, don’t you?
3. I now trim the centre of the print out to the next, yellow portion. I pin it on the right side of the yellow fabric and cut out the fabric, just like I did the green.
I could have printed the pattern on freezer paper and avoided the pinning! For a more complicated pattern, I would definitely use freezer paper. Then I could iron it on to the fabric instead of having to pin intricate pieces and struggling to keep them in place.
4. I pin the yellow piece in its place on top of the green one. To ensure that I have it correct, I place the green paper ring on top of the green fabric and then adjust the yellow fabric inside the ring.
5. I am now ready for the next part of the centre, the light blue. Again, I trim away the yellow ring, cut out the light blue fabric and pin it in place. And so, the deep blue!
I finally have the entire centre fabric cut out and I place it on the fabric for the main body of the feather to see how it looks. Ooh, I do love this, I think that hand-dyed fabric is just so perfect for the peacock feather!
I have to go now, first for a walk and then to get some groceries, but I should be back in a few hours to finish this!
Before I go off, I put the tiniest dab of glue on each layer of the centre so that it doesn’t shift while I am away! Note that I am not going to stick it on the blue-green fabric; it is there only keep the four layers of the centre together. I am so excited to see how this will look finished!
Refer to the first part of this quilt-along for the PDF pattern for the middle-sized 7″ peacock feather that I made and for a list of the materials required.
If you want a print-out of the instructions above, download the file below. You will need Adobe Reader on your computer to be able to read this. It can be downloaded for free online!
I have been feeling so bad that I will not be able to attend the first ever India Quilt Festival in January 2019, at Chennai. So many of our Indian quilters, and a few international ones too, have sent in their quilts; there are nearly three hundred entries! But so many of us couldn’t; we didn’t have the time, or perhaps we didn’t feel confident enough. And being there…seeing all those beautiful quilts, meeting and learning from some of the best quilter-teachers in the world! Wow, that would be a dream come true for so many of us. Would we not love to participate in some way, however small?
So when Tina Katwal, the heart and brain behind the show, asked me if I would like to do something for the festival–so that all of us sitting at home could be part of the show–I said yes immediately. She had something in mind (let that be a secret for now) but for that I needed to design a peacock feather, easy enough for even a beginner quilter to put together with fabric scraps. We would be making our very own peacock feathers, using my pattern, and sending them to Chennai for Tina’s secret project…Sounded like an exciting idea!
For those of you who do not know, India’s national bird, the peacock, is the theme of the festival and one of the themes for the judged quilt show too!
I designed the feather on the Bamboo Paper App on my iPad—that was in September, just before I left to visit my son.
I decided last week, finally, to start working on the feather, but…I have no quilting supplies here! Thankfully, I did carry with me the fabric that I would be using for the feather. And, I have converted the sketch to a PDF file. So let us see how we can convert this to a quilted object. I thought a quilt along would be a good idea so that we could help each other if we got stuck.
Would you like to quilt along with me? Then, first, let us get together everything we need for this quick project. I presume you have Acrobat Reader (downloadable free online) on your computer, access to a colour printer to print out the pattern, and of course, a sewing machine with a walking foot or a free-motion quilting foot. (If not, you would need a willingness to hand quilt!)
Today, we get our fabric together and print out the pattern. The fabric requirements are for a 7″ feather. I plan to add patterns for a larger 10.5″ and smaller 6″ feather, if this works out okay.
Black (or any other dark coloured) fabric: 8” x 10” piece
Blue-green fabric for the main body of the feather: 6” x 8” piece
Light green fabric: 4” square
Gold/ Mustard yellow fabric: 3” square
Sky blue fabric: 2” square
Dark blue fabric: 1.5” scrap
Light blue/ light green (I have used white)
Batting: 8” x 10” piece. You could possibly use any thick fabric or a piece of flannel instead. That should help in making the feather stiff (and will be easy to work on even if you don’t have a walking foot for your sewing machine.) I do not have any of these, so my feather will be not be a true sandwich.
Machine Sewing Thread: Black/ blue/ green/ mustard to contrast with your background fabric. I am using a royal blue thread because…you guessed right…that is the only thread I have here!
Stabilizer–any light fusible of your choice, if you have it at hand. I don’t have any, so…
Here is a picture of my fabrics! Aren’t they delicious?
The other thing I am going to do today, is print out the pattern.
Important: The pattern will print in landscape mode, so make the necessary adjustments to your printer settings. Use A4 size paper and print true to size or at 100 percent. Do not adjust image to paper size
I have my pattern printed. You can see that the pattern is in two pages and that the outline is a mirror image of the coloured feather.
Another quilt-a wall hanging that I finished this year, but did not get around to sharing…
I wanted to make something special for my son and daughter-in-law for their fifth wedding anniversary and thought this would make a great gift. Many of you have asked me how I put together the portrait, so I will try to do a brief summary here. But before I do that, I must record my thanks to a generous friend and wonderful artist, Manju Narain, who is a master of portrait quilts and who worked as my guide and sounding board as I created this portrait.
The choice of picture is important. Take a high resoltion picture so that you do not lose out on the details. Mentally remove any extraneous elements in the background as you weigh the pros and cons of a particular picture. Does the picture speak to you, tell you something about the person behind the face? I went through several photos, changing them to black and white, checking for contrast and drama before I zeroed in to this one. My daughter-in-law, M’s, smile is a blinder and (of course!) I think, my son has a very sweet smile too.
Once the picture was finalized, I reduced the number of colours to five- black, white and three greys . I don’t have Photoshop and was not satisfied with the result obtained with Paint, so I searched online and found a great site which works beautifully well.
I enlarged the picture to 30″ x 40″; then took two full size prints-out, one on plain paper and the other on freezer paper and pulled out black, white and grey solids to work with. I trimmed away the background from the freezer paper print. The plain paper picture would work as a guide. I also kept a print-out of the original picture in colour, for reference.
4. I traced the outer outline of the figures and the garments on the white background fabric- this will help me in the final placement of the figures on it. No pictures of this!
5. I began work on my DIL’s (daughter-in-law’s) face and neck first. I built the portrait in layers, like one does with oil paints.
I decide to use the medium grey fabric as a base for the face on which the features will be built up. I ironed the freezer paper on the right side of the fabric which will form the lowermost layer. I built up the various layers, using the freezer paper templates as guides. For the really tiny pieces, I ironed a two-sided fusible on the wrong side of the fabric before cutting out the pieces. They could then be ironed in place. (The details, such as the white highlights on the nose, teeth and eyes would come in last after most of the quilting had been done).
For the hair, I used black as the base and pinned the highlights in the dark grey over it . (I later regretted not adding a fusible under the highlights as the thin strips frayed before I could stitch them down. Another good option would have been to cut and place them just before I was ready to quilt down the piece.)
Now I was ready to create Son’s face. Here, the base would be the dark grey.
The basic shapes finished, I stitched DIL’s face in place on the background, using my pencil tracing as a guide.
The great thing about having freezer paper templates is that you can iron them on the background fabric to make sure you are stitching pieces in the right place!
The deadline for finishing the quilt approached, but we had guests over whom I had to take shopping! That is where I found the perfect danglers for DIL!
Son’s jacket was a bigger problem. He is wearing a light blue jacket in the photo and I wanted to use their garments to add colour and zing to the portrait. Instead, I found this brown furnishing fabric-the texture seemed perfect! I also found the perfect buttons in my mother-in-law’s collection; they came from a coat that belonged to my father-in-law almost half a century ago.
Now I was thinking about DIL’s saree. Also, I needed colour here! That is when I remembered how fond DIL was of orchids and had insisted on purple orchids for her jaimala (garlands exchanged by bride and groom) on her wedding. So we went orchid-hunting! I finally managed to find these silk orchids, so pretty, don’t you think?
Meanwhile, I add more details to Son’s face…
…and find the loveliest black tissue brocade in my stash for DIL’s saree. I auditioned gold tissue for her blouse, but settled on black.
This is looking good now!
Black brocade saree in tissue silk for DIL
Now that everything is in place, comes the difficult question-to quilt or not to quilt. I began tentatively…
But, what the heck! Let us jump right in!
Well, lots of more quilting-and here we are. I finally decided to add five orchids to the quilt, four in DIL’s hair and one in Son’s buttonhole for it was five years of married life they would be celebrating!
The binding was done, dots of white Inktense pencil inks added to the teeth and noses, hanging sleeve attached and I was ready to share the pictures of their gift with the children on their wedding anniversary. I brought it with me when I travelled to the US to visit them. Here is the portrait on their dining room wall. Incidentally I used the ‘Hang-it-Dang-it’ hanger to hang it and it worked wonderfully well!
A final close look at the portrait before I say goodnight!
In its home!
(For those of you who have been waiting, I did not take enough pictures, so a detailed tutorial will have to wait till I do my next portrait quilt.)
I show you how to frame your finished quilt behind glass, even adding a border!
My quilt Seasons in the Sun has been lying around in a shelf for over three years now! I live in a dusty place and it was necessary to put it behind a glass frame. In any case, it did not even have a hanging sleeve!
I was also not sure how to hang it behind glass and browsed the web for a solution. I finally decided to get a box frame made, fit it with a hanging rod and hang the quilt inside. The carpenter was ready with box frame a few days ago, but I could not get myself to stitch yet another quilting sleeve (after two on the Dreamcatcher and another on my son and daughter-in-law’s portrait quilt! That reminds me that I am yet to share pics of that portrait here).
So I was saying that adding hanging sleeves must be the most tedious part of quilting and I wanted to avoid it come what may! I decided I would mount it on board, like pictures are, but how? I did manage to work out something, and here is a mini-tute explaining what I did and why.
How to Display a Finished Quilt Behind Glass
Preparing your Quilt
1. Measure your quilt as accurately as you can, including the binding and then measure the finished binding. My quilt measured as follows
36.5″ x 50″ including binding. My binding was 1/2″ finished, so excluding the binding, my quilt finished at 35.5″ x 49″.
2. You need to decide if you want a border around the finished quilt. I had to add a 5″ border beyond my final quilt size, because I was working with a frame that was already made.
3. Once that is decided, you can calculate how much fabric you will need.
If adding border:
Fabric 1: Can be any solid ; I used inexpensive poplin. This has to be equal to the size of the quilt minus the binding plus total 1/2″ for two seams. I will call this the backing fabric.
Fabric 2: For the border. I could not decide what I wanted for the border. I would have liked a sky blue mitered border, but I did not have enough of the fabric in my stash. I also did not have enough green fabric in a single colour, so I pieced my border using whatever I had at hand.
To calculate the fabric needed for the (unmitered) border:
Width of border:
Width of border+ width of binding + 1/4″ for seam joining border to backing + 1.25″ to wrap to the back of the mounting board.
In my case this was 5″ + 1/2″+ 1/4″ + 1.25″ =7″
Length of border:
2 readied strips, width of border x length of backing ( for me 35.5″x7″)
2 strips of width of border x width of backing plus two widths of border minus 1/2″
( for me 7″x 49.5″ plus 14″ minus 1/2″, that is 7″x 73″)
If not adding border
Make a backing fabric equal to final size of quilt plus 1.25″ all around ( to wrap over and to the back of the mounting.
You may be tempted to skip the backing all together, but adding an additional backing protects your quilt, because it ensures that it does not come in direct contact with the board.
4. Prepare your backing by adding the borders. Spray starch and press all seams.
5. Sew the backing to the quilt:
Lay the prepared backing flat, right side facing up. Arrange the quilt, also facing up, on top of the backing. ( I spray basted the two layers together!)
Pin-baste these two together, so that the binding seam of the quilt falls exactly over the seam joining the border to the prepared backing. Now we are ready to sew.
You can machine sew, exactly at the inner edge of the binding, turning over frequently to check that you are not straying from the seam line on the fabric below. I did not feel confident about machine sewing, so I flipped over the pinned- basted layers. I folded the border back on the backing and slip-stitched the two layers together. I could ensure that the seam line on the backing fabric was joined to the seam line of the binding on the quilt exactly. That at the end of it I was left wishing I had stuck to a hanging sleeve, is quite another matter!
Once this was done, I folded the border back and ironed it. Here you can see how it looks. The binding is free, not stitched down, and I like that ‘quilty look’.
If not adding a border, the mount has to be exactly the size of the quilt.
I do not know any technical carpentry terms, so this is going to be written in a layman’s language!
I wanted teakwood for the 2.5″ wide frame, but the carpenter recommended pinewood, saying it was lighter. I did not want a simple frame, so I extended the bars beyond the frame. I designed the frame with the horizontal bars longer than the vertical ones to enhance the expansive feel the final picture would give.
The original plan, as I mentioned, was to affix a rod inside the frame and hang the quilt inside. But, with my change of plans, the hardboard that was screwed on to the back of the frame was removed and trimmed to fit inside!
– So, first the glass was fixed with strips of wood (1/2″ square section). I hunted across my city for plexi-glass, which would be non reflective, but it was not available anywhere. I then opted for the thinnest glass, 4 mm(?) thick.
– Next, the prepared quilt was stretched across the mount, the edges wrapped to the back and secured with painters tape.
We did think of gluing it to the back, but decided this was a better solution, as it would be easier to remove in case needed.
-The quilt was now placed inside the frame. Note that it does not touch the glass, because of the 1/2″ thick wooden strips between the quilt and the glass.
– The hardboard mounted with the quilt was secured with wooden strips nailed over it into the frame ( the way glass is). So no nail goes through the fabric anywhere.
I do believe this looks much neater than just hanging a quilt inside a glass box! I am now planning to frame more of my quilts to display them without fear of dust ruining them! And without harming the quilt in any way with glue or nails etc!!
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.
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!
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.
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 decision to use the polyfibre turned out to be a perilous one, as the fabric melted when I was ironing on the yellow ‘frame’ …
I decided to make this a design element and ‘patched up’ the fabric, with obvious darning stitches.
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.
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.
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.
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 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?
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 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.
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‘…
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.
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.
Also to ward off bad luck and accidents is a braid, plaited in black and red threads, tied to the back of the truck.
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 …
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,
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…