Am so happy to share that I won the second prize in the Husqvarna Viking India Quilt Competition 2014, their Opal 670 Sewing Machine!
I had no plans to participate ,when HV announced their first ever competition for quilters of Indian origin in January this year, quilts to be submitted by February end! The theme was – A Quilt Tells A Story.…and the story had to have an India twist to it. But then they extended the date of submission to 31st March…
So my quilt, which is in fact a wedding present for my husband’s nephew who got married in April, was entered in the competition. Here is the story behind my quilt! ( I shall do another post by next week, detailing the piecing technique for those interested, with a free winding ways 8.5″ block and the fire pattern added on!)
The Saptapadi ( seven steps) Quilt :
I have long wanted to make a winding ways quilt – so this started off as a red and white winding ways quilt – red being my nephew’s favourite colour. At the same time, I did not want to do a traditional kind of quilt, I wanted a modern twist to it! Once I started playing around with the blocks on ‘Quilt Assistant’ software, I came up with something I liked! The ‘petals’ at the edges of the pattern looked like flames…the flames of the sacred fire, an integral part of every Hindu wedding. The couple circumambulating the fire seven times…
So I changed the colours to add oranges and yellows…what a happy coincidence that these happen to be the bride’s favourite colours!
I would quilt footprints around the sacred fire, symbolic of the ‘saptapadi’ – the seven steps taken by the couple, before they make the beautiful wedding vows, which have come down from the ancient Vedas.
“We have taken the Seven Steps.
You have become mine forever. Yes, we have become partners. I have become yours.
Hereafter, I cannot live without you. Do not live without me.
Let us share the joys. We are word and meaning, united. You are thought and I am sound.
May the night be honey-sweet for us. May the morning be honey-sweet for us.
May the earth be honey-sweet for us. May the heavens be honey-sweet for us. May the plants be honey-sweet for us. May the sun be all honey for us.
May the cows yield us honey-sweet milk.
As the heavens are stable, as the earth is stable, as the mountains are stable, as the whole universe is stable, so may our union be permanently settled.” (Source – Wikipedia)
The fire would be offset towards a corner of the quilt. To balance it, a ‘kalash’ ( round urn decorated with mango leaves) would be at the opposite corner. A few winding ways representing flowers would be added randomly to balance the composition. This photo shows the way it finally started shaping up on my design board…
The original quilt was planned as 9×9 blocks of 10″ each. Around that time, the last date of this challenge was extended to 31st March, and I decided to participate. That meant a change in the size of the pattern and the layout. As I was working with fat quarters from my stash, the block size was changed to 8.5″ to make best use of the fabric.
One question I have been asked is why I did not use a black or charcoal grey for the background – it wuld have given a decidedly modern twist to my quilt. The answer is simple – those colours are inauspicious, and no Hindu would have them associated with a wedding ceremony which is a sacred ritual ( rather than a contractual arrangement).
I printed the pieces on freezer paper and set about cutting nearly 500 curved pieces for 49 winding ways blocks, over the next 3 days! Each of the pieces had notches on each side to mark the centres…
And then, I broke the bobbin winder on my sewing machine! My mother in law’s trusty old hand cranked sewing machine ( part of her dowry, circa 1936) emerged to do my piecing.
Once the piecing was done, various layouts were tried out. The brown corners of the 3×3 centre represent the innermost well of the three stepped ‘agnikund’, the wrought iron ‘fire vessel’. The other brown pieces were the wood used in the fire. I planned to quilt mango leaves ( a symbol of Mahalaxmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity) strung on a thread in the top row!
At this stage, my consultant ( who else, but Dear Spouse) vetoed all additions in the form of ‘ kalash’ and flowers or even quilted leaves. Too cliched, he announced!
The blocks came together on my sewing machine and much to my chagrin, I started discovering that my perfect 1/4″ seams were not so perfect after all. Here is the back of the pieced ‘fire’.
And so the top was readied, before I pieced the back. I decided to put the leftover fabric to use as a border around my giant winding ways 25.5″ block. This block would be centred exactly at the centre of the fire block on the front!
Then came the basting. I thread basted the quilt ( never again! The threads keep getting entangled in the quilting).
This is my second attempt at free motion quilting, the first was a mini 10″x 17″! This was truly baptism by fire! My original plan was to quilt it in red to yellow variegated thread, but I could not adjust the tension on the fine thread. So I echo quilted the flames in graded colours, a red, two oranges and three yellows. And yet, thread breakages, tension problems, beautiful eyelashes – I had more than my share of them all! What would take 10 minutes to quilt would take an hour and a half to rip 😦
Till I was ready to give it all up in despair.
I have probably buried upwards of 1500 threads into this quilt! I am so proud that I did not clip a singe thread and I matched each quilting start off point and break off point perfectly, so that except in about half a dozen places, you cannot tell where disaster had struck!
I decided to go back to my trusted walking foot for the background diagonals.
It was just a couple of days before submission date, so I did something highly “not recommended”! I did the binding first to bring the quilt into some kind of completion stage, before I did any more quilting! For the binding, I used an orange mango paisley print on brown ( thus ensuring the auspicious mango was integrated into the quilt!)
Once this was done, I relaxed. I would submit it in an `as is, where is’ condition on last date of submission! Now I free motion quilted flowers to draw attention to the saptapadi – the seven pairs of footprints around the ‘fire’. I also free motion quilted stringed flowers within the diagonals, representing the garlands that decorate the wedding ‘mandap’ (canopy) under which the ceremony takes place! By now, I was fmqing with ease, and I could use the variegated thread, breaking it only once over an area of nearly 36″ X 36″!
So here is the back of the completed quilt …
I am quite happy with the way it has shaped up! ( Though, don’t tell anyone, but I am mulling over adding some more quilting – perhaps closer diagonal lines – to add more texture to the background!) Meanwhile, the newly married couple wait for their wedding gift.
So here is wishing my nephew and his bride…
May the night be honey-sweet for them…
May the morning be honey-sweet for them…
May the earth be honey-sweet for them…
May the heavens be honey-sweet for them…
May the plants be honey-sweet for them…
May the sun be all honey for them…
Here are some more pics of my prize winning quilt!!
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