Tuesday, 9 April 2013

An insider's account of the Workshop

(Guest post by Smita, one of the participants at the 'Blooming Nine Patch Workshop' @Bangalore, with an insider's account)

Here goes my first foray into writing a blogpost, hope some of you taking the time to read this monologue actually enjoy it!!!

Well it all began with guru ma Tina Katwal announcing her 2 day workshop in Bangalore, needless to say I didn’t bother to read the fine print (her form got mysteriously hacked so I took it as a sign to just register and not question too much !!!)

Once I had enrolled myself and Tina sent us a checklist of stuff  to bring to the workshop, the excitement set in and I called Nikhat , Pooja and my sis in law Sangita ( co-participants ) to plan what else….. a shopping trip to buy what any quilter never as enough off ….fabric !!!!

Pooja and I set off to commercial street as we decided it was too hot to go to oklipuram, and ended up getting ripped off in terms of price but we also had great chaat,  loads of laughs and in my limited life as a quilter I have found fabric and it’s price is never a deterrent to buying it !!!

So I had all the doo dads I needed to bring and in our enthusiasm we landed at Pooja’s door bright and 45 mins early !!! It was so good to see our most generous and lovable hostess who made us feel comfortable from the start and of course guru ma is quickly becoming one of my most fave people . We spent a few mins hugging and chatting and when I m around, shopping for fabric (Yes, I admit I have a problem but hey, it is a solemn duty to support the market in these recession times ;) ) So Tina handed over all the stuff we had asked her to get for us from batting to fabric and she also got her own sewing machine, the gorgeous black beauty for Nivedita to use as she didn’t own one .

We then had a brief theory session on 9 patches how they are made , how they can be placed and Tina tried to answer all our inane questions with a lot of patience !!!

We were then let loose in Pooja’s kitchen armed with rotary cutters and June Tailors and some of us managed to chip some rulers, break Tina’s cutter and yes, we even lost Pooja’s cutter by the end of the day! I live in hope that it resurfaces in her pile of fabric and if all fails, we will do what every one does when the going gets tough.. we will go shopping for another cutter !!!! What say Pooja ???

We finally sat at our machines and guru ma had us on a tight schedule that all strip sets should be finished by noon on day one and nine patches assembled by the time we were supposed to leave at 5pm that evening . Needless to say that plan was shot to hell as we were 6 of us, 2 June tailors and 5 rotary cutters ( we hadn’t lost pooja’s cutter then !!!)

Nikhat sensibly took her parenphilia and stood in the living room and did her work quietly and efficiently. Varsha was so sweet and confused the first couple of hrs as her choice of fabrics, no of strips, all were different from the rest of us as she wanted to make a bigger one and so till she figured out how much to cut it was already noon !!! Nivedita had no supplies so we all shared and it was sheer madness with 4 novices trying to cut 4 fabrics in various lengths and numbers on 2 mats with 3 cutters and 2 june tailors.. all at the same time !!

Needless to say we worked in controlled chaos and used the times we were waiting to chat and plan some more shopping trips !!! In the alternate reality that Pooja and I exist, we are these professional, brilliantly creative quilters, hence the need for shopping trips in this reality !!!

We started stitching finally around noon and then guru ma brought out her whip oops her seam ripper most specially for me !!

A wee detail I may have missed out to mention - the closest I'd got to sewing before this was threading a needle for my mum, so although I had a ¼ '' foot, didn’t really know how much  a ¼” really was and so ended up with ½'' seams. And everytime I looked up, there was Tina brandishing the seam ripper at me and me undoing my handiwork and restarting !!! It got to a point where I was measuring my seams after every 2" of sewing and ripping even before she asked me to. That earned her nod of approval and slowly I was getting closer to the actual ¼” , HURRAH one obstacle overcome !!!

We took a break for some yummy lunch; Pooja had made some divine aloo and then it was back to work. Nikhat had started chainpiecing her nine patches while Pooja  and Sangita were struggling at their respective machines . I felt like butting my head on the wall would have more success than butting seams, but Tina and Nikhat very very patiently taught and retaught the rest of us. Varsha seemed fine and not battle-scarred and worked at her own pace on the gorgeous maharani of machines she has, whereas our poorer cousin machines worked valiantly with us . I think she had a bentley to our maruti wagon r ‘s !!!

5 pm came and went. Some of us stayed sewing till abt 7 pm and all the morning’s enthusiasm seemed to have disappeared and disenchantment started setting in. I had so much to do and was wondering how I would ever finish. Then Tina took all of Nikhat’s nine patches and showed us on the design wall how it would all look , and though I was amazed at how it actually seemed to bloom, I never really thought I would get there.

I took all my strips and machine and left for home (Nikhat, Sangita and I were travelling together). We told Pooja and Tina that we would be back at 9 am to get a head start the next day !!!

When I reached home my back was hurting and more importantly I was heart sick and feeling maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew. Shraddha, my 17 yr old amazingly supportive daughter tried cheering me up. She insisted I take a break when I wanted to start work immediately, made sure I had dinner and then around 9 pm when I sat down to sew, helped me finish all my patches, She would stitch and I would iron seams and cut, and between us we were done by 11:30 pm !!! By then I was bone aching tired and I had also decided along with Sangita that I would stick to 3 instead of 4 fabrics as we really wanted to learn basting , quilting and binding .

We reached Pooja’s place by 8:45 am on day 2 to find her door locked as she had gone to pick up tina !!! Never let it be said we wasted time, we sat on the steps and Nikhat showed us some of her work and we also learnt another way of quilting (ie blocks are quilted and then attached )

Btw on seeing her mum so weary and blue, my sweetheart of a daughter accompanied us the next day and worked like a horse to help me and her aunt finish our quilts. Without her and Nikhat’s help I really don’t believe I would have been able to do so.. so thank you both wonderful people, I owe u ( btw Shraddha wants a piercing as her guru dakshina and am awaiting Nikhat’s demand J )

When we entered Pooja’s place our hostess surprised us by showing how she had stayed up and finished not only all her blocks but all her rows as well !!!!

We started in a merry mood again and I had my trusted lieutenant  by my side so we were done by 6 pm . When I say done, we managed to baste the quilt and I had quilted 3 lines under Tina’s eagle eyes and the binding would have to be done later after all the quilting was done .

I learnt so much during these 2 days by far the most important was to work slowly , love the fabric and be gentle with it and of course precision, precision and some more precision !!!

Btw when I was actually quilting at home I managed to stitch a piece of the table cloth to the backing, a piece of the extra backing to the backing, went to remove it and managed to tear the backing so that the batting stood exposed about an inch!! Thank God for Nikhat who patiently repaired all of it .

Tina showed us so many tricks, was so generous with her tips and open in sharing her knowledge.  These 2 days showed me that being generous, sharing and helping each other is a gift we were lucky to have experienced and the bonus was all those great quilts which were made .

Nikhat took time to bind my quilt and she did an amazing job ( I say amazing because while I thought so, she seemed shocked herself how well it came out !!!) She helped Pooja too and has offered Sangita her support as well.  I have attached some pictures of the quilt and hope the love and effort shows through.

Btw the finished quilt is 40" wide x 54” long.

So would I do it all again?..HELL YEAH !!!! and if I have the same group with me next time I might actually finish one all by myself and help someone else with theirs this time !!! 

- Smita


  1. What a lovely quilt! I'm so happy that you stuck with it and now have such a wondeful finished product. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your experience. I must admit that I laughed when I read about your stitching the table cloth to the backing. Even experienced quilters have days like that. :) I hope you will share photos of your next quilt with us as well. Well done!

  2. Fantastic quilts, and it sounds as if you had a great time! Well done to all of you!