Walking down a lonely stretch of road with my thoughts running a 100 miles per hour I suddenly spotted a beautiful quilt put out to the sun. Rich in color, intricate in technique the quilt bought out a sigh of longing – not so much for the quilt but for the hands that have been at work. It’s the work of Siddi tribal lineage. Said to be the direct descendants of Africa but over time settled in Karnataka. While they have adopted, adapted, and integrated many aspects of Indian cultures, they have also retained and transformed certain African traditions one of which are the patchwork quilts known as kawandi.
Quilting has always fascinated me. Though I have not attempted to try the technique hands on, I have loved the concept and the motivation the craft brings to the table.
As a textile student, though I did read a few articles and appreciated a couple of images in the books but my very first initiation into the craft was when I was in Wisconsin I stumbled upon an Amish village which housed a small country shop selling odds & ends. What caught my eye was that half of this little shop was dedicated to selling & displaying Amish quilts of various intricacy that just took my breath away.
Thus began my love affair with hand-made quilts. I took this love a step further when I decided to base my Diploma project on the concept of quilting.
India is not new to quilting though a different form. People of Kolkatta and Bangladesh used to layer cloth as a concept of reuse and cover them painstakingly with lovely small running stitches. Kantha, India’s answer to quilting moved from being a poor man’s take on layering garments to keep warm to a high end form of embellishment.
So my final year project I decided to take the 2 forms of quilting the Amish block quilting and the Kantha and develop a series of throws that are layered and has the “block” look of an Amish quilt and stitched together simulating the small Kantha stitches all on the loom.
The challenge was when it comes off the loom, it was not only reversablebut also ready to use.
Its been 10 years since I passed out of design school. Life & work has taken me away from weaving quilting and other things close to my heart but days when i spot something so beautiful in a polluted noisy city brings wonderful memories crashing back. Sigh!