Beginning Kawandi Quilting

Dear Liza,

This week, I have learned about a whole new kind of quilting! It has been an adventure in history, geography, and craft.

Kawandi quilting is from Western India and Pakistan, but it was brought there by immigrants from Africa. These Africans, called Siddis, introduced the kawandi quilts to India.

Kawandi are made from small pieces of fabric. They are not not patchwork quilts like we make in America, but an appliqué type. Each little piece, called a tikeli, is sewn onto the backing fabric using long straight stitches. A layer of batting or fabric is laid in between the top and bottom layers to make the quilt thicker.

Instead of outlining each piece, you sew in straight lines, following the square shape of the backing fabric. Most people who make Kawandi start on the outside edge, so that’s how I started. I looked at a few YouTube demos, and off I went.

Starting on the outside edge, I folded the edge of the backing fabric and the edge of the tikeli down to hide the rough edge, and sewed them together using stitches in a brightly colored thread. Unlike most types of quilting, you want the stitches to show. Before I got to the edge of the tikeli, I overlapped it with another, folded the edge under, and kept sewing in the straight line. Each bit got incorporated as I continued sewing.

Once I had the whole outside frame done, I cut a piece of green Hawaiian fabric a little smaller than the whole piece and tucked it in so that it was enclosed. You can see it, very bright, in this picture. That’s the part of the quilt that still needs doing.

I continued sewing in straight lines, bringing in pieces of fabric that looked good. I had trouble with some tikeli whose edges didn’t fall in line with the stitching. I have since learned that you solve this problem by making sure your pieces DO line up as you add them. Well, yeah….

Each kawandi quilt is finished off with small triangles that stick out at each corner. These ‘phula’ serve no practical purpose, but the kawandi isn’t considered finished without them.

There are many things I like about kawandi quilting. It is new and interesting, and the results are really colorful. They are a great way to use up bits of fabric. You just cut squares and rectangles to get started. You choose the colors of fabric, but the exact pattern can be sort of discovered as you go along. It is delightfully improvisational. “Oh, I need a lighter patch here… hmmm, yes, this is nice!”

I know there are lots of things about Kawandi that I don’t understand yet, but I have just finished my first Kawandi quilt and have gotten the hang of the basics. My next one will be better. Stay tuned!


Grandma Judy


Return to the Quilt Show, Part 2

Dear Liza,

Marcia Derse and her fabrics

Yesterday I told you about my trip to the Northwest Quilting Expo and all the beautiful quilts I saw there. Today I want to tell you about some of the people!

All throughout the center were people showing sewing tools, kits, embroidery threads, and fabrics. We stopped at Marcia Derse’s booth because Auntie Bridgett was transfixed. Marcia, who lives in Freeland, Washington, designs and creates fabrics… with printing, dying, hand-painting and overlapping, she creates fabrics that are both a flashback to art history and incredibly modern and urban feeling.img_0752.jpg

We talked to Marcia for quite a while, because she and Bridgett speak the same languages: Art history and color. Marcia was a student of art history in Cleveland, Ohio, before she moved to Washington. She wanted to use motifs from that background to create new fabric prints, but not get bogged down in each time period, so she created what she calls “overviews”.

In each fabric you can see bits of Roman architecture, African prints, Matisse and Miro paintings, and bits that remind you of something  you can’t quite put your finger on. They were fascinating and wonderful. She is an artist in her own right, as well as creating fabrics for quilt artists to use. It was amazing to talk with her.img_0747-e1538247075913.jpg

Further along, I saw something that stopped ME in my tracks: A small, hand-applique quilt of the London Subway, called The Underground Tube. As we stared at it and remembered our visits to London, the quilter herself came up and we started chatting. CarolAnne Olson is a funny, energetic lady about my age. Making Underground Tube was her way of remembering her own trips to London, and we enjoyed sharing stories. She told us she had two other quilts in the show, so when we said goodbye to her, we kept a lookout for them.

CarolAnne Olson and Underground Tube

We walked, had lunch, looked some more, and found them: A self-portrait (that looks like CarolAnne, but also a bit like me!) in the garden with a glass of wine. Further along, was a busy, happy quilt of her first car, a Volkswagen bug. These two quilts were larger and used the raw-edge machine applique technique I am liking so much.

CarolAnne’s Self Portrait

img_0835.jpgWhen our knees were sore and our heads full, we walked back across the parking lot and caught the train and bus back home. After a rest, we had dinner at Ankeny Tap and Table and then met Jack and Verity Kent for drinks and dessert at The Nerd Out.

What a day!


Grandma Judy