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 1

Dear Liza,

Last Hope California by Ginny Hebert

On Friday, Auntie Bridgett took the day off from making art and went with me on an adventure. We took the number 15 bus downtown, walked over to the Yellow Line Train, and rode clear to the end of the line.

There was some drama on the train, as a few people with mental health issues were being loud and a little scary, but Trimet Security folks came and calmed them down and got them off the train. After they all went on their way, we breathed more easily and the train continued north.

Inside the Expo were hundreds of quilts by scores of quilters, as well as demonstrations of the latest sewing machines and gadgets. Auntie Bridgett tried the ABM International Innova embroidery machine, which you drive sort of like a motorcycle! It is bigger than our sofa, and costs a lot more.

Auntie Bridgett plays with toys!

We found a whole series of quilts by Virginia Hammon, called “Money Quilts”. They are all perfectly pieced and machine quilted, and all say something about money, politics, and humanity. These aren’t just pretty quilts: these are politically informed art.

A Money Quilt by Virginia Hammon

I saw quilts that I had noticed and photographed last year, like this lovely map-looking one called “Bee Good, or Be Hungry”, also by Virginia Hammon.

As with all good art, the more I looked, the more I saw. There was a barren white section, quilted in tight city blocks, representing the city. As the city gave way to suburbs and countryside, more colors were introduced and the quilting became looser. The message was clear: make room for bees, or do without their help.

Bee Good or Be Hungry by Virginia Hammon

Along with these very contemporary quilts were Victorian Crazy Quilts from around 1903, found in people’s grandparents’ attics. I love the combination of piecing and embroidery, and the any-way-it-falls- piecing technique. I may need to get out Great Grandma Billie’s velvets and Ruth Andresen’s silks and do something.

1903 Crazy Quilt





I was inspired by so many techniques! The raw-edge machine applique I saw last year has gotten more impressionistic, looking like landscape paintings. I want to use this on my Portland quilt this winter.

Extreme close-up of raw edge applique



Realistic, moving portraits show how quilting and painting can be combined.

Fabulous Portraiture in paint and thread

There was more to see and interesting people to talk to, and I will tell you about the tomorrow!


Grandma Judy

Giving Back

Dear Liza,

While we were living in Salinas, I got to be friends with a wonderful lady named Ruth Andresen. Ruth is the mother of Pete, one of the most involved parents University Park ever had, and grandmother of four of our students. Ruth was born in 1921, so she is exactly the age your great grandma Billie would be.

I met Ruth because we were both active at The First Mayor’s House, also called The Harvey Baker House, the oldest building in Salinas. Ruth has lived in Salinas since the 1940’s and actually knew some of the people who lived in this historic house, Florence Baker and her sister Helen. They were little old ladies when she was a young wife and mother in the 1950s, and she used to go visit them. They would tell her stories of their childhood in 1890s Salinas. She heard history, as they say, from the horse’s mouth!

The First Mayor’s House

When I was learning about Salinas history to write stories and curriculum for the House, I started visiting Ruth. We talked about history, but she also told me about her life. She was a geology student at Stanford University when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, which started the western end of World War II. As a graduate, she worked in Washington to help create maps that helped with the Normandy Invasion! “It was such an exciting time to be a young woman in the world”, she said. “There was important work to be done and we got to do it.”

Ruth is still helping people learn about history. She does spinning demonstrations to show people how pioneers turned wool into yarn, and gives lectures about the “Old Days”.

She also helped organize the very first Founder’s Day Celebration in Salinas. The first one was so small, even the newspaper didn’t say much about it, but by the second in 2017, there were hundreds of people! In 2018, thousands of people came to visit the Harvey House, attend lectures, play carnival games, listen to music, and have pony rides. It took dozens of people to make it happen, including my dear friend and former Principal, Mary Randall, but at the center of it was Ruth. In my carelessness, I do not have a photo this wonderful woman! (I was probably enjoying our conversations so much I hated to interrupt for a photo.) Silly Grandma Judy.

Display at Founder’s Day

Anyway, for the second Founder’s Day, there was going to be a quilting booth, showing folks how to quilt and displaying old and new quilts. I was going to make a small one during the day as a demonstration. But so many other groups wanted booths, the quilting booth didn’t happen.

Almost done quilt, and Mouse the cat

And now, with the extra time that comes from not preparing lessons and teaching every day, I have gotten it out and am almost done. It will be wrapped up and returning to Salinas very soon. Thanks for all the stories, Ruth!


Grandma Judy