A stitch in time saves India’s quilting revolution

Quilting has undergone a sea change. Shruti Dandekar of Sangli makes one realise that quilts can be mind-boggling.

Published: 10th March 2013 12:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th March 2013 08:46 AM   |  A+A-

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Ornate blocks, patchworks, denims, lacy trails, dolls, gardens, rainbows, cathedral windows, fall leaves, sunny flowers, checkerboards, spirals and matrix—the range of designs and colours that adorn Shruti Dandekar’s quilts can be quite mind-boggling. Be it bulky, enormous or cute baby quilts, it has flamboyance written all over it. One look at her stunning wares make us wonder how she managed to create such a vibrant collection in just three years!

An illness can do different things to different people. In Dandekar’s case, a painful and extended struggle with Chickungunya in 2009 forced her to abandon a flourishing career in architecture—she has delivered over 16 projects in architecture in three years preceding her marriage. The illness gave her a unique identity—a self-made quiltaholic!

Following her illness, Dandekar, who hails from Satara and now settled in Sangli, Maharshtra, started Shrutiz, an ‘up’cycle shop in 2010, employing women from the slums of Sangli to make

utility stuff from old clothes. She, however, gave up after a year of struggle. While looking online to buy a new sewing machine, she came across Elizabeth Hartman’s blog on quilting. “It held me in enchantment,” she reflects; there was just no looking back.

“Being a quilter is wonderful! I constantly play with fabrics and my head is always buzzing with designs,” she exclaims. Dandekar is inspired by anything and everything around her. But her largest inspiration comes from her six-year-old son Aadi. “The way he admires my quilts is unmatched. He thinks

that every quilt I make is for him and he loves every single one,” she beams.

One of the foremost challenges for a quilter is availability of material. Dandekar explores her local market to source fabric and boldly experiments with substitutes. “All the designer cotton collections from the western markets put together cannot compete with the range of colours that a single blouse piece shop in India offers,” she declares. She also sources fabric online.

Pricing is another challenge. When people spend `3,000 for a T-Shirt, they don’t easily accept the same price for a baby quilt where the fabric is specifically bought, custom-designed and painstakingly made (it takes about 20 hours to finish a regular quilt). This will change once people see how much of an effort goes into making a quilt, she explains.

Apart from Hartman, Dandekar is fond of international quilters like Malka Dubrawsky, Rita from Red Pepper Quilts and Sandra Bruce among many others.

Strangely, India comprises a very small section of the quilting market. Traditional quilts of India are very much in demand, but they require time, patience and expertise. On the other hand, modern quilting is experimental and forgiving and can be taken up by anyone who can barely use a sewing machine. Shruti sees huge potential here and expects a positive change, thanks to the Internet. “It won’t be long before Indian companies start manufacturing and selling quilting tools,” she foretells.

Inspired by Alissa Carlton, founder of the Modern Quilt Guild, Dandekar started the India Modern Quilt Guild. From

being a virtual guild, IMQG is now active with over 180 quilters across India as its members. “In the beginning, all of our

activities were centred round Pune.  But in 2013, we’ll hold quilting meets and workshops in Bangalore, Delhi, Goa and Mumbai,” she says.

“Sewing, unfortunately, still reminds us of Nirupa Roy. If only a Kareena Kapoor plays a quilter, it would sure change the picture a lot faster,” she quips.

Among her many dreams, Dandekar wants to start her own quilt pattern design company and to own a long-arm quilting machine soon. “And I want to own at least one yard of every print of fabric that my favourite designer Etsuko Furuya ever designed,” she says. Now that’s a dream she can work towards realising!

You can visit her blog www.13woodhouseroad.com or her Facebook page—Woodhouse Road.

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