Sunday, January 13, 2019

Friends Forever

It has been 10+ days since I returned from my whirlwind trip to
India. I am now 95% caught up with sleep, 85% caught up with laundry, and about 75% done with unpacking.

Mural on a wall in a community center in India

And before I fondly remember my best of 2018 (I am 100% late to that party), and share my goals for 2019, there is something else I want to share with you. Warning - It is a long read.

It was March of 2001. The day I received an appointment letter as a Java programmer was also the day I walked out of my troubled marriage. I sought accommodation in a working women's hostel located in Juhu, Mumbai. The building had three floors. The ground floor had the administrative office, the kitchen, the dining area, seating space and one television.  The two upper floors had rooms on either sides of a poorly-lit, skinny corridor.  Shared toilets and bathrooms were located at the ends of each corridor.  We hand washed our clothes and the wet clothes were spread out on the clothesline in the corridor. The water dripping from the clothes overhead meant that the corridor was usually wet. Some girls threw newspapers on the floor to absorb the excess water. Everything about the place was dark, depressing and constricting. The only good thing was the location. It was a ten minute walk to the beach. Most mornings, I would do just that - take a walk on the beach.

Our room was on the first floor, overlooking the road. The room was tiny and had three occupants - Sujata, Biju and me. After three single beds, three cupboards and three small tables, there was barely any space left.  We kept our suitcases on top of our cupboards, and the buckets and shoes under the beds. The hostel provided tea and breakfast in the morning, dinner at night, and lunch only on weekends. The food was vegetarian and passable.  The highlight was the Sunday lunch - beans, rice and yogurt.

I lived in this place for a year and it was the worst year of my life - emotionally, financially and physically. My marriage had come to an end. I was dealing with court dates for an impending divorce.  I was a Java programmer for four months before the dotcom bubble burst.  Of course I lost the job. One of the managers offered me a short-term telemarketing position in advance of an event. I took it. Then I slipped on the staircase in the hostel and fractured my foot. My leg was in a cast but I could not take any time off due to the nature of the telemarketing assignment. So I hobbled to the bus stop every morning, climbed the bus and hobbled from the bus stop to my office, where I tried to keep the foot raised, if possible.

It rained that day. The road was full of puddles. As I hobbled back from the office to the bus stop, water entered the cast but I did not realize it. In the middle of the night, I felt as if my foot was on fire. Sujata and Rohini took me to the hospital, where the doctor on duty cut open the cast to reveal the sole of my foot which had turned white and wrinkled with water absorption. I cried. That was the worst night of my life. I thought - if I can get through this night, I can get through anything.

I completed the assignment, resigned from my job and went to my mom's place to recover.  I returned two weeks later to a new job and things begin to improve. The new job was much better, closer to the hostel and less stressful. I was free to organize my appointments. Sometimes the last appointment of the day would put me close to Sujata's office. On many such days, Sujata and I would catch a movie after work, followed by a dinner at a restaurant. The divorce proceedings were coming to an end. And I had begun to think about my life's goals, life after divorce, and pursuing my dreams that had been quashed due to a loveless marriage.

Shravanti, Nina and Sujata in 2002

That is Shravanti, Nina and Sujata standing behind me.  Nina and Shravanti also lived in the hostel and had become close friends. And these women made those very painful days bearable and gave me a reason to smile when I was absolutely miserable. When the time came for me to leave, the four of us made a special trip to the photo studio in Andheri, a suburb in Mumbai. The studio had a little rinky-dink room in the back, with a mirror and a dusty comb, a flimsy curtain separating it from the storefront. I remember taking turns in front of the mirror to check our hair and make-up.  Sujata and make-up do not get along. Nina was the expert and still is. Shravanti was above these worldly pursuits. The picture was taken. We went back to collect the prints and I am sure we each got a copy.

Nina, Sujata and me in 2018
Over time, we all left the hostel to go our separate ways - better jobs, better opportunities and better accommodations. Sujata bought a condo - a cute little place. I stayed with her this time. Nina changed jobs as she pursued a successful career in insurance underwriting.  Shravanti received national recognition for her contribution to pharmaceutical research.

with Nina (I am wearing the same outfit from 2002. Yes, it was on purpose.)

with Sujata

And now here we are in 2018. All but Shravanti who was in US for a conference. We spent time shopping, eating, laughing, reminiscing old times, recalling incidents from the hostel life, the movies we watched, the jokes we told, and how all of us went our separate ways. Stayed in touch and reconnected.
Crispy Coating, Soft Paneer

Masala Pomfret

You are probably thinking that I made a quilt for Sujata. No, I did not. I thought about it. I even came up with a pattern and a suitable name. But other things happened.  And even if I HAD a quilt, I had absolutely no room to take it. May be next time.

Fresh!!!

Color is everywhere

Between all the gifts that I packed, all the items that mom had requested and all the gadgets Sujata had demanded, there was absolutely no room for her quilt. I was carrying two bags to check, one carry-on and my purse.  Imagine my horror when my bag was over the weight limit.  Sprawled out like a hobo in front of the airlines counter, I hurriedly moved stuff around.

New Blouse (one of many)

While in India, I shopped like a crazy woman. I bought at least ten new outfits (ethnic), received several bangle boxes worth of pretty jewelry, and brought back sweets (for sharing) and flatbread (mom insisted I take for Paul). And in spite of all this, I returned with a whole bag less.

Obviously exports way exceeded the imports. But I digress.

Remember Rohini? Rohini is an Ayurvedic doctor who also specializes in acupressure treatments. She was the one who (along with Sujata) took me to the hospital on that horrible night in 2001.
When I was visiting Mumbai, Rohini was out of town. By the time she returned, my visit was over. She came to the airport to see me but by then I had checked my bags.
STUPID RULE 1- Once you get your boarding pass, you are not allowed to leave the airport. STUPID RULE 2 - If you do not have a ticket you cannot enter the airport.
So, Sujata and Rohini paid entry fees to enter an intermediate area. Now we could talk but over a glass partition. Like we were in prison!!!! This was unacceptable. I had to do something.

with Rohini at Mumbai airport

I went to the desk clerk and gave a performance. Choking back tears, body heaving with sobs barely held back, I said - I have to see this friend of mine. It has been 20 years and I need five minutes. I proceeded to create a scene that would make Meryl Streep proud. Next thing I know, he was scribbling me a note. I ran outside and held Rohini  in an embrace for as long as I could. I went back inside only when some airport official told me I had to get back in. I came in but we continued talking over the glass partition for another 20 minutes.

Meeting with Sujata, Nina and Rohini was the highlight of my trip to India. I firmly believe that the friendships we make in the difficult times are the strongest. And contrasts (be they in life or in fabric) heighten our conclusions.

From Mercy Hospital in Sacramento

Warms my heart
I came home to find this card. It so warmed my heart that I immediately got started on a new Mercyful quilt.

A new beginning

Design Wall
Thank you Bernie for this initiative. The contrast of kindness in times sorrow makes such a huge impact.

Speaking of contrasts but in fabric, I attended a quilt workshop with Debby Kratovil. I made a Modern Vortex Quilt top.
First Quadrant

Half done

It was my first workshop and first time using a Dresden ruler. I completed the four quadrants in class. The workshop/pattern was so engaging that I came home and finished the center.  Took pictures and instantly posted on IG. Yes, I am that thrilled with it.

So happy. New quilt on the design wall in the background
Do check out Debby Kratovil's site and teaching schedule.  She is a veteran quilter from pre-internet and pre-rotary cutter days, has a wealth of knowledge and offers several workshops with several tips and tricks. I highly recommend her.

Modern Vortex

Do tell me about the contrasts in your life or fabric. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I will be sharing with all my favorite linky parties, see full list on the sidebar.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

You Belong

Stan Lee passed away on November 12, 2018.

Photo Credit - By Sidrao21 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,  https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74400062

He was remembered on NPR in this story, wherein they mentioned the anthem of the Merry Marching Marvel Society.  Since I was clueless, I had to look up the song - You belong.

You belong
(This quilt was made for a newborn baby boy. The theme was aviation and the suggested colors were red, white and blue.  When I saw this backing, it seemed like a perfect match.)

Backing - Transportation

Listen to the clip here. I found the lyrics here.

The only reason I know about Stan Lee and the Marvel universe is Paul.
Paul introduced me to Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk and the Black widow.  Of course Thor is my favorite, but I digress.

Scraps from all over

Me: Do you know the song - You belong?
Paul: It was before my time but I am aware of it.
Me: It is a great song.
Paul: Yes it is!!!
Me: Of all the comics, all the movies, all the super heroes, why is Marvel your favorite?
Paul: Because they were mostly ordinary people who overcame personal obstacles and shortcomings to become extraordinary.
Me: Each one of them is so different, like Thor is completely different from Captain America.
Paul: Hulk is completely different from Iron Man. But each one of them brought something unique and valuable to the Marvel universe.  Together, they make the Marvel Universe.
Me: They all belong.

Colorful

Snoopy takes center stage

Snakes, Frogs and Bugs

Such is this quilt. Every scrap brings something to this quilt and they all belong here. Whether it was abandoned on the free table at the guild meeting, came to me in a scrap bag from Sandra, was a remnant in the scrap bin at Joann's, or a leftover bit from binding another quilt.


Happy Tigers

Transportation theme continues

Me: Oh how I wish that our world today was as welcoming where each one of us could belong and contribute to our fullest potential. That would be perfect.
Paul: If the world was perfect there wouldn't be a need for superheroes.
Me (sighing loudly): Yes. But we can do better.
Paul: Yes, we can.

All sorts of planes

Labelled

Last finish of 2018
Hope we are better persons in 2019. Hope we can make the world a better place in 2019.
With this wish, I bid farewell to 2018. Have a safe and a happy new year!!!

I will be linking with all my favorite linky parties, see full list on the sidebar.  As usual, I'd love to hear your thoughts.










Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Mixed Feelings

A Colorwash quilt is one in which the placement of colored squares mimics the color wheel with the lightest area near the center and darkest areas in the corners.

On a cloudy morning

One thing is obvious - The gradual transition from almost white (in or near the center) to almost black (at the edges/corners) is the essence of making such a quilt.

But everything else is subjective.

Colorwash Layout (almost)

The Colorwash 360 class taught by Wanda Hanson of Exuberant Color came with many organizing tips and lots of guidelines were provided but most of the actual design process is Trial and Error.

This was the first time (I think) this class was offered.  So there were no previous reviews to help me decide whether I should sign up for this class.

At $297, it is the most expensive class I have ever taken.
And that was just the beginning. I also needed at least 300 different fabrics.
A kit was priced at $175. I decided against it.

Organizing (not all my stash)

When I finished organizing my fabric in preparation for the class, I realized I needed more fabric. I bought about 20 different charm packs (from MSQC, FQS, Craftsy, and Hancocks) for a wide range of colors and values. That was about $150.

I begged Jennifer for browns and Mari helped me with dark greens.

At the design wall

Lots more cutting and organizing and preparing.
Lots of time at the design wall.
Lots of trial and error. Place a few squares, step away, notice the issue, come back to the wall and fix it, step away, notice another issue at another place. Repeat.
Lots of do-overs.
Lots of frustration.

Progress

One of the problems with such a quilt is that it is never really done because you can always improve it. Swap out that one square, or move that other one so that it flows better, so that there is not a sharp jump from one value to the next.

Are we there yet?

Eventually I decided to call it done. And the final layout met with universal approval.
Breathtakingly beautiful, one of my non-quilty friends remarked.
A co-worker, who has artistic leanings and used to paint (before the mind-numbing number crunching destroyed his soul) said - Don't change a thing.

Almost Flimsy

The sewing together of the squares was not without issues either. Wanda had suggested we make a 5 by 5 square block to practice the webbing. I made one and knew that I needed more practice keeping seams straight and uniform. So I made another and another and one more to get the hang of it.

5 by 5 layout for webbing practice

Clipped and Numbered

No slippage

Begin practice sewing

Continue practice sewing

Webbed but wonky
One thing became abundantly clear to me - This class was out of my league.

Not one but four practice pieces

Generally speaking, I sew two pieces together with a scant 1/4" seam, iron it open, square and move to the next piece. THAT is how my points match and seams stay straight.  But in the webbing process, there is no room for correction. From start to finish you rely on sewing accurate and straight seams. Yeah, not for the (relative) newbie like me. And although I followed the webbing process the best I could, the seams do not match in many places.

Begin actual sewing

Halfway done

Finished Top - So Crooked

Once the top was completed, mismatched seams notwithstanding, I made the binding. Layered the batting and the backing and waited for the invisible thread to arrive in the mail, while I read up on how to quilt with invisible thread.  After reading all the stories about tension and rapid unspooling, I decided against it. I worked on other projects.

The inspiration for the quilting pattern came from Pat Graham, another student in the Colorwash360 class. Wanda had shared some of the completed quilts.  Pat's quilt had a circle in the middle with rays radiating to the edges.

Begin quilting
I chose to quilt an octagon in the center and spiral it out. I marked the top on Friday evening and
quilted on Saturday. I used Aurifil 40 weight thread, color 2600 for the quilting.


Octagon in the middle

The hand binding was completed on Sunday.  I then pinned it to my design wall to admire it.

The Blue/Purple corner

Yellow Green Orange Brown

Red to Red Orange to Orange

The Red Corner

The Blue, Blue-Green, Green Corner

Paul: This may be the best quilt you've ever made.
Preeti: It does have great visual appeal.
Paul: Does it have a name?
Preeti: Mixed Feelings.
Paul: Mixed, how?
Preeti: Because it was a frustrating process with a spectacular outcome. Also, this was an excellent class at an exorbitant price.

Dragonfly caught in the Spiderweb

Paul: Was it worth it?
Preeti: I don't know.
Paul: Oh come on.
Preeti: OK, if I made a dozen colorwash quilts and I could sell at least 3 or 4 of them, then it would be worth the investment.
Paul: Are you going to make more of these colorburst quilts?
Preeti: Not sure. If someone offered me a boatload of money for a commissioned piece, I may be inclined to make another one.

Octagonal Spiral Quilting
Paul: So no?
Preeti (agitated) : Geez, thanks for the vote of confidence, Paul. Occasionally, I HAVE received money for my quilts.
Paul (calmly): Was it a boatload?
Preeti (subdued): Not really.
Paul: So the answer is that it was NOT worth it.
Preeti: The answer is may be it was worth it. May be in 10 years. I can't say.


Bound and Labelled

Paul: Forget the expenses part. Did you learn a lot?
Preeti: Yes, a LOT. May be too much too soon.
Paul: What does that mean?
Preeti: Like a middle school kid taking a college course. I struggled with it.
Paul: Then why did you sign up for it?
Preeti: I wanted to take the class because Wanda Hanson is an accomplished quilter. Her body of work is very impressive. I just did not know what it would entail. I saw no reviews.
Paul: But why not wait a few years?
Preeti: Wanda is 78 years old. She may stop teaching by the time I am actually ready to take the class.

The Tiger lurks in the shadows
Paul: So you had to do it and now.
Preeti: It had to be now and I was ill-equipped.
Paul: You? Ill-equipped? Not possible.
Preeti: If you have been quilting for longer, you have a bigger stash to work from. I did not. More importantly, there are things about color and value that you learn over the course of time. These come naturally to more experienced quilters, but I had to learn in a compressed time frame.  Hence the struggle and the frustration. It was hard work.
Paul (mockingly): And you are not used to hard work, my American princess!!!
Preeti (mockingly as well): Not any more. I am a spoiled American now. When I spend $500, all the work should be done for me, automatically.
Paul: Well, I love Mixed Feelings.
Preeti: Of course you do. You are enjoying the outcome without having to endure the painful process.

The quilt looks back at you

Paul: What process?
Preeti: The process of making this quilt was like a long, painful, and difficult labor with a huge hospital bill. The baby is absolutely beautiful, angelic and everyone instantly falls in love with her.  Only the mother knows the pain.
Paul: Actual physical pain?
Preeti: Yes. My back hurt from standing too long at the design wall - arranging and re-arranging the squares in the upper half.
My butt hurt from sitting too long on a foot stool (placed a cushion on day two) while working on the lower section of the design wall.
And then I was afraid like a new mom, (it took forever to come up with an appropriate quilting design) to not mess up the beautiful baby.
And just like a pregnancy, I am sure the next one will be easier.  It may be a while (or a very long time) before I contemplate a second Colorwash baby.
Paul (walked menacingly towards the quilt): Well, if the quilt reminds you so much of the painful process...
Preeti: Get out. Nobody touches my baby!

Mixed Feelings

I have shared my process, my frustration, my true feelings and the final outcome so that you can make an informed decision. And I ask for the same in return - your honest opinion.
Don't try to be nice, just be true. I will be sharing with all my favorite linky parties, see full list on the sidebar.