Monday, January 30, 2012

Quilter Spotlight: Shruti Dandekar

I don't live in India at the moment but there is so much happening there that I feel I must document on my blog. So, I am hoping that I will be able to write more about quilting and quilters in India and keep this blog going. I'm starting a series of interviews with quilters in India - the ones I can reach via email at least - and here's the first one - Shruti Dandekar from 13 Woodehouse Road. I found Shruti's blog in 2010 and was very impressed with how much she'd achieved in the short time since she began to quilt. She's a doer this one! :) And an enabler. She's been an inspiration to many aspiring quilters in India and has even started the India Modern Quilt Guild that has a growing number of members. Here's my interview via email with Shruti.

First off thank you for doing this. It’s a great pleasure for me to have you on the blog.

On Quilting

1.     I guess the first question is really the most obvious – What got you started? How did you decide to become a quilter?

Quilting honestly happened to me. It was never expected. Before January 2010, I had never touched a sewing machine. I accidently discovered the world of quilting and have been smitten ever since.

Actually, I was a full time Architect and loved my job. In November 2009, I suffered from Chikungunya. And I mean the word “suffer”. Even getting out of bed was an ordeal. I had to give up my job, something that I never wanted to do.

In January 2010, I started Shrutiz… the ‘up’cycle shop. I employed women from the slums of Sangli, the place where I live. We made awesome stuff from old clothes. I had to struggle with these women a lot, since they were not used to keeping commitments. I tried patiently for one year before giving up on them.

I worked with my Grandma’s sewing machine in the beginning. It was an old featherweight. I only used the machine to let the women stitch a little bit when they visited me. They otherwise worked from home.

I was thinking of buying a new sewing machine and was searching online for information about it when I came across Elizabeth Hartman’s blog. I was enchanted by her work just like I was enchanted by fairy tales when I was a kid. I decided to give it a try and then, there was just no looking back!

I recovered from Chikungunya after a painful year, but I decided against going back to work. This time it was a voluntary decision taken for my DS, Aadi. It was not until December 2011 that I took the decision to be a full time quilter. I have finally found the passion of my life and nothing can make me give that up now.

2.     What sewing machine do you use and what do you like about it?

After having a look at many sewing machines, I decided to buy a Bernette E56. I did not have enough money to buy a Bernina. So I settled on the Bernette. One day I do plan to buy a Bernina 550QE. I am saving up for it (I haven’t even asked the price, ;) – I will first save what I think is enough and if I have saved more than the price, I’ll spend it all on fabric.)

I love the sturdiness of my machine and the ease of maintenance. It functions beautifully when cleaned and oiled regularly. What more can a quilter want?

3.     Where do you get your fabric and supplies? Any recommendations for other quilters in India? What should one remember to look for when buying fabric in the Indian market that does not have specialized quilt stores?

I shop (read: haunt) my local market like a zombie! I go there every few days and look at the beautiful cotton fabric that they have for dress making. Poplin from the blouse piece shop is my favorite solid to work with. I do not think all the designer cotton solids collections from the western markets can compete with the range of colors that a single blouse piece shop in India offers.

I also buy fabric online. I always buy enough fabric to fill a flat rate Priority envelope so that it is cost effective.

I have experimented a lot and I would advice my fellow Indian quilters to first shop their own wardrobes. The cotton dupattas usually are not as worn as the actual dresses. They work great in quilts. Its like getting a free 2.5 yards of fabric! While buying fabric, I’d suggest prewashing ALL of the fabric. Indian fabric dyes usually run and its better to be safe than sorry. Do not be afraid to experiment. Just make sure that you use an approximately similar weight fabric in a single quilt (don’t use denim with mul- it wont work!)

4.     What inspires you?

Anything and everything around me! Sometimes it’s the fabric, sometimes the colors or sometimes its just the way the fabric is lying on the shelf! My studio is also a space which inspires me. I’m lucky to have a dedicated room for sewing that caters to all my specific needs as a quilter. I plan to shift my studio to the cute out-house that we have once Aadi starts his school full time (that’s still 2 years away). I will be a full time quilter then.

But my largest inspiration comes from my little one! The way he admires my quilts is unmatched. He thinks that every quilt I make is for him and he loves every single one!

5.     Are there quilters you admire and whose work you follow closely?
Of course, there are. Elizabeth Hartman is a quilter whom I worship! Its not just her work, but the way she actually helped me learn quilt by answering even the stupidest of my questions! Malka Dubrawsky’s fresh look at quilting has also been an inspiration. Rita from Red Pepper Quilts is another person whose quilts I love to just stare at! 

I am also doing a series Oh, Fransson! Fridays!! on my blog dedicated to Elizabeth Hartman.

6.     Are there particular styles or methods of quilting that you enjoy?

My work usually can be categorized as Modern Quilting. I love the improv style, though I haven’t really explored it as much as I would like to.

7.     When I was in India I dreamed of being able to visit quilt shows, shop from a dedicated quilt store, meet with other quilters, and one day see a quilt store open in my city. I’m sure you must have dreams as a quilter (some of them you might already be putting into reality!) Could you share some of your dreams with us?

Echino Pillows
Oh, I have a lot of dreams! I am a terminally romantic person. I have always believed in reaching for the stars.

I want to start my own Quilt Pattern Design Company. I also want to design fabric. I can see that happening in the next 2-3 years.

I want to own a long arm quilting machine. (That’s a 5 year goal)

And I want to own at least one yard of every print of fabric that Etsuko Furuya ever designed! Now that’s a dream!

8.     Do you have a favorite quilt from the ones you’ve made? Could you share it with us and tell us why?

Hand Quilted Denim Quilt
It’s a really difficult question. Quilts are like children, you cannot have one favorite. But since you’ve asked me to choose one, I’ll choose my Hand Quilted Denim Quilt. It is my take on the traditional hand quilted whole cloth quilts. I have used my favorite combo of Denim with red. I used a regular thread that is used for stitching denim garments to hand quilt this quilt. My favorite part is the two sided binding I made on this quilt! It’s a first for me (and hand quilting too). It just adds character to the quilt!

Samosa Pouches
9.     What is the best thing about being a quilter?

For me, the best thing is that I can work from home. I can spend a lot of time with my child and look after him while also doing something that I absolutely love!  (Not to forget the part where I get to buy and stroke beautiful fabric without being called insane…)

On Blogging

  1. Your blog is very popular. You have many followers and sponsors even. Could you tell us a little bit about this journey? Were you able to see the growth in the number of followers at some point? How did the connection with the sponsors come about?

When I started blogging, I had no idea it would grow so much. I just started my blog as a way of journaling all of my work. I did not realize when it became so much “me”. But I am happy with the way things have gone.

Kimberly, from Fat Quarter Shop, has been my sponsor since October 2010. I am really thankful for her support and for believing in me when no one did. J. I enjoy working with her. (And since she always works with me, I think the feeling is reciprocated.) She first sponsored a giveaway on my blog way back in September 2010.

On the India Modern Quilt Guild

  1. The India Modern Quilt Guild is absolutely fantastic! I have been following you guys and the facebook page is full of life, energy and creativity! Tell us how this came to be.

I had been a follower of Alissa’s blog for quite some time now. She is the founder of the Modern Quilt Guild. I was absolutely envious of the activities. I did meet a few fellow Indian Quilters as followers of my blog and I knew there must be many more. That got me inspired to start the IMQG! And today we are 63 ladies across India who love quilting, having a lot of fun!

  1. What are the plans for the guild? You’re planning to have a meeting in April. Is that a retreat? And what are the broad plans for the future?

Yeah! I’m really excited about the IMQG Meet in April. It will be a retreat since we all stay so far away from each other! We will be spending night and day together while we sew away! I’m so looking forward to it.

On a large scale, I want quilting to spread into the farthest corners of India. I want designer fabric to be available in all the major cities here. I want us to have Local Quilt Shops and quilt classes. I want us to host a Quilt Market one day! And I believe this will happen in the near future!

  1. What has this been like for you? I remember I used to feel quite alone when I was in Bangalore and quilters on blogland were my support group in a way. What does it feel like to actually have other quilters in India all working together?

For almost two years I had only dreamt of being with other women who shared my passion. I too relied a lot on fellow quilters from blogland to be my support group. But it always made me sad to see that I actually could not get a lot of supplies here in India. But IMQG has changed all that. Now we have a common platform where we share the same uncertainties and the same problems. It makes working around the problems so much more easier!

I know I am just at the foot of the mountain with a long trek ahead. But now that I have a wonderful group of friends to hike with me, I’m sure we’re going to have a lot of fun on our way to the top!



  1. Carol,
    It is nice to read about the journey of a quilter living in India. It is wonderful to see the art of modern quilting spreading there. Looking forward to what Shruti does next!

    1. Shruti is definitely someone to look out for! I hope to have more interviews from the others as well. :)

    2. This is a great interview Shruti. Congratulations! Thanks Carol for initiating this blog!

  2. Carol, this is wonderful..thank you so much for the lovely interview with Shruti.

    1. You're very welcome Brinda and Tina. I'm going to be writing to you guys very soon! :)

  3. Carol, your interview with Shruti was so interesting! It's always a pleasure to read about any quilter's journey. Shruti's especially touches my heart because I also had never touched a sewing machine before my interest in quilting started. Even today I don't care to use my sewing machine for anything other than quilting, although sometimes it's necessary to do so. Shruti is so adventurous and has overcome several major obstacles and yet has such a bright outlook on life! Thank you for sharing parts of her life we would have otherwise missed.

  4. What a fascinating interview! Shruti is unstoppable! How wonderful that blogland helped connect so many quilters to each other.