Saturday, May 11, 2013

Quilter Spotlight - Brinda Crishna

Brinda at the Quilting
Workshop at Chiang Mai
I'm very happy to have Brinda Crishna on Quilter Spotlight. Brinda's blog - Moments of Quiet - Embroidering my Tale was one of the early quilting blogs I had come across when I began to quilt. Brinda quilts, embroiders, paints, and crochets. She is not afraid of a challenge and pays great attention to detail. It is a pleasure for me to have her on Quilter Spotlight.

  1. Introductions first I suppose. Tell us a little about yourself Brinda and which part of India  you live in.
    I turned 60 this year and as I look back I see how full my life has been. I have 4 daughters, all independently ‘settled’ as they say in India, one in Mumbai, 2 in Bangalore and 1 in Bangkok!  I am a grandmother of 2, and they provide me with ample opportunities to sew things for them! Most importantly I have a wonderful husband, who has encouraged and supported me throughout my life, and encouraged my passion for my sewing! I live in Kolkata. Professionally I run a Charity, VAANI - Deaf Children’s Foundation that works with deaf children and families across 6 States in India.

  2. When and how did you start quilting?
    I have always been deeply interested in needle work. I used to do a lot of cross stitch and still crochet a lot. My interest in quilting started when I received a quilt from my husband’s grandmother at our wedding over 36 years ago. It was a crazy quilt made with scraps of fabric, mostly from old clothes. The pieces were joined together with herringbone stitch. What I loved about the quilt was that it had bits of fabrics that brought back memories for my husband!  Here’s a picture, I have kept it safely and as you can see the colours are still fresh. I decided then that I would do the same….of course it took many years before I actually did make my first quilt!
    Memory Quilt by Brinda`s Grandmother-in-law
  3. Which is the first quilt you ever made? Looking back what would you have done differently?
    The first one was made 25 years ago, for a very favourite cousin for his wedding. It was very much on the lines of Granny’s quilt. No pictures unfortunately! It was a crazy patchwork quilt, and was sewed directly onto the lining fabric. Since it was a crazy quilt and I followed the shape of the fabric which I just patched from one piece to the other, it was not too difficult to make. There was a huge gap after that and I made another quilt for my eldest daughter’s wedding. It was also a crazy quilt, but I created a design of a tree. I used to make all my girls’ clothes when they were growing and had stored the bits of fabric in 4 separate bags….so this was Nishka’s quilt with bits from her bag…..and I will always remember the look on her face as she recognized the pieces!
    Nishka`s Quilt
  4. Did you take lessons in quilting – attended a class or workshop?
    No physical lessons as such. I followed the Craftsy Block of the Month in 2012 which was a great learning experience! Of course there is always the internet and the generosity of people sharing their skills amazes me all the time!
  5. On your blog you talk about your grandmother and the quilts she made. Tell us a little bit more about her and her quilting.
    It was my husband’s grandmother. She was half British and was an amazing needlewoman. When I got married into the family, she and I became great friends as we had this love for sewing in common. In fact I still have some of the patterns for embroidery that she gave me! Granny was in her 80's when we got married 35 years ago and had made this for us even though her hands were crippled with arthritis. She said the making of quilts and doing the most amazing embroidery was something she had learnt from her mother, an Englishwoman as they grew up in the very cloistered society of India in the 1800's. She didn't use batting but layers of cloth, which included old saris, or sheets obviously taking that tradition from our own native Indian quilting. None of the fabric she used was new but was from scraps she had saved while sewing clothes, or from garments that had got too small, or old curtains etc.
  6. It’s wonderful to have a quilter in the family. So much love is passed on through a quilt. Who are the recipients of your quilts?
    All my quilts so far have been made for my family which include my daughters and their families, my mother and my husband’s Aunt, for whom I recently made a quilt for her 90th birthday. My blog has details of my work!
    Baby Rattle for a Sufi
    Noah`s Ark for Sufi
  7. I remember the first time I visited your blog I saw the post about the crazy quilt you made for your daughter Nitasha and her husband. It had beautiful blocks – some of them embroidered – tell us a little more about that quilt.
    When I made Nishka’s quilt, I broke my back trying to make a whole quilt all at one time!!! Even though it was a crazy quilt, it had a definite form and a plan on how and where I used what colours and shapes. Almost like an impressionist painting, so in trying to maintain the design, I would have to lay the quilt out on to the floor and then work on it, often on my knees!!! So in the case of Nitasha’s quilt, I decided to make it in blocks, as besides being easier to work, I could carry the blocks with me when I travelled, which I do a lot of with my work.  I also wanted to make it a memory quilt of her growing years in Kolkata. Hence some of the blocks were detailed pictures, others where I experimented with embroidery stitches! 

    Crazy Quilt for Nitasha and Sujoy
  8. Detail: Victoria Memorial Block

    Detail: St Paul's Cathedral, Kolkata
  9. Stitchery has become very popular in the quilting world. I see that you use your embroidery skills when you quilt as well. Can you show us some of your quilting that includes stitchery?
    I think I did the most amount of embroidery on Nitasha’s quilt. I did take part in an international  round robin and here is a picture of one of the blocks ….this time using beads and buttons and lace as well. All the work on the left of the photograph has been done by me!
    Block for Round Robin
  10. Which part of the quilt making process do you enjoy the most?
    Possibly thinking through the design and then actually piecing it and getting the top ready! I have found that I like to quilt by hand, and have come to a compromise in my quilts, in that my quilting comprises both.
    12"X 12" Mini Quilt for Desi Quilters Monthly Challenge

  11. Which technique of piecing do you find yourself using more often than not?
    I have used the crazy quilting the most. However I have also developed a great liking for anything wonky, and that doesn't take too much precision or repetition.  So I love the wonky blocks with the fussy cuts, using all sorts of fabrics! I do like to be neat though, so like to keep my seams an exact 1/8th inch!!!
    Cushion Cover for Niece

  12. Is there a quilt block/technique that you have always wanted to try but have not been confident enough to do it yet?Well when I first started writing this, there was….learning the technique of piecing that Ruth McDowel has made popular in making art quilts. I was so fortunate to find a teacher in Chaing Mai, Karen Sengel and spent a magical 4 days learning the technique, of piecing using freezer paper! Karen is an amazing teacher. You can see her work on her website …and I think I have found my ‘quilting space’! I loved the way her pictures have captured her experience of living in Thailand and Japan. I plan to do the same in India!
    Quilt top made at the Workshop
  13. Where do you find your inspiration?
    From life around me the vivid and bright colours that make up India!  I have come a long way in my quilting and choosing of colours and fabrics and have now settled into what I want to do! I love our Indian fabrics, and especially the naturally dyed and locally printed cotton fabrics. They are not necessarily easy to work with, but I found that if they are very thin, one can starch them and they can be used quite easily!
    Quilt for Aunt's 90th Birthday

  14. When did you start blogging about quilting and what has that done for your craft?
    I started in May 2010….not about quilting only, but about my needlework….Finally it has become a ‘mostly’ quilting blog, as that is what I am doing a lot of now…and of course my crochet.
  15. Which blogs do you like to follow?
     (Desi Quilters) of course. And I like a host of other ones, Crazy Mom Quilts, and the Craftsy site. I love Tina’s blog, Holy Scrap, and others that I come across when I surf the net. I like yours, Quilting in India, and have been looking forward to it becoming more active!!
  16. Do you participate in many swaps, bees, round robins and the like? Could you tell us a little bit about a recent one that you took part in?
    I do participate in some. DQ has a quilting Bee on at the moment, which I am participating in, and another interesting international one called ‘Star of Africa’….which has participants from across the globe.  This one I am enjoying a lot as it has serious quilters and it is very creative. I have a button about it on my blog if you want to find out about it. To be totally honest, though, I don’t enjoy them as much as I thought I would, for a number of reasons, and will possibly not participate in any more unless something special about it motivates me!
    Bee Block for Star of Africa
  17. One of the things that I always worry about with swaps is the mail! Do you just use a courier service or have you actually received blocks and fabric via regular mail?
    I always use a courier, as it is the safest way to send a block from India.
  18. Which sewing machine do you use and when and where did you buy it? Any recommendations for quilters who want to buy machines in India?
    I use a Bernina now as I Got one as a 60th birthday present from my husband. Before that I had a regular Singer, foot operated and managed most of my sewing with it! Then about 6 years ago I got my first electric sewing machine and was really thrilled with it. I still use that, although it doesn’t have many of the newer feet!
    Scrappy Quilt for Brinda's Mother

  19. Ok. The question I get asked most on my blog – where do you buy your fabric, notions and batting in India? I know India is known for cotton but I was quite surprised at how difficult it was to find 100% cotton fabric! Can you give us names of the markets you go to? Did you buy your notions in India or order them online?
    I live in Kolkata, where cotton fabric is easily available. I get most of my fabrics from New Market, where I have been going for over 30 years! I use good quality poplin, from one of the well-known mills, for my block colours, and mostly block printed or other handloom fabrics. My problem remains thread. We used to make wonderful cotton thread in India in earlier times, but now it is almost impossible to get, and is really frustrating. I believe one can get it in Mumbai, and I am planning to do source it from there. In the meantime, I use cotton quilting thread I have bought abroad.
    Quilted Bag for Naeeda
  20. What are you using for batting?
    I use a cotton batting which is being sourced from Tina. I have also used synthetic batting which is more readily available, but prefer the cotton one.
  21. Do you shop online for fabric?
    No I have never done that. I like to feel the texture of the fabric I am buying.

  22. Tell us a little bit about Desi Quilters! Seems like a fun and vibrant group!
    It started off as a few of us realizing we had common interests and a love for quilting. Tina, helped by Veena Krishna Kumar is really the brains and main motivator. Oh yes it is vibrant, there is great learning and sharing, and I have personally made some great friends….Most importantly, we are no longer quilting in isolation, but have a whole group of people who are out there and who support each other’s growth and learning.
    Block for a Bee on Desi Quilters

  23. Have you guys physically met each other? I think I saw some pictures of a meeting in Bangalore.
    There have been a few regional meets.  I haven’t been able to find other quilters in Kolkatta even though I have tried very hard! However I was in Assam, where I met Elvira, and of course I have met Tina and Veena as we all attended a meet together in Pune!
  24. What quilting plans do you have for this year? Any UFOs/To Dos you can share with us?
    I want to try and make 6 quilts/art quilts this year. It’s not going to be easy my husband retired in April this year and we will be relocating to Bangalore! But I have set that as my target. All close friends and family are going to get quilted gifts this year. There are 2 definite projects that I want to finish by the end of June….one is my ‘polaroid blocks’ into a quilt. And the second is completing the quilting of my Cockerel that I made at Karen’s workshop.
    Blocks for Polaroid Quilt


  1. Brinda is a great source of inspiration. You can tell she's an artist by looking at her works. I'm fortunate to have a chance to meet her once and I hope to meet her again someday :)

  2. Lovely interview Carol. Brinda, loved reading about yr quilting journey. Am so looking fwd to yr art quilts :-)

  3. Nice article Brinda! Never realised you were a 'closet Quilter'!

  4. Brinda,
    I enjoyed reading about you and your quilting. I'm a beginner, having made only two quilts in my life. I want to make a traditional Indian quilt (wall hanging) from fabrics our son, Tim, brought us from Inida. First I must tell you why.

    Tim was a Hari Krishna here in the U.S. He lived in Vrindavan, India for a few months and loved it. Tim graduated in piano performance but turned his interests to classical Indian music and kirtan. He was killed at age 30 when broadsided by a speeding semi tractor trailer in Florida. In December 2012 our entire family brought his ashes to India and spent a month there learning about what he believed. There was a beautiful ashes ceremony in Mayapur. We spent a week in your area, the most special part of which was in the Sunderbans. I, like my Tim, fell in love with India.

    I want to make a quilt that will remind me of India and Tim's beliefs, but I would need patterns for the squares. I'm just not experienced or imaginative enough to make my own design. I found a book of traditional Indian quilt patterns on Amazon, but the cost was over $200!

    If you have any advice for me I will much appreciate it. I could post a picture of the fabrics I have if that would help. Do you know of a website where I could order patterns?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Tina,
      Thank You for your comment and sharing with us.
      I'm going to mail Brinda with your comment and it would be great if you could send me or her an email id so she could talk with you a little more.
      This is Brinda's blog.


  5. hi i am interested to learn quilting... pls let me know how to go about it... my id is poonam(dot)rk(at)outlook(dot)com