Weaving Colours of Love – Traditional Hand-quilting Workshop (IV Edition)
“A Quilt is like an album of a lifetime of memories, and to wrap that around you when you sleep is lovely.”
Faiza Ahmad Khan, Participant
Quilting Workshop 2015
The beginnings of the fourth edition of the Quilting Workshop by Nirmalakka arranged by BuDa Folklore started weaving together long before the conception of the programme. As past participants and urban folk in need to connect with their roots persisted in their demands, the dates of January 24th to 26th 2015 were frozen for a three-day quilting retreat in the serene and vibrant home of Savita Uday in Bangalore.
Living Room of Savita Uday’s Home, Venue of the Quilting Workshop
Living Room of Savita Uday’s Home, Venue of the Quilting Workshop
Twelve participants from diverse backgrounds came together for three days, and as we sat in the first circle to get to know each other and begin an unanticipated process, what seemed to be a simple skill-based programme towards weaving fabrics together slowly revealed itself to be much more than that. Different people, different colours, different languages, different interests all fed off of each other to create an effect as diverse and as dazzling as the quilts themselves.
The processes of continuously quilting over three days, leaving all their worries behind, and getting to know other participants as their own sisters with different stories, ensured that the workshop was a rich, soulful experience for each participant. As Rama Narayanan, participant for the last Quilting Workshop and volunteer for the present one put it,
“Superficially it seems as though a bunch of women are chatting and quilting together, but really, it feeds the soul, whatever each participant’s journey may be. Long after the workshop is over and we have all gone home, we will feel the fulfilment that comes from deep soul-shifting in a joyful light-hearted manner.”
It was an early realisation that the workshop wasn’t just about learning the skill, but about the entire quilting experience. Ananya Mehta, participant, finds it important to know not just the product that she buys, but the entire process and journey that it goes through before becoming that final product. This inspired her to join the workshop.
Hours of painstaking work made it obvious that the journeys of a quilter are long and arduous, with laughter and pain woven in with the colours and threads. When different quilters completed their work with different speeds, the entire experience became a community effort towards weaving not just their own, but everyone’s quilts. An activity on the second day called Circle of Love called for quilters to swap quilts for half an hour to be part of each other’s memories and to let go of the common deep-rooted ideas of competition and completion. Quilter Rashmi Patel said that this process for her has been about slowing down and noticing the journey, not just racing towards the finish line.
Image 3: Quilters Kalpana Subbaramappa (left) and Anuradha Narayanan with their swapped quilts during the Circle of Love
As participants expanded their own awareness, noticing the time that they could spend with and for themselves, especially in the context of being busy Indian women vested in their families, there were often deep conversations about connecting not just to each other but just with themselves and the silence and meditation that quilting brought them. For Latha Sekar, it was an intense journey of the self to be present to the process of quilting in entirety through three days. The youngest participant, Swarakshita, a sixth grader, found that she had a similar experience of joy being with her quilt, even though the conversation and context around her was of alien adult experiences.
The last important connection that the quilters experienced besides self and each other, was the connection across time and space to ecology. There was a deep realisation of the sustainability of using fabric patches from used clothes, and an unforgettable connection with the stories woven into the fabric. Storyteller Kalpana Subbaramappa wants to be able to tell stories with her quilts in the time to come as she progresses in her art, just as stories are already being formed with the clothes of loved ones that were lovingly woven into quilts.
Image 4: Rama Narayanan contemplating her meal
What sounds like a deep inquiry of the soul was in fact interspersed with moments of fun and joy. The whole house would reverberate with laughter when Nirmalakka would amusingly chide different quilts, and when deep concentration had one of the participants stitch their own dress to their quilt! The food was a definite highlight, homemade with loving care by the BuDa team and Swati, who accomplished the superhuman task of quilting and cooking simultaneously. Local hints of the Honnavar cuisine like kokam, Tambli (flavoured buttermilk) and bella (liquid jaggery) danced with popular items like chole and rajma. Rama cheered everyone on on the last day with special chocolate cakes to celebrate the conclusion of the quilts, and Sara, intern at BuDa, delighted everyone with fresh homemade chocolate chip cookies.
Music floated around as different people took turns to entertain, with tunes and genres of all kinds dancing around the house.
Image 5: Anvay, Sara and Arpita singing to cheer on the last stage of intense quilting
Conclusion and Highlight
The most beautiful moment for the workshop for me, although there are too many beautiful ones to count, was the concluding ceremony. The tradition in Uttara Kannada, explained Nirmalakka, is that the quilt is someone being brought to life, and quilters make sure that it doesn’t go hungry by feeding the last pocket with food. The feeding of the quilt was done with everyone gathered around to witness the enlivening, and followed by a naming ceremony with each one naming their quilts. Swati and Smitha dedicated their quilts to Nirmalakka’s guidance and love, whereas others named their quilts according to their own personalities and interests. To know more about which quilt suits your personality, look forward to the Personality Quiz coming soon from BuDa Folklore!
Participant Joan Guest Feeding her quilt
When everyone gathered together in celebration of quilts made and unmade, finished and to come, content with the joy of being in community and weaving beautiful memories for three days, the apprehension that many felt on the first day was no longer visible. What remained now was a community of sisters, joined in their joy to work with their hands, being fun, silly, inappropriate, close and deeply connected with each other in ways that no one would have imagined a simple quilting experience could create.
Nirmalakka and Kalavva, loving guides, watched over the chaos with quiet content smiles, guided by the wisdom of their roots and steeped in the secret of connection that quilting can create. As everyone started to leave and thank them, they remained their ever-humble selves, superhuman in their stamina to work and help, and unwilling to hear any praise of their brilliance that any urban person would be in awe of.
Nirmalakka and Kalavva
As the house emptied and loving community went off to their worldly tasks, Savita Uday’s mind started ticking again. Our Roots are vast and the need for them to take hold in modern soil is urgent. With a beautiful workshop finished, there is more work to be done…