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The Namoona Concept Quilt

After completing my prototypes, I decided I would also pack a quilt top in my "business in a bag" to take to India and test drive potential partners. It would act as my proof of concept (POC).

I used a set of fabrics with the same pattern in 6 different colors that I had previously sourced a few years ago from West Bengal through my mom (she's lived there for the last 27 years).

The reverse side of the quilt top in progress, after which I corrected a mistake with neighboring squares. I forgot to capture photos of the rest and the front (right) side.

The idea was to make a simple top that I could fold up and keep in my bag until I found a partner that could use it to demonstrate their stitching and sandwich techniques (basically adding the three B's - batting, backing, binding).

It turned out to be a critical investment of my time and supplies.

Jaipur, Rajasthan

Through a connection in Jaipur, my dear friend Purnima, we soon found a partner eager to show me what they could do, and on our first evening we spent a couple hours going through seemingly hundreds of samples of their work.

I was like a kid in a candy store, diving into a mountain of fabrics with my patient husband, Nick.

I got a little overwhelmed and time pressured as the afternoon edged into evening though, so we agreed that we would come back the next day and talk more directly about partnering prospects.

We spent the entirety of the next day going over 20 of my designs, along with stitching guidelines and quilting techniques I wanted to scale to a larger operation. They served us chai at intervals and at midday we ravenously devoured a nourishing lunch of baajara khichdi and yogurt. Freshly fueled, I was ready to get down to production details and now that they understood my vision, we talked about their doing some samples to evaluate their work before proceeding further for any larger orders.

Making Namoona and plans for partnership

Naturally the easiest thing to get started with was my quilt top, all ready for sandwiching and stitching, which I decided we would call the Namoona, meaning sample or pattern. We agreed on a mandala pattern for the top stitching and to use the binding that I had also brought with it. They insisted they could complete it in their production room during our visit itself. Next, they were intrigued by a potholder-sized mini quilt that I had also brought to demonstrate blind piecing. They wanted to take a stab at replicating it at a larger scale so we agreed on a diamond pattern that they would turn into a simple pillowcase while we decided on the rest. (The latter became the eventual Maheshwari No. 1 king size quilt, which used blind piecing and stitch-in-the ditch quilting).

Happy that things were moving along nicely, I also picked out some silk sari patchwork for my Sada series and explained my Panchaali design in detail. We spent the rest of the time going through more fabric and deciding on which of my other designs they could create samples for, including what later became the Tala Taal No. 1. a complex choice to really put them to the test.

We finally agreed on seven quilt POCs - a completed Namoona using both light and dark thread, one complete Panchaali, one Tala Taal, one Maheshwari, and three Sadas, each with different stitching patterns.

Just as we started wrapping up the order, the sewist who was finishing the Namoona brought it out.

What a moment! The first time my art was transformed by someone other than me into a product. It was right there in front of me. I can't describe the feeling, but wow.

And our new partners seemed almost as excited as I was.

I examined the craftsmanship and pointed out some stitching that could have been more even, along with a handful of straggling threads or overlaps that were too visible on the light background. It was all okay though. Still beautiful to behold as a finished product.

I actually loved every imperfection and they even served a purpose, making for good illustrations to point out quality expectations for future products.

Our new partners then vacuum packed the Namoona small enough to fit in my suitcase and after getting an estimate in writing and paying the deposit, we left with a new agreement on a deadline to deliver the samples to us in Delhi later on our journey.

Bangalore (Bengaluru), Karnataka

I had decided even before getting it stitched that I would not sell the Namoona because of some small dye stains from washing the light fabrics with the darks (rookie mistake). Despite the small stains here and there though, I feel a quilt is still warm and comforting and would make a perfect gift for someone who would cherish it as the crafted art that it was. So I chose to save it as a gift for my friend Nuvena's mom in Trichy, a stop that was coming up on our trip. I felt it could be a type of full circle for her saris that I'd turned into a memory quilt.

Armed with my precious POC in its protective package and inspired from the sites and good friends we stayed with in Jaipur, I took it with us to the next leg of our journey - Bangalore (Bangaluru) - where we would stay with Nuvena and visit with other friends.

It turned out to be a conversation starter with as I explained to people what type of business I was launching and the type of connections I was trying to make during our trip.

Trichy (Tiruchirappalli), Tamil Nadu

After only 2 nights in Bangalore where I battled a bit of a throat thing, we took a night train to Nuvena's home town, Trichy. Actually named Tiruchirappalli, Trichy is known as "the city where God sleeps", after the reposed Vishnu deity in the Sri Rangam temple. There we met her mom, Dr. T.Gomathy Rajendran, a retired doctor and a petite, vibrant woman I fell in love with immediately.

We did the touristy thing by visiting a few temples and markets before heading on to our next order of business. Nuvena was going to take us to visit some of her favorite weavers in neighboring villages where I hoped to find direct sources for saris, especially silk.

As planned, I gifted the Namoona to Dr. Rajendran and she was so overjoyed, opening it right away and spreading it on her bed. It was more of a throw/full size so it didn't lay fully like a queen would but it was large enough to show its full effect.

Seeing it put to actual use by someone who clearly loved it, I was filled with a resurgence of validation that I was absolutely doing the right thing in committing to this new venture. How can I not when it brought so much happiness?

It was a gift on both sides. Thank you, Dr. Rajendran for the beauty of that moment. It will stay with me for a long time.

And that's the story of the Namoona proof of concept quilt. Unique, one of a kind - a creation that is no less than a masterpiece of art and joy which has succeeded in propelling me on to the next step of this fabulous journey.


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