Modern Kawandi Making

Kawandi quilts have been on my mind ever since seeing the Collecting & Recollecting exhibit on display at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum.
Kawandi Quilts on Display at IQSCM

This was not my first introduction to Kawandi style quilts.  Several years ago, Margaret Fabrizio had a solo exhibit and presentation at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles.  Margaret traveled to India to learn how to make this style of quilt from the African-Indian Siddis quiltmakers, and has since made quite a few Kawandi quilts of her own which she has posted on her website gallery.  More recently, Sujata Shah had several Kawandi style quilts as part of her Featured Artist display and presentation at the Pajaro Valley Quilt Show.  She is scheduled to teach a Kawandi workshop this summer on a 2019 The Exotics in ALASKA Cruise (which unfortunately conflicts with my own teaching calendar).

Despite several looming deadlines, I kept thinking back on these Kawandi quilts and decided to make one with my own modern twists.  While I had a theoretical understanding of the basic Kawandi quiltmaking process, I lacked the finer points in the actual quiltmaking!!  So I studied the photographs from my IQSCM visit and decided to work small for this prototype.

As traditional Kawandi quilts are made from old clothing yielding a scrappy look, I started by raiding my color coordinated scrap drawers.
Scrappy Strips

This style of quiltmaking involves layering patches of fabric, working from the outside into the center.  The size of the quilt is dictated by the size of the backing and batting, as it is appliqued and quilted at the same time.  Typically the four corners are established first, with many of the Kawandi quilts featuring nestled Ls in each of the 4 corners.  I attempted to recreate those Ls by layering squares of fabric on top of one another in a quarter log cabin style.  Initially, I used a rotary ruler to achieve matching size squares, although I eye balled the placement of these squares.  I also used a little Elmer's glue to baste down my patches.  Once my corners were in place, I ditched the ruler and glue for a more improvisational approach.  Any raw edges were pressed under using a combination of using an iron and finger pressing, and then pinned into position prior to top stitching stitching.
Four Corner Start

Traditional Kawandi quilts are assembled using a long running stitch done by hand.  Instead, I loaded White Aurifil 40wt thread into my machine, matching 50wt into my bobbin, and increased the stitch length to simulate a long running stitch. Starting along the outside edge, I spiraled my way into the center.  At first I tried to keep the lines of stitches straight and consistent echoes.  But soon I embraced the organic wobbles as I aimed for the outer edges of each pressed under patch.  New patches were added as I worked my way into the center, alternating between rings of teals and orange scraps.

I embraced this improvisational style of layering and stitching, completely forgetting to take any in-progress photos!!  As I approached the center (also known as the stomach or belly of the quilt), I remembered learning that Kawandi quiltmakers often include a few grains of rice to honor Annapurna, Goddess of Plenty, and bless the user of the quilt to always have a full stomach.  Instead of physical grains of rice, I remembered a piece of fabric from Lotta Jansdotter's Echo collection that resembled grains of rice.
Blessed Belly

Many of the Kiwandi quilts have flowers sewn in each of the four corners.  A kawandi quilt is considered naked without these "phula" flowers in place.  Each of my flowers started with a quarter circle with turned under edges and hand stitched onto the back.
Flower Finish

I had so much fun creating this Kawandi quilt and learned so much in the process.  I am already thinking ahead to making my next Kawandi quilt and found a spool of Aurifil 28wt to really enhance the top stitching!!
Kawandi Quilt, Finishes 17" x 18"


  1. This is so beautiful! I plan to make a quilt like that. I worry that I will wind up with a big lump in the middle if I start on the outside. Did you glue baste everything and then sew it? I thought you were supposed to stitch as you added each piece.

    1. Thank you! I was initially worried about working my way into the center and ending up with a volcano--but it lays pretty flat. Initially I started the corners using Elmer's School Glue but stopped after the corners. I would lay out a few scraps and then continue stitching a spiral in towards the center, adding scraps every few rings or so. I was so immersed in the process that I forgot to take pictures of my process. I am due for making a new one and will be sure to pause and take more pictures.

    2. Hi Mel. I think I know you from Modern quilt guild?
      I'm doing this also and I'm addicted! I'll be teaching it in February, date to be determined. Find me on FB. This is SO exciting!

      Susan Raineri

    3. I know our paths have crossed, quite possibly through the MQG. Yes--these are very fun to make. I look forward to hearing how your workshop goes in February!!

  2. this result! This is exactly what I have been thinking of doing to make my version of a kawandi quilt...using a machine stitch instead of hand stitching....and you have already nailed it!

    1. I enjoyed the process of making this kawandi-style quilt sooo much that I forgot to pause along the way to take pictures of the process. I am not much of a hand stitcher but I really love how these come together outside in. I hope you will give it a go and would love to see what you create!

  3. I love this little quilt! I've never heard of kawandi quilts. It seems like it would be a fun project to do with my 5-year-old granddaughter. I think she'd have fun picking pieces of fabric to add along the way. And regarding quilting from the outside edge in, and possible ending up with a bump in the middle, maybe that's why it's called the belly of the quilt and why the belly is filled with rice!
    Kathleen - kakingsbury at verizon dot net

  4. Hi Mel, just found your blog by way Bonnie Hunter's Quiltville blog re:
    The Love Your Creative Space Book Tour & Gift-Away! Had never heard of Kawandi quilting technique before. Really looking forward to trying this. Occasionally, I have casually dropped scraps on my work surface to see how they would land. Kawandi is certainly more controlled, but wow!

    1. Glad you found me! This Kawandi quilt was so much fun to try and I hope to make more in the future!!

  5. How did I miss this post? It's lovely. What a creative way to adapt a kawandi to your process. Love your phulas, too. Did you hem them?

    1. I am looking forward to learning more about the traditional making of Kawandi style quilts in our October workshop with Sujata Shah!!!


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