Why do I make portrait quilts?

I love making portrait quilts. I have made over 60 portraits - in various forms on over 25 quilts. Ever since I started making portrait quilts, I have enjoyed the process thoroughly! And I can see myself making lots of them in the future too.

why-do-i-love-making-portrait-quilts-article-by-shruti-dandekar

I have made portrait quilts using eight different techniques so far. 

  • Raw edge applique
  • Reverse Applique
  • Thread Sketching
  • Cartoon (Carol - Mamacjt - style)
  • Cartoon (Carol Ann Vaugh style)
  • Pixelated Picture (a spin on Sandra Bruce Style)
  • Pixelated Picture (pattern made via YouPatch.com)
  • Abstract Expressions (based on the work of Canadian artist Martina Shapiro)

My first attempt at quilting was way back in 2012, when I made the portrait of Rohit's Great Grandfather. I wanted to make it as a gift to all the men in the house on the occasion of the family business completing 100 years! Short on cash because of leaving my job in 2009, I decided I will make a gift for them using my skills. It took a grueling 3 months of working 5-6 hours everyday to make this quilt using 3500+ pieces of fabric in over 30 shades of grey!

I loved it but also knew that if it took that long to make a portrait quilt, I'd never make it again.

I raked my brain hard, and came up with an easier solution. But I wasn't sure it will work. I was a complete novice in quilting. There were masters around me who were making portrait quilts for ages. My architect's brain was telling me it will make the process so simple and fast, but my brand new quilter brain thought someone must have thought about it right. Why haven't they done it before me?

By 2013, I had gathered enough courage to just try out my idea. If it did not work, I would just  chuck it away and no one would be any wiser. I made a portrait of Steve Jobs. It came together absolutely fast. Just 7 days of working 1-2 hours every day! 

I knew I had found something that I would definitely want to pursue. Now that the execution part had been made easier, I loved making portraits. I have made about 18 individual ones and one large quilt with 35 portraits on it using this technique. 

In 2014, I wrote my eBook : ABOUT face and self published it. In it I share my process of making a portrait quilt, easy enough even for a confident beginner. I conduct classes based on this technique and my students successfully complete their 2 color portraits including the quilting in two days!

It feels amazing to take these women from - I have never sketched before, will I be able to do this? - to - I cannot wait to make my next one! 

If you have every wanted to make a portrait quilt, I would highly recommend trying my technique. It is super fast, relatively easy and after the initial stitching part - actually a portable project! You can buy it by clicking the link Learn to Quilt at the top of this page.

Around the same time, I also experimented in making abstract portraits and loved it! It was like painting with fabric! I came across a painting by Martina Shapiro that I loved. I contacted her for the permission to make a quilt based on that and she gave it to me.  I went ahead and instead of just copying her portrait and making a quilt based on it, I understood her process and made an original artwork based on that. It was total fun!

I continued experimenting with portraits making them in the various different techniques I mentioned above. Every time it was fun to see it take shape and get the character of the person who the quilt was made of.

Like the pixelated portrait of Pappa - the father of my mentor in architecture. This was a whooping 4095 2.5" squares put together in 8 x 8 blocks of 8 x 8 squares each!

Aadi's portrait was made based on Sandra Bruce's Material Matrix technique. I met her on my first trip to the USA and she very generously guided me to make it. 

Portrait of my friend Shradha was made for a swap and I actually wanted to order one from Carol (Mamacjt) when I visited her blog, I came to know that she had passed away. So I just decided to make one and dedicate it to her. 

I made a couple of portrait using the technique I learnt in the Craftsy class with Carol Ann Vaugh. 

In my quest to find more ideas to teach portrait quilts, I made one which is easy enough to come along in about 3-4 hours.

Every portrait quilt that I make is special to me. I enjoy every moment of making it. It connects me to the person I am making it for. And I enjoy having that skill to convert a picture into a quilt that can be cherished by the families for generations!

Have you made a portrait quilt? Do you love making them?