Shiva Natraj Quilt

This is now hanging where Laxmi was. The photo below should give some sense of scale:

It’s 71″ x 71″ – almost 6 feet by 6 feet!

Wanna see work-in-progress documentary pix? Read on!I did the head first.

It was free-motion quilted, in pieces, which I assembled and sewed together using a satin stitch – a technique I call Trapplique.

I experimented with brown fabric and grey-green “patina” thread, to evoke the bronze statues this design is based on. However the bas-relief sculptural effect of the trapplique works better with lighter fabrics, which distinguish shadows better. And I wanted to tone down the color contrast on my quilt, since I loved how the all-white nude turned out.

For a very slight contrast with the white foreground, I chose a pale gold sheet for the background. (This whole thing is made of cotton sheets I fished from the discount bin at Century 21 downtown, now my 1-stop quilting-fabric shop.) I printed out  a protractor to help me space the radiating lines. My 72″ ruler, bought on impulse a few weeks ago, proved an indispensable tool.

It took me 3 full days to quilt the background – much longer than I expected! It was so simple in my mind, but I’m continually surprised by how long the physical execution takes.

Here is is, all quilted.

The white cotton is translucent enough to place over printed templates and trace with an air-soluble pen. After tracing, I basted and sewed before the ink vanished.

My templates were guidelines; I filled in some details freehand.

Finally it was assembly time. I drew a circle by tying one end of a thread to the center of the background, and the other to my air erasable marker, to make a giant compass.

My careful planning paid off, as all those pieces fit together to form a circle. It reminded me of stone-cutting and masonry.

I arranged my pre-quilted pieces (some of which already had trapplique “jewelry” sewn on) and traced around everything with the air soluble pen. That way I didn’t have to baste anything together. I just placed each piece more or less against its traced outline, and sewed it down.

This is the hardest part. It would be so much easier if I had a long arm zig-zag sewing machine, but they are rare (specialized for sail makers) and cost a lot and take up a lot of space. So instead I have to stuff everything through the 9″ throat space of my domestic machine. I start in the center and work outwards. I’m developing muscles in my left shoulder I didn’t know existed.

Here the center pieces have been sewn down – the hardest part accomplished.

And here’s the back, before I added hanging sleeves. Now go back to the top, to see the finished front!


Author: Nina Paley

Animator. Director. Artist. Scapegoat.

27 thoughts on “Shiva Natraj Quilt”

  1. This is great!!! Love the quilt and to see how you assembled it. I know this is HARD work. I have made many quilts and mostly work on smaller art quilts now. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. I so enjoy the insight into HOW you do your work, thanks particularly for that (we have a sewing class here at Prop Thtr, they oohed and aaahed the last and shall surely this as well) The result is both cheeky and spiritual and very beautiful.

  3. That is amazing! Definitely something I’d want to hang in my house.

  4. Just, though I hate to use such an overused word, awesome! Your skill and design sense are amazing!

  5. It shows great dexterity to handle the medium so well that the softness of the material can express the emotion of shiva nataraja so perfectly!!!

  6. Nice pics.Artists are always inspired by the natraj pose of shiva.Many many thanks for sharing this.

  7. Nina, this is other-worldly in its beauty. Excellent, gorgeous work. Hats off!

  8. Thank you so much for allowing me to make sense of the process involved in creating your stunning quilt. And to think that you’ve done it on a domestic machine – it gives me so much hope. So many times we get to view beautiful quilts online with only a glimpse at the process and construction. Thanks to you, it’s become clear to me! You’ve inspired me to take my novice quilting skills to a whole new level. Knowledge is definitely power. Thank you so for sharing! I appreciate your giving spirit.

  9. You are truly an artist. I couldn’t begin to accomplish the quilt you designed. My compliments to a very talented and inspired quilter.

  10. Ew. Sorry to be negative, and as usual your aesthetic is great but the idea is all ew; other people’s gods as wall art (or kitschy bags, or T shirts or worse, rugs) is disgusting. Like a Muslim guy with Jesus table mats.

  11. I love your work! I am so stunned and impressed! And that you were able to fit that through a standard sewing machine!! Such a beautiful piece!

  12. Wow! I am so impressed with your technique and your quilts! This is so marvelous! I am inspired to try this as well! Thank you for each step and taking us through the thought process just like we would do! So awesome!

  13. it seems a unique piece, in every sense…
    Would it be thinkable to commission one?
    I am designing my new bedroom inspired by the movie the tiger of Eschnapur by Richard Eichberg so i was looking for a special Shiva…

  14. Hi Nina,

    my family and I are huge fans of SSTB, and today I was looking to see if you have been making any other films….i was staggered to come across images of your quilts….! What’s the story with them? I can’t see how to buy one….I might not have enough money right now but I would save up; they’re so incredible!

    I also love the fact that you shared your process for making them…so fascinating, and a lot of work simply documenting. Thanks very much for your amazing creativity and the way that you share so openly.

  15. I love what you are doing. Does this technique make for a stiff quilt?? Really thinking of using this for some of my quilts.

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