A lack of good tailors, a touch of feminine pride and a whole lot of passion propelled Tina Katwal into starting something new—a hobby house called The Square Inch. Located in Thiruvanmiyur, the 800 sq ft store aims to be the one-stop destination for thread crafters and quilters in the city. Under its roof, you can pick up everything from needles and threads to buttons and beads, hobnob with fellow crafters, attend workshops, study to crochet and tat, buy (or rent) machines for stitching, sample cakes at the cafe, and leaf through their library.
But first, let’s start at the very beginning. Hailing from a small village in Himachal Pradesh called Sandhole, Katwal came to the city to study at Ethiraj College. Love, an MBA in Tourism, marriage and two kids had her putting down roots. Everything was perfect, except finding clothes that fit. “A decade or so ago, tailors couldn’t get the fit right for Kashmiri kurtas. So I began stitching them myself, and I would hoard the scraps,” reminisces Katwal. “Then a few years back, I chanced upon a book on quilting, and realised my mound of scraps could be turned into something beautiful.”
Thus began a passion that had her scouring bookshelves and blogs to perfect her craft. “Initially, I mastered only the western form of quilting as information was readily available online. However, I soon realised we have a rich history of quilting in India—28 recorded forms with more being re-discovered,” says Katwal. Her search for new forms, and teachers, has taken her all over India—from Karnataka and the kowdhi tradition to Lucknow and the ari tradition. “I would go to all the craft fairs and ask the craftsmen to teach me,” she says.
Though she started a blog (tina-holyscrap.blogspot.in) and a Facebook forum (Desi Quilters, with over 600 members), converting her hobby into a profession hadn’t crossed her mind. Until she bought a Bernina sewing machine, that is. “Last year some customers were flown to Mumbai to meet the Swiss owner, Hanspeter Ueltschi. He was surprised that there were no female dealers in India, and I suddenly found myself offering to be his first female dealer,” laughs Katwal.
The dealership became the catalyst for the shop. “I didn’t want to just sell machines; I wanted to build a creative experience around it,” she says. So if you go to The Square Inch you can work on the machines before you buy them, sign up for customised classes, source all your materials, and even watch experts at work.
The store opens on January 25. Details: 9551655776
Surya Praphulla Kumar