April 12, 2014

Arunachalam Muruganantham

sharing a post that blew my mind.. something that i did not believe existed. is my country so regressive that women have to find sawdust during her periods?
"After spending years developing a simple machine to make inexpensive sanitary pads, Arunachalam Muruganantham has become the unlikely leader of a menstrual health revolution in rural India. Over sixteen years, Muruganantham's machine has spread to 1,300 villages in 23 states and since most of his clients are NGOs and women's self-help groups who produce and sell the pads directly in a "by the women, for the women, and to the women" model, the average machine also provides employment for ten women.

Muruganantham's interest in menstrual health began in 1998 when, as a young, newly married man, he saw his wife, Shanthi, hiding the rags she used as menstrual cloths. Like most men in his village, he had no idea about the reality of menstruation and was horrified that cloths that “I would not even use... to clean my scooter” were his wife’s solution to menstrual sanitation. When he asked why she didn’t buy sanitary pads, she told him that the expense would prevent her from buying staples like milk for the family.

Muruganantham, who left school at age 14 to start working, decided to try making his own sanitary pads for less but the testing of his first prototype ran into a snag almost immediately: Muruganantham had no idea that periods were monthly. “I can't wait a month for each feedback, it'll take two decades!” he said, and sought volunteers among the women in his community. He discovered that less than 10% of the women in his area used sanitary pads, instead using rags, sawdust, leaves, or ash. Even if they did use cloths, they were too embarrassed to dry them in the sun, meaning that they never got disinfected -- contributing to the approximately 70% of all reproductive diseases in India that are caused by poor menstrual hygiene.

Finding volunteers was nearly impossible: women were embarrassed, or afraid of myths about sanitary pads that say that women who use them will go blind or never marry. Muruganantham came up with an ingenious solution: “I became the man who wore a sanitary pad,” he says. He made an artificial uterus, filled it with goat’s blood, and wore it throughout the day. But his determination had severe consequences: his village concluded he was a pervert with a sexual disease, his mother left his household in shame and his wife left him. As he remarks in the documentary "Menstrual Man" about his experience, "So you see God's sense of humour. I'd started the research for my wife and after 18 months she left me!"

After years of research, Muruganantham perfected his machine and now works with NGOs and women’s self-help groups to distribute it. Women can use it to make sanitary napkins for themselves, but he encourages them to make pads to sell as well to provide employment for women in poor communities. And, since 23% of girls drop out of school once they start menstruating, he also works with schools, teaching girls to make their own pads: “Why wait till they are women? Why not empower girls?”

As communities accepted his machine, opinions of his “crazy” behavior changed. Five and a half years after she left, Shanthi contacted him, and they are now living together again. She says it was hard living with the ostracization that came from his project, but now, she helps spread the word about sanitary napkins to other women. “Initially I used to be very shy when talking to people about it, but after all this time, people have started to open up. Now they come and talk to me, they ask questions and they also get sanitary napkins to try them.”

In 2009, Muruganantham was honored with a national Innovation Award in 2009 by then President of India, Pratibha Patil, beating out nearly 1,000 other entries. Now, he's looking at expanding to other countries and believes that 106 countries could benefit from his invention.

Muruganantham is proud to have made such a difference: “from childhood I know no human being died because of poverty -- everything happens because of ignorance... I have accumulated no money but I accumulate a lot of happiness.” His proudest moment? A year after he installed one of the machines in a village so poor that, for generations, no one had earned enough for their children to attend school. Then he received a call from one of the women selling sanitary pads who told him that, thanks to the income, her daughter was now able to go to school.

To read more about Muruganantham's story, the BBC featured a recent profile on him at http://bbc.in/1i8tebG or watch his TED talk at http://bit.ly/1n594l6. You can also view his company's website at http://newinventions.in/

To learn more about the 2013 documentary Menstrual Man about Muruganantham, visit http://www.menstrualman.com/

For resources to help girls prepare for and understand their periods - including several first period kits - visit our post on: “That Time of the Month: Teaching Your Mighty Girl about Her Menstrual Cycle” at www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=3281

To help your tween understand the changes she's experiencing both physically and emotionally during puberty, check out the books recommended in our post on “Talking with Tweens and Teens About Their Bodies” at http://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=2229

And, if you're looking for ways to encourage your children to become the next engineering and technology innovators, visit A Mighty Girl's STEM toy section at http://www.amightygirl.com/toys/toys-games/science-math

March 21, 2014

Another dress I made

The prettiest little frock for the little one.. Just in time as the bicycle got repaired, the weather turned nice, and the vacations started.  (Actually, I made it for the nerd. She outgrew it last summer. The fabric quality is great, because the dress still looks new after one year of continuous use and winter storage. )

March 5, 2014

a weekend well spent

Last weekend was one of the very few in which i actually went out of the house, into society.  Usually, weekends these days are spent in a mad whirlwind of church and family and "relaxing" and cleaning and cooking. it has been a long while since i saw any of my friends..  i may or may not talk to them on the phone, but actually seeing them face to face has been relegated to those far-apart birthday dinners (now that the kids are grown up, no one does big parties anymore).  after a long winter, (yeah, long for doha) I'm ready to get out in the sun.

 This week, the sun was shining. the kids have been begging me to take them to a mall (any mall) because its been a long time since they saw the inside of one.. all purchases are handles by the 'rents in non-kid time. (P.S.  I have HAD it with shopping with kids.. now that they are old enough to babysit themselves, i'm going alone. what a liberating feeling! ) ..but not so for the kids. they've been living in the constant drudge of school/afterschool classes/TV/homework/sleep.  with a rare dose of cousins, that too have been very rare since papa is on the final hair-pulling leg of his grad studies and amma's working full hours.

so thursday afternoon, we went to villaggio. walked till my knee ached. saw everything there was to see. scored some bargains from pumpkin patch. got some knicknacks from carrefour.  had a KFC dinner. small  things to do, but it was  fun with the kids. saw the artwork at the back of  Hyatt plaza.. so cute! and pretty awesome that they thought to do that, to their facade from aspire park.

friday was a blur, with cricket and church and choir.

 saturday morning, i decided that my eldest needs more clothes.. she's fast outgrowing her current stock. So I tackled my first princess seam. it was a very good thing that i tried on a sample cotton first before i cut into silk.. i made almost all mistakes possible. Even made princess seams on the front AND back. (eyeroll) and finally after all adjustments, made the garment 2" shorter than the estimate. good thing that was a sample, but it was pretty cloth.   It was one of  my fave pics of last season, so i could not throw out the rest of the fabric.. I make her a kurta top with it, because she needs some. (and because there wasn't enough fabric left to make one for me ;).

In the evening,  i went to the MIA park bazaar. (go on, click through to get a feel of the place :) )  I joined Qatart, and i knew i would find them there. the MIA park bazaar is a good place to be, but you wont get any parking space. That is one day of the month when the officials turn you out at  the gate, because their parking spaces are full, yet people come pouring in.

 It was my first time there, the shopping kiosks had a lot of fun stuff, and  a lot of local artists had displayed their work on tables and in tents, I had a good time browsing through this modern version of a souk.  there were games and entertainment for the visitors, and the park seemed very lively with the wide range of nationalities and their kids happily frolicking about.  the whole bazaar has an upbeat feel to it, not normally felt when browsing through a mall.  maybe the end of winter and the green lawns and blue seas had something to do with it, and maybe the company and the brisk wind did, too..  altogether, this was a fantastic weekend!

January 2, 2014

how to start -and finish- a dress in two hours.

step one. find some last minute event that requires a color coded costume.
step two. scour the stores in the locality, and find that the color is so last year (or so fashion forward)  that none of them have any clothes in that shade.
step 3. raid the local fabric shop, try to guesstimate the color and amount of fabric.definitely buy more than you think you will need.  dont forget to buy the zipper, lining, tulle , thread and elastic.
step 4. measure your model.  start work on the dress. draw a few inspiration pics.  ask for opinions. draw elaborate designs on paper.  lose the paper. make a skirt. find out it is too short by two inches.. head desk.. thank your lucky stars that you bought more fabric.

step 5. leave the dressmaking  in a corner to tend to more important events,  like finishing a report for work,  cooking a few feasts, attending a few  notable events.

step 6. add in a curveball event or two, that take you away from home for more than 24 hours at a time.

step7. look at the calendar. look at the time!!
clear the dining table. roll out the bolt. find your lost sewing supplies.

step 8. mark, and cut out the bodice pieces.

step 9. add extras to the front bodice. don't measure. just eyeball it. almost double.. works.

step 10.  sew sides together. use the cottagemama method to sew bodice to lining.

step 11. use a string to cut out a half circle skirt. make sure you catch a fold so you have one open selvage side. use the skirt piece to trace a (shorter) lining piece. stitch tulle to the lining. hem both the skirt and the lining. attach both skirts at the waistline.

step 12. sew the skirt to the bodice. the skirt selvage edge  hits at center back. add a few gathers or something to make sure the skirt fits the bodice.

step 13.  attach zipper. easiest way is the sew mama sew way.

step 14. finish the inside of the dress. running stitch is the  fastest way to handsew  lining to a dress.

step 15. ummm .. the fashionista thinks the dress is too loose. never fear, add a sash!! use safety pins on the inside as  last minute belt anchors.
ta da! you're done!
now add a flower you found in your stash.. look ma, it matches!!
 a few hair clips you had lying around.
cover up all the mistakes with a winter cardigan, and we're in business!!

December 14, 2013

a pencil case with free Tutorial link

Making a pencil case is pretty easy.. all it needs is a zipper and a piece of fabric. Making a pencil case for my eldest takes some thought: it has to be roomy enough,  it has to be sturdy, it has to be washable for all the ink spills and pencil shavings.

 Usually, i just get her something from Al rawnaq -- it is the be-all and end-all of cheap office supplies in Qatar. This time, i had NO time to take that trip to the other end of the town.  and of course, i have a shelf full of fabric.. so i decided to make one.

 I used this excellent tutorial at the spoonful of sugar (click on the picture to go there)

I changed the dimensions to accommodate her boatload of supplies that she insists to carry to school every day. All her color pencils, pens, white ink, sketch pens, hi-liters, pencils, sharpener,eraser, and random whatnots. (Why do kids need so much stuff anyway? at her age, two pens and a scale were all that was in my box.. and an instrument box was a burden!)

 I'm pretty pleased with the pouch.. now i have two little voices following me wherever i go.. insisting i make them one too :D

December 10, 2013

sew mama sew giveaway! CLOSED

It's not fair for me to go around entering without offering something in return! That's just plain rude. So, I decided to quickly pull something together for you! 

this fabric is a quilting cotton, that i used to make this pretty hand smocked sundress..  one lucky winner will get ONE YARD of this cute fabric. 

one answer will get you in the giveaway.  no following, no sharing. easy! so, where do you live?

(dear noreply bloggers, please  include your email address so that i can contact you if you win!)

i ship internationally, so comments from all parts of the world are welcome! i will use random.org to choose a lucky winner.
  and dont forget to see all the other sweet giveaways happening at the sew mama sew blog!

 edited to add.. the giveaway is now closed and the winner is #3 taniab. email me your postal address!

December 7, 2013

working on another cheetah dress

.. that turned into a skirt, because the bodice did not fit well and i had barely enough extra to make a waistband.She loves it , though it may take a while for her to grow into it :)

November 29, 2013

honeycomb smocking sundress

have you ever tried smocking? my sister does, and she's pretty good at it, but i am a little intimidated. so this was a little "beginner" smocking test.
 The dress turned out beautifully, and as i used it, i found that the smocking got stretched and stayed that way: lesson: always use lining/facing  for your smocked stuff.

 I used this excellent tutorial: http://katafalk.wordpress.com/2010/02/05/honeycomb-smocking-tutorial/  It uses the oldschool method of marking dots on the fabric.. it was a very simple process, only took me a few hours to do six rows of hand stitching  to make the dress.

thebusybuglife smocked dress

while browsing, I found this darling dress made with the same technique at  busybugs. is'nt it adorable?i would like to make one like that. anyone have a little girl of 3 years who would wear a smocked dress?

November 5, 2013


because of a glitch in google+, i unknowingly deleted my web album that stored all my blog pictures.  please suffer in silence while i reupload each picture at glacial speed.

October 18, 2013

vacation 2013 -grandparents

those days passed in a blur of happiness, contentment and travel.
some glimpses:

June 16, 2013

slice of sunshine dress

this yellow seersucker cotton bit has been in my stash since 2004... that's almost ten years old.
In a mad wish to use up the old loved fabrics before they start falling apart, i made a simple dress. with a touch of rickrack to add whimsy. and a yoyo flower. and maybe something more, before i am quite done with it.
This is the first time I have made pockets for a dress. I had to re-position one, but i will consider that a learning experience. I used the semi circles, that were cut out from the neck, to make the pockets. Do you think i should add elastic to the top of the pockets to prevent them gaping open?

a little yoyo flower, from the last bit of the fabric .

i am experimenting with my camera a lot, i have not achieved  that optimum level of the brightness .. so if this is too bright, forgive me :D

pretty dress in nicey jane

Do you remember that day not far ago when i received a huge envelope of fabric from Monica? 
I decided to cut into the next set.. and made this dress. Yes, another twirly dress for amy. The design is almost completely a knockoff of a dress i saw and saved long ago.. sad that it was the years before i found pinterest and have no idea where i saved it from.

I'm very proud of the fact that I used up every last inch of that adorably pretty floral. Sorry for such low quality pictures, my minicam is not what it used to be, especially since amy started hijacking it.

Thank you, Monica!

(edited to add: found the old inspiration, at KinderKouture. click through to see gorgeous photos of the dress she made.  )

May 1, 2013

kids and memories

have been net surfing a a lot. found this comment:*(that i definitely agree with)

"Ever noticed how the word Make-up screams that what you have is not enough? That you need something more to Make-up for what you do not have. Do not use it as far as possible. It is just a lot of chemicals that you can easily do without. Save it for special occasions if you will? And wait till you are old enough to use it? As for me, I have liked my lipsticks and in recent past nail polish. But, I have never felt the need to have those on every time I step out and find myself being more comfortable in my skin as is. I don't expect you to get there young, but least you know you can try!"

and found that this was penned as part of a letter to her kids by mamma-mia

and today i am wondering, what mesage will i give my kids? do they even realize the messages i am trying to give them, by example? or do they only see the mom who pushes them out of bed at an ungodly hour and huffs and puffs and pushes them out the door and into a bus-waiting-because -they-got-ready-just-in-time?

should i be writing letters to my kids to clarify my manifesto?
maybe i should.

April 25, 2013

KCSW day 3 _ peasant top tutorial links

76/365 by Jaya Q
76/365, a photo by Jaya Q on Flickr.
a simple set, for playwear.

peasant blouse and half circle skirt . the fabric, i had chosen on my last trip to india.. makes me happy just looking at it.

want to make your own peasant dress?
click on the pictures to take you to the tutorials

A tunic top _ with pattern and tutorial links

75/365 by Jaya Q
75/365, a photo by Jaya Q on Flickr.
Via Flickr:
day 2 of Kids Clothes Sewing Week, i am sewing a tunic top for my eldest. she has her own design ideas, so this will take a while.

wanna make one of your own? click on the image to go to the tutorial

sewing pajama pants

62/365 by Jaya Q
62/365, a photo by Jaya Q on Flickr.
sewing pajama pants is one of the easiest sewing projects. you can trace around one you already have, to make a pattern.

one of the simplest tutorials for making pajama pants, can be found here

April 24, 2013

KCSW day1 _ with half circle skirt tutorial links

73/365 by Jaya Q
73/365, a photo by Jaya Q on Flickr.
A half circle skirt.. out of half meter of fabric.

want to make your own?
here are some free tutorials: click on the image to go to the tutorial

April 22, 2013

free japanese sewing pattern, apron dress from nani iro - a tutorial


this was made with  a  free nani iro  pattern for an apron dress: (click on the pic for more free patterns at the nani iro website)
it was  graciously translated into english by  yifarn of http://www.japanesesewingbooks.com, you can get the free translation  at her page here

I made the floral dress with cotton voile, so that it is very lightweight and airy.. it became an instant favorite as sleepwear. 

 the apron, however, I made with cotton organza..  it was a fabric painting attempt by my sister, that i wanted to cut up and make a pretty apron. The apron  actually is way bigger than my daughter's twig of a waist. so, because it "is so loose!" she declined to wear it. 

the pattern is pretty straightforward, if you take the time to try and understand the way a japanese sewing pattern works.   they write it like a cartoon..  

 this is a rough outline of how i decoded it..  

  • first they have the pattern, 
  • then the instructions
  • they have numbered the steps, 
  •  they detail each step with small illustrations...(these are much  easier  to understand than full color photographs)
  • ALL numbers are in centimeters
  • you have to draw the pattern  on a paper first
  • this makes the actual cutting of fabric very easy, because you know how each piece goes..
tips for making this dress:
  • use a pencil to draw the pattern on newspaper or tracing paper.
  • add seam allowances (given inside the circles) on the paper.
  • cut the fabric
  • follow the steps to finish the garment. 
(edited: submitting this post to the following link parties:)

April 16, 2013

CETAAQ ladies celebrate Green Day -( a test to see if i can "write")

(Informal writeup)
The event was arranged at the clubhouse of palm city gardens, and the theme of the day was “Go Green”.   The entire hall was decorated in green, interspersed with posters promoting eco-friendly living.
 The ladies arrived wearing gorgeous green-colored clothes,  and the function started with Cetaaq Lady Member Rukzana Siyad welcoming everyone. Nisha and Sheina kicked off the event with a game, bombing the city. As groups of participants got ‘out’ and crowds thinned, it turned out that our senior members were the luckiest.

Then it was time for self-introductions by everyone. Being Cetaaq, the ladies did not need names to start talking; this introduction was for the benefit of a game, where they were supposed to identify members in a set of childhood pictures. All those present put their observation skills to the test.  Suma and Jahan both identified ten out of thirteen girls from their baby pictures, and for this impressive feat, they were declared the winners. 

Murphy and Lola brought music to the stage and were much appreciated. A feisty game of dumb charades followed, where everyone had a great time guessing the names of movies and more. The audience was divided into two teams,  each one trying to out-guess the other into mistakes,  sparking heated debates and plenty of laughter. Team B managed to win by a slight margin, and prizes were distributed to all.

Mrs. Munni Raja demonstrated craft projects using paper. Old newspapers, catalogues and magazines turned into pretty little baskets, coasters and pencil holders by her hands.  The technique fascinated many, and we all left with the intent to go cut up at least one old magazine and try the idea.
The group took a tea break then, and everyone enjoyed homemade goodness prepared by talented ladies of the food committee. The food was prepared following the motto of going green : no artificial flavors, all traditional ‘slow’ foods.. no fast food or fizzy drinks on this table! 

As the ladies settled into the well known chit chat mode, Mrs. Munni Raja set up a craft display table with her handiwork.. beautiful jewellery made with paper, terracotta and beadwork, the table was an inspiration to every crafter in attendance. Many pretty items changed hands, and there were many happy customers.
There followed a Quiz anchored by the vivacious Nisha, who had the audience in splits throughout the contest.  The audience were divided into teams and team A won the prize, though everyone learned a bit or two of interesting information in the course of the game.

As the evening drew to a close, the ladies were reluctant to leave this happy space and return to the normalcy of their daily routine. We could see groups lingering on, long after the official end of the program.. And that is the mark of a successful show, ladies and gentlemen. All credit goes to Rukzana Siyad who co-ordinated the various talented graceful ladies, who all contributed to make one of the best ‘ladies day’s that cetaaq has organized over the years.


(formal writeup)
College of Engineering Alumni Association Qatar (CETAAQ) recently organized a Ladies’ Day  at Palm City Gardens . The theme of the program was “Go Green”. The event aimed to develop a healthy awareness and responsibility towards our environment, starting from our homes. Special emphasis was made on decreasing processed foods and recycling household items like old magazines by crafting. 

The ladies wore green clothes in solidarity with the theme. The venue was decorated with green trim and motivational posters reflecting the motto. There were many games and contests to color the evening. Mrs. Munni Raja demonstrated recycling projects with paper. The General Knowledge quiz  conducted by Mrs Nisha Babu was enjoyed by everyone. Delicious food was served, in accordance to the “Go Green” theme, all hand made by the members of the association, with no fizzy drinks or fast food.

The event generated a positive vibe among the participants, and recycling was on everyone’s minds as the  program drew to a close.

(so, what do you think of the writeup? tell me!)

April 15, 2013

soul searching, and some sadness

Some days are better than others.
Here I am, trying my level best to hack my brain into submission, I am expected to write a fifty word blurb on the cetaaq ladies day.. and I am so thought-blocked I am wondering  if I should go and  sleep this day away.  Thinking about it, I’m trying to run away. There are a zillion thoughts flying around in my head, and my recent sleepless nights have not improved the situation by any measure.

Ranimmanty left doha.. (after a torturous twenty years, according to her) and there goes one of my family.. again.  I have been blocking this sadness for days,  Ranimmanty and Shirley chechy were my extended family when I first came to Doha.. these past ten years, as I settled into the mantle of a wife and mother and homemaker, these two were the ones who were there for me , to give me recipes, to teach me the basics and more of homemaking, to  encourage me to be the woman that they knew I could be.. to motivate me to find a job, to literally drop a  job in my lap and push  me to go and work…   to try to make me  understand family, and relationships and  how to navigate the intense web of human emotional interaction…

 For a girl who always preferred the imaginary world painted by books ( a girl who was found nosedeep in the nearest book at every family function),  this was a real education..  I can honestly say that I talked ten times more to these two ladies than my own parents in the past ten years..  Shirley chechy left last year, I thought I did not mind.. she had bigger, better things to do, I am very happy for her..  and really, I did not miss her much, because she is one of my soul sisters..  she never leaves, because she is in my heart.  And yesterday, as Ranimmanty left, with a turmoil of hope and tension and dreams and resignation, I find that this  thread I had woven around myself..  this blanket that I had worn, of their love..  has disappeared into nothingness. 

 Yes, I have  wards of my own now, it is not like I have no family here now..  but these ladies were my mentors.  I don’t know.. I feel like I’ve lost my umbrella, in this harsh desert sun. excuse me , while I shed a few tears.

And tomorrow, nida and her mom are leaving. That is my other mentor right there.  My neighbors, who took me and mine  like their own family.. who never forgot to bring us a part of their Friday lunch.. who invited us to all  their parties, like one of their own brood. Who is so emphatically mad about cleanliness that I feel that my house is a pigsty whenever I come back from their house. (hmm,  I really do have a lot of cleaning to do.) The one who taught me that life can hand you bitter poison, and you CAN accept it with grace.  The one who taught me that you can be traditional in your beliefs and modern in your outlook. The ones who demonstrated to me that a burqa can be  just a piece of cloth, not a sign of oppression.  They are leaving too.  And I will miss them . a lot.  

And now I send up a prayer that  their little girls find joy in life.  Each completed schooling, looking for colleges..  ready , so eager for life to start, just like any highschool graduate.  I wish them all success in life.

April 10, 2013

a half-circle maxi dress tutorial

step 1: take measurements of your child. 
step 2: cut out a semicircle for the skirt, on the fold.
 cut out the  bodice and sleeves from the leftover corners :)

 step 3: stitch the sides of the sleeves
step 4: gather the sleeves a bit and  find placement on the bodice.

step 5: cut lining for the bodice, sandwich sleeves between, sew the top together.
step 6: install zipper.
(now topstitch around the whole neckline, enclosing the lining along the zipper.)
step 7: attach the skirt to the bodice.
step 8.hand stitch the bodice lining to the waist seam, stitch to enclose all seams.
step 9: let it hang for a day, because satin has the habit of stretching ..( i did not do this step, so the hem is a bit longer on one side)

step 10: re draw the hem, cut . roll the hem and stitch.

aand thats it!


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