Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Joyful Japanese Quilts

Tokyo Great International Quilt Festival, Part 2

In my last post, I showed some of the quilts that struck a deeper spiritual chord at the Tokyo Quilt Festival. In this one, I share quilts expressing the light-hearted, happy part of the Japanese spirit that we had found in our happy hosts in Niigata, with their ready laughter and sense of fun.

What better place to start than the winner of the "Friendship Quilt Award" for the quilt "that best conveys the joyful feeling of making a quilt" (or something like that)? This quilt is by Reiko Hatakeyama:

Here's a detail from another joyful quilt.

All of those flowers are appliqu├ęd, of course. Amazing dedication! It seems a shame, then, that the appearance of her quilt was marred by the fold line down the middle (note to quilters who send their works to shows: roll them up, don't fold. It may cost a little extra but it is worth the effort!)

Another adorable quilt, even without knowledge of the text:

The Japanese, evidently, love their cats. Here's a guy, maybe homeless, who we saw the first day, setting up his spot in the park, with his cat on a stack of towels, like a empress:

I loved this playful patchwork using stripes:

Circles, balls, or dots seem to convey the happy, almost magical side of life, the simple joys of childhood, of bubbles, baubles, fruit hanging from trees, and lights on the street, or snow: 

There was much more to see, and much more convey, but of course I had to get some shopping in with the vendors at the show! You can't have your cake and eat it too. Or can you?

At least a couple dozen of quilts like this, featuring cake or tea cups, lined the perimeter of the arena floor. Each block is made by a different international quilter. How impressive is that? How fun!!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Japanese Blues: Tokyo Quilt Fest 1

Tokyo Great International Quilt Festival, part one

Where to begin? First of all, the place was mobbed.

Not bad for an art form that is only 40 years old in Japan. Our quilt tour leader, Susan Ball Faeder, has been involved almost from the beginning. You can see some of her works here (she also sells Japanese and Japanese-inspired fabric at her website!). Here she is with renowned Japanese quilt artist and colleague, Kuroha Shizuko, one of the five or so people who brought quilting to Japan in the 70s and 80s and is still leading the field.

The predominant colors of Japanese quilts--blues and tans--are based on the natural dyes available to kimono and obi weavers and dyers of the past, indigo and fermented persimmon juice. Indigo I knew about; persimmon was a revelation. Here is an example of persimmon-dyed fabric, hanging in the house of the family we visited in Niigata before the quilt tour began:

So, my color choices for the "Niigata Traveler" quilt I made for the family were appropriate. What I did not know was how perfectly the size would fit their kotatsu! This is a table under which a box with coals from the stove are placed. Blankets are draped over, and your feet find a good place to warm up):

This blog post focuses on some classic Japanese quilts / details of quilts exhibited at this year's Tokyo Quilt Festival. I tried to capture the names of their makers, but it was tough since they are all in Japanese! This is just a detail (1/4 of the quilt), but dramatic and subtle at the same time:

Below, a handsome quilt made of coarse, natural-dyed material, decorated with sashiko stitching, which was originally developed to stabilize mending of work clothes or create a double-layered garment with more warmth and lasting power than a single layer would have:

A detail from a different, more free-spirited interpretation of  the shashiko tradition, below:

And another, crazy-isn piece that caught my eye:


My husband and I admired the following quilt for quite a while. As he noted, it achieves an interesting dimensionality. The effect of the stripes really interested me. 

The maker of the following quilt got tired of piecing hexagons (at the top) and decided to rough-edge running-stitch applique them to the backing instead (detail). My husband, who kept bees until the industrial farming surrounding us made it impossible, was reminded of a dripping honeycomb.

And here is a detail from a subtle quilt done in neutrals.  Amazing needle work (the flowers were all slightly stuffed).

I'm sure you get the idea about the beauty of the Japanese palette, which you can still see on the streets of Tokyo, though nobody's wearing kimonos. But before I sign off I'll show you a detail from a quilt with a bit more color, to give you a taste of what I'll be sharing in my next post, Joyful Japanese Quilts, with pictures of several of my favorite bright-colored, light-hearted quilts from the show.

The quilt by Sachiko Yashida, featuring orange kimono silks, looks best up close. Here is a detail:

It reminded me of this storefront we saw on our first day:

Til tomorrow, I'll leave you with another image from the first day:
More on the Tokyo Great International Quilt show here
More on a Japanese stitching technique I learned on the trip here

Monday, January 19, 2015

Traveler Block Tute

Our plane takes off tomorrow, and I still haven't delivered the Traveler block tute! So here it is. You may recall that I made this quilt, originally named "Arkansas Traveler", renamed "Niigata Traveler," for our hosts this upcoming weekend in snowy rural Japan.

Since we will be gone for almost 3 weeks, it was a perfect time to take my sewing machine in for service. Without my sewing machine available to construct a block from scratch, I had to de-construct a couple of leftover blocks to show the process. Let me go backwards then!

Here is the Arkansas traveler block (a little fuzzy, sorry!):

That in fact is what it looks like after it has been trimmed up. To trim it up, you find a 9-inch square on your cutting board, and extend diamond tip point diagonally from one end to another, then trim up. You will notice that the white background is made up of two pieces, a big and a small:

Don't worry about the wonky shape; remember, it's been trimmed up. The small piece can be made from a 2.5-inch strip (measure ~8.5 x 2.5" rectangles and cut diagonally), and the large piece can be made from a 3-inch strip (measure ~10.5 x 3" rectangles and cut diagonally). Or, you can just use the 3-inch strip for both; you'll just have a little more to trim. You sew the triangles along the hypotenuse onto the 4-square diamond (first the small one, then the large one), with the point of the triangle meeting the point of the diamond:

The diamond is made by sewing together two strips of two lozenges. When you sew the right sides together, the whole thing will look like a double tent:

Similarly, when you sew the two lozenges right sides together to make a strip, they look like a single tent:

You may discover that after sewing a bunch of single tents, you have strips going in different directions:

The bad news is that these two kinds of strips will never go together to make a diamond. The good news is that it doesn't matter: once you match each of them to another strip going the same direction, the diamonds they make will be the exact same shape!

If you need guidance for cutting out the lozenges, check my earlier post. Good luck making Arkansas traveler blocks. Next time I check in, I'll be in Japan! Stay tuned for pics from the Tokyo Great International Quilt Festival!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

We have a LOZENGE giveaway WINNER

Thank you, everyone, for commenting on my Niigata Traveler quilt and entering my 256-lozenge giveaway. I absolutely love playing with color and your color concepts produced a swirl of activity in my scrap bins and stash (leaving my sewing room quite a mess, I must say). You provided me a lot of ideas of color combinations I would not normally use, and helped me identify the weak spots in my stash (mauve? yikes! don't have any).

A note to those just joining this conversation: I will be traveling to Japan for the Japan Great International Quilt Festival later this month, and plan to take lots of pictures. I'll also be learning traditional Japanese stenciling and tie-dying, and enjoying the Spring festival in Kyoto. Not to mention shopping for fabric!! Followers will have a chance at a fat-eighth bundle of Japanese fabrics. So bookmark my site for a virtual tour!

That said, we have a 256-lozenge winner. Congratulations, Mara!

Mara kindly provided a Design Seeds color template, 

which my stash of scraps accommodated quite well:

In fact, I had been planning another quilt based on the Arkansas Traveler block, and it includes some of these colors... So I could just crank out a few extras and get started cutting for that project, as well.

Mara's quilt may have to be called "Aegean Traveler," though, as her blog, Secretly Stitching, tells the story of an adventurous young American woman exploring Europe, receiving a marriage proposal from a native Grecian--and going for it! They now have two young children and live together at the bottom of a most amazing rock formation in central Greece.

Now, for those of you who didn't win and don't have a Go! Baby or a 60-degree diamond template, here's a quick tutorial on cutting out lozenges.

The diamonds are 3.5 x 3.5 inches. So, first, cut a 3.5-inch strip:

Then, with a ruler that indicates the angle, cut a 60-degree angle. (Be careful not to accidentally use the 45-degree marking, which is much more common!)

Then, position the ruler along the angled edge, and cut a width of 3.5 inches. Repeat.

Every so often, you'll want to check the angle and make sure you haven't gotten off track. Good luck! Block tutorial to follow in a couple of days.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

256 lozenge GIVEAWAY


I recently posted a picture of my Niigata Traveler quilt, which my husband and I will be taking on our trip to Japan this month to present to our hosts in Niigata.

In response to this blog post about the trip, my blog buddy, Zenia Renee (A Quilted Passion) mentioned that she wanted to try the quilt pattern. Being sorely holiday-delinquent toward her, I leapt into action that night and literally! cranked out 256 red/orange/purple lozenges using my Accuquilt Go! Baby machine. (Red is her favorite color.)

It got me to thinking, though. If I'm lucky enough to get to go to Japan, I should spread the luck far and wide! So that's why I'm offering a 256-lozenge GIVEAWAY. That, plus 2.5 yards of background fabric, is enough to make this 72" x 72" quilt top.

Here are the rules. In the comments, tell me what color range you would use to make a Niigata Traveler quilt. Be as specific as you can in describing the colors, and feel free to rename it accordingly. Just for fun, tell me what background color(s) you would use, too.

I'll consult my stash, and the color range that both suits my supply and sounds delicious will get the nod. I'll cut 256 + lozenges and put them in the mail. And, in the next few days, I'll post instructions for making the basic block.

Even if you don't win, you can bookmark my blog (however you do that), and have the benefit of dozens of photos taken at the Tokyo Great International Quilt Festival and throughout the rest of the Quilters Express tour of Japan.

Happy Quilting!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Quilt for Japan

Happy New Year!

2015 is the year my husband and I join my fiber artist mom on a Quilters Express tour of Japan, including the Tokyo Great International Quilt Festival! We leave in just 3 weeks!

This quilt will be a gift to our pre-tour hosts, a couple who live in Niigata on a 6-generation family farm, devoted to organic production practices. Back in the early 90s, the current owner / operator--then a student at Iowa State University--experimented with projects on my husband's C.S.A. Our four acres have since gone to strictly "hobby farm" status, but the dream of a life on the land remains...

The indigo / brown palette seemed fitting for Japan, and it is always one of my favorites, a kind of "home base" color scheme for me. The quilt even contains some Japanese fabric. See the carp noses above? They are scraps from a shirt I stitched for my husband.

Any precision in the piecing I owe to my Accuquilt Go! Baby cutting machine, which Zenia, over at A Quilted Passion, encouraged me to buy when we visited the AQS quilt show in Des Moines this October. This arrangement of diamond lozenges is called "Arkansas Traveler." (We'll have to adapt that to "Niigata Traveler").

I love how the "X" pattern competes gently with the "O" pattern. I thought I would see X's, but mostly I see "boules". And of course, there are the stars. I will revisit this pattern soon!

In the meantime, stay tuned for pictures from Japan! Coming your way in just (gasp!) 3 weeks.