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


  1. Ooh, Greta -- I'm so jealous that you get to be at the Tokyo Quilt Festival! Thank you for sharing a bit of it with your readers. :-)

    1. I hope to share more tomorrow. Beautiful and "happy" quilts, the other side of the Japanese personality. This post represents the deeply spiritual side.

  2. Thank you SO much for sharing these beautiful quilts! What an amazing experience to be able to attend such a wonderful festival :)

    1. I'm glad you appreciate it! There are more coming.

  3. So much lovely inspiration! I would have had visual overload from all that quilty goodness.:)

    1. I took breaks from my "visual overload" by shopping at the many vendors at the show. Ha! It was a frenetic and expensive day!

  4. Oh Greta! How marvelous of you to share ALL of this w/us! Just reading about the kotatsu warmed my tootsies! I love the simplicity of the sashiko stitching.