Kinkame Shigyo Company, a leading Japanese fabric and notion producer, is my host in Tokyo. And wow, what hospitality! Check out the folks I’m meeting. They’re all movers and shakers in Japan’s quilt scene.
My first stop was Kinkame headquarters where the company’s President Kazuo Kurita welcomed me and told me all about what they do at Kinkame. He is the fourth generation of his family to lead the company, which was founded by his great-grandfather more than 120 years ago to make silk thread. Their silk products have been used in kimonos for Japan’s royal family and Tokyo’s finest hotels. Today, Kinkame still produces silk thread and has added fabric and notions to their products.
Next stop was talking with Kinkame fabric designer Yoko Uematsu. Here she is with many of the fabrics from her popular Toy Poodle collection, available in the United States through Clothworks Textiles in Seattle. The collection was designed for young Japanese mothers who make bags and backpacks for their children when they start school. The name was inspired by the fact that an increasing number of these mothers have toy poodles, a popular pet especially in Tokyo. She is also the designer of Kinkame’s European Taupe collection, available in the United States through Clothworks. That collection was inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s book Little Women. Check out a future issue of Quilters Newsletter for the full story behind the design.
An exciting drive through Toyko with our Kinkame host Kouji Takahashi took us to Reiko Kato’s shop and classroom. (Let me say Mr. Takahashi is an excellent driver. The excitement is because the street lights in Tokyo are quite different from those in the United States so it is not clear to a U.S. visitor when it is safe to go. And the Japanese drive on the opposite side of the road from U.S. drivers.)
But back to Reiko Kato. She designs quilts and teaches quilting to students who commit as much as four years to learning the basics. Her shop features a wide selection of Japanese yarn-dyed fabrics and U.S. fabrics. Look forward to learning more about her quilts in a future issue of QN.
What a surprise to learn Kinkame notions developer Yoshihiro Itakura has begun quilting. He made his first quilt to better understand what notions quilters need. He uses Kinkame fabrics and notions in his quilts and is anxious to learn free-motion quilting. Men Who Quilt, I think you may have new recruit!
Check out his use of Kinkame leaf appliques below.
Yoshihiro Itakura embellished the border of his pineapple quilt–made with Kinkame’s European Taupe fabric–with leaf appliques. Other edges feature buttons and smaller leaf appliques. Very interesting and pretty finishing touches.
Masaaki Takahashi, president of MC Square, led me through the maze of trains and shops to attend a charity quilt show and sale organized by Moriko Okamoto. (More on Ms. Okamoto and her show and sale in a minute.) MC Square is Japan’s leading distributor of all things quilting–fabric, books, notions, and more. The company supplies quilt shops and quilt teachers across Japan. The shops and teachers sign up to be members of MC Square then receive monthly sample books that include 500-1,000 samples every month. About half of the fabrics are Japanese and half are from the United States. MC Square partners with Kinkame to import the U.S. fabrics.
MC staffer and fabric expert Kaoru Nakagawa said Moda and Michael Miller are among U.S. fabrics popular with Japanese quilters as are Victorian prints by Yuwa, a Japanese fabric company. Japanese yarn-dyes are a perennial favorite among Japanese quilters. I think these are a treasure waiting to be discovered by U.S. quilters.
The staff of MC Square knows a lot about fabric, notions, and the tastes of Japanese quilters, said company President Masaaki Takahashi. Many are quilters.
MC Square staff put in many hours preparing extensive sample books for Japanese quilt shops and quilt teachers. This stack of yarn-dye fabrics will soon be cut into small swatches and pasted into logs like the one pictured here. Every MC Square member shop or teacher gets 500-1,000 samples a month.
I just loved quilter and quilt teacher Moriko Okamoto–maybe because she is a longtime fan of Quilters Newsletter, maybe because her quilts are beautiful, maybe because she cares about others, maybe because she really liked me. Actually, all of the above are true. She and her students have come together to make quilts and quilt-related art that they are selling to raise money to build a house for adults with mental disabilities. She was moved to initiate this project because of the experiences of the son of a family friend. Much success, Ms. Okamoto!
Moriko Okamoto combines extensive training and experience in hand embroidery with patchwork and large-stitch quilting to make stunning quilts. Check out the detail above.
And how about this bag I picked up at the sale?