The Joy of Patchwork and Japanese Fabrics – Quilting Daily

I have a long history of finding, buying, hoarding, and using Japanese fabric. I can’t bear to part with even the tiniest scrap. I am always looking to incorporate a piece in my patchwork projects.

A small sampling of my Japanese fabric stash.

When I lived in California, I often shopped at a wonderful Japanese fabric store called Kasuri Dye Works, named for the traditional indigo and white textiles dyed using the ikat method.

Periodically, the store would have a sale on everything from sample book swatches for a very reasonable price to more rare pieces of hand-loomed antique kimono fabric that were very expensive. I picked up as many bargains as I could, as often as I could, at those regular sales and the big one they held when the store eventually closed.

Now, my sister and my friends who travel to Japan bring yardage and even full kimonos back to me. Together with my own shopping, I have assembled quite a stash.

So you can imagine my glee when Japanese Quilting Piece by Piece: 29 Stitched Projects from Yoko Saito landed on my desk. In this book, Yoko presents some of the most artistic and charming appliqué and patchwork patterns I have ever seen.

Hexagon patchwork bag
by Yoko Saito.

I’m particularly taken with the handbags made up of tiny patchwork pieces in the shape of hexagons, flowers, and crosses. But there are a couple of patchwork quilts, too, combining modern patchwork piecing with traditional patchwork patterns that have also caught my eye.

Although I am particularly taken with the blue and white kasuri textiles, Yoko writes that she prefers neutrals.

“As one of the most popular color schemes in Japan, the use of neutrals can be traced back to the traditional textiles used for clothing and home furnishings by people living in the countryside during ancient times. As a result, the use of neutrals, specifically taupe, has become a signature characteristic of Japanese quilts.

“A neutral color scheme may sound boring, but don’t be fooled: a quilt composed entirely of neutrals is often more fascinating than one with dozens of bright hues because it draws you in and invites you to examine the nuances of color,” she writes.

Yoko does enjoy adding a dose of color to each of her patchwork projects, however. She has this advice for combining neutrals with brighter colors in your patchwork quilting designs.

  • When selecting fabrics, decide on a main color first, then select coordinating fabrics. I adamantly believe that balance among the entire quilt should take priority over using a favorite fabric.
  • If a color is too bright or a print is too busy, I will often use the wrong side of the fabric to achieve a softer, more muted effect.
  • Using an array of similar colors may be easy, but you won’t learn anything from it. Play with your color schemes and try using many different shades. Not only will you add an unexpected depth to your quilt, you will gain experience and confidence.
  • For even more depth, I often choose to sew several small pieces of fabric together, even for large areas such as borders. Using scraps from your stash will contribute to the one-of-a-kind element of these designs.

My only problem with Japanese Quilting Piece by Piece is that I don’t know which project to make first. I do know that I won’t soon run out of Japanese fabric!

P.S. Do you need more Japanese fabrics in your stash? Get my list of resources.

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