Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Japanese Fabric Collection

                                             Some of my Vintage Kimono Pieces

Whenever I feel embarrassed about the size of my fabric stash, I justify it to myself by 'reframing' the situation. That is, I call it a 'collection of collections'. There, you see! From indiscriminate picker-upper-of-cloth I instantly become transformed into a Textile Collector. Sounds a bit grander, doesn't it?
But truthfully, amongst the piles of fabric there ARE some distinct groupings, and the one which is interesting me particularly at the moment is my Japanese collection. This is broken down into sub-groups. (OCD? Moi?)

                                                             Unadopted hexagons!

First there are the small pieces of vintage kimono, which I pick up, a few at a time, whenever I go to Quilt Fairs. I started to cover hexagons with these some time ago, with no real idea what to do with them. They are so small and delicate I almost don't like to cut into them. They would make lovely Suffolk Puffs (Yo-yos) .

Next are the gorgeously textured woven fabrics. These are a much heavier weight, and include some lovely indigo dyed cloth. I buy these because they remind me of the wonderful "Boro" about which I could write a whole post. Much better that you go and read about them yourselves, and see these incredible examples of patched and re-patched working clothes. I'm eternally saddened that I didn't make it up to York a couple of years ago to see the travelling exhibition. Friends tell me it was amazing.

 There is a definitive book. Boro: Rags and Tatters from the Far North of Japan ed Yukio Koide & Kyoichi Tsuzuki, researched by Chuzaburo Tanaka. This is even more expensive than the Edrica Huws book was ; I don't think I will ever own a copy. And talk about coincidence; having written the bare bones of this post two days ago, I bought a copy of Quiltmania magazine today - and there they have an article on....Boro! Headed, no less, by a poster depicting the very book I've mentioned above.

Then there are my Taupe fabrics. And the reason I began collecting them was  reading the blogs of Jan at Be*mused and Marisa at Quiltotaku. You can find their blogs from my blog list. They have some stunning photographs.These girls have a fascination with Japanese quilting and I have learned a lot from them. I first read about the quilter Yoko Saito in their blogs and from there it was a small step to buying a few(!) books and starting to collect taupe fabric. I mostly buy them from EuroJapan LinksLtd, an English firm who attend all the big quilt shows and fairs, and who also sell on-line.I buy my indigo fabric from them as well.

Now Taupe, as we all know, is another word for...let's face it....beige.  And I do have a friend who can't get her head round the fact that not all taupe fabrics Originally they were, or close variations of the hue, but then Yoko began her own line of fabrics which all had the same greyed effect overlaying other colours, which somehow pulled them all together. Other designers followed suit and a whole new contemporary genre was born. Usually woven, these fabrics are often textured and embellished in something similar to intarsia - you can see the floating yarns on the reverse side.

                 A quilt from her book 'Past and Present: My Quilting Life by Yoko Saito

For a few years many of the quilts hung at the Tokyo International Quilt Exhibition were in the Taupe category, which, along with the meticulous stitching and attention to detail, marks them out instantly as Japanese quilts.
                                  'Times Passed Away' by her student Nobue Ishimori

About eighteen months ago, I spied an old English medallion quilt on-line. I fell in love with it and wondered how quickly it would take some enterprising designer to come up with a new pattern for it. Sure enough someone did. Corliss Searcey brought out her lovely 'The English Basket Quilt' and I bought the pattern, thinking I would love to use my taupe fabrics to make a pared down version of my own , I decided I didn't want to make it as large, nor use all the templates. I mainly want to make the baskets of flowers! Because of various domestic events, plus sewing for the craft fair, I've had to delay making a start, but it's now back on the to-do-soon list! Foolishly, in my hurry to photograph the fabrics and pictures for this post, I clean forgot to take one of the Basket Quilt. And I've not got time to do it now so will rectify that next post.

                 The squares are still in strips, I haven't sewn any of it together yet.

In the meantime I have finished four chunkier baskets, designed by Jan Patek, using many of the non-taupe Japanese fabrics, which are another little collection all on their own. I'm going to surround each block with myriad small squares. Just to make life a little more difficult. And no, I haven't forgotten K's quilt!

                             Can't begin to tell you how many more squares I've got to strip!

             These baskets are more naive than those in Corliss's quilt, but I loved stitching them.

Unfortunately, now that you've made me get all these lovely fabrics out to show you, I'm having a quiet drool here, and can feel that impatience to begin that basket quilt nibbling away, too much other stuff to be going on with. Resist! I hope you've enjoyed the show!


  1. Lynne, I loved your taupe fabrics , they are all in pastel colors. Also other Japanese fabrics are lovely, I can imagine a blouse with peter pan collar with them for the summer days :)

  2. Thanks, Gokce. I think you had better get started on that blouse, as no-one would want to wear anything I made - believe me! Quilts I can do, and a few other textiley things, but I am no dressmaker. And talking of dresses - your wedding dress was wonderful! Beautiful pictures!

  3. Thanks for a very interesting blog- Boro is new to me so something to look into. Did you go to the Toky quilt show? I am very much still in the japanese mind set from my recent visit there!

    1. Hi Heather, glad you enjoyed the post. No, I'd give half my stash to get to the Tokyo Quilt exbtn but it's not going to happen. Short of a lottery win!

      Boro, you've just got to google them and read up. Words fail me. They have an almost emotional attraction for me; the colour, the textures, patched, and overstitched. Just breathtaking.

      What a legacy this guy Tanaka has left, after 40 years of travelling to research and collect these old folk textiles. Unfortunately this is a bloomin' expensive book! Lx.

  4. OMG, those are some beautiful quilts! And, hey, someone has to rescue those lovely fabrics, may as well be you! I don't think you can ever have too many in your stash! Have a good day,

  5. Aren't they just amazing, those Japanese quilts, Dorothy? Somehow, even when they are designed using traditional American quilt blocks - the second one is a feathered star as you probably recognised - the precision, delicacy and the often little 'twist' to the design always gives them away as Japanese. I think these quilters have booted quiltmaking onto another level.

    And you are quite right about the public service I'm doing to World Textiles! I can live with the guilt! Thanks for popping across. Lx.

  6. Such lovely lovely fabrics! I don't collect anything other craft supplies so I just see it as the thing I do collect!

  7. And as I pointed out, being a Collector is a legitimate job! What other excuse do you need? And Claire, if you have a collection- pop it onto your blog - let's see it! Thanks for visiting.Lx.

  8. Lynne, I just found your blog through a comment you made on Be*mused. Happy to find your blog, as I'm fairly new to living in Tokyo, and am enjoying getting to know its textiles! I look forward to following your blog. I did not see an email address on your profile, hence the comment here!

  9. Cynthia, lovely to hear from you. What an interesting life-change for you; there is so much about Japanese culture I would love to experience. (Not least the quilting!) I've just popped across for a quick look at your blog and will return for a more leisurely stroll later on.

    Comments are so much nicer than emails which will quickly be deleted! Thanks for taking the trouble. See you again. Lx.

  10. Those patterns are wonderful and you have created a lovely design - envious of those talents

  11. Hi Jenny, thanks for visiting. I'm constantly amazed at how people get to my blog! Were you blog-hopping from some-one else's post? Anyway, lovely to meet you, and thanks for commenting. Believe me, I am not a natural stitcher, most of what I do is pretty simple though I am getting quite nifty at the needle-turn applique!

  12. I LOVE this post!!! Unadopted hexagons and all. I'm not much of a quilter - just a few hexie affairs, long ago - but I have long been wowed by Japanese fabrics and Japanese textile traditions.

    You have a beautiful hoard Lynne, I mean collection of collections ;D

  13. Hey, Annie, I bet if you asked, there are THOUSANDS of people whio have, tucked away somewhere, an unfinished hexagon project! I know I have, and it's AWFUL! I know a lot of friends who have abandoned hexagon masterpieces knocking about somewhere.

    I worry, as I've got older, that I need to use up my stash because all the people I would leave it to, around my age, shall I say,so the chances of them getting their hands on it are remote! I don't want it all ending up in a charity shop and being turned into curtains!

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