Home » Japanese Quilting

Category: Japanese Quilting

Quilt Market 2017- Yoko Saito’s Schoolhouse Presentation on her Favorite Projects









If you’re on Instagram and Facebook, you already know that I was INCREDIBLY excited to attend Yoko Saito’s schoolhouse presentations this fall. For the next several weeks, I’ll be sharing photos and notes I took throughout the weekend, over her presentations, her exhibitions, and even getting to meet her personally.  It was an amazing experience.

So, first up, her presentation with Priscilla Knoble of Stitch publications about her favorite books and projects. Saito-san was an absolute DELIGHT to listen to, even if you couldn’t understand her words, her enthusiasm and excitement were evident throughout.

Saito-san publishes two books PER YEAR, each with 25-30 projects. She typically makes these projects in about 6 months, and ONLY uses her sewing machine for sewing the bases to her bags. Now that’s productive. She also teaches 400 students, and prepares special patterns just for them.

Yoko Saito’s Favorite projects

One of the first projects she showed was her hand-sewing kit.









The audience giggled when Priscilla pulled a clover needle threader out of it. When asked about her choice of needles, Saito-san said she uses Clover black needles to get her tiny stitches.









Next up, a darling turtle pincushion, from her wool work book.


Then she showed a tote bag she designed for carrying piano books, based on a sketch of Mozart that she drew while watching a show about him on television. The top section with the notes on it is a zippered pencil pouch.









She said one of the reasons she makes so many bags is that Japanese people don’t always have a lot of room to store lots of quilts in their home. But they use public transportation frequently, and enjoy having bags to take with them on the trains for their shopping.









The tote bag below is from a new book that she published with a publisher in Taiwan. Stitch publications will have an English version available next year. Quiltmania already has it in French, so of course I impulse bought a copy.  It lives up to expectations!!  I love the pop of red on this tote, which is also on the book cover.









The detail on this scallop tote is mind-blowing.









And last, but not least, here’s a project from her Japanese Taupe Theory book.









fun facts

We had a chance to ask questions at the end of the presentation.  Someone asked what Saito-san’s home studio looked like. She replied that she never worked on quilting or sewing projects at home, only at her store workshop. She said she can’t even think about designs if her husband is around. How cute is that!?

Finally, Saito-san also talked a little about her inspiration for the Scrap Valley book.  She said that she loves antique American designs, and wanted to incorporate them into some larger projects.

Saito-san’s journey into fabric design

Saito-san started designing fabric for Lecien about 20 years ago.  She was having trouble finding Japanese fabrics that gave the effects she wanted, so when Lecien approached her about designing, it was a win-win for both of them. Some of her designs are based on a 100-year old book of patterns from Lecien.

Next week, I’ll be posting about her second schoolhouse presentation. It focused on her upcoming line from Lecien, and included some tips for using fabric creatively to achieve realistic textures.

Happy Stitching!

(And if you’re new to my site, you can check out the Japanese Quilting Study group tab at the top of this page for lots more information about Yoko Saito and Japanese Quilting!


Japanese Quilting Study Group- Focus on Hand Piecing

Welcome to a brand-new year of the Japanese Quilting Study Group!  For those of you new to the blog, this is a post series focused on Japanese quilting. You can see all posts in the series by clicking on the tab above. In years past, we’ve discussed lots about Yoko Saito and other Japanese master quilters, and even tried our hand at making quilts from Japanese patterns.  For those of you who have followed this group for years, my apologies for the lapse in posts.  I knew I wanted to try a new direction with this blog series, and it has taken me a while to figure out that direction.

I’ve been to several quilt shows with examples of Japanese quilts, and they’re even more amazing in person than in pictures.  What always impresses me most, though, is that they’re typically HAND PIECED. Seems crazy in today’s high tech world, doesn’t it? So my big question is, how do they hand-piece quilts so meticulously? And how do they consistently make dozens of quilts that way in a single year?

So, this year I’m working hard to improve my hand-piecing skills. One night while cruising on pinterest, I found an image of a Japanese quilt from the Tokyo show that captivated me.  I don’t know the name of the pattern, but imagine a 12-pointed star with pentagons and triangles as filler.  Or a completely pieced (no applique) dresden plate.  That’s kind of the look of the block.  I’ve found three different quilts made with this design, but so far I’ve had no luck in figuring out the name.  You can check out my pinterest board devoted to the subject here.


Eventually, I drafted my own templates to emulate this design in Adobe Illustrator.  Then I started cutting and marking fabric.  (If you follow me on IG, you’ve already seen some of these).  Here’s how far I’ve gotten on this little project.

So far, I’m loving it.  I’m not too worried about the centers of the stars aligning, as they’ll be covered with little fabric circles. The units piece together quickly. I wish I could find a good tutorial for matching the centers with this much fabric, but I haven’t come across one yet.

Soon after I started this project, I discovered patterns by Karen Tripp. And I just HAD to make her Obsession quilt.  Instead of doing it with EPP (too time-consuming for me, although she has lovely tutorials on EPP curves), I’m using her templates and hand-piecing.  Again, my points aren’t perfect.  But they’re improving with practice.  Here’s an in-progress photo of my blocks so far. The tricky combination of curves and points is intriguing to me, and it’s fun to piece.

But that’s enough about me and my questions about Japanese quilting. What do you admire most about Japanese quilts? Are you trying out any new techniques this year? Please share in the comments below so we can all encourage each other along this journey!


Happy Quilting!


Quilt Market Fall 2016 Recap

I hope you enjoyed the IG and FB updates as I was at  Quilt Market last weekend, I’m so excited to finally have those accounts linked (Thank you, Cheryl Sleboda!!) And it’s taken me the rest of this week to mull over everything, and try to present the most pertinent highlights of Market in this blog post.  I know a bunch of amazing fabric lines came out, and lots of quilting rockstars attended the show.  Here, however, I wanted to share about things that are most relevant to me, and hopefully interesting for you as well.

Japanese Quilting

This sector of market is GROWING! I saw a Japanese bag vendor selling wonderfully unusual handles and bag hardware, spectacular new fabrics from Lecien, and an entire “Wa” exhibit in the special exhibits hall.  Of course, Japanese quilters were well represented in the juried competitions as well.  This quilt was my favorite.  I could stare at it for hours.

Japanese Quilt, Quilt Festival 2016









I picked up a copy of Scrap Valley, Yoko Saito’s newest book, from the delightful ladies at Quiltmania.  Speaking of staring at something for hours. . . . .this book is a treasure.

Yoko Saito Scrap Valley

Perhaps most exciting — Lecien and Stitch Publications announced that Yoko Saito will be attending Quilt Market AND Quilt Festival Fall 2017!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! She will have a special exhibit, and be teaching classes. I’ll pass along more details as soon as I have them, but how cool is that???  I’m hoping she has tons of attendees and folks stopping by her booth, so she knows exactly how much American quilters adore her.

Hand Piecing

Aurifil kicked off this year’s Quilt Market with an amazing Schoolhouse presentation, replete with video of how they make their threads.  It was absolutely fascinating.  They also announced a new line of 80 weight threads.  I was so excited to see “English paper piecing” and hand sewing listed as several of their recommended uses for the new threads.

While attending schoolhouse sessions and walking the Market floor, I saw no less than FIVE new methods of English paper piecing and sewing hexagons. FIVE.  I’m hoping to purchase some of the tools to test out these methods, look for blog posts coming soon!


I also picked up a copy of Millifiori Quilts 2, which promises to be as lovely as the first book.  The little turquoise pouch is an organizer from Yazzii.  It’s filled with little clear zipper pouches.  I think it will hold at least two hand-piecing projects at a time.  No more losing my thimble when I’m out and about!

The thread cutter in the picture will get it’s own blog post soon.  It is AWESOME!!

Marti Michell templates and news

I always enjoy seeing what’s new in Marti’s booth, and this year I got to take some classes from her as well.  So fun!  Her new Starry Path templates look incredible.  As you can see, I’m already testing ideas with the coloring pages provided in the template instructions.  I can’t wait to get in my studio and bring that design to life.


In one of her classes, Marti talked about a fun new Hexie Club for quilt stores.  I know I will be talking to my local quilt store about running the program, and you should too!  It promises to be a terrific way to build up your hexagon piecing skills, and the accompanying pattern previews we got to see were beautiful!!

Other Quilt Market Highlights

I think the coolest booth we saw this year featured a technique of quilting on leather. Cathy Wiggins created the quilts, and Olde City Quilts has the supplies. Please check out Cathy’s website for more pictures.  It was spectacular.  My husband took a picture of this quilted dragon.  Her name is also Emily. How fun is that?

Quilt Market 2016

Sometimes, with social media, you become friends with people you’ve never met.  That’s what happened on IG with me and Wendy Sheppard.  I went to her schoolhouse presentation, and can attest that she is as sweet and vivacious in person as she is online. Then we got to visit over coffee, and my admiration for her grew even more!!  Can’t wait to share her new book with you next spring!

Finally, I took a class on social marketing with Cheryl Sleboda. I learned more in that one hour than in WEEKS of culling through internet tutorials and classes.  It was a fabulous, funny, understandable presentation.  I would highly recommend the webinar on her website, it’s worth every penny if you’re a store owner or designer looking to grow your online presence.

Whew.  Thanks for sticking with me to the end of this lengthy blog post!  If you went to Quilt Market, what were your favorite parts?  If not, what things would you like to learn about for next year’s markets?  (Yes, I am absolutely already planning that far ahead, and would love to know what kinds of information you’d like!!)

Happy Stitching!








PS- There are a bunch of links in this post to provide you with additional information about the products referenced.  These ARE NOT affiliate links.   If you’d like to support my blog, please visit my Craftsy store. Thanks!


Three Little Birds QAL- a Finished Pouch!!

Welcome back to the Three Little Birds Quilt-a-Long! I have to confess, I stalled out  on this project. Adding the seam allowances confused me, and so the pieces got pushed aside to a corner of my studio.

The instructions specified cutting the front portions of each piece with a 1/4” seam allowance, and the backing and batting with slightly larger allowances. And the back inside lining piece was enormous compared to the rest of the pouch.

Three Little Birds pouch

Last night, however, I decided to just muddle through and see how it worked.  I figured, if all else fails, all I have wasted is a little time and fabric.  But it did work, and I’m so pleased with the results.

I promise, for next month’s installment of the quilt-a-long, I will have in-progress pictures as I work through a second pouch.  Part of getting over my hang-up with this pouch, though, was just sewing without worrying about setting up a photo shoot for each step.

If you’d like to join in on the Three Little Birds quilt-a-long, you can find the pattern at One World Fabrics.  They also have a gorgeous selection of Japanese homespun fabrics to make your pouch.

After finishing this pouch, I think I have a better understanding of WHY Japanese patterns don’t include seam allowances.  It’s kind of a personal preference, not a set rule.  On this project, I used a slightly larger seam allowance for the lining, because it made it easier for me to bind the inside seams.

What’s your preference– you prefer a pattern that gives exact finished measurements, or templates with seam allowances already included?

Happy Stitching!


Three Little Birds QAL- Applique

Welcome to month two of the Three Little Birds Quilt-a-long! Have I mentioned that we’ll be working through this project at a leisurely pace?

For this month, we’ll be focusing on the applique pocket of the pouch.  It’s not the first step in the pattern, but it was what I wanted to do first because, well, hand applique intimidates me. I figured if I did this first, I’d be more motivated to finish knowing the hardest part was over.


There are loads of applique tutorials online. For this size and scope of project, I picked this one from Suppose Create Delight.  The prep work is time-consuming, but well worth it in my opinion.  I loved that all the pieces were glued into place so I could take the applique with me and sew.  I stitched down my three little birds while sitting in the car waiting for my kids to get out of school.

As I mentioned before, I’m making a second pouch using the cherry blossom motifs from another Yoko Saito pattern.  The pictures below are some of my in-progress steps of prepping the blossoms.


So, how about you? What’s your favorite applique method?  Have you started stitching your Three Little Birds?  I can’t wait to see!! Please link up your in-progress photos below.  (Your pictures can be from a blog, Facebook page, Flickr stream, or Instagram.)

Speaking of IG– did you know Yoko Saito herself is on Instagram now? Check it out @yokosaito_quiltparty.

Happy Stitching!









[inlinkz_linkup id=663710 mode=1]

Three Little Birds Quilt-A-Long

I’m so excited to finally launch my first Quilt-A-Long!  We’re going to be working with a gorgeous Yoko Saito pattern, the Three Little Birds Pouch.

Three little birds pattern

Each month, I’ll share progress on my pouch (or pouches. . . .I’m seriously thinking of making several of these), along with tips and hints for construction. At the end of each post, you’ll have the opportunity to link up your progress as well.  If you choose not to make the pouch, then please link up your progress on any Japanese style quilting project.  You can also share pictures of Japanese quilting books or tools.

You can find the Three  Little Birds Pouch pattern at Willow Lane Quilting Company and One World Fabrics.  Both sites also have lovely collections of Japanese fabrics to make your pouch.  The pouch is tiny, so you will probably be fine with 4 fat quarters and some assorted scraps.

So, let’s get this linky started!  For this month, link up with your Japanese fabric collection, or whatever fabrics you plan to use for your pouch.  Next month, we’ll be cutting into these beautiful fabrics and prepping the pieces for applique.

patterns and fabric

Here’s my pattern, and a bundle of taupes I plan to use with it.  And a Yoko Saito pattern I’ve admired for years.  I’m not sure I have the skill to tackle this one yet, but I’m going to make a second pouch, using the cherry blossom appliques from the wallhanging pattern in place of the birds on the pouch.


I can’t wait to see what you’re creating!!










[inlinkz_linkup id=653180 mode=1]

JQSG 2016- Where Shall We Journey Next?

It’s hard to believe we’re starting year three of the Japanese Quilting Study Group.  I have learned so much through researching these posts, and “met” some of the most amazing quilters ever!  Certainly Japanese quilting styles continue to grow in popularity– did you notice that Teresa Duryea Wong’s book was mentioned in the March/April issue of Quiltmaker?  So fun!!

But with the new year wide open before us, I must admit, I’m a little baffled at where to go from here.  As you can see from my bookshelf, there are plenty of Japanese authors and designers left to explore. .. .



So we can continue merrily along, sharing information as we discover new things, but I’m considering shaking things up a bit. Less me talking, more your input. Would you be interested in a Quilt Along? Sort of a practicum year for the study group if you will.  I’ll set up the website for link parties, and we’ll check in with one another monthly to see what books you’re reading, what patterns you’re trying out, what Japanese fabrics you’re stitching with. Maybe there will be some sponsors, discounts, and prizes along the way.

I’m thinking about starting the party in May, which gives you plenty of time to pick out a project, or search your stash.  And it gives me time to finish a rather massive project that is due at the end of April 🙂

So what do you say?  Are you in?  If not, where would you like to see the Japanese Quilting Study Group go this year?

Happy Stitching!



JQSG- A Chat with Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts

Welcome to the Japanese Quilting Study Group, a monthly blog series devoted to exploring all the wondrous aspects of Japanese Quilting!!  You can check out all the posts in this series here.

Today, I am simply delighted to welcome Patricia Belyea to the blog.  I discovered her wonderful store through Teresa Duryea Wong of Third Floor Quilts, and became an instant fan of yukata cottons. Yukata cottons are used in Japan to make summer kimonos. How does this relate to quilting?  I’ll let Patricia explain all that. . . grab a cup of coffee, because this post is chock-full of wonderful pictures!!  Enjoy!


Patricia Belyea, a Seattle-based artisan quilter, has been importing vintage Japanese textiles since 2009. Her cottage business, Okan Arts, stocks the largest collection of yukata cottons outside of Japan. She also imports kimono wools and vintage yukatas.
How did you become interested in Japanese fabrics?

Since I was a little girl, I’ve had a fascination with Japan. Finally, when I turned 50, I made my dream of visiting Japan a reality. I visited Kyoto with my husband for one short week and was smitten. In the last decade, we have traveled to Japan eight times and will return to Tokyo in January 2016.
When I started quilting eight years ago, I used old clothes from Goodwill and hand-me-down fabrics from newly made quilting friends. My found treasures included vintage, global and hand-dyed fabrics.

Once I discovered vintage yukata cotton, I started using this remarkable fabric in my quilt projects—combining my passion for quilting with my love of all things Japanese. I have, through more than 30 sources, imported over 2000 bolts of yukata cotton. I now share my stash through my home-based business, Okan Arts (see okanarts.com).

For quilters around the world, I have an online shop. For visitors to Seattle, my brick-and-mortar shop is open by appointment.

IMG_8848What are the most striking Japanese motifs, historically and in modern textiles, in your collection?

 Traditionally yukata were made with white cotton, hand dyed with patterns in indigo. For men, geometric patterns were typical. For women, it got much more diverse: plants and flowers; animals, birds and insects; everyday objects; natural features; and more.
In my collection, plants and flowers abound: iris, chrysanthemum, morning glories, cherry and plum blossoms, lotus, bamboo, peonies and on and on. Insects sound buggy but they really include butterflies, a symbol of joy and longevity, and dragonflies, a symbol of marital success.
NewFabricsThe newest cottons are multi-colored and some are wildly abstract. Because the vintage yukata cottons I import span from the 1960s to the 1990s, I’ve collected a full array of traditional and modern yukata bolts. (See https://okanarts.com/shop)
How are these cottons dyed?
The yukata cottons I import are resist-dyed using the chuzen process.
The fabric for one bolt or tan is folded back and forth into a one-meter-wide pile on a vacuum table. An intricate cut-paper “screen” is placed on top. Barriers are made by squeezing out dams of rice paste around the pattern shapes. Dye is poured through the screen using a teapot-like container with a super-long spout.
The strong vacuum pulls the dye through all the layers. A wonderful feature of this method is that both sides of the fabric are dyed completely and the colors are lush.
Please describe your collection of yukata cottons and other textiles
At first I bought many wonderful Japanese fabrics—obis, woven cottons, noren, silks for kimono and haori as well as hand-dyed yukata cotton—they are all so irresistible. Ultimately I decided to focus on yukata cotton as it’s perfect for quilting.
Yukata cotton is a narrow-width fabric, just over 14 inches wide. One bolt measures about 12 meters (just over 12 yards)—enough to make one unlined summer kimono. Typically the cotton is rolled onto cores of bamboo or cardboard, making cylindrical bolts.
Recently I’ve also imported kimono wools, both printed and woven. The wools have been purchased for quilting, clothing and home decor projects.
Vintage yukatas
IMG_3923Can yukata cotton we used just like quilting cotton? Any special washing requirements?
Yukata cotton is the perfect weight for quilting. Quilters are often challenged, though, by the large-scale patterns.
I pre-wash all my yukata cottons before I use them as they are older fabrics and may be dusty. I used warm water for washing with a gentle liquid detergent and cold water for rinse. I like the Hand Washing setting on my washer so the cotton doesn’t come out all tied up on itself. I hang the fabric up to dry as my dryer cooks in creases that take forever to press out.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Making quilts with yukata cottons is not a common practice. Many of today’s quilters who want a Japanese look favor kimono silks where they take apart old kimonos and use the fabrics.
For me, working with yukata cottons inspires my quilt designs. I chose the fabrics first and then work out the compositions. This approach moves me to create unexpected combinations with both the piecing and the stitching.
Here are some of Patricia’s quilt projects using yukata cottons:
Belyea_Patricia 01_2
Peony Samurai
Healing Garden
Floating World
Tangled Garden
 To check out Patricia’s blog where she features quilting leaders, Japanese stories and monthly giveaways, visit https://okanarts.com/blogs
Thank you so much, Patricia!!  Now I’m off to my studio, where my yukata cottons are patiently waiting for me to take the plunge and start sewing!
Happy Stitching!

JQSG-Reflections on Japanese Contemporary Quilts and Quilters

Welcome to the Japanese Quilting Study group, a monthly blog series dedicated to learning more about the wonderful world of Japanese quilting.  You can see all previous posts in this series by clicking on the link in the header, or here.

book cover

Teresa Duryea Wong’s book finally arrived on my doorstep just after I wrapped up several huge deadlines.  So I was able to spend a long morning with a good cup of coffee, perusing the book slowly and taking it all in.  The photographs are gorgeous, and the information presented is fascinating. The differences between Japanese and American quilting classes are incredible. For example, Teresa talks about one teacher (in the traditional teaching curriculum), where the students in the basic class make 48 hand-pieced quilts in 2-4 years.  I would love to learn how to hand piece that efficiently. Making ONE small hand-pieced quilt took me the better part of six months!

My favorite section of the book is the artist profiles.  Here, we get a very up-close and personal glimpse into the lives of famous Japanese quilters, including images and descriptions of their studios. I find it very encouraging that some of them do not have immaculately organized work spaces, and store things in plastic tubs just like I do!

The diversity of quilting styles presented in this book is inspiring, and makes it a story not only relevant to American quilters who love all things Japanese (like me), but also to American quilters who think outside the box, and push the limits of what defines a quilt. So many American quilt books focus on “the basics”, and simplifying the quiltmaking process to something you can complete in a weekend.  The quilts shown in this book highlight the other end of the quilting spectrum- the magic that happens when you meticulously, painstakingly pour your heart and soul into creating a work of art in fabric.

Happy Stitching!



A Bonus Japanese Quilting Post

I’m woefully behind on blogging this week. .. partly because of deadlines, and partly because I’ve been trying to figure out Instagram.  For someone of my generation, I’m inept when it comes to all these social media things.  But I’m trying!

If you’re on instagram, you should check out #emilysyokosaitoquilt

Teresa Wong created that hashtag to chronicle all the places she’s taking my Journey quilt.  And this week has been an EPIC journey for that little quilt.



Yes, that IS Yoko Saito and Teresa Duryea Wong, and MY little quilt!!!!! Can you believe it?? Me neither 🙂






If you’re not on Instagram, you can read the wonderful story behind this picture on Teresa’s blog. I’m hoping she posts more of her adventures in Japan soon!


And if you’re interested, here’s a link to my brand-new little Instagram feed:



I’d love to have you follow along! Once I get the hang of hashtags, I’m hoping to use this as a means to provide lots more sneak peeks of current projects.

Happy Stitching!