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Japanese Quilting Study Group- Sharing the Journey

Welcome to month six of my blog series, Japanese Quilting Study Group.  This post is part of a series chronicling my journey through Yoko Saito’s book, “Japanese Taupe Color Theory.”  For this post, I’ll be sharing excerpts from a wonderful letter Cathy Slovensky recently sent me. Her comments follow in italics, along with the gorgeous pictures she shared.  Please note: as per her e-mails, she started working on these less than two months ago!  I’m amazed at how many beautiful projects she has made.

First of all, I can’t believe how much I’ve learned in just a month of working on the various projects. The subtleties and variances of the fabrics and how they change depending on the surrounding colors have become very obvious to me in light of using the taupe color wheel. I will never look at fabric the same way again. I am so grateful that Yoko Saito has shared her creativity and wisdom with the world. I also love that she encourages us to go off the grid and do our own thing with the blocks. It is very freeing (and forgiving)!

The biggest obstacle I ran into at the beginning was finding fabric in my stash that would fall in line with the taupe color wheel. Most of my stash contains Kaffe Fassett (and friends) fabrics, so this was a challenge. Thankfully, I had some reproduction fabrics, some old Red Wagon homespun fabrics, and some Japanese taupe squares a friend had shared after making a Daiwabo quilt. I also tea-dyed some of my lighter fabrics. Before beginning each project, when choosing the fabrics (using the book to guide me), I cut small fabric swatches, double-taped them onto a half-page of cardstock, lettered them, and wrote the name of the project on it. I flipped the cardstock over and roughly sketched a diagram of each square, putting the fabric letter that should be used for each pattern piece. This really helped when piecing the squares, because I could just flip the cardstock over to see which fabric I had to cut and in what shape.

Cathy's blocks and tools







Inspired by your Greek crosses from the blog, I decided to start with them as well (Spicy
Salt/Greek Cross). I enlarged the patterns by 20 percent  and made plastic templates for the pieces. I did the same with Aqua/Wheel, but by the time I embarked on my third lesson, Forest/House, I decided that I could save some time and effort by transforming some of the quilt patterns into foundation patterns. So with Café au lait/Quilt
in Light and Dark, Dark Cherry/Block in a Box, Green/Triangles, and Forest/House,
I created foundation patterns and printed them out on 100 percent cotton white

Cathy Slovensky's projects







So that’s as far along as I am on the journey. I did one of the Pink/Capsule squares and wrote a note to myself on the cardstock (“Not for the faint of heart!”). HA. I’ll return to it, but I think my next endeavor will be the Nut Tart/Log Cabin. I’d like to play around with the log cabin quilt square (as Yoko Saito suggests); I followed her lead in the Forest/House squares too, changing up the shape and size of the doors and the tilt of the roofs. So far, this has been a wonderful learning process and a project that I look forward to working on every day, even if I just complete one square.

I had an unexpected, wonderful experience in terms of the hardwood wooden finger
press that appears in the picture below. I discovered a shop on Etsy called
“The Copper Finch” that makes very nice hardwood presses. I ordered one, but it
was much larger than what I wanted (the presser head was an inch across). I
wrote the shop owner, Carla, and asked if I could return it, and I explained
that I was working on very small quilt squares, as I was working through Yoko
Saito’s book, along with others in a group, via your blog. I told her that I
needed a wooden press that had a smaller head (about a half-inch wide). Within
a few days, her husband had finished a prototype that was one inch in
circumference on the top half but only a half-inch on the bottom angled half.
While it worked well, it still wasn’t quite what I wanted. I then explained
that I would prefer a press that I could hold in my hand like a pen that was
slender along the entire length . And within a few days—voilà! The press in the picture showed up inthe mail. It is made from Black Walnut and is only a half-inch wide and about 6¾ inches long). It works so well; it is lightweight (about 3/8 of an ounce),
the angle of the press is perfect, and—what I love best—it is also smooth and beautiful.

Wooden finger press from The Copper Finch







Many, many thanks to Cathy for sharing her beautiful projects!  I’m inspired, and I think I’ll head over to The Copper Finch for one of those lovely finger presses.

Happy Stitching!




  1. Elizabeth says:

    Wow! Cathy’s projects are fantastic and what a cool press. I guess what my dad says is true, “You never know until you ask.” I also love her color board idea. Neat stuff!

  2. Hillary says:

    These projects are amazing!!! I especially loved the quilt in light and dark and the one with the houses- thanks for sharing your beautiful work Cathy!! And way to inspire such greatness Emily! =0) Such a smart idea about the cardstock!

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