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Kimono silk quilt no. 2 projects yin, healing energy!

I just finished Kimono silk quilt no. 2 in the “Rainbow” series, and all I can say is: what a difference a border makes! Both this blanket and “Rainbow” no. 1 are made of scraps of vintage Kimono silk, but where quilt no. 1 projects a “yang” feeling, with its bright white background and dramatic splashes of purple color, quilt no. 2 represents the “yin” force, with its dark green ginkgo leaf border. The leaves look plump and curvy; they remind you of other living things such as butterflies and deer hooves. A stylish black floral binding ties it all together. A back in pale green tweed with pink hearts completes the look, making a holistic yin message of comfort and coziness.

Yin and yang, rest and activity, nesting and flying: we need all to feel healthy and alive.

Good health to you, wherever you are!

P.S. I hope you noticed the cranes, in the blue fabric above!  As promised in my 2/8/20 posting, each Kimono silk quilt will have a crane/ or some cranes in it, to bring long life and good luck to my clients. Together with the yin / yang design, these quilts are sure to provide comfort and balance, wherever they may go.


yin / yang symbol: a dualism, suggesting how seemingly opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent. In the symbol, Yin–black–is the receptive force and Yang–white–is the active principle; since they are equally present, the circle remains constantly in balance. This complementary dualism exists in all forms of change and difference such as the annual cycle (winter and summer), the landscape (north-facing shade and south-facing brightness), sexual coupling (female and male), the formation of both women and men as characters, and theories of sociopolitical history (disorder and order).

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Rainbow kimono silk quilt sparkles in sunshine! updated with news from Seattle Asian Art Museum

This quilt, made of tiny pieces of Japanese kimono silk, really sparkles in the sunlight!   May its beauty shine some cheer into your day.

Japanese kimono silk quilt no. 1 framed better

The border fabric is cotton with a violet pattern from Terao, Japan, a region known for its wisteria.  (Thanks to Ashley M., who deciphered the characters for me.) The silks and cotton wisteria fabric came from Hosekibako–the elegant Japanese resale shop here in Seattle. Can’t wait to go back for more treasures!

P.S. I went to the Seattle Asian Art Museum today at the grand re-opening. It is a spring-like day here today; perfect for a trek to Capitol Hill. As we made our way back to West Seattle, the roads were (relatively) clear and trouble-free, the sky had fluffy white clouds, tiny sailboats flickered about on the blue waters off to the West, and all was cloaked in a subtle sense of well-being. That happiness is due in part at least to the art museum visit: seeing so many smiling, warm-looking Buddhas wishing you well does a world of good to the soul. And you must love the camels out front this art deco building–it brought back fond memories of climbing up and relaxing in their warm, smooth embrace, as a little kid. Reminded me of the Art Institute of Chicago also, and its lions.

The exhibits were all exquisitely balanced, well-contextualized by clear but un-intrusive signage, and thematically interesting. I liked the thematic organization; it makes it easier for non-specialists to see the differences between Chinese, Japanese, and Tibetan sculpture or painting , for example, when you see the objects side by side. Loved the Chinese landscapes with the tiny human figures and soaring mountains wrapped in mist, the adorable ducklings in the Chinese style, and the plum bough cloaked in snow.

But the best thing was to discover a link between my recent creation and Japanese tradition! Below you’ll see my big discovery: an eighteenth-century overcoat or kesa, where wisteria winds around other “auspicious motifs” including  chrysanthemums and peonies.  A phoenix flies by, adding to the baroque feel and hopeful message.

This visit reminded me of the profound eloquence of symbols. The crane–symbol of longevity–is featured in many delightful objects seen in the museum: for example this exquisite writing box.  My quilt also has a tiny crane–or more precisely, a white heron, also an emblem of good luck*–tucked inside; see it hiding in the reeds below?

favorite square with crane in late phase

It is so inspiring to see and to create objects that pass on an uplifting message with eloquent symbols. Since I already have two more underway, I hereby vow to create an entire line of Kimono silk quilts, and each one will have a crane and other “auspicious motifs” sewn directly into it, thereby providing hopes for good fortune and long life to all the people they touch.

*Thanks to my new acquaintances at Hosekibako, for explaining the difference between cranes and white herons!


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always learning … and here’s Kimono silk quilt no. 1, “Rainbow”!

Kimono silk rainbow design top Jan 10 2020.jpg

Epictetus wrote: “Know first who you are and what you’re capable of. Just as nothing great is created instantly, the same goes for the perfecting of our talents and aptitudes. We are always learning, always growing. It is right to accept challenges. This is how we progress to the next level of intellectual, physical, or moral development. Still, don’t kid yourself: If you try to be something or someone you are not, you belittle your true self and end up not developing in those areas that you would have excelled at quite naturally.  …. we each have our own special calling. Listen to yours and follow it faithfully.”

–The Art of Living: The Classic Manual on Virtue, Happiness and Effectiveness, ed. Sharon Lebell, p. 65.

Over the past 16 days, I have challenged myself to do something with a bunch of tiny rectangles of silk from a catalog of Japanese kimono silks, which I received in an old cookie tin from a thrift shop. As mentioned earlier, I first found them frustrating to handle–they slip so quickly out of grip!  But the more I worked with them, the more fascinated and delighted I became. Unlike cheaper fabrics, these tiny scraps are sturdy and cooperative; they feel so soft yet they are strong. They take a fold easily with a cool iron, though one must handle them extremely carefully when sewing or they will stretch out of shape.

The photos here give a glimpse of how it came about, bit by bit.  It was a perfect project for an accomplished perfectionist. What I now marvel on, looking at the finished project, is how the scraps seem to have fallen naturally into color categories–blue, purple, orange, yellow, and green. I had no plan in mind upon beginning; I was just following the instructions on making a Log Cabin quilt from Quilts from the Quiltmaker’s Gift. The crucial difference was that instead of imposing a color scheme, I let the color scheme emerge from the materials–and it became a rainbow!  Then I framed it in white and grey, to enhance the yin/yang message.  And it became Kimono quilt no. 1, “Rainbow”: a perfect emblem for this rainy and flowery place. I’ll have it done right in time for Cherry Blossom celebrations of the early spring!

Today I’m heading back over to Hosekibako, the Japanese resale shop on Weller Street where my husband bought that tin, in the hopes of finding more Kimono silk scraps. I love the way they tell stories, if you’re quiet and look carefully…

and I can’t wait to make Kimono silk quilt no. 2!

Patchwork man


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materials and inspiration, from far away

“In the presence of good materials, hopes grow and possibilities multiply. And with good reason: some materials are so readily charged and responsive that artists have turned to them for thousands of years, and probably will for thousands more.”*

It was the thought of materials that made me stop and think. So when in Paris in November, I visited rue d’Orsel and stores at the foot of Sacre Coeur Church, where new fabric treasures can be found (in merceries or sewing stores such as Frou-Frou and Sacrés Coupons) , and the friperies of the Marais, where you can buy used clothes by weight (thus the store named Kilo). I found an otherwise ugly black jacket with gorgeous beaded detail that has since become part of the Frankenstein quilt! And in my suitcase, I had brought a tin that once held cookies and now held tiny bits of silk: samples for kimonos. My husband found them in a thrift shop in Japantown here in Seattle and gave them to me one day. (I’m afraid I whined something like, “What am I supposed to do with such small pieces of fabric?!” )  When you look closely at them, it is quite amazing to realize someone took the time to peel these bits of silk out of a catalog and remove the glue.

What more noble material than silk?  Its history is long and distinguished, as the internet encyclopedia reminds us, “The production of silk originates in China in the Neolithic (Yangshao culture, 4th millennium BC). Silk remained confined to China until the Silk Road opened at some point during the later half of the 1st millennium BC.”

The scraps of silk in my box are delicate and pretty, shimmery and perfect, each in its own way. Some have tiny scenes painted on them of birds, or a garden, or children at play, others bear delicate strokes of calligraphy in jet black ink. I carried them to France and back to the US without knowing what to do. I took them out and laid them on tables and beds on both continents, but felt exasperated by their flightiness. They fall or slip or flutter to the floor at the slightest provocation. In the meantime, I made a wonderful wedding quilt for a dear friend out of clothes worn by her family, and Christmas happened.

Then yesterday I suddenly knew! Maybe it was all the family love, or eating so many cookies, or going for a walk, or just letting time pass by, or reading a couple books about quilts, but I suddenly knew exactly what to do with that silk! It is now in the process of turning into a Log Cabin Style quilt, strip by tiny strip.  I’ll follow the precise instructions found in Quilts from the Quiltmaker’s Gift: the authors, Joanne Larsen Line and Nancy Loving Tubesing, are excellent guides and the illustrations by Gail de Marcken are delightful.  Let’s see how long it takes…  Here are some photos to document the way and the amazingly sunny day on which I started it!


Tugboat and barge on Puget Sound Dec 27 2019

Don’t you just love seeing tugboats on the water? They always seem like a moving metaphor to me, of the reliable strength of little ordinary things.

And here’s my favorite square, of a crane at home in the reeds:

My favorite square with crane

*David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art and Fear: On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, p. 18-19.  (How innocent that sounds now. Published only 26 years ago, Art and Fear nevertheless captures a hopefulness about our planet’s future, and our place in the world, that is sadly gone today for me. I’ve come to thinking about us as hurtling through space on this beloved earth towards a rapidly changing and uncertain future… but their advice about being creative is spot-on!)