Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Japanese Quilts at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum

Recently I went with two friends to the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in the nearby town of Golden to see a quilt exhibit entitled Wishes Through Our Hands: Japanese Quilts Made in Response to the 2011 Tsunami.  

The first two quilts we looked at were beautiful but they didn't include depictions of the tsunami or mention it in the text provided by the quilter, and we were confused.  After rereading the brief information provided with the show and talking with the volunteer docent, we realized that what the quilts had in common was that they were all made by Japanese quilters after the tsunami "to inspire survivors to discover the joy of creation and a dream for the future." Rather than a show of quilts about the experience of the tsunami, the exhibit was a display of modern Japanese quilts.  

That was okay with us and we enjoyed the show!

The docent pointed out that most of the quilts on exhibit were made by hand and used either traditional Japanese cotton dyed blue with indigo or silk fabrics such as found in kimonos.  As we looked at the quilts we also noticed that sashiko stitching (a running stitch made with white cotton thread against the indigo blue cloth) was often featured, including a variation using a heavier thread --which I thought of as sashiko on steroids --which resulted in a very dramatic affect.  We also noticed that the borders of most of the quilts were quite distinct from the main body of the quilt, acting as a frame for the work.

This quilt, for example, uses the indigo fabrics and the heavy sashiko stitching and includes a border acting as a frame.    

This one combines indigos with the more polished silks...

...as did this one.

Here's an example of using the border as a frame...

...and here's another. Both quilts show the extensive use of hand appliqué.  Usually the appliqué was needle turned, but a number of the quilts used raw edge appliqué, still by hand.

Some of the quilts featured subjects that one might expect in Japanese art, such as scenes of nature.... 

...Japanese childhood....


...and orgami.

We all agreed that our favorite quilt was an abstract piece, Wind and Wavelets, by Michiko Ohbuchi, which used vintage kimono silk "to express the gentle breeze and peaceful waves on calm days on four seasons in Japan."

In this overall view you can see the different color ways she used to show the different seasons.  Note her interesting border; it acts as a frame but also includes some of the elements from the body of the piece.

We loved the way she constructed the circles from strips and appliquéd them to the quilt so that the strips in the circle matched the strips in the quilt. 

And how she used a ribbon-like trim to denote the movement of the waves and breeze.

Hard to believe this was all done by hand!

It was such fun to see the exhibit with Anne, a quilter, and Lotus, a designer.  Their reactions, comments, and enthusiasm made for an energizing and often humorous exchange of opinions and reactions as we enjoyed the quilts together.


  1. Beautiful quilts! Japanese quiltmakers often take top prizes at IQF in Houston--there's just something about them. I especially like the top (first) one because of the Sashiko.

  2. Wonderful! Thanks for the photos. The other commenter is right that there is something about Japanese quilts that makes them special.

  3. the picture of you is beautiful. Excited about the snowglobe quilt headed my way.


I'd love to hear from you!