Japanese Strip Quilt – Finished

Here it is – the finished, bound quilt (just a label needed – I’ll do that later this afternoon when I get back from some errands).

Quilt Top

I did the quilting from top to bottom in line with the strips, instead of across the quilt. I wanted to emphasize the flow of the piecing. I was lucky my quilting design was the perfect size for the side borders and fills that space nicely (It was pure luck that I was able to balance the border quilting on each side!). It took a lot of precise positioning to make the embroidery joins work but it would take a hawk eye to detect the slight misalignments I decided to live with. I used a variegated white/grey/black thread, top and bottom and I like how it turned out on the back. On the front, the stitching blended well with the coloured strips. However, I darkened the light stitching in the dark strip ends because otherwise the alternating strip ends were obscured and that was a detail I worked hard to achieve.

Quilt Back

The back has worked out well. The pieced insert brings colour and interest to the back. The side borders of the strip blend well with the backing fabric yet effectively set off the insertion. I used strips of the backing fabric (which I had found in a second shop after I’d pinned the sandwich together) for binding. I’ve finally learned 2 1/4″ binding strips are better than 2 1/2″ – I have less fabric to fold under on the front of the quilt – easier to manage when I’m pinning the binding in place on the quilt front after first stitching it to the back.

I would have liked the quilt to be a wee bit longer but I was limited by my original 66″ length of backing fabric – all that was left on the bolt. The quilt is still a respectable 62″ long.

Japanese Strip Quilt

Pieced Strip Top Completed

I finally finished piecing this strip quilt – much more difficult than I expected it to be. Assembling long strips, particularly strips that have themselves been pieced, and consisting of different fabrics, tends to produce a “bow” – so you have to alternate the direction in which each new strip is attached. This means you sew one strip placed on the top, the next the strip is beneath because you want to start at opposite ends of the growing top for alternate strips.

Assembling The Strips

The piecing of the strips themselves was also a challenge. I joined lengths of complementary fabric pieces being careful to alternate the direction of the joins from one strip to the next. Then to assemble the top each strip had to be carefully laid out, the background fabric attached at one end, that end trimmed and aligned, then the opposite background end had to be attached and trimmed.

No chain piecing here – each and every strip is unique with the joins needing to be staggered and in alternating directions. So, of course, the creating and assembling of this quilt top took much longer than piecing say a collection of half-square triangles were it’s possible to mass produce the blocks.

Now I have to come up with an idea for the back. I have 66″ of a single width of backing fabric – I will need to insert close to 10″ in order for the back to be wide enough for the top. Still thinking about what kind of piecing will complement the strips on the top.

Improvisation #6 – Finished

Finished yesterday, label added today.


Quilt Top

I’m please with how lively the quilt is and how the full and partial circles turned out. Not a usual layout for drunkard’s path blocks but one that works well with these fabrics – prints with an Asian/Japanese flavour. I like the contrast between the blacks/lights and brick fabrics. The dark border also helps the circles pop.


Quilt Back

For the back, I used blocks that didn’t quite make it up to size (most of the initial blocks) – I trimmed them by 1/4″ and was able to use them here. Notice, one circle just above the mid point, the rest of the blocks arrayed in one of the more traditional drunkard’s path layout.

To quilt my quilts I usually assemble the whole by pin basting, then stitching in the ditch along the block edges. This time, I stitched only around the border, leaving the pins in place while I quilted each block individually. Quilting this way covers any misalignment of the back strip with the columns on the top – that misalignment does show up if I’ve stitched in the ditch – I’m not usually out by much, maybe 1/2″ from top edge to bottom, but I can see that slightly off vertical line in the quilting on the back.

The design I created for this quilt aligned so the beginnings and ends of each embroidery link up and the whole looks as if I’d done the quilting edge to edge on a long-arm quilter (I’m getting better at this!). The border design is the same design, just downsized so I was able to stitch out two repeats using my grand endless hoop – that hoop makes the whole process go very quickly unlike having to individually hoop each of the 63 blocks in the quilt top. I was able to align each new start precisely with the ending of the previous stitch-out.


Quilt Detail

I chose a darker Sulky variegated thread for the border (darker than the thread I used for the blocks – a predominantly a brick colour) which still seemed too light, until I fancy stitched the binding in place using the brick coloured thread – that toned down the border quilting so you can see the design, but from a bit of a distance it doesn’t shout at you.

Started piecing the next quilt (I’d already cut the fabrics late last week). No name for this quilt yet.


This quilt will consist of three columns of black/white fabrics attached by the midline of the rich red Kona cotton background fabric. The arrangement of the strips will be different in each column. I can see I will need to do a bit of “fixing” near the top of this strip where the center line bows a wee bit to the left – the fix: to shave a bit off the bottom right of background strip #4 – that will straighten the strip.

The columns will be joined with sashing in the red solid fabric, the outer borders will also be 4″ of the red fabric (to match the 4″ top and bottom pieces for each column.

The back piecing? Haven’t thought about that yet!

Elegant Attire

I got my invitation to my great-nephew Ben’s Bar Mitzvah last week. The invitation says: “elegant attire”. I wrote my niece asking her what that meant and she sent me back a photo of her new dress for the affair. The Bar Mitzvah is end of August, in Toronto, certain to be a hot evening. I went through my wardrobe looking for “elegant attire” — I have outfits but everything is more suitable for winter, too hot to wear on a late August evening.

I hate shopping for clothes, I prefer making stuff — it’s as much about the making as it is the wearing. So I went through my fabric stash. I have a lovely piece of blue and white stripe silk which I bought in Portland OR last spring, and I might just have been able to squeak out a dress from it but I didn’t want to cut the fabric and find I didn’t really have enough, that the dress ended up too short. That fabric will get saved for another garment of some kind.

Instead, I went to the local fabric shop and picked up 2 m. of a Japanese katagami stencilled indigo dyed cotton fabric. There were lots of large bold designs but I thought this one was delicate enough to be considered “elegant”. Yesterday, I cut out a t-shirt dress from the fabric; today I sewed the pieces together. IMG_3029

This is me wearing the completed dress with some large Navaho silver jewellery, green shoes. The dress will certainly be comfortable – it’s loose, and cotton. I think it will also pass muster as “elegant”!IMG_3028

Japanese Quilt

IMG_2646Finished this afternoon, the lap quilt made using half-square triangles using the Japanese sample fabrics that I bought at the yard sale in Portland Oregon last spring. I didn’t arrange the blocks in any of the usual half-square triangle patterns – Instead I set up two blocks near the “top” and worked in a “frame” around them, then filled in the remaining space creating diagonal rows – at the same time I was also trying to create a bit of colour flow – difficult because the colourful floral blocks were so different in hue. The border took a bit of care, I wanted the diagonal joins to flow from the diagonal  lines in the pieced top – I found the way to do that was to make sure the seams aligned first, basted them in place to make sure the line worked, then stitched the rest of the border piece. The overall effect I wanted was to have an indigo quilt with colourful triangles embedded in it. I used the indigo fabric with the circles on the back – A WOF (width of fabric) piece was wide enough for the backing so there is no embellishment on the back. Notice the embroidered dragonflies on the top. I quilted in the hoop using a sashiko single run overall design in each block and a modification of the design in the border. I intentionally used a dark navy variegated thread front and back so the embroidery doesn’t stand out but creates a quilted look. The striped binding was a third indigo fabric from the collection that had the other two.


More from Ann Williamson

I subscribe to Ann Williamson’s blog so once a week I get an email with photos showcasing what she’s working on. Ann, if you’ll recall, is this wonderful designer of custom apparel made from pieced kimono silk. I met her on the Portland trip. And since then I’ve ordered some kimono silk myself and am trying to create a bit of time to decide what to make from it – I read Ann’s blog with interest:


This week, Ann’s working on a third pieced silk skirt to go with a jacket she made in the spring. Skirt #1 & 2 have sold, so to have a complete outfit, she’s making a third skirt. fragments-3

You can see the detailed work she does from these three gored pieces for the skirt. I love her sense of colour and her work is meticulous. I really must get out my silk and think about making something!

Estate Sale Fabrics

These are the fabrics I purchased at the estate sale – I haven’t actually counted how many pieces are in the pile but there are quite a few and they’re a good size – certainly enough to get 8″ quilt blocks out of, or pieces for building other kinds of projects like hand bags, maybe even a jacket – who knows…


I also have another piece (approx. a yard and a half) covered with sashiko designs – which will make something interesting.


Designers’ Studios +

We began the day with a visit to an estate sale where the woman had been a collector of fabrics and sewing supplies – turned out to be the wrong day – not until tomorrow! The house did have an interesting feature though: an espalier of some kind of evergreen along the roof edge – I’ve never seen anything like it:20130621-183910.jpg
After a stop for coffee we made our way to Ann Williamson’s design studio. Her silk jackets are exquisite:20130621-184134.jpg
The detail is very fine, her choice of fabrics amazing. Since 2003 she’s been using mainly kimono silk, from kimonos she’s taken apart as well as new kimono silk from Japan. She has a large stash of 14″ bolts of kimono silk:20130621-184515.jpg
We spent more than an hour with her, talking about technique, and seeing samples of her work.

Next stop – Josephine’s Fabrics. She specializes in “fine” fabrics – and although the selection isn’t large I came away with a Liberty cotton print for a shirt as well as some lovely reversible grey and off-white woolen fabric which I can see making into a pieced reversible jacket of some kind.

Then lunch at the Portland lunch carts: 20130621-185254.jpg
There’s a big choice of food, and after you’ve purchased what you want to eat there’s a small square nearby where you can sit and eat:20130621-185454.jpg

Our next stop was the Button Emporium. I was too busy looking for buttons to go with the purple fabric I bought Wednesday to remember to take photos of the wall of buttons! I also picked up three bits of lace and entredeux for heirloom sewing (not much of a selection in Halifax).

Around the corner we visited a designers’ consignment shop – lots of interesting ideas there.

One last stop at another small fabric outlet where I thought I might find more swimsuit fabric but they had little in the way of interesting lycra prints.

Finally back to the hotel, something to eat, and now for a quiet evening.