Sunday, March 17, 2013


Yesterday, travelling from town, the bus and trains were jammed. The St. Paddy's Day parade had brought a cast of thousands to the area near the bus stop and there was no place to sit. Sit = handwork. Stand = read.

I have been reading Marie Bostwick's, "A Single Thread" as part of the Quilter's Book Club and these were the words I read."Since our great-great-grandmothers' time, quilters have created community. Quilting is about getting together and helping each other, sharing life, cheering one another on through good times and bad". Was that a message written for me?

As you may know, the people of Tohoku have been having a rough time. The after-effects of the earthquake and tsunami have left communities broken and disconnected. My Tokyo church has reached out to three churches in the disaster area and groups of volunteers have made trips up to Tohoku to do all kinds of service.
Now, I have been asked to do a quilting class for the women there. I am not looking for more things to fill my already overflowing schedule so have been resisting. I was not sure what end result would be expected or how and what to teach in just a few days. My language skills are really bare-bone and help will come from a non-quilter who is making arrangements.

Tuesday, the Gala quilt group got together and I ran my concerns past those wonderful women. Quilters are full of ideas and encouragement ... so I began to say "yes" to the proposal. The minute I gave a hint of yes, the person making the arrangements went to the left-overs of the flea market and picked out some clothing that could be gleaned for fabric. I told her that might be a good "Plan B".
I heard from the quilting friends that fabric shops in the States sometimes donate things to a good cause and thought Japanese shops  may not have been asked to help out yet. I made a list of fabric stores in the Tokyo area, supplies we might want,  and will get my husband to make some calls.

Now comes the part where I think my blogging friends might be some help....

As you may recall, in January I taught a class at the Women's Conference. The class was only an hour long. I had made up a variety of about 20 kits from my stash so what we did was very basic, Sew the triangles to the corners, mark the solid center for a quilt design, baste, quilt center and in the ditch, and turn the backing to the front for binding. There is an option to applique in the center area.

For me, this might take a little over an hour but no one was able to finish in that time. I did this also with my girls class who know how to sew, and they could not finish even in two sessions running over time. Of course, the outreach team asking me to go, is thinking of not only teaching but providing the women with a way to earn a bit of money. A similar program that donated yarn and brought knit articles to Tokyo to sell was quite successful. This is one of the concerns that caused me to drag my feet.

The Gala women suggested that things like baby quilts might take less time and be popular. Yes, but that would take more than a day of lessons and I have to start somewhere. I need something that will teach the basic skills and can be completed while I am there to help. I thought if there are people who catch on quickly, they could make more of these squares and join them to make something larger, I have taught a quilt-as-you-go class but it is divided into nine weekly lessons with lots of homework.

Another thought is place mats or table runners with an appliqued origami crane and sashiko-stitched quilting might be a good item.  Our church has an "Ah Sew" group that might be convince to cut out fabric to make kits.
I have never been to a class or workshop so I don't have much of a vision as to how things are done in other places. If any of you out there have ideas I could use, your knowledge and advice will be greatly appreciated.

Needed... a project that will teach the basic skills. (The contact in Tohoku said we could limit it to those who know how to sew but I think that is too narrow and that non sewers may never had a chance to learn so the opportunity should be for all. Besides, this should also be about building community.)
.....a project that can be finished in about five hours or less.
.... a project that can be expanded upon to make something larger.

Meanwhile, I am now about half way down the third edge of the + and X quilt and I have nine wonderful ideas for my followers quilt. I love reading through that list and thinking of those friends. If you haven't left me an idea that could represent you. please do. Nine blocks is a good start but I want to wrap myself in my friends and I am much bigger than Nikko.


  1. I stand by the suggestion I made when we met; log cabin. It is easy to show in a diagram, anyone can stitch it, the strips can easily be cut with scissors (no need for a rotary cutter, cutting mat and all the other quilting goods), it is perfect for hand stitching, can be stitched to the batting and backing in the 'stitch and flip method' so no need for quilting... One single log cabin can become a pot holder, a few more a place mat, a lot more a cot quilt and so on.
    Good luck!

  2. My first quilt was a hexagon quilt because I didn't have a sewing machine. I wanted to make a quilt SOOOO bad and all I had was a needle and thread.

  3. Hi Julie! Sensei has always expressed interest in doing something like that in the Tohoku. You should talk to her. She's also a great resource for materials. She knows a lot of manufacturers etc. I also would recommend talking to a Missionary friend who just finished a year working in the temporary housing. She is now in Tokyo working on planting an International Church in the Kinscho area. I think she got a real feel for the situation with the women and what they wanted. I can give you her email if you like.
    As always, wish I were there to help - I'd do it in a minute with you. Much love,

  4. You could do a disappearing 9-patch. it would teach about matching seams and accurate measuring while not including triangles for the brand new beginners. The kits would simply be squares and it could measure out to any size from baby to bed.
    I hope you keep us updated on what you choose and how it goes!

  5. Your teaching dilemma reminds me of the Left-Handed Quilting book that I have always wanted to write - backwards -;))

    What if you taught them to quilt "backwards"? By that I mean - have some 5" squares worked up in various stages of completion - then teach them in "reverse" order - first, how to bind - then how to quilt - them how to layer and baste - then how to piece a block. Then as they "progress" they will already know how to complete the project because they already did the "next" step - ;))

    Maybe some of your quilting friends could help you work up the "kits". If you start with something small enough, they could work it up quickly - and it could be useful as a coaster or a potholder. You will have taught them the basics - and the project can be enlarged - by them - when they are able. That might work - ;))

  6. How about using the metal tape measure and make little snap bags that can be used for coin purses? You could cut some fabric strips and they can sew the strips together then cut out the pieces to make the purses and put them together. The kit could contain the metal strips, fabric strips, batting, and backing material. If there was more time you could also show them how to make yo-yos so they could embellish the little bags either with stitching or yo-yos.

  7. How about place mats, mug rug or pot holders using the flip and sew method of quilting strips. Scraps are great and at the end they would have learned all the basics of quilting through to binding. Then they could make a whole set of place mats or be happy with one.

  8. I think the coasters/potholders/placemats idea is such a good one! Whatever you do, it will be wonderful Julie! The idea of teaching it backwards is really interesting too! Wish I was going to be around next year to help in person!

  9. Log cabin blocks are fun to make that could be made into a potholder, pillow, table runner, or a small quilt. The nice part of a log cabin block project is that if it doesn't turn out evenly, one can make the blocks into wonky blocks.

  10. quilters have created community. Quilting is about getting together and helping each other, sharing life, cheering one another on through good times and bad". .
    Oh Julie, if this was only true.