Exploring Japan Through Quilting

Travel has always been a passion of mine, starting with my participation in sports at a young age. The constant travel for competitions sparked my interest in seeing new places and cultures. This desire led me to join the Army, where I was given the opportunity to live and travel in different parts of the world, including North Carolina, Panama, England, and Japan.


Exploring Japan through quiting

Exploring Japan through quilting

Japan was a particularly memorable experience for me. I had the chance to live there for three years, which was the longest I had ever stayed in one place. As a senior enlisted rank, I had more resources and experience to explore all over Asia. I got to see the Great Wall in China, rode an elephant in Thailand, witnessed Ho Chi Min trail in Vietnam and so much more. I also traveled all over Japan From the ice festival in Sapporo to the historical Geisha’s in Kyoto and the love of baseball, Japan offered a diverse range of experiences.

One of the most unique and special experiences I had in Japan were the Shrine Sales. Similar to flea markets, garage sales, or church fundraisers, Shrine Sales are held by shrines or places of worship on weekends. They offer the opportunity to purchase items that are older than the United States and steeped in the country’s history. I had the chance to buy Kimono’s and other clothing passed down through generations, as well as World War II memorabilia like army Sake cups.

Currently, I reside in Hawaii which has a strong Asian influence and a large Japanese population. This allows me to continually be reminded of my time in Japan and the memories I created there. I have also started incorporating these experiences into my quilting by using panels and fabrics purchased from Japanese quilt shops and Shrine Sales. Some examples include my quilts “Mt Fuji Rising,” “The Family of Owls and Rabbits in a Field,” and “Kimono Treasures.” Each quilt tells a unique story about my time in Japan and the treasures I discovered there.


Mt. Fuji Rising


Mt. Fuji Rising is made with a panel I purchased at the gift shop and pieced the Japanese blue cotton fabrics patchworked surrounding the panel. I quilted it with a variegated red and gold thread in a flames design to add that extra level of design to the panel.

Mt. Fuji Rising

The Family of Owls and Rabbits in a Field are quilts made with panels from Japanese Quilt shops in various towns I visited. Again, starting with a panel and finding a collection of fabrics that speak to me and tell the story of the panel in their colors. Turning those fabrics into a mosaic patchwork of pieces to border the panel.

Family Of Owls

Kimono Treasures is just that, a treasure of small antique kimono fabric I found throughout my years searching through the Shrine Sales. These little pieces spoke to me because of the colors, designs and small details you find hidden in the history of the kimono fabric. I used a gorgeous Japanese gold cotton to border these little art works and then used the Japanese blue cotton with little firefly’s to patchwork them into a quilt. The border is a unique painted fabric that I found. Finishing the quilting with an Asian fan design.



Kimono Treasures


Kimono Treasures

This last quilt I will highlight truly showcases the artistry of quilting. The focal point of the quilt is a hand-painted silk screen that I purchased at a Shrine Sale. I held onto it for years before I found the perfect use for it as a block of the month project for the Hawaii Quilt Guild. Using a rotary cutter, I divided the silk screen into three sections, each with their own unique and captivating imagery. I then used half square triangles to create corner borders on each piece, and added strips of color across the top and bottom to tie everything together. The background is made of a cream-colored Asian quilting cotton, blending Japanese history with contemporary American quilting techniques. I finished the quilt off with modern geometric quilting lines as an accent.



Overall, traveling and quilting have become intertwined passions for me. The experiences and memories I have gained from traveling have become the inspiration for my quilts, making them not just functional but also works of art.