Saturday, August 30, 2008

You say sa-shee-ko and I say sash-i-ko

Sashiko (correctly pronounced with a tiny, almost imperceptible short i-) is a form of traditional Japanese quilting. It started as common darning. Sumptuary laws forbidding commoners from wearing bright clothing were in effect up until the late 19th century in Japan. When patches were needed on clothing, sashiko was done in plain white thread, sewn in geometric patterns, over the indigo fabrics that were the everyday uniform of farmers and fishermen. The star-type pattern pictured here is asanoha or hemp leaf.

Sashiko has always been popular in Japan and regularly undergoes revivals here in the States. Looks like we're in for another try with this age-old art. Many people find that after working with bright prints and complex pieced patterns, there's something soothing about the simple in-and-out of sashiko stitching.
Call it the Zen side of quilting.

Recently I taught a sashiko class and the five students worked diligently at learning to handle the sturdy sharp needle, with the aid of a thimble, and had to un-learn trying to get tiny stitches--as one does with hand quilting American-style. We worked on pre-printed indigo fabric (the printed designs wash out) and stitched a sample of four different sashiko patterns.

I made a sample wall hanging in the Circles of the East pattern showing them how they might use their sashiko stitched fabrics in a project. Very cool. One warning: sashiko is addictive!

Classical sashiko is done in heavy white cotton thread, about the same weight as rug warp, but the many luscious colors available in perle cotton today make quilting in color irresistible.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cats With Jobs

There's a program on the Animal Planet channel called Dogs With Jobs. You know the type: loyal Labradors rescue swimmers, herding dogs telling sheep what to do etc. But did you know that many cats also have jobs? Of course these occupations are all by choice....

Here's a few from my own pictures and off the web. My cat Bamboo is a professional kitchen organizer. She's giving old spices the sniff test and probably pointing out that oregano five years and older ought to be pitched.

Henry is our yellow cat who came to live with us two years ago. He is our official neighborhood greeter and here is checking on a tribe of Maine Coon cats, who mostly live indoors with our neighbor Mike Galyon. Or maybe he's going, "Nananana...I'm in the yard and you're not! " Many quilters are owned by cats so understand that the occupations listed here are only secondary to their main job which is quilt testing. Please meet Sally Bramald (her blog is and her handsome gray tabby cat Silvester. He is a yoga instructor in England.

This quilt passed! The lovely tuxedo kitty is giving a satisfied smile of approval to one of Julie Mullins' quilts. See more of Julie's work on her website

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wedding Bells

My lovely niece Sarah Glass just got hitched last weekend to her true love Mike. I expect to hear more about the wedding soon but there was one detail I loved: very thoughtfully, Sarah insisted the groom's cake should take front-n-center at the reception. The cake was a big hit since it was baked in the shape of Mike's beloved Nascar favorite! If I get pictures of the Nascar cake, I will be sure to post them.

In the meantime, here's Sarah in all her glory on her wedding day. Isn't she beautiful?

To keep some quilt content in this blog, I'm throwing in a picture of a quilt I made using two different quilt blocks. The star block is Light of Lisbon but the rounded block is called Bride's Brilliant and yes, the piecing seams are exactly like the top (table side) of the traditional brilliant-cut diamond. Speaking of having a pattern right at hand! If you're married, stick your ring finger under a magnifying glass and you 'll see those "seams" atop your own engagement ring.