Jan 24, 2014

thoughts from Tokyo and the very Great International Quilt Festival

And the winner is....

The quilt pictured above is the Grand Prix winner for the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival for 2014. The winners were announced at the opening ceremony for the show. Thousands of quilters waited patiently during the hour-long ceremony to hear the results. (I might add that for those of us who are language challenged and alone in this great city, this is a very long hour!)

This show - which is fondly called the Tokyo Dome show - is housed in the baseball stadium and all of us were sitting near third base to hear the ceremony... at least I think that's right. My mind kept imagineing the stadium filled with cheering baseball fans.

Seems appropriate to share a venue with baseball since both baseball and quilting are American imports to Japan.

After the speeches and ribbon cutting... the gates were opened!

The quilt below is the second place winner and it is called "Mysterious Letters." The colors on this one are wonderful! The base is earth tone with red, white and black accents. The design is bold and modern and it has a lot of movement and energy. As with the Grand Prix, the quilting of course, is amazing.

Here's a detail... you can see the tightly quilted lines. Also, the "letters" that the quilt references are very subtly shown with Japanese characters in gold thread... and there are several of these letters written on the quilt.

Back to the Grand Prix... below is a close up photo. It's really hard to convey the tiny, meticulous details of these quilts in photos on the web. This one is all hand quilted... and it is quite large... so the amount of time, talent and effort is extraordinary! The quilting lines are close, close, close and just incredible. Also, the embroidery, applique, are all excellent.

But, it is not the most original entry here at the Tokyo Dome show. Anyone who knows and studies the international quilt world will recognize this quilt as one that is made in the style of the amazing and talented Yoko Saito. I am proud to show one of my own quilts (also shown on my quilt gallery page), in the picture below, that is adapted from a pattern by Yoko Saito. I finished this quilt about two years ago.  You'll recognize the border on mine is similar to the winning Tokyo Dome quilt. Mine is also all hand applique and hand quilted... and has hand embroidery.

So, one can aspire to someday have the technical mastery to quilt like this Grand Prix winner has done! Mine is hanging on a wall in my house. I've attached it to a canvas to hang... maybe I should take it down and add more lines of quilting! Or maybe I'll just leave it and move on.

The exhibition of quilts here is huge. There are about a dozen categories of competition... including a section of junior quilts created by young kids, some are team efforts with a whole classroom. These are really cute and so cool to see this encouragement. There is another category featuring the work of 60 master quilt teachers... and also a category for original design quilts. Both the teacher quilts and the original design quilts are the most interesting parts of the whole show!

And then there is shopping, of course! Several hundred vendors are set up all around the outskirts of the exhibit selling mostly fabric, but also notions, machines and everything quilt related. Quilted bags and purse patterns are very big here.

Among the fabric offerings, there are several vendors selling indigos, also vintage kimonos and other traditional fabrics. There's also lots of modern Japanese fabrics. Quilt Party - Yoko Saito's store - is hugely popular, as is Quilt Wonderland, Keiko Goke's store. Keiko's fabrics are bright, funky and modern, but with a Japanese vibe.

The other big attraction here is American quilt fabrics and especially, vintage cottons, lace and antique quilts. There are several booths selling whole antique quilts and also baskets filled with scraps and remnants... and these are very popular among the Japanese quilters.

I don't normally show photos of me on my blog posts, but I thought this selfie was too unusual not to share.  Can you spot me?  There are soooo many people here... and the isles are soooo narrow... it is literally a sea of humanity with no room to spare. Patience is required to make it down one of these isles. So I snapped this quick selfie to try to show the crowds and how one lady from Texas kinda stands out. 

These are the thoughts so far from Tokyo. Funny... one of the things that concerned me in coming here was the cold. But while the weather here has been quite manageable, we're having an ice storm in Houston of all places! Crazy world.


  1. Your "Saito" quilt is gorgeous. We should caption yours the T.W. Saito quilt.

  2. You know, I've been admiring the work of Japanese quilters for several years now. Quilter's Newsletter publishes them from time to time and the level of craftsmanship and mastery are truly amazing. I've heard that the culture of quilting in Japan is very different from the American quilting culture -- that Japanese quilters have a much more formalized system of quilting education, for instance. I'd love to learn more about that -- and honestly, I've dreamed of someday attending the Tokyo quilt show, but I've never even been to the one in Houston yet. It was neat to go to Tokyo vicariously in this post today!

    1. Rebecca: I am writing a book about Japanese quilts and quilters and I will be covering some of these very topics. Stay tuned!!!