Jun 11, 2019

quilted 'Pop Art' by a Japanese-born artist

Ai Kijima. "A Groovy Valentine. " 2006. 
In this quiet, classic Brooklyn street filled with hundred-year old Brownstones, lives an artist whose work is super modern, colorful, unconventional and very alluring.

Ai Kijima was born in Tokyo and came to the U.S. during her high school years as an exchange student. In fact, she credits one of her high school teachers, at a small town in Wisconsin, for pushing her toward a life in art.

That one push from a teacher has set her on a fine art career where she has had numerous museum exhibitions and solo shows. She also has art gallery representation to help sell her work. Private collectors and public museums own her work as well.

Recently, I was commissioned to write an article for Art Quilt Quarterly on the collection of studio art quilts at the Racine Art Museum, in Racine, Wisconsin. During my research and interview with the curator, I was introduced to Ai's work. I was immediately captivated and reached out to her to learn more. My husband and I travel frequently to New York to visit our daughter and Ai invited me to her Brooklyn studio for a visit!

While Ai has built an excellent following in the fine art world, she is not as well known in the quilt world.

Her incredibly innovative art is definitely rooted in quilting techniques. Ai uses all types of commercial novelty fabric and she cuts it up, fuses it to a base, adds batting (sometimes) and quilts the layers on a small, older-model Bernina sewing machine.

Her fabrics come from bed sheets, children's sleeping bags, pillow cases, shower curtains, toys, whatever she can find that looks interesting and has the colorful printed images she is seeking. There are sweet children's cartoon characters next to sexy illustrated women and Japanese anime and manga characters.

Ai takes these printed characters, toys and graphics and cuts them out. Each is carefully fused  on to a base to form a compelling and stunning original collage. She creates artful line and order out of seeming chaos. Her collages pull the eye in and keep it moving from one unexpected image to the next. In some cases, hundreds of images fill her canvas, each meticulously placed.

Her Pop Art series is by far the most innovative of her work. She conjures ideas from the 1960's pop art movement, including imagery that is ghostly reminiscent of the infamous 'POW' cartoon fist in her work, sometimes with a literal fist and sometimes with no fist at all. 

Ai Kijima. "Odyssey." 2012.
Artist Ai Kijima talks about one of her art quilts with author and researcher Teresa Duryea Wong.
Ai Kijima - detail.

This amazing wall hanging is made with textiles from Turkey that Ai has collected over the years. It is a beautiful juxtaposition of hard and soft angles, crazy prints, and unusual shapes for an eye-popping result.

In the photo above, Ai is explaining one of her first attempts at this type fused and stitched collage. Her color palette in this first one is a bit softer, the imagery is sweet. Over time her style has morphed to bolder and stronger colors.

Author and Researcher Teresa Duryea Wong and Artist Ai Kijima. Brooklyn, June, 2019.

It was such a thrill to meet Ai and see her work in person. I was inspired by her innovative techniques and her fearlessness in expressing such bold work --- and and I love that she is doing all this in the quilted form.

I hope that somehow I can help bring her work to more people in the quilt community, so stay tuned for more on that. In the meantime, the Art Quilt Quarterly article on the Racine Art Museum (which owns one of Ai's pieces) will be published this fall.

You can see more of Ai Kijima's work on her website.

She is also on Instagram @aikijima

Jun 1, 2019

a quilt made by my great-grandmother

I never really knew my great-grandmother. She died when I was still young. I hear stories that she was quite fierce. I do know that she was poor and faced a lot of tough times, especially as a young wife and mother in the 1920s. Later in life she made a few quilts as a hobby, and I have two of them in my collection.

Here is a photo of my great-grandmother Pearl. This was most likely taken on her wedding day, or around that time. I have seen photos of her much later in life, but I love this one where she looks so young and her demeanor is so determined.

Quilting was not her thing. By today's standards, her stitches are a bit wonky, even messy. She would have made these probably in the late 1950s, and in her day, quilting was probably seen as work. Even with these wonky stitches, I still love this quilt. It makes me feel closer to a woman I never knew... closer to those women who came before me and endured so much. Their quilts are something to remember them by, to know they once lived, loved, laughed and cried. And made quilts. 

May 23, 2019

my chat with Pat Sloan on her podcast

For years, I have listened to podcasts while I quilt. I love all kinds of quirky topics and especially love a bunch of the NPR podcasts, also history topics and of course sewing and quilting.

One of the best quilting ones is Pat Sloan's All People Quilt podcast. I enjoy hearing all the stories of quilters and have truly been listing for many many years....

And now, she invited me on as a guest! Wow. Such an honor and it was so fun to talk with her. Pat is as easy going and welcoming as you might guess she is from looking at her warm smiling photos.

We chatted about the content in all 3 of my books.... and Japanese quilts and cotton and American cotton farms and textiles and more quilts... it was just the best.

The podcast is now available through iTunes for download, or you can listen on your phone or computer at either of the following links.

Episode 421




May 13, 2019

finished! "Cheddar, Charcoal and Cherry" - based on 1880s quilt

Teresa Duryea Wong. "Cheddar, Charcoal & Cherry." Cotton: 2019. Pieced and Applique. Machine quilted.
Based on a quilt originally made in 1890s (maker unknown) from the collection of Joanna S. Rose.
I finally finished this quilt! It is pieced and applique. All machine quilted... in fact almost every inch of this is covered in dense machine quilting.

I'm so happy with the way it turned out. There are some flaws... but aren't there always. The joy is in the making.

I was inspired to make this quilt after seeing the quilt below... originally made sometime around 1880-1900. It was part of an exhibition of cheddar quilts at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. The original is part of the collection of Joanna S. Rose.

Maker Unknown. Made circa 1880-1900. Part of the exhibition "Cheddar Quilts" at the International
Quilt Study Center & Museum. From the collection of Joanna S. Rose.
The pattern is identified as a Rising Sun or Circle Saw. The original was probably made in the Southern U.S. More about the exhibition here.

Apr 7, 2019

the search for Aunt Polly's quilt

Somewhere along the way, I began collecting antique quilts. A large portion of my collection has been given to me by my Aunt Polly. When I was at her home late last year, in Lincoln, Nebraska, we had an old fashioned 'bed turning.'

Ever heard of a 'bed turning'? That's where all the quilts are stacked on the bed and you turn them over one at a time to see each one.

When I first saw this antique quilt, I had a strong feeling it was made from a quilt kit.

So I started searching. I wanted to know how it was made, whether it was a pattern, or a kit, or something original. I was pretty sure it was a kit though... and I assumed that because it was so beautifully made. There is nothing wrong with quilts made from kits. Kits are in fact an excellent way to ensure that you will have a professional design and make a lovely quilt, and isn't that what its all about?

Especially in the first half of the 20th century, women did not have a lot of time to search for all the fabrics required, tools were scarce, and there were lots of demands on a maker's time and energy. So to be able to afford a professional quilt kit, and then to actually make it, was quite something.

This quilt design features two central wreaths. The applique flowers and vines are all solid colors, and the center wreath is made with two tones of blue fabric appliqued to look like ribbon. It is hand quilted, of course.

So finally, after about five months of pondering, I finally found the source! Thanks to a new book by Rose Marie Werner titled "Quilt Kits: 20th Century Short Cuts."

There it is, on page 104... My Aunt Polly's exact quilt! The author explains that this quilt was sold as a kit starting in 1934 by the Merribee Art Embroidery Company. This company was founded in New York and it is not known what happened to the company after 1952. They encouraged women to make their products and then sell them to earn extra income.

The fabric in the Merribee kit's were pre-stamped with lines on where to cut and shape the applique, and in all likelihood the whole cloth foundation would also have been stamped for accurate placement of the applique, and the quilting stitch design would be marked as well.

Based on this information, my Aunt Polly's version was most likely made sometime between 1934 and 1952.

I am so happy that I was able to find this information and learn more about this special quilt. Knowing more about its history makes all the more valuable, and more importantly, treasured.

Special thanks to my photographer husband who had the patience to take photos of the bed turning!

Apr 4, 2019

want to take a tour to Japan?

People ask me all the time if I lead tours to Japan. I do not... I love Japan and definitely know my way around, but I don't have the time or resources to host a tour.

I was recently approached by Japan Deluxe Tours about their Tokyo Quilt Festival Tour.  It looks like a good option for folks who want to attend the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival in January 2020. Japan Deluxe Tours is offering a $50 discount code for quilters via my website. Use coupon code TFQ50QF.


While I have not gone on this tour, I have used the Japan Deluxe Tours website many, many times for information. They have excellent information about places to go and how to get there, etc.

I encourage everyone to visit this lovely country. Its is so easy to get around. The Tokyo Dome Show is a wonderful must see. The food in Japan is fantastic. Crime is almost non-existent. And best of all, the people are polite and friendly. Go!

email: info@japandeluxetours.com

Please note: I am sharing this as a courtesy. I am not affiliated with Japan Deluxe Tours and was not compensated for this post.

There is more information about traveling in Japan on my Japan INFO page - click here.

Mar 26, 2019

Heaps of King Cotton in Quilt Batting

Heaps of King Cotton in Quilt Batting 

An Excerpt from American Cotton: Farm to Quilt 

By Teresa Duryea Wong

Quilts have been examined, copied, shared, preserved, destroyed, written about and researched for 200 years. Yet, there’s very little curiosity about the material between the two layers of fabric that make a quilt a quilt. Like a classic peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, the layers of bread are important, but it’s the stuff inside that makes it yummy.

Quilt batting, or what used to be called wadding, is the soft, solid, yummy layer inside a quilt sandwich. The batting is what makes a quilt warm and gives it its drape, and today a quilter can find a batting in almost every make, shape, and material, whether thick or thin, to meet her needs. Besides cotton, other common quilt batting materials are wool, polyester, cotton blends and bamboo.
The process to make cotton batting is strangely very hi-tech, but also strikingly similar to the way it has been made for a century. I was fortunate to visit the manufacturing facility owned by The Warm Company in Elma, Washington in 2018, and it was fascinating to learn how the cotton travels through giant automated machines and comes out the other end as a smooth, finished product, ready for the billions of quilt stitches that will eventually pierce it.

Heaps of American cotton are purchased each year and turned into cotton batting for quilts, as well as industrial batting for furniture and bedding. The Warm Company alone, whose primary business is quilting, purchases four million pounds of fresh, American cotton annually. To put that in perspective, it takes roughly 14,000 acres of West Texas farmland to produce four million pounds of cotton. That means the Warm Company buys enough cotton to cover the entire crop of at least four farmers, and they are spending approximately $3.2 million annually on those purchases.

The Warm Company has strict requirements for fiber length, thickness, strength, and color, and only the cleanest cotton is chosen. The raw cotton, which has been ginned to remove leaves, sticks, seeds, etc., travels to the Warm facilities where it is cleaned again, twice in fact. This super-fine cleaning process separates even more leaf or stick fragments from the fiber. It is natural for very tiny specs of leaf or stick to remain, even after all this rigorous cleaning. Those tiny specs are called pepper. The pepper look is what you will see in the batting named Warm & Natural. This product is so popular with quilters that many consider it essential to quiltmaking. Warm & Natural batting is not bleached, and as the name suggests, the batting has a natural-looking creamy, off-white color.

A second type of batting is made with purified cotton, and this is the cotton used to make Warm & White batting. With purified cotton, the individual fibers are scoured to remove natural oils and discoloration. The treatment involves a gentle bath of hydrogen-peroxide. This process leaves the fibers so clean and white that the fibers actually become coarse, so a lubricant is added to the cotton, not unlike when human hair is bleached and needs a conditioner to make it soft again. The Warm & White batting is preferred by many quilters who seek that clean, pure snowy-white color.

After cleaning, the cotton begins its long journey through the conveyor-belt maze of automation that turns fibers into batting. The cotton fibers are formed into layers, and the layers are laid on top of each other. Eventually a scrim is added to the layers of cotton fiber. A scrim looks a lot like a common dryer sheet, only it is significantly lighter and thinner. The fibers and scrim are needle-punched millions of times, in a matter of seconds, by very long needles. As the needles move up and down through the fibers, they force the cotton down through the scrim and back up again until the fibers and scrim essentially become completely intertwined. Thanks to the scrim, the batting holds together and at the Warm Company, no glue is added. Stitches in most modern batting can be up to 10 inches apart without worrying about the batting moving or bunching up.

American Cotton: Farm to Quilt by Teresa Duryea Wong, shares the story of the American cotton farmer, America’s textile industry and their connection to quilting. 

Available online at https://TeresaDuryeaWong.com

Mar 20, 2019

1930s quilt - modern and complicated even by today's standards

I am so excited to share this post. This is a quilt I recently purchased to add to my antique quilt collection. The date is circa 1930 - and it is hand quilted of course. This beauty was one of those extraordinary quilts that you see and just have to have. After I clicked the buy button on eBay... I started looking into this pattern and its history. Keep reading...!

Turns out, this quilt is titled Giant Dahlia and is based on a pattern by a man! Hubert Ver Mehren and his wife owned a small company called Home Arts Studios.

This quilt is almost certainly a kit and the fabric pieces were most likely pre-stamped with the cutting instructions.

Hubert Ver Mehren released his Giant Dahlia pattern in 1933, and this one - like several other well known patterns of his - was complex and unusual for quiltmaking. According to Susan Price Miller, who wrote a paper for Uncoverings (American Quilt Study Group) in 2000, the Home Arts Studios promotional material stated the Giant Dahlia is "a modern design for the woman of today who wants to create a quilt that is new and different and will go down in quilt history as one of the new designs for 1933."

The pattern was widely copied and Needlecraft Magazine published it again in 1935. Later, a 1983 book copied the design and gave new life to this old pattern. It is also believed that the Dahlia is copied by overseas makers who have exported inexpensive copies of the quilt to the U.S. So I am not an expert in dating textiles therefore I can't be 100% sure my quilt was actually handmade in the 1930s. I can only go by what the seller told me - that my quilt is a 1930s quilt. I hope so... although it could be a later copy. Either way, I do love it.

Hubert was not a quilter but he had an incredible eye and a special talent for transferring his ideas to textile patterns. He drafted his patterns without knowledge - or the constriction - of knowing how to piece quilts. As a result, his patterns are considered some of the most complex and dramatic pieced designs of the day. And they still continue to astonish today!

In my new book, "American Cotton: Farm to Quilt" another quilt by Home Arts Studio is featured - one title the Bridal Bouquet. Another reason I love this quilt and this era is because from around 1900 till around 1980, American textile mills dominated the global industry, so there is a high chance that most of the quilts made here during this time period were constructed with American-grown cotton and manufactured in America. You can read much more about all this in my new book. Check it out here. 

The border alone is amazing!

Below is the original Home Arts Studio pattern for the Giant Dahlia. And if you want to read more on Hubert Ver Mehren and his company, here is a link to the article by Susan Price Miller. It is available on The Quilt Index to read for free.

Mar 18, 2019

first time to pay a longarm quilter

For the first time, I sent a quilt off to a professional longarmer!

I'm so thrilled. I don't even know why I made this quilt... these fabrics are everywhere, and not my usual palette. But I just decided it was time I made something with the beautiful Japanese chrysanthemum from Philip Jacobs - part of the Kaffe collective.

Once I started making blocks, I just couldn't stop. Before I knew it, the thing was a queen size! I have only made one other quilt that large and it was ages ago. Didn't have the enthusiasm to push this thing under my domestic machine and quilt it.

Longarmer to the rescue!

It was quilted by Rose Jeter who lives out near Boerne, Texas. Rose did a beautiful job and her stitches and design are just perfect. I met Rose when I gave a lecture to the quilt guild there and she showed some of her stunning quilt work during the show and tell. Later I asked her if she'd quilt this for me and she agreed.

This is the messy guest room... those boxes on the left are filled with my books!

Even though its a bit messy, the room looks very cheery now with this bright, new quilt.

Nice geometric design fits perfectly with these blocks.

Mar 6, 2019

Texas Quilt Museum news release: Everyone invited to lecture and book launch March 9!


Noted quilt historian, author, and Bybee Scholar Teresa Duryea Wong will present a lecture based on her new book, American Cotton: Farm to Quilt. The event will take place on Saturday, March 9, at 3 pm, with Museum admission free beginning at 2 pm.

The book features more than 80 antique and contemporary quilts, and shares the important story of the American cotton farmers and the cotton that they grow and sell.

“Quilters are incredibly passionate consumers of 100% cotton fabric, and cotton batting is a critical element of quiltmaking. But rarely do we stop to think about where all that comes from and how and where it’s made,” Wong says. “On the highway, we whiz past farms on our way to somewhere more important. I wanted to slow down and find out more about American cotton farmers, and then connect their story to quilting cotton.”

American Cotton: Farm to Quilt also explores the efforts of those who want to revive and kickstart the direction of cotton farming and related businesses in the U.S.

“These days, lots of people are interested in the American economy and what is and is not made in America,” Wong adds. “We happen to live at a very interesting time where a few courageous companies and individuals are bringing back American made quilting cotton and commercial quilts and other products constructed from cotton that is both grown and manufactured here. I met these people to find out what drives them and how and where their products are made.”

Wong will sign books after the lecture, and copies will be available for purchase in the all-new Museum gift store.

Join us for a free lecture and admission on
Saturday, March 9!

Mar 3, 2019

vintage Japanese fabrics make a 'thank you' quilt special

I made this quilt as a thank you gift for someone who graciously offered to help me with a project. Can't say too much yet... till I send off this gift. I love making quilts to give away... it makes me happy. This one, I kind of fell in love with... so it will be hard to send away. But I guess that makes it an even better gift

The fabric is vintage Japanese yukata (cotton kimono cloth) and traditional Japanese prints. I collected the vintage fabrics on my many trips to Japan.

Tom the dog wondering what all the full is about.

Part of the back. And the next photo shows the whole back. I pieced in one long strip of the vintage yukata. Cotton yukata is most often made in 14 inch strips. I pieced this with the selvedge on top so you could see the original finished edges of the cloth.

The last photo is a close up of the front. I did not have a plan when I started making this... I just pulled fabrics out of my stash and I knew I wanted big blocks to preserve the fabric design. I also wanted something masculine, so I kept the color pallette to only indigo and white. The quilting is simple straight lines.

I hope the receipient loves this as much as I do!

Feb 27, 2019

schlepping books - part of the writer's job description

When I set out to write books, I imagined this magical life where I would travel to cool places and meet interesting people. I would read great books and dig through library archives. I would research articles and interview experts. It would all be so literary!

Nowhere in this picture did I imagine schlepping books to the post office! But here I am... packing boxes, stuffing mailers, labeling, buying postage, distributing... all with the help of my husband, thankfully!

This part of the business can take hours out of the day... but even though I never imagined doing this, and the books are heavy and hard to transport, its actually very cool because I have the opportunity to send each one off with the hopes someone may enjoy reading it or looking at all the beautiful quilts.

I'm pictured here mailing the books that were pre-ordered for my newest title "American Cotton: Farm to Quilt." I also sold out of my supply of books at QuiltCon in Nashville, so I am shipping books to the fabulous quilters who wanted a copy of "Cotton & Indigo from Japan."

So, I now have this advice to keep in mind, or share with would-be writers: Schlepping is part of the job description of a writer!

Feb 26, 2019

unpacking from QuiltCon 2019

Just returned from five days in Nashville, Tennessee for QuiltCon 2019. My head is still spinning... and I have so many things to do, people to follow up with, new ideas, and stuff I want to make that I just can't focus on what to do next. 

I gave two lectures and it was such a thrill. My lecture on "Cotton & Indigo from Japan" had a great crowd! Thanks to everyone who got up early for this 9 am spot. 

As usual, I traveled with my quilt buddy, Amy G. And we both managed to traipse through the isles and buy a few goodies... mostly on Sunday. There were fewer people in the hall that day, possibly because of all the flooding in the region the day before. I felt sorry for the vendors, but it was a great day to look at all the booths without the crowds. 

I also gave a lecture on my NEW BOOK "American Cotton: Farm to Quilt" and I spent some time in the American Made Brand booth signing books and talking to quilters.

The lovely Marianne Fons stopped by and it was so nice to visit with her in person. We've talked on the phone before when I interviewed her. Pictured here is me, and (center) Candice Hoffman, Creative Director of American Made Brand (and co-owner of Clothworks) and Marianne Fons on the right. Marianne has made major contributions to the quilt world - she is one of the founders of Fons & Porter and other companies as well, and she is also one of the founders of Quilts of Valor.

And best of all, I got to see all the quilts on view. Below are a few of my favorites.

These two are by Carson Converse - beautiful minimalist quilts. My camera phone and the odd lighting of the convention center do not do them justice. Carson had 4 quilts in the show, two of them were awarded First and Second place in the Minimalist category. Well deserved. Her quilts are quiet and powerful... true minimalist objects that draw the eye in and keep it there, soaking up every detail.

This one below is extra large. Made by Laura Preston. Love the graphic lines and clean color.

Malka Dubrawsky (from Austin, Texas) made this beautiful triangle quilt. I met Malka at Houston International Quilt Festival last year. She is also a fabulous fabric designer.

This bold, stunning quilt below was made by Christine Ricks. I think the color and pattern are very striking and its so timeless. Christine is part of the brain-trust behind the new "Curated Quilts" magazine. Check it out here: curatedquilts.com

This one is called Pathways and it was made by Tanya Munro, from Russia. I kept coming back to this quilt... so intriguing.