A Quilting We Will Go

waf new year 2015

Welcome to my www.wafuku.co.uk Wordpress blog

wafuku – noun: traditional Japanese clothing

Happy New Year.
A slightly belated Happy New Year for 2016, the year of the Monkey. I was born on a year of the monkey too. Oh my, that was such a long time ago. I put a little monkey amulet on my Wafuku New Year’s logo above.

A quilting we will go.
Some time ago I wrote a post or two here about wonderful fabrics I had bought, especially Christmas themed ones, but I hadn’t got around to making anything with them. During the 8 months up to the end of 2015 I used some of those fabrics to make 6 queen sized patchwork quilts, two double (full) sized ones and one single (twin) bed quilt, which my daughter and I made together when she was recovering from a collapsed lung. The Peanuts one was the first we’d ever made. My daughter swears it will be her last but I went on to make the others. I had no choice, I’d bought all those fabrics.

We searched for and bought many Peanuts (Charlie Brown & co) fabrics while she was in the early stages of recovery, then we made a quilt with them when she was well enough to share that task. Her recovery took 4 months and the quilt was made during the fourth one. She loves it.

I made a Dr Seuss queen size quilt, which I gave to my daughter, then another one, called Comfort Food, made from all those fabulous fruit and vegetable prints, another called Ghastlies, with cartoon prints, and a Christmas prints one, all queen sized, those three for myself. I then made queen sized Christmas print ones for each of my two sisters, which I gave them when I visited them in July. Next I made two double bed sized quitls, from which my brother got to choose one at Christmas. He could choose between another Comfort Food one I made (I knew he had liked the fruit and veg fabrics in the one I made myself) or one that I called Along The Garden Path, which was floral print patches in among a pebble print fabric. Each patch represented something about our mother’s garden and the wildflower field that my brother has been creating every time he visits her, which this year looked lovely.

I have now decided to combine two interests, Japanese textiles and making quilts, by using the many bolts and sampler books of Japanese cottons and silks that I have, to make more patchwork quilts. I have to justify that new sewing machine somehow. My next post will be about the Japanese textiles I plan to use for quilts while this one will show you the patchwork items I made in 2015.

Peanuts Quilt.
This is my daughter’s, the one we made together when she was recuperating from an operation. She wanted one to snuggle up in when on the couch watching television.



The white backing fabric is from a Peanuts duvet cover my daughter found.



Ghastlies Quilt.
I loved the style of the cartoons on this fabric. It reminded me of the style of the cartoonist Ronald Searle, who created the St Trinians stories and cartoons, books which I loved when I was a child.



I do love the Ghastlie family’s cat.


Those bearded hipsters get everywhere, even the Ghastlie family hasn’t escaped them.




The backing fabric has a sort of optical illusion. Of course that means it doesn’t photograph at all well. In reality it looks really good.



A Christmas Quilt for For Me.
I absolutely love these Christmas prints. Every time I see my Christmas quilt it makes me smile. Most of the Christmas fabrics were chosen because they remind me of Christmas wrapping paper. Some is very like paper that I remember from my childhood in the late 50s and the 60s, some reminds me of wrapping my daughter’s Santa gifts in cheap Christmas paper so they bore no resemblance to the more expensive paper I chose to wrap the gifts from me in. 



My daughter loved a book called Santa Mouse, when she was a child, and one of these fabrics was chosen because it reminded her of that book.



I really like the pine cones fabric below. It feels Christmassy to me but also very Japanese. I have an exquisite, cream, silk, Japanese kimono with magnificent pine cones textile art on it. That holly print is a fabric I bought simply because I felt I should get one with holly on it and should get more green prints. Once it arrived and I really looked at it, it became one of my very favourite patches on that quilt. I love it and wish I could find a bit more of it.





A Dr Seuss Quilt for my daughter.
I found a good selection of Dr Seuss prints available for a while. My daughter and I both remember Dr Seuss books from our childhoods. The one I remember best was The Sleep Book. I made this quilt and, because my daughter especially liked the subject of this one, I gave it to her. This one will fit her bed when the nights get coldest.



The backing is a wonderful African fabric that I found. It was a bit of a pain to prepare for use because the colour ran, so I had to wash it many, many times to get all the loose dye out, and it shrank in the process, so I had to add borders at the back to make it wide enough but I absolutely love those huge paint tubes on it.





Comfort Food #1.
When I found a fabric with large, red skinned potatoes on it I at first thought, “who on earth is that aimed at? Who would want a fabric with potatoes on it?”. It seemed a ridiculous choice of subject for a printed cotton. However, it turns out that the company producing it knew me better than I knew myself because that fabric remained in my mind until I grew to love the oddness of it and then to feel I had to have some, That led me to discover there were a good many very realistic food prints out there and I now had to have them all. From that was born Comfort Food, my costermonger’s dream of a quilt. Those fabric designers know exactly what they are doing, they know the world is full of people like me who can’t resist a bright, pretty and, more importantly, very odd fabric print.


The strips around the sides of the big squares are called sashing and I decided I wanted a woodgrain print sashing for this quilt, so that the fruit and vegetables looked as though they were in crates at a market. It took me a lot of time searching to track down any woodgrain prints and, of course, the very few I found were only available in the USA, so postage to the UK and import tax made even the fabric for this quilt’s sashing very, very expensive. It’s bad enough that the fabric for all the squares in my quilts comes from America or Japan, since that means costly shipping and import tax making it all fantastically expensive, but usually I can at least use plain fabric bought here in the UK for the sashing and posts (posts are those little squares at the corners of the sashing). All my quilts have been very costly to make because of having to import the patterned fabrics but this one was even costlier because of the woodgrain sashing. I do, however, think it was worth it. I love the wooden box effect. I now have two or three other woodgrain prints, also from America, and two basket weave prints, one sent here from Hawaii and one from Texas, and can’t wait to see how Comfort Food quilts look with those as sashing.



I can almost smell that basil in the next one.


Here are those red potatoes that suckered me in to buying the fabrics for this quilt in the first place. I really love those courgettes. I want to pick one up.


Check out these Brussels sprouts. Aren’t they just great?


Those blackberries look so juicy you feel your fingers would stain purple if you touched that print.


Everyone who sees this quilt has said, “Oh wow”. I can’t really take the credit for that, it is purely the incredible prints in it. I have still to quilt the squares in this one, I’ve only quilted along the seams so far. I stopped at that point because I wanted to get quilts done for my siblings and, as I was visiting my two sisters in July, needed to have their two made by then, followed by other patchworks in time for Christmas.



A Christmas Quilt For Each Of My Sisters.
I offered my elder sisters a quilt each and asked them which of the above themes they would like. They both chose Christmas. I showed them all the plain fabric colours I had and my eldest sister chose green and red for around her quilt’s squares and my other sister chose purple. I wasn’t sure that purple would look right on a Christmas quilt but it was what she wanted and I have to say I liked the end result. I can never capture purple well in a photo. This cotton was called Cadbury’s purple, so, if you know the chocolate wrapper and foil, you know the richness of this purple.

Here are those two Christmas quilts.







And for the other sister…


She is very much a dog lover.



She had a favourite fabric in it but then realised that her favourite kept changing; it would be one print one day, a different the next, then another, then maybe back to the first and so on, so she took to looking at it each night when she went to bed over the Christmas period and choosing her favourite for that night..


The vehicles transporting trees in the next photo remind me of people coming to buy Christmas trees from my father in the 1970s, who grew some in the field to supplement his income at Christmas. People would leave with a tree sticking out of their cars or tied to their car roofs.


Nativity illustrations take my sister back to her youth. Me too. I remember in primary school at Christmas we would get cards to colour in, usually with nativity images on them. I had forgotten about those until I came across nativity print fabrics.


I can’t resist a good bauble print. I remember we only got one or two new ones each year when I was a child in the 60s. They were expensive things then and made of very thin, fragile glass. We would unwrap them each year and discover which had survived its year in storage and which had broken. Occasionally, when hanging them on the tree, one would fall and there would be that high pitched Tsss as it smashed. I can still hear that sound clearly in my head and remember the sadness when it happened, especially if one of my favourite baubles.


I adore snow, the look of it and the sound of footsteps in fresh, deep snow. I love to build snowmen. How could I resist this fabulous snow scene, with caravans and Christmas lights? How could I resist a fabric with an Airstream on it too?


I like using completely contrasting backing fabrics sometimes, then you can flip the quilt over and have one that is totally different.



Cushions As Christmas Gifts
I made my two sisters matching cushions as Christmas gifts and two more for some friends.


Glitter fabric! I didn’t add the glitter, just a few of the fabrics came as glittered ones.


My ex had a vintage Morris Cowley pick up that looked incredibly like this one, it was even the same colour. My daughter really loved this fabric because it reminded her of that vehicle from her childhood.



The cushions have envelope backs and buttons, though not yet added when that photo below was taken.





Mmm. Smell the peppermint…


Glittering snow globes. I love the few glitter fabrics I found.


The style and colours of this design take me right back to being 6 years old again. It is possibly my most favourite.


Such stylish Santas.

I particularly like the style of this fabric, with its cut paper look and black background. Very striking, very retro.



This last pair were for friends of mine. Just the covers shown here but I did provide them with the inner cushions as well.


I do love a Christmas tree bauble print. Check out the transparent baubles in the next photo.


An envelope opening and button fastening works well. I will put the buttons a tad closer together in future cushion covers. I have fabric cut out to make a further 26, which I will put on for sale on Etsy from around next August



Finally, the two quilts I made for my brother to choose one from at Christmas.
These two are double (full) bed size. The first one is called Along The Garden Path. My brother comes to Scotland a few times a year to visit our now 94 year old mother. She lives in an ex-farmhouse, with a reasonably big garden and a 5 acre field. The field has a small wood in it because my parents grew pine trees to sell at Christmas, to supplement their income. My father died in 1973, after which the trees were left to their own devices and have grown absolutely enormous. Locals call it The Forest. There was also a section of the field that had been taken over by various self seeded trees and left unheeded for some years. My brother has been cutting down and logging that copse of self seeded trees over the past 6 years or so, to let more light back over to part of the garden and to provide logs for my mother’s two open fires.

The sloping top part of the field, the bit most visible from my mother’s house, was a solid mass of very tall fire weed (also called rosebay willow herb) that had long since taken it over. In autumn the air used to be full of its floating, fluffy, white seeds. At first the patches of tall purple-pink flowers were pretty but once the entire top section of field was solid fire weed, we grew to hate it. For a few years my brother spent every visit simply weeding it out, over and over, until he got on top of it. He then scattered seeds but he made the mistake of including couch grass and other strong, invasive grasses that wild flowers could not compete with, so he then spent two more years digging out the grass and trying to halt its progress. He has got rid of most of it, though not yet quite all, but now the wildflowers are starting to thrive. The addition of lots of yellow-rattle seed may help deal with left over grasses, as it attacks grass roots and provides a rather nice yellow flower. We had lots and lots of yellow and white daisies all over that area of field this year and, among them, various other flowers including red poppies. I bought and scattered millions of poppy seeds out there last summer and autumn plus a very good quantity of other things, so I am really keen to see how it looks this coming summer. Luckily I live next door to my mother, in an ex-farm cottage, so I get to see the field every day. I do her gardening now that she is too old to manage it. She does plant the odd bulb and deadhead things now and then but the garden is pretty much left to me now.

Along The Garden Path is a quilt with fabrics that represent my mother’s garden and field and work my brother has done here and in his own allotment at home in England.

Although it is full of mementos which are meaningful, I knew he had liked my Comfort food quilt and thought he might prefer one of those, so I made two quilts and let him choose.

Along The Garden Path Quilt.
My mother insisted on adding fresh gravel to her path every few years for decades. She seemed oblivious of the fact that it raised the path’s level each time. I only managed to persuade her to stop doing it when I was able to point out that her porch used to have two granite steps up to it and it now only had one, the bottom one having been swallowed up by the many, many tons of gravel she had added over the years. Swallowed too were all the edging stones around the front garden and lawns.


My mother’s long dining room table has been a real boon when it comes to sandwiching the top, the batting (wadding) and the backing together on each quilt. I have nothing so useful for that task in my house. I hate doing the layering.



My mother has a lawn that is completely covered in crocus in spring, then replaced by daffodils. It looks incredible, especially when it is the solid mass of crocus, so one fabric square is all crocus and one is all daffodils, both representing that lawn, Another square has the lilies she and I keep adding to her garden each year because they flower for ages and add a much needed boost of bright colour here and there. Another square represents the hundreds of tulip bulbs I was given by the head gardener of a park in Glasgow in 2015 when they took them out the park’s gardens and were just going to mulch them. There’s also a square there with frogs because frogs spawn in the garden’s little pond every year.


There is a lilac bush, like the one below, and lots of squirrels here. I feed the squirrels and 4 now come to me when I call, knowing I will toss them quality nuts in shells.


Her garden has many huge poppies and we have planted dozens and dozens of clematis over the years, They climb up every wall and over fences.

The top patch in the next photo represents the copse of trees that my brother logged for my mother. It may seem a shame to cut down a nice mix of trees but they darkened the garden and there is no shortage of all sorts of trees here, over and above ‘The Forest’. The entire house and garden is edged with huge trees. These trees had taken over a section of the field because my father was no longer around to keep them away the way he did when he tended the field to grow strawberries in it, as well as the Christmas trees. The logs the trees provided, however, have been really useful to my mother.


The next photo shows the quilt top before it was layered and bound.



Comfort Food Quilt #2.
This one has a few fruit and vegetable fabrics that are not in my Comfort Food quilt and the sashes are plain brown with woodgrain posts, whereas mine is vice versa.





The quilt my brother chose from those last two was Along The Garden Path. He liked the associations in the prints and how it will always remind him of our mother’s place.

My brother in my mother’s field in July 2015.
It should look much nicer next year, there should be more flowers and more variety of them but 2015 was its first year of proper flowering and it looked fantastic for months. The photos don’t do it justice.




Next year there should be the addition of hundreds of foxgloves. There has been a lot of foxgloves for some years, ones that have self sown themselves over the decades, and one particularly large clump of them too but this year there were hundreds of new little ones all over the place. so if even a quarter of those come up and flower this year it will be spectacular. My one regret with the Along The Garden Path quilt was that I could not find a fabric with foxgloves on it.



In my next blog post I will show you the Japanese, vintage textiles that I have decided to use for making quilts. Very traditional Japanese prints, weaves and colours. I will go for a rustic look to those quilts, I think. They are still at the planning stage but I’m quite excited about doing some Japanese ones. I also have some appliquéd quilts in mind and a couple of those will be Japanese themed but lots of others to do before I get to those ones.


You can also check out my www.wafuku.co.uk website, providing vintage & antique Japanese kimonos & collectables.



One of my kimonos being modelled by the singer Rita Ora



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