Japanese Quilting Piece by Piece is an enchanting book of quilt artist Yoko Saito's patchwork designs for bags, pouches, cushions and more. It explores traditional patchwork techniques of log cabin, hexagons, baskets and stars and the exquisite projects in this book all look like love-worn heirlooms passed down through generations. There's a wealth of information and techniques to try but the outstanding project for me was the cover design log cabin bag – I had to make one!
Saito's colour palette is muted – Japanese neutrals that draw you in and invite you to examine nuances of colour and texture. She suggests using the wrong side of a piece of material to tone down the strength of colour or pattern. I struggled with this part. I decided to use a selection of offcuts of some Japanese printed cottons. I love the prints and textures of these fabrics and intended to use them on their reverse side but couldn't quite bring myself to embrace taupe, so instead turned them mainly to their right sides, with a few slices of reversed pieces and some tiny squares of jewel-bright 1960s cotton. However, the beauty of this book is that it encourages you to experiment with each project, to improvise and make the bag your own, so artistic licence with the colour palette excused...
This was my first piece of improv quilting and I found making the bag a slow and meditative process. First I cut out 200 rectangles to assemble the patchwork blocks needed, then spent blissful hours sewing the shapes together. The process for making the rest of the bag was familiar as I've made many quilted, padded gig bags before but assembling and constructing my fabric in this way was new to me and something I want to do more of.
My finished bag lacks the precision and refinement of Saito's own, but I absolutely love what I've produced. The bag is small but sturdy, incredibly tactile and seems to have a spirit and character of its own.