Kon'nichiwa, my dear. Today we are traveling to Japan!
By https-//www.flickr.com/photos/reggiepen/, via Wikimedia Commons
Each month in the online guild, Meander, we explore a different quilt-making style. We kicked things off first by traveling to Hawaii and learning all about Hawaiian Appliqué, and this month, we traveled to Japan and learned all about Yosegire! This is an improvisational technique that is fun, a great way to use up scraps, and really stretches your creativity.
I wanted to share with you a bit about what we discovered and explored!
Japanese makers have been making quilts and patchwork for centuries and developed many unique styles, one of which was called Yosegire. Yosegire was a means of piecing together scraps of cloth to make clothing, screens, and other household items. Yosegire means “to collect” or “to gather” and stemmed from the need to extend the life of fabric which was at the time very scarce.
Japanese patchwork had religious significance. In Shinto, the predominant religion, all things, both animate and inanimate, were imbued with the spirit-- this, of course, included fabric. In ancient Japan, fabric was so revered and valuable that it was often used as currency.
In the seventeenth century, Japanese citizens were banned from wearing “luxury fabrics”, a law they skirted around by wearing plain, dull clothing on top of their fancier yosegire patchwork clothing.
At the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876, Americans were introduced to, among other things, Japanese art and craft. In the exhibit was a Japanese screen made of over 600 pieces of silk and brocade, pieced together in this Yosegire style. This screen along with other art work in a similar style, were all a big hit, and it is thought that they inspired the Crazy Quilt craze that swept over the world and which later evolved into modern day improv quilt-making.
Crazy quilt by Granny Irwin, Museum of Appalachia, Norris, Tennessee
Practice “letting go”
There are so, so many options for trying out Yosegire or improv quilting, here are some of my explorations.
Playing with Curves:
The photo below is a really fun way to use your improv piece, particularly if you're not crazy with the overall composition of the improv piece by itself. I placed another piece of fabric (the navy one) on top of the improv panel, then cut away a design (here I did branches), revealing just bits of the improv piece peaking through! (This cutting away of the top layer method is called reverse applique.) I want to explore many more variations of this!
Improvisational piecing is one of the most effective ways for quilters to grow their creativity. It is freeing, flexible, and will pull you out of your comfort zone. It will increase your piecing skills while helping you practice “letting go”. Let your project evolve at its own pace. Have fun, my dear-- now go play!
If exploring a new quilt-making style each month sounds interesting to you, I'd love for you to join us in Meander. Learn more, here.