kimono quilt story
Quilts are both practical and beautiful. They have stories and rich pasts woven in to the very fibre of their beings. I love quilts. I love real quilts that are made from fabric used and loved and worn in another life; fabric that is sorted, unpicked, washed, hung out, ironed, displayed in a palette, cut so that every possible piece is used to its maximum benefit with almost no waste, laid out in an artwork, sewn together, quilted with pure wool batting, bound with pure, soft silk. All the while I gaze with wonder and appreciation at each piece, its weave, its colours, patterns, texture, tactile quality, its incredible unique beauty. I honestly can't think of anything more lovely to do!
I was introduced to silk by my great and incredibly inspiring Eurythmy teacher, Kristin Ramsden, who had grown up in Japan. She came in to my life when I was 17 and sensitive, 'adopted' me when I was pretty alone and in need, and changed my whole world. Suddenly I was amidst style, worldliness, quality, talk of foreign lands and people, and gourmet food. Eurythmy became my favourite subject. Kristin also taught me about sewing, and she brought silk into my life.
Silk became my favourite fabric! I wore it to do Eurythmy, I sewed creations to wear, I scoured op-shops for every article made from silk and I felt a deep sense of richness and beauty every time I was in contact with it. Knowing now that in most cases its production requires the death of each caterpillar who has spun and woven these strands of silken thread to cocoon its profound life transformation, I choose to buy only recycled silk. My love of the fabric is now coupled with the sense that every piece is an offering from these vulnerable creatures. This makes it sacred.
Earlier than my meeting with silk, I had grown up around Sturt Craft Centre in Mittagong, Australia, and watched with wide eyes the creation of incredibly beautiful weaving, screen printing, painting, pottery and jewellery-making. I later fell in love with 'Mingei' indigo Japanese clothing and it was with scraps bought from this cloth that I made my first explorations in to making 'patchwork'.
Why Japanese kimono fabric?
Japanese kimono fabrics have bewitched me. Their mystery and beauty, their richness and diversity are compelling and complex. Two years ago I found a supplier nearby to where I live and after many months of gazing, I decided on taking the plunge, buying some used kimonos, and I began. As I took the kimonos apart, piece by piece, and examined how they had been created and hand stitched, a new world was opened to me. I started unpicking, separating the silk or cotton linings, and the beauty started weaving a magic into me. I wanted to honour each piece and turn it in to something that would be loved and cherished again. So I sewed my most wonderful new husband a quilt for his birthday adding edges from a roll of gold and cream Japanese wedding silk. It lies on our bed and wraps its wonder around us every night.
Now I had started, I realised I had found something else that I really really really love to do! I made one for each of my 3 children. Having found their new lives and partners as young adults, it was the best thing I could think of to send with them, as a blessing from me for their futures. They picked their favourite from a growing collection (I was sewing in every spare minute at home in between teaching Eurythmy and had stock-piled about ten by this stage) and now they all have something warm, practical and beautiful from me that will last their lifetimes.
My kimonoquilt creations
Each is an artwork, unique and never-to-be-repeated. I sometimes labour for days and days over a particular laying out. Other times it flows and unfolds in mere hours and the result needs hardly a tweak. Once I picked up every piece and started afresh; sometimes it needs 'something' and I'll add an unexpected burst of colour somewhere.
Such is the nature of art and the artist ~ I love the creative journey, its twists and turns, its beginnings and endings! I love the breath of the spirit blowing through me. I generally feel compelled to make quilts that are 'queen' sized but am happy to receive commissions for other sizes, including baby ones. Let me know!
It is important to remember that the silk in some of the quilts is very delicate. Being antique kimonos, the softest silks are often very fine and fragile and this must be kept in mind when buying one. For example, they are not going to last well if used to sit on. Little rips might appear in this case and the quilt would need to be repaired with a fine needle and thread. Some quilts are more robust than others.
Who inspires me?
My greatest inspiration is the Australian Aboriginal artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye.
She has been my favourite artist ever since I set eyes on her work as a young mother. The colour, line, boldness, depth, meaning, and incredible radiant beauty of her work have been my great shining ideal and I think about her every time I make a quilt. She is my spirit guide. Having Aboriginal ancestry myself makes the connection stronger. Having had the fortune of spending a week in a friends' home with 2 huge Emily's to gaze at for hours helped me to see the depth and perfection of her art. To Emily I extend my deepest heart's gratitude.