Sunday, July 29, 2012

Japanese Tsunami Quilt

Tsunami Quilt story: The centre panel shows Japan country side with the buildings of people, the cranes from nature, and the ocean waves; the braid border is the Tsunami; the fractured border is the devastation and destruction caused; the red is for bloodshed and the heart of the people; and the blue represents spirit and peace. These are my own symbols and seemed to fit my concept.
It's been a long time in the making, but my Tsunami Quilt is finished! I started it sometime around March last year, 2011, and it's taken me over a year to finish. I blogged about it's beginning here and started to explain the inspiration with these words:

"As I was driving down to Brisbane on my way to teach my Stained Glass Stack and Slash Workshop one weekend, I was listening to a report on the devastating Japanese Tsunami. It had just struck and I hadn't heard much or seen any media coverage as yet.

The thoughts of the dirty water rolling in and over cars, homes, mountains, land, animals and people created images in my mind that I had to express in fabric. Who knows where inspiration comes from, and when it's going to strike, you have to grab it when you can. I had a sudden inspiration to make a Tsunami Quilt using some beautiful Japanese fabric and French Braid borders. (Please be assured, this doesn't in any way diminish the terrible situation in Japan or the horrendous effects of the Tsunami on the Japanese people and countryside, including the unfolding nuclear disaster still in progress.)"

If you've been reading my sporadic blog for a while, you will know that I have had an ongoing and growing obsession with Japan. 
I don't really know when this began, but it was somewhere back before I could read and I loved some Japanese dolls of my grandparents. My Grandfather was an auctioneer for a big wool company in Sydney, and he had business dealings with Japanese buyers who consistently presented him with various Japanese artifacts. I used to love fantasising about owning the dolls and spent many hours leafing through the beautiful illustrated desk diaries. I now own the dolls, a very 60's ceramic coffee set, and only recently parted with the diaries during a downsize into our house.
I kept loving Japanese things, but life moves on and other opportunities and places presented themselves. It was only when my daughter developed an interest in things Japanese that my own interest was rekindled.
I think the devastating Tsunami last year gave me the shove to put Japan back on my agenda and I took Amelia for a one week holiday in Osaka and Kyoto… Thank you Jetstar! 
The quilt's conception - a great pattern and technique explained really clearly in a lovely book + an inspirational idea + fabric that needed to get off the shop shelves ;)
 I based the Tsunami Quilt on a quilt with a medallion in the centre and French Braid borders in Jane Hardy Miller's book, French Braid Obsession. Basically the seed of the idea was there, and I made it grow into my quilt. You can see more of Tsunami's early planning stages in the earlier post I linked to above, including more photos of it's growth.

The braids going on in the intended configuration.
 It became one of those problematic children projects that just don't want to do what you want, and don't seem to ever be going to grow up  work out well. I accidentally put the border braids on going in the wrong direction, so the end black pieces didn't form the arrow shapes I'd planned. I didn't realise until I had sewn heaps more on and decided I wasn't going to change it.
How I sewed them on… By the time I realized, I didn't want to have to unpick them with their bias edges and all…
Then came the dilemma about what size? When to stop? How could I make it bigger? did I actually want to? Did it need to be bigger? Needless to say, it kept going away to make room for other projects. Then I'd see it and all its attendant fabrics piled up on top of something I needed for some other quilt. So I'd take it out, look at it and do a little bit more. 
I put the blue framing borders on and built it up in a log cabin method with incomplete seams. (I always find it incredibly tricky working out the border measurements for these.)
Finally, I decided to finish it to show a group I was doing a French Braid workshop for.
I ended up, using all the left over pieces from the braid cuts to make a fractured border. Had to add the red border, because it needed more red. I could have left it there, but then I put it on the queen size bed and it half covered the pillows. I was toying with the idea of another mini braid on top and bottom…decided on the simple blue and gold strip. To me, it continues the Asian tradition and is reminiscent of Tibetan Tank Has, with their mandalas, borders and opulent metallic gilding.
The final borders are on - and I'd had enough.
 This quilt was always going to be profesionally commercially quilted. I wanted a Japanese style, swirling watery panto to blend the whole thing together, so I sent it to my friend Tricia, from Cut From the Same Cloth Quilting, and she didn't dissappoint. In fact I think I like the quilting better than the quilt!
Tsunami is bound and finished for Dolly to inspect. You can really see the beautiful quilting design in this light.
Here are a few photos of details of the quilt. I was trying to show a bit more of the quilting in closeup, but I think the pne of it on the bed shows it best.

I'm pretty thrilled with the completed quilt. I was going to "bind" it with prairie points in the red fabric, but really, I just wanted it finished. So I stayed up late last night and got it done, and I slept with it on my bed! I'm so glad I opted to make it larger.
The best thing is, this quilt reignited my Japan obsession; I've been to Japan now, with my lovely daughter; I've finished the quilt and have a couple more on the go; AND I'm going to Japan again at the end of September!
This time I'll be alone, and I need some fabric related travel advice …so anyone with ideas about places to go, things to see and do in Osaka/Kyoto area? Please feel free to suggest away. (Not going to Tokyo this time, so Nippori is for another trip.)
If you've got to the end of this long post - congratulations and thank you.
Here is a list of charities in aid of the tragic 2011 Japanese Tsunami and earthquake.
Till next time,


  1. Hello again Ann
    Woke up this morning and found my way to your blog.....and discovered this masterpiece !
    Well done and bet you feel proud of your creation...

    cheers from a chilly Sydney Ali Fergusson

    1. Good morning to you too Ali, and thank you for your kind words! Ann.


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