By Jerri Stroud
When my niece, Molly, and I started talking about a wedding quilt for her and her fiance, Adam, she said they wanted something Asian. She and Adam love Japanese prints, and her mother, my sister Penny, has a Japanese studies degree. Molly also wanted something to hang on the wall, not a bed covering.
As with her sister’s quilt, this request took me to a new place.
I have always loved Japanese art, too, and the Asian fabric prints available at many quilt shops often caught my eye. I have some lovely Asian fabrics in my fabric collection, and I’ve made some garments using them. But I seldom really thought about making them into quilts. For one thing, many of them are so beautiful, I hesitate to cut them up!
I began searching the web for sources of Asian fabrics and sharing links with Molly. She also sent me some examples of things she liked. When her family was in town for Christmas, we went to The Quilted Fox in Frontenac to look at their wonderful selection of Asian fabrics. Molly liked several of them, and we bought some along with a book about making quilts with Asian fabrics.
I thought we had settled on a direction, but a few weeks later, she sent me a link to a gray, black and red print of a dragon that Adam liked. The website only had a yard of it, so I went to a local store in that chain and found a little more than a yard. She also liked a panel showing two cranes and a moon, in a muted palette of grays, creams and a red accent. I ordered the panel, which turned out to be much larger than I expected, from Shibori Dragon, a quilt shop in Washington state that specializes in Japanese fabrics.
My sister also had suggested that Molly really liked my collage quilts and would like me to attempt making one in a style like a Japanese print. I was hesitant because although I appreciate Japanese prints and have several on my walls, I never considered reproducing one in fabric. But I decided to give it a try. I studied photos and Japanese prints of Mt. Fuji and began sketching. I decided to use the colors in the dragon print, including a red sun or moon.
Japanese prints often use flat areas of color, with details only in the foreground. I followed this lead, planning to add detail in the quilting. I used a “dirty white” for the sky to suggest a cloudy day, appliqued a red sun (or moon) and added a gray print for the foothills and dark grey for water before building the collage onto the background.
The big challenge was the waves. Adam liked “The Great Wave off Kanagawa,” a famous print by the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, (1760-1849). In that print, the waves are much bigger than the landscape. But I wanted Mt. Fuji to be bigger, so I went for a series of smaller waves crashing over reddish rocks, based on a photo I found online. I cut shapes from a subtle black print and added white crests.
With the collage technique, the fabric pieces are held in place temporarily with dots of glue, then secured with lots of quilting over tulle. I cut the tulle off the sky since it was in one piece. The quilting was done before I attached the borders, which may have been a mistake, but I did a little extra quilting to hold it against the new layer of batting added when I quilted the borders.
At one point, my plan was to arrange all three images – cranes, dragon and Mt. Fuji – against a background in a single
quilt. But after much arranging and rearranging, I couldn’t finding a pleasing and balanced arrangement. I suggested to Molly that I make three separate wall hangings that she can arrange as she pleases. It should give her more flexibility in displaying them either in her current apartment or elsewhere if she moves. She agreed.
All three images use a black and gold first border, a narrow red border and an outer border that is another Alexander Henry print of red and white blossoms against a black background, with some gold accents. I outlined the flowers and branches, then echo-quilted around them, adding some free-form feathers for variety.
I used wool batting and Aurifil 50 weight cotton thread for most of the quilting. The gold-and-black borders on the Mt. Fuji and crane quilts are quilted with gold metallic thread.
The background quilting for the cranes was a challenge. I at first was going to make the swamp extend to the top of the quilt, but ended up ripping a lot of that out, adding a design that, I hope, suggests vegetation. The moon at first was left unquilted, but that didn’t look right, so I added circles to suggest craters. I think there’s a suggestion of the man in the moon, but my husband doesn’t see it.
The finished quilts are as follows:
Cranes and Moon, 35 5/8 inches by 56 3/8 inches. Printed panel, machine pieced and quilted by Jerri Stroud.
Adam’s Dragon, 21 3/8 inches by 35 1/2 inches, printed fabric, machine pieced and quilted by Jerri Stroud.
Mt. Fuji with Waves & Moon, 32 inches by 29 3/8 inches, original collage, machine pieced and quilted by Jerri Stroud. It could be debated that it is the rising sun, not the moon.
Molly decided to display the quilts at her wedding, and her photographer got some great shots: