Saturday, November 5, 2016

Shizuko Kuroha - Author, Quilt Artist, Teacher

Shizuko Kuroha
Many of the American quilters who follow Japanese quilting are familiar with the work of Sensei, Yoko Saito, who has been a dominant influence on quilting in the USA for over a decade.  But, there are several amazingly talented Japanese quilt artists that are equally influential in Japan, and barely know in the U.S.  Shizuko Kuroha is one of these individuals.  She has worked in various textile mediums and designed quilts, taught, and published numerous books.  Some of these have been translated into English, but even her books in Japanese, are quite easy to follow by sewers with moderate experience in piecing and general sewing.

I was fortunate to have attended the 2014 International quilt show in Tokyo, where Shizuko Kuroha had a special exhibit of her indigo quilts.  This was simply an amazing display.  All the quilts from her book Indigo & Sarasa were on exhibit.  The design and workmanship was exceptional, and I could have stared at these quilts for days. Being an American, I am always amazed at not only the hours of work that go into these Japanese quilts, but how all those hours are creative hand needlework, not machine sewing.  Where some of the quilts at the Tokyodome were pieced by machine, just about all were hand quilted, and showed incredible workmanship in applique, embroidery, and embellishment. Shizuko Kuroha's quilts were no exception to this rule.

Indigo & Sarasa is now out of print in English, although you can occasionally find copies on Amazon for sale used.  Be aware this book was first published in Japanese, and there are more copies around in Japanese than in English.  One World Fabrics currently carries two of Shizuko Kuroha's books, and both are quite unique. 

Her sampler book, Patchwork Lessons, has been very popular.  The block patterns are wonderful, and she has numerous examples of how to use the blocks creatively in tote bags, kitchen decor, gift items, as well as quilts.  The excellent photographs allow the reader to follow along the steps of construction, even without reading the Japanese text.  I also love the fabrics used in this book.  They represent the current Japanese sense of design and color. The quilt at right shows a contemporary flair and a beautiful, subtle shading in the background.

I love the small gifty items presented in Patchwork Lessons, and the indigo table runner is lovely. Plus the book contains 19 sampler blocks that can be used together, or separately in various projects. 
Here is an incredible quilt showing lots of variations of the lemoyne star.  The use of indigo, but accentuated with a small bit of color really sets each block apart. She has also incorporated fabrics with patterns, such as stripes, to create movement.


The second of Ms. Kuroha's books was published just last year by Fons and Porter.  Log Cabin Restructured has been translated from Japanese into English and the projects are beautiful, intricate, and inspiring.  The simple log cabin block is taken to the next level by creating diamond, triangle, and hexagon log cabins.  There is also a pattern that uses curved log cabin blocks. Very non-traditional, and, again the use of traditional Taupe Japanese fabrics is so appealing.  Although the blocks tend to be rather small and intricate, this is actually a great book for confident beginners, as the detailed photographs and instructions are easy to follow.

Log Cabins are one of the most versatile blocks.  They can be combined to create many different patterns, especially by changing out the fabrics and their placement in the block. These blocks are rather small scale (as most Japanese piecing tends to be), but they can be made in any size you feel comfortable with.  The block assembly is the same, and frankly, you will find that making small scale blocks is actually quite easy once you get the hang of it.  
Log Cabins have always been a particular favorite of mine, so I jumped on this book the moment it came out.  I like intricate piecing, combined with the Japanese aesthetic of color and design. The book contains 23 projects, so lots of choices to tempt you.  

  I am confident that if you love the piecing work of Yoko Saito, you will find Shizuko Kuroha equally fun and inspiring.  You can find her books as well as a large selection of traditional Japanese fabrics at One World Fabrics.

Happy Sewing,