A Quilter’s Art: 14 Enchanting Pieces of Japanese Handcraft

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In the late 19th century, Western-style quilting was introduced to Japan by American and European missionaries and teachers. Japanese fiber artists were interested in the patchwork and applique quilting styles created by the female missionaries and wives of American and European men in Japan.

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Japanese Quilters Transformed Quiltmaking

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The Japanese soon began incorporating their own aesthetic and techniques into the craft. They used traditional stitching patterns and fabrics to create quilts and useful items that had a distinctly Japanese feel.

I recently came across a collection of delightful hand-appliqued, hand-quilted, and hand-sewn Japanese wallets, bags, and accessories. The craftsmanship on each piece is breathtaking. You have to see them!

Sunbonnet Sue Wallet

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This little wallet with sunbonnet sue hand appliqued on the front is a beautiful example of American influence on Japanese handcraft. Sunbonnet Sue is a classic design in old Western quilts, featuring a young girl in a bonnet that obscures her face, often depicted in profile and engaged in domestic activities. The origins of Sunbonnet Sue are a bit murky, but the design is believed to have been popularized in the early 20th century in England and the United States.

The intricate hand-turned applique pieces, bits of lace, and perfect hand-quilting stitches on the purple plaid background all make this piece distinctly Japanese.

Handmade Knapsack with a Japanese Schoolgirl

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Goodbye Sunbonnet Sue. Hello Japanese Schoolgirl! The details on this bag are stunning. The edges around each piece of fabric have been turned under with a needle and invisibly sewn to the fabric behind it. The quilter also hand-quilted around each separate fabric and on the background.

Small Rounded Purse

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Here’s a charming little purse or wallet pouch that also features a bonnet or hat. Don’t miss the tiny decorative stitches. You’ll notice that plaid fabrics are a favorite among Japanese quilters who use them in quilts and handcrafts of all kinds.

Hand-Pieced and Quilted Notebook Cover

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The only way to achieve such intricate piecing and quilting is by hand. That’s what truly sets Japanese handcraft apart.

House Tissue Box Cover

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Another common theme in Japanese handicrafts is landscape scenes with trees and houses like this one.

Hand Quilted Key Ring Cover

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A key is a symbol of trust and respect. You wouldn’t give your key to just anyone, would you? Maybe that’s why an artist put such care into this lovely key ring cover.

This is such a heartfelt theme. I found more key themed pieces too.

Key Ring Cover and Wallet

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Here’s a key ring cover and wallet in one. It’s very functional on the inside, but wait until you see how much effort and care went into the beautiful outside of the case.

Outside of the Key Ring Cover and Wallet

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My favorite part of this tender hand-turned applique design is the bright tiny floral fabric that breaks up the traditional plaids. The girl’s dress shines like a precious light! Did you notice the hand-sewn beads for her eyes?

Small Key Ring Purses

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Just one more key-themed project! These key rings are just big enough to hold a hand-appliqued fob that is also a small purse.

Melodion Cover

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Here’s a sweet carrying case for a child’s Melodion instrument. This is the perfect time of year to appreciate a young girl dancing with bunnies! The Melodion is a musical instrument that can be described as a harmonica with piano keys. Suzuki makes them, and they are often intended for children to play.

Zipper Wallet with Fabulous Applique

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What stands out to you on this beautiful wallet? I love the yellow cat! She shines down on the precious girl like the sun. I can’t help but notice how the quilter sewed small lines of stitching to echo the plaid on the tiny girl’s dress. Each piece of fabric is carefully placed so that each one makes the scene more interesting.

Tender Laptop Case

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Carrying your laptop in a beautifully handmade case like this must feel like you are channeling old and new traditions at the same time!

Endearing Quilted Dolls

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Lastly, I had to show you these quilted dolls with lovingly sewn clothing. Perhaps they could also be used as key rings. What do you think of this collection of Japanese handcrafts?

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