Member Spotlight

Diana Kirschbaum 

Japanese Inspired Quilt

The creation of this quilt began over 50 years ago with my mother who modified a pattern and designed a dress for me to wear in a 5th grade United Nations Day class project.  I had chosen Japan as my country to study.  Her enthusiastic response to support me was to sew a Japanese inspired dress for me to wear.  I have held onto to this dress and its remnant fabric bits with no idea as to what I might ever do with it.   Then it occurred to me that I could make the dress a focal point of a story quilt.  

The first step was to deconstruct the dress by separating the back from the front.  Undoing my mother’s stitching was a strange experience, as I learned a lot about the sewing tricks she had done to modify a pattern and make this little dress for me.  I selected a family heirloom, linen tablecloth to center and apply the dress to.  I researched Japanese sewing techniques by attending a class & viewing an exhibit at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts in Cedarburg.  I also took a Sashiko hand stitching class at the Sewing Basket in Plymouth.  I designed the layout of the rectangle pieces that would border the dress to resemble bento cloth used in Japan to carry food from their markets to home.   My fabric selections have a Japanese feel in two different color schemes and each rectangle has a 3”X3” inset square of Sashiko stitching that I did in advance of assembling the quilt. Just one of the 12 squares is done in red as the color red is significantly important to the Japanese culture and is often found in their creations.   

Now that the quilt top is completed, my next step is to decide how I might secure the quilt top to the cherry blossom fabric backing I have chosen.  I am still ruminating thoughts of more hand stitching or linear machine stitching to the quilt top.

The experience of creating this memory quilt has reconnected me with childhood memories with my mother who passed away when I was 14, my classmates in 5th grade, the ingenious 5th grade teacher who designed the United Nations Day project (Mrs. Nemek who is also a quilter) and my artistic inspirations that have laid dormant since retiring from teaching as an art teacher.   And, just as a side note, this Japanese inspired quilt was sewn on the same sewing machine that my mother used to sew the little Japanese dress.

DK 3/2024