This lovely and animated woman is the famous Kitty Pippin, who I had the good fortune to hear speak on Friday evening. Kitty was the special guest teacher at our quilt retreat, teaching two separate one-day classes on Friday and Saturday. I have done some work from her book, Quilting With Japanese Fabrics and was so delighted to meet her in person. My dear friend in our Mountain Star Quilters guild, Linda, who did most of the organizational work to pull the retreat together, invited me to join her, Kitty and a few other guests for dinner Saturday, and she greatly admired Susan's Forest Canopy Shoulder Shawlette, which I was wearing, asking for the pattern and delighting in my stories about teaching children to knit.
Kitty had the great fortune to live in China through her childhood and high school, as her parents were missionaries. Her love of the Orient led her back, and also helped her locate a special shop in Berkeley, where she worked for many years as a drafter at the University of California, and began to collect Japanese textiles. When she retired, Kitty moved to Lake Almanor, and took up quilting, experimenting with her collection.
At her lecture Friday night, she proceeded to astonish all of us with her immense knowledge about Japanese textiles, their varieties and how they are made. This first photo shows Kitty holding an unfinished piece of shibori, given to her to demonstrate how the puckers are made, bound and wrapped, in order to create dye resist designs. Unfortunately, I cannot remember which knitting magazine featured a young Japanese designer who has been incoporating shibori techniques into her work last winter, but I was one of the few people in attendance who had even heard of the term. Tiny stitches draw up and bind row upon row of "bubbles" of fabric, which then do not "take" the dye and when the original bindings are removed after dyeing, a specific kind of "tie-dye" design emerges, often incorporating traditional Japanese motifs such as cranes or flowers. Kitty's vest fronts are made from silk shibori pieces.
Her talk incorporated other styles of fabric, including indigo-dyed pieces, those with designs woven directly in, unusual silks rescued from kimonos and more. The primary designs in the large squares of this quilt are family crests from Japan, and the patterned borders are woven designs. Kitty's work has more and more included separating lengths of fabric, and combining design elements, such as those "outside of the box" flowers that overlap other design elements.
She has also taken the traditional kimono silks and put together modern designs, such as this vibrant piece. The silk diamonds are all appliqued using English paper piecing to ensure such precise lines.
Although she had many quilts with her to illustrate her talk, Kitty told us that this was her favorite, incorporating so many of the treasured elements of Japanese textiles she is so familiar with, as well as utilizing sashiko, a unique Japanese embroidery technique, to outline sections, such as the flowing stream at the lower right.
I was working both days of the retreat, but able to return Saturday afternoon to visit with her and check the progress of her class. While they stitched on their projects, she gave me a quick private lesson in sashiko, telling me what to look for in the proper thread, needle and transfer paper, as well as showing a few tips while making a practice stitch piece. What a wonderful, generous woman, who travels many weeks of the year to share this knowledge and help preserve the ancient techniques.