By Patricia Belyea
SAINT CHARLES IL When I met Barb Vlack—a quilt speaker, teacher and author—at The Joe Retreat last February, I felt a charmed connection. With my usual spontaneous boldness, I invited myself to stay at her home the next time I travelled east. So here I am!
Barb’s home is filled with quilts—made by Barb and her many famous friends. Knowing my love of Japanese fabrics, Barb pulled out a quilt top that she made 15 years ago. I was floored by her creation called Hana-Goyomi—which loosely translates to Love of Flowers.
The composition shines with a combo of straight line piecing using blue and white-ish fabrics, and thirteen floral appliqués. The appliqués refer to the Japanese flowers of the month, plus one bonus motif.
The floral designs came from two sources: Firstly, Kumiko Sudo wrote a book called Circles of the East about transforming Japanese family crests into colorful appliqué patterns.
Secondly, Barb researched and developed her own appliqué patterns for the flowers not shown in Sumiko’s book. Her reference was a Dover book called Japanese Design Motifs. The inexpensive paperback shows thousands of black and white Japanese crests compiled by The Matsuya Piece-Goods Store. (The thirteenth block was designed by Nancy Pearson.)
An EQ (Electric Quilt) pioneer and now an expert, Barbara used the EQ software program to design Hana-Goyomi. She worked with a traditional quilt template and added her appliqué details.
Let's take a look at some of Barbara’s delightful appliqués:
My intuition was correct—Barb’s my kind of gal. She crafted a blue and white quilt top filled with brilliant Japanese floral motifs that makes my heart race. I'm so glad I imposed myself on Barbara so that all of you could see this stunning project! (Next I'm off to see my mom in Ottawa, Canada. Yeah!)
POSTSCRIPT Beth Hoover of Northport MI contacted me with this info: I loved seeing Barb’s quilt because I immediately recognized its origins. About 15 years ago when we lived in Tokyo, I made a quilt inspired by Circles of the East. I also used the Japanese motifs book to create some of my blocks. I was a fairly new quilter at the time and I might do things differently now, but am still pleased with how this effort turned out.