local inspiration :: Okan Arts
local inspiration

local inspiration

By Patricia Belyea

SEATTLE WA  I love how Heather Jones extracted a fab quilt design from the parking lot of a local big box store—a place she’d visited many times before. One day, blam, she recognized the power and simplicity of the painted grid and made her gorgeous Mason Quilts (above).

Quilt Local by Heather JonesIn her new book, Quilt Local, Heather puts a focus on the inconspicuous, the unconsidered and the overlooked. She finds beauty in a small architecture detail or an abandoned building—to spark original quilt designs.

To participate in the Blog Tour that’s heralding Heather’s book launch, my assignment is to open my eyes to local inspiration.

I’m contributing a quilt project that’s influenced by my fantasy hometown of Kyoto. Oh, and my muse is neither low-profile nor ordinary. And my approach is improv, not planned. (I never did follow directions well!)

The subject of my quilt—the towering torii gate—marks the transition from the profane to the sacred at the entrance to Shinto shrines throughout Japan. You can take a small ferry out to Miyajima Island to see the most famous of torii gates “floating” in Hiroshima Bay—unless, like me, you visit at low tide.


Just as visually stunning are the thousands of torii gates that wind up a mountain south of Kyoto at Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Fushimi Inari Shrine in KyotoFor the blue fabrics in my quilt, I dyed vintage yukata cottons in a vat of natural indigo—with the help of Kathy Hattori of Botanical Colors. Then I “made” fabric by randomly sewing together chunks of the blue cottons.

Three hues of orange were spontaneously pieced into 16 blocks and then sewn together for the center of the quilt top. Longer strips of the patched-together fabric formed a matching border.

Torii Baby Quilt by Patricia BelyeaAlthough I went further afield than my own backyard to glean inspiration for my quilt—I share Heather’s commitment to originality. And her passion for interpreting the world through fabric and stitch.

October Giveaway: To win Heather’s book +click here

To visit Heather’s website +click here

To buy Heather’s book on Amazon +click here

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12 comments to “local inspiration”

  1. SOOZ says:


    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Sooz—Thanks. I love natural indigo—and all its hues. The longer we dunked the fabric in the vat, the darker the blue. As we were very unscientific, we got lots of values of denim/navy blue. P.

  2. Peg Swartzman says:

    Nicely done! Very inspiring!

  3. Sharon says:

    I woke this morning in Miyajima and saw your blog post and was very confused- ‘I’m here, is Patricia here too?’ I enjoyed your picture of the tori gate at low tide, the way I saw it yesterday. And your quilt is a lovely evocation of the place.

  4. Kathie L says:

    I loved seeing your inspiration and your project.

  5. leanne says:

    really love your quilt and love how Heather can interpret so much from her local environment !!

  6. Sue Hunt says:

    I like the orange with the extra-indigo yukata. I’ve done blue yukata with red, with yellow and with mustards. I was just wondering what I could try next!

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Sue—I’ve talked with Kathy Hattori about over-dyeing the yukata cottons with other natural dyes. She said that the fabric would have to be prepped with mordants before dyeing, so an extra step. But that appeals to me too. P.