priscilla knoble—bringing Japanese quilting to all :: Okan Arts
priscilla knoble—bringing Japanese quilting to all

priscilla knoble—bringing Japanese quilting to all

By guest blogger Priscilla Knoble, founder of Stitch Publications

SEATTLE, WA  I was born and raised in Japan. My parents were missionaries. My mom went over to Japan soon after World War II when General Douglas MacArthur made a plea for help with rebuilding the country. (MacArthur was widely respected in Japan as someone who successfully brought about the reconstruction of postwar Japan and helped to restore the economy, a new constitution and other reforms.)

My dad was an actor in New York who, upon becoming a Christian, decided to go to Japan. My parents met there. My dad was fond of saying that his kids were “Made in Japan.”


I grew up in a little village at the foot of Mt. Fuji that grew green tea and mikan (mandarin oranges). It was an idyllic childhood. There were no gaijin (foreigners) where we were in the 60’s and 70’s. Until I went away to boarding school in Tokyo in the first grade, I would mostly only see other gaijin when we would get together with other missionary families for a few weeks in the summers.

We mainly spoke English in the house and Japanese the rest of the time, so I was blessed to grow up completely bilingual. Even today I still think, and even dream, in both languages.

Growing up in Japan—Priscilla Knoble

In our little village, like so many others in that era, we had small independent stores for different things. There was the vegetable and fruit store, the fish store, the butcher, the office supplies store, etc. I had only seen supermarkets in Tokyo.

One day when I was about five-years old, we saw giant balloons in the sky some blocks away that advertised a new store. Lo and behold, our little village was getting its first supermarket—a two-story building with groceries in the basement and sundry goods on the top floor.

I lived on a street with a bunch of kids. We all hopped on our bikes and rode over to see this phenomenon. As we approached a welcome table, the ladies handed us each our own helium balloon. I’m not sure I’d ever owned one before! We tied them to our wrists and rode home. We all wanted more, so we changed clothes and went back. The ladies handed each of us another balloon!

This was amazing, so we did it a third time. This time, however, the ladies looked at us and said, “You’ve been here before and we can’t give you another one.” We were so sad that they figured it out. How, we wondered? I laugh about it all the time.

Growing up in Japan—Priscilla Knoble

My parents taught us how to make things and create from scratch. We cooked, built things, and sewed from a very early age. My brother made a little shirt for his teddy bear on my mom’s Featherweight when he was about six. I learned to sew when I was four and even had a little sewing machine that worked, that my mom bought for me.

Priscilla’s Mom with Little House Wall HangingBy the time I was in elementary school, I was designing my own clothes. My mom gave me her Featherweight to take back to the States when I left for college. While I had seen and used plenty of quilts, I wasn’t introduced to quilting as a craft until the summer I was home from college between my sophomore and junior years.

When a lady from America showed me what she was working on, I was hooked. I went to the fabric store, bought fabric and made my first quilt—a little house block wall hanging. (My mom, at left, still has my first quilt.)

I always thought I would move back to Japan after graduation from university but instead I moved to Seattle. I taught, as well as worked in a Japanese business. Then I moved to the East Coast for a few years where I continued to teach plus I took a part-time job in a quilt shop. My quilting skills and knowledge, as well as my stash, soared during this time.

Although I loved teaching, I missed not having more to do with Japan. At the time, the computer software industry was beginning to expand internationally. So I ended up moving back to Seattle and working for a Japanese localization company, then Microsoft, then Adobe Systems—where I still work today as the Director of International and Strategic Markets for the Creative Cloud.

Between growing up in Japan and traveling there for work over the last 20 years, I’ve collected many Japanese craft books. A few years ago, a dream began to emerge—bringing Japanese quilting and craft books to the English world. I did research, wrote a business plan and started Stitch Publications. It’s a perfect union of my Japanese experiences, my love of quilting and fabric, and my career in international business and publishing software.

Stitch Publications is truly unique from other publishing companies. Not only do I own the company, but I do the translation, layout and virtually everything else. (Shipping and handling is managed by a friend.)

Stitch Publications

Stitch Publications

I buy the rights to books that are already published in Japanese as well as find patterns that have never been published. Then I translate and redesign them for the English marketplace.

Being able to translate natively (rather than as a learned language) is very important when getting to the heart of the original author’s intent—particularly in areas of a book that are not directions. Additionally, when I don’t understand the instructions—because sometimes Japanese patterns are fairly cryptic—I stop and make a sample so I can better explain the step in English.

I’m often asked about my own style. I do love the calming aspect of Japanese Taupes. But I love all fabric and fiber. (Did I mention that I knit, spin, weave and pretty much try anything that has to do with fiber or fabric?) I truly love so many different color schemes and fabrics. I design some of my own quilts and like to go to the workshops of some of my favorite designers to expand my own ideas—such as Anna Maria Horner’s Craft South workshop for a fun weekend.

Priscilla Knoble with Anna Maria Horner

I’ll always be happy to be a quilter who embraces anything that I like at any given time, and appreciates all the artistry and creativity that goes into any kind of quilt. I’m currently remodeling my house with a big studio as part of the plan. I can’t wait to get all of my fabric and machines out again.

Priscilla Knoble’s Studio

I never expected I’d leave teaching to work in software, or start a publishing company and an online retail shop. I love hanging out with the best people—quilters and fabric lovers. My only regret is that I don’t have enough time to make all the things I want. I’m sure life will keep changing and that time will come.

Priscilla Knoble With Friends

To win a pattern by acclaimed Japanese quilter Yoko Saito, translated and packaged by Stitch Publications, answer this question in the Comment Box below: What’s your experience using Japanese Taupes in your quilt projects?

THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED. The winners are Wendy O of Piqua OH and Marie J of Friday Harbor WA.

Stitch Publications Patterns

Thank you Stitch Publications and Priscilla Knoble for the donation of two Yoko Saito patterns—Parisian Handbag and Rise & Shine table topper.

HOW THIS GIVEAWAY WORKS: This giveaway drawing will be held at midnight PST on April 15, 2016. Giveaway is open to US residents (sorry to my Canadian and international friends), 18 and older, void where prohibited. One entry per person. Two lucky winners will be chosen with a random number drawing. Winners will be notified within 24 hours. Each winner must respond within one week of notification or her giveaway will be forfeited. The winners’ names can be obtained at any time from Okan Arts. Thank you for participating!

To purchase these patterns  +click here
To find a shop that carries Stitch Publications books and patterns +click here

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51 comments to “priscilla knoble—bringing Japanese quilting to all”

  1. Allison CB says:

    Wow – love your story! I have always admired Yoko’s designs – her sense of taupe -ishness is wonderful! I haven’t had much of a chance to try taupes in my own quilting and sewing but I would love to try!!

  2. Ray Burke says:

    I haven’t tried taupe but am hooked on quilting and learning new methods like this and other Japanese techniques. Thank you!!

  3. Deb W. says:

    I just returned from Japan and purchased a sampling of taupe fabrics. I would love to win a pattern to put the fabrics to use.

  4. Jane says:

    I have always idolized Japanese quilters for their beautiful work. I am currently collecting taupe-y like fabrics so that I start my own Japanese-style quilt of my own soon.

  5. Linda Fleming says:

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful story!
    As yet I haven’t used Japanese Taupes in my sewing projects but I have read many of Yoko Saito’s books – my local library has several of them! It’s exciting to know that you are responsible for the English translations.

  6. carol sloan says:

    I don’t have any experience personally working with the Taupes but I sure do love the way they look when used in a project! So calm, soothing and just “put together”. Even though I am also drawn to color, the somber end of their color rainbow draws me in as well. I’d love to have a pattern by this talented and insightful artist!

  7. Locki Johnson says:

    I didn’t even know Taupes were a thing and I have been buying them the last few weeks for a project for my son! I am making him a map quilt and since he is not a “quilt person”, I think the maps idea will work! I clicked around and am ready to be official in this technique. Thanks!

  8. Sabrina van Ginkel says:

    I do not have any experience with Japanese taupes. However, I purchased a Japanese quilting magazine and have been unable to make any of the beautiful projects. I love how the projects used the different taupe colors in such a beautiful way. I am very interested in you books that give English instructions for those type of patterns.

  9. Jackie says:

    I’ve done a whole series of beige/taupe quilts but never used Japanese taupes. Would love to!!

  10. Janet C. Wright says:

    I love the Japanese Taupes–but I pair them with Japanese dark or indigo blues for contrast.

  11. Mrs. Plum says:

    What a great story! Thank you for sharing it. I do not have any experience with taupes, but admire Japanese quilts and the exquisite workmanship very much.

  12. Marlene Sowatzke says:

    The minute I touched Japanese fabric, I fell in love. I’m making the Farmers Wife 1930’s quilt blocks out of Japanese fabric. I’m doing the sew-a-long with over 7,000 quilters from all over the world. How blessed am I that my husband lets me sew as much as I want too. Good luck to all that have entered!

  13. Robin Shilman says:

    I think that Yoko’s quilts are beautiful. I have never done any of the taupes like that. I just recently learned about her through your blog and was blown away. I also love the story about Priscilla.

  14. Susie Wolcott says:

    I have only admired. Wondering if it is a long tradition or more a current trend.

  15. Patti says:

    I have a partially completed sashiko bag using taupes. Love them

  16. Judy Morrison says:

    I have never used Japanese Taupes, but I think I would like to try.

  17. I believe that there is a particular esthetic to using Japanese Taupes well. Some people just naturally love them and use them to brilliant advantage, but if you are a person who loves bright colors and uses them a lot uaing taupes may present a challenge. Japanese Taupes work well for me these days because many will “play well” with my favorite reds and yellows.

    I was most fortunate to have been able to spend time in Japan and developed a love for their serene taupes and other less saturated palettes. My appreciation deepens with the years.

    Thanks for the article, the information, and for making the entry process easy!

  18. Laura Tawney says:

    I’ve been using Japanese Taupes in handbags. I would love to make more with them and would love to win a pattern! What a great story – and you are right life changes and you never know what it will bring!

  19. Candace Simmons says:

    I have several of Yoko Saito books and several magazines, but have not worked with the taupes. I am very eager to learn!

  20. Susan Manson says:

    Such a great story. I have no experience with using Japanese tapes but I did get one of Yoko’s books for My birthday and I love it.

  21. Trudi Rammelkamp says:

    I’ve never worked with Japanese taupes would really like to try them. They are so lovely and serene looking.

  22. Robin Crittenden says:

    Well I love the taupes. Have a small collection but haven’t started sewing with them yet. They are too pretty to cut. But I will one day soon.

  23. babs ratner says:

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful story. I have always been fascinated by Japanese design and quilting. I am looking forward to trying taupes in my future designs.

  24. Susan Barton says:

    I loved your story! I have never used any Japanese Taupe but I love trying new patterns. I would love to win so I could be introduced to something new. Thank you for your consideration.

  25. Barbara Henderson says:

    Loved this story and wish you blessings in all that you do!
    African Tour friend, Barbara

  26. Eileen says:

    I am compiling fabric now for a nice, calming taupe quilt. I have tended to only use these fabrics in clothing, so this is a new skill for me. I spent a lot of time happily gazing at taupe quilts in Houston!

  27. Patricia Smith says:

    I am still collecting them. I find them difficult to find in my area. I started Yoko pattern but it has been set aside for awhile. I have several of her books and love her designs.

  28. Jerie Clark says:

    My only experience is seeing a best friend’s quilts made entirely of Japanese taupes. She is Japanese but born in the states

  29. Sue Smith says:

    I have never used Japanese taupes–I’m one of the people who use all brights-all together. It would be quite a change for me-a good challenge

  30. Karen M says:

    I bought a fat quarter pack of Japanese taupes a while ago but haven’t used them. I’m still searching for the perfect pattern so would love to win one of Yoko’s patterns!

  31. Lyn says:

    I have no practical experience with Japanese taupes, but I love Yoko Saito’s books!

  32. Lauria Nelson says:

    My only experience with taupes from Japan were at market a few years back. I loved on them and touched them and rubbed them amd loved on them over and over. It was a wonderful moment. Thx. Lauria

  33. Wendy says:

    so far it is only the shopping part of it, but that is a start…right?
    I have purchased some wovens in lovely greys and taupes. Now to find a project!

  34. Chris says:

    I have no experience at all but would love the pattern and would give it a try.

  35. jeanette swenson says:

    I did Yoko Saitos block of the month in all taupes and textures and loved every minute of it. It was so calming to work with those colors and the end product is flowingly peaceful.

  36. Tomomi McElwee says:

    This story is amazing. I hope she brings a lot of Japanese quilt out to the world!

  37. Cynthia reed says:

    I’ve made a quilt and a pair of pants using taupe fabrics.

  38. Lynn Walker says:

    My use of taupes is, as yet, limited to a make-up bag and an iPad cover I made for my daughter 2 years or so ago..AND SHE STILL USES THEM BOTH (praise indeed)…..a taupe based quilt for my son is nearing the top if my TODO list, just collecting the fabric together.

  39. Andrea Bursaw says:

    My daughter’s favorite gift from me is a set of placemats made from shades of taupe. She reminds me that she is my “mud” daughter, but I know she is elegant.

  40. Bangge Leow says:

    Delighted to see your posting for the first time today !
    Happy with you and wish you more success .
    Do I have to buy something to enter your Giveaway ?

    I have been a simple quilter for 16 years – I use only Japanese themed fabrics with my western designs .

  41. Patty Galbraith says:

    I absolutely love Yoko Saito’s taupe quilts. They are so soft and beautiful to look at. I have not made any specifically taupe quilts but they are definitely near the top of my wish list. And I really enjoy seeing Yoko’s patterns and quilts. Gorgeous! Gorgeous! Gorgeous!

  42. Lori clark says:

    I am currently working on an indigo and Japanese taupe quilt and have incorporated two yukata pieces of fabric I have recently purchased. I never thought I would like taupe in a quilt. The beautiful yukata prints really stand out using taupe and indigo fabrics as the background colors.

  43. Denny Fox, Quilting Foxes says:

    Wonderful story! I have spoken with Pricilla a few times via email and am so glad that she translates and publishes Yoko Saito’s books! I love both the Japanese Indigo and Taupes, so much so that I started selling them online at
    Japanese Taupes are just becoming popular here in the US and can be hard to find. I am glad I can be a resource for people looking for them! Stop by and see Yoko Saito Taupe Fabrics, books and patterns at Stashfest this Saturday in La Conner where I will be a participating vendor! Happy Stitching!

  44. Vivian Perry says:

    I am in awe of the work of Yoko Saito and recently purchased her book about Swedish design. I have looked for Japanese taupe fabric but it has been difficult to find.

  45. Barb says:

    I love the richness of the colors; I never tire of looking at them it seems there is something new to see each time.

  46. Pam Cope says:

    I love the look of Japanese taupe quilts, and have bought some fabrics, but have not started to cut them up or use them. I am taking a class from Yoko Saito in France at the Quiltmania show, so am really excited to learn from her.

  47. Mary DeRay says:

    I fell in love when Taupes first appeared at rhe shows, about the same time I discovered sashiko! I have a number of projects using taupes and started adding sashiko to marry the east ansd west cultures. I now design patters under “Simply Sashiko Designs” to pass along the beauty and serenity of Asian inspired textiles.

  48. Mary DeRay says:

    I was finishing a comment with some questions for you Patricia when my iPad froze. I don’t know but wondered if you recieved it.

  49. Patricia Bates says:

    I am currently making blocks from Japanese taupes following patterns from Susan Briscoe’s book. My favorite method is needle turn appliqué but also piece. My backgrounds are all different and use other colors from my stash of taupes. I have made a small purse from a Yoko Saito pattern and also made a bed quilt using Japanese taupes. Yes, I’m hooked.

  50. Susan Allen says:

    During this time of social distancing, our guild is rethinking how to bring “workshops” to our members. One of the thoughts we have had is to virtually bring International teachers to members. Do you have any thoughts about who might be willing to work with us from Japan?

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Susan—I will send your inquiry to Priscilla who is very connected to the quilt community in Japan. PB