eight enigmatic table runners :: Okan Arts
eight enigmatic table runners

eight enigmatic table runners

By Patricia Belyea

SPOILER: At the end of this post, you’ll learn how to win the eighth table runner.

SEATTLE WA  In early January, a mysterious package arrived on my front porch. In the box was a letter from a stranger and eight hand-printed indigo table runners.

Eight table runners from Asia

Sonia Jensen from Wyoming wrote:

This is a shot in the dark!

The enclosed fabric was a gift to my mother from her brother who lived and traveled extensively in the Orient (China, Japan and Korea) during the 1940’s and 1950’s. He worked for the American Red Cross but had previously been an antique dealer in Chicago.

Sonia asked me to find a home for the fabrics. I chose to gift the table runners to seven individuals who truly appreciate textiles.

On the next day I was leaving for Japan so I took one to Amy Katoh of Blue & White in Tokyo (below L). Amy, a champion of Japanese traditional crafts, didn’t recognize the fabric as Japanese. “Likely Chinese,” she said.

Amy Katoh of Blue & White, Kathy Hattori of Botanical Colors

Once home, I visited Kathy Hattori of Botanical Colors (above R). Kathy commented that the fabric probably contained some hemp or wool.

The next recipient was my dear friend and yukata cotton patron, Gloria Pfeif (below L). Gloria is mad about everything indigo so I knew she’d love the runner for her Seattle home filled with arty treasures.

Gloria Pfeif of Seattle, Joe Cunningham of Joe The QuilterI mailed a runner to Joe Cunningham (above R) in San Francisco. Joe, a quilting pal who leads the Hood Canal retreat with me, is a man who enjoys eclectic fabrics.

Ann Darling (below L), a clothing designer from Tacoma, was the fifth recipient. Ann has traveled the world extensively, collecting textiles for her projects and stash. The gift of the table runner was a little like bringing coals to Newcastle.

Ann Darling of Kennedy Road, Lorraine Torrence of Seams Like A Natural Fit SeminarsAt her Spring clothing design retreat in Gold Bar, I gave Lorraine Torrence (above R) an indigo table runner. Lorraine, a non-stop industry leader, is a quilt and clothing designer, purveyor of global fabrics and co-leader of Seams Like a Natural Fit Seminars.

Kathleen Kox (below L), the curator at La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum, graciously accepted the seventh table runner at StashFest 2014. I was emphatic that the runner was for her, not the Museum collection!

Kathleen Kox of La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum, Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts

Here I am holding the remaining table runner (above R). If you write a comment below, you’ll be entered into a drawing to win the runner on Tuesday, June 10 at midnight PST. I look forward to hearing from you!

Postscript: After this blog was posted, Sonia wrote: Your handling of the indigo fabric strips has brought me so much pleasure.  I can’t begin to thank you.  The blog story is wonderful, the pictures of the recipients warm my heart.  Thank you again.

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48 comments to “eight enigmatic table runners”

  1. Barbara L says:

    What fun you had in selecting the recipients of these stunning runners. Thank you for sharing the stories.

  2. Season says:

    These are beautiful – and such lovely gifts!

  3. What an excellent idea for sharing your bounty!

  4. Chardel Blaine says:

    What fun! I’m sure the table runner will find a textile-loving home.

  5. Julie says:

    Beautiful story, beautiful fabrics. I can’t help but feel my entry might be lucky since I recognize Lorraine Torrence as the woman who taught us all to hand quilt in 2nd grade (it was her daughter’s class and I believe the red and yellow quilt was raffled – circa 1981?)

  6. Jo Allbutt says:


    What a fantastic journey these indigos have travelled. I think they have all found fantastic homes that will not only ensure their survival but will continue their tales of travel over the next 50 years.

    My dear friend and hand quilter extrodinarre Fran is a collector of indigo and I think this would be a wonderful compliment to her collection. If I won I would give it to her.

  7. Dot says:

    That was a wonderful gift. I’m sure Sonia is happy seeing where her fabrics have found homes. Number eight is beautiful!

  8. Sonia Jensen says:

    I am thrilled to see the fabrics, that remained far too long in a drawer, being enjoyed by fabric enthusiasts. My “shot in the dark” has brought me happiness by sharing. Best to you all, Sonia

  9. Two days ago Sonia and I met on the Icicle River Wa. camping. She was a student of mine at Emily Carr University in Vancouver B.C. where I live and is now a good friend. We had not met for two years. I brought with me 3 Mexican dresses to show her, which had been sent to me from a Mexican friend – dark green embroidered fighting cocks on unbleached cotton (very much like the fabric Joe is holding in the above photo), a black one with huge embroidered cala lilies and a white one in cross stitch. I am an abstract painter and an avid knitter and would love this story to come full circle ending with the eighth indigo table runner from Sonia’s family. I shall keep my fingers crossed that you pull my comment so I can send my photo with it to you and Sonia. Sincerely, Susan

  10. Donna says:

    Great story and beautiful table runners. They remind me very much of a table cloth I bought in China in 2005 that I love.

  11. Donna DeShazo says:

    Oddly enough, the above comment from “Donna” easily could have been written by me in all respects…except that my China trip was a couple years later! Great minds (and great names!) like indigo tablecloths…and table runners!

  12. Nanci Jean says:

    I was under the Impression that the art of indigo dyinng was rapidly becoming a lost art. What an amazing gift and generous sharing by you.

  13. Cheryl Quesnell says:

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful stories. It is so important that pieces such as these end up In the hands of those that truly will treasure their workmanship.

  14. Lucy Lowry says:

    Patricia, how generous of you to share these treasures! I missed Spring Retreat with Lorraine, because of a new grandson. The pictures of the indigo runners and their receipients are lovely…shared among our small community. Lucy

  15. Tobie says:

    What a wonderful story. Thank you for your generosity.

  16. Janet Elvrum says:

    You are very admirable in sharing a wonderful gift for others to carry on the inspiration.We are all inspired because of this. Thanks

  17. Jackie says:

    What fantastic fabric! And such a fun way to distribute the runners. Here’s hoping I get to join the ‘club’.

  18. Laura says:

    Thank you for sharing the stories of these lovely indigo pieces. Seeing the looks of joy on the recipients was uplifting. And to you, too, I’m sure.

  19. Patsy Carlson says:

    What a lovely way to share this beautiful fabric with folks you know will love and treasure it! Thank you for the chance to have some too!

  20. Amy says:

    Generosity all around, Sonia and Patricia! The animal motifs make for beautiful, lively pieces. Not that I am partial, or anything… Thanks for sharing!!

  21. Anne McMillan says:

    What fun! Love the fabric…they are just beautiful, thanks for sharing!

  22. Barbie Pratt says:

    How generous of you to gift and share the fabulous indigo table runners. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I will be the lucky “eighth!”

  23. SuSan Riedel says:

    Your ingenuity astounds me! Keep on truckin’!

  24. Michèle B says:

    Table runners are such fun! Can change the entire ambiance of a room. Thanks for sharing!

  25. Betty Johnson says:

    What beautiful table runners. I love to give gifts of fabric to my quilting friends. It makes me feel so wonderful to give such gifts. I can only imagine how it made you feel to give those wonderful runners to you friends whom you knew would love to have them. Thanks to Sonia and to you for sharing.

  26. Bev C says:

    What a fascinating story. Each piece of fabric has found a wonderful owner.
    Happy days.

  27. Lydia Reading says:

    Indigo blue and white, so beautiful, and I’m so drawn to these. Would be a lovely, immensely enjoyable addition to my collection

  28. Marilyn says:

    Lovely story, Lovely fabric!!

  29. Becky Fox says:

    Wow! The travels of these fabrics and the people behind the stories remind me of my husband’s genology gems that he finds in his research. Just to imagine where these fabrics came from and what hands they passed through before coming to Sonia! It’s one of those if only they could talk moments. The crisp blue and white of the indigos are timless and ageless in look and feel. What a wonderful way to complete the story of their travels than with these gifts and now this drawing. No matter who wins they will end up in a great home, much admired and welcomed. Who knows what stories they might inspire.

  30. Carol W says:

    Wow, you and your fabrics are treasures, what a generous way to “fabric it forward”. My travels haven’t taken me that far, but it’s on the bucket list. See you soon in Seattle.
    Cheers, Carol

  31. Pam Cope says:

    Wow! The fabric is amazing, and how nice of you to share all around with your friends. I love the story of how the fabric found its way to you, and is now being cast out into the universe! I would love if that last piece found it’s way to my house….

  32. kate says:

    Love the story. Thanks for sharing.

  33. Lin Sierra says:

    How wonderful that these lovely fabrics are being distributed to people who will likely treasure them. I appreciate your choices for recipients, Patricia. I also love Sonia’s generous gift to those she does not know. There is something truly wonderful when someone gives a gift to stranger, and has no possibility of a reward other than the openness of heart it can bring.

  34. Pamela Belyea says:

    Well, here we have another shining example of my sister’s HUGE heart and propensity for generosity. As her twin, I am always astonished and cheered by her wonderful creative projects and her joy in sharing her bounty of knowledge and resources. Please remove my name from the drawing (of course) and accept my best wishes for the lucky recipient of this gift from two amazing women.

  35. Vonda Piersol says:

    Just stumbled into this from looking at Kathy Errickson’s story. I know her well, clark county quilters and we went to sisters together back in 99. That sounds like a gold rush or something. Maybe my gold would be to recieve such a wonderful treasure. I have a beautiful jacket from a class with with Lorraine Torrence. I now live in Waikiki, am going to start publishing our guild’s newsletter and would love to tell this tale. Please let me win! So wonderful to find this chance to be a part.

  36. Patricia Belyea says:

    Lydia Reading is the winner of the eighth vintage indigo table runner!

    • Lydia Reading says:

      Woohoo! I am a very happy person. And a big thank you to Sonia Jensen for her gifting of these table runners by way of her mother and brother, to Patricia Belyea for her blog post and giveaway, and to her sister Pamela for her good wishes to the winner….omgosh, me!. I am so honored to be included in the very good company with Amy, Kathy, Ann, Joe, Lorraine, Gloria and Kathleen. I will treasure this antique 1940’s textile and it will bring a smile to this collector every time I see it. Thank you again. Lydia

  37. Wonderful and inspiring. I love these pictures!

  38. Sandy says:

    wonderful work and very inspirational.

  39. Jessica Jones-Coggins says:

    Really beautiful. I love blue and white in general and I love batik

  40. Ann Darling says:

    SO? Who won? A person can never have too much indigo in their lives!!! Photo of the winner?

  41. Joyce ripp says:

    While reading your post, I just got the memory/sense that women have been doing this forever. Sharing extra bounty textiles to delight friends. I guess cause it feels so good. Thank you!

  42. Patricia Belyea says:

    Joyce: How true. The sharing between women, like sisters, is an age-old tradition. And, as Sonia experienced, giving is a very delightful thing to do!

  43. Sonia Jensen says:

    Big congratulations to Lydia Reading.
    Every reply to Patricia’ s blog has brought a smile to my face and another dose of the joy of sharing. Thank you all for your comments.

    I am a relief print maker. Recently, I found a small piece of the same indigo fabric. I am designing a block incorporating the butterfly motif from the scrap. Another way to keep the story alive.

    Best wishes to you all. A big thank you to Patricia. Never under estimate the joy a “shot in the dark” May bring!

  44. IRMGARD JACOB says:

    Blue and white, – like an azure sky with flocks of white on a sunny day.

  45. Mari Brunsell says:

    What wonderful indigo fabrics and how very generous of you to share such treasure and to share the stories of your gifting to your friends with us! I fell in love with Japanese indigo dyed fabrics at a quilt exhibit I recently attended in Madison, WI and I hope to win the remaining runner!

  46. Suzan Sullivan says:

    Stunning pieces. Thank you for sharing!

  47. Sheryl Ramstad says:

    Love the fabrics and what fun to give the runners as gifts to good friends!