Back from Grand Rapids, via Haiti

After returning from QuiltWeek in Grand Rapids, Michigan recently, a discussion I had on my last day there has stayed with me. It isn’t textile related, but please bear with me.

Grand Rapids isn’t a big city. At the airport you have the option of a taxi or limo sedan to get where you’re going, and to the hotel I usually stay at it’s almost the same price so I like to go with the limo. The drivers are friendly and often interesting to talk to, and almost always from someplace other than Michigan, or even the US. My grandfathers were immigrants and I was one myself 20 years ago when I moved to the UK, so I know how difficult it can be. I start the conversation with “Where are you from?” and go from there.

The driver I had that day was from Haiti. He told me about his journey, 23 years ago, when at the age of 16 his parents put him in a leaky boat with many other children and sent him away to an uncertain future that apparently was better than the one he would have had if he had stayed, despite the risk of drowning en route. Fortunately the US Coast Guard rescued him and the other children before their boat sank, and he was taken in by a Christian charitable organization that helped him get into a foster home and start the process of becoming a legal resident of the US.

From the back seat of the limo I watched this man, very close to my own age, who had risked his life at an age when I was learning to drive a car and trying to keep my grades up in high school. He was neatly dressed in a clean white shirt and black pants; the interior of his limo was immaculate.

We talked about immigration, and why people leave the countries they are from. We reflected on the violence going on in so many parts of the world today and asked ourselves how people could commit such atrocities. I think we in the US don’t understand it because so many of us have never wanted for anything. I mentioned my previous driver had been from Sudan and the man from Haiti said “Oh, Sudan, it’s really bad over there.”

Looking into the history of Haiti in the 1990s today I am reminded of what happened back then, how I had heard a bit about it on the TV news my parents watched. It didn’t mean much to me. I’d never been to Haiti, had no plans to ever go there. It was yet another armed conflict in a foreign country far away, and there were plenty of those to go around.

He told me that he knew how fortunate he was to be here, to have had the opportunities that were given to him, even with the enormous cost involved. He said a person’s success depended on his own decisions, and that some of the other children in that boat had made different decisions and their outcomes had not been so rosy. These days he can afford to travel back to Haiti and visit his mother every year. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for her to put him in that boat and say goodbye, but I’m sure she feels now it was the right decision.

When I checked out of the hotel that morning he was waiting for a fare to go to the airport, and I was it. He’d been waiting for four hours. He’s his own boss so it was his decision to wait. Being self-employed myself I understand how it feels to sacrifice hours of your day without the guarantee of payment. It sucks, but I love the freedom. I suspect he does, too.

As I exited the cab I asked if he would be going home to sleep, but he smiled said no, he’d be heading back to the hotel for another fare. Just another day in paradise.

If you’re ever in the Grand Rapids area and need a safe, clean, and timely limo driver, I highly recommend him. I’ll be calling him up next year when I’m back in town.

V’s Anytime Chauffeur Service

AQS QuiltWeek Grand Rapids Michigan & Japanese Textile Lecture

Helloooo, Grand Rapids! I’ll be heading your way August 11-16 for AQS QuiltWeek and I am very excited. I’ll hit up my two favorite haunts, Reserve and San Chez for fantastic food and drink, do a little shopping downtown, and check out the beautiful architecture of this little gem of a Midwestern city.

AQS QuiltWeek brings top-notch quilters and textile artists to the region for one of the best shows of the year, and while I will be there with my usual booth on the vendor floor, I’m also slated to do a lecture on Japanese textiles on Friday, August 14 at noon in Ballroom D. I’ll be showing select pieces from my private collection of 19th century indigo, sashiko, katazome, and boro pieces, plus other lovely silks and cottons not shown in my booth. There will also be a little bonus for lecture attendees, so I hope to see you there. Register now to reserve your seat!

In the meantime, you can watch part 1 of my video on Deconstructing Kimono. Why? Because if you have an old kimono or yukata hanging around at the back of your closet somewhere, you might want to take it out and give it new life. Part 1 runs 15 minutes (sorry about that, I’m working on making things quick and easy but actually doing it is neither quick nor easy) and part 2 will be shorter. PLUS, at the end of part 2 I’ll be introducing a pattern and kit that will be available at AQS QuiltWeek that I think you will enjoy.

Check it out and subscribe to my channel. My son has challenged me to produce as much content as he does on his channel, so we’ll see how that goes.


New organic cotton fabrics from Cloud9 and Monaluna, and our latest quilt show

Last year we quietly launched our new Etsy shop, Blue Star Organic Fabrics. We’re still building inventory slowly and collections we ordered last fall at Quilt Market are arriving a bit at a time. Last month we got Haiku from Monaluna, and this month Morning Song from Cloud9 arrived. Both collections are gorgeous, and more grown up than the usual juvenile organic cotton prints so widely popular in the market.


Cherry Blossoms from Monaluna Haiku Collection

Clover from Monaluna Haiku Collection

Clover from Monaluna Haiku Collection

There are six designs in the Haiku line, three with metallic accents. The colors are rich and bright, but also soft and subtle.

Cloud9’s Morning Song Collection features 14 (!!) different fabrics in muted, whisper soft tones from ice blue and smoke gray to bright popping orange and deep plum. I’ve put together a little sampler quilt, perfect for a new baby gift (I have a recipient in mind for this one and I hope she’s not too big for it already!).

Morning Song organic cotton fabrics from Cloud9

Morning Song organic cotton fabrics from Cloud9

We’ll be making a kit for this one, including bamboo batting, and listing it in the Blue Star shop when we get back from…

Eureka! We’ll be vending at the Heart of the Redwoods Quilt Show this weekend in Eureka, California. I hope you can join us! We’ll be scheduling late summer sewing classes when we get back, so if you missed the ones in May there will be more opportunities to try some fun sashiko projects and get you more comfortable with those huge needles, thick thread, and strange thimbles.

Silk Sashiko class registration almost open for Houston International Quilt Festival 2015

IMG_5222Class enrollment opens July 3 for the Houston International Quilt Festival! If you’d like to take my SILK SASHIKO class on Saturday, October 31, (#749 in the class catalog) be sure to sign up early as last year the class sold out by mid-August.

I’ve had all year to work on improving the class so it will be more organized and well-thought out (I didn’t have my templates printed on time last year), plus I’ve had an extra year to collect more beautiful fabrics to use in the class. The class supply kit include vintage Japanese tsumugi kimono silk, Fujix Soie et hand dyed silk thread, and my favorite Tulip sashiko needles. I’m still working on class details and planning out a great project for you to enjoy working on.


Bring is a pair of scissors and a willingness to learn something new. The point of this class is not to finish a copycat project of something I’ve already done; this is a skill building class, not a finished project class. Creativity is key. We’ll play with stitch length, design, and finding ways to feel comfortable with sashiko and sewing with silk.



Hyakka Ryoran Neko Collection

Lily cat
Like cats? So do we! Our cranky, flighty Miss Lily sheds, scratches, and bites, but we love her anyway.

Like cat fabrics for quilts? We have ’em! This collection from Quilt Gate is playful and yummy, filled with cats, flowers, and fun. It comes in five different prints and five different colorways. The fabric is a high quality quilt-weight cotton with tasteful metallic gold highlights. Check it out in the Kimonomomo Etsy shop.

We’ve listed these fabrics by the half yard and fat quarter bundles, but you can request any size you like while these fabrics are still in stock. We expect this collection to move fast.
HR3110_11CHR3110_11B HR3110_12AHR3110_12B HR3110_13AHR3110_13DHR3110_14CHR3110_14D HR3110_15EHR3110_15B

News for June 2015

Shop news for June and beyond…

More videos! This one is about KARISMA erasable & washable pencils (available in the notions section of my Etsy shop). I’ll be talking about tools for the next few episodes, so let me know what you’d like me to cover.


Our next show is the Seven Sisters quilt show hosted by the Associated Quilt Guilds of the Central Coast in San Luis Obispo, California. Leah and I did this show last year and were amazed by the quality of the quilts on display. Thomas will be joining me this year, and we’re looking forward to the road trip.


Coming to AQS QuiltWeek in Grand Rapids, Michigan in August? I am! Catch up with the latest Japanese import fabrics and notions on the vendor floor, or come see vintage textiles from my personal collection. Register for my lecture From Country Cottons to City Silks – Vintage Japanese Textiles here.

Oh, and by the way, Thomas and I got married a few days ago, right here in the shop! It was the only place in the house where we could fit everyone.


See that baby? That’s Callan, my great-nephew. His mama, my niece Martha, is on the far right. The goofy (and somewhat adorable/weird/wild) child holding him is my daughter Mickey.



Thursday was the last day of school for Thomas (he teaches grade school), so he’s all mine for the summer. :-D

Show your work!

I love seeing what my customers do with the fabrics I sell. Some turn them into personal diversions, while others use them in their own craft businesses. Here are a few that have been shared with me.



Happi Babies

Fun bibs, happi coats, and accessories for babies, made using yukata and organic cotton fabrics.




Queen Bee Essentials – Handbags and accessories made from vibrant fabrics.


Diane S. shared her quilt from a pattern in Quilter’s Newsletter magazine from February/March 2014 using Kona Bay’s Tomorrow Morning Collection in blue.


Linda R. shared a gorgeous kimono made from Kona Bay’s Lair of the Dragon Collection.

Do you have something to share? Let me know and I’ll post it here.

Previous Older Entries


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 386 other followers

%d bloggers like this: