Sunday, May 6, 2018

Kintsugi: A Pantone Challenge Quilt

Kintsugi is the Japanese practice of filling pottery cracks with gold in order to create beauty out of brokenness. The method, so prevalent in my mind over the last year, translates to my life in several ways. Mulling over this fact and inspired by the Pantone Color of the Year, ultraviolet (purple, my favorite color), I embarked on the first of what will hopefully be a series of small quilts.

Recently, renowned artist Lisa Congdon posted her thoughts about "art is survival," and that is the most succinct way to describe the last 8 years for me. I'm slowing down on production (so many ideas!) and beginning to focus more on the kinds of sewing that make me most happy. The process. The details. The quilting.

Quilting came to me at a time (age 20) when the whole world was a possibility. While this is still true, 8 years is a long time in both life and in practice of art. Lots of wonderful and terrible things happened. The daily practice of quilting (and my quilt friends) really kept me together. Only within the last couple years, though, do I think I had the capability to create something like this. Only after going through some really tough times. Now, I feel like I can get through anything.


Because kintsugi is about the beauty in the struggle. When I first cut the vase out from my piecing, it looked nothing like my vision, and I had to cut it apart and piece it together again. I tried to embrace it as part of the process - and I'm really glad I kept persisting, going back and forth for a few days before I finalized the vase's shape.

I purposefully pieced some lighter purple scraps in jagged, angular ways to show the cracks in my vase. After quilting the vase with my walking foot in three colors (Aurifil 1200 Blue Violet, 2540 Medium Lavender, and 1100 Red Plum), I used DMC metallic embroidery floss 5282 to embroider in gold. It was a challenge to make it look like real cracks and not hand-drawn with chalk beforehand! Thank you to Lindsay and Alyson for your encouragement!

For parts of the embroidery, I played with the kintsugi method of filling whole pieces of the broken pot in with gold, separate from the cracks.

At first, I considered quilting the pieced gray background like Metropolis, but thought it better to use lines rather than waves (to make the pot's curves more obvious). It was too plain for me, though, so I started randomly quilting orange peels with my free motion foot inside some of the channels. I used a variegated thread, Aurifil 4060 Silver Moon, which smoothly glides from light to dark gray (thereby blending and standing out at different points throughout the background).

My husband spotted me taking these pictures, remarking, "It looks like something you would make." I was pleased. The vase is my favorite color surrounded by my favorite motif, quilted orange peels. The backing is my current 2nd favorite fabric ever ("Rosealea" by Nel Whatmore for Free Spirit - very ultraviolet). The quilt itself is anything but perfect. Just how I like it.

I made pleats inside the vase to make up for the extra fabric pooling while I quilted (Sherri Lynn Wood teaches a method in her book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters). The embroidery is purposefully see through/not completely full. The background and pot are purposefully lopsided. Needless to say, this quilt came out even better than I hoped, and it's very special to me. Isn't that what quilting is all about? And now, I'm thinking of other ways I can represent kintsugi in quilt form. So much to think about.

Quilt stats:
-Size: 37" x 37" and made in the USA
-Designed, pieced, and quilted by me on my Janome 6300 home machine
-Made for the 2018 Pantone Quilt Challenge (and for my personal enjoyment), hosted by Rebecca of Bryan House Quilts and Sarah of No Hats in the House
-Other kintsugi quilts of interest: by Alexis Deise

Linking up to the 2018 Pantone Quilt Challenge (quilts category), TGIFF, Needle and Thread Thursday, Crazy Mom Quilts.


  1. I really love the organic shape of the vase and how you embroidered the final details. It leaves me wanting to know more of the history and at the same time looking and admiring the shape and imagining the journeys and processes required to shape it over the years. Beautiful post to explain it all, too.

  2. So true Jess. Quilting is an expression of art, and one's own inner thoughts. Thank you for pointing that out. Your quilt is gorgeous, and has a great back story.

  3. This is amazing, a testimony to how you have grown as a quilter!

  4. It's wonde4ful! I could look at it all day and see something different each time. I especially like the illusion of depth from the way the background is not parallel to the sides of the quilt.

  5. This is absolutely stunning. Really breathtaking. Love the different tones of purple and raspberry and the gold work is just gorgeous. Quilting really adds to its overall feel of zooming in on the vase.

  6. What a beautiful post, Jess. I'd never heard of kintsugi--what a glorious concept. And what a glorious piece of art you created by melding your own life's story with this tradition. I'm looking forward to what you create next.

  7. I love this quilt and the story behind it. I find your quilts so inspirational and thank you for sharing your thoughts and process of the project. I love seeing how you quilt each piece and how it just blends with the quilt and moves it to a new level. Can’t wait for the next project, Thankyou.

  8. Beautiful quilt and post. I really enjoyed learning more about your inspiration and process to create the finished piece.

  9. I just opened up your blog and my jaw dropped! I have been thinking about Kintsugi nonstop because I am reading the book Kintsugi Wellness by Candice Kumai. I've been thinking about patching things up in a beautiful way and how this applies to quilts, pottery and ourselves. I love your quilt. I love your post. And I love how you don't hide the imperfect parts of your own life. But you do make them beautiful with art and posts like this! xo

  10. one of my favorite words/concepts - captured perfectly (imperfectly) ;)

  11. Very nice. Thanks for the post with background information and all the pics.

  12. Thanks for sharing your process and beautiful quilt!

  13. I've just recently come across your blog - I love this quilt and the concept behind it!

  14. Great finish. I loved the special touch with those metallic DMC embroidery floss! Thanks for the idea, keep up the good work.


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