Q&A with Zakka Patchwork Designer Ayumi Takahashi

Who doesn't love a quick and clever patchwork project, especially if the combination of fabrics and design practically guarantee the project will brighten your day?

triangle patchwork pouch by ayumi takahashi
Triangle Patchwork Pouch by
Ayumi Takahashi.

I'm often drawn to the zakka-style designs of Ayumi Takahashi who frequently creates patchwork patterns for our sister magazine, Stitch. Aymui's designs combine whimsy and practicality, and take full advantage of contemporary fabrics. It's also obvious that she really loves sewing and creating.

Ayumi has a new book out, Patchwork Please! Colorful Zakka Projects to Stitch and Give, and each project is cuter than the last. To give you some insight into how Ayumi creates with modern patchwork style, I'm excerpting this Q&A she did with former Stitch Assistant Editor Stephanie Berganini.

S: Walk us through the steps when you're making a project. Where does your inspiration come from, and how do you translate that into a finished piece?

A: My inspiration comes from absolutely everywhere, but mostly from fabrics, especially fabrics with designs are unique and vintage or vintage-inspired. When I find interesting fabrics, I experiment with matching fabrics. When I have my heart set on a certain combination, I start creating a sewing pattern by drawing and taking notes of measurements. I create a prototype and see if I need to make any changes, especially when I am making a sewing tutorial. Once I know exactly what I am making, I get going-no break, no food-and finish up a project, realizing it's past midnight; that's my style! Oh, and knowing that I can share my finished pieces in my blog is a huge push for me to finish up projects too!

patchwork squirrel by ayumi takahashi
Ayumi's popular patchwork squirrel softie.

S: The items you've made for Stitch have mainly been home décor projects and accessories. Do you stick to these types of projects?

A: I do tend to stick to zakka-inspired patchwork projects, mostly small home décor pieces and accessories. Having a very small crafting space (just a corner of the living room), I tend to go for projects that require little space. I also like to buy fabrics in small increments, usually a fat quarter, which is another reason I enjoy small projects. However, I have designed and made clothing for myself and several shorts for my hubby. I definitely enjoy making clothing as well because the result is amazingyou can wear it! The most daring thing I've ever made is probably the squirrel plush that was featured in Stitch Fall 2009. That plush was the first thing I sold in my Etsy shop! I was so happy that I couldn't help hopping, skipping, and jumping! My favorite changes, but it is always something medium to small that uses lots of different fabricspatchwork zipper pouches, log cabin pincushions, and plastic bag dispensers are a few examples of things that I've made tons of.

S: You were born and raised in Japan, but now live in California. Tell us a little bit about the similarities and differences between crafting in the United States and abroad.

books for baby patchwork quilt by ayumi takahashi
Books for Baby patchwork quilt design
by Ayumi Takahashi.

A: I love talking about differences and similarities in crafty trends in Japan and America. One factor is the size of the space allowed for crafting activities. In Japan, an average house or apartment is much smaller than in America. Few crafters in Japan have space large enough for a cutting table or even a sewing table. Cutting is usually done with scissors, rather than a cutting mat and a rotary cutter, and a sewing machine is placed on a dining table when needed. Even storage space is limited, which makes it impractical to create and store several quilts. All this makes sense if we look at Japanese craft magazines that are full of zakkasmall to medium items for accessories and home décor, and quilts that are handsewn and are extremely elaborate and detailed. One of the similarities between crafting here and in Japan is that materials from other countries are highly valued. Just as people over here adore fabrics from Japan, many Japanese crafters are into foreign textiles. You'll see fabrics and feedsacks from the United States and Liberty of London prints from England everywhere in the Japanese market. I guess we can't help going for things that aren't easy to obtain.

Fortunately for us, Ayumi's patchwork designs are easy to obtain. Her book Patchwork Please! is available now in the Quilting Daily shop.

P.S. Do you like patchwork projects? Do you prefer creating patchwork quilts or small patchwork projects? Tell me about it in the space below.

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