Using Japanese Textiles

Japan has always had the knack for seamlessly fusing time-honoured traditions with modernist tendencies – and no where is this more apparent than their famed textile trade, where perfectionist inclinations and timeless appeal serve up a mind-boggling range of fabric.

Now, Japanese-inspired textiles and fabrics are more popular than ever. The Sydney Craft and Quilt Fair, held at Darling Harbour showed just how much the love of these sumptuous fabrics has taken hold, with stalls, exhibitors and workshops showcasing glorious technicolour silks, cottons and hemp textiles in abundance.

Whether you’re a dressmaker, a crafter or a quilter, you’re sure to find some inspiration in Japanese fabric. While the possibilities for integrating east-originating fabrics are only limited by your imagination, below are tips on how to get started for those new to inspiring world of Japanese textiles

- There’s plenty of Chinese-made cotton and polyester replicas out there, but it goes without saying - if you’re making something special, buy quality material so those wonderful colours stay as vibrant as the day you bought them. There is a huge range of retailers selling quality fat quarters direct from the Japanese market.

- Usually reserved for special occasions, the Kimono has taken its place among quilting and fabric enthusiasts as a coveted material. With a brand new, high-quality silk kimono costing about the same as a new car (upwards of $10,000), it’s easy to see why a thriving market for vintage kimonos has sprung up. But if a trip to the famed second-hand markets in Kyoto isn’t on the agenda, online sites such as have a great range that is imported straight from Japan.

- It might feel like sacrilege to slice your scissors through the soft silk, but kimono fabric lends itself wonderfully to table runners, place mats, handbags, cushions, or patchwork quilts, bed runners, scarves, and brooches.

- There was a time when an obi had just one purpose – to tie a kimono. Now, these beautiful lengths of fabric are making resurgence as crafters discover the almost unlimited decorative potential of the obi as table runners and wall hangings, sumptuous cushions and tote bags.

- Don’t be disheartened if bright colours don’t match your aesthetic – there is a dazzling array of muted tones available, but other get brave and go bold! Use contrasting colours that will make the best of your bought pieces.

By Penelope Quinn (

Special thanks to the Sydney Craft & Quilt Fair 2011

Photos courtesy of Sally Newton Photography

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