Friday, September 26, 2008

Okinawa Memory Quilt

When I first arrived on the island, there was a church group that was creating a "memory quilt." Now, for any of you that know me very well, you know that I am not a seamstress of any kind (I made Dana promise to NEVER buy me a sewing machine). But more than anything I wanted "in" on that quilt. Unfortunately for me, I had missed the opportunity and could only watch from the sidelines while trying to curb my envy of such a great souvenir to take home from this island.

So, about 6 months later I decided to take matters in my own hand (always scary) and head up another group so that I could get a quilt. Selfish, no? Well, everyone else would get a quilt as well, I just really really wanted one!

After a few months I had compiled 20 willing and committed girls to take on this task. We each committed to making 20 of the best squares we could with each of us choosing a different theme. Let me tell you, this was no walk in the park. We all had to each figure out what theme we wanted for our Okinawa Memory Quilt and then create a pattern as well as then find great fabrics and then (gulp) take on the project of actually sewing (we did an applique' method...don't ask me how, I really have no idea what I am talking about). We all met together several times to claim our theme and then help each other with a pattern.

After 6 months of blood, sweat and tears (ok, maybe not too much sweat but definately blood (sharp needles, ouch!) and tears) we finally arrived to our agreed upon deadline and had a swapping of the squares night. It was such a celebration! Everyone did a fantastic job. I am so proud of the girls in my group. Not only did each of us learn some basic sewing skills, but I think we all made new friends as well.

We now each have 20 different and beautifully done squares to create a quilt with (again, don't ask me how...that is part 2 and I can't even fathom on where to begin).

So, here are the squares:
This one is mine. It is a sanshin and is a local instrument. When we first arrived on the island, I would every so often hear this "twangy" banjo/guitar sound floating around. The moment you hear it, you think of "Japan." I love it! It has such a calming sound.

Taiko Drum. Again, a local instrument that you hear and see at every festival. In fact, they have arcade games for the kids with two big drums and drum sticks that you can play and do your best at following the beat on the screen.

Map of Okinawa. The kanji on it says "Okinawa."

Goya. The green bitter melon is a staple of the local people. It is as bitter as anything I have ever tasted. But, the locals swear by it and its "fountain of youth" properties.

The lucky cat. This cat carries two responsibilites: to grant wealth and/or good health. You see it in many businesses around town.

The clown fish, a.k.a. Nemo. The clown fish is a "regular" for divers and snorkelers to see while exploring the fantastic coral reef that we have surrounding the island.

Whale Shark. These gentle giants do roam the warm waters surrounding the island. There is also a fantastic aquarium here on the island that houses three of them in the most enormous tank I have ever seen.

Hermit crabs are everywhere here on the beaches. It is so fun to watch the kids chase them and scoop them up to take a closer look.

Geta Shoes. Geta are the sandles that are worn when dressing up in a fancy kimono for a celebration of some sort. I love them, but I have no idea how a person could walk in them without breaking an ankle.

Cherry Blossoms. Of course they are everywhere here in the spring and a very big deal to the Japanese people. Festivals galore dot the island while the blossoms are in full bloom.

Torii Gate. There are only a few torii gates here on the island but many more on mainland Japan. They symbolize an entrance to a sacred place.

Kokeshi Dolls. These are collectible wooden dolls made here on the island as well as mainland. Many years ago, these were toys for children, but now they have become a work of art.

Cocok's Feet! I think just about every woman here on the island will visit Cocok's (pronounced Coco's) at least once while here for a pedicure and amazing toe nail art.

Lotus Flower Hat. There is a traditional dance unique to the island that includes the costume of a lotus flower hat and bingata clothing.

Bamboo. Yes, it grows here and is mesmerizing to look at and watch (sway in the wind, not grow). :)

Flags. The kanji says "friendship."

Kimono. I love love seeing people wear their kimono. Often at festivals we are able to catch a glimpse of many of the women and young girls wearing these ornate gowns.

Sushi! How could you have a quilt of Japan and not have sushi? It is on every corner and in every convienence store.
Hibiscus Flower. These are all over and in every color. They are beautiful and smell wonderful.

This is our group minus a few girls. Thank you so much to all of you for your hard work!

P.s. I bought a darn sewing machine.


Ramona Jensen said...

Oh my Cathryn. The quilt blocks are beautiful. What a project.
I wish I could be there to help you put the quilt together.

Love to you, Dana & the boys.

Angie said...

Cathryn, you did a wonderful job of putting this all together. Thank you so much!

Your quilt square is beautiful - your time and effort shines through.

I'm looking fwd to extending this "little" project ... maybe we can have a few quilt-ins! :)

MaryAnn said...

Okay, I am like you (at least what you claim to be) and have no talent in sewing, but now I really want one! Do you think there may be 20 more women who are willing to put in that much work??

Alisha Green said...

Ahhh those are just beautiful. You should all be so proud of the gorgeous work of art you put together. What a great keepsake.

thekerrclan said...

That's awesome!

Karalyn said...

You usually know what you want and then you go for it! Nice job!

Jamie Lamb said...

That is awesome! What a wonderful thing to take with you after you leave Japan. I bet you are glad you did it.

Doug & Donna Green said...

I know first hand that these quilt blocks are so much more beautiful in "real life", they are magnificent! Congrats Cathryn for putting this group together and congrats to all the "happy" quilters! What a wonderful keepsake, probably the best you will have from there!

Amie said...

Cathryn--Thank you so much for hosting this group. It really gave me a sense of accomplishment--besides the obvious one I get from wiping little noses and folding mounds of laundry, etc. :) It was nice to have a project to keep me from focusing on being homesick, and it was even nicer that you did all the hard work of putting this together. I love how all of the squares turned out. I will treasure this quilt as my most favorite souvenir. Thank you for being so organized and so together!

Oliver and Keisha said...

That is just awesome! And such a great idea!

Susan said...

I love the quilt that you are making! I am sure that it looks great! Was it just great to have your mom there with you!?

Jessica said...

Oh dear. I am sorry that you had to buy something that you never wanted to. BUT, what beautiful squares. Those are amazing! Truly. That is defiantly something to always cherish!

XUE said...

I love your blocks, all which I can tell have been created with love ! Love your little stories with them too. May I also ask you, where/how you bought your darn sewing machine.