Sunday, May 2, 2021

Kawandi, & onsen getaway


In April  I took Sujata Shah's Zoom class, Stories in Stitches: Siddi Quilt  (you might be familiar with Sujata's quilt book Cultural Fusion - it is terrific).  The class was about Kawandi, which are quilts made by women of the African diaspora (Siddi community) in India.  Absolutely inspiring.  I loved Sujata's philosophy of quilting and life.  And she really taught us about the Siddi women with such respect and admiration.  

If you are on Instagram, you might like to check out: 

 @therootconnection (Sujata's IG page) 

@africanquiltsofindia  and @indigoartsalliance for important cultural background


Previous to the workshop I attended a virtual lecture about these amazing quilters sponsored by the Indigo Arts Alliance.   Highly recommend checking out and supporting this organization! 

For mine, I used what I had on hand already - fine (thin) sashiko thread, and a long sashiko needle suitable for the long rows of stitching.  Scraps.  Color!!  I've really been craving more color and freedom in my quilting.  

I took my kawandi project on our little weekend getaway - for some stitching on the train - and will always remember that I finished it while riding the Shinkansen! 

Sidebar - here was our lunch.  "Ekiben" are bento meals you purchase at train stations, to eat on the train: 

Honestly, I am SO HOOKED.  This style of quilting is so meditative and satisfying.  The method is so efficient, creative, loose, economical.  The result is lots of color and memories captured in a very soft supple little quilt. 

I used scraps and included a few gems - fabric that had been my Mom's and Grandma's, lots of Japanese fabrics, fabric from Charlotte's baby quilt, etc.  Japanese double-gauze as the backing.  

The little quilt measures about 20"x20" and I am going to give it to Charlotte, as a "lovey" from me, her Grandma;).  Charlotte turns one in June!  If I mailed it to her now, it would take 3+ months to arrive (can you even believe that?!) so I will bring it with me when we (hopefully) visit in July.  

A little more about our weekend trip - from the train we caught nice glimpses of the Sea of Japan - 

We stayed overnight at an older onsen north of Niigata - Atsumi Onsen - it had a nice private outdoor onsen we could reserve for an hour, which was so very relaxing.  

Lovely grounds at the onsen: 

The staff encouraged us to take a stroll in our borrowed yukata and geta.  Women can pick out a special yukata to wear.  Mine was size LL, the biggest size, and just barely big enough (sigh).  The little village was so empty - it was almost eerie.  We found an outdoor foot onsen - fun.  

We stayed in our yukatas for dinner in the dining room (with distancing measures in place).  Dinner was  kaiseki - a special, preset multi-course meal with a wide range of traditional, local, seasonal foods.  Here was the mysterious first course - I definitely ignored the snail).  We ordered Cokes and asked for water - it helps, lol. 

Rice is served at the end of the meal, before dessert (one poached sliver of apple, two strawberries, and a sliver of fudge).  

One of my favorite courses was this 4-bite piece of salmon with miso, with one giant poached cherry, so delicious.  

While you are at dinner, the staff puts out your futons.  They are so so comfortable to sleep on - really a pleasure.  Unfortunately the room had a fairly strong smoky odor (not uncommon) and I was glad we only stayed one night. 

The next morning, another lovely but somewhat challenging meal for breakfast.  Tiny portions of.... pickles (five types); some type of fish eggs (which I ignored) ; tofu; salmon, white fish, and a bite of omelette; three bites of bacon with onion and mushrooms that cooked over the fire at the table; miso soup, cabbage salad, rice, orange slice.  Apple juice! 

Shortly after we started home, on the train, everyone's phone earthquake alarms sounded all at once.  Very startling, super loud.  Seconds later, the train came to a stop and we could feel the shaking for what seemed like a long time.  No one made a peep the whole time.  David and I whispered a little bit.  This is where we were when it happened, truly out in the middle of nowhere: 

I'm glad it wasn't too severe an earthquake.  After about 5 minutes, we were on our way again.  Such is life in Japan! 

Thank you for hanging in there with this long post! 

xo gratefully 



  1. What an interesting post! You are really immersing in Japanese culture. The food would be an issue for me. When you say your room was smoky--cigarette smoke? Ick.

    The small treasure quilt is lovely. I do hope you can come home for a while this summer, good luck!

    1. Yes I just meant that lingering odor of smoke, from previous guests who had smoked. Not the best.

  2. I lived in Japan from 1976 to 1991 and have visited several times since. This post made me so homesick! Thank you for sharing the pictures and stories. Happy Golden Week!

  3. Thanks for recording your very Japanese week-end. It sounds lovely.

  4. Such an interesting life you're having in Japan. You are stitching lots of freedom in your quilts. You've developed a fabulous style. Glad you're heading for a visit home this summer.

  5. What a sweet little kawandi for Charlotte! Thanks for sharing your photos of your travel, I love learning more about the culture and foods, not to mention the scenery. You will be visiting Charlotte and her family at a wonderful age, walking and learning to communicate. Hopefully your home leave will encompass most of the summer.

  6. Ah, yes I remember buying bento boxes to eat on our train trip from Tokyo to delicious. As I said on IG, so special to use the fabrics pieces that hold such meaning.

  7. I like your Kawandi and might have to add doing one of these to my “to do” list🙂! It’s nice that you were able to enjoy a couple of days away from Tokyo and thanks again for sharing your adventures and pictures.

  8. What a wonderful post of your Kawandi journey, travel and food! I love the garden photos. Thank you some much for sharing your trip. It looks really nice and the food service is really something.
    I'm so glad the earthquake wasn't a big deal.
    Your post are always so inspiring!

  9. Your little quilt is so very special. What a treasure that will be for sweet Charlotte!
    I admire your adventurous spirit in exploring and experiencing the culture there, and embracing it in your quilting. What an immersive getaway you had. The garden looks very peaceful, and the descriptions of the food--so interesting! Too bad your room had that stale, lingering smoky smell. My goodness, the earthquake alarm sounds startling. Glad it wasn't more severe.
    I hope all goes well for you going home for a visit this summer!!

  10. Well... no one can say your life in Japan isn’t interesting, Cynthia. Such beautiful places you’ve shown us, and so pristine! The food ... so very interesting but I must say I would also be challenged with some of those meals. (is there anyplace you can get a good hamburger? Lol!) The earthquake must have been pretty frightening. Your kawandi is lovely! Yes, do make more!

  11. So many lovely things to comment on. Love your little project. My friend is going to the states next week and will take the laptop cover I made last year and have not been able to send to my daughter. Also Flat Stanley returning to my grandson in a larger envelope than is allowed by the US postal service.

  12. I absolutely love these posts with all of these little glimpses into your life and adventures in a place I will probably never be lucky enough to visit. I so enjoy your comments and observations. Thanks for taking the time to share such a wonderful journal of your daily life.

  13. The kawandi quilt is so sweet. How fun that you can put so many different memory-type pieces into it. Going on the trip with you was a breath of fresh air. I long to go somewhere.

  14. I can hear your enthusiasm for the new style in your written words. It's such a joy to find things that resonate so well with who we are! I think you must be much more adventuresome than me when it comes to food.:)

  15. Your kawandi quilt is delightful. One of these days/months/years, perhaps I will try this style of making a quilt. They are so bright and inviting.

    It's fun to travel with you on your outings in Japan. I have to say you are very adventurous when it comes to food. I would probably have packed grahams and peanut butter. LOL.

  16. What a great outing you had! I miss onsen but we are not ready to go out yet... Even to the local ones for just a bath. Kaiseki meals are the best!

    I really like your Kawandi quilt and am interested in how you made it... Just adding various shaped pieces of fabric over batting and then appliquing it all? Are the edges turned under? So pretty!


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