Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Yoko Saito Through the Years

A prominent and celebrated quilt artist and designer, Yoko Saito is known for her use of gentle taupe colors in quilting and sewing projects. Last fall, the Houston International Quilt Festival hosted a special exhibit called "Yoko Saito Through the Years, My Quilt Journey." The exhibit was a showcase of Saito's exquisite handiwork, her choices of color, and designs that have inspired her. We hope you enjoy these photos and descriptions from the exhibit!

~Scroll down for two free quilt patterns featuring Ms. Saito's fabric collection for Lecien.
~Check out our shop on eBay for quilt patterns, books, and vintage items!

Mystery Quilt by Yoko Saito (2012)

Designed for Quiltmania's "2012 Mystery Quilt" series, this wall hanging consists of six blocks that were combined into a final quilt.  The houses and buildings were arranged in such a way that when all the blocks are pieced together, it made the village come to life. In the border, Ms. Saito added random staircases that seem to go nowhere, giving the quilt a magical feel.

Cats, dogs, street lights, and trees were added with applique and embroidery. The entire quilt is hand-pieced, appliqued, quilted and embroidered. and machine pieced. Embroidery was added around the windows and doors of the houses.

Cosmos by Yoko Saito (2002)

Ms. Saito says, "This quilt, Cosmos, is special to me as it is what I showed at The Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival for my first exhibition there in 2002. The venue where it is held, The Tokyo Dome, is so huge that I wanted to create a bold design. I chose to applique flowers that are not as well-known as others, and used my signature taupe color favorites."  The quilt is hand-pieced, appliqued, embroidered and quilted.

Fågel Pipa by Yoko Saito (2011)

Inspired by Yoko Saito's trips to Sweden, Fågel Pipa (bird pipe or whistle) is an intricate combination of flowers, trees, and birds.  The quilt was made entirely by hand.  Hundreds of small leaves from a leafy-printed fabric were appliqued along with other motifs.

The curved vines and branches add a sense of movement. She says, "I imagine the bird chirping in the tree."

Julstjärna (Poinsettia) by Yoko Saito (2009)

Julstjärna (Poinsettia) was inspired by another trip to the lovely country of Sweden.  The grays and blues were chosen to reflect Ms. Saito's impression of colors seen in northern Europe.  She used the diamond shape to depict the petals of the poinsettia flower.

Basket Tree by Yoko Saito (1998)

Made in 1998, Basket Tree features pastel pinks and greens, along with beige branches, fencing, and borders.  Ms. Saito says,  "Whenever I visited America, I would see many baskets.  I was fascinated by the variety that were available, such as the egg-gathering baskets, long vertical ones, baskets with lids, and so many more.  I was told that in the days of the pioneers, basket quilts were made in hopes of having a bountiful fall harvest.  I fell in love with baskets and so began to sketch out basket patterns that I would then use to create applique."

In addition to the baskets, she added mittens, honeycombs, bird houses and other things that made her think of the American Country.  In the photo below you can see a bird house, a spider and spiderweb, appliqued on a floral background.

Merrier and Happier by Yoko Saito (2005)

In this wonderful quilt, branches and ornaments evoke a Christmas tree, and whimsical blocks bring merriment to the scene. Ms. Saito says, "This was a fun quilt where I deconstructed sixteen different pieced patterns and re-interpreted them with applique.  In putting the shapes back together, I allowed myself to do so freelyy, so that they are expressed more casually; even to the point were they are put together as puzzle pieces."  The closeup photo below shows a deconstructed Double Wedding Ring block.

The Chatter of Houses by Yoko Saito (2004)

Some years ago, Ms. Saito was invited to demonstrate various quilting tools and notions at a department store shop.  Instead of demonstrating techniques on random pieces of fabric, she decided to make houses.  By the end of the festival, there were enough houses to make an entire quilt - thus, the Chatter of Houses was created!
The center is made up of seven rows of seven houses surrounded by two borders of appliqued houses and buildings. The dark fabric she used for the background reminded her of the winter sky, so she added embroidered colonial knots on the outer border.

The 2017 Yoko Saito exhibit was sponsored in part by Lecien Fabrics. Here are two free patterns from Yoko Saito's Centenary fabric collections at Lecien:

Centenary Stars, 62 x 82", free pattern by Lynne Goldsworthy (PDF download). Designed for the 2017 Centenary fabric collection by Yoko Saito for Lecien.

The Neighborhood, 50 x 50", free pattern by Joe Wood (PDF download).  Designed for the 2009 Centenary fabric collection by Yoko Saito for Lecien.

Image credits:  Photos of the Yoko Saito Through the Years exhibit were taken by Quilt Inspiration at the 2017 Houston International Quilt Festival.


  1. Yoko's work is always amazing! Thanks for sharing.

  2. These quilts are magnificent, truly works of art. I so admire the highly skilled women that have the talent and patience for all of this detailed work.
    Connie :)

  3. Wow - every single one of them is absolutely beautiful!

  4. Truly an amazing body of work from this master quilter.

  5. Yoko Saito has given new meaning to the word "Taupe". (and I'll bet those who produce it are benefiting greatly, as her work is very popular). Kuroha-sensei has done the same for Japanese woven "Kasuri " which is now so expensive I can no longer afford it even scraps that are as old as I am.

  6. what a wonderful share today! thank you!


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