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My Quilting Life: Japanese Quilt Blocks for a Zen Cushion

My Quilting Life: Japanese Quilt Blocks for a Zen Cushion

by Pam Voth

I left my last blog with a goal to use my Christmas gift book, Japanese Taupe Quilts by Susan Briscoe to create some elegant and tranquil cushion for my living room. You can be the judge of whether I achieved this state of Zen. I feel like I have worked on some difficult projects by now.  I remember the Dresden Plate as a big learning curve at the time. I have become more adept at certain things. I can now create a baby quilt from my original pattern in a matter of a few hours. I love hexies of all kinds and I’m even getting better at applique. All this being said, I found this layered quadruple wheel very challenging. Not to be daunted, I moved forward and completed my first (and definitely not my last) Zen cushion.

The layered quadruple wheel block in its completed cushion on the dark green chair. The cushion features dark brown with small dots for the background, the wheel has blue and beige with a brown frame.

The Japanese Zen Cushion finds a home

The first round of fabrics from my stash that fit the Japanese Zen that I was looking for in my cushions.

Fabrics from my stash

Lockdown made this a struggle because I still couldn’t shop for fabrics. I started by using what I had but, this project required me to scrap some versions – or refer to them as practice blocks. I ran out of border fabric – anyway, the moral of this story is stay positive and be patient. The stores opened, I figured out how to make the block work and, I achieved my Zen goal. Although, honestly, I would say that I, at times, did not feel too Zen during the process!  Quilting is a great substitute for the problem solving and perseverance required in my former job as an elementary principal.

 The blue and beige and green batik fabric being cut into squares to make triangles for the wheels.

Cutting the squares to make the triangles

Learning something new is all about adding to your muscle memory. When it comes to measuring and cutting for a quilting project, it becomes second nature. I read and re-read the measurements (I do it three times) to ensure I got it right and then, I measure three times before I cut.

There were no instructions on what to sew together first. How many times in our lives are we faced with something where we just don’t now what to do next? Taking some time to just breathe really helps. I am, generally, impatient to get to a solution and so, learning to pause and breathe has definitely been a journey. In the end, after some thinking, I sewed the pieces together using the 5 Stitch Trick that I will share with you in my video.

As I learned how the assembly worked best, I decided to create my first block into a smaller cushion and then create more blocs to make another cushion (later).

I created a 12” x 16cushion by adding a border of 2½” on one side and 3½” on the other side.  This, I considered, my final practice block because now I have a system and I can create the other cushion, possibly without tearing my hair out – with satisfaction, of course.

I added batting to the cushion and decided to top stitch around the block and in the pinwheel pattern. I machine quilted it and then sewed the plain back of the cushion on. I made sure that the entire cushion was 15” x 11” so that, when the cushion went in, there’s a snug fit. I debated a zipper but, it’s a living room cushion so, over time, steaming it will keep it dust-free and clean.

I completed two pillows for my living room and totally enjoyed the versatility of the blocks.

 The four blocks are sewn together to make a square, then framed in upholstery fabric to create a pillow.

Four completed layered quadruple blocks

The completed pillow showing different brown patterned frames around each layered quadruple wheel has been sewn into a pillow.

Japanese Zen pillow 2

All journeys are up and down and none of them are linear. My quilting journey branches out in all directions. This month alone, I have created a baby quilt and continued working on my sampler quilt, as well as my Zen Japanese cushion. I continue to adore my quilting group.  These amazing friends and mentors not only encourage and inspire me to be better than we would be on our own. When I think about being connected to someone, I’m more interested in listening to them than I’m about sharing my own thoughts but, in the end, when we share our burdens, joys, questions and lives, we grow. I have grown because I have been opened to learning from others.

What’s next? I’m looking forward to starting my version of the Spectrum QAL2020 with fabric support from Riley Blake Designs, I’m using the very ‘delightful’ Delightful Collection. I’ll also want to share the courage of my mentor and friend Heather, by making a beautiful bordered hexie table runner.

I love quotes so, I leave you with this:
There are no limits to what you can accomplish, except the limits you place on your own thinking.  – Brian Tracy

The finished layered quadruple wheel block is completed as a cushion.

Finished Japanese Zen Cushion



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