Thursday, July 27, 2017

An Adventure With Atarashii

At a recent Black Forest Quilt Guild meeting, I (Kara) was fascinated with one of the show and tell quilts. It was made using Atarashii, or Japanese folded patchwork. (You can see pictures of the quilt here.) The method creates a block or part of the block, complete with patchwork, if desired, and batting; similar to a quilt-as-you-go process. I had a hard time finding information about it when I initially looked into it, but I have found some resources that I will share later in the post. 

Since I was so intrigued by this method, I thought I'd give it a try. Then I realized I didn't have any fabric or batting handy (my stash is apparently still on the boat). Luckily, my friend Birgit's shop is only a block away, and she had a book I could borrow on Atarashii. Off I went to pick up the book and a few fat quarters.

Birgit's Book about Atarashii.

As this was an experiment to see if I liked this method, this post isn't necessarily a tutorial. For a detailed tutorial, you can check here. This is a great tutorial from Jill at the Quilt Rat, and I liked the way she offered many different variations of a classic cathedral window, which is closely related to Atarashii. One of the variations reminded me of a flower, so that was what I chose to do. I used the book to trace my patterns, as I wanted to make sure I had the proportions correct. The book is written in Japanese, but the patterns were easy to trace and there were quite a few pictures to help with the process. I had to be a bit resourceful, making do with what I had—notebook paper to trace with and an Ikea box for the cardboard—but I was determined to make it work. I assembled all my parts and got started. 

All my parts ready to go

I started by piecing my circle.

Drawing my 1/4" seam allowance helped me stitch accurately

My finished 3 1/4" circle

Once I was finished with the circle, it was time to put gathering stitches, near the edge. 

Ready to gather.

I had cut a cardboard circle, 2 5/8" to use as a gathering template and then proceeded to pull on my gathering stitches so that the edges wrapped around the cardboard. Once it was gathered to my liking, I pressed it to hold the edge and then removed the cardboard.

My pressed circle before removing the cardboard.

In order for my "leaves" to align correctly, I folded the circle in half, matching the green edges. I then finger pressed the fold.

Matching the green.
Finger pressing the center fold.

I then opened up the fold and marked, with a small mark on the top and bottom.

Note the small marks at the top and bottom of the circle.

The marks allowed me to align my 1 3/4-inch square cardboard template.

Aligned and ready to press

I then pressed the edges of the circle over the cardboard.

Pressed edges with cardboard removed.

I prepared my center insert by stitching a 1 3/4" square, consisting of one 1" x 1 1/4" rectangle and one 1" x 1 3/4" rectangle of white, and one 1 1/4" square of coral. I put a few French knots on the coral and stitched a green stem using a chain stitch from the coral to the point.

Adding details.

Now the fun part as the flower appears! I put a 1 1/4" square of batting, and then my patchwork square in the center of my folded circle.

Please just pretend that patchwork square has the embroidery on it.

Then I folded my edges over and pinned them.

Ready to stitch!

I worked my way around the edges with a small appliqué stitch, starting at one corner.

A finished block

Just one in this size would be a cute little ornament, but I wanted to see what patterns I could create if I had four of them. So I made 3 more.

One version

A different placement

And one more

I settled on the first version and proceeded to attach the four parts in the same way I would if I were English paper piecing.

Stitching them together

My finished piece!

This is just one variation of many that can be done with this basic method. The variety comes from varying the pieced colors of the circle and the square. You can see a lot of different variations here. I will say that I think this method would be easier using larger pieces—I will admit to having to press a couple of pieces into square submission! However, I do think this would be a fun method to pre-prep and take on the go. Let us know if you've tried Atarashii or Japanese folded patchwork and how you liked it. As always, we'd love to hear from you!


  1. These are just beautiful!! Thanks for the tutorial. Thanks for sharing a link to your blog on the Celebrate Hand Applique group on Facebook. I have saved you in an email to myself.