Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Presented at Textile Society of America 11th Biennial Symposium: Textiles as Cultural Expressions, September 4-7, 2008, Honolulu, Hawai'i. Copyright © 2008 Nao Nomura


In 1975, the first American quilt exhibition toured some of the major cities in Japan including Tokyo and Kyoto and attracted a large number of audience. This exhibition made American quilts widely known to Japanese women and quiltmaking soon became a popular form of needlework among the middle-class women. Now, Japan boasts one of the world’s largest quilt populations and exhibitions, and many classes are offered all over the country throughout the year. In contrast to American quilters who often learn to quilt through informal practice with friends, families or local communities and by attending short-term workshops, many Japanese quilters learn within an established organizational structure that administers teaching and certification. The diffusion of quiltmaking in Japan owes a great deal to the establishment of these quilt schools. This presentation looks at Japan’s unique approach to teaching quilts by looking at quilt schools’ certification programs that are modeled after the teaching systems called the Iiemoto system, practiced in traditional Japanese arts such as Ssado (tea ceremony) and Iikebana (flower arrangement), which require completing a course of strict training before individuals become licensed under the aegis of a particular school. I discuss the importance and influences of such unique teaching methods and certification programs for the growing quilt population in Japan. Quiltmaking in Japan effectively utilized the existing system of “cultural learning” among women who appropriated the material culture common in the United States to satisfy their own aesthetic and functional needs.