Spotlight: Patricia Belyea and Okan Arts
Patricia Belyea is a quilt maker, speaker and teacher who imports vintage Japanese yukata cottons for her online store and shop, Okan Arts, in Seattle. The luscious Japanese fabrics achieve new life in Patricia’s quilt designs, as well as in her students’ designs. Patricia teaches in her Ballard neighborhood studio and hosts destination quilt retreats that ignite a creative spark while sharing new techniques.
Tell us a little bit about you and what you do.
I’m an artisan quilter who imports vintage Japanese textiles—mostly yukata cottons for making unique quilts. I sell these remarkable hand-dyed fabrics through Okan Arts, my home-based Seattle store and my online shop. My new book, East Meets West Quilts, shows how to combine yukata cottons with commercial solids to then make a series of improv quilts.
What made you interested in quilt making?
Eight years ago I made a baby quilt for one of my employees. I was pricked my the poison needle and haven’t stopped quilting since. So quilting has taken over my life—I eat, sleep and breathe quilting. In fact I gave up my corporate job three years ago to pursue this unexpected passion.
What inspires you?
Anything and everything around me sparks curiosity and inspiration. It could be something I see or read, or a person I meet.
What other hobbies do you have?
I love to travel and discover new people and places. These days I seek quilt-related experiences in my adventures.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
My father inculcated into his six children that travel and fresh flowers are important for a rich life. I’ll go with that wisdom.
Make a gorgeous table runner from Japanese fabrics from Okan Arts!
When creating quilted home accessories for a magazine article, I had to tackle the expected table runner project.
Quilted table runners creep me out for three reasons:
- They’re puffy so nothing sits flat on them.
- Their typical 1/4″ bindings remind me of mini quilts that have lost their doll beds.
- They sit on a table like an alien object that doesn’t relate to the piece of furniture.
Here’s how I made a table runner that overcame my prejudices:
I use wool felt for the center of the quilt sandwich. First I washed the wool felt in hot water to shrink it and make the felt harder. Then I laid the damp fabric on the floor and stretched it with pins to “block” it. Once ironed flat, I cut the fabric into long lengths and stitched it end-to-end with a zig-zag stitch to get the needed length.
I cut the top and backing fabric 1/2” wider than the felt. After placing the felt 1/4” in from the edges of the wrong side of the top fabric, I then lightly joined the the two with some freemotion quilting. With right sides together, I stitched the top fabric combo and backing fabric together by following closely along the edge of the wool felt with a zipper foot.
The long tube was then turned right-side out and the edges pressed and stay-stitched. More freemotion quilting connected the three layers and then a contrasting end-cap was added.
Creating a table runner as a special object elevates its place in the world. Before I made this table runner, I photographed the table and thought about how it would be used in this mid-century designer home. The dropped sides add the right amount of drama in this simple yet elegant Northwest home.
The fabrics used in this project are vintage Japanese yukata cottons. Yukata cottons, made for casual summer kimonos, measure 14” wide, so they are just right for a table runner. I love the bold, lyrical look of women’s floral yukata patterns when paired with the geometric symmetry of men’s blue and white yukata cottons.