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Chiyoko Kishita won first place with her “Baltimore Quilt” in the Viewer’s Choice competition at the Decatur Public Library’s annual Quilt Show.
Daily photos by John Godbey
Chiyoko Kishita won first place with her “Baltimore Quilt” in the Viewer’s Choice competition at the Decatur Public Library’s annual Quilt Show.

Quilter from Japan wins Viewer’s Choice at library

By Andrea Brunty · 340-2448

When Chiyoko Kishita began sewing the red, white and blue American flag on a quilt, she had no idea she would soon be leaving Japan to live in the U.S.

After moving to Decatur for her husband’s job at Daikin America, the 43-year-old began taking English as a Second Language classes. When her teacher learned of Kishita’s hobby, she recommended entering her quilts in the Decatur Public Library’s annual Quilt Show.

Kishita’s entry won first place out of 32 quilts in the Viewer’s Choice competition.

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Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Reta Ridling’s “Kitty Haven” won second place.
Library patrons submitted 303 ballots, and 55 votes went to her “Baltimore Quilt,” which is based on a traditional block design.

Because Kishita is still learning English, Sadako Calkins, a friend who works with Kishita’s husband at Daikin, helped translate.

In Japan, many people sleep on what Americans would call futons, Calkins said. Though the custom is changing some, it’s still traditional to sleep on the floor, she said. Because the rooms are smaller and multi-functional, you would put the “futon” mattress in the closet during the day, Calkins said, so quilts were mostly used for decoration. Kishita’s works of art now have a place on her bed.

Though many have turned to machines to sew quilts, Kishita spent a year hand-stitching her quilt from a pattern.

“The stitches are so tiny and straight, you have to look closely to be able to tell it wasn’t machine-made,” said Patricia Slaten, library spokeswoman and exhibit coordinator.

Trudy Spain’s “Fiesta!” won third place.
Trudy Spain’s “Fiesta!” won third place.
Though Kishita was hesitant at first, she wants to learn how to use a sewing machine soon. In the meantime, she puts her 20 years of expertise to use by teaching quilt-sewing weekly to friend Akiko Irie and three other women whose husbands also work at Daikin.

In addition to quilts, she sews bags, pouches, dolls and other items.

Second-place honors went to Reta Ridling’s “Kitty Haven,” an elaborate dollhouse with cats roaming throughout. The vividly colored “Fiesta!” by Trudy Spain won the third-place ribbon.

Since the show’s inception in the late ’70s, the event boasts different quilters each year, Slaten said.

“It’s just amazing to me to see what they come up with,” she said.

The exhibit will be on display until Tuesday from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. at the library. Call 353-2993.

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