Thursday, February 15, 2018

I'm back ... more or less



Yesterday was my first daughter's birthday.

When she was born, we planted this plum tree in celebration, and usually we enjoy her birthday along with the blooms at the South-west corner of our house.


Not only have we had the construction during the last few years of three-story buildings blocking all the sun in the neighborhood, but this winter has brought record cold to the area.

Although no snow is seen in downtown areas, piles of dirty icy snow still remain within sight of my front gate. Yesterday I took my shovel out to chop up a number of ice patches pressed by car tires two weeks ago and still slippery for walkers.

In a few more weeks it will be my third daughter's birthday and her Sweet Daphne buds are formed and seem to be watching the plum for clues to open.

Last week, though I took a bit of time off to recover from my cold, the days got jammed with the usual activities. Choir practice went on longer than usual on Thursday night ... trying to polish up our performance for Saturday but with only half the participants there.

Friday I was to go to a quilt meeting, but I also had to prepare for my Cub Scout pack meeting so there was no time to enjoy my quilting friends. As it was, our pack meeting went on very long because we were doing a "rough-cut" day for the coming pinewood derby.  When I was down on the floor trying to replace a broken blade on the electric saw, I took off my glasses to get my face closer to the lower parts of the saw, and then smashed the frames getting back up. The blade was fixed but the saw gave up five minutes later so all cutting from then on had to be done by hand.

It was midnight by the time I got home and there was a request for the choir members to show up Saturday by 11:am ... though the program was scheduled from 3:00pm to 5:00pm. I gave up on dinner and went right to bed after walking the dog. Morning... walk the dog, grab a banana, and get out the door.

The concert went well and a great time was had by all, but I think my part was the worst I have ever done since we began practicing a few months ago. By the time of the performance I had used up most of my high notes and was getting two notes for the price of one ... neither perfect.

Sunday I was handed a sewing project for a home decorator. Oh my, very heavy canvass it was ...
I had a communications meeting that went on and on into the afternoon, and finally excused myself so I could go and find a glasses store. The one in my neighborhood had closed. I went to Ikebukuro where I had purchased the last pair and that shop had closed. I found the police box and they told me there was a shop on the other side of the station. Not easy finding places when you are too nearsighted to read the signs, but finally I found the shop. they no longer carried my old frames but could find a very expensive pair that would take my lenses. Luckily I did not have to order new lenses and wait more days. Also, luckily I had the money I had been advanced for the sewing job.

Then... rush home, grab the dog and take the car to the pet store to buy dog food ... being all out. It was wan-wan day (11) when I can get extra points on my card for purchases ... meaning a free bag of food several times a year. After waiting in the street for half an hour because the parking lot was full, I decided since I was already blocking the lane along with a long row of waiting cars, I drove up to the entrance and put on my flashers, dashed in and they knew what I wanted, grabbed the big bag of kibble and was out the door in no time.

That was it for what was left of Sunday. Monday mornings I am out the door for onigiri delivery by 4:am.
Sadly, one of the homeless I have been serving over the years had died during the weekend. Strangely, I had had a dream about him that night.
Well, then off to school.

Getting home at dinner time, I thought since I had to turn in the sewing project the next day, I had better get to it. I ended up basting the seams because that canvass was very thick and could not take pins.

Next morning I brought down my sewing machine and began setting it up. All the pieces had been basted and were ready for sewing but my machine just would not cooperate and jammed after only two or three stitches every time. Finally, the clock said it was after noon and I did not know if I could ever get the machine working. I decided if I didn't start sewing the project by hand, there would not be enough time to finish.

It was a simple curtain, long and narrow with a hanging sleeve at the top and hemmed at the bottom. Luckily I finished it all by 5:00pm, just in time to get into town and meet up with the decorator before my regular Tuesday night meeting. I still had one more drape to finish and I did that one by hand too, finishing yesterday. It will be passed off on Sunday. I still don't know how to get the machine working and I hesitate to put it back in its box in a non-working state.

My frustration level with machines has hit an all-time high. Even my computer has taken a turn for the worse, when I try to open my email, I get the message "Network connection timed out. Please try again". "Try again" has no meaning so all I can do is shut the computer off and re-start it many times a day. This began ever since I was forced to take the "New Yahoo" I sure do wish those yahoo and google guys would find something else to mess with rather than messing with things that aren't broke!

Next post will be quilt show stuff. I am hoping to collect the names of those wonderfully creative quilters whose work I photographed.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Taking a bit of "down time"


It's cold out here, Mom, could you step out and remove the ice from my drink? Pretty please?

A few years ago, our choir-room chairs were changed from folding ones to some rigid stacking ones.

At that time, the shape of the raised ridge along the front, hit my legs at a place that made it hard for me to sit longer than five or so minutes. To fix the problem, I made a cushion for my chair.

Ever since then, the choir president has been asking, "Where is my cushion?"

Finally I asked her what colors she wanted, and I have to say, fuchsia and yellow were not easy to find among music prints.

Last Wednesday I finished the assembling and embroidered her initial in the center, and passed the cushion to her during the Thursday evening practice.


As she and her husband are both string players, I thought this bit of fabric worked well for the backing.


I think she took it home rather than placed it on her choir chair, but she was happy and said she was only joking about getting one.


This sixteen inch "Swoon" block I found on several blogs long ago and made a sketch on graph paper so the pattern was easy to draft.

There are a lot of set-in seams which take time and patience and the zipper was set in by hand.

The weekend included the Women's Conference, and with snow still falling on Friday morning, we took the train instead of driving. Too bad I had not prepared handwork for the train because the ride was long. Unfortunately, my sore throat turned into a cough and my voice was rather shot.

I started my regular week with onigiri delivery and school but now I am taking some down time, hoping my voice will recover in time for the Saturday valentine concert. I tried singing along with yutube and can get all my notes but the trick will be not to break into coughing.

I have yet to post on the Tokyo Dome show but both Tanya and Carin have made a number of lovely posts. I am thinking of going to their posts and eliminating duplicate pictures from my camera to see what I might have beyond what they have shown. For me, there is still the challenge of giving credit to those creative quilters whose names were printed only in Kanji. Only the "Teacher's" quilts had Roman letters included. This year I did not bother to fill out a questionnaire, as it appears  it is never read other than to get your address for sending you advertisements.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Tokyo Dome show has begun!

Prepare for a string of posts .....

I would not have thought of attending that big quilt show on the opening day. I knew there would be thousands of people cramming every open space ... BUT ... Quilting has as much to do with friends as it does with quilts.

Long ago I joined a group of quilters .. The Tokyo International Quilters ... it was in the days of many ex-pats temporarily assigned to Tokyo and it was a group of the revolving door. We celebrated new members coming in and were saddened by their departure. I think the average assignment was about three years but there were always members coming and going.

Yesterday, my trip to the show was focused on a visit with a former member, now from Texas. Ah, how the years flew away, and we were back to those good old days. Another long-term member, Kuraishi-sensei, set up the meeting over lunch in the coffee shop ... ah, friendship and coffee ... what could be better?

It was a good thing I left home early because though the line to buy tickets was short, the line to get into the stadium went almost the entire way around the building. It must have taken close to an hour to get in, but a lucky thing is that quilters are friendly and I could get to visit with those in line (even in my miserable Japanese).

 After lunch, the three of us wandered around the show, looking at interesting areas that Sensei lead us to and gave an insider's view.


Our last visit was to the partnership quilt #8, where I got to see my Ohio cardinal guarding his nest at the top of the quilt.

Even though the blocks were made smaller this year, there were still 60 finished quilts.

A number had blocks that were all the same except for fabric choices.

I think the quilter that joins with NHK on this activity, issues a selection of patterns for those who need an idea.

After looking at many of the quilts, it seems this one containing my block got the most creative donations.






Next to Mr. cardinal is a patterned block

but those surrounding ones are original ideas of the quilters.

Panda with bamboo (it may be a tree of life for the panda, but bamboo is a grass)

The woodpecker...

This rabbit by the stump gazing at the sprout coming from that stump and the roots below...






And, how about these trees?


Or the squirrel gathering acorns?


A tree with a swing

a Twitter shaped bird ...

a pink squirrel ...

There were lots of apples but this one was made of hexagons.













These cats were so cute framing that sprout.














More creative apples and trees.


That one on the bottom has a tree house at the top of the ladder.










There were a few of these cat blocks that had been arranged in circles on a few quilts.

The giraffe is one of a kind


not sure about the footprint ...


I have to admit, though I hardly ever win anything... I had to buy a raffle ticket for this one. And my friend, Linda bought one too.

My usual camera suddenly stopped working after the snow day and the alternative camera battery was not charged and soon gave up.

Saturday will be another chance. Along with the friendship worth cancelling my english class, I will get another chance at picture taking.

This year the contest quilts all included names in English, but alas, the other exhibits of traditional, Wa, Original design etc. were not translated. All I got for many years of filling out those questionnaires, was a pile of postcards advertising the show.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Good day to stay inside


This was the view outside my garden door this morning.

I didn't even try to open the door to access the compost pile.


It had begun snowing Monday while I was at school, and while I was washing up the paint pallets and brushes, the director came by and urged me to go home.

Well, there was still work to do and I ride a subway, now how was that going to be disturbed by snow? When I finally left, the snow was still falling and the sidewalks were quite slippery in places, especially on the downhill grade.
Luckily I made it to the station with lots of slips but no falls.

The train, about 8 levels or more below ground , was running but it seems every boss had nagged their employees to leave early. The usual sardine-can was crammed with people. In fact, at each station, more tried to shove in and the doors could hardly close over the bodies.
The only people I say sitting were young and dry and looked like they had been sitting a long time with a number sleeping. People were packed so tightly there was nothing left to hang on to.

I took Nikko on her evening walk as soon as I arrived home to save going out and getting wet all over again.


The sun came out in the morning but the snow had piled up to the point that opening the front door was like plowing the snow and even opening the front gate a challenge.

Nikko was very excited ... like a kid on a "snow day" with no school.












I fished out the shovel and cleared a path to the corner. One lady on the corner had "fixed" the problem in front of her house with hot water.

The snow was heavy and wet, and where people had walked since the evening, thick sheets of ice.


The snow was about a foot deep and broad-leaf evergreen trees had branches bending way down.





When we got to the park, I let Nikko off her leash.

She made three or four wide laps round and round the edges of the park before trotting back to continue her walk.

It is hard to believe, looking at her run, that she will be turning 15 in a few weeks.


My usual Tuesday schedule had been cancelled so I took the opportunity to work on the tree quilt for the conference.








I finished appliqueing the tree.

Then I found four prints that seemed to represent the four seasons, measured and cut some strips and sewed them on the border.

Half-way through I remembered I had wanted to put a one-inch strip of green on first for an inner border.

I thought of un-sewing what was done but as I considered that possibility, I realized that if I did, the seasonal prints would be too short to meet and I would have to come up with more solutions for the corners.
So, I left it as planned.
Now looking at it, I might have added some solid corner pieces with appliqued kanji for each season. Well, I could still do something like that for an outer border.

Nikko and I walked to the station area for a bit of shopping and there was quite a bit of shovelling going on ... as well as kids playing in the snow and an igloo near the train crossing. The crescent moon was out and now the wind is rattling the windows.

How nice to spend a day with a bit of sewing. Now I will have to prepare some material for leaves. I wonder what the members will like ... many colored solids? small prints? stripes or plaids? Something they could embroider veins or initials on? Well, I still have a little over a week to prepare...

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Next on the list


  • Somehow this went to the family blog.  I guess I need to pay better attention when writing a post.
    Jan 18 at 3:29 PM

    Coming up the first weekend in February, is the Women's Conference... WOCON.

    For the last few years I have taught a quilting basics class where the participants can make a small pot holder or mug-rug and learn the basics of piecing, basting, quilting and binding.

    This year I am thinking of something like a drop-in class covering applique and needlework or simple embroidery.

    The theme is "Changing with the Seasons", and after discussions with the planners, we are thinking of having participants select fabrics for seasons they love best and applique a leaf on the tree of life.

    This is about one day's work ... but I sat through a loooong meeting last night which moved things along. I am kind of thinking of a border to represent each season.

    Today Norie took some pictures of my vest.

    Usually I wear a light down vest around the house but I think this one is a bit warmer.
    (Maybe it is all the dog hair it has picked up in the process).
















    I think when time allows, I will add a bit more quilting around the owl's tail, otherwise I am satisfied.

    The thinsulate is intended for use in clothing and is what I most often use in quilts.

    It is a bit tacky but, though it makes it a bit hard to line up the front and back for basting (unless you have extra hands to place the top), For all the quilts I have used it, it never pills or shifts and washes well... even when the quilting is widely spaced.

    I once heard that 3M was going to make quilt battings but that may never have happened. I just take it off the bolt and if needed, whip the edges together to make it larger. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Having way too much fun



 I am beginning to wonder how I will know when I am done.

As long as there are little spaces, there is possibility for adding embellishments.


The pocket is now in place but it is really way too big. I am thinking of adding a button loop at the top and a button below the frog to keep things from falling out.

I might have a few nice pearl buttons left from my button blanket that will work.

I needed to quilt the area underneath the pocket but that work will never show.

I decided to use a "morning star" and "evening star" design that I have used in in the past on a star quilt.






The variegated thread  was rather fun to use and the cloud design is in the same pale blue that I used on the back.














I chose a herringbone stitch on the owl's tail feathers, but since the stitches were rather wide and might get caught on something, I back-stitched over all the places where they crossed.

There are a few open spaces left for some quilting or stitchery but they will have to wait for another day.

Yesterday Norie and Paul's sister and I met for a meal to celebrate the second anniversary of Paul's passing. It is kind of a special tradition in Japan and we met at the same place as last year.




Don't we look well fed?

We even had room for a bit of dessert.















Norie took this picture outside the restaurant where they have a small weeping cherry.

This is one of the trees we are considering to plant in Paul's memory in the chapel garden of ARI (Asian Rural Institute)
that Paul supported for so many years,  a school where community leaders from mainly Asia and Africa come to improve their leadership skills and knowledge of sustainable farming and grassroots community development.


ARI's motto, "That We May Live Together" is found in every aspect of community, food, labor, diversity, and mutual respect for servant leadership.

OK, enough for now. Cub pack meeting tonight and I had better get packin'!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Attention to detail



Here is a picture of a real Mola that has been in my collection for many years.  After assembling my pseudo-mola vest, I have begun to focus on the details and looked to this piece for inspiration.

The zig-zag lines are made with a single thread in a chain stitch. Those chains are really tiny with about eight links in a one centimetre length. The running stitches are done with two strands of thread and are three stitches to one cm. There are also tiny Y stitches in the neck area that I want to try. Those are with one thread and spaced about four per cm.



This is my attempt.

My stitches are about six per cm. and I doubt I can make them any smaller. (or feel a need to do so)

I am glad for my collection of needles that includes some S. Thomas & Sons that are short and fine but yet have an eye large enough to get the thread through easily.

Of course, I did not practice first but just jumped right in (and as usual, learning as I go).










I was able to find the hidden fabric and add a border of patchwork to the bottom edge of the back.

It still needs a bit of in-the-ditch quilting.

I decided that with the owl and turtle, I will stick to Native American designs.

Being originally from Ohio, I am preferring those designs from the Northeastern  Woodlands.

This area on either side of the turtle has been quilted with light blue thread.

I plan to fill the larger areas with this kind of quilting and then add detail as time allows. That way, I might even be able to call this a finish before long ... with maybe room for more creative embellishment as time goes on.

The pocket is yet to be assembled and added.  (But I still have a bit of time until "due date").

Last year at the quilt show, I received a spool of Coats "multicolor' hand quilting thread and I am eager to try that out at one point. I think it will work well on this navy background.

So, with the baby quilt on the way to it's new owner, I now have another warm item on my lap to work on. Pretty good timing for this cold blustery weather...

Friday, January 5, 2018

Making up for lost time

If I am going to finish this project by the end of this month, it is time to stop procrastinating and get going.

I think by now I have an idea of the basics of Mola and that was more or less the goal of the year-long challenge. Basically, the colorful reverse applique designs created by the Cuna indians of the San Blas islands along the Atlantic coast of Panama, are intended to be worn in clothing.

In studying up on the technique, I read these words ... "Every mola is a thoughtful statement of the creator's personality and relationship with her culture". Therefore, rather than copy directly from the Cuna designs, I decided to make this statement completely mine.


The butterfly was once a symbol of the hidden Christians. 50+ years ago when I came to Japan. there were many young people wearing big fancy crosses. They were only an ornament with no meaning at all. It was then that I decided to join my husband's ancestors as a hidden Christian and exchanged by silver Celtic cross for a tiny gold filagree butterfly. My goal was to express my faith by my actions and deeds. Thus the butterfly. 

Then, there is the frog. He too is reminding me to Fully Rely On God.

The sun was my first attempt where I learned the most as what to do and what I should be doing. I'm sure it will remind me to remain sunny, even in the face of adversity, and learn by my mistakes. I intend this to become a pocket.

The owl and the turtle are the real me ... a relationship with my own culture, so I decided not to include distracting colorful bits. I was hoping to add a strip of quilting across the bottom but since I "cleaned up" for Christmas visitors, I have not been able to find where I hid those pieces. I am still hoping to locate them before the final assembling.

The Owl and the Turtle are more native American designs. As a child, my name was "turtle song", called by my great grandmother. I still remember how happy I was at around June 1944, when I was presented with my own Bible and opened it to the first page of the Song of Solomon, reading ...

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone: 
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; ....
Could that be part of my love of singing?
Driving to my first home, what was going before me but a turtle ... right down the middle of the street!

The Owl is my "spirit helper". A number of my friends have heard my owl stories. Certainly when I was a child camping in the woods with my family, having a screech owl calling above my tent each night was scary, even when my great grandmother told me it was watching over me.  Over the years, wherever I have traveled and lived and camped, an owl has found me bringing greetings and even aide.
I am thinking of adding a bit of stitchery on some of these. I have begun quilting the patchwork parts in the ditch using navy thread which will not show in the back. The patchwork and quilting is also a part of who I am.
So, though the mola origin is with the Cuna indians, This project has evolved to meet me where I am in life.
I am still experimenting on the finishing and hope I will have time to get my act together. In the cold weather we are having now, one can't have too many warm wearables.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

First finish of the year



Right on the edge, this was either to be the last quilt of 2017 or the first this year. I finished turning the binding yesterday, put a label on the back, and took it out to pose in the bright sunshine of a new day.

As you might notice, I decided to quilt a cable in the border as I think the edges of quilts ... especially for children, get heavier use than those just draped over a bed.

 The new year began with a project begun by my husband, a special New Years meal for the homeless.
I was worried that without his input, the project might be scrapped but, though the person in charge had been worried about the lack of members signing up to make it happen, not only did the project continue but there were plenty of people willing to lend their helping hands.
I am in my scout uniform because my cub pack contributed to the number of helpers. Washing dishes at my right side is Leia ... a chip off the old block. She was there bright and early with Mom Norie and Pop Hiro.




Norie brought flowers from her garden for me to arrange.
Pine ... Plum in the bud ... Jonquils ... Nandina ... Robai (Wintersweet).

There were also some gigantic needles from a pine donated by Norie's friend. I had never seen such a pine and could not find it in my tree book.

Can't say this is my best arrangement but the best I could do with what I had to work with.








We finished up around noon and took a family picture with the flowers moved to the church lobby before going off in different directions.

Being the "year of the dog", Wumpy, Leia's buddy, had to get into the picture.

Nikko was glad for my return ....

The heater goes on when mom is home, and though it doesn't heat the whole house, Nikko claims the spot that gets the first blast.








Here she sits, waiting for the magic word.


Most of the words she obeys are in english ... things like come, heel, sit, stay, down (or go lie down) off, NO!

But when the word is "wait", it means something good is coming. The magic word is "Itadakimasu" (I am about to partake ... said before taking your first bite).


This dog is hardly starving but perhaps she still remembers her early months in the wild. Any item remotely resembling food is high on her list of attention getters.



Happy Dog Year 
From me and Nikko

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy year of the dog


Are you ready to greet the new year?

Though varying from region to region, in the types of trees used and arrangement, the "Kadomatsu" is the most common arrangement seen in the Tokyo area.

The kadomatsu literally means "gate pine", and when displayed outside the house, are arranged in pairs to the left and right side of the entryway.

Inside the house they are arranged singly.



This very fancy one is part of a pair outside a hotel.









This one seen in a shop window is a fancy version of what might be found in the entrance of a private home.


The origin of this custom lies in the fact that kadomatsu are
believed to serve as a dwelling place for the God who brings good luck at the beginning of the year.

















This version is at the door of a private home.
















And here is a smaller version decorating a mail box.












Even a tea shop gets in the holiday mood.












The holiday decorations at our house were always handled by my husband.

I was not thinking of adding anything this year but when my daughter and granddaughter visited earlier in the month, they festooned the outside garden with colored lights and this pine was added to the gate.

The timing is rather fussy and all need to come down by the 7th of January (usually depending on region as well)

The night before New Years, many people visit Buddhist temples to hear the temple bells rung 108 times at midnight to dispel the evils of the past year.

It is also customary to eat "toshikoshi soba" ... year-crossing noodles ...
in the hope that one's family fortunes will extend like the long noodles.

The time is usually spent with family. Maybe the holiday will include a trip to a shrine to draw a fortune written on a piece of paper or to the imperial palace to wave to the emperor and his family.
New Years cards are sent ahead of time and delivered in a mass on New Years day.

2018 will be the year of the dog according to the Oriental calendar. All the fine traits of human nature are in the possession of those born in the year of the dog. They have a deep sense of duty and loyalty, are extremely honest, and always do their best in their relationships with people.

They can also be somewhat selfish and terribly stubborn and exceedingly eccentric.

Since the 12 animals and 5 elements, wood,fire, earth, metal and water, rotate in 60 year cycles, 2018 is the year of the Earth Dog. Earth is a stabilizing and conserving force, marking a shift from the fire element of the last two years which brought disharmony and impulsiveness.

Highly perceptive, the Earth Dog is kind, efficient, and skilled in communication. The year is expected to bring prosperity, particularly to those who, like the dog, are proactive, work hard, and communicate well. It is predicted that those who show generosity to others will reap the greatest benefits throughout the year.

Interestingly, it has been noted that the dog population in Japan has declined dramatically in the past year. The ageing population may find care of dogs more troublesome and they are also required to vaccinate their dog and have it registered. Cats, on the other hand are allowed to roam and howl and multiply in the city parks. Dogs also cost much more as there has been a crack-down on puppy mills.

My dog year will begin with a walk with Nikko ... like every other day. Then I will be off to church where we will serve a traditional New Years meal to the homeless. (a tradition begun by my husband, Paul, and where he spent the last day on his feet two years ago)

Quilting has now reached the border ... being quilted with a simple cable. I expect to add the binding later in the week. I have two hurry-up baby quilts to make but with days home, I really need to give my mola some attention before the end of January creeps up on me.

Here's hoping your dog year will be off to a good start.