Saturday, July 4, 2015

Back to normal


Well, here is the picture I couldn't share yesterday.

Today my screen returned to its former configuration and I decided to give my camera another try.

It was nice and quiet basting here on the floor. No one came into the room to see what was going on.

If I do this again though, I will bring a needle threader. The lighting was not all that good and each time I put in a new thread I wasted a lot of time.

Today I decided to try in-the-ditch quilting. My concern was how it would look on the back if the top was not straight.

I began with my large hoop and quilted the two blocks in the center.

I plan to work my way out and think I can correct the wrinkles in the backing, as they are all around the edges ... by just removing the basting once it is in the hoop.






The stitching seems to be straight enough in lining up with the back blocks.

That is a big relief because I really find in-the-ditch quilting the easiest way to go.


It is getting warm and quite muggy so I don't think much will get done during the summer but it is nice having it all set to go when the spirit moves.

Meanwhile, I have begun working on my partnership block for the Tokyo Dome show.
There is a deadline for when it must reach NHK by the 31st of August. It won't take me that long but I hate waiting until the last minute. In that regard, I am my father's daughter.

And here are the cocoons.

Out of 50 eggs that came in the mail, 44 made it to this stage.
Two chose not to use an apartment  but spun in the corners. Some of these may still be spinning, making the cocoons stronger. For a while you can see them moving inside when the light comes through.

During summer, our church goes from two to one service, starting earlier than usual. That means choir practice will begin at 8:45 ... an early rise for me ... and I am not the only member living out in the boonies so I shouldn't complain. We will follow the service with a choir picnic. I hope the weather will cooperate but last prediction I heard was rain. My plants are very happy though, and the agapanthus  is blooming in two planters.

Friday, July 3, 2015

What's up?

Yesterday I left home at 1:pm with my bag filled with quilt top and backing, my sewing kit and big scissors, my basting thread, tape, and a big roll of thinsulate #60 batting.
I was able to tape the backing to the floor in the quiet fellowship hall and layer the batting and quilt top. I spent the afternoon until 6:30 (which is choir rehearsal time) on my elbows and knees, basting the quilt together.

When I turned it over to put it in my bag for the return trip. I noticed four or five places where the backing was not completely flat. Maybe I should have taken duct tape instead of what I had. In the past I have pin-basted first and checked the back for tucks but I was so sure this time the tape would hold the backing flat.

Sometimes I can work out minor glitches with the hoop while quilting so I will have to see. I sure would hate to have to take it all out and start over.

I am also thinking of how to quilt it. I am an in-the-ditch type of quilter and I had been thinking I might quilt the little patches on the diagonal this time. But, thinking it over, I would be working through a lot of seams and the stitches across the darker fabrics would show. I am also thinking that in-the-ditch would be more stable.

While I was out ... Mr. Dell did another up-date to my laptop. The minute I opened my laptop, I noticed the sign-in/password space had changed. And, when I plugged in my camera with pictures of the basted quilt ... the usual icon for downloading was gone. This is the same problem that happened a month or two ago. It drove me nuts for a week or so, and then righted itself. I really don't want to wait a week again but flinging my laptop across the room is not likely to help the situation.

A little notice in the upper corner of my screen is boasting that Mr Dell has upgraded my system on 6/2/15 and I can expect another in 6/9/15. By then I hope things will be fixed ... but I'm not holding my breath.

The last silkworm had crawled into an apartment by my return last night and was beginning to weave a cocoon. I am very happy I do not have to go out in the pouring rain to hunt fresh mulberry leaves.
The last cocoons are getting stronger as the weaving progresses and the quiet munching sounds are over. I can't remember how long they spend in their cocoons but the next sounds will be the fluttering of stubby wings.  Hopefully by then, a photo or two.... Mr.Dell willing.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Rainy day plans


Well, the backing for the quilt is assembled.

I took it to the park yesterday afternoon for a picture and was planning to take the supplies to our church and borrow the floor of the fellowship hall to do the basting today.

BUT... Today it is raining and I have reconsidered, thinking of the walk to and from the stations at each end, carrying everything plus an umbrella.
Tomorrow I have to go for choir practice anyway so I may as well go four or five hours earlier and do it then.

The photo is not very true with either the purples or the lime greens and the balance could have been better if I could have seen the whole thing at once for making the arrangements.

Anyway, I went with plan "B" which was a trip to the barber for a haircut. The boy cut is only 1.000 yen so I got a nice crew cut that should be good for the hot summer and last through October.

I picked three fresh mulberry leaves along the way home for the last two silkworms. When I put them on top of the two lingering munchers, the one caterpillar that had been checking out the apartments, came back down for a snack. All the others in the group are weaving or resting in their cocoons.

On the home front, the bulletin board has been re-set in it's new spot. The head of the neighborhood association has agreed for the neighborhood to pay for the work.

I say it is ridiculous that we pay for the Ku's poor planning ... or total lack of planning. I have talked with housewives in the area and they all think it is stupid the way the work is being done but no one ... including my husband, wants to rock the boat by objecting... or cause trouble for the association head.

Meanwhile, there is more trouble.

When the corner house was rebuilt, the city grabbed a meter of property from both the south side, causing the bulletin board incident, and another meter from the west side.

They paved a new section, removing the driveway entrance for the house and putting in a curb ... but, because the rest of the street is still the old width and the sewer is now a meter from the curb, the street became a lake. They had to come back and remove the street they put in and dig under the old street to add a length to the sewer. At this point it is raining and the new sewer sitting high above the street surrounded by curbs to the east and west.  A good example of the old saying, "Fail to plan, plan to fail". Of course the electric poles remain in the same location so the street is only a meter wider for a few meter's length.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Design window Monday


This weekend I began sorting and measuring my green and purple fabrics and sewing them together in bits and pieces.

There is really no place in my house I can lay them out while deciding what to put where.

The upper left corner and the lower right corner are together and am still interviewing scraps and measuring  and pinning and sewing.

Once I decide what to put where, I can use the sections as take-along work. Everything was drawn out on graph paper but I am altering the plans as I go out of necessity ... why cut and sew if I can find something that fits ?  So far, so good, and I am able to fit in those purples that are toward the red side as well as the bluer ones. The batik segments help work things out.

Saturday afternoon Nikko and I took a very long walk looking for more mulberry leaves. Many of those trees I had been relying on were cut down while I was at camp. They grow fast once they get established and are considered weeds or "Junk trees". Once they begin to grow, the new branches can reach over a meter and then they get noticed and cut down.

When I returned, some of the caterpillars had moved into the apartments I had created Friday night by toilet paper tubes cut in thirds.

Today all three apartment blocks had critters moving in, though there are still a few chomping. I am relieved that it seems I will have enough supply of leaves to get them through their last phase.




Notice how those critters seem to like the upper stories. I doubt it is for the view but I am thinking of flipping the section once the top is full.

Someone asked what I would do with the cocoons. Of course I have no plans to weave silk.

I tape those inside a large paper bag and clip it closed.

When the cocoons hatch, the moths are big and fat with short stubby wings and cannot fly. They sit in the bag and wait.When a moth of the opposite sex hatches out, they get very excited and flap the wings, walking to join the partner and mate. They mate, lay eggs on the side of the bag, and die.

I will cut out the egg patches and put them in a zip-lock bag, and stick them in the back of the vegetable drawer in the fridge until next May when the trees brake out with new leaves.

The cocoons can be used for crafts and finger puppets. A few cocoons fail to hatch out and a few caterpillars have died along the way. I have to be careful to protect them from ants that often get into the house. I did find a small ant along with one dead caterpillar and know from experience they can kill a whole tray over night. I saw some reporting on CNN while working today about silk worm production. I saw the man giving whole branches rather than single leaves ... but I knew that. I would have liked to ask about how they keep the critters safe from ants ... but that topic didn't come up.

Aren't they cute?

Maybe you don't like bugs but they are soft and cool to the touch and completely helpless...

Here they sit, quietly munching,
or perhaps inspecting an apartment,

relying totally on my ability to spot a mulberry leaf poking out of a hedge or along a park wall ...

To pick the good ones and wash them and keep them fresh in the fridge ... noticing when they need more...
Nice to have a pet that is not dropping hair all over the house either.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Moving along


I was able to mark the border fabric for Ben's quilt on Tuesday evening  ... big table  and I was already there for a meeting.

Since then, I managed to sew on all four borders and I like the results.

The flimsy is 72 inches wide and 91 inches long.

The big-boy quilt I made for his brother is 76 x 86
and the book club quilt on my futon is 63 x 83.

I laid this out on the double bed in the loft and there seems to be enough length to tuck in. Right now the boys are sharing a bunk so for now it should be big enough for a growing teen.


The  rain was just beginning when I hustled out to the park to get a picture. Nikko says, "Hurry up and let's get out'a here. I'm getting damp and so is the quilt".

At Monday's group gathering, Kuraishi sensei demonstrated a way to piece the backing.

She whipped this up in no time at all with a machine and a rotary cutter.

For combining random blocks it seemed very handy.

Looking through my bits and pieces, I have set out 5 greens, about 9 purples, and three combinations plus the border fabric.

I would like a mixture of sizes and to put each fabric in at least two places for balance. One advantage of using sensei's plan is I would not have to worry about making all those corners meet exactly.  One disadvantage is I would have to drag out my tiny machine and find a space to leave it while I work ... if the machine still actually runs.

I have seen another idea where you cut all the fabric the same size and then cut it several times with a rotary cutter and then take different fabrics from the pile while assembling the blocks, Of course that is assuming all of the scraps I have chosen are the same size and shape ... which they are not.

Another way might be to cut them in multiples of the same number, like 12 x 12 and 6 x 18 and the like. Depending on size, I could use some of the larger scraps to fill big areas and it would be easier to quilt through with fewer seams.  That is the way I am leaning at this point. Maybe if I set the back on point, the quilting on the top would go better ... or at least look better on the back.

It is a sure thing the backing will be pieced. It will meet Ben's request for purple and lime green so if he wants, he can use that as the top side. I should be able to get something together for quilting once the hot summer is over.

The silk worms are really gobbling the leaves now and I had to take the bike out to hunt more supplies mulberry leaves. At this point, I can actually hear them chomping, a rather peaceful sound.

While at camp, I was interviewed for a TV program. I don't know how it turned out as it was for the channel used on the military bases. I have no idea why they selected some old lady to interview but I did have an opportunity to express the importance of experiencing nature first hand, even in the rain.
If I couldn't spot a mulberry tree at a distance, there would be a lot of unhappy critters, and they do pose a lesson for the next generations.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Return to the real world?

When they say, "rainy season", there is a reason.
Last Monday after early morning rice delivery, I parked my van a bit closer to my home and carried the supplies needed for teaching woodcarving and leatherwork, plus stuff needed to camp in a tent for a week. The day was sunny and very hot.

At camp I set up the tables and benches in the craft area and unloaded the supplies from the van, got the needed items set up from the craft lockers, and then fixed up my tent and cot and a sleeping corner for Nikko. There were plenty of mulberry trees outside and the silkworms got plenty of fresh food. We had a staff dinner and meetings and ended the day with an opening campfire. So far, so good.

Because of the early-morning rice delivery and lugging all that heavy stuff to and from my van, moving heavy furniture in the craft room, and a fall coming down my pie-shaped stairs carrying stuff, I was more than ready to hit the sack. That was Monday ... and I don't know if it even waited until Tuesday before the rain began. (sometime during the night ... and the tent leaked)

Usually the rainy season has frequent light showers but what we got was in the pouring category. The run-offs during the week were like Niagara-wanna-be. I was probably lucky to have an indoor job, even with an old leaky roof. The classes were very full and it was a big challenge to watch all those teenage boys with sharp knives ... even with help from older youth and one adult three periods.
I was afraid few scouts would finish but in the end, there were only three incompletes.

I had taken quilt stuff, hoping to use the large tables to mark and cut the border fabric and the backing pieces for Ben's quilt. I didn't even get it out of the van. Lunch and evening times were spend doing board-of-review for advancing scouts. One afternoon and evening I had to lead a Brotherhood walk  for the Order of the Arrow (Scout's National Honor Society  ... and something that can only be done by those who have gone before) In the same society, I spent Thursday night doing a Vigil for another honor Scouter. Meanwhile the rain kept coming and hardly stopped until Saturday when we could dry the tents and pack up the van. As I left camp, I gathered mulberry leaves along the road winding down to the gate,


The silkworms had completed another instar while in camp and were eating more.

I have begun to worry about keeping them fed until they are ready to spin.

I moved them to a bigger container, easy to keep clean. This picture is how they look when fed. About 50 worms with 25 large mulberry leaves piled on their heads.



And, this is all that is left an hour later.


Of course they are very patient and do not crawl out of the container looking for more food. They just sit there and wait for more leaves to be dumped on their heads.

This is only about 50 critters and I can't imagine the work that goes into raising them for an industry!


Saturday I returned in the afternoon and was able to unload the van rather near my home. I carried all the gear back to my second floor work area. I was looking forward to putting my wet clothing into the wash and getting a good rest since Sunday was an early rise for choir singing in the first service, and a Cub Scout Leader's meeting in the afternoon.

Alas, when I got to my third floor greenhouse/bedroom. there was standing water on the floor and my bedding, my clothing, my bookcase were sopping wet. No wash got done and I spent the rest of the day trying to rescue my books and mop up the floor. I suppose I should have given my husband a call to close the windows. He claims he did but I suspect it was after the rain and he didn't notice the standing water on the floor. Needless to say,no quilting got done.

Monday I left early for a quilt group meeting, a long walk from Ichikawa station. It was fun to get together. I didn't get my fabric marked but Kuraishi Sensei demonstrated an easy way to put the backing together. Of course she whipped it up in no time on her machine.

Tuesday was spent with more cleaning and getting musty soggy clothing and bedding through the washer. No quilting ... and I am still very behind even looking at blogs to see what I have missed.
I did leave early to a meeting at church so I could take advantage of table space there. The border is now marked ans waiting for cutting.

This morning Nikko and I went out to scout out more mulberry trees ... well, I scouted the trees and she scouted the smells she had missed.

I hope next blog I can show off a bit of quilting progress.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Miscellaneous stuff


Maybe I should name this post "Greetings from no-man's-land".


If you read the TV story, (and it is still sitting on the curb) you will have seen how we can have an address in Nerima ward but not be a part of it.

Well, the plot thickens. Our neighbors at the end of the street decided to build a house on part of their property for their son to live in.  It is a nice handsome  house but in the process, the government took away a meter of their property along each street. Even though this road goes nowhere, the plan is to eventually have the street wide enough for cars to use.

The same thing happened when our house was rebuilt. We lost a meter on both the east and west sides of the property. The East side now has a road that cars can go down but our west side will never be that wide until all the houses are rebuilt ... so not in my lifetime.

In this picture, the blue net is covering garbage waiting for collection and lying in front is the community bulletin board. When the road was widened, the bulletin board was taken down from along the old fence line. The city came in and put in a curb and sewer. Of course they didn't move the electric poles so the street is no wider than it was to begin with.

The cones are there because the work has not been finished. The city was supposed to come and install the bulletin board in its new location. The neighborhood association was even given a date.

But wait ... Now the ward says it will cost too much to install that bulletin board and the residents will have to pay.

What? We have to pay because they couldn't get their act together when they repaved the street? I told my husband to tell the neighbor head to go back to the ward and tell them no way we pay for their poor planning.
(My husband was surprised at my reaction ... Japanese are so quiet and never make waves so I wonder if the message will get passed along)

Looking down the street, one can notice how much of the street is yet to be claimed by the government.

It is possible for one car to go down the street and the new house on the right hand corner has a parking space.

My house is the pink one to the right of the end wall and my bike is parked between the telephone pole and the wall on the left (next to the junked TV.


This is our street, my bike on the left.

50 years ago, this was a dirt path. I can reach out sideways and touch the walls on both sides.
There is enough space for a person on a bike to pass a walker. Two people walking with umbrellas have to shuffle past.

This is never going to be big enough for auto access ... and there is no point because there a road on the front side of all these houses. This has always been a back ally. But it is not part of Nerima-ku. If we have to wade through a pond each time it rains, that is because there are no drains and nowhere for the water to go when it runs off the roofs. But Nerima sure isn't going to fix this because it is not their problem.  So, I guess if we live in a no-man's-land, why should we pay for a bulletin board on the edge of a Nerima street?

Well, just a strange piece of information.
Now I am all packed up to hit the road for scout camp. Nikko will go with me.

And so will my other little pets,

Only around 15 days old and they are consuming mulberry leaves at a rapid rate.

I am so glad that there are mulberry trees right outside the craft area.

I have moved them to a larger basket and set it in a pan of water to protect the worms from ants.

Also I will be taking the dark batik fabric so I can begin measuring and sewing the quilt borders.

The days are getting hotter and more humid with each rain. At least I won't have to carry a sweater at camp because there is no air conditioning.

Hope you all have a good week and I'll see you when I return.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Border and backing time


Today I finished the white strips around the edges and laid the quilt out on the bed to try fabrics for the border.


This one is a batik.

It is rather dark and also kind of a floral.


I tried it with each of the corner areas.








None of the blocks seem to have issues with this fabric.








The fabric definitely contains purple and lime green.


My only question is whether it might be too much of a floral for a thirteen year old boy.




 Then I tried a border that is a bit lighter.

The print is puzzle pieces.

The green is not  as lime green as the batik.





Maybe puzzle pieces are more boy-friendly than flowers?


Oh my, now I don't know which to choose.





I laid out some of the assorted donated fabrics to see how I might piece the backing.

Those greens are really a lot more lime than they appear in the photograph.

The purples run from blueish to pinkish but the variety isn't bad.

I am not sure how to go about putting them all together as there is no place to just lay them out. I might cut them in multiples of two or three inches to make it easier

Among assorted donated fabric there might be more pieces I could use.

Ben plays soccer and there is a lot of that fabric ... and it contains purple and green.

The purple stripe at the upper right is plentiful but a bit boring to use as a border.

There is the fish batik I picked up at the Tokyo Dome show and a green batik in a large amount.

Well, now I have time to think this over. Tonight I have to run a Cub Scout Pack meeting. Tomorrow I will be getting things ready for a week long Scout camp. If I can decide by tomorrow, I could get the borders measured and marked and cut so I could work on the border at camp.
When I made the big boy quilt for brother Paul, I never asked. (and he liked it fine as far as I know).
And, knowing Ben, he will be happy just to have something a bit bigger and less juvenile than his alphabet quilt now on his bunk.
Decisions, decisions, always decisions! Shall I just flip a coin?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Rainy season


The rainy season has officially begun so this seems a good time to work on the rainbow quilt.


The last time I worked on this was the beginning of November last year when all the blocks were assembled.


Several people suggested I add a white border around the blocks.

Since all the pieces are scrappy, I thought a plain white border might be a bit severe so I took out my buckle box of white print scraps and cut 46 one-by-six inch scraps.

Then I began sewing them along the edges of the rainbow flimsy.



I think it was a good suggestion.

I still have two more borders to finish and by then I need to come up with a plan for the outer border.

To be the right size, it needs to be about five inches all around.

This quilt will go to my #2 grandson, Ben.
He wanted something in purple and lime green but has agreed to take this one.

Over the last half year, my friends have been helping me by donating fabrics in those two colors. I probably have enough for a border but certainly it would have to be pieced. I was thinking about flying geese in a variety of purples and greens but as I am sewing these strips to the edge I am beginning to think all this piecing is getting to be too much.

Now I am wondering what it might be like to just sew all those assorted purples and greens together into one big piece and make that the backing, then find a nice print for the front border ... and maybe the back border if I don't have enough. That way it would be a reversible quilt and Ben could use it as he wishes. Among my donated fabrics I might have a stripe or striped print that would work.

I would have to have a plan that works with the purples and greens but I could use them in fairly large chunks so the sewing would go a lot faster than a few hundred wild geese. Does that sound like a workable alternative?  Any other ideas?  It's past my bedtime so I'm off to dream of a plan.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A small finish for a busy time


Thursday, before setting off for choir practice, I made a pineapple upside-down cake to take to Friday's sewing group gathering.

Since my house is way to small to host the group, I volunteered to bring a dessert. The hardest part was not making the cake, but getting it to the meeting in one piece. Even in the cake carrier, it was bulky to tote.

The gathering was probably the last one before a summer break. There were former members visiting and, though I spent the time stitching, there was lots of friendly chatting.

I returned home in time to welcome Norie and Leia for dinner. We had planned an early start on Saturday to visit the "Ajisai Matsuri" or hydrangea festival at Toshimaen amusement park near our home. We have gone the past three years and the selections of hydrangeas are just amazing. It is hard to believe the number of varieties.

I should learn how to assemble all the pictures into a collage.  Of course we had to stop for some ice cream ....

and how could one pass up a ride or two.

There must be a picture somewhere of Leia's mommy riding on this same vintage carousel.

I








This little sparrow was competing with pigeons for crumbs under the tables.







Equally amusing were the numbers of young girls all dressed up in costumes and posing for pictures.

There were also costumed animal characters and parents were lining up with their kids to have the pictures taken with those animal types.







We returned home for a late lunch and the cookie factory. I can't believe we didn't get pictures this time. There was a rice planting event scheduled for Sunday and Leia wanted to take cookies to share with the gathering. We selected cutters, limiting the topic to leaves, flowers, and butterflies. I rolled out and cut the cookies and Leia painted them and decorated them with assorted sprinkles. They were baked and after cooling, packed in two boxes and put in a bag for the trip home.
I can see we are going to need a new selection of decorations before another similar event. I think some of those sprinkles came from the states a long time ago. I have no idea what kind of decorations are sold these days.

As a small project, I made this place mat for the rice store lady to thank her for so kindly letting me use her tatami room for basting my bed quilt.

I finished it up today and took it to her along with a picture of the finished quilt.

The size is about 11" x 15".
The batting I used was thinsulate #60 that was left from the quilt but after beginning the quilting I thought #40 might have been a bit better,

This is made of yukata and tenugui scraps and just quilted in the ditch.

And the cacti are beginning to compete with each other for my attention.

This one may be blooming for some time because the flowers are hiding more buds on the back side.

I have this week to figure out a border plan for Ben's quilt, but mostly I will be getting ready for my pack meeting on Friday and next weeks Scout camp.

The silkworms are now in their second instar and munching mulberry leaves.
They are now big enough to see and Leia spent some time feeding them fresh leaves. I am glad that the camp has a good supply of mulberry trees and I will not have to run all over hunting up food.

Have a good week!