Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A second runner

This is what happens when making lots of pieces of blocks so that you can pick and choose.
On the first runner, the goal ... other than to look good and balanced ... was to use 60 blocks without repeating any of the fabrics.

That runner is now waiting for the border and quilting. I added to what was left over and made this piece for my coffee table. Well, it is not together yet but laid out on the dog hair. This is a good project for train rides and meetings so may get done by the time the Christmas runner makes it's showing.

I really don't care about repeats and there are a few blocks left over even yet. Maybe the top of the trash bin will get a matching one ... or the genkan ... We shall see. I still have plenty of scraps.

It is amazing how quickly time flies ... especially when a holiday is tossed into the equation. Every day seems to want to grab a share of attention ... whether with an earthquake or snow or work or choral presentation or three meals out with friends. Even so, I count all as blessings and will give great thanks for each and every one.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

What are they thinking?

Or, ARE they thinking?

My walk to the train station takes me down a quiet street lined with magnolias.

All winter I watch the buds swell and wait for the first ones to open as spring rolls in.

Today, as I walked the street there was a large truck with a platform arm in back. Two men were sitting on the curb smoking.

Well, later in the day, walking that same route I found out what they were there for. TREE TRIMMING!

The Japanese people are very polite and careful not to say anything that might offend someone, but I can't help thinking it a good thing that my Japanese skill is so poor because they would surly have gotten a piece of my mind.

Surly those who make their living trimming trees, know that there are trees that set their buds during the summer.

Why, then, do they cut off all those branches with the buds in the fall?

These were not the only trees hit either. The dogwoods got a close trimming too. And off in the park I heard the sound of chain saws ... probably the plums got a hit as well.

I wonder if the tree guys are so eager to make a buck that they don't even care if they are spoiling the tree's beauty. Surely they could just as well trim the trees in the spring after the blooms are finished.
It has been a rather sad rainy fall with much of the leaves being blasted off the trees before even having a chance to change color. Now it looks as though spring will be lacking it's usual color too.

The runner for the Women's Conference speaker is now assembled ... all 60 blocks ... after making changes here and there from my earlier plan.

I think I am satisfied so far and will begin looking through my stash for a dark border.
I am thinking of something in maybe navy or dark purple, and then quilting in words with white thread.

I have yet to check out something for the back.

The latest earthquake didn't have much effect on the Tokyo area. One person I talked to living in a tall building had things fall. There was some interruption of train schedules and I heard Tsunami warnings had been called off before noon.

On my one day to sleep in, I did not appreciate the 6am shake-up. More after-shocks are predicted but I hope they wait until day-light hours.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Playing with blocks

I feel like I have arrived at my second childhood ... playing with blocks.
I have finished sewing 121 blocks so far.

Today I went through the piles of dark on light and light on dark and pulled out any blocks that use the same fabric so I will have 60 blocks, all with different fabrics.

Then I started laying them all out on the floor and moving them around, substituting spare blocks, and trying to find a balance with color placement and light and dark.

I am thinking of a dark color for the border that will show up the stitching of words, so I tried to keep darker blocks toward the middle. I may end up re-arranging a few of these but have begun sewing the blocks into groups of four.  I am happy with the way all the corner points match up and the way the seams look when ironed.

I will add a few more blocks to the left-overs and make a runner for my own coffee table. With mine, I do not care about repeats. I will also use some old clothing scraps with memories attached.

Somehow, half a month has flown by without any reports from family activities.

Some of these are due to lack of photos. On the 29th of October, Leia and I held our regular fall cookie factory
and in the evening, we went to a neighbourhood Indian restaurant for dinner which was to be a small birthday celebration.

SMALL, it was NOT. That was the reason it ended up in a place with more seating than my dining room table.
It included my local family, SIL, Kids on loan and close friends.
Norie made the cake and brought it along and fun and fellowship prevailed.

Next morning was Sunday and I was out early for choir practice  ... before anyone other than Nikko was up and about.

During the service, I happened to notice in the back of the bulletin that flowers for the fellowship hall had been donated by my children in celebration of my birthday. I was surprised that some mention at all had been made of a birthday but other than that, didn't think much about it.

After the service, I went up to the choir room to put away my music and hang my robe.

I was a little surprised to find no one up in the room. Leia came behind me and took my hand to go down to the fellowship hall for coffee hour.

What a shock! When I entered the room, the choir sang a birthday song they had made up specially for me. There were two  long rows of tables filled with food and the one behind me had 8 cakes, each containing ten candles.

I started at one end of the table blowing and Leia helped from the other end and a big room full of people enjoyed these refreshments provided by friends with lots of scheming and plotting. Someone brought me a plate with eight pieces of cake.

I won't need to eat dessert for the rest of November.

Every one of those cakes was different and delicious.
Note, I had to sit to eat them all.
Oh yes, and someone brought me a cup of coffee fixed to just the color I like.

They know me so well!

There were not only church friends but some others from the scouting world had also shown up.

And, here are the beautiful flowers my children donated.
And behind me is the chief plotter... president of the choir.

I left the flowers in the lobby for others to enjoy the rest of the week. They were an amazing selection of color and variety.

A few friends have sent me wonderful pictures of the celebration but I just can not put them in any spot where I can share them ...

Monday morning, my real birthday, (yes, I am an old bat born on Halloween) I left home at 4:am for rice patrol as usual. Shibuya, where I deliver the onigiri, was crammed with young people in costume and noisy celebration. Many of the homeless were having trouble finding a quiet place to rest but Nikko and I made the delivery and I returned to grab my school bag and head out to work.

Thus, my actual birthday turned out to be a quiet Monday of work. No one even knew it was my birthday or exclaimed about my age ... which at that point was only four days older than the last time they saw me.  Since at 50, I began counting down rather than up, I have enjoyed a year at 21 and am now back to my second childhood.

Maybe I could blame my lack of computer skills on my youth ... but probably that won't work because all the youngsters I know have much better knowledge than I. Doesn't it make sense that I am back to playing with blocks?

Friday, November 4, 2016

mathematical musings

It is a long time until the end of January but I have been working on ideas for a gift for the Women's Conference speaker. (not that I don't have other things making demands on my time ... ) I really am enjoying the possibilities of this block and thought since it is the 60th anniversary of the WOCON, maybe something with the number 60 might be appropriate. 

I was thinking of 30 blocks, each with two different fabrics and a total of 60 fabrics. Well, I am no mathematician but there is no way I can think of to use this block and use only 30 of the smaller ones.

Well then, how about making a runner out of  60 blocks? That would work a bit better, though it might be a bit harder to make sure all the fabrics used are different.

My plan is to add a solid border, quilted with a bible verse or something else. That would mean adding maybe one and a half to two inches to the size all around.

I was wondering what the usual size of a table runner might be so finally I dug out my quilt magazines and spent a few hours going through them looking at published quilted runners.

If I eliminate everything smaller than either of my ideas, of the 16inch width there was 16x28, 16x40, and 16x44.  There were none with a width of 22 inches but one 23-1/2x84"and many larger, plus "table toppers" up to 39" square.
My own coffee table is 21x44 so it would be possible to make a runner to fit by making the border a bit narrower. I did not record the size of all the past runners I have made but some using Japanese panels with an added border range from 25x48, 22x46, and 22x34, so I guess either of the two would be a useful size.  Maybe the 60 block one to represent the 60 years. I still have plenty of time to assemble more blocks so that all the fabrics will be different.

Going through those magazines was fun too. I pulled out an article in a 2014 Quiltmaker about "Quilting Buddies" and quilting together. It was only two pages but there were quotes from quite a few quilters about the impact of their quilting groups and friends. 

Thinking about the quilting groups that have entered my revolving door world ... here today and gone tomorrow, my first reaction was envy and a touch of sadness. But then, I thought of my blogging family and realized I am not the only one who works alone and I do have a go-to group when I need help or ideas or encouragement to carry on.

Thanks for being there ... For support ... for someone to bounce my ideas off of ... for taking the time from your busy life to read my ramblings and sometimes leave a comment.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Playing with scraps

I am a scrap-a-holic.

I come from the generation when you never threw anything out if it could be re-used.

The first quilts I made were using scraps from my old clothing that had been taken apart to use for making clothing for my little daughters.

It included scraps from a quilt my great grandmother had made. When my son made holes in elbows or knees of clothing, I shortened the item and used the cut-offs in quilts.

Even when I could afford to buy new fabric, the scraps got saved. When daughter got a new dress, so did her doll get a matching one, and yet some of that fabric still remains.

Well, I do throw things out, that is, anything smaller than an inch square plus enough for a seam.
The plastic box on the right contains lots of one-inch squares ... divided into baggies by color.

I have a tin of two-inch squares, three-inch squares, 4-inch squares, and a baggie full of squares to be measured, marked, and cut before going into the proper tin.

The shoe box contains baggies of 1x2, 1x3, 1x4, and 1x5inch strips. And the tin to the bottom left contains 2x2 and a half, 2x3, 2x3 and a half, and 2x3 inch strips.

The runner currently on my table is made by assembling blue strips and squares into five-inch blocks.

All these tins and boxes live under that coffee table and are just waiting for me to come up with a plan that will use them. I have made a log cabin quilt long ago as one of my first projects to consume scraps.
A rainbow quilt for my grandson's big-boy use used a lot more ... as did the one I made before for his older brother using green and blue scraps.

Sitting beside me on the sofa is another tin, piled with squares made over the weekend. My brain is spinning trying to come up with a creative way to use these scraps.

Meanwhile, I took some of those two-inch scraps and tossed them together into a little mat for my trash bin top.

When we lived in the former house, I kept two plastic bins under my sink ... a red one for burnable items, and a blue one for un-burnable trash.

When we moved back to the rabbit hutch, there was no room under the sink or in any part of the kitchen. An open trash can was also an invitation to Nikko for a trash-fling-party. (even a small wastebasket by the sofa is an attraction should I leave it unattended for a minute or two just to answer the door-bell. ) So ... I was very lucky to find a double bin.

It sits right at the entrance to the kitchen. Burnables in the top bin and un-burnables in the bottom. Nikko is unable to open the bins that tip open at an angle and it is very handy for a chain-drinker of coffee ... fill the cup part way, set it on the bin, reach to the side with right arm and open the fridge, take out the milk container from inside the door, fill the cup to the top and return the container, pushing the door shut.

At the bottom of the bins is a small drawer that contains plastic bags to line the bins. Trash is collected in bags set out on different days depending on the collection days for that type of trash.

To the side of the bin is a little box decorated by my first daughter when still small, which is used to gather glass bottled and tin cans for recycling. A bag holds pet-bottles and back by the window is another bag that collects other plastics.

In the corner of the diningroom hall there is a recycle container for newspapers (that can be traded in once a month for rolls of toilet paper, and a bag-lined box for other recycle paper ... mostly advertising flyers that gather regularly in my post box. See..... I do throw things out from time to time!

I often wonder how people living in small two-room apartments as in our early years, are able to manage all the sorting and storing of trash. Back in those days, we didn't have so much as we shopped carrying a basket and items were wrapped in newspaper and placed in the basket. No plastics, no styrofoam trays, no saran-wrap, no plastic bags ...

Well, a small mat on the top of the trash bin is not going to use up many scraps. Even the pile of three-inch blocks has hardly made a dent in that stash.

I am wondering if I can sell my daughter on something very scrappy for her poncho.

Norie and Leia are coming for an over-night stay so maybe there is a chance for a scrappy appeal.

Meanwhile, the cookie factory will get in gear for fall and Halloween cookies.

I hung out the ghost and before it had been out five minutes, the doorbell rang with a question from a neighbour wondering what was up.
Shops have been full of Halloween decorations for well over a month but ghosts are not as accepted in Japan. I remember my neighbour, in the old days,  cutting all the branches on another neighbour's weeping-willow, just at the time they were looking most graceful and lovely. When I asked her why, she said they looked like ghosts. Well, it is only a few more days and I will put my decorations away.  Meanwhile, I shall celebrate a scrappy holiday. Hope you have one too!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Having fun

The choir retreat more than met expectations.

We got in lots of quality practice time and ...
the part I like best ...

time for fun and fellowship.

On our regular schedule we only have time to interact with our own sections before we have to go and sing.

At the retreat we take Saturday night to enjoy a sip of wine and snacks and lots of fun getting to know each other better.

My weather app on my cell phone predicted rain but as usual, it lied. We had lovely weather, cool and not too humid.

The YMCA where we stayed is being re-built and there was a new reception center and mess hall but other aspects of the place had not changed much.

Like many forested hills in Japan, the area is surrounded by a mixed forest of Hinoki (a false-cypress) and Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica).
Both are called "cedar" ... white cedar and red cedar but as in many places, things called "cedar" are no relation to a true cedar.

I suppose the air-born pollen causes lots of suffering in the spring but here the air was so fresh and welcoming.

No snow yet on Mt. Fuji.

Clouds moved in to decorate the scene but not enough to hide the subject.

This picture was taken from the window in the small chapel (behind me in the first picture).

With a view like that, who needs stained glass?

During the ride down and back ...

Plus while listening to other parts work over their section,

Plus sitting around and sipping wine and jawing,

I got most of the blocks I had pre-cut sewn together.

Well, they are only three inches square finished so not as big as this seems to be.

I am wondering if I put this into a table runner and maybe added a border ... maybe with a bible quote quilted in, if it would be the kind of gift the speaker could use and enjoy.

It is pretty loud and scrappy and though I could use something like this ... I don't know what would be fitting as a gift.

I don't even know what would be a suitable size for a finished runner.

I do have one more pattern I am considering trying and there are some interesting ways those blocks can be arranged.

This bush was outside our practice room. I had to take a picture so I could look it up.

Cotoneaster horizontalis, or Rockspray cotoneaster. The leaves are tiny, round, and evergreen.

We have pyracantha in our park that is crammed with berries too. The rainy summer seems to have made lots of plants very happy. (though, according to my book, this bush does well in arid spots too.)

And, upon my return, I was greeted by this "Hototogisu" or toad lilies along my garden path.

Some of these had been devoured by caterpillars and were festooned with hanging chrysalises.
I am thinking of finding a bug cage to put them in so I can figure out what the butterfly and caterpillar looks like before another year rolls around.

Nikko returned happily from the "dog club" late Sunday evening. She didn't say much but the kennel guy praised her highly enough. (Probably hoping to get her back again ... but I remember a dog from my childhood that no kennel wanted to take so it may not be all talk and bluster.)

Well, so much for the weekend. Now it is back to the real world. It is suddenly chilly and after a week and a half of pre-school runny noses, mine also has become drippy. I need to figure out a layer system that won't be too hot but will save me from the un-expected air conditioned room or the sudden call to an outdoor activity.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Take-along work

This weekend will be our annual "Choir Retreat".  Twice a year the choir presents a musical sermon, once at the beginning of Advent and again during the Lenten season.  Each fall the choir gathers at a retreat in Gotemba in the foothills of Mt. Fuji to polish our delivery of the chosen piece.

This year we are working on John Rutter's "Magnificat". We have sung this several times in the past so, to some long-time choir members, it is a familiar piece ... something like re-visiting an old friend.
Of course ours is the church of the revolving door and the choir has some new members to whom this is a new challenge. Even for the old hands, we need to coordinate and balance our presentation.

Therefore it will be three days  ... well, for some two or even one day of work ... but also fun and fellowship. For those staying overnight there will be wine and laughter.

This time I will ride with friends instead of driving so I had two things to prepare. First was easy. Just to pack up food to go with Nikko on her trip to the "Athletic Dog Club" where she will be heading tomorrow morning. Second was to pull out some scraps to sew together.

I should be working on my daughter, Norie's, poncho but I have yet to figure out how to make one that will meet her desired idea and my skills.

I have also been tasked with a gift for the Women's Conference speaker. The theme is something like weaving together our stories and those of women in the bible. I have several ideas for blocks that seem to weave fabrics together. I have not seen any panel I might use so thought this block might be interesting to try. I may have to coordinate my scraps a bit better but by the end of the trip I will know if I want to continue in this mode. I like that block so whatever happens, they will be put to use.

The weather is cooling off a bit and fall is working it's way in.

Goldenrod is blooming in the local weed patch.
I have been told this plant has invaded from North America by way of used railroad ties.

It is not as invasive here as many other weeds and in small amounts it is colorful and brings  back memories of times past.

It also lasts longer than other autumn flowers that are here and gone in a week.

 In the park the Beauty berries are bowing down
along the pathway.

I have a small bush in my garden but should probably move it to a planter so it can be moved into a sunnier location.

That bush carries memories of a dear friend and needs
better exposure.

The local persimmons have begun to ripen.

Depending on the variety, they are ready to eat at different times. I have already had some from a friend's garden.

The ones two houses down are ripe and being attacked by birds. Three or four were squished on the street and impossible to sweep up.

Another tree in the area has fruit so high up, only the birds will be able to access them.

Some varieties hang on until all the leaves have fallen and make a striking picture on the otherwise bare branches against the bright blue sky.

Hopefully the foot hills of Fuji will have beauty to share. Since I will be missing a Cub Scout Camping event that got moved to this weekend, I am hoping the weather will cooperate as well for my cub families who are going there.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Done at last

Not a very bright picture as the sun was still behind the buildings this morning. Maybe I will try again later in the week. I began this as part of the "Nine Patch Adventure" on the "Celebrate Hand Quilting" facebook page.  Maybe back in November of last year.

Finished last night, October 1st, the size is 71 inches by 88 inches and I was hoping to use up lots of two-inch blocks in my scrap tin. Looking at my tin now, I have hardly made a dent in the stash.

This is a detail of all that blue quilting.

I don't think it did much to hide the variety of white and off-white fabrics.

The quilting in the blue border hardly shows at all ...

... but if you look closely you could find a few rather long stitches that were accidents when I was trying to pass the needle through to the next row instead of stopping and starting over.

Anyway, a man riding by on a fast horse would probably miss those bloopers.

Thursday the tiny flowers on the kinmokusei (sweet olive) burst in bloom throughout the neighbourhood.

I had passed this small potted tree on Wednesday and seen the tiny buds looking like pimples on the branches and wondered when they would bloom.

Usually it is the sweet smell that gets you to look up into the trees but this year ... maybe because of the rainy summer or heat ?? the trees have out-done their usual performance and if a flower that tiny could be termed "showy", they have made the grade. So ... fall marches in, bit by bit. Happy October!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Plan "B"? If it works, it is the right way!

After going through all the possible marking tools in my collection, (none of them showing among the blue flower print) I decided to quilt the outer border from the back.

It is still a bit hard to mark in an oval hoop but at least I can see the lines once they are drawn.

When I turn it back to the front, the quilting hardly shows and the stitches ... when you can find them ... are small and even enough.

Rain yesterday. Rain today. Rain predicted for tomorrow. Camp-out postponed. The time I thought would be spent prepping crafts for the camp-out was put to testing my template.

I drew the plan on graph paper and traced it to a thin tracing paper, then cut the strip and laminated it. It was not hard to cut out and is easier to find than just using the clear plastic I can buy at the stationary store.

The spider lilies outside my gate are opening but if you want to see REAL pictures of the season's beauty,

Take a look at here at Tanya's Blog.

They make my flowers look like a wimpy bunch of wanna-be's.

Next in season will be the sweet olive ... kinmoksei.
I see the tiny buds beginning to form in the twigs and branches. Usually those are not noticed until they burst into bloom, filling the air with perfume.

OK, enough of this!
Back to the second side of the border.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Autumn has arrived ... I think

When we first moved back to the Nerima home, I brought with me some spider lily bulbs moved from former gardens.
At that time there was little space in our over-grown flower bed and some of those bulbs I planted in a neighbouring weed bed.  Each year they increase and get more showy.

This is how they looked yesterday at 6:30 am on my way to school.

After a summer of very hot sauna weather, it suddenly became cooler.
Monday night I pulled out a quilt to sleep under after a summer of either nothing or a thin gauzy wrap.

Tuesday evening I added a light down comforter.

I can't believe the sudden change. It is in keeping with the spider lilies that sneak up before the leaves and then pop open shouting "Surprise"!

Though the pink ones have had their day and faded, the red ones among the azalea bushes on the east side of the house are showing their best features.

This is a very narrow space for a garden between the street and our pink house shown behind.

Though I bemoan the lack of garden space, I find it amazing how much can be crammed into what I do have.

This month has been rain, rain, and more rain.

The garden is happier than it has ever been but I am getting a bit tired of toting umbrellas with me whenever I go out and wet feet. (My boots caused blisters in my ankles the first time out and when I tried zori, I ended up with blisters where the thongs rubbed when wet. Now my shoes are waiting for a sunny day to be hung on the gate to dry.

This week I finished the inner border on the nine-patch.

I have a little in-the-ditch quilting to go before I experiment with marking the blue flowered border.

The border is about five inches wide and I am thinking of a lattice-style cable which should be easy to draft and place, lined up with the outer nine-patches.

As a plan "B" I might be able to mark it on the back and quilt from the reverse side.

I have a few other projects nagging me from the sidelines but, though there is no rush to get this quilt done, I really don't like to have too many things going at once. The rest of my life is rather like running in all directions at once so I prefer to keep my home projects a bit more under control.

I just had to add this last picture.

Every year, one of the homes along my walk through the neighbourhood to the train station, plants mini-tomatoes in their flower bed by their front gate.

As I pass by, I watch those little tomatoes form and change from little green balls to bright red fruit just asking to be tasted.

Then, they get older and split and fall apart and not one seems to have been tasted.
It puzzles me why they bother to plant the tomatoes year after year if they don't intend to pick them.

Last year there was a huge clump of crab-grass coming up through the pavement right in the center of their gate. After walking past it for months and seeing it stepped on, then going to seed, I finally pulled it up as I passed... confessions of a weed-a-holic? I wonder how big a garden I would need to keep me focused on my own space and leave other people's gardens out of mind.