Tuesday, May 3, 2016

creative problem solving


Here we are in May, and in Japan, the middle of "Golden Week".

With a number of holidays falling here and there, mixed with weekends, it makes one long week of days off from work and school.

Of course, when all help is on holiday, it is not a very good week to have problems.

The first problem was my wi-fi.
Suddenly, with no warning, all connections were shut off.
This caused for a very quiet week because my telephone line is also connected to that server.

I was able to get in touch with daughter Norie and she called the server to find out I will have to re-apply and wait anywhere from a week to a month or two.

I can see some of my e-mail on my cell phone but many of those I can not open and it is not very handy to text on that little screen.
Well, my young neighbor to the rescue. He told Norie I could piggy-back off his server and gave her the password.  So... after five frustrating days ... I am back on line ... kind-of.

The server-on-loan is very very SLOW. It is very true that one does not realize what is important until it is gone. After all, I was able to live over half my life without the internet or even a computer.

Anyway, I had plenty of time for other things ... keeping busy to aid my frustration. The last few days have been sunny and I was able to wash and put away my warm sweatsuits. I put my sleeping bag out in the blustery balcony to air and then packed it up for the season.

In the winter my greenhouse is quite cold so I sleep in a sleeping bag with a down comforter over top and blankets as needed. Now it was time to take out my quilts so I pulled out the one in the picture above to spread on my futon.

Many years ago, I taught classes in "Quilt-as-you-go" for the women's society at church and the Tokyo American club. This quilt was one of the demonstration quilts made in 1994 and 1995.
Since these classes were mostly for foreigners, I chose Japanese patterns which I drafted into 12-inch blocks. There was a series of 9 classes, beginning with choosing fabrics and maps of where to look for and buy fabric, hand piecing, applique, adding sashing and preparing for quilting, quilting and couching, joining blocks, adding borders, then making and adding and turning binding.

The students had patterns for anything from a table runner to a wall quilt to a full size bed cover and could decide how much time they wanted to spend to make something using the techniques. (I think there were a few runners, a few baby quilts, and many full sized bed quilts finished. )

Well, this quilt is still in pretty good shape considering the years of use, but this morning in the light of day, I found the places sewed with purple thread are all coming apart.

I was not sure how the very slow connection would impact blogging so decided to take a picture of my mending challenge and give it a try.

Of course, while waiting for things to happen, I have sewed an entire block for the I-spy quilt.
I will also have to figure out if I can fix the couching as I had used a gold thread over a gold cord to add designs to some of the blocks, and that thread has not held up well. Some broken thread can be seen along the top edge of the floral fabric on the fan... so this will be the block I begin to fix.

After a night of rain, the sun is out. The wind is blasting all the plums off the tree, but otherwise this is about the quietest golden week I can remember. Maybe it was planned this way. Frustrations are falling away and problems are being taken care of. Gotta get creative if you walk in my shoes.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Are you a collector?

Well, that is a silly question. Quilters collect fabric ... even though that stash is multiplying in dark places. And, we seem to be collecting all kinds of tools to make our work more convenient, faster, and up-to-date. I have a quilting friend with an amazing collection of thimbles.

A few weeks ago I worked with Boy Scouts at a "Merit badge day".

In the morning I worked with young scouts that had to pass off knot tying and other basic skills such as plant identification...
But in the afternoon I held a class for the "Collections" merit badge.

Sure, I collect postage stamps and coins but they have badges of their own. The collections is for anything else and I have as much fun as the scouts learning about the kinds of things they collect.

Of course there are sports cards or sports team items, but there are always other interesting things and it is really neat to hear about how those collections got started and have grown. Some probably have great value and others have memories of places they have visited and lived over their short lives.

Not too long ago, I saw a post by my blogging friend, Debbie showing a small but lovely collection of cats.

Well, I really don't collect cats. I do have quite an owl collection but very few have been added by me.

Long ago the step tansu, here in my greenhouse holding plants, was on the landing of our home. People coming into the entryway might look at a ceramic cat on one of the steps and think ... Oh, a cat!... Julie collects cats.

Well, in those days my kids were also bringing home strays ... and I'll admit I brought one home too so, the house did have cats  (and dogs too).

Well, the next visit might include a gifted cat.

(Since the owl collection was in the restroom, those were seen even more and owls began to fly in too.)
by now too many to count.

Today when I was watering my collection of plants and taking down my laundry, I glanced around and began to wonder how many cats I actually had collected.

Some of those have stayed on the steps and are watching over my cacti which are going into blooming mode.


There seem to be a few birds mixed into the equation as well. (are they in danger of multiplying?)

(and there is a hand-carved mouse peeping down from the top step)







A sleeping cat is taking up a lot of room on a side table

and another bird rests on his tummy.













Two more cats rest on the floor at the foot of that table and in front of the sliding door.










And, if I had not been looking for cats, I would have missed this cactus which has begun to bloom in front of the west-side doors.




Only those cats had noticed and they were good at keeping the secret.

The spiky little cactus seems to be sending it's flower spikes over for those two cats to enjoy.

Those will probably begin to bloom this weekend.











And here is another flower spike that recently appeared.


I was gifted part of a cactus collection a few months ago from a friend who's wife had been an avid collector of cacti from South Africa.

I have no knowledge about these varieties and all my books only cover those from South America and  U.S. south.

Therefore, I have no idea what to expect or even how to care for them.
Since they had been sitting outside from the time the owner passed away last year, I guess they are able to thrive on neglect ... don't mind a very hot or very cold greenhouse ... and can go without water for a week of scout camp.


So ... along with the cats, it seems I am collecting varieties of plants.
And... when I came down to my laptop, what should I see but a cat on the windowsill and one on top of the hutch ... and a cat bank ... Oh my, I think my collections are taking over!

Better get back to quilting!





Monday, April 25, 2016

Plan as you go .....?


This is the fabric I selected for the nine-patch border.

It is darker than the small sashing but has some of the same blue ... kind of an all-over non-directional print that will be easy to join at the corners.

Following some good advice, I took the quilt in progress up and laid it out on the bed to see how much I might need to add to make it fit well.

It will probably not need much of a border for that bed other than to make it look finished.

The quilt itself has piecing that is one or two, inch blocks and the small nine-patches are three inches.
I will have to think about the quilting as part of the plan. The stitching won't really show against this print so making a wide border that needs lots of quilting doesn't make much sense unless I needed the quilt to be much bigger.

Laid out here is three inches and I could make it four inches.  it might be a bit difficult to mark a fancy quilt pattern on this print but I could do something simple like hearts or a zig-zag. I could probably squeeze out another one-inch strip of that light blue print for an outer border ... with a lot of piecing ... (those scraps have no particular plan to fill).

And ... talk about "Plan as you go" ..
Maybe all my quilts could have that name.

While looking through my kid-friendly bin, I found a pack of already cut hexagons left over from an I Spy quilt.

I have made three of these, two for family and one as a baby quilt for the friend who is getting the just finished baby quilt. I don't remember which these were left over from as I think one was a bigger size cut.
Anyway, I decided these will go well with the left-over fabric from the last quilt. I like to have some take-along work so have begun to sew these into larger hexagon blocks.

I could keep these as is and add yellow triangles in between if I need to make it bigger. I still have no idea how big the pieces I have will make it. (that would involve more math than I am capable of).

I certainly have enough kid-friendly prints to cut more and my templates were in the baggy with the pieces.

I could also just add a section between each of the big pieces in the end, keeping it take along work for a longer time.

Once it gets too big, I really can't work on it during a train ride.
(or sitting in a meeting)

Since this is for a little boy who is already about three or four months old, I don't want to dilly-dally too long. I enjoy the journey but I do have to think a bit about the destination.
(At one point I-Spy quilts become less fun).
I think by the time my kids were six months old they were using words ... some were actually using sentences by then ... so I think this planning has to get moving so I can keep moving too.

Should something begin to look like a UFO ... it is only still in the planning stage.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Progress on the fence.

Here is a picture of the progress so far, taken on Nikko's morning walk through the park on a cloudy morning. This morning I finished stitching the final light sashing. Now I will have to audition something for the outer border. I am hoping there will be something suitable in my stash.

I am thinking of something only slightly darker than the light sashing. The size at this point is 58.5 x 76.5 . Maybe the border should be just three or four inches wide ... enough for a frame. (I am open to suggestions as this is a plan-as-you-go quilt.)


I have managed to put a small dent in my one-inch stash ... the lid now shuts on the box. The two-inch box has hardly changed.

In the morning light, the variety of shades of muslin show up more than pictures taken in the sun or with a flash. It bothered me while sewing the blocks but not so much now. Maybe I am just used to the variety.  Though I am not ready to quilt it yet, I am wondering what the pattern should be. I usually just quilt in the ditch and then fill in any larger spaces. In the ditch might be stronger for all those tiny pieces.

At any rate, this will no longer be take-along work. Guess it is time to dig through my kid-friendly prints and figure out plans for another baby quilt for another church family. .... and maybe clean up the thousands of little threads sticking to the carpet, furniture, and even my clothes. I think those orts are competing with Nikko's hair in a take-over of my world.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Passing the test

I could not figure out the math to go with the borders. I just thought some of those smaller 9-patches set on point would look interesting.

I added the light blue print to separate the border a bit and will put another strip around the outside.
I like it because it can be pieced without much notice as to where the seams lie and it is neither too dark or too light.


Now that I know how many blocks to join for the top and bottom borders, I am working on the second one. They don't any touch in the same place which bothers me a little but to do that I would have had to cut different size squares and my goal was to use some of what I had already marked and cut filling my tin.

I am hoping that the side borders will work out to the right size too.

When I began this, the Celebrate Hand Quilting site was having a 9-patch challenge. I think they may have all moved on long ago as I have not seen any nine-patch posts of late.
Anyway, I am glad to have this quilt getting a bit bigger. I have not spent much time going through stash but I am thinking I might like to see an outer border ... maybe in a bit darker blue floral or all-over print and a light blue binding. I am happy to see this getting closer to single bed size. The different shades of white don't seem to make as much of a problem as I had imagined either.

Best wishes from a sunny but very blustery Tokyo!

Monday, April 11, 2016

A finish ... finally

The baby quilt is now ready and waiting for its new owner. Taking the advice from Rose Marie, I asked my daughter to bring me some Oxiclean when she came from the states. After testing it on a scrap, I rubbed it into the pen lines and let it set, then washed the quilt. Almost all the pen lines came out on the first washing and one more shot pretty well cleaned the pen off. Good call!

Aren't blogging friends the greatest?


A half-day of sun gave me a chance to take a few pictures. I ended up quilting a few cats into the larger areas and added a pale purple binding.

The backing is made of tenugui and yukata fabric (the purple floral). Since this is the year of the monkey, I added some monkey tenugui.


The red to yellow fabric I had auditioned for the side borders, ended up on the back ... as it did on big sister's quilt.

Today I added a label along the bottom. It says ... " For You Daphne. You can count leaves ... You can count cats ... Left-handed cats .. Right handed cats .. Winking cats ... and you can always count on my love."

I am pretty satisfied with the way it came out and hope it will get plenty of use before long.

Another sweet little baby has been added to our church family and I will dig in my child-friendly prints to see if I can put something together for him next. It is fun to have small projects for take-along work and my nine-patch is coming along slowly too. I wish I was better at math so I could calculate the border piecing better but the bottom strip seems to be coming out pretty close to what I had imagined ... and fabric is pretty forgiving so I think it will work. If not. I will figure out something creative for the corners and make it fit.

Yesterday was the memorial service for my husband, Paul. So many people worked behind the scenes to make it a very special occasion. The church was packed with his friends and mine as well as members. There was a lovely reception ... beautifully decorated with a cherry blossom theme, a beautiful cake, music, finger food, slide show, everything was so wonderful and I am thankful to all the friends and family who pulled it together. What a wonderful celebration of life! I took my camera with me but not even one picture ... but before I even got home, Facebook was full of posts of pictures. It is going to take me ages to thank everyone enough.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

New beginnings and continuing challenges


Spring is arriving slowly ... two steps forward and one step back.

These Nanohana (rape flowers) are one of the traditional signs of spring. Though usually seen in fields, these are in planters outside the rice store.

This week, the rice store lady added two planters of beautiful tulips. Those she has to hide inside her gate each evening because of the resident tulip vandal.
I see a few of the bulbs I planted in the weed lot have come up this year but I doubt there will be blooms as they were ripped out last year.

And another new beginning, just across the street from the rice store, is a home going up.

There was a ceremony on the lot that had been cleared with shinto priests and family.

Then the foundation was laid and the posts set in place.
At this point the roof will be put on and another ceremony took place.

A table was set in the north-east corner room and the family all gathered in chairs around the table.

At this point they are passing the saki and making a toast.

The following day, the curtains were drawn around the construction site and the roof was put in place. The shingles are now on and work is progressing.




The side street on the way to the station has about 12 young magnolia trees along the sidewalk.

Every year they begin to bloom first at the east end of the street.

It is something like watching spring walk closer and closer to my house as each tree finds it's time to open the buds into huge blooms.













This picture is just to give you an idea of the size of those blooms.

There are several varieties of magnolia in the area. The others have somewhat smaller flowers  This is the darkest and largest variety.
By the time leaves begin to fall at the end of summer, they are as large and round as dinner plates.

In the park there is a larger tree with smaller white flowers and I think I have seen a star magnolia in some garden nearby.



These sure do look pretty against the blue sky ...

Yes, we did have a bit of blue between the blustery rainy days.











And ... my little orchid ... given me by the man down the street has rewarded my patience with two pretty flowers.



I think it is about ready to be re-potted.







And ...

On my design door you can see the first border added to my nine-patch.

Now the size is 64" x 46".
Bigger but not big enough yet.

I am thinking the next border will have something set on point. I have not done the math so I am not sure what will fit.
Usually I just make the blocks and do the measuring later. Maybe I can set them with some colored sashing to add a few more inches.

I did add one more challenge because last night while going out with my daughter and my husband's cousin for a treat in an unknown shop, I miss-stepped on some pie-shaped steps and almost fell a few meters to the bottom. Luckily, I caught myself on the handrail before crashing into the line of people waiting at the entrance ... but ... I broke my index finger on my right hand in the process. A waiter at the restaurant gave me some ice to put on it ... which the doctor said was a good move ... but the x-rays today showed the joint was broken and it had to be set. Now I have to figure out how to go about my regular routine with one hand. Luckily, I am left-handed but practically everything I do takes more than one hand. (and Nikko is not helping at all) I know they make rubber gloves but I probably won't be able to find rubber mittens. This is going to be another challenge added to my already challenging month of April!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Busy days


The days are just flying by to the point I dread looking at my date book.

Of course some of those days were lots of fun.
On the 16th, Norie and I met with my good friend, Shigeko to take in a museum exhibit.

Shegeko always finds outstanding exhibits to see and this one was excellent.

The  National Art Center, Tokyo hosted an exibition of "The Best Selection of the Ohara Museum of Art".

There were seven rooms filled with ancient art from Asia, going through early modern art from EL GRECO, Manet, Rodin, Degas, Renoir, Matisse, etc.

The collection had outstanding works and those of Japanese artists influenced by modern art.

I was also impressed with the large number and variety of viewers, all ages from young to old, canes and wheelchairs, jeans, fashionable, Fancy kimono, dress kimono ... both women and men ... dress suits and casual. Not a weekend, but the middle of the day and the middle of the week. Japanese and foreigners ...  good English descriptions in each room ... Definitely the highlight of the week.

Other events included a meeting of my old quilt group, Tokyo Merit Badge day ... First-class trail in the morning and collections merit badge in the afternoon. It is always fun to see what kind of things teenage boys collect and share their passion.

Sunday the choir sang two services with practice between and after and though there was a St. Paddy's parade, I was off to lunch with a friend. I was a bit disappointed not to get to meet up with the Tokyo Piping Society in which I was a member for many years.

The quilting is nearing the end on the baby quilt but I will need a guest bed shortly and the nine-patch blocks were all laid out on top. I was afraid if I didn't get those blocks together, I would have to put them back in the box and it would be ages before I could arrange them.

So, above is what I have made so far. The blocks are each only 6 inches square so it is obvious this size is too small for a bed. Now I will think whether I should make more blocks or  find some other way to increase the size. I have been thinking of making a border of nine-patches set on point. Maybe adding several borders using up more of my cut squares.... I really have not put much of a dent in my collection.

Well, the rest of the week is busy too, Choir sings for the Maundy Thursday service and our small choir is singing at the Good Friday Service, a beautiful piece, "Crucifixus" by Lotti, eight parts, and eight voices ... 2 parts for each section and I have the first tenor. This is the second time our small group has sung special music and I feel so blessed to be included.  Special Easter music will follow and then we will be busy with final plans for my husband's memorial service.



Friday, March 11, 2016

It's in the hoop


Finally the backing was assembled and the quilting has begun.

I did have one big snafu though.

I have a container with fabric marking tools, pens and pencils.

For the darker fabrics, I love my karisma pencil with the thin white lead ... even though it gets used quickly and the last centimeter will not hold so has to be tossed out.

Karisma makes leads in yellow and blue for lighter fabrics but they don't come off as easily as the white which disappears as you stitch over it. Well, in my container there are a number of pens, blue and purple, made by several companies. The blue comes out with time and the purple stays longer but both wash out with a touch of water.

Well, I started with the purple because often the blue lines fade away before i get to them. The first pen I used was a bit tired and soon gave out so I reached in the box for another one. OOPS! when I went to wash out the ink with a paintbrush dipped in water, the lines did not disappear. Looking at the pen again, I found somehow a permanent marker had been stashed in the container.

Well, I am not going to redo the whole #7. Maybe it will fade with time. I don't think the baby will be bothered by the lines but I am a bit miffed that I made the mistake. There are many kinds of pens and the writing is all in Japanese. It may be that someone else moved that pen to my box as I doubt I ever even bought a purple permanent marker with two sized points.

The plum tree is still blooming in a wild and disorderly way.

I think this is what happens when you can't afford a professional tree trimmer and your ladder is too short to reach the upper branches.

Anyway, I am still enjoying the sweet scent of those little flowers.

This picture was taken during days of cold and rain.



Note the pink snow on the street below.

And as you may notice my sweeping duty will go a long way up the street as there is just as much on my neighbor's pavement as mine.








Neighbors in the other direction seem to have planted some bulbs in their weed bed.


(As a weed-aholic I always find this long bed of weeds hard to pass by ... and admit to reaching in and removing some that were tossing seeds along our street).

These are very tiny and look like what we used to call, "Johnny jump-ups".
Since each is single, they are probably just small daffodils, but they were a joyful surprise this spring. Now, if only this family would get serious about the weeds in the other ten meters or so...






The magnolias on the street to the station have begun to open their blooms.


They always start with the tree to the East that gets the most sun.




And last night's Cub Pack meeting took longer than expected.

I had made five kits of stools for the cubs to assemble as a team.
They had to saw the long bars for the sides and bottom, sand the pieces, and glue and nail the sections together.

The hardest part was hammering in those nails without bending them. They did work together well as a team, and even were able to decide who would get to take the finished stool home.

That meeting was LOOOOONG and I arrived home long after bedtime. I gave up the idea of dinner, walked Nikko around the block and went to bed.

This has been a busy week but all the stuff on the list has been done except for one ... that is a Skype call with the kids. (not easy when we are taking in areas between Boston and Tokyo.) well, and then the rest of the day's items and maybe even a bit of quilting ....

Friday, March 4, 2016

Finished top

The tenugui fabric got the most votes and it was my favorite too, but the width was only 14 inches and it would have been hard to cut in a way that would not waste fabric. Also, my plan was to add vines and leaves to count (and add width to the quilt). I really needed to pick fabric that would not hide the leaves.


I had used a heart fabric for the baby's sister's quilt and in the end I decided on this heart fabric left over from an earlier baby quilt, thinking the title of the quilt will be, "You can count on my love".

The green of the 7 is washed out in the photo but it does show up well against the heart print.



I think the light background also makes the pale cats show up better or at least be more balanced.





I do not know how the family will use the quilt.

I have not heard how they used the "I Spy" that I made for the first baby, but I made an "I Spy" for my daughter's kids and I know it was used for play as well as a bed cover.

We did enough count-downs in our family ... 5 minutes to bedtime ... three more bites of your dinner ... one more story before lights-out ...





Count the left-handed cats ...


count the cats with eyes closed ...


I may quilt in leaves or cats in the larger areas to make it more interesting to count.

Now I will begin digging through my tenugui for a quilt backing.
The first daughter got a dragon on her quilt back.
Now it is the year of the monkey so I will have to see if I can find at least one monkey tenugui.

Maybe a monkey print would be fun.

Anyway, I am happy to be this far along with the project.


Last Sunday was Norie's birthday and the sweet daphne is perfuming the air along the street.

This bush is actually a cutting from the original we planted when Norie was born.

The original was moved to Suginami-ku while we were living there and I think it went to Norie's garden from there.

Cuttings are not difficult to make so there are still some bushes blooming in the Suginami garden as well.

We had a nice dinner gathering on Sunday to celebrate and Leia helped me decorate the cake I had baked earlier.

Stencils and powdered sugar  ... we both cut and Leia did the arranging of the letters and other stencils.

All on a applesauce spice cake....
The candles were gone and the cake was about to be cut before I dug out my camera.


Early in the week we had cold blustery wind ...
rattling the windows at night ...
But a bit of sun today and flowers along the street are beginning to appear.



Nice to see these volunteers along the street.


The park has good southern exposure. Mine will follow in a few more weeks.

Hope you are enjoying the change of seasons too.