Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Partnership block

Those of you who keep up with the quilting bloggers in Japan, must be familiar with the partnership quilts. Each year as the Tokyo Dome show kicks into gear, NHK announces the theme for the coming quilts and the details  for those wishing to contribute a block.

I think among my friends, I am the last to get my block together. With a week of camping looming, the deadline for submissions having been moved up a month,  and many unknowns down the road of life, I thought if I was going to do it at all, the time had come to bite the bullet and get it done.

This year the block size has gone from 20 x 20 cm. to 15 x 15 cm. The theme is "Garden".

This is what I came up with. The Cardinal is the Ohio state bird and he is perched on a trowel, planting a seed. I had planned in my sketch to put another plant to his back but this was a more difficult size to work with so I decided one flower is enough. I had also planned to use different yellow fabrics in the sunflower petals but gave up on that plan too.

All I need now is to put my name in the seam allowance ... though how well it will show up might be a problem ... and find a post card to enclose.
It will be interesting to see how the quilts with smaller blocks turn out. I watched the NHK program with suggested blocks and compared to other years, it was  rather uninspiring.

The internet company called my daughter to inform her I should wait another month to have my connection restored. I guess she handed the phone to my son-in-law to argue the point. Well, he managed to convince them to give me back my former phone number so we will see how this second argument goes. Anyway, it won't be before I leave for camp and there won't be much of the month left by the time I return. I heard the neighbor return as I was taking the photograph so decided to swap my bedtime for a post. Now Nikko is saying her evening walk is long overdue. Experience with hanger-on connections, however, was telling me "now or never".

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Rainy week progress

The border is all quilted and the binding is going on.

This will be a busy week because I am getting ready to go to camp.

I will be teaching the leatherworking and woodcarving merit badges and some nature basics.

That means getting all the supplies sorted and lined up to load into the car.
In addition to the teaching materials, I will have to get the bird and Nikko's food and supplies lined up and dig out a tent big enough for a cot. The one the scouts supplied last year was plenty big but leaked like a sieve. One never knows what the weather will be as we have had everything from a sauna to a typhoon to a flood during countless summers.

The past week we had two very hot days followed by heavy rain. I have heard we have already set a record for rain in June and the month is hardly half over.

My cut-leaf maple seems to have jewels clinging to every leaf.

Even though I have been cutting gardenias for several vases inside, the little bush is covered with flowers with many buds yet to open.

And behind the gardenia, the lilies are beginning to open.

I used to have five varieties but these seem to be taking over the garden plot.

I noticed the agapanthus in a hanging pot has ten flower spikes.
I am hoping they will not wait until I leave to camp to begin blooming.

My daughter called the internet service as they had spoken of having service restored by now but they still are not ready to solve the problem and if they don't come this week, it will be next month before I will have another opportunity.

As it is, I have seldom had any connection the past few weeks. Often, like tonight, it comes on after ten (my bedtime) and is off by the time I come down in the morning ... even Monday when I get up early for a 4:am departure. It will be a relief when I can finally do things according to my own schedule.

Meanwhile, though the saying goes, "Make hay while the sun shines." My work seems to be getting done faster when it pours and there is no distraction from the internet.

Monday, June 6, 2016

It's in the works

If you walk into my front door, you will smell the sweet scent of gardenias.

My gardenia bush right outside the gate is small and old, but this year it has put out a great show of blooms.

As I understand it, the blooms are determined by the day and night temperatures, and that may be true because with the new building blocking most of the afternoon sun, most of the plants whose blooms are determined by hours of light are much behind other places in our area.

On the other hand, weather has remained rather cool and the caterpillars that usually attack the buds have not showed up yet. (their hatching perhaps influenced by temperatures).

These flowers are small but powerful and I am enjoying them.

I am also enjoying some progress on this year's third baby quilt.

I am just quilting around the letters and in the ditch, and then a one-inch frame inside each picture block.

So far I have started in the center and have about 15 of the blocks done.

The gold inner border has three rows of words ... the twelve points of the Scout Law. I also added two scout blocks to the bottom row, thanks to my blogging friend, Cheryl, who added these to my stash a few years ago.

I can't remember where the border fabric came from. It is a bit busy but of all the choices, it seemed to work best.

Now I need to figure out some take-along work. The nine-patch is waiting for its border to be cut and sewed but that will have to be done at home.

My daughter is still waiting for her tissue box cover but the box size is different than those found here so I think I need to make a model box before beginning.

The internet is still waiting for connection. I know there was a letter asking that the modem be returned but if that is what is holding things up, it may be a long wait because I have no idea which of all the many boxes attached to things in the computer room by countless wires is a "modem".Now, I must be a bit old and jaded, but why can't they take it when they bring the new one???

Meanwhile, I am missing so many friends out in blogging land. I try to grab a peek when there is a connection but often it goes off before I finish or have a chance to leave a reply. Hang in there, "I'll Be Back!"

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

an early morning quickie

While there is a brief internet connection, I thought I would post a bit of my latest project.

Sunday afternoon I went through my kid-friendly bin and pulled out an alphabet worth of prints.

Some of the letters have become harder and harder to illustrate.

The "K" is kanji, the "Y" is yacht.
I used to have a cat print with yarn on it but couldn't find any left.

There are two empty squares at the bottom and I am thinking of something scouting, as this quilt is for the coming baby son of my right-hand scouting assistant.

Monday night I started cutting the pieces for the letter blocks for take-along work. (Long train rides)

Tuesday I finished making the letter squares. They are solids with gingham corner points.

Then Yesterday I laid the alphabet prints out on the bed and arranged the letter blocks for a bit of balance ... and marked each one with the letter and suggested color. Then I started on the letters.

I am now about half-way through sewing letters.

I was going to make the letters solid colors but I found a few small prints that work.

Maybe I have wasted time looking through scraps of small kid-friendly prints because today I will probably have to switch to solid colors.

Each block is five inches finished so this will not be a single bed-size quilt but I think it will be good for a crib or play mat ... or something to toss over a sleeping baby. I plan to add a few borders before it will go to the hoop.

I left the finished I-Spy quilt at the church office in case the mother goes there, then she can pick it up. If not, I will look for her again this coming Sunday. I didn't want to carry that bag back and forth on a crowded train. Even if I get to sit, I can't sew with lots of bags in my lap. Tuesday, though I got a seat, I ended up giving it away to an old man. I was still able to stand leaning against the connecting door (no one is going to pass through the cars when it is that crowded) and sew three blocks on the homeward trip.

Today's train rides will be good for sewing blocks together. Maybe I should be happy that the internet is still mostly off, as other things are getting done. I really miss getting the chance to browse my favorite blogs. Hopefully, before the end of the month, the internet people will get around to restoring my connectivity.

Friday, May 27, 2016

All done!

Finished Friday night and the label added this morning. I was hoping for a bit of sun for a more colourful picture but since rain is predicted, I thought it would be better to grab a shot while I could and pass the quilt to the new owner on Sunday.

I never know if or how a quilt is used when it leaves my hands. It is said the most valuable thing a parent can give their child is words. Well, this quilt is full of words. Since I was a non-napper as a child, I would have loved napping on a quilt like this ... counting cats, finding matching fabrics, following the stitches with my finger ... I do hope it will find a use in it's new home.

Looking back, I remember how many times I have finished a hexagon quilt and said "Never again"!
Figuring out which way to iron all those seams and then quilting through them is a challenge.
Looking back, I wish I had turned the wave pattern to face the inner border rather than the outer edge.
Anyway, it is done and I gave it my best shot.

I had used the last of my thinsulate, and having several more quilts lined up, my daughter gave a call to the Yuzawaya in Kamata to see if they had a supply in stock. They said they had plenty, so yesterday I made the long trip through town to pick up a few rolls. Since it involved a long walk, I made it worth my while by buying two rolls of the 60-weight and one of the 40-weight. I think there are ten meters on a blot so they should last a while.

Made by 3M, it is probably intended for clothing but it is easy to piece, slightly tacky in texture so does not shift ... even basted with pins, and nice to quilt through. Even the 40 weight has a nice loft.
I also like the fact that there is hardly any waste the way I use it.

Today I will pull out my kid-friendly bin and pull out fabrics for an alphabet quilt for the next baby on my list.... and my second daughter also reminds me she is still waiting for her tissue box cover.

Meanwhile, the cacti are putting on a show.
If I don't look each day, I will miss these beauties.

Buds in the background so more to come.

And here is a bit of competition on another step.

And this sweet little guy puts out a lovely show every year.

And these flowers last more than a day so I don't miss them.

Maybe that is why it is such a favourite.

And out in the rain, the Easter cactus has finally figured out it is a bit past time for a show.

I have another small one hanging outside my front door and I see it is also in bloom.

These sit outside all year long and don't seem to mind the winter cold or even a day or two of snow.

Next will be the prickly pear...
But that one most often blooms during my week at Scout camp.

I don't think I will put that big spiny fellow in my car and take it along just so I can catch a picture.  Well, this is the return I get for selecting plants that don't mind heat or cold and thrive on neglect!

Tomorrow is "Choir Sunday" my voice has returned from the woods and I will not mind if it is raining because all our hard work will come to fruition and be given in joy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Complaining fingers

Can you hear it ?

My middle finger has a hole in the nail and is crying loudly "PLEASE GET THE INTERNET CONNECTIONS BACK!!!!"

I have tried a metal thimble but that only serves to avoid using that finger entirely (making my index finger complain ... with holes in the pad)

The leather thimble works OK but it falls off between every stitch.

The rubber thimble is most comfortable but it is made more for gripping the needle than protecting the finger.    At any rate, without much reliable connectivity, a lot of the border is getting finished.

I am on the third border now and about to mark the last side in case I have some extra time before choir tonight.

I will probably just use the little rubber thimble. Once the needle pokes through the nail and makes a hole, the needle seems to find that spot over and over again. It not only un-threads the needle in the process but it really hurts. (and no bleeding allowed on the quilt so delays the progress)

Though rain is in tomorrow's forecast, today is a lovely day.

I will get a daughter-fix.

See an art show.

And, I am already enjoying these fox-gloves that were given to me for mother's day a number of years ago by my granddaughter.

The telephone was re-connected last Friday.
So far, two calls from my daughter and one that didn't speak English.

Next month sometime, the internet may return. It will be nice to do my browsing on my own time rather than rush to the laptop when I hear the neighbor's door close. Hope to see you all soon.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

It's in the hoop!

No internet connection for nearly a week means more quilting.

The lighting wasn't very good on the fence when I went out to get a picture, but this is what the I-Spy quilt is looking like ... only much brighter.

Last Friday I had my Cub Scout meeting followed by a trip to camp for an "OA" weekend. OA is Order of the Arrow and it was my duty to do the "Brotherhood walk" (The last step for those completing the level of Brotherhood after being an "Ordeal member for almost a year)

I take the candidates through a back trail that is never used and most know nothing about, and deliver them to the area of the ceremonial fire. Luckily, I checked out the trail earlier in the day because a large tree had fallen across the trail. It was way too large to be moved so I returned to the quartermaster in the main area to pick up a saw and some shears and hiked back out to clear the trail enough to crawl under the tree.

Since I had to attend an early choir practice on Sunday, I returned home late Saturday night. There was still no internet connection. In fact, the neighbor, whose internet I borrow, seems to have been away all week ... so no connection.

I was out Monday for school and Tuesday for another scheduled activity, but there was still no connection whenever I checked. Just as I was about to take the dog on her evening trip and go to bed, I heard the neighbor's door shut so I opened my laptop to see if  the service had returned with him. Sure enough, weak but there. Now it is well past my bedtime and, though I wish I could check out all the blog-hopping I have missed, I really need to hit the sack.
Hopefully there will still be connections tomorrow ... well, actually it IS tomorrow right now!

The internet company will come on Friday to restore my telephone line. Though they claimed I could not have my former phone number back, my son-in-law had negotiated with them to restore it. We shall see .... As to the internet, it will take until the middle of June to get that back. I honestly can't see why they could turn off the connections because they were in my husband's name and couldn't just switch names instead of starting all over from scratch. After all, the cable and modem are still in place. For a country where service is always so quick and accommodating, this is certainly not what anyone would expect.

So ... the quilt is moving through the hoop. Quilting in the ditch is about all that is needed and I will use a wave pattern for the outer border. From Friday evening I will be back at camp for a Cub Camp where I am in charge of the nature walk.  ... and I have promised my Pack I will bring my box oven so we can bake a cake for dessert Saturday evening. No internet on weekends anyway ....

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Progress on the door

Well, the I-Spy quilt is slowly moving along.

Yesterday I sewed the five rows together.

Now I have to resolve the odd edges.
They will all end with stars so that means I will 60+ little triangles to draw on to the yellow fabric and cut out.

Then I will have to decide on what to use for the borders. At this point the size is about 40" x 42".

I think it will be about 44" square by the time I get the inner edge done, then a small sashing and a wider border ... not yet selected from my stash.

I have about 48 hexagons left from those I started with so I could add more, though most of those are fabrics I have already used ... some more than once as you might be able to see. I had been trying to keep a reasonable balance of color and repeats.

Norie and Leia came on Friday night and we had an early mother's day on Saturday.

Leia found a pattern for a parachute in one of my craft books and we hunted up the various components to make it.

She sewed a little drawstring bag of fabric and stuffed it with beans and wadding, decorated a cut plastic bag with markers, and fixed carefully measured and cut string to each point.

We took it outside to try out. Tossed it from the neighboring walk-up, the top of the slide in the park, rescued it from tree branches, and...

... Just as Leia was running to catch it at about knee high off the ground, it began to rise.

First we were afraid it would be caught in the tree but it cleared the tree tops and kept climbing and moving to the northwest.

Just as it neared an apartment building across the street, it rose higher and sailed above the buildings.

We dashed to the back street but it had not come down anywhere we could see ... and in fact, though I have kept my eyes open, it has not appeared in any of the trees or balconies in the direction it took off in.

We did make another one ... that one too rescued from a tree by Leia who shinnied right up to the top while I held my breath and wondered if I would be able to catch her should she fall...
For good measure, I suggested she fold it up and take it home and find a larger space to play with it.
Keep looking up ... you may see that first one on it's continuing adventure.

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!