Friday, April 19, 2019

A bit of spring is springing

Amazing what a day of sunshine can provide.

As I went out to sweep the street today, I found a big fat flower bud getting ready to open.

I have no idea what this plant is. There is a patch of it in the park where I pull weeds, and I have seen it blooming once. Usually the guys with the weed-whackers slice it off at ground level before it gets to even form a bud.
Last year they yanked out a dead lilac bush behind it and pulled up some bulbs which I rescued and planted in a space along the east side of the house. It seems to be rewarding me for the rescue.

When coming through the garden to get my camera, I found an orchid in bloom ... clinging to the Biwi tree.

This is one of a number that were rescued from my friend Wally's garden before his move to a retirement home.

I see a few others are leafing out in other spots. This is really the only side of the house that gets a  few hours of sunshine.

I noticed also when I was hanging laundry in the greenhouse that the orchid cactus is getting ready to bloom.

In the fall I cut off a section of this long arm, thinking soon it would tip the pot off the top of the step-tansu.

That piece I rooted in another pot and it seems to be doing well. The bud near the cat seems like it will be first to open, and there are two above growing larger each day.

The easter cactus had a hard summer last year out on the roof
so I brought it inside for a bit of TLC over the winter.

I had been thinking of re-potting it but I will wait until after the blooms are finished.
I have one more outside on the west side, and it usually blooms much later than this one.

Two more days to go ... Looks like it might bloom on Easter.

Another little cactus is also getting ready to show off its colors. I have been putting off tidying up the greenhouse because the heater doesn't work and it has been too cold to spend much time up there other than snuggling in my sleeping bag at night.

I guess the flowers are trying to tell me that warmer days are in sight.

There has been some suggestion that Leia may be coming sometime this weekend to make batik eggs

These were batiked as raw eggs and then the innards blown out.

I was crawling under the table to get them out of the hutch, and had a big surprise.

The past few years I have had no luck in saving the eggs from the year before, so I thought I had tossed them all out and only saved the cocoons for crafts.
Well, a few of the moths had laid eggs on the cocoons and I tipped the container on to the floor, and in picking them up, noticed a number of tiny wiggly worms.
I quickly ran to the park to snatch up a few young mulberry leaves. I had just seen them beginning to come out on Tuesday so they are not very big, but there were enough small ones to feed those little caterpillars. I spent the next hour or so picking them up with a little paintbrush and placing them on the leaves.  I guess there will be another item added to my daily list of chores.

The baby quilt is moving along and I am now quilting the last border.

I have been happy to have take-along work with these feed sack stars. 4 trips into town each week ... with about one star in each direction, (depending on how long or if I get a seat),
and an on-line District Committee Scout meeting ... They all add up.
This picture was taken earlier in the week, and yesterday's trip added #50. Not sure what the plan is, but I still have some fabrics that have not been used and also a few duplicate squares.
I thought of maybe using some of the scraps in a floral border appliqued on a solid fabric. Some of those fabrics are very rough and loosely woven so I'm not sure how the would work.

So ... it seems that spring ... though it has been taking a few small steps forward, then a giant leap backward ... is knocking on my garden door. I'd better get back to that border before there is another interruption.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The unveiling

After lying flat across two tables as mothers gathered to put in the stitches, members of the group were still looking at areas, wondering if they needed to add some stitches here or there. The time to finish had neared, and there was still a bit of "cleaning up" of threads on the back, but basically, it was near enough done that I suggested the time had come to hang it up and step back for the all-over view.

Indeed, the different angle showed off a lot of the quilting textures that had not been quite as apparent when it was laying flat. It also made it clear that a lot more tiny details would hardly be noticed.

The school was having a "book parade" last Friday, and we carried the quilt on it's stand down to the area where the parents were filing in to watch their children parade in costumes representing books they had enjoyed.

Here I am with some of the quilters when bringing our work out on display for the first time.

Nishimachi International School has a long history of yearly quilts.

They are not only auctioned off for fund-raisers (like the American School used to do),
but they have also documented much of the work through post cards or greeting cards ... something I always wished ASIJ had done.

If anything, they would be popular with the many mothers who gave parts of their year to work on them.

I was only a participant in the final weeks, as I have no connection with the school other than scouting families who have attended there.
It happened that the daughter of the mother I am standing with, used to be in the after-school art class where I worked. One of the things I helped with was to document the work done by the children, and each time I asked Marika about her story, I was taken on an adventure. All her work was a story.

When she graduated to kindergarten at Nishimachi, she wanted to continue the after-school art class but, as it turned out, Monday, when I was there, Nishimachi had another program of Hawaiian dance that Marika wanted to do and was conflicted because she wanted to be with me. Through my boss, I sent her mother a message to tell Marika that Hula is a dance that tells a story and I would feel sad should she miss that opportunity just because of me. Happily, she went for the Hula and we have managed to keep connected ... adding her wonderful mom to the equation. that was my link to this delightful group.

The cherry trees in the area near the school were so pretty against the blue sky.
The peach tree on my walk to the parking spot is also in full bloom.

How is this for a splash of color?  we planted one of these trees in our garden when my second daughter was born. Unfortunately, it did not survive transplanting when the house was re-built.

It would have been almost this size by now. This one is a few short blocks down the street.

Tonight is my Cub Scout pack meeting, so I had better stop procrastinating and get things organized for that event. "A Scout is Prepared" ... at least I try to be...

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

What's up?

A cold rainy day ... and a good time to sit and work on a quilt in my lap. The borders on Phoebe's quilt are slowly getting done ... only a bit more to go and I can work on the tree area.

I have prepared some border points to feature the feed sack prints and enjoy having a bit of take-along work.

This picture was taken Tuesday evening at church on the floor of the fellowship hall.
On the way home, I completed one more block.

I have been pulling colors from each of the prints to put in the background stars.
There is not a great variety of colors but I am trying to combine them in a way that they can be arranged in a balanced way.

I am thinking some of the smaller scraps can be made into a floral border so I haven't tossed out those bits.

Our spring seems to be taking two steps forward and then a few back. I never know how many layers to put on each morning. (and if I need to peal a few off ... how long it will be before I need to go get them again. My bed is waiting for the day to put away the sleeping bag and dress up the bed with some new sheets my daughter gifted me ... and actually see the quilt that is under the down comforter.

Next post I will share the finished quilt made with the school mothers. Until then ... back to quilting.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

A snail's pace

Last week one of my neighbors was un-tangling a vine along the top of her fence. It was just beginning to burst in bloom and I asked her what it was.

She said she didn't know as it had been bought by her daughter-in-law.
Looking closely at the flowers and leaves, it definitely seems to be some kind of orchid.
I went on line to look up "vine orchid" and was beginning to find a few similar pictures when my computer died.

At first the cursor became a little rainbow going round and round. By the next day, the screen was all black.

Finally, as I was going into town for choir practice and there was an apple store across the street from where our church is located, I decided to pack up the laptop in my bag and see if there was something that could be fixed.

 I was rather intimidated walking into that big shop full of people and devices, so it took a lot of bravery to step inside and find someone who might direct me to someone who could help.

A person took my name and email address and type of problem, then sent me to a place to sit and wait.
Luckily I had some handwork to distract me, and it was not really much of a wait before a handsome, smiling, young man showed up asking to have a look.

He showed me what to do if that happened again while fixing the problem. He spoke perfect english. He checked other issues I had been having and got rid of an overload of "free" stuff being advertised each time I tried to open my laptop... (free cleaners that you had to buy etc.) and checked that I had plenty of storage. He also helped me find a way to send photos from my cell phone to a place where I can edit and use them.

When I thanked him and asked how much I owed, he said the service was free. Oh my! I sure walked out of there feeling a lot better than I did when I walked in. As I left, two of those who helped direct me asked if my problem had been fixed. Well, that area of town sees lots of high-end tourists and that store must be happy to sell them lots of items. Nothing like good service!

The magnolias are in wonderful bloom in the park. (above picture).

As I drove out to Tama for my scouting event,
I saw the mountain sakura had begun to bloom.

This is along the road up to the scouting area. Not as pretty as some varieties in town but still a harbinger of spring.

The weekend was quite cold, the only heat coming from two ceremonial campfires.

It was predicted to rain but coming prepared for rain seems to be the best way the make the weatherman change his mind.

Nikko went along with me.
She is showing signs of doggy dementia and kept walking in circles, getting all tangled with her leash. she stepped in her water dish and overturned it on the floor. At least when I went to the car to rest between ceremony presentations, she curled up on the front seat and slept. By the time I returned home for my english lessons, she was so exhausted she slept right on the floor in the entryway.
Her health otherwise seems OK and she is focused always on food, checking her food dish at regular intervals. She has also begun peeing in the house which she has never done before.

I have had many busy days, starting very early in the mornings. The choir sang two services meaning I had to have Nikko walked and fed and be out of the house by 6:30 am. Choir practice also went longer than usual because I sing in a small choir that practices when the main rehearsal is over. Some nights I don't get home until nine or ten pm. As usual, even on holidays, onigiri delivery to the homeless goes on and I have to be out by 4:am on Mondays.

I spent some time looking through the feedsack bits that came among much fabric. I decided to feature some in a quilt and cut four-inch squares. I picked two colors from each print and marked colored scraps for settings. It is nice to have some handwork to take along for long train rides and lots of waiting for things to get started.

Here is what I have managed to assemble so far. I notice the variety of colors is rather narrow and I will probably have to repeat some of these settings a number of times. I hope to join them without sashing if possible.

Meanwhile, time at home is spent sorting through the donated stash and getting it ironed and folded and in meaningful piles. The quilt for baby Phoebe is now in the hoop on the third side's outer border. I have plans to add leaves to the tree and a flying Phoebe once the outer quilting is done. I have made a small sketch to work from.

The last few weeks I have been helping the quilters at Nishimachi International School with their auction quilt. The finish date is nearing and it has been fun making new friends in the group.

The quilter who donated her stash showed up the Sunday before last with a book I had loaned her plus another bin of fabric and a lot of tools. Since all those tools were marked in centimetres, I took them to share with the new group. There were also hoops that found new homes. There are a number of stencils that will need to be sorted and given a new home.

So, though life seems to keep getting in the way, progress goes slowly. Weeks between posts can be due to any number of reasons... but at least the laptop issues will not be the cause.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Done with "ditching"

It is amazing how life seems to get in he way. I had always thought that as I got older, things would quiet down and I would have more time to work quietly on my projects. Well, either I was wrong or I am not old enough yet.

Spring is slowly moving in. We have had cold rainy days with windy sunny days mixed in.

The plum blossoms opened all the way to the tips of the branches and these days I am sweeping up the dark pink snow from out front.

As I walk to the station most days along this quiet street,
I have seen the magnolias open one by one ... starting on the left side toward the far end (where it gets most sun), and moving up the block to where I stand with my camera at the train crossing.

At the far end, in front of the apartment building, the tall square hedge of photinia has turned red on the south side facing the street and still has green on each end that is in the shade.

With today's wind, some of the magnolia flowers at the far end have been dropping petals, while at the end near the crossing, the blooms are just reaching full bloom.

I am so glad that this past winter the tree trimmers left the buds.
... well, they did manage to cut off all the buds on the dogwoods so we won't be seeing much there.

Along my narrow street, this small garden area which is usually all weeds, got a bit of cleaning over the winter and what were just a few daffodils has expanded. Now there is a whole row along the street.

Seeing these in bloom, I went around the house to check on mine. Yep, they are in bloom too. I hope they will multiply as generously as these have.

My neighbor to the north has camellias peeping over his wall. 
From last week I am sweeping up those petals blown into my front walk.

The pink sweet daphne is dropping it's flowers but the white ones are taking their turn in the flower bed.

I notice buds on the maples beginning to swell, and, though friends are posting pictures of cherry trees in bloom, our area is still far behind.

The star magnolia in the park is very pretty and the fuzzy bud casings are covering the ground.

The neighbor's hydrangea is getting ready to leaf out.
Today was warm enough to go out and sweep wearing just a light jacket. Soon dog hair will be wafting through the house.

Even with a very busy schedule, I have managed to complete all the in-the-ditch quilting on Phoebe's quilt. I am considering leaving the four-inch I-Spy squares un-quilted. The thinsulate I used for batting will not shift and I rather like those slightly puffy blocks. I will next be quilting the inner and outer borders. Then I want to add leaves to the tree and a flying phoebe in the larger space.

Yesterday began the spring break so I might have a wee bit more time ... however, last week I rescued some fabrics from the sewing room of a friend who needs to make room to care for an elderly relative. I must be out of my mind, as there was a lot more fabric than I can ever use. I have slowly been sorting, ironing the tangled mess, and folding into piles. I have cut some of the odd scraps into usable squares to sort into tins. I can see a feed-sack quilt in the future but dealing with this will be a continuing challenge. I am also thinking of making kits for a beginning quilting class. As I only buy fabric as needed, it blows my mind that someone would buy so much without a use other than to stack in piles.

Meanwhile, choir goes on with several small choir practices beyond the usual ones. Scout events continue and I have a coming OA Vigil to take part in. I am enjoying helping with a group quilt for Nishimachi International school.  Tomorrow is Leia's birthday. We had a nice gathering yesterday and I expect there will be a second gathering to celebrate my SIL's birthday early next month.
At least I am not likely to suffer from boredom!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

A bit of sun at last

After a week of grey skies and off-and-on rain, it was nice to see the sun again.

Well, I shouldn't complain because the sun did come out for my nature hike on Saturday, a week ago.

Though this plum tree really needs some pruning, I'm glad I held off until later because the flower buds are marching all the way to the tips of those long branches.

The sweet daphne is also giving off a sweet scent. I'm sure were I to walk down my little street wearing a blindfold, my nose would tell me when I arrived at home.

The past week has also been one of hunting, and finally finding lost items.

For two years, an anniversary banner I made for the Women's Conference has been lost somewhere in the one of the many storage areas at the church.

A week ago, one of the church members was asking about the possibility of hanging a few of the past stewardship banners to liven up the walls of the fellowship hall.

I had seen a number of them rolled up on a back shelf in the basement furnace-room, but when we went to look, there was something else piled on that shelf where they had been.

That guy started looking around and though those were not found in that room, he found the rolled up WOCON banner at the back of one of the lower shelves.

Since our facility manager has changed fairly recently, and now is a young guy with no history of the church building, it is not surprising that stuff might get moved around without even knowing what it is.
The smaller hangings have yet to be found, but this one is now hanging on a large empty space. Too bad is was too late to make it to the conference.

Tonight two of my scouts will have an "Arrow of Light" ceremony and bridge over to the troop. I have a wooden candle-holder stand with the arrow symbol that I take to the meeting on those occasions, but though it always lives on top of one bookcase, I couldn't find it. I thought I might have left it in the scout storage area, as it is rather a problem to carry into town and back on a crowded train, but a friend checked and didn't find it there. Today I located it where it had fallen off the back of the shelf. Now the old candle-wax has been scraped off and the paint touched up and it is ready to go.

For the last week or so, I have been quilting around the tree on the baby quilt, starting at the bottom left and working around. I had cut out a Bluejay to add and pinned it to the top of the tree. When I got to those branches, it was not there, and I began looking around in my sewing area to see if it might have fallen off.

Today I moved the hoop down to the lower right branches, and there was that Bluejay holding a conversation with rather orange-colored Meadowlark. I guess there are times the right-brain doesn't know what the left hand is doing.

I have yet to mark and cut leaves to add to the tree. Maybe I will lose those before I get to it. Probably I will continue to quilt the borders and blocks in the ditch before moving into the detail.
At least the quilt is big and bright and not as likely to get lost.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

It's in the hoop!

Today it is cold and dark. I finished piecing the backing for the baby quilt and laid it out on the cold apartment floor.  Then I laid out and pieced the batting using thinsulate #80. I finished adding the remaining birds to the tree, went over the seams with the iron, and laid it out on top.

Though I prefer thread basting, the apartment has the power turned off, and being rather cold and dark, and seeing how nicely the quilt lay on the batting, I decided to use my pin collection to get the job done.

I have not added all the leaves, but I think it will be a lot easier than the flowers and birds, especially now that it is layered, it is easier to get those wide borders out of the way.

I will first just quilt in the ditch.

Then I will have to figure out how to quilt the larger areas and the borders.

So ... the quilt for little Phoebe is growing almost as fast as she is.
for now, it is off in the rain to choir practice. Hopefully the rain will finish before the nature hike on Saturday.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Blooming time

This plum tree, planted to celebrate the birth of my first daughter in the mid-sixties, has usually begun to bloom around the time of her birthday.

The last few years it has been a bit late.
Well, maybe I, too , am slowing down as I get older.

Only about a week late, the first blossoms began to open last Friday. There are many more today, and I expect the next sunny day the tree will be showing off its full potential.

After adding a few bluebirds to Phoebe's tree to celebrate the day of her birth, it was time to add a few plum blossoms to celebrate her aunt.

I picked a flower to bring in and match the fabric.
Note one real flower on an upper branch, posing.

I do not plan to remove the borders, but it sure would have been easier to do all this fussy applique without getting that extra material caught in my needle.

As long as I am starting with the spring side of the tree, I decided to add a few cherry blossoms.

I still have a number of birds to add, but for today I think I will lay out and piece the backing.

In the past, I have sometimes added applique to quilts after basting the sandwich and found it less likely to get the the needle caught in strange places.

Tomorrow I will be meeting with my small quilt group so may make a bit more progress during the week.

If I can add the rest of the birds, I may add some of the leaves as I quilt. I often plan as I go, but this is the very least planned of any quilt I have ever worked on.

Last Friday I joined a small quilt group making a quilt for their school much like the Gala quilts we used to make for the American School. The quilts they make are more what I might call "art quilts" for hanging. All the work is in silk. It was fun working with a group and making new friends. I do not have every Friday free, but am planning to go back and help again.
Like many of the international schools in Tokyo, people come and go frequently, so the groups and amount of experience continuously change. At least that school has made cards of each of the quilts over the years and the history lives on. Often new administrations at these schools tend to get rid of the past and put in their own choice of teachers and agenda. As with overseas scouting, any history is in the heads of the longest active member... One never knows if things will evolve or one will be put out to pasture.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

A busy week

Only a tiny bit of quilting got done in the past week. The quilt for Baby Phoebe is getting larger and I am wishing I had added the birds and leaves to the tree before making it so big.

I ended up using the border fabric left over from Ben's "big boy" quilt and I think it works fine to tie all those I-Spy blocks together.

The tree is framed by fabrics representing spring, summer, fall, and winter, and my plan is to add plum and cherry blossoms on the left, followed by green leaves, followed by autumn colored leaves, and ending with bare branches.

I have been appliqueing birds on the branches before adding the leaves but find it hard to work in the center because of the wide borders. I am wondering if it might be easier to add the leaves while doing the quilting.

The day Phoebe was born, her mom was planning to meet in Portland with my elder daughter to see an Eastern Bluebird, a rather rare visitor to that area. Instead, her trip was to the hospital for an early delivery. This past weekend, the two, plus little Phoebe, went to see the bird as it was still around. After hearing that, I sewed two bluebirds on the spring branches.

The quilt I showed from the Tokyo Dome show, made by Ueno-san, used some of this same bird print fabric. I have to admit, her machine applique was much better than I have been able to do by hand.

Last night I laid out tenugui to piece for the backing. I had only eleven of the twelve zodiac animals. The monkey is missing. There used to be a place in Ginza that sold those tenugui but that is a long way to go for just one towel and I don't even know if they are still in business.

A  week ago, I attended the Far East Council's Executive Board meeting. It was hosted at the U.S. Ambassador's residence, a beautiful and historic building.

After the meetings, we were treated to a tour of the surrounding rooms, and this picture of those board members who attended in person was taken at the site of the meeting between MacArthur and the Emperor Hirohito in 1945.

The black and white photograph of that meeting is seen on the table to the left of our group.

According to the booklet we were given of the history of that residence, MacArthur and the Emperor sat and talked for 40 minutes by the fireplace.

Though I often attend these meetings on line, it was well worth the trip into town and back.

When handed the booklet with the history and pictures, I commented as to how much my daughter, an architect, would enjoy having it, and the tour guide gave me a second copy.

I was pleased to learn that in a city where old buildings with great history are being torn down to be replaced with towering blocks, this house is being carefully restored down to every detail.

Friday to Sunday I attended the Women's Conference. It was held in Tochigi at the Asian Rural Institute, instead of the usual Amagi Sanso on the Izu peninsula. It was the first time to go there since the renovation after the earthquake and though I took my camera ... not once did it come out of my bag.
I was happy to enjoy quality time with my friend Tanya and my friend Ester, whose daughter baby-sat Nikko, and see other friends I almost never see but once a year.
I did a quilt basics workshop, and luckily had help from Tanya. The time was way too short and I notice over the years women have little experience with basic stitching. I could sew better seams at the age of three than many of those women.
If I do a workshop next year, I think some basic sashiko with a limited number of stitches would be best to try.

Another busy week is in process now. Not much time to spare, though I may have a chance on Friday to meet some new local quilters.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Tokyo Dome Quilt Festival ...3

With this post, I run out of names in English, so any more pictures will take time for getting help.

Over many years I have developed a friendship with Ueno-san through shows at Yokohama as well as Tokyo Dome. For years she was part of a group of international quilters that made a show on certain themes in small wall quilts. She teaches quilted handbags and enters bags or framed quilts or, this year, this large quilt names "Garden Birds".  I was interested to see that the bird print she has used is the same one I am using to applique birds in the tree of my new granddaughter's quilt. I am working by hand but in awe of how beautiful a job she could do by machine.

Here is a close-up.

And another one.

It seems she found this print fabric in a larger size.

The background is perfect to show them off.

This year she also entered the framed category with this colorful giraffe.
I have not translated the names in this category, but included the title cards with the names in Japanese and the description.

The needlework embellishments on this are outstanding. The quilter is "Tanaka"

This quilter put a lot of detail into this Christmas scene.

This colorful bird was made in Mola style by a quilter named Yamamoto.

This piece of work called "Memory" seems to be looking back at school days.

Many of the lovely large quilts with so much detail seem to spend more time folded up waiting for a show. I think these framed quilts make more sense, as they could be hung in someone's house. I am impressed as to how much detail quilters manage to get into such a compact space.

Prize-winners were given credit for their work.
This one made by Kazuko Fujimura won the prize for Original Design.

The second prize overall went to this quilt made by Kyoko Takeda

"Golden Tokyo Tower 2020" by Ritsuko Kuramitsu won third prize in the "traditional" category. 
I wonder what makes this a "traditional" quit.

This is the second prize winner fir the "traditional" quilts.
Made by Noriko Kido

And the first prize for traditional goes to Teruko Uchiya
Titled, "Hamorebi"

"Life IV" by Noriko Misawa took the prize for "Machine Making"

This quilt made by Mayumi Mochizuki won a second prize. I'm not certain the category or if it is overall. 

And the grand winner was this quilt made by Hitomi Mishima.

Honestly, I don't know how the winners were selected. There were so many fine  quilts, and compaed with when the Dome show had its beginnings, creative and original designs with fine quilting and embellishments.  
In addition to these selected for prizes, each category also displayed the top three picks.

A baseball stadium is not a small place and the center display area is surrounded by assorted rows of shops or stalls selling all kinds of quilt-related items. There is a lot of walking to do and a lot of waiting for people to get out of the way so a picture can be taken. In the early days, pictures were not allowed and there was a large book on sale if you wanted pictures, so the times have changed in more ways than one. One thing that never changes is that the end, one has to walk up a long flight of steps to the very top of the stadium to exit, and after hours of walking, that might just be the biggest challenge of all.
I hope I will get some translation so I can show a few more of my favorites.