Thursday, January 18, 2018

Next on the list


  • Somehow this went to the family blog.  I guess I need to pay better attention when writing a post.
    Jan 18 at 3:29 PM

    Coming up the first weekend in February, is the Women's Conference... WOCON.

    For the last few years I have taught a quilting basics class where the participants can make a small pot holder or mug-rug and learn the basics of piecing, basting, quilting and binding.

    This year I am thinking of something like a drop-in class covering applique and needlework or simple embroidery.

    The theme is "Changing with the Seasons", and after discussions with the planners, we are thinking of having participants select fabrics for seasons they love best and applique a leaf on the tree of life.

    This is about one day's work ... but I sat through a loooong meeting last night which moved things along. I am kind of thinking of a border to represent each season.

    Today Norie took some pictures of my vest.

    Usually I wear a light down vest around the house but I think this one is a bit warmer.
    (Maybe it is all the dog hair it has picked up in the process).
















    I think when time allows, I will add a bit more quilting around the owl's tail, otherwise I am satisfied.

    The thinsulate is intended for use in clothing and is what I most often use in quilts.

    It is a bit tacky but, though it makes it a bit hard to line up the front and back for basting (unless you have extra hands to place the top), For all the quilts I have used it, it never pills or shifts and washes well... even when the quilting is widely spaced.

    I once heard that 3M was going to make quilt battings but that may never have happened. I just take it off the bolt and if needed, whip the edges together to make it larger. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Having way too much fun



 I am beginning to wonder how I will know when I am done.

As long as there are little spaces, there is possibility for adding embellishments.


The pocket is now in place but it is really way too big. I am thinking of adding a button loop at the top and a button below the frog to keep things from falling out.

I might have a few nice pearl buttons left from my button blanket that will work.

I needed to quilt the area underneath the pocket but that work will never show.

I decided to use a "morning star" and "evening star" design that I have used in in the past on a star quilt.






The variegated thread  was rather fun to use and the cloud design is in the same pale blue that I used on the back.














I chose a herringbone stitch on the owl's tail feathers, but since the stitches were rather wide and might get caught on something, I back-stitched over all the places where they crossed.

There are a few open spaces left for some quilting or stitchery but they will have to wait for another day.

Yesterday Norie and Paul's sister and I met for a meal to celebrate the second anniversary of Paul's passing. It is kind of a special tradition in Japan and we met at the same place as last year.




Don't we look well fed?

We even had room for a bit of dessert.















Norie took this picture outside the restaurant where they have a small weeping cherry.

This is one of the trees we are considering to plant in Paul's memory in the chapel garden of ARI (Asian Rural Institute)
that Paul supported for so many years,  a school where community leaders from mainly Asia and Africa come to improve their leadership skills and knowledge of sustainable farming and grassroots community development.


ARI's motto, "That We May Live Together" is found in every aspect of community, food, labor, diversity, and mutual respect for servant leadership.

OK, enough for now. Cub pack meeting tonight and I had better get packin'!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Attention to detail



Here is a picture of a real Mola that has been in my collection for many years.  After assembling my pseudo-mola vest, I have begun to focus on the details and looked to this piece for inspiration.

The zig-zag lines are made with a single thread in a chain stitch. Those chains are really tiny with about eight links in a one centimetre length. The running stitches are done with two strands of thread and are three stitches to one cm. There are also tiny Y stitches in the neck area that I want to try. Those are with one thread and spaced about four per cm.



This is my attempt.

My stitches are about six per cm. and I doubt I can make them any smaller. (or feel a need to do so)

I am glad for my collection of needles that includes some S. Thomas & Sons that are short and fine but yet have an eye large enough to get the thread through easily.

Of course, I did not practice first but just jumped right in (and as usual, learning as I go).










I was able to find the hidden fabric and add a border of patchwork to the bottom edge of the back.

It still needs a bit of in-the-ditch quilting.

I decided that with the owl and turtle, I will stick to Native American designs.

Being originally from Ohio, I am preferring those designs from the Northeastern  Woodlands.

This area on either side of the turtle has been quilted with light blue thread.

I plan to fill the larger areas with this kind of quilting and then add detail as time allows. That way, I might even be able to call this a finish before long ... with maybe room for more creative embellishment as time goes on.

The pocket is yet to be assembled and added.  (But I still have a bit of time until "due date").

Last year at the quilt show, I received a spool of Coats "multicolor' hand quilting thread and I am eager to try that out at one point. I think it will work well on this navy background.

So, with the baby quilt on the way to it's new owner, I now have another warm item on my lap to work on. Pretty good timing for this cold blustery weather...

Friday, January 5, 2018

Making up for lost time

If I am going to finish this project by the end of this month, it is time to stop procrastinating and get going.

I think by now I have an idea of the basics of Mola and that was more or less the goal of the year-long challenge. Basically, the colorful reverse applique designs created by the Cuna indians of the San Blas islands along the Atlantic coast of Panama, are intended to be worn in clothing.

In studying up on the technique, I read these words ... "Every mola is a thoughtful statement of the creator's personality and relationship with her culture". Therefore, rather than copy directly from the Cuna designs, I decided to make this statement completely mine.


The butterfly was once a symbol of the hidden Christians. 50+ years ago when I came to Japan. there were many young people wearing big fancy crosses. They were only an ornament with no meaning at all. It was then that I decided to join my husband's ancestors as a hidden Christian and exchanged by silver Celtic cross for a tiny gold filagree butterfly. My goal was to express my faith by my actions and deeds. Thus the butterfly. 

Then, there is the frog. He too is reminding me to Fully Rely On God.

The sun was my first attempt where I learned the most as what to do and what I should be doing. I'm sure it will remind me to remain sunny, even in the face of adversity, and learn by my mistakes. I intend this to become a pocket.

The owl and the turtle are the real me ... a relationship with my own culture, so I decided not to include distracting colorful bits. I was hoping to add a strip of quilting across the bottom but since I "cleaned up" for Christmas visitors, I have not been able to find where I hid those pieces. I am still hoping to locate them before the final assembling.

The Owl and the Turtle are more native American designs. As a child, my name was "turtle song", called by my great grandmother. I still remember how happy I was at around June 1944, when I was presented with my own Bible and opened it to the first page of the Song of Solomon, reading ...

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone: 
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; ....
Could that be part of my love of singing?
Driving to my first home, what was going before me but a turtle ... right down the middle of the street!

The Owl is my "spirit helper". A number of my friends have heard my owl stories. Certainly when I was a child camping in the woods with my family, having a screech owl calling above my tent each night was scary, even when my great grandmother told me it was watching over me.  Over the years, wherever I have traveled and lived and camped, an owl has found me bringing greetings and even aide.
I am thinking of adding a bit of stitchery on some of these. I have begun quilting the patchwork parts in the ditch using navy thread which will not show in the back. The patchwork and quilting is also a part of who I am.
So, though the mola origin is with the Cuna indians, This project has evolved to meet me where I am in life.
I am still experimenting on the finishing and hope I will have time to get my act together. In the cold weather we are having now, one can't have too many warm wearables.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

First finish of the year



Right on the edge, this was either to be the last quilt of 2017 or the first this year. I finished turning the binding yesterday, put a label on the back, and took it out to pose in the bright sunshine of a new day.

As you might notice, I decided to quilt a cable in the border as I think the edges of quilts ... especially for children, get heavier use than those just draped over a bed.

 The new year began with a project begun by my husband, a special New Years meal for the homeless.
I was worried that without his input, the project might be scrapped but, though the person in charge had been worried about the lack of members signing up to make it happen, not only did the project continue but there were plenty of people willing to lend their helping hands.
I am in my scout uniform because my cub pack contributed to the number of helpers. Washing dishes at my right side is Leia ... a chip off the old block. She was there bright and early with Mom Norie and Pop Hiro.




Norie brought flowers from her garden for me to arrange.
Pine ... Plum in the bud ... Jonquils ... Nandina ... Robai (Wintersweet).

There were also some gigantic needles from a pine donated by Norie's friend. I had never seen such a pine and could not find it in my tree book.

Can't say this is my best arrangement but the best I could do with what I had to work with.








We finished up around noon and took a family picture with the flowers moved to the church lobby before going off in different directions.

Being the "year of the dog", Wumpy, Leia's buddy, had to get into the picture.

Nikko was glad for my return ....

The heater goes on when mom is home, and though it doesn't heat the whole house, Nikko claims the spot that gets the first blast.








Here she sits, waiting for the magic word.


Most of the words she obeys are in english ... things like come, heel, sit, stay, down (or go lie down) off, NO!

But when the word is "wait", it means something good is coming. The magic word is "Itadakimasu" (I am about to partake ... said before taking your first bite).


This dog is hardly starving but perhaps she still remembers her early months in the wild. Any item remotely resembling food is high on her list of attention getters.



Happy Dog Year 
From me and Nikko

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy year of the dog


Are you ready to greet the new year?

Though varying from region to region, in the types of trees used and arrangement, the "Kadomatsu" is the most common arrangement seen in the Tokyo area.

The kadomatsu literally means "gate pine", and when displayed outside the house, are arranged in pairs to the left and right side of the entryway.

Inside the house they are arranged singly.



This very fancy one is part of a pair outside a hotel.









This one seen in a shop window is a fancy version of what might be found in the entrance of a private home.


The origin of this custom lies in the fact that kadomatsu are
believed to serve as a dwelling place for the God who brings good luck at the beginning of the year.

















This version is at the door of a private home.
















And here is a smaller version decorating a mail box.












Even a tea shop gets in the holiday mood.












The holiday decorations at our house were always handled by my husband.

I was not thinking of adding anything this year but when my daughter and granddaughter visited earlier in the month, they festooned the outside garden with colored lights and this pine was added to the gate.

The timing is rather fussy and all need to come down by the 7th of January (usually depending on region as well)

The night before New Years, many people visit Buddhist temples to hear the temple bells rung 108 times at midnight to dispel the evils of the past year.

It is also customary to eat "toshikoshi soba" ... year-crossing noodles ...
in the hope that one's family fortunes will extend like the long noodles.

The time is usually spent with family. Maybe the holiday will include a trip to a shrine to draw a fortune written on a piece of paper or to the imperial palace to wave to the emperor and his family.
New Years cards are sent ahead of time and delivered in a mass on New Years day.

2018 will be the year of the dog according to the Oriental calendar. All the fine traits of human nature are in the possession of those born in the year of the dog. They have a deep sense of duty and loyalty, are extremely honest, and always do their best in their relationships with people.

They can also be somewhat selfish and terribly stubborn and exceedingly eccentric.

Since the 12 animals and 5 elements, wood,fire, earth, metal and water, rotate in 60 year cycles, 2018 is the year of the Earth Dog. Earth is a stabilizing and conserving force, marking a shift from the fire element of the last two years which brought disharmony and impulsiveness.

Highly perceptive, the Earth Dog is kind, efficient, and skilled in communication. The year is expected to bring prosperity, particularly to those who, like the dog, are proactive, work hard, and communicate well. It is predicted that those who show generosity to others will reap the greatest benefits throughout the year.

Interestingly, it has been noted that the dog population in Japan has declined dramatically in the past year. The ageing population may find care of dogs more troublesome and they are also required to vaccinate their dog and have it registered. Cats, on the other hand are allowed to roam and howl and multiply in the city parks. Dogs also cost much more as there has been a crack-down on puppy mills.

My dog year will begin with a walk with Nikko ... like every other day. Then I will be off to church where we will serve a traditional New Years meal to the homeless. (a tradition begun by my husband, Paul, and where he spent the last day on his feet two years ago)

Quilting has now reached the border ... being quilted with a simple cable. I expect to add the binding later in the week. I have two hurry-up baby quilts to make but with days home, I really need to give my mola some attention before the end of January creeps up on me.

Here's hoping your dog year will be off to a good start.

Monday, December 18, 2017

It's in the hoop


Saturday I finished widening the backing by adding a strip of the same yellow print that I used on the front inner border.

This pastel piece of fabric came from a friend among quite a few large pieces.
It is so soft and seemed to be speaking out to be used.


Saturday afternoon I went to the cold empty apartment and was able to pin-baste the little quilt before it began to get dark. It is nice to have one small piece of floor that is not completely covered in dog hair.

By now the top is about half quilted in the ditch. I have to admit that on these cold days, sitting under this quilt while working is a double win.

When I made the last I-spy quilt, I used five-inch picture blocks. Those I quilted inside each block after doing the in-the-ditch quilting. On this quilt, the picture blocks are only four inches and I used #80 thinsulate for the batting. I rather like the puffiness of the quilted blocks and thinsulate is probably intended for clothing and the batting is quite tacky and extremely unlikely to shift. I am seriously considering leaving those blocks puffy and free of stitching. With other battings, I usually quilt more densely with the widest area without any quilting three-finger's width, or about two inches.

Looking at assorted table cloths and runners which get a lot of use and washing, there has never been a problem with thinsulate shifting. I think soft and a bit fluffy will be nice for a February baby.
With that in mind, I will be finished before long ... especially with my last day of school for this year, being yesterday. This will not take a month ... not that I don't have other things on my schedule to complete....

Unfortunately, the hot sauce plan didn't work for long and my door has new teeth-marks.

I think since this behavior worked twice for Nikko, it takes a long time to find that it no longer works. (maybe never, because she still remembers where she found some stinky rotten fish to roll in ten years ago and never passes that place without checking it out).
I am not happy with the scratched up door but considering the damage she could do in the livingroom while I am away, and the number of things she might find that smell like me to chew on ... oh yes, she has chewed several quilts ... I will varnish over the scratches and maybe cover the area with some stick-on covering that I use for book covers.

Eventually, I have an idea to reverse the two doors. Both can be slid into the wall to open the entire door space... and actually, the two doors are reversed with a metal stopper to keep the inner door from going too far to the left. It often confuses guests because most Japanese sliding doors have the little dented grips to meet at the center, thus moving the doors left or right, so when exiting the room, they often try to move the door to the left with no success.

Well, time to get back under that hoop and warm up. Quilting, what a nice hobby to have! and a gift that rewards the giftee....

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Flimsy done

Yesterday included a long trip into town for a District Scout meeting. Usually, I just attend on line but that meeting was a chance to meet the newly appointed District Executive. Actually, that part was rather a dud as she only spoke up to give her name during the hour and a half I was sitting there. The only other thing I heard from her was after the meeting when I introduced myself was that she lived on a base and was here for three years with her husband's assignment. I guess for time spent, the best results were two long inner borders added to the quilt on the train ride in, three outer borders added during the meeting and the ride home. Now the flimsy is finished and I need to hunt up something for the backing.


I used a light yellow pseudo-quilt block print for the inner border and an animal print for the outer one. Next year is "the year of the dog" so maybe I can find some doggy print to use on the back.
That will be my next task to see what I can dig out of my stash. Too bad the baby is not a girl because I have lots of florals in large amounts.

This will no longer be take-along work but now I am satisfied with the size.

Another trip into town tonight for choir so I will need to prep some more take-along work. Guess it is back to the stash for more than one solution.....

Monday, December 11, 2017

Two more rows ...

Two more row have now been added to the latest I-spy.


Having decided it would be easier to add one more row to the length and width than to quilt a wider border, I dug through my scraps to mark and cut more 4"prints and sashing strips.

There was only a little left to do today to sew those new strips in place. It was a busy week and a number of train trips I was unable to get a seat, but the times I did, I could complete at least three blocks each way.

Sunday, as I was sitting at the end of the car with an open seat beside me, a lady moved from farther down the car to the seat beside me to complain about my sewing. It is bad manners, unsafe, I might endanger children ... on and on until her stop came up. I felt like telling her I have been doing this for over 50 years and so far, no one has ever been hurt including my own six kids and four foster babies... but I didn't see any point in arguing so just said "sorry" and kept going with her ranting in the background.

At other times strangers do talk to me about what I am doing out of curiosity or because they are interested in making things too. In all these years the only other time I was yelled at was while in a hospital waiting room in the late 1960s. And once, while I was darning socks in a Dr's waiting room, the doctor came walking through and, though he said nothing, he went and rounded up his nursing staff and returned with them, asking them if they knew what "this lady was doing." Then lectured about what I was doing called darning and how women used to be thrifty by making repairs. I wonder if every woman had a darning gourd in her sewing basket.

So ... now I have to go back to my stash to find border material ... and put away all the other scraps in piles on my sofa. Once it becomes a flimsy and is ready to quilt, it will no longer be take-along work and I need to prep some more stitching so that lady will have something to be irritated about. Just think how brave she must have been to confront a foreigner on a public transport.

Meanwhile, the "Cookie Factory", run by my granddaughter Leia, finished up a double batch of very fancy Christmas cookies.That little girl who could not part with one of her cookies a few years ago is now making more to share with all her friends. We also set up the tree and decorated it with a new string of lights and many years of collected ornaments. Now that my assistant can reach the top of the tree, my work was more about taking boxes in and out of their storage space. Then, on Sunday, when I returned home after church and a concert, I turned the corner of the street to see twinkling lights adorning my garden strip. The elves (named Norie and Leia) had found the outdoor lights and strung them up and down the strip from tree to tree and bush to bush. I guess when Christmas comes, I won't be able to claim it snuck up on me. (still a few weeks to get my act together.)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

So far, so good


The I-Spy quilt is now 31" x 40".

Much of this stitching was completed either on the train or in meetings.

I have decided to add another row of blocks to both the side and the bottom.
It will take some time to cut and audition blocks but then I can sew them in odd moments while travelling.

That will bring the total size to 36" x 47".
Then, with some added sashing and a three-inch border, it should come to a decent size that can be simply quilted in the ditch.

The days are getting shorter but also sunnier.
Somehow they are also getting busier. With "Choir Sunday" now past, we are working on a program for February, and being pare of a barber-shop quartet and a small choral group, my calendar is getting filled in quickly.


This week my Scout meeting and a teacher's party are conflicting for time and I have more requests for Saturday than there are hours in the day. I know I am going to have to tell somebody "sorry!"

Nikko has not been happy with long days left alone. I have blocked her from the living room with too many things to get into.... but she seems to be more determined to get in and several times broke the barrier leaving teeth-marks in the door. It is a sliding door with no way to lock it. Today I sanded the worst part and then painted the area with tabasco sauce. I am hoping that will keep her teeth off the door while I am out. Her food and water dish are in the lavatory so that is not a problem. When I am home these days, she lies under the heating vent, but I turn off the AC when I go out.

I tried putting her in her crate for half an hour last week but I could hear her barking all the way down the street as I was returning. I'm sure the neighbors would not like more of that. Japanese houses are not very soundproof. It is easy on a walk to know who has a dog or plays a musical instrument. (or who watches the morning news on TV).

Oh well, onward!