Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Serious holes

In 1993, I made a quilt using a friendship star variation, and using a variety of plaid scraps. It was finished in August and named "Paul's Plaid Stars". It was presented to my husband on August 4th as a 30th year anniversary present.

As another anniversary nears, I am looking at this old quilt ... well used, but also chewed all over by Nikko. (The pink and blue clothes clips indicate all the areas that have been chewed)


Our queen-sized bed had a quilt made in 2001 that Nikko had chewed one hole in while I was away.
I was able to patch that hole with spare blocks, left over from when the quilt was made.

When we moved back to our small rabbit hutch, there was no room for that lovely big bed and the quilt went off to Oregon for one of my daughters to use. Paul got the small bedroom and I use a futon on the floor of the greenhouse.
Nikko sleeps on the landing outside Paul's door at the foot of the stairs to my "room". BUT ... you can see by the holes, when I am away, Nikki likes to sneak on to Paul's bed. That might be OK except Paul tends to go to bed around two or three or four AM and then sleep late. Nikko, like me, tends to go up to bed at ten PM after her evening walk and get up early. On days I am away, separation anxiety sets in ... papa is not responding ... and the quilt is chewed. "Please do not let Nikko on the bed", is heard but ... maybe thought ... well, just this once... and here it is, 11 holes later.

After having read Cheryl's  wonderful post about repairs she made to a dog-chewed quilt, I am wondering if I would have the patience to attempt these repairs. Somewhere in a small tin, I have spare blocks I did not use in the quilt. The border would need complete replacing as well. At any rate, it will not be something to present as a 52nd anniversary present. ( and will Nikko just wangle her way on to his bed and repeat the crime?)

Meanwhile, Ben's rainbow quilt is moving along nicely. So far the quilting lines up pretty well with the backing blocks. I have removed the basting as I reached the wrinkles and stretched and smoothed in the hoop.
I still have the tree skirt to work on and those two items will be going to the same home address so I should get them done together.

Also, I need to do a bit of work on a hanging that will advertise the Women's Conference. I am planning to make a pocket that can hang from the rod at the bottom edge to hold hand-outs giving details of next winter's gathering.

I guess that is enough to keep me busy while I am sitting with my foot elevated (ha ha).


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Facing challenges


I am always impressed by my many blogging friends who love to join in to all kinds of challenges.

There are block swaps and all kinds of group challenges involving the creation of blocks or even whole quilts. I browse these posts with a great deal of awe.

Sometimes it is all I can do to manage the assorted challenges that life tosses my way ...
without looking for more.

Continuing challenge #1 is the tucks in the basted backing of Ben's rainbow quilt. I have now quilted most of the center. I started with the center two blocks and have been going around those two, increasing one row at a time. So far I am satisfied that the quilting on the back is coming out relatively square. As I near the borders, I have reached the places where there are tucks in the basted back.

Yesterday I began the outer row and so far I have been able to remove all the basting and smooth out the tucks in the hoop as I go. This challenge is one block at a time. It means a lot more stopping and starting than I like (I usually work with a very long piece of thread so I don't have to stop and start so often). This way I work the rows leading to the border and then do the cross rows one-by-one.

The nice thing is that now I am nearing the edge, there is less quilt to sit under. Seeing the progress encourages me to keep going and dreaming of the day Ben can take the baby quilt off his bed and have a big-boy quilt to replace it.

Yesterday I added another challenge to the equation.  I had a date set up with one of my best friends who came to Japan for the up-coming World Scout Jamboree.

He will be off to the site tomorrow and had brought me a huge shopping bag of fabric that his mother was cutting from her stash.

Of course this is not the first "gift" she has sent.
Last time I needed to drive my car to pick up the many boxes he brought. (In fact, this may be her way of getting me to live to 200 just to use it all).

I figured one large shopping bag could be put into my roller bag and I could tale the train for free with only a short walk to the meeting spot.

Rushing around to get things organized so I could get out the door in a timely fashion, I kicked something. I can't even remember what it was ... a chair leg ... a corner of the furniture ... the door frame ... but when I finally stopped long enough to look, my little toe was sticking straight out at 45degrees from my foot. Oh, that does not look good. I tried pushing it back so I could put on some shoes. Nope, not going to work. Well I was pressed for time but I hopped on my bike and pedaled
off to the local clinic.

So much for my schedule. x-rays did not look good and it took several sets of x-rays and a lot of pulling and twisting before the toe was back on the right direction. Then a partial cast and all kinds of instructions about not walking and elevating my foot etc. etc. I barely had time left when I got home to change my clothes and grab my roller bag and rush out to the train station, calling my friend to say I might be a wee bit late. Actually the 15 minute walk didn't take so much longer so I was still in time.

One thing though, Those "Silver Seats" which are reserved for the elderly, physically handicapped, pregnant women, etc mean NOTHING to the average rider. They may line up while waiting for the train to arrive, but once the doors open ... it is everyone for himself ... the fastest and pushiest get any free seats. The rest are squashed in and you are lucky to end up with your body relatively above your feet or with a grip within reach. Crutches, walking sticks, casts on feet, mean nothing

When my kids were young and paying half fare, I told them I never wanted to see them sitting as long as there was someone older standing. Travelling with them yet today I notice they hardly ever sit. However, when the seat was offered to a mother with little kids, she would put the kid on the seat and remain standing. Japan has raised several generations of kids who still feel entitled to sit. Since they are all sleeping or texting or reading cartoon magazines or playing games in their i-pads, they conveniently can not notice anyone standing. Well, the train ride was only 29 minutes each way so not too bad.


Sunday I attended with our choir, a memorial service for a long-time member who had recently passed away.

At the end, those in the congregation followed the Japanese tradition of putting flowers on the table in front of the picture of the deceased.

The florist had provided  large white chrysanthemums all in a uniform size. They must have been imported because this is hardly the time of year for chrysanthemums. As we were leaving after the fellowship hour at the end, we were offered flowers to take home. Those Japanese members of the group would never take them home so the foreigners were pressed with big bunches. Well, why not?
Mine went into the entry-way where I can enjoy them coming and going and considering the heat, they have lasted quite well.

The final challenge is the silkworms.

There are still 12 cocoons that have not hatched. I rather doubt that they will as some are way too unfinished or have signs that the efforts to get out didn't work. (dark spots indicate the liquid emitted to dissolve the silk at the opening did not work.

Note the wimpy wings on this little lady.
The eggs are a bit smaller than poppy seeds.

I will put them in a zip=lock baggy and stick them at the back of the vegetable drawer until next summer. It might pe a bit of a challenge to get things right to raise another generation.

Enjoy all your challenges ... the most frustrating one of mine is not doing vacation bible school games with my foot in a cast, it is facing the continuing problem of being no-reply on many of my long-tram favorite blogs.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

more silkworm trivia


Yesterday I had an early start to my day.

I left before 7:am for a pre-school who had expressed some interest in interviewing me for a job. Though the interview was around noon, I wanted to have a look at the school and see how the classes were run. Luckily I was able to spend time during the morning in a class with kids and teachers. Two to four year olds have a lot of energy but they are fun to be with and the morning flew by.

I was able to get a more complete tour of the school after the interview. The building used to be apartments and my son-in-law was the architect who converted the space into class rooms and activity areas. Though space was small compared to other schools in the area, the space they did have was very efficiently used and well organized. The director held my SIL in high regard. I think it will be an interesting place to work on a part-time basis,

When I returned home in the afternoon, two of the silkworms had hatched out and were sitting on the side of their apartments. This morning, 14 more crept out of their cocoons. I had never in the past paid much attention to the schedule but it took from four to five weeks for caterpillar to cocoon and a little over two weeks for hatching to begin.

This morning, before I even came downstairs, the first two pairs had formed. These moths look well developed but are unable to fly.

More often they have stubby wings like the one in this picture


So far, there are only two pairs.
Those  others are sitting around waiting for a partner to hatch out.

Just like the caterpillars that patiently sit and wait for leaves to drop on their heads, the moths patiently sit and await a mate.

Though it is getting very hot and humid for sitting under a hoop, I have completed quilting 31 blocks.

Checking the back, I have not yet arrived at the problem areas but so far, what I had considered a possible problem of crooked quilt lines on the back side, seem to be not as expected. If this might be used as a reversible quilt, I worried about how the quilting would line up.

So far, so good.

We are enjoying another very hot sunny day but a typhoon is moving in from the south-east and should make changes by tonight. (hopefully with enough warning to run and shut windows).

Friday, July 10, 2015

Fun on a rainy day


Thursday, with a short one-day notice, my #3 daughter, Norie, set up an outing with friends to an art exhibit.

One of these friends I see rather regularly for visiting art exhibits but two others I had not seen for many years.

The group was made of pre-school teachers ... one new acquaintance and three retired teachers that I have worked with at the American School. The show was the work of two artists and a Ikebana master.
When we stepped off the elevator into the exhibition hall, my first reaction was WOW! There was so much to see ... artwork everywhere calling out for your attention.

To the right are the elevator doors and a counter with guest books to be signed.  Two of the artists were on duty and more than willing to show us around, answer questions, and engage in conversation.

The largest amount of work was by Atsushi Inada, a very versatile artist, with paintings, soft sculpture, stitchery, and a number of objects, some small that could be purchased and taken with you. It seemed his main topic was cats.

Though some were in a rather contemporary design, all were whimsical and identifiable as cats. I asked Inada-sensei if he kept cats and he said he had three.  Certainly he had captured their poses and personality in his art.




This was one of my favorites. The paint seems to be dry-brushed .




The cat looks quite contented in it's chosen pose.











This cat was all hand stitched.



He said his mother sewed kimonos and he learned to sew early in childhood.

There were a few stitched pictures  and when I went to take a picture of this one, there was a hanging cat which he moved out of the way. it was a shoulder bag and the tail was the strap. It was like many of his soft sculptures, decorated with beads and buttons and the like.





  Here is a sample of the sculpture.


Norie and I both thought of #4 daughter, Kimie's friend who holds workshops in her craft shop in Portland OR for making creative art. I once made a garden elf in one of her workshops and her stock of supplies must be quite similar to what this artist was using ... yarns and beads and a variety of felt and fabrics.



The second artist, Keisuke Kawakami exhibited a number of paintings that reminded me of fabric art.



The detail was amazing and the colors, so rich.



Here is one of Imada's soft sculpture cats guarding a three-panel work.














And a few more of his paintings.



I should have taken close-ups of the detail
but you can get the idea,












The Ikebana was everywhere. setting off the exhibition atmosphere. Tatuhiko Matsui seems to be a creative flower arranger belonging to no particular school. He began in 1985 making arrangements for the Hotel New Otani. I do remember back then admiring the large showy displays in the hotel lobby. In those days I was studying Ikebana with the Sogetsu school which also tended to be rather more creative than traditional schools.

I was amused by this tub of cut tree branches covered with lichen and moss and mushrooms yet quite attractive in design and texture.


I'm not certain how long we all stayed but it was hard to leave that amazing display.








Before leaving we had a photo op.

The cat artist is the gentleman in front and the other painter behind him. You can see ikebana mobiles swirling above our heads.


We followed this event with a lunch at a nearby Chinese restaurant the cat artist showed us to.

The rain fell all day ... not too hard but persistent.

In the evening I went to choir practice, again wading my way along but it was a waste of time because the practice had been cancelled. I was not the only member who made the mistake so probably the notice had been delivered in Japanese when we were not paying attention. The Sunday bulletin claimed "music practice"and we should have taken note of the word "music" replacing "Choir" Well, isn't choir music?

Ah well,

This morning we were greeted with only clouds which soon parted to give a glimpse of the sun.

Yes, it is still out there.

We have enjoyed cool days and by now I have managed to quilt 16 of the center blocks on Ben's quilt.

The first typhoon of three ended up heading to Taiwan and it looks like the next one may be going to Shanghai. More rain is predicted here. Today was warm in the sun but with so many houses so close together, our room gets very little sun. The windows behind me face south and the time was around 5:pm but very little light makes it inside. I will keep working until it gets too hot to work. It is always nice to have a bit of stitching waiting for me while I ponder the fun of a day with friends.

Monday, July 6, 2015

I think I'm done


Kind of a dark picture for a dark rainy day but this is what I came up with for my "Partnership Quilt Block".

The theme for the nest Dome show is "Music". (Well, the x is pretty close to the s, and spell check won't help this time).

I found the background print on my last trip to Nippori (fabric town), and I just had to use it.

My first plan was a dancing cat in a top hat but when I saw Tanya musing in her blog about what to do ... the word "bird" popped out.

Well, I don't think Northern Cardinals are the most musical of birds but it is one variety where both male and female birds sing ... and since I am originally from Ohio ... and the Cardinal is the State Bird ... I thought I would give him a bit of show time.

I thought of writing something on the cover of the song book but it would have to be in Japanese because in the U.S.,that would be the back of the book. Must be poor planning on my part because I doubt that Ohio bird can read Japanese any better than I can.

My brain is rusting with all the rain.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Back to normal


Well, here is the picture I couldn't share yesterday.

Today my screen returned to its former configuration and I decided to give my camera another try.

It was nice and quiet basting here on the floor. No one came into the room to see what was going on.

If I do this again though, I will bring a needle threader. The lighting was not all that good and each time I put in a new thread I wasted a lot of time.

Today I decided to try in-the-ditch quilting. My concern was how it would look on the back if the top was not straight.

I began with my large hoop and quilted the two blocks in the center.

I plan to work my way out and think I can correct the wrinkles in the backing, as they are all around the edges ... by just removing the basting once it is in the hoop.






The stitching seems to be straight enough in lining up with the back blocks.

That is a big relief because I really find in-the-ditch quilting the easiest way to go.


It is getting warm and quite muggy so I don't think much will get done during the summer but it is nice having it all set to go when the spirit moves.

Meanwhile, I have begun working on my partnership block for the Tokyo Dome show.
There is a deadline for when it must reach NHK by the 31st of August. It won't take me that long but I hate waiting until the last minute. In that regard, I am my father's daughter.

And here are the cocoons.

Out of 50 eggs that came in the mail, 44 made it to this stage.
Two chose not to use an apartment  but spun in the corners. Some of these may still be spinning, making the cocoons stronger. For a while you can see them moving inside when the light comes through.

During summer, our church goes from two to one service, starting earlier than usual. That means choir practice will begin at 8:45 ... an early rise for me ... and I am not the only member living out in the boonies so I shouldn't complain. We will follow the service with a choir picnic. I hope the weather will cooperate but last prediction I heard was rain. My plants are very happy though, and the agapanthus  is blooming in two planters.

Friday, July 3, 2015

What's up?

Yesterday I left home at 1:pm with my bag filled with quilt top and backing, my sewing kit and big scissors, my basting thread, tape, and a big roll of thinsulate #60 batting.
I was able to tape the backing to the floor in the quiet fellowship hall and layer the batting and quilt top. I spent the afternoon until 6:30 (which is choir rehearsal time) on my elbows and knees, basting the quilt together.

When I turned it over to put it in my bag for the return trip. I noticed four or five places where the backing was not completely flat. Maybe I should have taken duct tape instead of what I had. In the past I have pin-basted first and checked the back for tucks but I was so sure this time the tape would hold the backing flat.

Sometimes I can work out minor glitches with the hoop while quilting so I will have to see. I sure would hate to have to take it all out and start over.

I am also thinking of how to quilt it. I am an in-the-ditch type of quilter and I had been thinking I might quilt the little patches on the diagonal this time. But, thinking it over, I would be working through a lot of seams and the stitches across the darker fabrics would show. I am also thinking that in-the-ditch would be more stable.

While I was out ... Mr. Dell did another up-date to my laptop. The minute I opened my laptop, I noticed the sign-in/password space had changed. And, when I plugged in my camera with pictures of the basted quilt ... the usual icon for downloading was gone. This is the same problem that happened a month or two ago. It drove me nuts for a week or so, and then righted itself. I really don't want to wait a week again but flinging my laptop across the room is not likely to help the situation.

A little notice in the upper corner of my screen is boasting that Mr Dell has upgraded my system on 6/2/15 and I can expect another in 6/9/15. By then I hope things will be fixed ... but I'm not holding my breath.

The last silkworm had crawled into an apartment by my return last night and was beginning to weave a cocoon. I am very happy I do not have to go out in the pouring rain to hunt fresh mulberry leaves.
The last cocoons are getting stronger as the weaving progresses and the quiet munching sounds are over. I can't remember how long they spend in their cocoons but the next sounds will be the fluttering of stubby wings.  Hopefully by then, a photo or two.... Mr.Dell willing.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Rainy day plans


Well, the backing for the quilt is assembled.

I took it to the park yesterday afternoon for a picture and was planning to take the supplies to our church and borrow the floor of the fellowship hall to do the basting today.

BUT... Today it is raining and I have reconsidered, thinking of the walk to and from the stations at each end, carrying everything plus an umbrella.
Tomorrow I have to go for choir practice anyway so I may as well go four or five hours earlier and do it then.

The photo is not very true with either the purples or the lime greens and the balance could have been better if I could have seen the whole thing at once for making the arrangements.

Anyway, I went with plan "B" which was a trip to the barber for a haircut. The boy cut is only 1.000 yen so I got a nice crew cut that should be good for the hot summer and last through October.

I picked three fresh mulberry leaves along the way home for the last two silkworms. When I put them on top of the two lingering munchers, the one caterpillar that had been checking out the apartments, came back down for a snack. All the others in the group are weaving or resting in their cocoons.

On the home front, the bulletin board has been re-set in it's new spot. The head of the neighborhood association has agreed for the neighborhood to pay for the work.

I say it is ridiculous that we pay for the Ku's poor planning ... or total lack of planning. I have talked with housewives in the area and they all think it is stupid the way the work is being done but no one ... including my husband, wants to rock the boat by objecting... or cause trouble for the association head.

Meanwhile, there is more trouble.

When the corner house was rebuilt, the city grabbed a meter of property from both the south side, causing the bulletin board incident, and another meter from the west side.

They paved a new section, removing the driveway entrance for the house and putting in a curb ... but, because the rest of the street is still the old width and the sewer is now a meter from the curb, the street became a lake. They had to come back and remove the street they put in and dig under the old street to add a length to the sewer. At this point it is raining and the new sewer sitting high above the street surrounded by curbs to the east and west.  A good example of the old saying, "Fail to plan, plan to fail". Of course the electric poles remain in the same location so the street is only a meter wider for a few meter's length.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Design window Monday


This weekend I began sorting and measuring my green and purple fabrics and sewing them together in bits and pieces.

There is really no place in my house I can lay them out while deciding what to put where.

The upper left corner and the lower right corner are together and am still interviewing scraps and measuring  and pinning and sewing.

Once I decide what to put where, I can use the sections as take-along work. Everything was drawn out on graph paper but I am altering the plans as I go out of necessity ... why cut and sew if I can find something that fits ?  So far, so good, and I am able to fit in those purples that are toward the red side as well as the bluer ones. The batik segments help work things out.

Saturday afternoon Nikko and I took a very long walk looking for more mulberry leaves. Many of those trees I had been relying on were cut down while I was at camp. They grow fast once they get established and are considered weeds or "Junk trees". Once they begin to grow, the new branches can reach over a meter and then they get noticed and cut down.

When I returned, some of the caterpillars had moved into the apartments I had created Friday night by toilet paper tubes cut in thirds.

Today all three apartment blocks had critters moving in, though there are still a few chomping. I am relieved that it seems I will have enough supply of leaves to get them through their last phase.




Notice how those critters seem to like the upper stories. I doubt it is for the view but I am thinking of flipping the section once the top is full.

Someone asked what I would do with the cocoons. Of course I have no plans to weave silk.

I tape those inside a large paper bag and clip it closed.

When the cocoons hatch, the moths are big and fat with short stubby wings and cannot fly. They sit in the bag and wait.When a moth of the opposite sex hatches out, they get very excited and flap the wings, walking to join the partner and mate. They mate, lay eggs on the side of the bag, and die.

I will cut out the egg patches and put them in a zip-lock bag, and stick them in the back of the vegetable drawer in the fridge until next May when the trees brake out with new leaves.

The cocoons can be used for crafts and finger puppets. A few cocoons fail to hatch out and a few caterpillars have died along the way. I have to be careful to protect them from ants that often get into the house. I did find a small ant along with one dead caterpillar and know from experience they can kill a whole tray over night. I saw some reporting on CNN while working today about silk worm production. I saw the man giving whole branches rather than single leaves ... but I knew that. I would have liked to ask about how they keep the critters safe from ants ... but that topic didn't come up.

Aren't they cute?

Maybe you don't like bugs but they are soft and cool to the touch and completely helpless...

Here they sit, quietly munching,
or perhaps inspecting an apartment,

relying totally on my ability to spot a mulberry leaf poking out of a hedge or along a park wall ...

To pick the good ones and wash them and keep them fresh in the fridge ... noticing when they need more...
Nice to have a pet that is not dropping hair all over the house either.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Moving along


I was able to mark the border fabric for Ben's quilt on Tuesday evening  ... big table  and I was already there for a meeting.

Since then, I managed to sew on all four borders and I like the results.

The flimsy is 72 inches wide and 91 inches long.

The big-boy quilt I made for his brother is 76 x 86
and the book club quilt on my futon is 63 x 83.

I laid this out on the double bed in the loft and there seems to be enough length to tuck in. Right now the boys are sharing a bunk so for now it should be big enough for a growing teen.


The  rain was just beginning when I hustled out to the park to get a picture. Nikko says, "Hurry up and let's get out'a here. I'm getting damp and so is the quilt".

At Monday's group gathering, Kuraishi sensei demonstrated a way to piece the backing.

She whipped this up in no time at all with a machine and a rotary cutter.

For combining random blocks it seemed very handy.

Looking through my bits and pieces, I have set out 5 greens, about 9 purples, and three combinations plus the border fabric.

I would like a mixture of sizes and to put each fabric in at least two places for balance. One advantage of using sensei's plan is I would not have to worry about making all those corners meet exactly.  One disadvantage is I would have to drag out my tiny machine and find a space to leave it while I work ... if the machine still actually runs.

I have seen another idea where you cut all the fabric the same size and then cut it several times with a rotary cutter and then take different fabrics from the pile while assembling the blocks, Of course that is assuming all of the scraps I have chosen are the same size and shape ... which they are not.

Another way might be to cut them in multiples of the same number, like 12 x 12 and 6 x 18 and the like. Depending on size, I could use some of the larger scraps to fill big areas and it would be easier to quilt through with fewer seams.  That is the way I am leaning at this point. Maybe if I set the back on point, the quilting on the top would go better ... or at least look better on the back.

It is a sure thing the backing will be pieced. It will meet Ben's request for purple and lime green so if he wants, he can use that as the top side. I should be able to get something together for quilting once the hot summer is over.

The silk worms are really gobbling the leaves now and I had to take the bike out to hunt more supplies mulberry leaves. At this point, I can actually hear them chomping, a rather peaceful sound.

While at camp, I was interviewed for a TV program. I don't know how it turned out as it was for the channel used on the military bases. I have no idea why they selected some old lady to interview but I did have an opportunity to express the importance of experiencing nature first hand, even in the rain.
If I couldn't spot a mulberry tree at a distance, there would be a lot of unhappy critters, and they do pose a lesson for the next generations.