Monday, December 27, 2010

A wish fulfilled

For many years I have been wishing for an oval hoop but had not seen one for sale in years. When daughter Marie asked me what I wanted for Christmas, the first thing that came to my mind was an oval hoop, never thinking she might find one. Today the postman rang the bell with a big box in his arms, the hoop had arrived. (actually that was not all there was in the box and there were TWO hoops!)
So, why did I want the oval hoop? With a round hoop I can get the same length of work space but it also puts that area farther away to the center of the hoop. Also I had to keep moving the hoop as I worked. With this I could fit the whole space I was working on into the hoop at once. I was worried about the harp strings because I used metalic thread and didn't want the hoop to break it by accident. Now hands and harp can be outlined in embroidery without moving the hoop or endangering the strings. I am SO HAPPY!
Thank you my Dear Marie!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Not-too-slow progress

This is the progress so far on the banner. The outer border was pieced from scraps today and sewed in place.
The total size is 90 x 46 inches so next I will have to find something I can piece for the backing. I already know I have nothing that size and I have no money to spend on such.

I am hoping to get that and the basting done tomorrow. I have half a day of Scout activities but a long train ride there and back that I might use to piece the back. Since it is a national holiday the trains will not be as crowded as usual and maybe I can sit. An hour or so each way might get a lot done. Finding room to baste might be more of a problem.

I have posted more details on the Slow Poke Quilters blog site. I think you can get there by clicking the logo on my blog. I wish I had just a bit more computer skill but that is coming along slower than my quilting.

Thanks to everyone for the feedback.
I think once I get this together with the black embroidery and quilting it will work not only for the Conference but as a companion to last year's banner.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Crafty Christmas

This post is, in part, for my youngest son who has begun to create things with his own children. Having been the youngest in line with many of these projects, he was trying to remember how we went about it and all the stuff we made.

I come from a generation that, when we wanted something, figured out how to make it ourselves.
I remember seeing beautiful manger scenes and wishing to own one. Having no money for other than a cheap plastic one, the whole family set about creating our own DIY set.

The figures are made from bottles covered in paper mache and decorated with string, beads, lace or ribbon etc. Covered with gesso and painted with acrylic.

You can probably recognize the woostershire bottle shepherd, pill bottle angel, toilet paper roll animals and egg carton sheep or crib. They have become battered and worn over the years but are fun to set out each year and remember those years when Mom and six kids made one heck of a mess while stirring the creative pot.

When I first came to Japan I expected this to be a place where one could buy beautiful Christmas decorations. I was, therefore, very much surprised to find the lovely made-in-Japan things sold in the states were only export items and could not be found anywhere on the domestic market.
For a few years we made decorations from egg cartons. Glued together and decorated with string and beads, painted with gesso and gold paint and antiqued with ink. It is possible to get quite a variety using different parts of the carton.

Lest you think I am the crafty person in my family, these decorations have been added each year from my sister's greetings. Coming flat inthe envelope with instructions as needed, they are truly works of art.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Plan "C" or "D" or ?

The sheep continue to gather at David's feet and some are heading for the hillside. (Thank you Marlene, they were right where you sent me.)
Now, for the border blocks... It was very difficult to draft a 12 inch block using the printed Psalm fabric. It seems I will have to set the print at an angle to the left and right of the picture.
These will be separated by a two-inch black sashing. My thinking is to use scraps of the fabric used in the picture. (Greens, brown, rust, gold, blue and light color of sheep)
In the first two blocks I put the light colors forming a cross but now I am thinking this is a very strong shape. I do not plan to take these two out and do them over but am wondering if the other blocks might look better with darker colors above and below the print blocks. I was hoping to get more of a star effect but this is as close as I could come.
I could introduce other colors just to be used in the border or pull some left-overs from the companion banner. This is not a commisioned job and I do not want to spend any money, my time is enough, but I would like to make it worthy of display at the retreat.
Do I sound like I am asking for advice AGAIN? Well, yes, it is true my virtual quilt circle!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Contest anyone?

I put my table runner into the Quilting Bloggers weekly theme contest.
I know for a fact that all you guys have gorgeous runners because I have seen them!
So... why did I bother? Actually I doubt I will get even one vote unless I vote for myself but I really wanted to see how hard it was to enter something.
Since it is so easy that I could figure it out, why don't you blogging buddies put yours there???
If not, go vote for mine, Ha, Ha!! (at least it is an original and no money was spent on fabric!)
I've already won ... one free runner :>)

Lost sheep

Anyone seen some sheep? David is now on duty with nothing to do. The strings on the harp will get put in during quilting.
I looked at Google images for pictures of sheep but none I could find were in positions I wanted. Some need to be gathered at his feet and some will be milling around on the hillside behind. This is very much make-it-up-as-you-go.
I can't help thinking how much easier this might be if I had some kind of fusable web and could just arrange and iron it all together and then take out a machine and stitch some fancy stitches at all the joinings.
As it is, I want to make it a bit of stained glass but I think sewing bias over all these seems might be a little too much. Another Idea I have is to embroider around the patches with black thread. Any ideas out there?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hard work has begun

In March 2004, a group of mothers joined efforts to create a quilt for the silent auction at The American School in Japan's spring "Gala".
That quilt and others can be found in the postings for each year.

This is more a group of willing hands than a group of quilters but each year we have been able to make a beautiful quilt that none of us could have completed in that time...if ever...on our own. It has also been one of the hottest items of the silent auction.

This year we have decided on a replay (with some changes) of our first quilt. Choosing a Japanese theme and using Japanese fabrics creates a lovely reminder for a family's years lived in Japan.
Last week we cut and marked the pieces for these kimono/yukata blocks. Saturday at the school's festival we began working on the piecing and along with today's few hours of work
have made a good bit of progress.
These blocks will be set on point with a dark blue block between in a checkerboard fashion. The blue blocks will be quilted with Kamon or Japanese family crests. Of the 36 blocks needed to make a queen-sized bed cover, you can see that we are pretty far along. Probably next week we will begin marking the crest designs before assembling the top.
The mothers, who have now learned how to sew the patches together, will also help in the assembly and quilting.
Although I hardly need another project to keep myself busy, I enjoy this process greatly. The volunteers are all of my daughters' generation and with my own daughters being so far away, these women fill a great gap. With some I know their children through substitute teaching or Scouting. Each year we welcome new-comers to life in Tokyo and say farewell to others. We learn what's up at school and where to buy needed or missed items in this city. We hear of their travels and our lives expand as well. In the process we create a one-of-a-kind piece that will bring joy to some lucky bidder. What could be more fun than that?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

a run to a runner

You Bloggers and your ideas, now you've done it!
First I had to get rid of my valentine runner in October by making something for the fall. Now I need something for the holidays!
While I was picking out prints for the Advent calendar a few weeks ago, I pulled out a few three inch squares to make a runner for the coffee table.
Since this is all left-over stuff I pieced the batting out of scraps I had on hand and they were all a bit puffier than I would have liked, requiring a bit more quilting (so the coffee cups won't tip over). Actually, this is one big mug rug since I can't seem to get my husband to use a coaster or a saucer.
I tried quilting the tree shapes with some glittery thread. That required larger stitches than I am used to doing which was a challenge. I was hoping taking the picture outside would show those sparkles but anyway you can see my tiny garden bed and the last of the lantana.
Am I doomed to make another runner after the holidays?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Help on a new project

Last year I made a banner for the Womens' Conference at Amagi Sanso. The theme was "stories" so I made a hanging banner using Bible blocks with a stained glass picture in the center. The title of each block is quilted into the sashing below the block and the reverse side of each block has the quote from the Bible to go with it. It brings to mind a favorite hymn from my childhood, "I love to tell the story."
This coming year's theme is "Healing".
One of the people attending from year to year is a woman who plays her harp for hospice patients and for the past few years she has asked me to make a hanging of David and his harp.
With that in mind, I pulled out some fabric of the Psalms that I had
aquired many years ago and a plan is beginning to form. I think it would be nice to make this banner as a pair to the last one. I want to put a picture of David and his harp surrounded by sheep in the center pannel. Then I want to include the print fabric in some kind of a block around the inner border.
Now I am looking for ideas. The fabric text is a strip 3x9 inches. There are ten of these so I will need ten 12 inch blocks. The label is 2x18 inches so I would make a 26x12 block for that and a matching block for the top section. I'm thinking some kind of star might be nice. Since I do everything by hand, I want something that isn't too fussy. I have a little over six weeks for this project. At this point, I am open for ideas. The script can be either straight across or at an angle .
There has got to be a block pattern out there somewhere. that would meet the need.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Yokohama quilt week

Yokohama Quilt Week
I am not sure why this is called "Quilt Week" when it only lasts 4 days but often when Japanese use foriegn words, the meaning changes a bit too.
This huge hanging greeted the viewers as they entered. Why does it say "Kobe" ? Your guess. I was really in Yokohama.

Many of the displays did not allow pictures. If you wanted pictures, they were selling a magazine with those quilts beautifully photographed. That is the common way of doing things in Japan.

At least a third of the room was crammed with venders. The walking space between was barely passable. One thing I should have remembered from last year is the place was HOT. Whatever you are wearing down to the last layer, you will have to carry. I'll bet the energy used to heat that place beyond necessary would keep my house comfortable for years!

This "Mini mini quilt house challenge" event was interesting. The three fabrics posted on the sign were to be used in making the house block. 648 people submitted blocks so this is only a small portion. The size was barely bigger than a potholder.

These were a few of the quilts that allowed photos and caught my eye. All three were hand made and hand quilted. Fumiko Kitamura made the lovely Baltimore Album quilt.

Izumi Ishihara created these trees and snowflakes.

This lace and flower was made by Mika Yamakawa. I am not familiar with these quilters but their work was certainly inspiring.

The venders had lots of goodies for sale. I was rather glad that because of my poverty I was not tempted to buy anything. I drooled over fabrics and left them for others to purchase.
In all, it was worth the long trip and tired feet. Certainly I will post a note on next years calendar to dress lightly!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

One goal has been met!

For two years in a row, I have had November deadlines for Christmas presents. Well, it is my own fault for making Advent calendars that have to start before Christmas to be of any use.

This one is for Norie who, living in a small Japanese house, needed one of smaller size than I have made in the past.
Everything had to be adjusted in size as well, the border, the pockets, and the hangings.

The decorations are cut from Japanese Broad-leaved Magnolia. It is not the most beautiful wood but being painted, it didn't matter. It is easy to carve and less likely than many other woods to crack or split. Still, it was a bit difficult getting any detail on something so small. I used half of a small sized paperclip for the hanging loop, gluing those into the wood.

I may apply one more coat of varnish before going to bed and Norie can take it home and have it ready when she comes for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. I'm sure granddaughter Leia will have fun with this as well. One goal has been met.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Back to nature

Back to Fukuda Field. This time along with about 500 Scouts and Scouters for the BSA-SAJ Friendship Pareol-O-Ree.
Although the nights were cold, the days were lovely and the event went smoothly, with a roaring closing campfire.
You might have seen the Bunny's blankie posted last week. This one is mine. Made many moons ago for wearing on blustery days and cold nights around the campfire.
The back has a pieced eagle and the borders are seminole piecing. The pockets and neck opening represent the morning and evening star. The quilting was made more for meaning than for show so most is blue on blue.
Swallows fly on both fronts, morning and evening and a woodland pattern goes around inside the borders. A coiled lizard above one pocket represents conservation and woodland Indian flowers fill in spaces. On the lower back corners are a quilted owl and turtle, my spirit helpers.
The opening closes into a blanket if I need extra warmth at night. Blue and brown are my favorite color combination and the colors of my Indian regalia.
The little wooden cut pieces for the advent calendar went with me but not too many were finished. That will be the next task with one week left.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Making haste slowly

The wedding quilt is making very slow progress. The star is now quilted and I have quilted in the American and Japanese Scout emblems. Next corner will get the groom's family crest. This is rather large to take along so has to wait for spare home time.

The Advent calendar is a bit more pressing because December is not all that far away. The hanging is all finished except for the sleeve and hanging rod.

The next two days I will be subbing at the Early Learning Center, then take off for Scout camping. I cut the wooden pieces for the decorations and will take them and my knife to camp where I can whittle them outdoors and not mess up my carpet. Sanding and painting shouldn't take all that long. I am beginning to think I might hit my deadline.

Meanwhile I am piecing the batik rainbow blocks. I carry them in my bag and, if I can get a seat on the train, I work on those. If not, I read. I have an idea of what I want to do with those blocks but there is no deadline or hurry.

The trains have a section of "Silver Seats". Those are reserved for aged passengers, handicapped, and pregnant women. I carry a silver pass, being in the first group, but in truth, those seats are always taken by the youngest and fastest passengers. My regular commute sees young girls putting on makeup, (even curling eyelashes on a moving train) students texting on their phones below the sign saying phones must be turned off in that section, students reading comics or playing gameboy, and young office workers sleeping or reading. Even on "Respect for the aged day" there was no possibility of sitting. After school the trains are a bit less crowded so I may sit as I go to my HS class. Then, it is back into town for choir practice and the last trip home will be sardine city express again. I'd guess two trips reading and two piecing... and a long blogging break.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My other life

Here I am at another day of Scouting at Tama Hills. A few years back, this field was named for me. The name used to be Gilwell, named for Gilwell Park in England and I liked that name fine.
Now that it has my name on it, I feel I need to pull every weed and pick up all the trash. As this is on a military post, since 9/11 I lost my VIP pass and have limited access.I had to be claimed at the gate for NLS (National Leadership Seminar) that has been taking place.

Since this is not a Scouting blog, but a quilting blog, My Blueberry Jambo Bunny, who has been camping with me for many years including 15 jamborees, Wanted me to show off his button blanket. Peeking at my blogging, he saw the nice native appliques on Marjorie's Applique Addict site. Then he saw Nichi's red bunny on her Quiltycat site and wanted his time too.
This is not the traditional arrangement of a button blanket but put into a quilt. You can see what a traditional one looks like by looking at the 2005 section of this blog. Instead of buttons I had to put beads around the design. Being just a bunny, he wanted something a bit stronger as a symbol and chose the thunderbird. This boosts his confidence when he is left to guard my tent during the day.
If you thought I was a little strange before seeing this, now you know it as a fact.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Here we go again!

Last year I drew Kimie's name for Christmas and made her an advent calendar. This year Norie is my Christmas giftee and has asked for a calendar too. So far - so good. I don't have to worry about what to make her.
Now the problem gets a bit complicated ... living in a Japanese house, the wall space for hanging is limited. She gave me the size restrictions (and they were restricting) and I have drafted a pattern and begun the task of putting it in action. The little pockets have to each hold a decoration to place on the tree. If the pockets get too small, the decorations I will have to carve will be very small as well.
Since each pocket has a number, the size of the numbers was also quite limited and needle-turn applique was a bugger. I wanted to stop many times and begin over using paint or embroidery or anything else. Now I am quilting around each number and hoping they will be OK.

As soon as I get these little numbers taken care of, I will be able to sew those pockets on and then the tree and the border of one-inch Christmas fabrics.

Since this is an Advent calendar, it will have to be done by the end of November to be used. The little carved ornaments will take about a week so I guess it is time to stop blogging and get boogieing.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Going Green" going to a festival

Here is a quilt worthy of any quilt festival but a good place to start is the Blogger's Quilt Festival 2010.

This quilt was created by a group of mothers from the American School In Japan as one of the prizes for a silent auction at the 2009 Spring Gala.

The Gala theme was "Going Green" I and two other planners pulled out a selection of green fabrics and arranged them into sections. I drew sketches of various seasonal flowers and we selected material for the aplique.

Some of the members of the group who had sewing experience helped aplique the blocks. Those who could do basic sewing joined the blocks or pieced the border.

When the top was assembled we met to quilt in the ditch. Between sessions I took the quilt home and worked the larger areas with Japanese style motifs. Our little group met somewhat weekly, with gaps for holidays, beginning in late November and finishing in early March.

Our first auction quilt was in '04 and with each year our plans have varied but we always start out with non-quilters and end up with great satisfaction and sense of comraderie. This quilt was 211.5cm x 226cm and brought a handsome sum.

If I am able to post this in the festival, it will be thanks to Liz at quilterie who has coached me from afar.

Monday, October 25, 2010

If I had a design wall

If I had a design wall I don't know where I would put it but I know what I would put on it.

The Choir retreat at the foot of Mt. Fuji was great. The picture is of Fuji with the sunrise reflected on its flanks. No matter how many times I glimpse this mountain it is always different yet the same and takes my breath away.
I finished the large blocks in the odd moments. I can't imagine what it would be like to go on a quilt retreat! This project has no particular purpose other than for something to do as take-along work. It was given me by a friend during summer travels and I have added some of my own fabrics as well. There is still a lot to go but since it is a spare time activity there is no rush. Some of my children have asked,"Who are you making that for?" Well, right now, for my sanity. I guess I won't have trouble finding it a home some day!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Take-along work

Today it's off to the choir retreat. Three days of singing until we get it right and a bit
of hand work for a reward. ( My quilt is much too big to drag to the foot of Mt. Fuji!) So ... I stayed up past my bedtime cutting and marking strips for a quilt given me by a friend. This friend had given me something to work on during my summer travels when the tablecloth was finished. Now it can keep me busy in meetings or while the sopranos are singing their part for the 'umpteenth time.
So ... off we go! My wireless problems will be forgotten for the weekend, the dishes can pile up in the sink, the dog hair can pile up on the floor, and beautiful music will be all around me. Now, I'd better not forget to pack my music....

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Quilting Heritage

My quilting is creeping along slowly but there is not much to show.
I thought I might share my great grandmother's quilt.
My Grandmother's house was full of quilts on every bed, the number depending on the time of year. When that house was sold, I was living in Japan and all the quilts went to my siblings. Like that also, when my parent's home was sold the quilts I grew up with also went to my remaining siblings.
There was one quilt left and about eight years ago, my father said he was thinking of donating that one to a museum. I doubt this is a museum piece or that any of the public could cherish it more than I. Certainly a museum might have a better way of storing it or preserving it. Many of the brown dyes have bled on to the surrounding white and some are ragged and worn but to me it is a treasure.
I do not have a date for this quilt. Probably it could be dated by the fabric. It is 76 x92 inches in size and made of 550 two and a half inch patches set on point. It is quilted in a grid horizontally and diagonally at one centimeter intervals. Each small block is perfect and the quilting is ten stitches to the inch.
When I feel I am not making progress, this quilt is my inspiration. I can only hope some day a quilt I have made will be so cherished.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Make use of everything

A few years ago I took a class one of my friends was giving on paper piecing....well knowing it was something I would not likely use since it involved a machine. I brought this piece home wondering what I would ever do with it. Fast forward a year... daughter and granddaughter spend the night from time to time and sleep in the loft. I go up to find a towel or some other object crammed into the area to cut the morning light. Then comes the big "AHAH!" I have something just the right size to fill that spot! The little quilt (if it could be called that) fits on a spring rod and can be used to cover the window or be moved below to let in the air. Multiple problems solved!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Knot migration

I am wondering how to prevent and remedy knot migration.
This must be a problem that machine quilters never face. It happens when I am quilting and find a knot, that was part of the piecing, suddenly sitting on the surface during quilting.
I've tried back-stitching the first stitch when piecing without great success. The only thing I can think of is taking several back stitches and then cut off the knot. Any ideas? or am I the only one with this problem?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Some things can't be fixed

I remember those days when I wondered if we could EVER eat a meal without jumping up to catch a spill. I used permanent press sheets for tablecloths so I wouldn't have to iron them every day.
Now that the kids are all grown up one might think the problem is solved. Ah, not so! Last week I had to wash the tablecloth three times ... spilled soup ... spilled tea ... curry that missed the plate.
I decided to use up some bits of hand-me-down projects to make place mats for myself, Papa, daughter and grand daughter and also son-in-law (who is very neat and doesn't really need one)
Today they made it to the table and after one meal, three messy mats and three blobs of stew on the tablecloth! Well, they look bright and cheerful anyway.
The person who gave me the cut out red pieces had made twelve so I guess I can decorate six more once I see how they wash ... which will be soon.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Mitsukoshi Quilt Show 2010

This afternoon I took a trip to Mitsukoshi Department Store to view the works of 100 Japanese quilters. Many were made with beautiful kimono fabrics. Most of them were quite stunning and, I think, intended as wall art rather than ever to be placed on a bed. (Though I can't ever imagine having a wall space that big!) I walked through the exhibition to the end and without exiting, walked bach to the start and did it again. At the end there was a book to buy but at over 20 dollars, a bit too far out of my range. I did store a few ideas in my brain for inspiration.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Finished Fall Runner

I haven't figured out how to get these pictures arranged on the page but here they are as the computer wants them!

blogging into new projects

After looking around the blog world and seeing so many nice fall decorations, I began to feel that the heart table runner , cheerful as it is, was a bit off season. Back on to the table went it's predecessor but that did not look so seasonal either.

Now, I know there is all kinds of stash out there in quilting land but I keep tins. When I finish up cutting stuff I take my pile of scraps and cut it into squares depending on the size of the scrap. With a half inch for sewing I have a tin each of 4, 3, 2, and 1 inch blocks. Since the lid on the 3-inch block tin was having a problem fitting, I decided to relieve it by removing a selection of browns and golds and see if I could come up with something that said "fall".

This was particularly timely because my quilt project is just too big to lug around and I need take-along work. . My dog was quite happy with the part where we went around looking for leaves to trace in the plain blocks. Three inches is a bit small so she got a good walk in the deal.

Now the runner is in place looking a bit more "fall" and I will have to quickly find a new take-along project as the school's athletic day is coming up this weekend.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Quilting tomorrow

Tomorrow my quilt group meets here. Time to make a dessert and de-dog-hair the house.

At least I have a project to work on. The quilted leaves in each diamond are rather labor intensive but I like the result.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Quilt is basted!

Only six hours crawling around on the floor but I am so happy I had a space just big enough. I use thinsulate from a roll so it had to be pieced. I have heard that 3m makes thinsulate bats and that would be nice but they are not sold here as far as I have seen.
This was a good activity for a gray rainy day. Nothing but the drip drip of the rain and the snip of the scissors and the click of the threader. I began to think about a large quilt my daughter had brought to a family reunion, spread on the cabin floor, and all the cousins, aunts, sisters gathered around to make short work of the project. How I could have used the hands and company. I did remember that at that time someone had brought some spoons to help catch the needle. The more I thought about it and felt my own fingers getting a bit sore, I had to stop my work and go to the kitchen for a small shallow spoon. Could have used it sooner.
I had worried about the lone star lying flat but that was not a problem. The bear paws, however, seemed to be asking for more than their fair share of space and then I spotted several of those pesky bears were out of place! I am not going to un-sew them so they will just have to stay where they are.
I doubt this quilt is any longer a thing to take with me to quilt meetings. It is way too big and bulky now that it is together. Time has come to get two other date-related projects going. The quilting will happen on cold winter days at home. As a result of blog-hopping, I saw a lone star quilted by machine with leaf shapes in the diamonds. I am working by hand but I think I will try to get that effect. Thanks for the ideas out there. Keep 'em comming!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The back has gotten its act together.

Well, today the backing of the quilt is finally done. In the end I had to let the towels decide where they should go. Because of the variety of makers, there is more often than not a variety in both width and length of each towel. Also, because of the way they are dyed, like batik, there is no difference in front or reverse side EXCEPT where there is writing ... and many of the towels are made for commemorative purposes so writing is part of the design. Not knowing which side is up could make for a backward bit of reading.
Next challenge will be piecing the batting. I'm hoping I will have enough to do the job. Anyway, it will have to wait a bit because all of my day tomorrow is taken up with choir, church, Scouts, and family.