Sunday, May 29, 2011

Scouting is a World of Friends

Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and the early start to the "rainy season", That is what the weekend held. Because of cancellations of activities after the earthquake, everything got tossed into the pot and the former Cub Scout Family Camping was stretched to include American and Japanese Boy Scouts as well as Girl Scouts. Friday night I set up the craft area and spent the hours until bedtime preparing for ten craft sessions. The craft planned for the cubs was not suitable for Girl Scouts and the older Scouts so there was a hurried cutting of leather for those participants to make wrist bands.

Stations were set up with stamps for letters and numbers as well as decorative stamps, snap-setting station, dying and finishing stations. I went to my sleeping bag thinking all was ready. Alas, during the night came the soft pitter patter of rain. Well, rain is fine for the big guys but Cubs and siblings and Moms and Dads... not too great.

In the morning I got the final count and schedule for the day. We raised the flags in a light mist and set off to the craft area. (or what had been planned as the craft area) I must say there are very few buildings where one can get out of the rain and suddenly there was some kind of a tent building activity squeezed into the craft room as well. Now imagine groups of 15 to 20 kids hammering away on leather and Scout leaders shouting out orders on tent building. Add to that parents yakking and others joining the melee to get in a dry place. Nikko checked out the situation and opted for the space under the finishing table where there would be no hammering. One lucky factor was that I got the world's greatest assistant, a fellow teacher of all age levels, crafty as the day is long and fluent in Japanese. It was a long day but we survived. Well, the patch they issued said "Family Camp Survivoree". No picture but that was truer than fiction.

After dinner we gathered in the light rain to enjoy the campfire. Leading the opening song didn't do a whole lot for my voice but there was still a bit left at the end for the quilt presentation. At the start I told about my friendship quilt and collecting the signatures of friends at various Scouting events, the Scouts from over 60 countries and all of the States. Although I have many signatures from top Scouters, the signature I told them about was one of my former Cubs and Scouts who had signed his name, the date, and "Friends Forever". Nearly 20 years have passed but we are still friends and "Forever" is a long time.

I quoted part of the poem that begins, "I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you". and asked them to think about the friends that bring out the best in them. I also asked them to think about what kind of a friend they were to others

At the end I brought out the wedding quilt as a celebration of friendship and presented it to the couple who had worked so hard and long to put on that event, whom I had known through Scouting long before they even knew each other, and were unselfish in their love and devotion to the welfare of others.
When I left in the evening they were still reading and commenting on the messages written on the leaves. I gave them a sign-pen so they could add more signatures to the blank leaves. I feel very happy I could make the presentation and grateful to those of you who sent words of encouragement.

The pictures here are details of the Scout Friendship quilt. The reverse side has neckerchiefs from many of the events where I collected signatures.

The center has the World Crest with the words, Scouting is a world of friends, quilted around.

I embroidered a few Scout emblems from different countries. The USA and Japan were the most complicated and in order to get the details I had to use only one strand of embroidery thread.

Well, the rainy season that usually begins in mid June got off to an early start and below is the reason why!!! Honestly, why would someone select a design for a T-shirt for Cub camp with thunder clouds and lightening?? It sure looks to me like someone was tempting fate! "Extreme Cub Camps"?? The edge of a typhoon? Maybe we were luckier than we deserved.

Sunday morning, off to choir, but after shouting above the noise all day and leading songs I had very little voice left .

Thursday, May 26, 2011

bits if progress, one step at a time

This weekend I am off to Cub camp where I will be teaching crafts to Cubs, Girl Scouts, and Boy Scouts. It is always a challenge to take a craft and tweak it up or down to make it easy enough for first graders and challenging enough for the older Scouts. We are expecting rain to add to the challenge.

The big event at the back of my mind will be the presentation of the Wedding quilt. I have asked to give "the Scoutmaster's minute" at the closing campfire. As much as I dread speaking in front of a group, I want to tell the youth about the importance of friendship, picking friends, keeping friends, and being a worthy friend. I hope I can pull it off.

Since that quilt was finished I have been working on several projects. Last year I made a table cloth for my son as a birthday present. This year my giftee is my number two daughter and I wanted to make something quilty for her
but she does not have a dining room table but uses a small coffee table for meals. I thought I might make her a series of runners for different seasons and began with some floral prints and some fabric left from my Son's wedding quilt and a border from one of my first quilts. I like quilted runners in my house because they protect the table from scratches and spills but I was not sure I was heading in the right direction for my daughter's house so I sent this one off and asked if she would like more or for me to make something else. This week word came back that it is a "go" and I will have fun making a series for the year. It makes good take-along work. I have lots of ideas. And, her birthday isn't until late in the summer.

Meanwhile I have been working on the border of the batik quilt. I could not find any fabric I could afford for the border but the floral print is almost like batik. I took scraps left from the blocks and cut assorted circles to applique over the centers of the flowers. I am thinking of using colored or variegated thread to quilt those flowers and quilt bigger flowers into the squares.

One reason I dragged out the tenugui is that my daughter is a teacher and might enjoy the series of children's games if there are enough to cover the back. This is the time I could use a very large design wall! It may take a bit of doing to figure this out but I still have three sides of border to complete before I get there. So... It's off to play Scouts... one step at a time.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The art of the Japanese Tenugui

In earlier posts I have sometimes shown a quilt backing which has been composed of Japanese tenugui or cotton towels. Indeed, many of the quilts I have made use tenugui either on the back or as part of the design. Sometimes I get questions about tenugui so today I thought it would be fun to show and tell more than you may wish to know about the art of tenugui, and indeed, it is an art.

I have sometimes referred to tenugui to be seen along the lines of postage stamps. Although I was a poor student of history and geography, I loved to collect postage stamps. They were like tiny travel posters showing the nature, historical events, places and people that defined a country.
Each country puts out lovely commemorative issues and they may be used on letters as regular postage or kept as collectors items. We can learn a lot by examining these stamps and they are small enough to be stored in albums.

Tenugui are rectangular cotton hand towels. They were sometimes distributed as gifts by shops or firms commemorating their opening and may contain addresses or the phone number of the shop. The tenugui of yesterday has gradually been replaced by terrycloth towels and handkerchiefs and many of today's tenugui are pure art to be looked at as well as used. We used to have a tenugui of the Tokyo Tower that had been framed and hung as a picture by my Father-in-law. Sometimes they are sewed into bags or cushions or noren, a strip curtain dividing rooms. They are often used as stage props in kabuki, rakugo (comical storytelling), and Japanese dancing.

The process by which these towels are made is as fascinating as the towels themselves. Both Yukata (a cotton summer kimono) and tenugui are dyed as a strip of fabric. That bolt or roll is anywhere from thirteen and a half to about fifteen inches in width. The cloth is stenciled with a kind of paste that works much like wax in batik. It is done in sections and folded back over itself like an accordion. The length might vary depending on the ultimate use but one roll is usually enough to make one yukata with some bit left over.

After each application of paste, the dye is put on top of the pile of fabric over a vat of the same width and sucked through the pile. Then the excess dye and paste are washed out, and the fabric dried and re-wound for further dying or cutting into lengths.

The price can range from around five hundred yen for a two color towel of simple design to thousands of yen for real works of art.
The series of childrens' games on my last post cost around one thousand two hundred per towel a few years back when the dollar/yen was about 100 yen to the dollar.

The small kaleidoscope quilt has five towels on the back. The writing on the red one is a poem or song. The other four show a sense of humor, such as advice on manners and replies to requests and the like.

I have photographed some un-cut towels and you can see how each section is the reverse of the one before. If the design includes writing, one has to be careful to put the right side facing up as it is impossible to tell one side from the other by just looking at the pattern.

The two top towels have a design depicting strips of cloth being stretched out to dry. The blue and white towel can be folded in half lengthwise and then accordion folded to form a cloth book. This piece of art shows the variety of ways to use a tenugui, from a blindfold for a children's game, a head scarf, exercising, fishing, bathing and even picking fruit. The towel with many people is of a festival. The people are carrying portable shrines and they are all wearing tenugui as hachimaki or headbands to keep the perspiration from their eyes. The lower towel with the red character says "matsuri" or festival and that is the type of towel most often worn as a hachimaki.

Here are a few more forms of towel containing writing. The top is advice on how to live a long life. Actually, it is a list of funny excuses to give when your maker comes to call you home. The dark blue is writing by someone having reached the auspicious age of 88. The iris on white is the name of a Sumo wrestler who may have presented these to his fans upon being promoted to a higher rank. The beige towels show some folk art.

This year many of the places selling the towels had a selection of rabbits as this is the rabbit year by the oriental zodiac. Several quilts I have made for my grandchildren feature zodiac animal towels on the back. On one I asked family members to sign their names on their animal.

Just like stash, these towels tend to grow in numbers in dark places. Unlike postage stamps they take up more room. I have a set of three plastic stacking drawers and in true librarian fashion, the towels are folded and placed by topic. They might be festivals like those above, famous kabuki scenes, sumo wrestlers' hand prints, scenes from famous places, flowers of various seasons, and just like postage stamps, interesting bits of culture. Some may find their way to the backs of quilts. Others are old that have been given me by people clearing out their cupboards. I once made a purple quilt for my SIL who loves purple and just went through the pile pulling out any towel with purple for the back. Most of those were from Japanese dance school recitals or kabuki actors assuming a family name.

The cloth tends to be more loosely woven that modern print cotton. It is surprisingly durable and the colors are fast. It is quite soft and less likely to slide off a child's bed. Because of the variety of lengths and widths it is not easy to piece into one large back. It can be pieced along with yukata fabric but is noticeably different from regular cotton prints in texture. I would offer some to anyone interested if they thought they might be able to find a use for it. Then, again, I still have three cat panels looking for a home.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Star Crossed goes to the festival

Years ago, when I was performing regularly with the Tokyo Piping Society, a small group was asked to play outside a Tokyo department store to draw attention to a "Festival U.K. '98 "that was being held inside. When we had a break, I went inside to see what the "Fair" was all about. Along with British goods there was also a small quilt show and one quilt by Lucy Boston caught my eye. It was all done in lozenge-shaped hexagons and, I think, called "Stars and Crosses". The interesting thing was the variety of patterns that could be made with just one shape. I took out my notebook and made a sketch of the general design before going out for another piping session.

As time went on, that sketch in my notebook kept calling my attention and I decided to try that pattern out. I had begun assembling a selection of red, white, and blue fabric for another quilt I had in mind so decided to limit the color to that just to try out the design.

This pattern was particularly good with striped fabrics and somewhat fussy to do so I only made 20 blocks as a test. I swore at the time this would be my last adventure with hexagons but that was not necessarily the case. I named it "Star Crossed" because I was doomed from the time I first saw it. Later I made a full sized quilt of the same design and named that one "Double Crossed".

The backing was made from Japanese Tenugui, printed cotton towels. These four are of Japanese Children's games. When I showed the quilt to the elderly man who made the towels, he was delighted to sign his name on the lower towel. Since them I have acquired a set of 17 of these towels and am thinking I may again use them for a quilt back.

With Blogger down and my computer having it's dying spasms, I am a bit late to post for the Bloggers' Quilt Festival. I will give it a try but the computer guru came in and re-arranged everything and I'm not too sure I can link in or add the button. The quilts are great and I could spend the whole day looking at other's posts.

(LATER) I have spent a frustrating two hours trying to figure out how to get that button added but nothing has worked so far. You can check them out by clicking on Amys Creative Side on the right side of my blog.

Monday, May 9, 2011


You may think that when a quilt group meets, they quilt. Well, we eat too and when we were sitting at the table, attention went to these dolls sitting on the shelf. I had taken them out for my granddaughter to play with and found they were falling apart. I don't remember how long ago I made them or how old they are now. Maybe one of my daughters will look and comment. (I do know some were still babys because one of the kids bit the nose off the girl doll and it had to be fixed.)The lower arms and legs are carved out of wood and the heads are made of paper mache. The girl doll was made first and her body was made from pigskin. The boy's body was made from deerskin and was first to deteriorate. Neither could take the rigors of play and needed new bodys. Long ago I had bought a piece of peach muslin for that purpose but had not gotten around to making repairs.

I had made my own pattern to make the dolls in the first place and had not saved it. I decided the time had come to get these fixed while we had granddaughters to enjoy them. I began with the boy doll because he had completely fallen apart. You can see beside him the body section. Taking out the stuffing, I traced them to make patterns. I was hoping to get the size about the same so the clothing would still fit.
I dressed him from time to time as I went along to make sure of the length if legs and arms was OK.

After fixing the boy, I was feeling better about taking the girl apart. Now they are both in good repair and waiting for a little girl to play with.

All the clothing was made without patterns and stored in a basket with a button lid. A lot of it needs to be washed. The girl doll is wearing a dress made from fabric I used to make a dress for my eldest daughter so they would match. The night gown for the girl is smocked and the tan striped nightshirt for the boy has a night cap too. There were a number of knit pieces too. The boy's sweater is still in good shape but the vest has moth holes as do many other pieces. The boy has a dress kilt and a tuxedo too. His grey corduroy suit has slit pockets and huge cuffs. Hmmm, when were those cuffs fashionable? The girl has more dresses as she was made first.

These days you can buy Barbie dolls and find a whole selection of clothing on toy store shelves but when I was growing up, your dolls came with only what they were wearing when purchased. I got my first doll on Christmas when I was three. Her name is Alice. She came with a black wig which I didn't like so I played with her very little.

On my fourth birthday she came to my party with a blond wig and can be seen in my arms in frequent pictures from then on. I do not recognize the dress she is wearing in the picture. Probably it is the one she was wearing when she was purchased. It was from this year I began to sew, begging scraps from my mom so that my doll had clothing for every occasion. An interesting note is that the teddy bear my twin brother is holding was intended for me on my first Christmas. There were two and I got the brown one which I still have, dressed in clothing to hide the bare places where his fuzz was loved off.

In those days there were no patterns that I know of for doll clothing. There was the depression and then a war and luxuries were in short supply. If a kid wanted something, you had to figure out how to make it! In many ways I think that was a good life for children. My own children, too, had lots of fun making things and even as adults have kept the creative spirit alive. It is not unusual that during some visit we spend a little time looking over some project one of them is working on and figuring out how to solve some challenge they might be facing.

You have seen the owls. Here is one corner of the doll shelf where Alice sits today. Beside her to the right is "Little Love", my second doll. Both are wearing homemade clothing as are the others. (there are four more shelves ... just like the owls, they tend to gather)

Well, this is a quilting bolg, not a collections blog, and if you look behind the dolls on the sofa, that bit of blue is a quilt I started to make many many years ago for those two dolls. I found it in my fabric box when I was hunting up that peach muslin for fixing the dolls. That was before the days of UFOs. I guess now that the dolls are fixed I'd better finish it up... or maybe get off this computer and get busy on other waiting projects. Strange it is, the things that side-track us!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Quake + 4 weeks and whooooo's counting?

Tomorrow it is my turn to be hostess to my quilting circle.
That means a lot of serious cleaning ... the yellow dust that blew in from China this week and mega-tons of fall-out from the dog.
So I begin in one area of the house, the front door "genkan" where guests leave their shoes, the slipper rack, the mirror on the coat closet, the wooden stairs that show every particle of dust, and next to that, the lavatory.

This is what took the biggest hit during the first few quakes. What is amazing is that so few of these owls that flew off the shelves were broken. Luckily they fly better than cats.

Last Saturday I counselled eight Boy Scouts in the "Collections" Merit Badge. That is one of my happiest Scouting jobs. I love to see and hear about what teenage boys collect and when it comes to collecting, I am an EXPERT!

I mentioned eight weeks ago my cat collection, how these things tend to multiply when people start to see them in shops and think you need one more... well, that collection is up on the third floor and so has stopped growing rapidly.

On the other hand, one well-placed owl in the powder room is just asking for trouble.
Every guest comes out of there saying, "I see you collect owls."

So, today the owls must all come down to be dusted. There are pottery owls. There are owls that are containers. There are carved wooden owls, Basketry owls, lacquer owls, seed decorated owls, horn owls, cloisonne owls, time-keeping owls, and piggy bank owls.

These owls are bells and whistles. Two of their number didn't survive a fall into the sink.

A printer friend gave me some type cases made to hold lead print. The little owls thought they made fine roosts.

In fact, these owls
are quite happy roosting anywhere or just hanging out on the door or the walls as decorations, pictures, kites, towel holders, and even the TP holder I made last year.

I used to have a seat cover that I quilted but when we moved here, the shape of the seat lid was too wide. That one I gave to my daughter who happily put it on her toilet lid. I wonder if owls will begin to multiply at her house as well.

Lest you think you have seen all of my owls, remember, this is only one room and there is hardly anywhere in this rabbit hutch that you would be un-watched by at least one owl. From the time I was a little kid camping out in our woods in the summer, I have had a special relationship with owls. They are my guardians, messengers, and spirit helpers.

This quilted owl used to hang in our entryway to greet guests. Now I have a carved wooden owl there and this one hangs on the slanted ceiling under the roof where I sleep.

Now, I'd better get back to dusting and cleaning and make a pie for tomorrow's meeting.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Golden Week 2011

This week brings a whole string of holidays beginning with the former Emperor's birthday on the 29th of April and ending on the 5th of May, Children's Day. (The former Boy's Day). When my children were young, the third day of the third month was the Doll Festival and celebrated by girls with an elaborate display of court dolls and special foods. The fifth day of the fifth day was "Boys Day". The display for that day is a miniature set of armor or a helmet, swords. bows and arrows, and banners.

From a tall pole carp streamers are flown representing the father and sons. Well, for whatever reason you can imagine, the day was declared to be "Children's Day" as the years passed but the displays have not changed even though some of those carp streamers are now representing daughters.

Using a tenugui carp, I made this table runner many years ago. In those days I had a large table seating 16 people so this runner is now running off both ends of my coffee table. The round applique is a wheel with feathers that turns in the wind at the top of the pole.

The printed panel is for boys day and shows Kintaro riding on a bear. I had two panels that were similar and used one of them on the back of my grandson Ben"s quilt. This one is very bold and I shall never use it but if anyone out there would like to have it, just let me know. The size is 33"x43". cotton made by Kanebo

While I am at it, I found these cat panels that were hiding in that same box and would like a new home as well. There are three of the first panel with pink, red and yellow floral borders

and one of the second panel with a green floral border. The individual cat pictures are about 15in. square with the frame and the whole panel of four is about 34"x 44". They might make a cute bag but I have more bags than storage space. The selvage says "designed in the U.S.A. for Erlanger"

And why do I have these if I am not planning to use them? Don't even ask! But if I can find someone who wants them for free... I may have some more stuff to pass along.

And now, blooming just in time for this season is my Iris. Actually, it is my Sister-in-law's iris. Some years ago she planted the bulb in the garden and it came up as a surprise two years ago, one lone flower in the middle of a gardenia bush. Last year it bloomed again and I was thinking I might move it to a better spot when this year it sent up three flowers. Now I am thinking it seems to like it where it is and I'd better leave well enough alone. These Iris open pale yellow and white but as the days go on the yellow becomes more intense and the centers turn lavender. For those who make seasonal Ikebana arrangements, the iris is used on boys day as the leaves are shaped like swords.

Happy Golden Week to all!