Friday, September 30, 2011

Wild Geese is this weeks theme

By now you know I enjoy the weekly themed contests that Quilting Gallery holds whether or not I have something that fits the theme. It is always fun to see what other quilters do with similar blocks and patterns.Check Spelling

When I was sorting through my scraps, I found one baggy filled with half square triangles. Most of those are leftovers from a much earlier quilt. Long ago, a friend living in Tokyo ordered fabric from Keepsake Quilters. She had a military address so she could easily have it posted to Japan. From time to time she would receive cut square samples of fabric from which she made her choice and the rest she gave to me, rightly thinking I could use them in a quilt.

Now, I have always loved the geese blocks. Having lived several times in my life along flyways, I love to watch the migrating birds passing through. I recall the first time my daughters experienced clouds of birds overhead, coming to the yard and taking off again into the sky. "Look, Mom, it's raining birds!", my daughter exclaimed. Wild geese went on to my list of future quilts.

So when I had a good selection of fabric samples from my friend, I cut them to make flying geese, using the lighter fabrics to set the geese. At that point I began to look for a nice floral print too use between the rows of geese. I don't recall how long I looked but I just could not find anything that would work.

Finally, thinking I would never find the fabric I wanted, I sat down with a pencil and paper and made a list. The list had the names of flowers from my gardens in assorted places through the years, those that had special meaning to me alone. Then I divided them by season and drew pictures on four strips of paper, one for each season. I added some birds to represent those seasons too, the ones to be found in my garden.

I quilted the background of the panels in a lattice design and in the border are quilted all different leaves, most Japanese trees but some from the States as well. You would be surprised how many friends got involved sending me pressed leaves to use as patterns.

The name of the quilt is "To Everything there is a Season" and, although not a winner, it made a trip to Paducah. (Something I have never done)
Being selected as one of 400 out of over 900 entries was quite an honor and it returned home with the judges compliments.

This was not my only quilt with wild geese blocks but others have flown away as gifts and no digital photos exist. I entered this once before in a flowers theme but it is not a big eye-catcher. Still, it is one of my all-time favorites because of the pieces of my life it represents.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bloggers, beware ... or celebrate

Now I place the blame ... or share the glory ... however one wants to look at it.

flashed these blocks at me and then encouraged my addiction.

Cheryl has suggested some sashing to control these wild blocks. Yes, I think that helps but I see that a design wall is what I will need to play around with these scrappy pieces.

Since I am left handed while in my right mind, it took another left hander to be able to share the blame. Thank you my dear blogging friends for even caring what I am up to! I appreciate your inspiration and support. If I count all those scraps donated by friends, this quilt will be a celebration of friendship.

The end of summer is here and the plume grass is about to bloom. In a few weeks I will see those soft flowers nodding in the autumn sun.

Here is another thing I enjoy about the grass. Grasshoppers.

One blade of grass can be folded into a hopper. Isn't it cute? This was something I learned while at a Nippon Venture Jamboree. I was waiting at my work station for activities to begin and another Scouter was playing with the grass growing all around.

With a bit of coaching , I figured out how to make one and was told that if I made three and then taught it to someone else, It would be mine forever.

Years later I still have fun playing in the grass. Yes, "make three and teach someone else" has served me well over the years.

I wonder what other tricks there are to learn ... out there ...lying in wait...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox

The day began much too early with the singing of a mosquito. These are not the blood-sucking helicopters of Alaska or the State bird of Minnesota. Japanese mosquitoes are very tiny and, now that the evenings are becoming cooler, they lurk at the doorstep waiting for opportunities to enter and feed. I wish they would just get it over with instead of singing in my ear. Even after turning on the lights and putting on my glasses, they are not easy to find. They can breed in the water standing around flower pots and anything to defend your property is pure tokenism.

The spider lily is one of the harbingers of autumn and in true fashion, one has opened outside the front gate. These share the pot with the pineapple lily
which will remain fleshy messy leaves until it blooms again next summer. Once the flowers all open, the leaves will come up green and thick to gather the winter sun.

Soon it will be cool enough to get back to work on the batik quilt. I want to cut enough scraps to work on the +& x blocks and have decided to add some bits from my stash. I need something for take-along work. The big problem is that I can't seem to stop putting those scraps together as they are cut. I think as more blocks are added, the ugly ones are not so apparent. These are five inch blocks so it will take quite a few to make anything of size and these would still be not enough for a table runner. I wonder what it would be like to make a double sized block and put it along with the rest. Hmmm.... BEWARE! Quilting can take over your life!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


What can a quilter do on a miserable wet day? While typhoon "Roke" lolls along the coast dumping 250mm of rain (to go with the 500mm in the Nagoya area),
the only thing left to do is work along with these blocks. I still don't know where this is going and the scrap box looks as full as it did when I began. Meanwhile, there is a great temptation to go up to my stash and pull out some prettier fabrics to pep it up a bit. It may just be a test of time before I do.

At one in the afternoon it is dark and gloomy. The street outside that used to be dirt has been "paved" for a few years now but probably will not get drains until all the homes have been rebuilt and the city snatches up a few meters from each lot to widen the street. Since that will include my garden strip I will not be happy to see that happen. I do regret that I tossed out my leaky boots and have not found a suitable replacement. That should teach me to be so picky!

Meanwhile, the Mother-in-law's tongue (or snake plant or a hundred other names) seems to have been so delighted with my pleasure over its flowers that it has put out some more.

For a plant that thrives on neglect, it seems to be shouting, "Look at me"!

One more winner is this little orange flower. I have no idea what it is. The leaves are similar to iris in the way it grows and the flower only opens for a day or two. When we moved to our last house, I took a large pot of Cycads my son had started and found a corner where they would get sun but allow people to pass. A few years later I noticed this volunteer in the pot, poking up through the palm-like fronds.

The cycad went off with a few other large pots to my daughter's house and along with it, the mystery flower. But, this summer, in the same relative position to our front gate, a number of iris-looking leaves appeared in a planter that usually holds spider lilies. Can it be that that flower knew how much I loved it and followed me here?

The rain has brought cooler air. We went from a sauna on Monday to two quilts last night. I saw spider-lily buds in the woods, waiting for Friday to open. In Japan they are the official harbinger of autumn. Wet is fine. The plants are happy. Cooler is fine. I am happy. It 's about time to get back to quilting.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Summer Snow visits the Bloggers Theme contest.

This week's theme is nine patches and certainly that is one of my favorite blocks.

As I mentioned in the previous post,
I have been cutting scraps into 1,2,3,and 4 and a half inch squares and collecting them in tins for later use. Because many scraps are small strips, the one-inch box is always overflowing.

As a way to use some of the pieces I had been given by friends, I made lots of nine-patch blocks using darks and lights. I had no particular plan in mind but I found a white fabric with small flowers that went well as a background and pieced them into snowballs. This is an interesting collection of fabrics both old and new and many are cut with animals, always thinking of napping quilts for a child. (Having been a non-napper myself).

This is one of my earlier quilts made with no purpose other than the fun in making it. I have given many of the quilts from this era away and have no digital photos of them so I decided while I have the chance I will take out a few of what I have left for portraits. As long as this one fit the theme for the week, I thought,"why not"!

This quilt was shown in 'American Patchwork & Quilting' 6/1/94 and also in 1995 Volume 7 'Quilts Japan'.

As I mentioned, I have been cutting little blocks from a box of gifted scraps. This selection is the one and a half inch box. It is crammed to the top and I am wondering how many more nine-patches might come from here. It was somewhat of a relief to switch gears to this + and x block.

The 14th block is almost finished. I still have no plan for them other than, like the snowball quilt, to have fun putting them together. I took them with me to my quilt group on Friday and my friends had fun arranging and re-arranging them and thinking of how they might go together. I'm sure that like those nine-patches so long ago, they will reveal their plan in time.

There are some interesting quilts in this weeks contest. The quilting gallery button will take you there to see what others are showing.

I still could use some suggestions of what to do with the sewed strips. Un-sew them? re-cut them and use them as larger blocks? I will never be able to sew them by machine. Maybe a car seat cover for Nikko?

Have a nice weekend.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fighting the "BLAHS"

In the extreme heat and humidity of this Tokyo summer, it is difficult to get motivated to do anything other than sit in the shower.
It is certainly too hot to sit with a quilt in my lap.(The one on-going project calling to me)

Last week as I was searching for the elusive fabric, I came across a box of scraps that was waiting for recognition ... or maybe action.

Some of these scraps had been given me by a departing quilter. They had been sewed in strips and cut in sections.

Along with those were some scraps I had made myself. This pile is one of the reasons I do not like machine piecing. I had made a "mystery quilt"begun in 1994 from Lady's Circle Patchwork quilts and finished in 2003 which I declared "The year of the UFO". You can see the picture and read the story in that section of the diary. These patterns call for cutting strips and sewing them together and then cutting again ... not a difficult thing to do. The finished quilt turned out satisfactorily. The problem is, what does a hand quilter do with these piles of connected strips left over from other projects? Un-sew them and re-cut them? The box under the cardboard box of scraps is Japanese fabrics I have done that with.

This week I began attacking those scraps. Most went into the big plastic case as one-inch blocks. Some were fussy-cut and went into the little containers to add to a special section within the box.

the tins of two and three inch blocks are so full the lid can hardly stay in place.

All the while I was doing this I was thinking what a mindless depressing task. There was no purpose in mind other than getting rid of the contents of that box.

THEN ... along comes Lurline of "Lurline's Place" who suggests I try a block I have been admiring on her blog. Well, why not? As long as I am chopping up scraps, I may as well do it with a purpose, no matter how remote.

Tomorrow is my quilt group and I will need something to take with me.

Here are a few blocks laid out on the ironing board. I am not sure I have the rules for this block figured out and they are far from as pretty as Lurline. I am trying not to get out my fabric boxes but work from the rather ugly assortment in the box that needs dealing with.

I am not even sure what this will turn into. It is a bit wild for a table runner but it probably wouldn't show spills very much. Or my rocker could use a throw over the back.

The most interesting aspect if this activity is that now I have begun, the BLAHS have left to some degree. I am still sitting and chopping up scraps but with even a small purpose in mind, I am beginning to feel a whole lot better. I'm even thinking how this pattern might look in a combination of blues and browns. I told Lurline I might blame her but, in truth, I need to thank her for the little push. I wish I knew how to add a link. Bloggers are the greatest!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Everything but the kitchen sink

With an organized storage system and a house as small as mine, how hard can it be to find a piece of fabric? I know exactly what I am looking for. I have seen it at the bottom of a box in the not-to-distant past.

This week I was making a mug-rug for a friend. I wanted to put a particular piece of fabric on the back. It is a particular print in English (or rather "Japlish") that I am sure would give her a chuckle. I thought it would be easy to lay my hands on that perfect backing print.

Oh foolish me, I have wasted DAYS hunting through my stash. It was not in the mixed prints. It was not among the reds.

It was not in any of my other boxes in the hall or among the child-friendly prints under the coffee table. I looked everywhere but the kitchen sink as that was full of dirty dishes I had neglected as I searched for that fabric.

Finally, I gave up.

I know it is hiding somewhere.Even as I write it is secretly watching and laughing. It will not get cut up this time. It will not feel the prick of the needle. BUT, it cannot hide forever and I WILL find it.

Meanwhile, nothing much has been accomplished. It has been much to hot to work at quilting and Nikko has eaten half the flower template I was using, I will have to draft another before I can go on.

So as to not feel the whole week has gone to waste, I pulled out this picture of a baby quilt to enter the Quilting Bloggers Weekly Themed contest.

I do not ever anticipate winning anything but it is fun to see what others are making, get a bit of inspiration, and sometimes meet a kindred spirit.

This quilt was made for my youngest granddaughter, Irene, before knowing if it would be for a girl or boy. It has the animals of the oriental zodiac running around the border with her ox at the top center.

The funniest part of the quilt is not easy to spot. Being extremely dyslexic, I have a big problem with numbers and letters. Two of the blocks had to be taken apart and re-done after one of my quilting friends noticed the letters were facing in the wrong direction. Luckily it was while I was sewing the top together. But ... as I was quilting those little one-inch blocks around each letter containing pictures of alphabet words to go with the letters... I discovered all the owls were hanging by their toes. I had sewed the "O" on upside down! Too late. I wonder if that two-year-old has noticed yet.

Not much is likely to get done the rest of this week. Scouts are ready to fill what time is left. Hopefully the plans for Friday's pack meeting will go off better than the plans for this past week.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Japanese mug rug

OK! Here is my answer to Laura Lochore's challenge, a mug rug from Japan.

The background fabric is actually written in Japanese. Auspicious greetings and phrases are scattered around in gold print. The origami crane is firstly a symbol of longevity but also well known as in a thousand paper cranes made to grant a wish. (I thought one would be enough.)

The background quilting is interlocking circles. It represents my quilting friends, each tied to another through patterns and thread, fabric of our lives, and even blogging.

It is most common in Japan to use trays for serving. This "rug" might be a bit larger than average but it fits nicely on my best wooden tray. Though the serving is of green tea and sembei,(rice crackers) I think a bit later in the day it would be well suited to a cup of coffee and a piece of pie.

Japan's postal service being excellent, the runner arrived the very next day from the afternoon I mailed it. I had a lovely phone call from my Daughter's mother-in-law to tell me it was just right and completely to her taste. I have not mentioned this before, but she is a true wizard with a sewing machine. She is always whipping out darling little outfits for our granddaughter and can just look at something and come up with a pattern.

We are now awaiting a large typhoon and many activities have been cancelled. (Including my quilt group meeting) The TV showed several places getting heavy rain ahead of the storm. During the early summer rainy season, each rain brings hotter weather. Now with the typhoon season, each rain should bring cooler temperatures. Often, the day following a typhoon is cool and dry with beautiful clear skies. I shall be waiting.