Sunday, September 30, 2012

Let's hear it for weekends!

Friday, the Bible quilt group met. This is a quilt-as-you-go project and at this session we began to join the blocks and quilt the sashing. These women are very fast learners and in one session, a lot was accomplished.

In this neighborhood there is more goya . In addition to the "fruit", this plant seems to be used as a sun-screen for South facing windows. Even behind me as I took the picture of the bible quilt, the view from the window was a big goya hanging for all to admire.

Even on the second floor balcony of this apartment, you can see that goya taking over. I learned also that the bright yellow flowers are the male flower. The female flower is very small and hardly noticeable.

Saturday I had set up a date with my friend who runs the rice store to borrow her big eight-mat tatami room for basting my big quilt.

I spread out the backing but did not want to tape it down to the mats. Then I unrolled the batting and pieced enough to cover the backing.

It took a lot of crawling around on the floor to get that far.

After I got the top spread out, I began to baste but soon found areas where the backing had bunched up or the batting was wrinkled.

I flipped the whole thing over and fixed the problems with the backing by pulling out the basting. Then I put in safety pins and flipped it back to the top.

There were still adjustments to be re-done on the top and more moving of pins. In the end, I had spent over four hours and ended up with only pins in place. I decided that if I begin quilting in the center and work outward, it will probably be OK with just the pins.

My friend's house is a very old style and probably one of the first built in this area when it was moving from farm land.

To the North is a cupboard for storing bedding and cushions and the like, a family shrine area and a open space to hang a scroll and place a flower arrangement. (and the modern addition of a big flat-screen TV).

Entering the room by double sliding doors from the East, there are four sliding doors along the South side with open wood carvings above them to let the air circulate to the adjoining room. That room might be a six or another eight-mat room so when you need to entertain a big group, the whole place can be opened up.

The rooms are connected also by a wooden hallway to the west and beyond that is the garden. The shop is on the north side and the owner has her goya growing there for the public to enjoy. Along the garden openings are large rush mats that shield the room from the afternoon sun.

I remember when most houses in the area were that style. It was a very pleasant place to work. My friend brought me cold mugi-cha (barley tea) about half way through and treated me to some "Macha" (green tea) ice cream when I finished. In Japanese style, I took her a box of Japanese sweets, some made specially for the moon viewing on the first full moon after the equinox (Sunday evening).

I returned home with my quilt ready for cooler days of quilting and blisters on the tops of my feet and toes. In the early days of my life in Japan, I was always embarrassed when summer dress revealed the callouses on the tops of my feet and knees. In those days, though, we all sat on tatami. No protection by callouses these days and some blisters had already broken while I was working.

Sunday, a big typhoon was expected and I set out to church with my rain gear and umbrella.

After the service, though the storm was predicted to begin around three, some local shrines were having a festival.

While taking a water break, kids were beating the drum, boom boom, click click, boom boom boom, click click.

Even the little portable shrine with a golden phoenix on top gets a comfortable resting place in the shade.

"Five minutes to departure" calls a man with a bull horn and the stands are picked up and stashed and the shrines are ready to be lifted to the shoulders and carried along the street  with cheerful chants.

The typhoon can wait a little longer.

My afternoon was spent with a group of Cub Scouts meeting emergency preparedness  requirements for advancement. The wind and rain were picking up as I left the meeting place, and by the time I returned home, the typhoon had hit. Trains were stopped above ground and there were many delays being announced. Taxi drivers were doing a good business with people wishing not to get stuck in the middle of nowhere.
All night long we listened to the howling and rattling and beating of rain. Still, all plants survived and only my bike cover got shredded.

At four in the morning as we drove out to deliver rice balls to the homeless, the air was clean and clear and the big full harvest moon was putting on a show in the western sky. If you go to Taniwa's blog, you can see her view.  (Much prettier than Tokyo). I wonder if my friend could rise early and enjoy those sweets in the full moon?
As for down town, the streets were littered with bent and broken umbrellas and I suppose China will be doing a healthy business in days to come.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Friendship quilts

In recent posts by friends, I have seen a number of "Friendship" quilts. Then I was reminded that this week's "Themed contest" on Quilting Gallery, is friendship quilts. I thought it a good time to visit the park with this quilt to get a digital picture. This is the non-blurry camera's interpretation.

A number of years ago when my group was bigger, I gave one meter of the feature fabric to each member with the request to make 12 blocks in their design of choice using that fabric and any other of their choice. 

We then passed one block to each member of the group, keeping one for ourselves. I think every member put together a quilt and all were so different in setting and choice of fabrics.  I wanted mine large enough for the guestroom bed and I think every guest to my house has slept under this one. I call it "All My Friends are Stars". (my block was the flower basket).

A few days before my summer trip, I received a pattern in the post for a friendship block to be made for my friend, Georgia. I wanted to make something using Japanese yukata fabrics and found some with butterflies.
I knew that, as a missionary, my friend would understand that choice as a symbol for "hidden" Christians.

As a small "aside", when I first came to Japan 50 years ago, there were young people all over wearing large flashy crosses. They had no particular meaning other than as a fashion statement. From then on, I found a tiny gold butterfly and have worn it replacing a silver Celtic cross that I had worn many years.  It reminds me that I will not be so much defined by what I wear but what I do.

(I don't know why pictures that appear upright in my files, post rotated. I notice others have this problem too. Move left or right, change the size, add properties, but don't rotate. Hmmm)

Anyway, my friend had flown and took with her many more blocks from friends who will miss her too. Will she have a friendship quilt one of these days? I hope so.

And after one week, quilting has begun on the baby quilt. I put together tenugui for the backing, one with a friendly dragon for a dragon-year baby, and some with fall leaves on red and orange. The good thing about small projects is the speed that they go together. Yesterday I had a long bus ride and added the borders.
I went to a lovely quit show and wish I could show you the fantastic Japanese quilts, scenes of Japan and Fuji and Japanese children's songs all so cleverly done. NO PICTURES ALLOWED! I have to keep all that inspiration to myself!

Tomorrow the Bible quilt group meets. AND also from Friday you can go to the Quilting Gallery and check out the friendship quilts and vote.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Making use of time and scraps

Projects pause but time marches on. After cutting out the kasuri pieces I had a chance to talk with my daughter about the kind of bag she wants and she decided she would like the muted solids to set the kasuri. Now, that is fine with me but at that point, the project ground to a halt because she needs to come by and pick out the colors that will best go with whatever she plans to use the bag with. I still don't have a clear idea of size and shape so no point in sitting around waiting. Kasuri carton returns to the second floor cupboard.

 As the week went on, I could see the weekend looming ahead with loooong bus and train rides and meetings.

So ... I needed something to make that time go faster. I thought of a church friend who is having a baby next month. This friend has helped me with the planning for Vacation Bible School and we have worked together on committees. I had remembered seeing a zip-lock baggy of pieces that were left over from an "I Spy" quilt I made many years ago for the grand kids.
They were all cut out and ready to put together ... cute little kid-friendly prints.
I pulled out some yellow solid and marked off some triangles to sew them together and stuck them in my back pack.

I have to say it was a good thing too, because to save money, I tool a very long bus ride and three trains to get to the Railroad museum where my Cub Scouts were gathering. I had lots of extra time there while all the boys took turns driving every simulated train in the whole place. Oh, what a lot of hands-on stuff there was too! Then, there was the long way home plus a 48 minute wait for the bus and heavy traffic back home.

Sunday after church I also had two meetings to sit through plus the hour trip each way. Above is what I got done. It is not a very big piece but I will finish off the star points and add some borders. I am thinking of a little quilt that can be used in a stroller or to put the baby on for changing or to cover when napping, maybe around 45" square. My friend is expecting a little girl and I thought the red heart print would show less dirt than a pink. I would say, a few more trips and meetings and this shouldn't take too long. (If I keep the size under control, I will even be able to baste it without clearing the whole living room of furniture).

There seems to be a new fad in my neighborhood. Many houses with enough ground to plant a "garden", have this vine growing wildly all over the place.

Between my house and the train station I am hardly out of sight of one of these. This picture is the barber shop. The rice shop has one too. It is a very aggressive vine and full of little yellow flowers.

The interesting thing is why it is growing in so many places.

Here is the "fruit" (if you can call it that). It looks like a little warty cucumber.

The plant is Momordica charantia. In Japanese it is called "Goya", a name that comes from Okinawa.
In English it is called, among other names, "Bitter Melon".  And, believe me. that is a very apropos name because it is the bitterest of all fall fruits.

The rice store lady sings its praises, telling me it is picked small and cut and sauteed  with meat. The only times I have tasted it, it was quite bitter no matter how it was prepared.

I think of my #2 daughter's garden in the Boston Fens and all the delicious produce she has for eating and giving away ... no goya ... give me zucchini any day, a few cucumbers and summer summer squash and perhaps a handful of cherry tomatoes. Yummmm!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My love affair with Kasuri

I am not sure how many of my blogging friends are familiar with "Kasuri". I don't even know how much of it is being produced today. All my bits of that fabric have been picked up from shrine sales (the Japanese flea market) or used bins in stores carrying old stuff or picked apart work clothing.

The fabric is hand woven. The warp and weft threads are dyed before the loom is set up. The skeins of thread are tied off at intervals to resist the dye and left white ... but in some cases, dyed other colors.
The most common color is indigo and white but sometimes other colors are added.

The thread used is slightly heaver than ordinary cotton fabric and was commonly used for work clothing. I have bought several worn pairs of "mompei", long over-pants for working in the fields, and yesterday spent some time picking out the thread to return them to a usable fabric.

Here are some fine weaves that are a bit older. You can see that the color chosen is not always indigo but sometimes light blue, gray, or browns.
The whites are very old and hemp fabric rather than cotton. They were probably used in summer yukata or even night wear.

These whites are woven with brown or gray.

Sometimes the designs can get very intricate and amazing. It is hard for me to imagine measuring and dying a piece if thread so that when you put it to the loom, it would produce such an intricate design.

All that work for a strip of cloth about 13 inches wide which is then sewed into work clothes!

(well, probably not some of this fancier weave).

My #3 daughter has been wishing for a bigger bag for carrying her stuff and I thought this sturdy fabric would hold up pretty well and not show the dirt.

Yesterday I did a bit of un-picking and washed and ironed some of these kasuri pieces, cutting around the worn places into three inch blocks (and the scraps into one inch).

I thought I might sew them together alternating with nine-patches of other fabrics from yukata or tenugui.

I like the idea of nine-patch blocks for take-along work but I am not certain this is the best way to show off those kasuri fabrics.

A few years ago, I was asked to make a prayer book cover for a speaker at the Women's Conference. Before setting off, I tried my hand at making a cover for my own Bible.

This poor book was presented to me in 1944 at my confirmation. Those were war years and though the binding has held up well, the fake leather (cardboard) cover has completely crumbled.

Although I used one-inch squares of kasuri, I alternated them with a similar fabric made much the same way. The warp threads are one color. (usually indigo or black) and the weft are colored. The weight of this fabric is quite the same, as is the width of the piece.

I picked out a piece with a butterfly which was a symbol used by the "hidden Christians", as it represented to them the resurrection.  I chose the kasuri because, at least to me, this fabric represents a great act of faith ... that after all the work of dying that thread and stringing the loom, that when woven, the design will come out as planned.

Now that I look at this old piece of work, I begin to think that those solid colored fabrics might show off the kasuri a bit better than those nine-patches.

Thanks for any feed-back.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A finish and another fuzzy picture

This week I finished quilting the border of this year's Women's  Conference banner.

It was a bit sad to quilt along each signature and realize how many of those friends have left us since January.

On the other hand, there is hope to add more names as next years conference gears up.

I used variegated blue pearl cotton and large stitching on the water. That was my first attempt and I held off to the last to attack it. I don't think this is my favorite technique.

My husband says the water doesn't look still enough but too still might equal stagnant.

I also added "Psalm 23" to the lower corner. I hope by hanging this in various international churches, along with the information for next years retreat, we will attract more participants to share this weekend of inspiration and Christian fellowship.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The sun wins!

Early in the summer, my cub pack set up a schedule for activities. lots of things to go and see and do. Our final event was a family campout at Yamanaka, at the foot of Mt Fuji.

As the weekend neared, the weatherman began to predict a change from the hot sunny days we have had in excess. Unfortunately, that prediction included rain storms.

Although I have no problem camping in the rain with Boy Scouts, Cubs and parents with younger siblings ... not my idea of a fun event when rain is included.

I packed my van Friday night and set out early Saturday morning to my parking lot, Nikko's leash on one arm, pack on my back, craft supplies over one shoulder, and a big umbrella in my hand. It was dumping down huge drops of rain and our narrow lane without drains was a lake. BUT, by the time I had reached the car, the sun was back out.

I picked up my assistant near the highway entrance and there were off and on sprinkles but by the time we reached the camp, there were patches of blue sky between the clouds. We rented a huge canvas fly and got it set up ... just in case. That did it! The weather cleared up completely.

My assistant leader brought some really great activities. One was this string on two rods. and a magic formula of soap and starch and glycerin for making these huge bubbles. Another set of rods had the string tied in little loops and made hundreds of bubbles in one wave. Everyone got plenty of chances to try and some of those giant bubbles were well over six feet long.

  I brought knives and saws and the boys tried their hands at making  owl neckerchief slides from natural materials. This one was made by a seven-year-old Cub.

My assistant prepared a nature BINGO for using on a hike. They had to actually be looking at the object as they checked it off. The parent leaders set off with the kids and I was well aware of their return because the last item was a "dog" and they all knew where to find Nikko.

The nature around Mt Fuji is beautiful every time of year. Sunday morning the families climbed to the top of the building for a view of Fuji while I enjoyed some of the wild flowers, boiled a bit of water for some coffee, and worked on my quilt border.

It took about as long to take down the rain fly and pack it all back up to return as it did to set it up ... well, maybe longer. I was just glad that we hadn't needed it.

I returned home in the late afternoon after dropping my assistant off at the train station. These flowers were waiting as I un-loaded my car. There were also messages on my e-mail from the family groups saying they had had a great time. One father sent terrific pictures of the activities and campfire. My camera has had a lot of very hard wear. It is also used by other family members so I do not know what treatment it gets but clearly, something is wrong with the lens and only a small part of any picture is in focus.

The last blurry picture I will show is my finished flimsy. This is already a big enough quilt but I really wanted a border of some kind to frame it. I didn't have any really big pieces of fabric but there was enough of this grey-blue to go around. I stuck in a few spare cornerstones where I had to join the pieces together to make the border long enough..  Now the piece is 293'' square and I will have to hunt around for something to use for the backing. I will have plenty of time to find a basting location and this will be a good quilting project once it gets cooler.

I hope the next picture of this will be taken with a new or repaired camera.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

So, what's the hurry?

Nothing like sitting around with your foot propped up, to get things done.

For a quilt with no particular purpose (other than to try out the block pattern) or deadline,  these + and X blocks seem to have taken over.

The last seven rows have been assembled and are ready to be joined to the first eight.

I really didn't want to fold them all up and put them back in the zip-lock baggies. All those little pieces are hard to keep ironed, so I just clipped them as they were finished to the curtains in the living room.

I think rather than join them one-by-one to the larger piece, I will put these rows together a few at a time and then join them to the completed half. I really don't like the idea of ironing these all over again more than I have to.

While I am sewing these, I will have time to think of what I will do for the border and backing and figure out where I am going to lay this out for basting.... no space that big in this house. It is still too hot to be quilting but it will be nice to work on when the weather gets cool.

I am going to need some new take-along work and should prep something for up-coming train rides and meetings. Something brown and green with owls for Son Ken, a big-boy quilt for #2 grandson, Ben, A banner for the Women's Conference next January, (I still have a little quilting left to do on this years) and one Christmas present that needs to be in the mail by mid November. (a little hard to think of Christmas in the late summer heat). Oh, yes, daughter Norie has asked for a bag. A small, easy to finish project might be fun.

Meanwhile, I have managed to finish off a few spools of thread, and that little container is holding hundreds of little threads. All those one inch blocks sure do shed ... not quite as badly as the dog but just as visible on clothing. I tried putting them in the wastebasket but Nikko likes to hunt in there for paper to chew and they will just end up on the floor.

I have a pair of pinking shears that might eliminate a bit of scrap threads. I have had them since I was a kid but they are right-handed and heavy to use so mostly sit in the sewing drawer with little exercise. I wonder if people actually use them these days. The only pinked edges I have seen in a long time, are in my stash.

Meanwhile, those strips keep calling. They are hard to ignore!