Thursday, May 30, 2013

I can't believe it ... a winner!

Last night when I returned from the day's adventures, I found an e-mail from Michele at Quilting Gallery, saying with points from the guest judges, my "Seasons" quilt had won the beautiful hand-dyed fabric offered by Vicki Welsh for the Quilters' Show and Tell.

I can see that I took these pictures before my camera lens was fixed. I do not have digital pictures of my earlier quilts and most of them are now living elsewhere, so I probably never will. This quilt I have kept here and maybe I should celebrate by sleeping under it tonight... though it is a bit big for my semi-single futon.

Years ago I quilted a baby quilt for a friend living in Tokyo. It was a paper-pieced quilt with bug jars ... one opened and the bugs escaping around the quilt and her grand child's name pieced in the border. She requested simple in-the-ditch quilting and offered to pay me for my work. I did keep a record of the time but in the end, I asked her if she could get me an "Ott light" in payment as she had a military address and could order things from the States. I still use and love the lamp she gave me ... but ... one other thing was many sample fabrics from Keepsake Quilting. She got packs frequently and used them to order fabric, the rest she gave to me.

Now, I have always loved the flying geese block, so I divided them up into light and dark and turned those sample pieces into strings of geese. I arranged them in color groups and sewed them together. Then, I began looking for an interesting printed stripe fabric to use between the rows.

I just couldn't find anything to fit, so in the end, I sat at my dining room table and made a list of flowers that had meaning to me ... things growing in my gardens past and present.

I divided the list by seasons, then got some butcher paper and cut four strips. I drew a curved line down each strip and then drew flowers arranged along the strip. I added some birds to represent the seasons.

In this spring panel you can see the "Uguisu" or Bush warbler which is a harbinger of Spring. Maybe you can identify the flowering quince and the magnolia, and certainly cherry blossoms.

Among the summer flowers are the hydrangeas, the sunflowers of my youth, and roses to represent the garden my father grew and hybridized.

The bird is an Oriental Greenfinch,  a welcome summer visitor.

This little blue flower came as a gift from my dad.

The tag said, "Althea" - blue.

Below are wild roses that grow in the area where I camp with the Scouts each summer.

Among the autumn leaves is a "Great Tit". These birds are visitors to my window feeders all year through.

In some areas, the Tits become so tame you can feed them from your fingers. The ones here are shy but they keep their eyes on the feeder and flit around as I go to fill it.

The little Japanese White-eye  is sitting among the winter blooming Camellias.

I think if blogger wanted to improve anything, they would add a feature to rotate pictures.

In the border I quilted many different leaves. I recall a friend had pressed leaves and sent me some of those growing in Ohio.

Well, one of my jobs as a kid was raking leaves, and living on the edge of a forest park, there were many varieties .

I remember in High School we were asked for a science class to to press and make a display note book of at least six different leaves with descriptions.
I went out to my back yard and picked up 38 different varieties. I think the rest of the class was mad at me for over-doing it but I just couldn't play favorites when it came to trees.

So ... here is that quilt!

The prize was some beautiful hand dyed fabric. It was very difficult to decide which set I wanted. I thought about my son's request for a wedding quilt in browns and greens, and there was a very pretty selection of those. But, since I love browns and greens too, I have plenty of those.

What caught my eye was a lovely rainbow set. I thought of those women up in Tohoku and how they might be cheered by those bright colors. That was my decision in the end.

I am grateful for the Quilting Gallery that makes opportunities for "show and tell" as there is always something lovely to see, and for Vicki Welsh who offered her fabric as a prize.
Have you ever entered one of these exhibits?  I know some of my friends have.
Take a peek from time to time. There will always be something to inspire you.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Tohoku. part 2, the classes

Those of you who know me well, also know that I faced the prospect of teaching quilting with more than a little trepidation. Give me a dozen nine-year-olds and I can teach them how to whittle successfully but an unknown group of women with unknown expectations ... all kinds of challenges come to mind. What supplies are needed? what skills might they already have? How do I explain things in my rather limited Japanese?

I got some very good advice and encouragement from my blogging friends and decided to begin at the end. I cut pot-holder sized squares (a little over 7 inches) from three different Japanese quilted fabrics, and bias strips from some navy solid cotton in my stash.

The two pieces were put back-to-back and I showed them how to put a bias binding around the edge.

After that, I had prepared both log-cabin strips and the square with triangle pattern I had used at the Women's Conference earlier in the year. I would let them choose and make whatever they liked in whatever size they had time for.

The setting of the first day class was much to my liking. There were low tables with the women sitting on the floor.
That was perfect for me because I am a floor-sitter and you can move around comfortably from person to person.

We set up a few tables to hold supplies and some later arrivals sat at those tables with chairs.

The next thing, that made me feel more comfortable, was the majority of these women were my own generation, hovering a few years one side or the other of 80. Growing up in hard times gives you plenty of experience with "making do". Though I had wished I could show up with lots of fancy fabrics, what I did take worked well enough.

Interestingly, I was the only left-hander in the room for both of the classes. That was not all that bad because I can show people how to do things working up-side-down. Once the bias is begun in the right direction and the first corner is turned, each new corner re-enforces the lesson.

Looking at the choice for the second project, every single person selected the square in a square. I had not prepared enough of those so I was able to show the women how to use sandpaper and a template to mark the fabric. I let them select their own choice of solids and prints. They learned how to draw the quilt pattern they selected on to the center piece and found suitable fabric in the scrap donations for the backing.

A volunteer came to help and she was very good at helping them select colors that went well together. The volunteer in the above picture is a British lass who spoke Japanese quite well but was just learning the basics along with the class.

The volunteers in the orange vests set up the ironing board and helped the women select and cut the backing as well as the batting.

Here, they are trying different fabrics.

I was kept pretty busy going around the tables so did not have much time for taking photos.

There was a young man there who took many photos and videos. In the evenings he was editing them all into some kind of presentation.

These women were quite familiar with basting.

Turning the backing and folding the corners was a familiar technique used in making kimono or yukata. It even has a name. The younger generations would not know how but the older women could show them how to do it.

Here is the first group at the end of the day.

Everyone seemed happy with the project.

I heard that the next day they got together again and finished up their projects.

I went back to the hostel that night and cut more bias and more triangles from some of the donated pieces of fabric so as to be ready for the next day.

The second day went much like the first except the participants were all seated at tables like in the picture above.  Each activity room is like the other in every housing area. There are 60 compounds of these temporary housing and 2000 of these temporary homes.

This activity room was gaily decorated with large carp streamers, inscribed with encouraging messages.

An elderly gentleman came in during the activity, hoping to find something else going on and a cup of tea. While some were telling him that his desired activity was another time, Reverend Iwatsuka kindly invited him to the room in the background for a cup of tea and some talk.

After two years in these "temporary" shelters, the women are good at building community ...probably even without quilting. It is the men who are now without work and connections to former friends, scattered all over the 60 locations, who stay at home, maybe drink, and have little to keep them occupied.

Whereas Adachi-san had prepared a lunch for the first group, these women took a break and went home for lunch.

They soon returned and seemed to be enjoying talking and working.

I did not get a group picture at the end but I did grab my camera for a few table shots along the way.

 Just turning the binding on this and it looks very nice.

A little different quilt pattern... oh, they took the rest of the patterns for later use so I'm glad we had many copies.

And, this  quilter used two different colors of thread and very teeny-tiny stitches.

This quilter chose to quilt outside the ditch  and picked a ring of hearts.
I also showed them how they could fold paper and cut it to make their own designs, just like my little granddaughter does. We laid some together so they could see the possibilities of joining blocks for something larger like a table runner or place mats.

All in all, I think the classes were a success. I was asked to return and do it in other areas. two out of sixty is just a drop in the bucket. I think that next time it will be a bit easier to prepare.
I took my paper diary which they could look through. I took the log cabin sample I had prepared and turned it into a glasses case.

Leaning over the tables did not make my back very happy, so I was glad that was the last day.

We reversed the trip back to Tokyo, car to the bus station, bus to the train to Tokyo, and local train to home ... just in time to dump my stuff and go to choir practice. Friday I re-packed and went out to Cub Camp where I taught little boys to make things of leather. (and parents, to help but not do it for them). The weather was beautiful ... just right for young Scouts. Nikko went with me, as she loves camping and open spaces and people willing to play with her.

Late Saturday night I excused myself after the campfire and Leader's Roundtable and drove back home in time to grab a wee bit of sleep before heading off Sunday for a date with Mozart and an evening Boy Scout event.
I was so tired at the end of the day that I got on the train going in the wrong direction by mistake and had to retrace my route to get home. (Then I rode past my stop and had to head back) I don't do that very often! Good thing it was not the last train of the day.

The take-along work was a fine distraction from other worries and the owl got wings.

Now I have to add the feet and the tail.

I think he enjoyed the trip and gained a few admirers.

This morning began with the regular early morning rice delivery ... another week has begun ... this one, hopefully, a bit less hectic.

A week's worth of cleaning, dog hair accumulation, plant tending, and the like awaits my attention and mid morning brought a go-to-meeting with all my precious chicks and chicklets, the youngest celebrating her fourth birthday.
For all the frustrations of the computer age, there are rewards as well.  Right Tanya? (she got a virtual graduation this week).

I am grateful to all my blogging friends for their ideas, their encouragement and support and the prayers that carried me through. A week with no internet was possible, knowing you would be here to meet me upon my return.

As to Tohoku, Two years is a long time for "temporary" and as yet the new building has not begun. The land, not yet cleared. Many lost their homes but still have mortgages to pay and no jobs ... I understand that situation, but at least we have a house. As memories of the tsunami grow old and dim, thousands of people are facing challenges with no end in sight. How many can begin again at age 80? There is much to ponder and pray for. The surface has been barely scratched.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Quilt trip to Tohoku part 1

I returned from the quilt trip last night and will soon be leaving for cub camp. I want to share  few things but do not have much time for a long post.

After our early morning delivery of rice balls to the homeless in Shibuya, We returned home to pick up my bags for the trip. My husband came along as far as Tokyo Station and carried one of the bags and made sure I found the right train.

Here is our train. This model is the "Hayabusa" or Peregrine Falcon. My companion, Adachi-san, and I boarded this train in the morning at Tokyo Station for the first leg of the journey.

The train took us as far as Morioka, North of Sendai and the Prefectural seat of Iwate Perfecture. Iwate was one of the two hardest hit prefectures by the tsunami.

Tokyo Union Church has three "sister" churches in the Tohoku region, one of which is Miyako Community Church. My trip had been arranged between Adachi-san and Iwatsuka-sensei, the pastor of that church. This church is independent and thus, not supported by other denominations.
Iwatsuka-sensei, two years since the disaster, has been more involved in community service than in his own church affairs. Thus, the quilting activity was set up to serve the community.

From Morioka, we took a local bus, several hours further to the towards the coastal area of Miyako, where the damage was hardest. Reverend Iwatsuka picked us up at the bus terminal and drove us around, showing the damaged areas and the place where the classes were to be held the following day.

One can still see the base settings of the houses that were washed away by the tsunami. The school building in the distance was inundated on the first floor.

Iwatsuka-sensei showed us the plans for reforming the city, but those have not yet begun. The space at the upper right of the signboard is the area where the new housing will be built but the land has not yet been cleared or work begun.

The main road will be re-built further inland.
There will be no buildings in that disaster area.
The port area will have a higher sea-wall and the broken sections will be replaced using a stronger design with a wider base.

The section wrapped with the blue tarp is what is left of the sea-gate, and in the background you can see the concrete sections left behind when the sea-wall was breached.

To the upper right are the buildings of a fish-processing factory built after the disaster.

This is one view of the "temporary" housing where the evacuees have been living.

Each housing area had a small community meeting room. This is the place my classes were to be taught.

When my weekend activities are over, I will share with you the class experience, but before I end here, I wanted to share one other facet of the trip.

In Japan, we are very sensitive to the changing of seasons. Whether early or late, spring marches in in an orderly fashion. Late winter brings the Camellia, February the Plum and Apricot blossoms open in turn, then the Sweet Daphne and the Daffodils. Even each variety of Cherry has a time to be enjoyed without competition from other blossoms.

I really didn't know what clothing to pack because the area had had snow just a week or so earlier, so I was stunned to arrive to a place where spring was in "attack mode". It seems all those blossoms had waited so long to spring forth that they couldn't wait and take turns.

 Every variety of Cherry was in competition with its neighbor.

These were mixed with plum and peach.
Kerria and Azaleas,

Magnolias in the garden with Daffodils at their feet,

Baby's Breath in the background,

Flowering quince, putting on a show



Tulips in all sizes and colors,

And high on the hill-side, wild Wisteria, festooning the trees.

And, cheering them on, the voice of the Bush Warbler, in Tokyo, a harbinger of Spring.

BUT, mixed with that, the voice of the Little Cuckoo,
which usually arrives in the Tokyo area in June, in time to parasitize the Bush Warbler's second breeding.

After a busy day of travel, we spent the night (and the following nights) at this hostel, the Hokumin House, a volunteer housing center, donated by the Hokkaido Christian Network.
(In front is one of the two Chinese missionaries from Arizona, who spent a night there, and attended the quilting session as well.

Accommodation was fairly quiet and comfortable as I am accustomed to sleeping on futons, but my brain could not shut off as I anticipated the following days of teaching ... would my Japanese be adequate ... had I prepared well enough ...  would I meet the expectations of the group?  Knowing of the sincere prayers of my friends, I finally was able to grab a few hours of rest.
More to follow......

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Take-along work

My owl is flying along with me these days.
I'm pinning the blocks together in rows. They go into a little baggie and all I need is my cutting disc and the pin cushion that goes on my finger like a ring. Can you see it? It was made for me by one of my quilting friends. (A walnut shell with a ruffle of yellow and a brown plaid cushion in the middle). There is a adjustable ring glued to the back. I have another pin cushion that fastens around my wrist but I really don't need that many pins.

The above strips are the wings. I honestly think it takes more time to find and cut scraps than it does to sew them together.

This weekend and the coming week I will have no time for prep. Tonight I will be at camp for an Order of the Arrow weekend. Since I have to sing on Sunday morning, I will return late Saturday night.

I'm not sure of my duties for the "OA" work and ceremonies, but since I was Lodge Adviser for six and a half years, there will be a number of places I can be of use.

One thing will be getting ready for the following weekend where I will be teaching crafts at Cub Camp.

Most of my time has been spent getting ready for the trip to Tohoku. I will leave Monday morning after returning from rice delivery. (that means ... by the mobile sardine can). The first part will be by train and the second by bus.

The classes will take place all day Tuesday and Wednesday, then I will reverse the trip to Tokyo in time for choir practice Thursday night ... the last one before our big performance Sunday. ... and then re-pack my stuff for Cub camp.

I wish I could feel more excited about the quilting lessons. I have prepared several lessons that should cover all the basics ... Yes, like a Scout, I like to be prepared. The big worry is that I have no idea of what the expectations are. If it is just to learn a new hobby, I think I can handle it ... even with my miserable Japanese skills. If they are looking for something they can sell ... well I sure am not getting rich quilting, and I have been doing it a long time. I hope I will return with a good report and some pictures. I know there will be no internet connection at Camp and I have no idea about Tohoku. How will I survive without my blogging friends? What will Nikko get into when I am away? If I leave my windows open, will my husband remember to close them if it rains or will I return to flooded bedding? If I leave the windows shut, will my plants cook in the day-time heat? (a greenhouse can get pretty darn hot on a sunny day).

This is what will be happening while I am away. These flowers are volunteers along my little ally.

Each time I walk by, I pull weeds from this tiny strip where the pavement meets the wall.

Both of these flowers grow from tiny bulbs. When a section of the wall was replaced, I re-distributed the bulbs and now there is a nice strip of color along the entire length.  These are what I had planted in the hole outside my entry. Too bad the neighbor prefers bare concrete because these look quite pretty and last a long time. The damage to the wall post happened during the earthquake but the wall held upright. The wall on the other side lost almost all of its stucco finish at that time. That is why you are told not to stand near a wall if you run outside during a quake. Well, the place I am going has suffered much more than a cracked wall.

I hope I will have something positive to post next.

Friday, May 10, 2013

All kinds of progress

Yesterday, my daughter was able to visit the owl at the vet.

The vet donated his time and talent to this owl, performing surgery on the broken wing and it seems the owl is doing well.

When the wing heals, the owl will go to a nature center while it's feathers grow back and, if it can fly, will be released back into the wild. If it can't fly, it will be cared for at the center.

Here is my granddaughter, Leia, paying the owl a visit.

She had been to the "owl park" near Mt Fuji in November where there were many species of owls on display and even an "Owl Show" and owls to hold on a gloved hand. None of those were domestic.

On this visit she has joined her mother and grandmother and a caring neighbor and vet, learning the importance of caring for all God's creatures, that there is always someone out there that can help, you only need to keep looking.

What sounded like just another sad story a week ago has turned around, not just for the owl, but everyone who had a part.

This owl appears to be an "aobazuku" or Brown Hawk Owl.

The "Fukuro", Ural Owl, is the most common variety but there are a few of these in the Tokyo area and I have seen and heard them frequently on Miyake island.

And the owl baby quilt  has now taken charge of his own progress,
Supervising from the entry-way door.

He is now getting some chest feathers.

Once that section is done, he will get some wings.

Then I will have to audition fabrics for the background and borders.

I have all kinds of blue scraps if I decide to put sky, and also many leaf prints. It will depend mostly on what will not hide the owl.

And today ... Ta daa! ... a new star has joined my block collection!

About a week ago, I had a message from Tanya at Taniwa, asking if I would mind if she made me a block for my followers quilt.

Mind?  You gotta be kidding!
Here is what she made for me ... Isn't it fantastic!

Those who have visited the Toshogu Shrine in Nikko would recognize the sleeping cat right away. Tanya paper-pieced this cat and even added the star points. Yes, that block has Tanya written all over it! I absolutely love that little kitty. I could never have done this with a four-inch block.

I am hoping one of these days Tanya and I will meet in person. Certainly our trails have overlapped a great deal. When my son took my paper diary and put it onto a blog, I was away at the BSA Jamboree and arrived back at his home to be introduced to my new paperless diary. To make it look more authentic, he put up a sidebar of other quilt bloggers ... and right on top was "Taniwa".
So ... we have been linked from day one ... making Tanya my longest blogging friend! (Thanks Jon. Great pick)! This is not the first gift I have received from Tanya either. I have a beautiful table runner she sent me too. Also with this charming kitty, she sent me a doggy handkerchief, No note but the piece is sponsored by the "Japan Small Animal Veterinary Association" to encourage the recovery from the earthquake and Tsunami.

Like the vet who helped the owl, there are other kind and compassionate vets,giving help where needed ... and good citizens supporting their efforts by buying cute doggy hankies.
Thank you, Tanya. I am blessed by your friendship.

My collection is growing ... even though I have slacked off a bit.

(I am finding I have a serious shortage of pink fabric and that is what I need for my next block).
I am not going to buy more fabric so more digging is in order.

I just love how these blocks are getting along with each other. Quilt bloggers are the greatest! Even their blocks are welcoming new ones.

Setting them out on the table is like going to a party.

Even when safely in their box, they seem to be having fun while awaiting one more quilter to join the group.

And, although children's day is over ... and probably everyone else has put away their decorations for another year, this table runner asked to be left out a wee bit more.

It is very old. Made from a tenugui in an age where we had a big house with a huge dining room table. It is even older than my paper diary so has never been added to the story of my quilts. From May 1 to May 5 is just too short exposure for a carp that has been hiding on a closet shelf for eleven months!

Enjoy your weekend. I know I will.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The owls have their day

The owls are getting top billing today.

Saturday morning, I had a phone call from my #3 daughter living in the outskirts of Tokyo. Her neighbor had found an injured owl. It was in a cardboard carton in her house and looking poorly. She was wondering what to do.

I have had experience long ago with bird rescue and knew since it was a public holiday weekend, the bird park would be open and someone there would be able to give advice.

My husband made several phone calls and was able to locate a person who could advise the neighbor what to do. After passing the information to my daughter, who then passed it on to her friend,  the lady was able to talk to the specialist and get advice. Another call Sunday informed me the owl had survived the night, and another call Monday let me know the owl had taken some food and was looking better.

This was a long holiday because, since one of the big days fell on Sunday, the whole holiday extended through Monday. Luckily, the owl made it through and today's call let me know the owl was on it's way to a vet and will be taken care of. If it's broken wing heals, it will be rehabilitated and released and if it cannot mend, it will become part of an educational exhibit.

I am so happy the owl has made it this far and will get the care it needs. I'm so glad for my daughter and husband who dropped everything to help out, and that the neighbor took the advice. Everyone, the adults, and the children have learned how to find the best advice and must be happy for a positive outcome.

From early childhood I have had a special relationship with owls. Usually, it is the owl helping me, so it is a blessing for once to do something to return the favor.

Now, you may have seen the project above in the picture. This is the beginning of a baby quilt. My son and his wife are also "owl people" so an owl quilt is called for, and since July is not all that far off, I needed to get going. I had drafted a pattern on graph paper long ago but just couldn't find that drawing. Finally I got out another notebook and drew a new pattern. I have travel and meetings coming up and sewing two-inch squares together is fine take-along work. News of the owl's rescue came right at the beginning of this start. A good omen? Maybe so.  At least, I have another owl story to add to my collection,

Friday, May 3, 2013

Scraps + scraps x scraps = quilt

Finally, a photo shoot!

First I had a very hard time finding a fence that was wide enough and tall enough to hang this quilt.

It is 93 x 93 inches in size.
Our local park has sections that are too narrow and the posts are on the inside. I gave up on that idea.

My second  favorite spot is just too low. So... I put my quilt and my step ladder into my back bike basket and set off for the river where there are some parks and ball fields.

I found this sunny spot, but when I hung the quilt up, the ginkgo tree cast a shadow along the top edge. Also the wind kept blowing the quilt out like a tent fly. Kids on bikes were riding underneath. Not so good.

I decided to go farther down the river and see if there might be another fence that would work.

Here is that picture. I think the sun shows off the color better and there is a little competition with a plant on the right but, for the most part, I am satisfied. I am almost tempted to drive out to my old neighborhood where there were many high chain-link fences around several ball fields and I had a choice of sun or shade.

I am pretty sure I will try this pattern again,  making larger blocks and not using sashing. I stopped by the rice store to show the finished quilt to the owner who had so kindly let me use her floor for basting. She was as happy to see the finished quilt as I  was to have it finished.

No excuse now not to begin the baby quilt and get  ready for the Tohoku trip. (Of course I can always begin another star if I need some procrastination).......

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A star on a sunny day

I am really finding respect for all those "Dear Jane" quilts out there, with a vast inventory of four-inch blocks!

I thought this block would be great fun. I looked up "Wandering Foot" in some of my quilt block books, and this is what I found.

I drafted a pattern on a 4x4 piece of paper and pulled out some nature prints. Hmmm, those pieces are mighty small and my prints are rather large.

Oh well, on with the plan.

16 tiny curved seams later ... I am wondering if I have bitten off a great deal more than I can chew.
Why am I saving those templates? I don't think I will be trying this again soon.

Hunting through my cat prints there was not one cat resembling Dusty. If you want to see him, check out the header on Quiltin Cats. Most recent pictures are sleeping on quilts so this kind of fits. 

The wandering foot represents life in an RV, trucking around the country and taking us along with beautiful photographs. The bird in the bush represents Sandy's wonderful nature shots.

Sandy and I have been blogging friends for just about as long as I have had my blog. I think of her often when I begin to complain about cramped loving space. What fun it would be if one day our paths should cross.

One more thing to celebrate is my + and X quilt is now a finish.

It is way too windy for taking a picture of something this large. Maybe later in the week there will be better conditions.

I had plenty of white bias but I didn't like the look so I decided to turn the dotted fabric from the back to the front.

I can't believe how long this quilt has taken to complete. I need to find a large washing machine now to get this quilt clean after it has spent so much time in  Scout camp, on trains, planes, buses and meetings. I look forward to seeing this on our guest room bed.