Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Onward, into the New Year

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,
"Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown".

And he replied, "Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be better than a light and safer than a known way".

For many years, I have kept a small notebook of quotes and this one seems to fit what the year ahead has to offer. There is more unknown to face than ever before in my life and it is stuff over which I have no control.

My focus word for the year is "acceptance".

The picture is what I have begun working on as a gift for the speaker at the Women's Conference at the end of January. I had one more panel , the same as I used last year. After reading the "Who am I?" sketch by Sharon Draper, our speaker, she mentions seeing rainbows where others see rain, and tells of her love of seasons. The panel contains the kanji for the seasons and I will add one more inch of color strips to the rainbow border.

Once that is done, I will quilt the kanji and ass a bible verse. At this point, I am thinking of the same verse I used last year ... To everything there is a season.....
I think the finished piece can be used as either a table runner or a wall hanging.
I really don't like the pressure of deadlines, but I think I can get this finished by the end of the month.

Last month, when I was feeling depressed at the lookout for the future, my quilting friend shared this piece with me that she had received from another friend....

"I have come to  accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going. And I have trained myself to love it. Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight.
And as we fly, we still may not know where we are going to. But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you are going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you."           Joybell

I hope I will do better this year with acceptance than I did last year with encouragement.
My notebook will be a good reminder.
Warmest wishes for the New Year to all my blogging friends.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Last finish of the year...

This was probably the oldest UFO ever to be dug out and finished. This doll quilt was begun well over twenty years ago while I still had children playing with these dolls. Over the years it had been set aside and almost forgotten until Leia began playing with the dolls each visit.

I was reminded of my own childhood, playing with my mother's doll, Lily, each and every visit to my grandmother's house. Lily had a lovely wooden cradle and her own bedding where she could wait comfortably between visits.

With a twin brother, and another brother four years younger, I spent my hours with my dolls. They were my playmates and best friends. I sewed clothing for them and took them everywhere. My sisters were so much younger and though they may have played with dolls, certainly never to the degree that I did. We had adventures!

When I was no longer playing with my Lily, my grandmother had a visit from someone looking for antiques to buy, and talked my grandmother into selling her Lily and the bed. My mother was very upset when she found out. She had three dolls (I was named for her doll, Carol, as my middle name but never allowed to even touch that doll). Somewhere, she found a reproduction doll similar to Lily.

I was recruited to make a dress for the new Lily.

Here she sits on the new quilt. I have removed the dress and petticoats now because I see they are badly in need of a wash.

After my mother died, my father brought the three dolls to a family reunion for us three girls to pick one. My sisters got first choice and the Lily stand-in was all that was left. I have never seen or held the other two and I don't know which sister has Carol. Of course my sisters don't know either because they were not as obsessed as I was with dolls. They only know they got a real antique and I got the stand-in.

The two dolls Leia plays with, I made many years ago when my own girls were small. The head is made of paper mache. Once, one of the children bit the nose off of the girl doll, and I had to re-build her face.

When the dolls were made, their bodies were sewed of deerskin. About seven or eight years ago, the leather began to fall apart so I bought some cotton to replace the leather.

The arms and legs are carved out of wood. That wood came from old wooden sliding doors from our house as they were being repaired. The size of the pieces limited the size of the doll's feet.

I note that the ceramic feet on Lily are also small in size so I rather guess someone not knowing their history might think they are vintage too.

When I was growing up, if you wanted something, you figured out how to make it. I began sewing clothing for my dolls at age four, as they came with only what they were wearing when purchased, and needed changes for other occasions. These dolls also have many changes.

Now Annabelle and Bert will finally have their own bed cover when Leia comes to play.

I noticed they were changed into night clothing and then back into different clothing while Leia was last here.

I'm sure Bert was glad to get out of his tuxedo into something more relaxing to face the new year.

As for the "quilt", I do not recall where the fabric came from. It is just a print that was quilted along the lines in the design. The batting was very primitive, bought before the days that quilting became popular in Japan.

As the new year nears, everyone is in preparation mode. Spring cleaning cannot wait until spring. One must go into the new year with great preparation. I saw my neighbor out scrubbing his window screens today. My windows could use a bit of attention too ... but maybe I had better begin on a quilted gift for the Women's Conference speaker ... just a month away ... and unlike the doll quilt, there is a deadline.

Monday, December 23, 2013

December book club block is finished.

Considering all the trouble I had drafting this feathered star for a twelve inch block, I am satisfied... and a little surprised at how nicely all those little pieces went together. Yes, fabric is forgiving.

I considered doing some applique in the corners, but I think I like it as is.

If you read "The Christmas Quilt" by Jennifer Chiaverini, you will understand the significance of the eight-pointed star with red tips, and the feather star block. It is a fairly easy read, since I have managed to finish it within the month. My copy was sent me by my elder son and also includes "The New Year's Quilt" which I have almost finished. I am enjoying the Quilter's Book Club reads and some day may even have a reading quilt to snuggle in.

Yesterday was "mochi pounding" with the Scouts. Every year the Japanese Scouts invite our group to their Taito group 4 event.

Rice is steamed and then pounded in these "usu", mortars made from tree trunks. The sticky paste then goes into delicious soup or is eaten with an assortment of garnishes such as seaweed or bean paste.
The American scouts take Christmas cookies to share and we enjoy the cultural exchange, We even get some mochi to take home and we enjoyed some with our breakfast soup.

 There is a bit of seasonal entertainment on the temple stairs.

There was singing (I led one song ... repeat-after-me ... with lots of motions), and some presentations and speeches.

Many members of my Cub Pack travel over the holidays so we bring in other packs from the Tokyo Zone to share the festivities.

I don't remember how long ago we began this activity, but probably from the beginning of the current emperor's reign, 25 years ago, as this event is held on the emperor's birthday which is a national holiday.

The first three scouters in this picture and the lady just left of me have been my friends for all those years. The young man with arms folded is my Committee Chairman and assistant Cubmaster and the reason I still survive as a leader at all.

One benefit of the long ride there and back was time to finish the next bit of Gala quilt homework.

Too bad I only had eight blocks to complete. Other members of the group also took blocks to work on and this is all I could gather up. They look a bit washed out on the sunny floor of my greenhouse bedroom.

The turkey has flown in the door. Several church services await my singing, and tomorrow promises to be a busy day with family and friends'

Here's wishing a Blessed Christmas to my blogging friends.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Where did the week go?

I had promised my little assistant that this weekend, we would make Christmas cookies.

She arrived Friday evening and, after dinner, we mixed up the cookie dough to chill overnight and she dressed the dolls in their nightwear so they could get a good sleep and be ready to enjoy the Saturday activity.

Since my kitchen is really too tight a fit for more than one person at a time, after breakfast we cleared the dining room table to make enough room for our cookie factory.

I dug out the box of cookie cutters and Leia looked them over, deciding which ones would be good for the season.

We made "painted cookies". I mixed an egg yolk with food coloring, red, yellow, blue, and since I was all out of green, mixed blue and yellow on the forth cup.

Each color got one paintbrush and the colors were painted on the cookies once I had them cut and on the cookie sheet.

In addition to the painting, there were all kinds of sprinkles to add.

HOWEVER, these were not sprinkled but carefully placed on each cookie.

It is expected that a child can work on a project for about as many minutes as they are years old, but this is the kid who started taking the ornaments off the tree so she could keep doing the trimming.

We made a double recipe so there were cookies for Leia to take home and some for me to take to the Scout activity tomorrow... and a few to keep and eat here.

We actually spent hours decorating cookies and even the very last cookie was given attention down to the last detail.

Yes, I had to paint a few too. After all, I needed some to take tomorrow, and Norie shared some of the rolling and cutting and decorating, or we would have taken all night.

While I was cleaning up, Leia went off to the corner rice shop to take some cookies to that special neighbor.

The cookies were carefully packed for travel, after sampling a few. Leia has friends in her neighborhood to share with too.

Yes, I think there will be enough to share.  See how many she made? Yes, every expertly made cookie in that box!

I'll bet it won't take a fraction of the time it took to make them, for a bunch of Scouts to finish these off!

Today was not all that much quieter. Church choir, caroling in front of the church, and the walk to the bus stop.

This is how the street in front of our church looks during the daytime without the lighting.

The church is just the other side of Louis Vuitton.

And this is who was walking past, enjoying the singing.

Well, I doubt they came for the singing....
Perhaps it was a dog party of some kind because as I was about to put me camera away, along came another group.

 There were a few little dogs but most were huskies. I don't think a dog with so much fur needed all that fancy clothing.

Now that the activities are over until tomorrow, I had time to work on my book club block.

While reading Jennifer Chiaverini's "The Christmas Quilt" I decided to make an eight pointed star.

Then, as I was reading "An Elm Creek Quilts Companion", which was sent to me by StarwoodQuilter
our book club organizer, I found a picture of the feathered star featured in the story, and decided to make that one for my book club block.

Looking through my patterns, I found no instructions for a 12 inch feathered star. I decided I would draft my own pattern... but that is not as easy as I thought it would be... and what a lot of tiny pieces! I drew it out on a 12 inch square of paper. Then I traced the segments on to yellow plastic to make templates. Because the pattern was hand drawn, none of the segments in the drawing were the same size. Well, I figured fabric is forgiving and I would pick the most even segment and use that for a template. Well, so far, so good.

Now I need to draft the center which will be the paisley fabric. I have been thinking about this and finally I think I have a plan that will work. If I make a circle, four inches in diameter and divide it into eight sections, then cut straight from one section to the next one, it should make an octagon that will fit those points.  I am lousy at math but if it works, my block for December might actually be finished before the month is out.

I may add some applique in the corners, but then again, maybe I should stop while I am ahead.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday activities and a new book block

Our church has two services every Sunday and an afternoon "Praise" service once a month. Made up of people from different countries and different Christian traditions, other than the English language (spoken in a variety of accents), it is the center of a hodge-podge of activity.

Yesterday, our choir was scheduled to sing at the first service ... which meant catching the train to town as close to seven as possible.

Of course, after singing, I wanted to attend the second service because the children were putting on a Christmas program in place of the children's message.... and what a fine job they did too, including a drama and singing.

Then, after the second service, there was caroling on the front steps of the church. Well, I had to stay for that, of course.

Then, at four, there was a "Family Concert" put on by the embassy choir. My Cub Scouts were coming so I needed to stay for that and certainly not enough time to go home and come back.

Luckily, I had cut pieces for my next book block. They were packed in a zip-lock baggie and I could spend time doing a bit of sewing. THEN, after the pieces were almost all together, I found that the total look was just too pink looking. The more I looked, the more I thought I needed a touch of green ... so I spent some time un-sewing and finished up the wait by reading my next book club book.

By the time the concert was over, I headed home alone. Donations from the concert were to go to the church's homeless mission, which Paul is in charge of, so he had things to take care of before returning. It was dark by then and the trees along the avenue were lit for shoppers to enjoy.

This would be a wonderful place for taking pictures, BUT
there are guards everywhere keeping people from stopping in the middle of the crosswalk to take pictures.

Over the street, there are several overhead walk-overs. but standing at the bottom on both sides of the street, are guards keeping people from going up on that bridge. (A perfect place to enjoy the scene and take pictures).

I can understand that it might be dangerous to have too many people on the bridge at any given time, but certainly the guards could control numbers to only ten at a time or whatever they consider safe. I can't see much point in just sanding in front of a roped off stairs doing nothing but guarding the sign that says no passing.

It probably hinders the shopping as well because there are very few level crossings.

A family friend took this picture of me with the walk-over behind.

For a number of years, the lights were not put up. The story I heard was that there was concern for the Zelkova trees.

Of course, the lighting brings many, many people into the area and the stores were not happy to have no lights.

About two or three years ago, the lighting was resumed.

It was rather late for dinner by the time I got home and I had to wait for Paul, so I went up to my light green scrap bin to pull out fabrics that might work with my book block.

The book club book for November was "Aunt Jane of Kentucky" by Eliza Calvert Hall.

I had begun reading the book on line but was having a lot of trouble trying to read on a computer screen.

Luckily, my son sent me a paper copy and I was able to start over and enjoy the book.

The last story in the book is called "Gardens of Memory" and probably my favorite of all because I grew up in a garden. My dad was a metallurgical engineer but he had a life-long passion for roses, which he photographed and hybridized as well.

Each chapter/story in the book includes mention of Aunt Jane's garden. Also mentioned is a "garden house". There is not a description of that garden house, but we had a screened-in porch-type garden house where I grew up. As a kid, sometimes we slept out in that "house" with critters all around, as we were on the very edge of a wooded park, the Euclid Creek Reservation.

This block I found in "5,500 Quilt Block Designs" by Maggie Malone, a gift from my #2 daughter.
Called "Garden Gazebo", it seemed fitting and I could use more than two or three fabrics... my criteria, since I want to include the paisley fabric. The rejected pieces are off to the side and I included fabric from the tree quilt made very long ago. (my memories as well as Aunt Jane's)

When I looked for my pattern to cut new triangles, this is what I found...

Well, a big dog with separation anxiety must have been unhappy being left home alone from early morning to late evening.

This was the only pattern piece left!

Well, I probably won't make this block again anyway.

Decorating the table for a late dinner was this Christmas Cactus.

The pale pinkish white flowers have a thin red line in the center.

This is an interesting pot of flowers because this flower is on the green segments.

The thinner reddish sections are from a different plant and you can see a small red bud at the tip of one segment on the left.

When sections get broken off, I often stick them into the dirt in the same pot. When someone else breaks them, and I find them on the floor, I sometimes stick them in the wrong pot. I guess that is what happened here. Well, we will get an early Christmas in pink and a later one in red ... all in one pot!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Going to the "Gala"

Our group is far behind the curve in making the auction quilt for the Gala.

After a meeting last week, we decided to re-visit the Japanese fans.

The theme of the gala is the "Great Gatsby" We considered a Mondrian type pattern but that would have taken a lot more meetings to put together.

Next year is "the year of the horse" and the school team is "Mustangs" but a large black horse across the quilt would have also taken more time than we have left to work with. Our 2005 quilt was the fan design. A lot of the work can be taken home and worked on by the team members.

Last week, we met again with a bit larger group and pulled out Japanese prints and coordinated solids. These are the six that I took home to assemble. We will add the corners when we have the blue background purchased and marked.

Do you see the fish print? That came to me from one of our quilters who has left up, returning to the states. (Cynthia, we all thought longingly of you as we marked that section. You will always be a part of our worker-bees)

After many gusty days, things calmed down and I took this old quilt to the park for a photo. Maybe the sun is too bright because the green fabrics look rather grey. This quilt, "Sunny Glade" was made back in 1990, and one of my earlier quilts. I had no idea what I was doing  I had seen a tree hanging in a local store and liked the scrappy trees. I made a quick sketch (as I often do of ideas I like) and drafted the pattern in seven inch blocks.

I had been thinking of grading the background from the yellow to gradually darker greens but when it came time to put the blocks together, they came to a bigger challenge than I was ready for and I ended up adding sashing. In the end, the quilt turned out to be 6'3 x 8'3 and was too large to be used on my daughter's futon.

There are some blue fabrics that came from one of my cub scouts whose mother was a member of the International Quilters of Tokyo, a group I ended up joining (now down to only a few aging members).

This color shot is a bit closer but still not quite as green.

I didn't want to make a seasonal quilt but if you look closely, you may find a few trees in Christmas fabric.

My granddaughter, Leia, came over the weekend and helped me decorate our little tree.

After putting on one little box of pieces, she began to take them off so she could do it again. Can you guess how much she was looking forward to this activity?

She was very happy when I came up with two more boxes of ornaments.

My table has lost some of it's space but we are now feeling very festive.

Next week, my little assistant will come back to help me make and decorate cookies.

Note Leia dressed the boy doll in a tuxedo for the photo. Those dolls get lots of loving and clothes changing each time she comes, and even get to sleep in a real bed.

I hope you are all having fun making holiday preparations too.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Another book club block

Our Quilter's Book Club book for October was "State Fair", by Earlene Fowler. I finished to book some time ago but only had time to think about the block to represent this book in odd moments between other activities.

I am hoping eventually to assemble all these twelve-inch blocks into a quilt. I have so far been able to include at least one piece of paisley in each block. That fabric is mostly a rather dark red, and while I like it, I would like to have the end quilt a wee bit more colorful.

Looking through several books of block patterns, I find many of them are limited to just two or three colors. The block named "State Fair" had few colors and I ended up with a block named "Mystery Block". However, when I put that block together, I was not very happy with the rather bland result. I decided to substitute the center four inch piece with a four inch version of the "State Fair" block. It was rather fussy to draft in four inches and I am not a big fan of un-sewing, but I do like the end results.

The colors don't show so well in the four-patch but I am more satisfied than I was with the tan paisley center square.

November is over but I have not yet finished the book. I have been struggling to read the stories on my computer but .... Yesterday morning, things began to look up considerably. My birthday gift from my son, Ken, arrived in the mail .... and included was the paper copy of "Aunt Jane of Kentucky", November's read. I have started back at the beginning and this time am enjoying that book. I have yet to think of a block but that will come in time.

The December read? Yes, that was in the box as well. In fact, I'm all set for the winter, thanks to my son who knows how I love to read.