Friday, August 29, 2014

Interesting activities

Those who have been reading my posts for a year or more may remember that each year I have made a banner for the church foyer on a theme selected for the year.

It all began five years ago when it was decided to hold a "Rally Day" ... kind of a church equivalent to back-to-school night ... In September  members begin to return from holidays in their own countries and newly assigned-to-Tokyo-expats and students arrive, looking for a church home.

Once upon a time, the Stewardship Ministry team began an event to introduce those people (and even more long-term members) to activities and service opportunities within the church community. We chose a theme, created a booklet with activity descriptions and contacts, and held a rally where members could answer questions about those activities. (and maybe even join in or contribute).

The committee at the first event created a very large paper "poster" and taped it to the wall in the entry foyer ... patio ... genkan ... a covered area between the outside and inner doors. Well, that poster stayed for a whole year becoming torn and very ratty. Therefore, the next year, being on the stewardship committee, I offered to make a banner which might be more attractive and hold up better.

The past four years I have worked with the committee and helped by making a banner each year. Often I am handed a design made by someone else and had to tweak it to make it work. Often all four banners are hung in a row in the entry.

BUT ... being the church of the revolving door, people come and go and duties and events are passed from one person or group to another and the resulting changes become rather confusing.

The new "Stewardship" Elder does not like that term and has changed it to "Discipleship". We are to go out and bring in members ... forget about managing the church resources and finances. SO, that Elder found out I had been making a banner every year and Thursday I had an e-mail asking for a banner with the theme, "Become  part of the fabric of TUC" Well, the time is a bit short but I said I would do my best. Actually, I found it a bit of an exciting challenge because the membership comes from all over the world and I began to go through my stash hunting up printed cottons from all over, India, Africa, Britain, Australia. China, Indonesia, and woven cottons rough and fine from all over. I cut out 63 four-inch squares, and though it was a hodge-podge of unrelated colors and patterns, sewed them together for the banner background.

The church had recently changed their logo so  I thought the addition of that ... along with the words might make an interesting hanging.

Meanwhile, Friday, another e-mail came from the Elder asking about the dimensions and configuration of the proposed banner. As this person attends TUC regularly, I was a bit taken by surprised that over the past four years, none of the banners has been taken note of by that person. I therefore explained the history and results of the past five years. Then, I went back to work on the project.

OH NO! I got another e-mail last night saying that person wanted the entire phrase, arranged in a certain manner(two lines)! Suddenly the seven words with 26 appliqued two-inch letters was to become fifteen words with 67 appliqued letters ... meaning they would all have to be an inch high or less in order to get them to fit. Now, if that person could pass by those banners every Sunday and not see a banner saying "Many Hands, One Body" how would someone stop and read fifteen words in small print? Going on would be a waste if time and energy.

I apologized for my miss-understanding in reply e-mail and my husband offered to make that person a large poster with the preferred design and wording. Today a response came back that someone else will do the artwork, Paul is off the hook, and if I finish up the banner, they will find a place to put it.

The pressure is off. I will finish this as I wish, knowing there are many who pass by and never notice those hangings. I may as well satisfy my own artistic ideas and there will be one person satisfied ... well, maybe two because my husband thought it was a win as well. Sometimes I wonder if God is looking down and scratching His head ... or even laughing at what His "disciples" come up with.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Look what flew in!

Today I had a surprise in the post ... flying in all the way from Massachusetts.

My good friend, CynthiaA Quilter by Night has just upped my supply of choice needles.

Of course there is a bit of a story to go with this lovely gift ... Cynthia and I worked together on the ASIJ auction quilt ... in fact, that is where we first met in person.

With a number of workers coming and going, often the work was stopped in progress, the needle and thread left in place too be picked up by the next person moving in.  At one time, I moved in to take over an empty space and picked up the needle that was waiting. OH MY! I had been using English needles made by S. Thomas & Sons, size 9 betweens and liked them very much. The needle I picked up was just as good but being somewhat longer, I found it even easier to control and get small even stitches.

Of course, I was instantly taken by this change, and at the end of the session, I went to the supply box and looked through all the needles to see if I could find out where it came from. No. no other needles like it in the supply box. It was a mystery ... and stayed that way for at least half a year until we began the next year's quilt. (I have to admit I kept that needle, visiting shops and looking through whatever was for sale to see if I could find more like it).

As we began working on our next quilt, Cynthia solved the mystery for me. The needle had been hers! Before she left Tokyo, she added a few to my supply and I put them in a little pencil lead container and marked it "Special Needles". I have been very careful when using them lest I lose one. Being very bad with names, I could not remember the name of the maker ... and anyway, I was not going to find is for sale here in Tokyo.  Even the S. Thomas & Sons could only be found at one shop at the Tokyo Dome Quilt Show. I was able to buy John James "Gold'nGlide applique needles at A booth run by Mary Caesar (A Hawaiian quilter) at Tokyo Dome. Those were a bit closer to what Cynthia gave me but not the same.

Now I am back in business. At least I can be less panicked when I misplace a needle. Thank You Soooo much, Cynthia. And, as an "owl person" I think I will have to find a small frame so I can enjoy that messenger on my wall above my thread holders and needle container. Looks ready to watch with those big round eyes.

This morning my husband passed me a flyer about a quilt show beginning Wednesday at the Seibu Department Store in Ikebukuro. I don't know if photography will be allowed but I plan to go and check in out. It will last until the 4th of September so expect a report. Meanwhile, enjoy your stitching ... I know I will!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Confessions of a weed-aholic

Lest any more people think I am really nicer than I am, I need to confess that I am a weed-aholic! THERE, I have stated the truth.

Each day I sweep the street to the corner and pluck up any new weeds as I pass the weed lot on my return. I get a little exercise and take in the early morning air. The bit of community connection has also been rather satisfying.

When I was growing up, my dad had a beautiful rose garden. I loved working outside  and weeding better than the ironing, darning socks, and baby sitting, and weeding was a great excuse.

When my kids were small and we lived in NJ, I used to go out to the yard with them when they played and rather than spread chemicals on the lawn, I pulled weeds. When they played with neighbors, I chatted with other mothers and pulled weeds ... even in their yards.

When Nikko came to live with us in Suginami, I took her to the park every morning to run with other dogs for 30 minutes or so ... and while she was playing, I looked at the weeds.

The park was along the Zempuku-ji river that often overflowed during typhoons. The city was buying out property along the river as people moved. They tore down the houses and leveled the ground, then planted sod like one might see on a golf course. Then, they fenced the area off and it all went to weeds. When the weeds got tall, they came in and mowed them off, leaving the cut grass rotting on top of the sod and killing what the weeds didn't take. I have to admit, it was very hard to watch.

Then, at one point they put a low rope instead of a fence and I began to step over and pull the weeds as they came up. What a difference that made! When the grass was mowed, I picked up the clippings, loaded them into my tricycle basket and took them for disposal with the garden debris.

Nikko played and I pulled weeds. People walking by were curious, wondering what I was doing .
The park belonged to the CITY so why was I pulling weeds? Well ... look at the part the city is taking care of... If you come for flower-viewing, where would you prefer to sit? We are the city and we will have the park we deserve. And ... believe it or not, from time to time some of those passing people would bend over and pull a weed.

Now six or seven years have passed since we moved away. Nikko and I visit the park once or twice a year while my car is undergoing inspection. The place she is sitting in the picture above is about the size of a basketball court. Last year it looked pretty good but now the weeds are beginning to come back. You can see where, I pulled a few in front, that the real grass is still alive but I doubt it can keep up with the weeds with no real help.

I did note on my way through the park, two workers pulling weeds along the river and loading them into a wheelbarrow.

Notice the grass in this picture is fairly well kept.

Meanwhile, I am living now in Nerima without my daily dose of weeding ... and being a true addict ... I have a difficult time just walking to the train station.

Several times a day I walk past this crabgrass growing in front of one family's gate.

I see that now it is in bloom and soon it will be tossing seeds to the wind. As an addict, it takes all my power to walk past and leave these weeds here. Maybe in the dark of night I will gather that bunch and give it a yank.

Here is another doorstep two houses down. These weeds are even harder to deal with because they send out roots as they spread.

The house across the street from this one is fighting weeds and finally spread a plastic sheet on the ground as a solution.

We also have several vine-type weeds that take over bushes and are getting ready to bloom. I can't stop walking past these weeds so I solve the problem by either reading while walking  ... or now that my chatelaine has progressed into usefulness, stitching blocks together...

Button holes was a better solution than grommets.

I used a knitting stitch holder to add the thread and a folded piece of felt for needles and a few pins.

The scissors are on a ribbon with a button. I thought I had a smaller pair of scissors but have not been able to locate them. Well, I found two smaller pairs but they were not as sharp as I like.

I don't use scissors very often while travelling and can switch these out with my "Clover" disc cutter ... much less dangerous looking and for cutting thread it is enough.

Today I took out my container of hot pads to see how large a pocket I might need to put at the neck. The small size is 9 cm. x 5.5 cm. so it should fit nicely. Even the larger size is 13.5 x 10 cm and a pocket that size might hold the whole piece. Well, this is a slowly evolving project and may even be enough to distract my attention from the passing weeds.

So, now you know the rest of the story!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Auditioning ideas

It is now the end of a very busy week.

Five days of leading games and crafts at Vacation Bible School gave me lots of train time and sapped a lot of energy.

Of course since morning train time was also commuter time, the very thought of being able to sit was a wild dream.
Even in the "Silver Seats", which are reserved for handicapped, senior citizens, and pregnant women, there was no possibility of sitting ... in fact, one could hardly find enough room for one's feet when standing.
Had it not been so crowded, I would have loved to take a picture of what was happening in those seats. Young women putting on makeup, young men playing games on their smart phones, young people texting like crazy beneath the sigh saying "OFF" with a picture of a phone, and of course ... readers and sleepers with and without ear-buds.
I am always most amazed with those girls using eye-lash curlers or putting on eye-liner on a rocking moving train.

At any rate, I managed to assemble this much of my chatelaine during the week and decided to wear it on Friday so as to see what or where to make changes in my plan.

The glasses pocket is very handy. I used the notebook and pencil more than once. My "Clover" cutting disc was in the scissors pocket but I can wear that around my neck and there are occasions the scissors are of more use. I am thinking of where to tie a cord for scissors ... a ring above the pocket?

My thread is still in my tin and, though not too often, I have to get out the tin to cut another piece.

I put the spool on a large pin that is made for holding knitting stitches. If I add a grommet on each front, I could place that pin across and it would also keep the fronts in line.

They are pretty well balanced in weight but walking in a breeze as I did yesterday sends the sides flying. I have set grommets in leather objects but have not much experience with how they would wear in quilted fabric.

I am also thinking if I do this, I can add a small pin and needle book of felt to the other side of the pin. When I am working while travelling or in meetings, I don't really need a large number of pins or needles, but I do need to have them handier than going back to my tin.

I have not yet designed the pocket for the cool/hot pack at the back of the neck.

I was thinking that pocket could pad the neck and also be used as a pocket to hold the entire chatelaine.

I also noted that when the sides are folded, the neck area goes neatly into the pocket with the notebook.

One more thing I am hunting for with no luck is a six inch ruler. I have one that is broken but so handy. It is one inch wide and has inches on one edge and centimeters on the other. I had thought I might find such a thing here in Japan and stopped off at a lot of craft and DIY stores, but it seems, though I could find rulers in a perfect size in metal, plastic, and bamboo, there were none with inch marks. I guess all my rulers with both have been bought in the states. I have a small template I have made from plastic that I can use temporarily but I may have to visit the other side of the pond to get inches.

While thinking about where to go from here, I worked on a few more four-inch blocks.

While Leia was visiting, she sorted through my one-inch scrap box and arranged these blocks in my take-along baggie. I decided to assemble them as she has arranged them. There are a few more to go.

I have thought of turning these blocks into stars but I am already working with eight-inch star blocks. I think I will set these on point with triangles in each featured color ... maybe solids or fabrics that read "solid" with tone on tone prints. That might make it more possible to make use of the light diagonal blocks when I put the blocks together..

It has been a very hot and humid week. This is what greeted my going and coming for the week.

This volunteer lily came up this year in my bay-leaf tree's pot. I do have a few different types of lilies in the garden strip but nothing like this. The leaves are thin and spiky. At first I thought it was a weed but since it seemed to be growing like a lily, I decided to wait and see. This was the reward.

I hope you all had a few happy rewards in your week too.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Organizing handwork supplies

How do you keep all the necessities on hand while you are working?

I have a tin box about 3.5" x 5.5" x 3.5" with a clip closing and a cloth strap on one end.

Inside I carry a spool of thread, a pin cushion, a pencil, a white fabric marker, a needle case, my "Thread Heaven", several pairs of small scissors and a tiny folding ruler.

When I travel, I carry that tin in my bag along with a zip-lock holding the pieces I am working on.

I usually have a long thread on the needle and a clover cutter on a string around mt neck, but there are times I run out of thread and have to go to my tin for more supplies ... usually thread or sharp scissors or additional pins.

Even visiting with friends in a sewing group, the tin sometimes gets dumped and I have to chase the supplies across the floor, trying to make sure I am leaving nothing behind.

I have seen a number of handy fold-up kits but I am thinking of making a chatelaine that I can wear around my neck and keep things handy. The above is a sketch I made of my idea. I am wondering if anyone has such a thing. I certainly need a place to hold my glasses. Maybe the pocket at the neck could be engineered so that the whole thing would fold up inside when not in use.

I have pieced a few scrappy blocks BUT NOW is the time to put some ideas together.

If anyone out there has suggestions ... Please offer them.

My #3 daughter, Norie, and little Leia came for a few days visit. While Norie helped sort through countless piles of papa's stuff and help organize his computer room, Leia and I got to play. Pictures are a bit dark as the drapes were pulled to block out some of the hot sun.

One of my friends gifted me a few pieces of fleece fabric.

We selected a cat print and a solid orange and Leia pinned the two back-to-back.

Then I began to make six-inch  cuts about an inch wide around the edge.

Leia took each pair and tied them together with a double knot.

Those little hands were just flying and before I even made it to the end of the first side, she was at my elbow.

Somehow, I had thought this would be a longer project but I had not counted on such a fast-working assistant.

Here we are half-way done!

Isn't that a cute cat print?

Here is the finished "quilt".

It is a bit too warm for the weather we are having now but it is very soft and snugly. I suppose it will come in handy in three or four months.

After going home, Norie called to say that Leia was required as homework to write a report on several of  her summer activities.

This project was one of the subjects she picked and had quickly written a report with illustrations. I have just seen a copy of what she has produced and am glad that idea was a hit.

Monday was our 51st wedding anniversary.

Norie took this picture outside our front gate as were going out to celebrate with pizza.

Last year for our 50th, I was camping at the Jamboree so we missed the big one.

Monday after my English class, I went to a shop one of my students recommended and bought Paul a nice light summer hat. It is woven of hemp and will allow air to pass through.

I don't know how long it will last because he tends to lose hats and gloves and umbrellas and things that are not tied to his body but he was pleased with this addition and so may be a bit more careful where he puts it.

A typhoon is on its way but probably will cross the country to the west. I am hoping it will generate a bit of rain for our area to cool things down a bit. Today's clouds moving in are a nice break from the hot sun.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Celebrating my 400th post

I have added quite a number of 4 inch blocks to my zip-lock bag. In fact, I had to get a bigger bag to hold them all. I still have no idea what I am going to do with them and I think until I decide, you have probably seen enough.

I decided for this post I would see if I can share something I made a while ago. I did not write the date this book was made. Many years ago, the Kindergarten teacher at the American School asked me  to illustrate the poem, "What is Pink" by Rossetti.,  because she used it to teach her class.

 Using pen and ink and watercolor. plus a Japanese Sparrow, I put these pictures on a 10.5 x 8.5 inch sketch book.

When the book was finished, it was given to the teacher but my husband took it and made copies of the original for my file.

Since these are copies of copies, the color is not equal to the original but I thought my blogging friends might enjoy a simple book break.

The sparrow, having done his job, is flying off.

I hope you enjoyed this post.

When I was in High school, I was dismayed with illustrations in text books. Especially those in science books that looked not much like the object we were to be viewing in real life. I thought I could become an illustrator of science books after college but ... my parents would not let me go to art school (because I might turn into a "hippy"). At the college I went to, I could not stand the smell in the science building coming from the chemistry floor. To top it off, the art teacher took my paint brush and taped it to the end of a yardstick because he thought my paintings were "too tight".

I switched my double major from art and science to art and education because, by then, I was determined to find ways to help kids learn to love art rather than be turned off by teachers.

My life as an illustrator never got off the ground but I have added one more book. In 1991, I was taking the "Doctors" course in the "College of Commissioner Science" for the Boy Scouts. (The first year one takes the course, for a "Masters" one teaches the course, and for a "PHD" you do a one year project). I submitted several proposals and the one that was selected was a book of plants.

Many advancement requirements for Scouts include identifying plants and living in Japan, there was no information in English at all. Over the year, I made a book of "Descriptions and Illustrations of 65 Woody Plants Common to the Kanto Area". It is still the only information available today in English.

Last week, a Scouting friend took all my drawings and information for that book and will scan it and put it on line for Scouts all over the Far East Council to use. As it is, I have been copying it on to A4 paper which is then folded in half and stapled at the open edge to be bound into a book. As often happens, we end up with a copy of a copy .

Last week I sat down with my Scouting friend and we were able to go over it and make changes. (I had put maps at the back of the book of different areas the Scouts use, and numbers to identify different trees. That way, a leader who has no knowledge of Japanese plants can take a group to that spot, read the description of the plant, and let the boys use their observation skills to find the tree). Over the years the red pines had died and some trees had been cut down while some new trees had come up in other places within the map area.)

That year-long project had been done on a word processor so I am glad it will be moving to the digital age and still be of use to anyone who loves nature as much as I.

Behind the scenes, my husband helped with making copies and putting them into a format I could access for blog posts. Neither of us is a technical wizard so there was a lot of trial and error. I keep reminding myself that none of my "old"friends even have a computer so, though we are running to keep up, we are still in the race.