Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Have you ever heard the expression, "Busier than a one-armed paperhanger"? Well, I think I know what that feels like.

Over the weekend we took a family "break".

We were offered a nights stay at a hotel in Atami along the shore of the Izu peninsula.

Of course, I am the only driver in the group so I got to drive my van while trying to figure out where I was going. Paul sat up in front and held the map on his cell phone ... and dozed.

Nikko sat in the back and watched the road. We picked up Norie and Leia along the way and after countless wrong turns, made it to our destination. Along the way, the cell phone with the GPS ran out of batteries. I think we took the extra "scenic route" but by the time we arrived it was too dark to see much of the scenery other than the city lights of Atami.

We met up with our friends at the hotel and went out for a bite to eat at a family restaurant, then returned to enjoy a nice onsen bath. Dogs were not welcomed at the hotel so Nikko and I slept in the van ... as we often do for Scouting events. It was a pleasant night, not too hot, nice breeze, quiet lapping waves, and we woke refreshed to a view of the castle in the morning mist.

After a bit of breakfast and more onsen bath enjoyed by some of the group. we went off on more "scenic" routes to find the castle.  Though Paul had taken his phone charger, he was unable to find it so we set out with a printed map of the town.

It was not a very accurate map but highlighted the tourist spots, and since it was in the hands of someone who does not drive, the interpretation was sketchy to say the least.

We made it to the castle and Leia played with some of the warrior statues lining the  cliff edge.

The day couldn't have been nicer with a brisk breeze and sunny blue skies.

Nikko went happily up all those stairs and, though the autumn colors had not yet made an appearance, we enjoyed the view of the city and bay and surrounding hills.

Our next stop was at a garden. No dogs allowed so we left Nikko with Papa and walked around the outer garden. In the end, we decided the outer garden was enough and we didn't need to pay to see the inside area.

We had planned to see one more garden but were not able to locate it so left the car and found a dog-friendly cafe to enjoy some lunch.

The cafe had two young Golden Retrievers who made Nikko look like a perfectly trained dog in comparison.

Our final scenic stop before heading back to Tokyo was a shrine to good health and old age containing the oldest tree in Honshu.

The Camphor tree is said to be between 2100 and 2200 years old.

I guess by that long, a few years either way doesn't matter much.

The belly band with folded paper indicating the sacred status is 23 meters around.  (Only exceeded by a height of 26 meters).

Walking the path around the tree is supposed to increase one's life by a year for each round.

(I think the stress of driving all those scenic routes evened the playing field for me.)

With the van loaded up with six people and a dog, we set off to find our way back home.

The Navigator on my phone speaks English but not "driver English" Sometimes the "continue straight" is on a very curvy road and sometimes "turn left" is a given because the road is bending to the left and there is no side road.

Just about the time I was ready to toss the thing out the window, the battery died.  Our host was able to get the map on his cell phone and we made it to the drop-off point for four passengers.

Nikko could have her seat back but she was so tired she slept on the floor between the two front seats.

Sunday was super busy with a special choir piece for a choir member who was leaving us after earning his PHD, to return to Africa. The piece was fun to sing and has been going through my brain day and night for weeks ... well, first to learn the words and then because there was no "off switch".

Monday was early morning rice delivery and then my English class.

I took advantage of the large open floor space to lay out some of my expanded blocks and get an idea of how they are going to look together.

I think the longer strips on the sides will be OK.

I didn't get a whole lot done on the trip but I am finding the mini design wall that Jean sent me works quite nicely for laying out the blocks with their side strips.

My English students were impressed with the ruler you sent, Jean, but also with the cute design mat ...

... and the fact I could bring my friend with me each day.
I hope you enjoyed the trip to Atami, even if not the bath.

Monday, September 22, 2014


Thanks to my virtual quilting club, I am getting more ideas for putting my four-inch blocks together.

I still have a plentiful stash of one-inch cut scraps so I can continue making a few more blocks, but I already have a quilt made of one-inch scraps and I am getting low on some colors.

I really don't want to cut more pieces. Those have come all from scraps that were left on other projects. I have more of them because I chop up the left-overs that are too small to bother returning to the stash boxes, beginning with four inch, then three inch, then two inch and then  one inch. I managed to use plenty of scraps in my + and x block quilt, but still have the largest amount of one inch scraps. Some of them are a bit hard to use on this project because they have no dominant color.

I am now thinking it might be interesting to add four and five inch strips to two sides of each block. That would speed the project by making the blocks two inches larger and also a bit easier to join together at the end of the line. (Of course cutting strips will surly add to my one-inch collection).

What do you think of this plan?  I laid out a few blocks and it doesn't really destroy the general design. Probably it will make it interesting to keep using the odd light blocks at two corners but I can't see bothering with odd colored blocks in the other two corners.

It is just laid out any old way but I would be a bit more consistent over which side gets a longer strip.

I am lousy at math so I don't know how much bigger the whole thing will be. That is partly because I don't know the proportions I want to make it or if I can figure out a border to get the size right.

I'm sure I will need to make more of those four-inch blocks anyway, Maybe I can add the strips to them during my train-rides or make a second pile of take-along work making the blocks larger.

At any rate, I will keep with the four-inch blocks and wait for feedback from my gang of helpers ... That means YOU!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Enjoying the steps to autumn

The banner has been hung in the stairwell at church and is basking in a spotlight, no less!

Considering all that mix of fabrics, it actually doesn't look too bad.

I think the message is enough without all the extra words.

I have been working slowly on the four-inch blocks and have completed 100.

Today I took them to my quilt group and laid them out on the table.

I am still looking for a plan to put them together.

I have more sofa quilts than I use so I prefer to make a single bed size.  I would need several hundred to do that if I just sew them together.

One friend suggested making them into eight inch blocks by sewing four together and putting a star block alternating.

I thought of making an eight-inch star of each block but that may lose the pattern of light pieces.
If anyone has an idea, I am open to suggestions.

Fall is definitely in the air. The higan-bana  or spider lilies have begun to bloom here and there.

"Higan" is the autumnal equinox and these are the harbingers of fall. One neighbor has a planter full of white ones but these are the most common sight. I love seeing them along the borders where forest meets the fields.

And, what do you think this is?

Last night as I was walking to the station after choir practice, I noticed young people hanging out along the edge of the sidewalk.

Some had blankets spread on the ground.
Some had folding chairs.

There was even a pup-tent!

The line went on and on. It is a 30 minute walk to the station ... actually two stations away where my train crosses with the very expensive ride ... and about two thirds of the trip were all these young people. At the end, there was a policeman making sure the line was out of the way of pedestrians as those kids placed their stuff.

Well, curiosity may have killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back. I had to ask.

Next morning the sale of I-phones will begin near the church.
All these kids were in line waiting for the store to open so they could be first (a relative term in this case) to buy one.

Sometimes when some much-wanted thing goes on sale, one can see a line forming the night before. It is something I have seen while making early morning rice deliveries, but those lines are at most a block long and often someone pays the homeless guys to hold the spot until just before the store opens in the morning. This was a VERY LONG line and all made up of young people. Not a weekend either. School? Jobs? By now, if they are not sleeping after having stayed up all night, they are texting on their new gadgets.

Ah, life in Tokyo ... streets lined with spider lilies or shoppers ... Never a dull moment.

And now ... it is off to Scout Camp ... where it is scheduled to rain tomorrow. Rain gear packed. A Scout is prepared!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A great quilt show even without pictures...

Monday afternoon I met four other members of my quilt group at Seibu Department store where there was a quilt show "Exhibition of My Needlework" by about 50 well-known Japanese quilters. My husband had brought home a flyer advertising the show, and when I asked Kuraishi-sensei, she quickly procured ten free tickets from Nihon Vogue. (It pays to have friends with connections)! I always enjoy going to a show with friends because somehow I see so much more.

No photos were allowed and there was not a book of the exhibit. We may see some of these quilts again at one of the big shows in Yokohama or Tokyo Dome where some photos are allowed. It seems the quilters were assigned a month to represent in their quilt so as you might imagine there were many with flowers or subjects indicating a season. I had been asked by a fellow blogger about a Japanese quilter, Junko Maeda, and noticed she had a quilt in the show called "From Grandmother's tansu or cupboard" Maeda has published books of her quilts and that one was worthy of a book of its own. The fabric was fussy-cut piecing of kimono fabric dyed with earth, a specialty of Oshima Island. I wish my friend, Lis, who loves dying fabrics, could have seen that one.

In addition to the quilts, there were display cases showing a variety of containers the different quilters use for their supplies and those items. Of course I had a good look at those and compared them with my finished chatelaine. Mine has no thimble or needle threader but otherwise quilters seem to gather most of the same items. Some had measuring tape and some small rulers but none as nice as mine. All the containers were a bit big or very big and mine was the only one  of use on a train ride or even sitting in a meeting.

Sensei gave me the left-over tickets and I returned with some friends from my new sewing group. It was fun to have another go.

There were vendors in the area outside the show though I only picked up some sashiko thread to try on the banner. (In the end, I took those stitches out and used regular quilting). Next day I came down to find Nikko had taken all the thread off the card and eaten the card. Last time she did that she ruined the thread but this time it was strung out on the living room carpet and I was able to re-wind it on a different card.

Two train trips into town and back added to my blocks. I think there are about 86 or so now, though I still don't know how I will use them. Here they are sitting on my box containing all those 1.5 inch bits. (And note... the lid goes shut)!

The weather has been cool one day and warm the next. The gardenias are having their second bloom as well as the little flowers along my wall.

I have no idea what these are. They come in white and yellow and purple ... though most of them are white and are open just two days. I'm so glad the pavers left my flower strip when they paved our street last winter.

And now is the season to enjoy this little volunteer.

I don't know its name either and it might be considered a weed but as weeds go, it is easy to manage and the flowers are so tiny and delicate.

They open around four in the afternoon and I think only last the one day, though there are plenty of buds so flowers to enjoy each day. So very tiny and bright pink.

Tonight it is raining so the flowers are happy ... though Nikko was not delighted with the thunder coming with the rain. In the early summer, each rain is followed by slightly warmer temperatures.. Now we are working the other way and each rain will move us to cooler days as fall approaches. There have been a few nights I thought of digging out a warmer blanket to sleep under. All too soon it will happen.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Photo finish

The banner started last Thursday is almost complete. Still needed us a trip to the "DOIT" or do-it-yourself store to buy some dowels for hanging.

Here it is, on the park fence with laundry clips, enjoying the morning sun.

Someone other than my husband was selected to make a poster that will take the place of this banner and include the total phrases. I am relieved I will not have to observe that exercise.

It is interesting that all these fabrics from all over the world, not particularly the best each country has to offer, new ... used ... even "vintage" (meaning older than I) ...lacking in coordination of color or design ... do little to help the neighboring pieces.

The adding of the logo and binding seems to pull it together. In that regard, a rather true representation of our church. (I put the name rather than the initials). After all, TUC might mean anything such as Take Up Complaining... and the full name is a part of the new logo. (Plus I hate acronyms) . Looking at the result I notice the Liberty fabric from Great Britain is mostly covered by the logo (made by a "Brit") and the map of Africa with a zebra is covered with lettering. Oops, pastor is from Africa! Some of the lettering is a bit wonky. Well, that is as it will remain.

As I was leaving church on Sunday, the pastor asked me to go on and finish the banner and give it to him as he had a plan to use it in a sermon. I guess it will end up being used even in its abbreviated form. I hope my name is left out of it. And I sure don't want people to think I can just whip up something like this in less than a week.

As I returned from my photo shoot, look what had arrived in the post!

Coming all the way from Jean in New Zealand was a beautiful package. I had been expecting a ruler and she found and sent the perfect one. (can you see it? both inches and centimeters and a perfect 6 inches).

But, to keep it company, were some beautiful cut pieces that will happily join friends in my tins or be sewed into the blocks in progress. And also within that kiwi wrap, some fern fabric. And, as if that wasn't enough, that cute mini quilt is really a design wall for my mini pieces. Note the wonderful flannel backing. Oh Jean, thank you so much!

I am not using that fern fabric for the banner but as I sat finishing the hanging sleeve, I thought how appropriate ... measuring with a ruler from New Zealand, sewing with American thread made in Mexico and with a needle from England sent me from a friend in Massachusetts... and how far removed from that kid growing up on the edge of a forest park in Ohio. We are Quilters Without Borders!