Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy year of the dog

Are you ready to greet the new year?

Though varying from region to region, in the types of trees used and arrangement, the "Kadomatsu" is the most common arrangement seen in the Tokyo area.

The kadomatsu literally means "gate pine", and when displayed outside the house, are arranged in pairs to the left and right side of the entryway.

Inside the house they are arranged singly.

This very fancy one is part of a pair outside a hotel.

This one seen in a shop window is a fancy version of what might be found in the entrance of a private home.

The origin of this custom lies in the fact that kadomatsu are
believed to serve as a dwelling place for the God who brings good luck at the beginning of the year.

This version is at the door of a private home.

And here is a smaller version decorating a mail box.

Even a tea shop gets in the holiday mood.

The holiday decorations at our house were always handled by my husband.

I was not thinking of adding anything this year but when my daughter and granddaughter visited earlier in the month, they festooned the outside garden with colored lights and this pine was added to the gate.

The timing is rather fussy and all need to come down by the 7th of January (usually depending on region as well)

The night before New Years, many people visit Buddhist temples to hear the temple bells rung 108 times at midnight to dispel the evils of the past year.

It is also customary to eat "toshikoshi soba" ... year-crossing noodles ...
in the hope that one's family fortunes will extend like the long noodles.

The time is usually spent with family. Maybe the holiday will include a trip to a shrine to draw a fortune written on a piece of paper or to the imperial palace to wave to the emperor and his family.
New Years cards are sent ahead of time and delivered in a mass on New Years day.

2018 will be the year of the dog according to the Oriental calendar. All the fine traits of human nature are in the possession of those born in the year of the dog. They have a deep sense of duty and loyalty, are extremely honest, and always do their best in their relationships with people.

They can also be somewhat selfish and terribly stubborn and exceedingly eccentric.

Since the 12 animals and 5 elements, wood,fire, earth, metal and water, rotate in 60 year cycles, 2018 is the year of the Earth Dog. Earth is a stabilizing and conserving force, marking a shift from the fire element of the last two years which brought disharmony and impulsiveness.

Highly perceptive, the Earth Dog is kind, efficient, and skilled in communication. The year is expected to bring prosperity, particularly to those who, like the dog, are proactive, work hard, and communicate well. It is predicted that those who show generosity to others will reap the greatest benefits throughout the year.

Interestingly, it has been noted that the dog population in Japan has declined dramatically in the past year. The ageing population may find care of dogs more troublesome and they are also required to vaccinate their dog and have it registered. Cats, on the other hand are allowed to roam and howl and multiply in the city parks. Dogs also cost much more as there has been a crack-down on puppy mills.

My dog year will begin with a walk with Nikko ... like every other day. Then I will be off to church where we will serve a traditional New Years meal to the homeless. (a tradition begun by my husband, Paul, and where he spent the last day on his feet two years ago)

Quilting has now reached the border ... being quilted with a simple cable. I expect to add the binding later in the week. I have two hurry-up baby quilts to make but with days home, I really need to give my mola some attention before the end of January creeps up on me.

Here's hoping your dog year will be off to a good start.

Monday, December 18, 2017

It's in the hoop

Saturday I finished widening the backing by adding a strip of the same yellow print that I used on the front inner border.

This pastel piece of fabric came from a friend among quite a few large pieces.
It is so soft and seemed to be speaking out to be used.

Saturday afternoon I went to the cold empty apartment and was able to pin-baste the little quilt before it began to get dark. It is nice to have one small piece of floor that is not completely covered in dog hair.

By now the top is about half quilted in the ditch. I have to admit that on these cold days, sitting under this quilt while working is a double win.

When I made the last I-spy quilt, I used five-inch picture blocks. Those I quilted inside each block after doing the in-the-ditch quilting. On this quilt, the picture blocks are only four inches and I used #80 thinsulate for the batting. I rather like the puffiness of the quilted blocks and thinsulate is probably intended for clothing and the batting is quite tacky and extremely unlikely to shift. I am seriously considering leaving those blocks puffy and free of stitching. With other battings, I usually quilt more densely with the widest area without any quilting three-finger's width, or about two inches.

Looking at assorted table cloths and runners which get a lot of use and washing, there has never been a problem with thinsulate shifting. I think soft and a bit fluffy will be nice for a February baby.
With that in mind, I will be finished before long ... especially with my last day of school for this year, being yesterday. This will not take a month ... not that I don't have other things on my schedule to complete....

Unfortunately, the hot sauce plan didn't work for long and my door has new teeth-marks.

I think since this behavior worked twice for Nikko, it takes a long time to find that it no longer works. (maybe never, because she still remembers where she found some stinky rotten fish to roll in ten years ago and never passes that place without checking it out).
I am not happy with the scratched up door but considering the damage she could do in the livingroom while I am away, and the number of things she might find that smell like me to chew on ... oh yes, she has chewed several quilts ... I will varnish over the scratches and maybe cover the area with some stick-on covering that I use for book covers.

Eventually, I have an idea to reverse the two doors. Both can be slid into the wall to open the entire door space... and actually, the two doors are reversed with a metal stopper to keep the inner door from going too far to the left. It often confuses guests because most Japanese sliding doors have the little dented grips to meet at the center, thus moving the doors left or right, so when exiting the room, they often try to move the door to the left with no success.

Well, time to get back under that hoop and warm up. Quilting, what a nice hobby to have! and a gift that rewards the giftee....

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Flimsy done

Yesterday included a long trip into town for a District Scout meeting. Usually, I just attend on line but that meeting was a chance to meet the newly appointed District Executive. Actually, that part was rather a dud as she only spoke up to give her name during the hour and a half I was sitting there. The only other thing I heard from her was after the meeting when I introduced myself was that she lived on a base and was here for three years with her husband's assignment. I guess for time spent, the best results were two long inner borders added to the quilt on the train ride in, three outer borders added during the meeting and the ride home. Now the flimsy is finished and I need to hunt up something for the backing.

I used a light yellow pseudo-quilt block print for the inner border and an animal print for the outer one. Next year is "the year of the dog" so maybe I can find some doggy print to use on the back.
That will be my next task to see what I can dig out of my stash. Too bad the baby is not a girl because I have lots of florals in large amounts.

This will no longer be take-along work but now I am satisfied with the size.

Another trip into town tonight for choir so I will need to prep some more take-along work. Guess it is back to the stash for more than one solution.....

Monday, December 11, 2017

Two more rows ...

Two more row have now been added to the latest I-spy.

Having decided it would be easier to add one more row to the length and width than to quilt a wider border, I dug through my scraps to mark and cut more 4"prints and sashing strips.

There was only a little left to do today to sew those new strips in place. It was a busy week and a number of train trips I was unable to get a seat, but the times I did, I could complete at least three blocks each way.

Sunday, as I was sitting at the end of the car with an open seat beside me, a lady moved from farther down the car to the seat beside me to complain about my sewing. It is bad manners, unsafe, I might endanger children ... on and on until her stop came up. I felt like telling her I have been doing this for over 50 years and so far, no one has ever been hurt including my own six kids and four foster babies... but I didn't see any point in arguing so just said "sorry" and kept going with her ranting in the background.

At other times strangers do talk to me about what I am doing out of curiosity or because they are interested in making things too. In all these years the only other time I was yelled at was while in a hospital waiting room in the late 1960s. And once, while I was darning socks in a Dr's waiting room, the doctor came walking through and, though he said nothing, he went and rounded up his nursing staff and returned with them, asking them if they knew what "this lady was doing." Then lectured about what I was doing called darning and how women used to be thrifty by making repairs. I wonder if every woman had a darning gourd in her sewing basket.

So ... now I have to go back to my stash to find border material ... and put away all the other scraps in piles on my sofa. Once it becomes a flimsy and is ready to quilt, it will no longer be take-along work and I need to prep some more stitching so that lady will have something to be irritated about. Just think how brave she must have been to confront a foreigner on a public transport.

Meanwhile, the "Cookie Factory", run by my granddaughter Leia, finished up a double batch of very fancy Christmas cookies.That little girl who could not part with one of her cookies a few years ago is now making more to share with all her friends. We also set up the tree and decorated it with a new string of lights and many years of collected ornaments. Now that my assistant can reach the top of the tree, my work was more about taking boxes in and out of their storage space. Then, on Sunday, when I returned home after church and a concert, I turned the corner of the street to see twinkling lights adorning my garden strip. The elves (named Norie and Leia) had found the outdoor lights and strung them up and down the strip from tree to tree and bush to bush. I guess when Christmas comes, I won't be able to claim it snuck up on me. (still a few weeks to get my act together.)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

So far, so good

The I-Spy quilt is now 31" x 40".

Much of this stitching was completed either on the train or in meetings.

I have decided to add another row of blocks to both the side and the bottom.
It will take some time to cut and audition blocks but then I can sew them in odd moments while travelling.

That will bring the total size to 36" x 47".
Then, with some added sashing and a three-inch border, it should come to a decent size that can be simply quilted in the ditch.

The days are getting shorter but also sunnier.
Somehow they are also getting busier. With "Choir Sunday" now past, we are working on a program for February, and being pare of a barber-shop quartet and a small choral group, my calendar is getting filled in quickly.

This week my Scout meeting and a teacher's party are conflicting for time and I have more requests for Saturday than there are hours in the day. I know I am going to have to tell somebody "sorry!"

Nikko has not been happy with long days left alone. I have blocked her from the living room with too many things to get into.... but she seems to be more determined to get in and several times broke the barrier leaving teeth-marks in the door. It is a sliding door with no way to lock it. Today I sanded the worst part and then painted the area with tabasco sauce. I am hoping that will keep her teeth off the door while I am out. Her food and water dish are in the lavatory so that is not a problem. When I am home these days, she lies under the heating vent, but I turn off the AC when I go out.

I tried putting her in her crate for half an hour last week but I could hear her barking all the way down the street as I was returning. I'm sure the neighbors would not like more of that. Japanese houses are not very soundproof. It is easy on a walk to know who has a dog or plays a musical instrument. (or who watches the morning news on TV).

Oh well, onward!

Friday, December 1, 2017

How big is big enough?

The last two I-Spy quilts I made, I used five-inch prints with a one inch colored sashing.

This one on the right used a two inch border and another one inch sash. The size came out 43" x 55".

I quilted inside the print blocks but I didn't need to quilt the borders other than in-the-ditch.

This one I added an outer one-inch sashing and a  three -inch border so the size came to 45" x 57".

These seem to be good crib-size quilts or maybe something that could be tossed over a child napping on the sofa.

Now I have begun to assemble the next baby quilt ... also an I-Spy ... but this time I am using my stash of four-inch prints.

I have added the one-inch sashing and plan to put another one inch of a solid color as in this one on the left.

Using the same number of squares, that gives me the size of 33" x 43". If I stick to that size, I would have to add at least a six inch border and maybe an outer one-inch sashing. That would mean a lot of quilting in the border.

If I decide to add another row of blocks, I have ten cut so would have to cut five more plus more of those inch sashings. Then a three inch border and outer sashing... making the total 46" x 56". It would be a lot more piecing work but less quilting than a wide border.

In the end, it is mot such a large quilt and being less "babyish" might be used longer but still not big enough for a youth bed.
The last quilts I have made to be gifted to friend's new babies have been ... I-Spy, 45x49, 43x55, 47x48, and alphabet ... 43x49, 48x54, 45x50, 45x48, and 46x47 for a counting quilt.

To tell the truth, I have no idea anymore how big a crib is. I am wondering if my quilting friends out there have any suggestions as to what size might be most useful. Anyway, I have plenty of take-along work lined up before I get to time to decide.