Wednesday, June 29, 2011

When the brain takes a vacation


I was so happy to add that last leaf to the fall runner. Tomorrow is my quilt group meeting and I will have a small piece all basted and ready to begin quilting.

Dig out some backing ... plenty to choose from ...

Whole roll of batting to cut ... no problem there,

lay it all out to prepare for basting ... Find the measure to check that it is straight ...


The width is right but the length is supposed to be 38 inches. It is six inches too short!

Get out the notebook with the plan to check. Yep, no problem there. I remember how pleased I was to come up with a design that just fit the dimensions but ... oh no, I left off two rows of leaves.

Now, what?

Well, I could leave it as is and just quilt it ... but it would be the wrong size. Or ... I could un-sew the last two rows and add ten more leaves ... but I have done more than enough un-sewing already. Or ... I could just add two borders on the ends ... I have lots of leaf prints.

So I auditioned a few and this maple leaf print in fall colors seemed to fit, but I thought of my blogging friends and wondered what they would do.

Am I the only one who makes this kind of mistake? Does your brain ever melt down in the heat of summer? Can you think of another "plan B" ... or maybe "C" or "D". Ah well, "The best laid plans of mice and men ..." Perhaps the more mistakes one makes, the better one gets at fixing them.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A bit of progress from the quilting Scouter

Scout camp turned out to be rainy and sunny, hot and cool, fun and work, and a lot was accomplished during (and before) the Scouts' attendance.

Not finding a clean, large, work space, I finally shoved five tables together in the craft room (six would have still been too small an area) and basted the batik quilt. Since the space was too small for the entire quilt it was a bit hard to get the batting pieced to my satisfaction.

For the basting I had to place the top down and struggle a bit with the softer tenugui up on top. I pinned it first and then had to crawl up on the table tops to baste it in sections
I guess the whole thing took about five hours but I was happy that all parts seem to come out flat and even. The room is very poorly lit even in brightest daytime and I used the evening hours when other duties were out of the way.

I also used odd moments during the week to work on the third edition of the table runners. For fall, I decided to use an idea once passed to me by my sister for tessellating maple leaves. I had tried this once before and ended up making it into a bag.

My favorite patchwork is making blocks and then laying them all out and arranging them to my satisfaction. This pattern is the antithesis of that, as each block has to include a piece from two of it's neighboring blocks. Even with the pieces all pinned in groups, I had to un-sew a number of seams as I put the wrong neighbor in several times no matter how carefully I planned. The total will be fifty blocks plus a border so the top is more than half done. With HOT weather setting in, this will be better than quilting the big bed cover. I remember vowing never to do this pattern again after the first time but that is what I said about several other patterns in the past and ended up eating my words.

As for the toe, I got by. Flip-flops were a bit more comfortable. By Wednesday I tried boots and Friday sandals with my Scout socks. Today it was crocks. I have no idea what I will try for tomorrow when I go to school. Whatever it is, we don't wear shoes in the classroom anyway. I am hoping this will not last too long as my back hurts from limping along.

Saturday I arrived home only to dump my gear and head off to an obstacle course with my Cub pack. It is part of our summer program and the rain held off long enough for the boys to have a blast. It was fun to watch the boys try the obstacles so carefully at first and then ,by the time they were playing the closing music, to see them racing madly to try things one more time. If I could capture that energy and sell it I would make a fortune!

My lily was nice enough to hold off for my return. It was tall but still in bud as I carried things from my car to the door but this first picture was taken Sunday morning as I left for Church. I ran (hobbled) back in to get my camera lest it be bashed to bits by someone on a bike while I was away.

When I returned later in the day, I found some string and tied it to the fence. In store-bought lilies used in arrangements, the ends of the stamens bearing the pollen are all removed so the dark pollen will not soil whatever it might touch. I am happy to be living in a neighborhood where my flowering plants are not vandalized.
At my last house we also had plants along the street and someone passing in the early morning ripped off the flowers on almost every plant just as they were about to open. It was very sad and frustrating even when I had tied things back away from the street.

You can see there is still a lot to look forward to on this mighty lily.

Also, there are a few more getting ready to do their stuff. You might also notice the gardenia adding it's perfume to the scene.

Lastly, I was in for another surprise. The plant my Grandmother called "rabbit ears" and others called "mother-in-law's-tongue", "snake plant", or in Japan, "tiger's tail", (Sansevieria trifasciata) ... was sitting in my upstairs window with a flower spike! I have had that plant forever in windows of every house but never seen any sign of a flower. I looked on line to see if that was common and noticed in Chinese it is called "Tiger's tail orchid" and there was a picture of an opened flower, a rather orchid-like spike. I don't advise running out to buy one and waiting thirty years or so for it to bloom unless you have a space that can use a tall bit of green. On the other hand, here is one plant that thrives on neglect and I learned it is also one of the best plants for improving indoor air quality by passively absorbing toxins. That, in itself, is enough but it seems I am to be blessed with flowers as well.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It's in the mail

Today is my quilting day but yesterday I hurt my little toe and walking is rather painful. If I go to the doctor he will want an x-ray (not cheap) and put on a huge wrap and tell me to come back every day for the next few weeks. Actually, there is nothing to be done for a broken toe but ice it and possibly tape it to the neighboring toe. I am more concerned as to what I will wear for shoes at camp as flip-flops feel best but are frowned on as camp wear.

Hanging on the front gate is the second installment of the birthday runners for my daughter. A little over a week ago she sent the family pictures of
her beautiful and productive garden in the Boston Fens. Although not overly creative, I was able to come up with enough different fruit and vegetable prints to assemble in four-inch blocks so she will have plenty of food on the table.

I used very thin thinsulate batting and quilted flowers in each block. For the reverse side I auditioned several large scraps and decided on this multi-colored print. Perhaps it wanted to be selected because it was almost exactly the right size.

Out of six children I have a few that go almost to the point of taking over a project ... fabric ... pattern ... even backing. Then, again, there are those who seem to be happy with whatever I come up with.

This daughter seems to be happy with the idea of the series of runners. She has not said to stop or make a different size or asked for different colors so I plough onward and have cut about half of the pieces for the fall edition. These I will take with me to camp just in case I have spare time.

Also going to camp will be the Batik quilt, now waiting in the car. I am hoping that sometime during the week I will be able to find a place large enough and clean enough to lay it out and, if possible, baste it. I plan to use safety pins first in case I don't have time to baste the whole thing. I expect it to take about three hours and might have to pick it up during that time.

The lilies are holding off as it has been dreary rainy weather. I'm not sure if I should wish for sun during camp or hope this weather delays the blooms until I get back.

As a child, my mother loved petunias but I was less enthusiastic because the sticky wilted blooms had to be picked off each day so it would continue to bloom. Modern varieties have changed my opinion as they manage to bloom for two seasons in these hanging pots.

This wall separates my house from the neighbor on the North. Although it belongs to the neighbor, I am using it for my hanging garden. To the left of the pot you can see a section of the wall that is grooved into the post. During the quake, the street-side section slipped out of the groove and I notice a number of cracks in the stucco finish along the street. One of the things you learn in emergency prep is not to run out into the street during a quake as many injuries occur from falling walls. On March 11 the wall several houses down lost big hunks of stucco and another, across the street, chunks of concrete blocks although neither wall fell.

Finally. here is another little bloomer. Since my bedroom is in a greenhouse on the roof and it gets very cold in winter and very very hot in summer, I have been enjoying raising various varieties of cactus. This is the first time that this one has bloomed. I thought it was a gonner over the winter.

Several other varieties have big buds and I expect them to bloom while I am away. Luckily they thrive on neglect so will not miss me in the least.

So ... It's off to the woods with the guys. No currant bushes there. I will miss my friends as much as I do the plants but Nikko sees her food container getting packed and is excited to go. Did you notice that round yellow sticker on the gate? That indicates Nikko is registered with all her shots so if you open the door and she runs out to bite you, no danger of getting rabbies. To tell the truth, you are more likely to get licked to death than bitten.

Perhaps next week I will have a basted quilt to report on?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pearl and Friends

I have seen a run on cat quilts out in the blogging world and realized I have no digital pictures of my cat quilt. I may have to wait and try again when the rainy season is over.

Many years ago someone offered my family a lovely black kitten with bright yellow eyes. We were only a week away from leaving for a summer holiday so I said if the kitten was still available when we got back, we would be glad to adopt it. Of course someone snatched it up during the time we were gone but we still wished for a kitten to share our home.

About the end of October that same year, I was working in the library when someone came in and said, "does anyone want a cat?"to which I replied, "I do, but not just any cat. It should be all black with yellow eyes or all white with one blue eye and one gold eye." The lady said the cat was all white with one gold eye and one blue eye, so I asked if it had a nice straight tail. In Japan, as a consequence of in-breeding, many cats have tails with kinks. The lady said, "Just a moment, I'll go and check" and soon she was back carrying a little white kitten with odd eyes and a tail, not quite straight but with a bend in the end". Thus, Pearl joined our family, a birthday gift to myself. Actually, she was an enchanted princess that only looked like a cat

Pearl lived with us for about 12 years and I wanted to make a quilt to celebrate her memory. Starting with squared paper I came up with this design for Pearl and Friends. Finding fabric to use was a bit tricky because each cat adjoins six others. I also discovered that each row moves over by the width of the tail so the sides became crooked. I ended up putting a border with two cats turned sideways and moving the balls into a straight line. I quilted a spool of thread into the border and pinned circles around, quilting around them with one continuous line with a needle at the other end.

Several friends in my quilt group have copied the templates and made full sized quilts using my pattern. Ever since I have been playing with the squared paper trying to come up with a pattern of both a cat and dog. This qult was hung in a quilt show back in the early 90s and though I had thought it might make a cute baby quilt, it is a little small (48.5"x56") and when the time came with a baby in mind, I had another plan in my notebook.

Now, here is another birthday present to myself. The year before last I had some points to spend at the garden shop. Lest they go un-used, I picked out five lily bulbs and brought them home to my little garden. They bloomed for the first time last summer and I had left a camera when I went off to the Jamboree, asking that someone take pictures so I wouldn't miss them. Well, that was not high on any one's agenda and I returned to finished flowers.

This summer I hope not to miss any but this weekend I will be off to Boy Scout camp and I see the first has begun to open and the others are lining up. This one has taken over the spot where the Iris stood a month ago. I am wondering what the other colors will be. My family didn't remember but the neighbors said they were beautiful. Maybe I should leave the camera with them this time?

This one might be next. It seems to be in competition with the Snake-bark maple tree, well over eight feet tall, and above the living room window. I hope I won't miss it!

Monday, June 6, 2011

A test of patience

Deciding not to spend money on fabric for the back of the batik quilt, I took out the pile of tenugui showing all kinds of children's games. My fourth daughter is an early-childhood teacher and I'm sure she will get a kick out of this collection of tenugui. Friday I made use of the floor space at my quilt friend's house to arrange the selection and began sewing the towels together by hand. There was a bit of a trick to this because the towels are not all the same length or width. Choosing pairs, I sewed them into strips which are close to the same length. This puts the center seam at different points down the center but one of the quilt ladies thought if I press the center seams open, the mis-match will probably not show much after quilting. That seems like the best plan of attack.

After joining the rows, I find that this section is still too narrow for the backing. Rather than add more of the children's towels sideways, I decided to use yukata fabric for the outside edges. I have a lovely floral but it is on dark blue and I think the bamboo on white looks a bit better.

With no place to spread out and arrange the borders, I spread a tarp on the street outside my house so I could figure out a plan. The tarp was too narrow so the yukata fabric is on the street. A light spring breeze kept turning the corners and before I was finished I had to fold it over several times to allow bikes to pass. The section of road behind the camera is only the size of the green tarp, about two meters. For that reason, at least, I did not have to deal with cars.

After looking at the size of the backing, it appears the towel section is too long by about half the width of a row of tenugui. Rather than trim the lower row of children, I decided to remove the second row from the bottom since those children are a bit larger in size. Then I re-positioned the bottom row and added the bamboo to the lower edge as well as the sides. I will not feel as bad about cutting off part of the bamboo as I would spoiling the children in play.

The thing is, now that I sit and look at this picture, I recall the yukata fabric I used for the border of the kaleidoscope quilt (a kind of braided link design) that is just about the width that I need and I bet I have just enough already cut too. Then, again, that might be just a bit too strong a pattern. Un-sewing and re-sewing seams of several meters takes a lot longer by hand so I want to be sure before I go that far. This is the time I really wish for a very large empty room.