Sunday, July 31, 2011

New beginnings and work in progress

The first day of the second half of the year is here. Lucciano is celebrating with a clean cage and new tail feathers. He is still working on new wing feathers and I miss his usual amount of singing. I gave him a nail trim and he certainly deserves an A+ in patience. I keep wondering how long this old cage will hold up. I have not seen any like it for many years. Long ago it had a stand that could be moved around the room but for this tiny room, the window is perfect. He has a good view of the wild birds on the feeder and the neighborhood cats on the garden wall.

Over the weekend I did a bit of baby sitting. It felt like old times rocking my little sweetie in my comfy chair and using the time for a bit of quilting.

Leia leaps into life at full tilt, always on the move.(I call her "the blur" because every picture of her shows her in motion... if you can get a picture at all...) Then comes the crash. A few songs and she is out. Ah, to be three!

I still have a long way to go on this big quilt and it is going to have to step aside this month for a banner that has a deadline of September.

I am quilting the flowers in the border fabric with colored thread and repeating the flower in the 8inch blocks. I have yet to decide what to do with the large blocks.

Plan A .. a larger flower

Plan B.. the same size flower with an outer ring of petals

Plan C.. four smaller flowers

Plan D.. a cluster of the smaller flowers as seen in the border

There is still plenty to do while I am mulling this over in my mind. In spite of its summery look, this is a very warm quilt. My daughter knows she will not be getting it any time soon, still, the idea of having a nice sunny quilt on those gray Portland winter days makes me want to push a bit harder.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Party runner is finished

The party runner is finished! Not in time to reach Marie on her birthday but in time to send her a picture. This is the last in the series of runners I made for my #2 daughter. The other four were seasonal runners for her small table but when she has guests she puts two cubes together to make the table bigger, thus, the longer runner. She, after some prodding, suggested Japanese indigo fabrics would be nice.

In the early '90s I had gone to the fabric outlet area of Tokyo looking for Japanese fabric and
stopped in a kimono shop to see if they had any sample books to sell cheaply. The books are made up of pieces of fabric from the end of the roll, the width of the fabric (about 13-14 inches) and about the same in length. They are sewed into a pile with one large stitch, maybe 20 or so in a "book".

The store did not have any for sale but took my name and address and telephone number and said they might let me know if they did.

Much much later, a package arrived in the post from that shop and in it were some assorted fabrics and fabric sample books. Now, on many of the samples, as you might see in a wall paper sample book, were scribbled notes with black marker. Many of the prettiest fabrics were so marked but I saved the lot and have found ways those fabrics can be cut around the ink and used in projects. These are what I dug out for this runner.

I drafted simple square in a square five inch blocks and arranged them light on dark and dark on light. After considerable trial and error I finally came up with an arrangement I liked. I had considered quilting this with sashiko stitches but was afraid that might detract from the fabrics but used a typical pattern of interlocking circles for the quilting. I like the result and am thinking some day I might make one for my own coffee table.

I am still reminded of the day Marie was born. It was the year of the "Fire Horse" which was considered the worst possible year for a girl baby to be born. Very few risked having a girl and the maternity wards were rather empty. I was near the window of a 6-bed ward and all the babies were kept down the hall in a nursery. At feeding time the infants were put on a cart and rolled into the ward to be handed out to the waiting mothers. BUT ... Ahead of the cart came a nurse carrying one screaming baby which she placed in my arms. Small but mighty, she was! And the nursing staff always "forgot" to pick her up at the end of the session (or maybe that was intended)

Marie liked to be held. Unlike the doll that closes it's eyes as you lay it down, her eyes would fly open no matter how gently you placed her and the screams would follow. Living in a neighborhood where houses are poorly insulated and only three or four feet apart, I spent the next year and a half carrying that fire-horse everywhere. I learned how to do every task with a babe in arms. I sang every lullaby I knew over and over. I'll bet I have the best repertoire of lullabies of anyone my age. Is it any wonder that that daughter turned out to be musically gifted!
Maybe she was making her own music in self defence. So... one more runner for the birthday girl.

Outside our front gate is this pineapple lily. We had a clump of them in our last house and they were frequently the victims of the plant vandal. Before we moved I separated the group into several bunches and placed them out of reach. I must have brought one tiny bulb with me because I notices the fleshy leaves last year among the agapanthus and gave the bulb a pot of its own. I noticed last week there was a small bud and took this first picture.

Today, when I went to the park to see if I could get a better picture of the runner, I noticed the lily had begun to bloom. I'm so happy to have this reminder of the years spent at the Suginami house. I also noticed when I was there a little more than a week ago, that the plants had buds that were not vandalized. Hooray for small blessings!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

and the winner is....

How could I possibly select a name from among all these kind and wonderful bloggers?
That is what assistants are for. Luckily, this assistant will do anything I ask for a piece of cheese.
Nikko was told to "Wait!" while I wrote the names on slips of note card and taped each one around a piece of cheese. She was very excited at the possibilities of a reward. (in fact, she can hear the refrigerator drawer being opened from any room in the house and comes to check if cheese is being removed)

The word,"Stay!" is a bit open-ended for her to take seriously but "Wait" has the connotation of a reward for being patient. (and patience is something she has perfected over nine years of trial and error.

The objects of desire were then placed in her dish. I tried to get most of the names hidden so she could not read them. I saw Nikko looking over my shoulder at the comments to see who had left her compliments and I didn't want her to play favorites.

The magic word for helping herself to goodies is "Itadakimasu". This is a word that is always spoken before taking the first bite. It means, I am about to partake.

Oh no, Nikko, you greedy dog, you have taken two names! And, how cleaver of you, both those names are people who have left you compliments.

Well, give them to me and you can try again. After all, I have only one give-away.

So, here they are ... Cheryl and Rose Marie. I am not going to tell you which is which but now please try again and only pick ONE!

And... the winner is... Cheryl of Cheryl's Teapots 2 Quilting.

So, Rose Marie and all my dear friends, I still love all your comments and support and help. Thank you for making this a very special year. And, if you are not happy with the results, blame the dog. She is very good at accepting blame.

And now ... back to quilting!

Monday, July 18, 2011

My quilt room/space/corner

From time to time I get a blogging glimpse of quilter's "studios" or "rooms", their lovely design walls and shelves of organized stash. I see the latest machines that do everything but wash the dishes.

Well, here I am in my chair, my machines connected to my arms (and they also wash the dishes) and my trusty helper at my side. My husband at the shutter saying,"why would anyone want a picture of this!"

But, my friends, THIS is the world's most comfortable chair! And, it has a story.

When I was teaching in the public schools, the Board of Education took money from our scant pay and put it into a retirement fund rather than social security. You can bet it wasn't much since the starting salary was only three thousand dollars a year. In the late 60s when I was back in the States, I checked up to see how much I had in my retirement account and I was told $135.00 and it would never amount to more no matter how long it sat there so I decided to take the money out and buy something I really wanted, a wing rocker. Because of a crooked spine, there are not many chairs I can lean back in but this chair is perfect for me. $134 well spent!

It lived in my bedroom for years and I rocked and nursed babies here. It sat in other rooms in other houses and we piled in with kids to the side and kids on the lap and read thousands of stories. The upholstery wore to shreds and we had it re-covered. This time the foot stool and the arms got some quilted covers to protect them. Now it sits in the corner of my living room. to the right is the entryway. To the left are some drawers for my rulers and sewing things and my Ott light. My quilting waits in the bag I used to carry it to my group meeting on Friday.

The light is special to me too because years ago I quilted a quilt for a friend who said she would pay me. I kept a record of the hours I spent working on her lovely quilt but had no idea what my time might be worth. In the end, I had seen the Ott light advertised in quilt magazines and really wanted a lamp that would give good light for judging color at night.(which was the time of day mothers of large families had for quilting) I cut out the page with the ad and gave it to my friend, who had a APO address and could get things from the states, when I returned the finished quilt. I believe there were three sizes of lamps and I would have been happy with any but she bought me the floor model and an extra bulb. The lamp has lived beside my chair ever since.

For a room so tiny as our living room, this chair is really too big an object but my husband has a massage chair that is even bigger so I feel a bit justified and it is a comfortable place to sew. The only trouble being, since it is by the door, things tend to get piled on it when people come in.

And now for the next project in the lineup. For my daughter's final runner, I wanted to make her one double length size for when she adds a cube for parties. She wanted some traditional Japanese indigo fabrics so I drafted this simple five inch block and alternated dark and light fabrics.

All the blocks are complete so I laid them out on my bed/futon (the only horizontal place in the house of any size without a layer of dog hair) to see if I can come up with an arrangement. I'm still not completely satisfied. Here is where a design wall might come in handy. In this room the ceiling slants down to only about two feet above my pillow, a bit hard to get the whole view.

The typhoon, "Ma-On", is bringing rain to my garden after a long dry spell. It is not clear yet where or if it will land but rain is predicted for the next two days. I wish I could say it has brought cooler air but with the windows shut against the rain, the house is hot and muggy as usual.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A "reversable" runner?

This is not the last of the runners that I am making for my daughter for her birthday, but it is the last of the seasonal ones. I'm not sure it was much of a success because trying to make it reversible was something like trying to serve two masters at once.

The Christmas fabrics went together fairly well and I was pretty satisfied with the variety of color and size. Since New Years is the big holiday in Japan, my idea was to use a printed panel of the twelve zodiac animals for the reverse side. The sizes of the two were close enough and I thought I would quilt the back with the frames and animals ... so far, so good

I used a gold metallic thread for quilting because there was a thin gold outline on the pictures of the panel.

I started with the frames around the animals but found the outer edges fell inside the green outer border on the Christmas side. Oops. So, I quilted those parts just through the top and batting.

Next I quilted around the writing. Well, it didn't look bad on the other side but it was a bit distracting and I began to think that quilting the fussy details of those twelve animals might not bring the effect I had in mind.

So... I turned the runner back to the Christmas side and quilted in the ditch around the squares, being careful not to go all the way through in the places that might mess up the animals.

This runner might have been a bit better with more quilting but I decided to quit while I was ahead.

Every year I attend at least one quilt show in Japan that displays the work of Emiko Toda Loeb. Her quilts are usually hung at the end of a section so that the viewers can enjoy both the front and the back. Indeed, it would be difficult to figure out which was intended as the front because her work is completely reversible in design as well as quilting. Next time I will have to study her work more closely and see how she does it. So far, she has no competition from me!

I am intending to make one more runner for my daughter to use at partys when she adds a cube to her narrow table. She likes Japanese indigos so that is what I am planning to use ... now that she has put up with the three and two-half runners I have sent. With her birthday a little over a week away, the last one is going to be late. Sorry, Marie, I can't even say,"it's in the mail".

Last week I posted a picture of the first bloom on my prickly pear cactus that Morishita-san had given me. Last Friday I went back to my old neighborhood while my car was having its yearly inspection and stopped at Morishita-san's house to give him the pictures I took. He was so delighted and said he felt like a grandchild was coming home. Here on his porch is the big grandpa cactus. It is almost finished blooming for the season but you can see what an impressive plant my little fellow has to look up to.

As I write this last bit, the table is dancing and the light fixture is swinging and the dog is trembling at my knees because we are having an earthquake.

Turning on the TV, I see the quake was centered to the north of Tokyo near where Tanya (Taniwa) lives and had a magnitude of 5 on the Japanese scale of 7.
There is no danger of tsunami but landslides are always a problem and the trains are stopped until they are all checked. This is not an activity one can "get used to"!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

An anniversary give-away for my blogging friends

Little did I know, or even imagine, a year ago when my son suggested scanning my paper diary and putting it on a blog, what the consequences would be. I could see that the paper book is beginning to fall apart. I could also understand that my kids wanted to see what I was up to.
I knew very little about even the basics like posting a picture and still have not figured out how to get those pictures and writing arranged the way I want them. Beyond my own children, I had no idea of what a "follower" might be and "comments" were what family members wrote about cute pictures of the little ones.

So, my friends, you can see this past year has been a steep learning curve but every step of the way, there has been a dear blogging buddy or a caring child to give me help, coaching, assistance, or a shove in the right direction.

Even my non-quilting readers have commented to me on what caring, compassionate, and supporting people quilting bloggers are as indicated by their comments. Truly I have been richly blessed by you all.

So, as my first anniversary approaches, I have been giving thought as to how I might thank my fellow bloggers and followers. It is not my intention to gain more followers ... I have no idea why people choose to follow other than by how I might decide and I have more than one way of following...

I have gathered together a few things that are very Japanese. I googled Japanese taupes and found pictures of what the internet says they are and the first item in the package is a set of 100 ten cm. square "taupe" fabrics. I also selected 8 rolls of traditional Japanese prints in shades of tan/brown. I'm not sure the size but about 12"x 10 or 12". Then there is a set of ten pieces of "kasuri". They are around 13"x 9", and my personal favorites. The thread is indigo dyed before being woven into the designs and the ones I have selected are the more traditional patterns. These days they are valued highly by Japanese quilters and since they are not being made so much any more, are becoming harder and harder to find without buying antique clothing and cutting it apart. The last items are two printed panels. One is a welcoming cat panel with two cats and the other, the twelve animals of the oriental zodiac.

On my blog anniversary, which is on July 23rd U.S. east coast time, I will draw a name from among those who are interested and send a package out. If you are a follower, I will put your name in the "pot" twice. Please let me know if you are interested in the drawing. I wish I could afford to send more to thank you all.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Grabbing patterns from here and there

I have seen on, assorted blogs , photographs taken of mosaics in Italy and tiles in Czechoslovakia and wrought iron work and barn sidings and all kinds of designs in nature and thought ... now, wouldn't that make an interesting quilt pattern... Actually, I was rather relieved to see that I am not the only nut out there taking pictures of sidewalks.

So ... as I began to think of the next runner in the season series, I decided to try and make one that is reversible with Christmas fabric on one side and a Japanese panel of the zodiac animals on the reverse side. I wanted to quilt the printed animals so needed something for the other side that might not look too strange with quilting that is rather random. I pulled out my camera and looked back through those assorted pictures and found this one taken in the subway underpass near my church where three train lines meet. It is a very busy station and I remember the reaction of the passers-by seeing this weird foreigner taking pictures of the paving blocks.

A bit of graph paper and a search of the Christmas fabric and I was prepared with carry-along work for last night's long train and bus ride into town and an even longer District Committee Meeting.

Actually, I was rather glad for this bit of work because we had to say good-bye to three Scouters who have been a big part of the Japan District. Saying good-bye is something we do a lot in the ex-pat community here in Japan but it is never easy.

Having a little project helps to keep me together.

I am enjoying the look so far and hope the plan will work as intended.

It might seem a bit funny to be working on something for Christmas in the burning heat of summer but that way it will get done in time to hit the post.

Monday, July 4, 2011


The fall runner is finished and ready to mail.
Although there was some advice to un-sew and add more rows of leaves, and I did seriously consider that option, I am not unhappy with the way it turned out.

It would have been possible to do the un-sewing but there was no guarantee that the added leaves would look better since this is a pattern where the arrangement can not be decided by just two, or in this case, three rows but especially when repeating fabrics as I would have to have done. My quilt group liked the result and I am sure my darling daughter will say she loves it, as she has the first two.

One interesting thing that happened makes me wonder if this change of plans was really a mistake. As I came to quilt the end pieces, I found the space was just right to quilt the words from Ecclesiastes, "To every thing there is a season, (and) a time for every purpose under heaven.." As I finished quilting the phrase and added the binding I felt that maybe what I had thought to be a mistake was just an opportunity for something else if only I could keep my mind tuned to higher things than always being in control.

My number three daughter states this would also be a good runner idea in shades of green. At this point I am wondering how my sister managed to make a whole quilt using this pattern. Although I had stated I would never do this pattern again, never is a LOOOOOONG time!

The flowers on the Mother-in-law's tongue, (or any of the other names this plant goes by as certainly my own mother-in-law was the kindest most loving mother one might wish for) have begun to open. Green on green is not so flashy but they are lacy and charming. They also look like they are sweating in the Tokyo heat.

One more plant has blessed us with a flower. When we lived in Suginami Ward, my neighbor across the street had a huge prickly pear cactus on his front porch and every year it was covered with blooms. At one point I asked Morishita-san if, when he was pruning that cactus, he might give me a piece to root. Better than that, one day before we moved, he turned up at my door carrying a pot and plant he had already rooted. I now have several offspring of that plant. (I can't seem to throw away the pieces that accidentally get broken off) The plant sits up on my balcony all year but since this winter was particularly cold, I brought it inside for a few months. It still gets to freezing many nights but it seemed a bit happier than the year before. Now, for the first time, I have been rewarded with this lovely flower. Friday I shall return to my old neighborhood and I plan to take a picture to my friend and thank him again.