Friday, October 28, 2011

Double Crossed meets Bloggers Quilt Festival

A while back I posted a picture of "Star Crossed", a small quilt I made after viewing a similar quilt made by Lucy Boston and displayed in a Tokyo department store.

I had been so taken by the pattern that I made a sketch of the idea and came home to figure out how to make a pattern so I could try it myself.

That quilt was limited to red, white, and blue. As with all hexagon patterns, all seams were just 2cm and turn, no straight sewing, and a lot of work. I was happy with the results and called that quilt "Star Crossed" because I was destined to make it. At that time I said, "never again"!

Well, you may know how these things work because the possibilities of making one with other colors kept calling me and in 2002 I began cutting and piecing blocks.

The striped fabric is a soft weave used in the little squares and the border. I had only enough for the side edges and since they were not the same, I appliqued a Hawaiian-style edge and finished the corners with blocks.

The size is 88.5" x 106.5" and, being too big to carry along to quilt meetings, took a long time to quilt with other projects forcing themselves into the schedule. It was finished in April 2006 in time to cover the bed during a visit from my American cousin. Twice captured by this pattern, I named the quilt "Double Crossed".

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mt. Fuji in the rain

This past weekend was our yearly choir retreat. Every year we take the music we will be learning and will present at "Choir Sunday" in early December and hold a retreat at the YMCA building in Gotemba, at the foot of Mt Fuji.

This year the weather forecast was rain, and indeed, it did begin sprinkling Friday night on the drive down from Tokyo. By Saturday morning we were having off and on heavy downpour. What is usually a very scenic spot was missing the usual fall color and lovely view.

We practiced hard all day Saturday and into Sunday until noon. There are a few very good musicians in the group. Most of us are only those who love to sing good music and will work hard to do our best to contribute to the success of the whole. There is a great feeling of sharing and camaraderie that is hard to find in groups that gather only Sunday morning or show up for a Thursday evening rehearsal once in a while.

I'm sure Mr Vivaldi was smiling down from above at what was happening to his lovely music.

There is a small chapel in the hills with a view of Fuji that might better any attempt at stained glass and we look forward to a small worship service there. But then, Sunday we saw no sign of anything but rain clouds.

Finally we packed up and started down the hill for our return to Tokyo. At the foot of the hill, just across from the YMCA entrance there is a small museum and coffee shop run by Kathy Nakajima. Here in Japan she is well known as a teacher and maker of Hawaiian quilts and other articles using traditional Hawaiian designs. I especially appreciate her work because in this day and age of quickie quilts, all her work is done by hand, and done expertly too. In a show of the 50 top Japanese teachers, many are machine pieced and quilted but I can count on hers to be all hand work and artistically designed. My riding companion suggested we stop for a quick look-see and we ended up sipping some coffee at a little table with hand-made mats as decoration and little quilts on the walls. AND... as we sat, the sun came out and what should appear but Mt Fuji, above the mist.

I had to pull the car over as we left the area toward the expressway to grab a shot. Even with power lines and buildings, Fuji-san can be an awesome sight.

If you recognize Japanese writing, you will see that many of the lines in the quilted block are up-side-down. Although that bothers me a bit, I am now thinking that it is like the rain lifting so Fuji-san will show.

Today the small group met to begin the ASIJ auction quilt and next week we will begin in earnest. Too bad I didn't have a camera with me to document the onset, fabrics laid out on the floor and pieces being arranged and re-arranged until they fell into place.

In this way it is not unlike the choir, each effort and idea combined for an outcome that will bring satisfaction to all. And so may it be.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

No more cleaning frenzies

Today's post has nothing new. It may be a long, long, time before I have something completed to show and a picture of a few more quilted blocks on the batik quilt might not excite anyone other than the daughter getting it when finished.

The time has come for a bit of washing of the quilt that covers the smaller sofa and since I had no digital picture, I decided to take it to the park for a photo. This is a challenge quilt. One former member of our little quilt group returned to Japan for a visit and brought a gift of five fat quarters to each of the group members. These were, a dark blue star print, a blue and tan figured fabric, a red with small white dots, a red and tan check print and a green and tan check print. The members of our group decided we would add one fabric of our own and make a quilted object.

At that time I had a rather small quilt covering my smaller sofa which is quite worn. This seemed like a good opportunity to add some medium brown and make a larger quilt to take its place.

I had no particular plan in mind when I made the center blocks other than to see how this random arrangement might work out. Since I wanted the quilt to be large enough to be useful, I added a wide border and used the five fabrics in an applique. I did a fairly good job of using all the fabric as there was very little, if any, left over. The blue print with stars has faded in the bit of sun that comes through the window part of the year but it is holding up with the rough treatment that a sofa quilt gets.

The reverse side is a collection of Japanese tenugui in botanical prints.
The island with the camellia is Oshima, not far from Tokyo and famous for the large beautiful camellia trees and products made from camellia oil. Many of these represent seasons. Snow on the camellia, the seven autumn plants, pine, plum, cherry and other less familiar plants.

When I first came to live in Japan, we rented a small "apato" not far from where we live now. It had a small entryway with a kitchen sink on one side and a lavatory on the other and a tiny bit of counter to hold a one-burner stove. (no hot water in those days and no bath or shower). There were two rooms. One four and a half mat room and one six mat room. (One tatami mat is about 3'x6') There was also a closet for storing things. Life was quite simple. We had a small folding table about two feet high and five zabuton which are cushions for sitting on. At night we folded up the table and put out thin sleeping mats which had been stored in the cupboard during the day. The only other furniture I brought from the states was a cedar chest that had belonged to my Great Aunt and a bureau that had come west to Ohio in an ox pulled wagon with Great Great Grandfather when Ohio was still the "Western Region". As was the custom in Japan, and still is today, One entered the house and left one's shoes at the entry. Slippers were used in the "kitchen" and toilet but walking on tatami mats was in bare or stocking feet.

Today one finds fewer and fewer rooms with tatami and a room barely larger than that first apartment contains two sofas, two large chairs, a good sized coffee table, a corner table, a large cabinet with a TV, a dish hutch, a desk, a table with six chairs, a buffet and a bookcase. Also a dog kennel, a highchair, a foot stool, several lamps,...are you getting the picture? The problem is, walking through this house in bare feet ... especially when in a cleaning frenzy... is DANGEROUS.

After the quilt group left I went to the clinic for rehab hoping to see an end to the broken toe saga. Alas, the x-ray showed the toe not yet healed and the one next to it had been broken tripping over stuff while trying to tidy the house. This time there is a half cast and it is a lot less painful but flip-flop weather is over. The house went back to its pre-cleaned state before I returned from the clinic and today I tripped over bags of stuff just carrying the ladder through the house. At least four toes are safely covered with the cast. You may think I am a clutz but in this house.... only Nikko moves with ease.

My birthday is coming. For the last three years when asked what I wanted for my birthday, I asked for a system of putting things away (I don't count things in bags as away) so that the place would be neat and tidy and I could feel free to invite my friends over. My son-in-law made wonderful file drawers where things could be organized and I offered to make labels for the files. My daughter spent a long time over the weekend going through the piles and sorting things into labeled bags so they could be put away, but today there is so much junk piled in front of those drawers you couldn't open them if you wanted to. I fear I will always live in an obstacle course.

On the way to the park to take a picture, Nikko met a neighborhood cat that she would like to have as a friend.

As she stood, tongue lolling, tail wagging, with a eager whimper issuing forth from her smiling face, THIS is the greeting she got.

"I see you. I hear you, but don't you DARE take one step further in my direction or I'll bop you on the kisser"

Yes, Nikko, my mother warned me there would be days like this.

As a further report on the Eagle slide, during the ceremony, the "Eagle Charge" came from a former member of the troop by way of a video as that youth is now in New Zealand. Dressed in his full uniform, that Scout was also wearing an eagle slide. And this week I received notice of one of my former Scouts who is working on his project as the last requirement for the rank of Eagle. Yeaaay!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

My non-quilting life

As some may already know, Scouting plays a rather large role in my life. The Far East Council brings American Scouting to youth in Japan, Okinawa, Korea, Philippines, and Taiwan and although it is much a part of the military program, the civilian community benefits from all Scouting has to offer. I have been in the program as a Cub Master ever since women were allowed to that position and served in many positions at District and Council level. Not all my Scouts are American citizens. Some belong to the chartering organization , some go to international schools, and some are returning boys who joined the BSA while in the States. One thing they all have in common is that they belong to a revolving door community. The usual stay is two or three years.

Scouting has a lot to offer to these youth because wherever they go, there is another Scouting community ready to welcome them and help with the adjustment of moving to a new place. The sad part is that we have to say a lot of goodbyes.

When my boys leave, I tell them that I hope they will find another unit to join and continue with Scouting. I also encourage them to go for the Eagle rank, and, if they do, let me know and I will carve them an Eagle neckerchief slide. Bribe? Could be... Each year I get announcements of Eagle Courts of Honor and have sent slides all around the world. Some of those boys were just little kids when I last saw them. (Sometimes it is a little hard to imagine them as they are now but I am so happy to have been part of their lives during their growing years).Sometime they are brothers of Eagles and at least two families have three slides.

Last week I received a letter with a Singapore stamp on it. It is an invitation to an Eagle COH and it will be held this evening here in Tokyo. The young man is returning to Tokyo to hold his big event with his former troop. For once I will be able to attend. The slide is all made and I will write a note to give with it.

This particular slide is carved from Japanese Broad-leaved Magnolia. I have three kinds of wood that I like to use. This one is not the most beautiful but it carves nicely and takes the paint well.

This is one of two patterns I repeat over the years. I also carve a slide for my Cubs if they meet the "Cubmaster's Challenge". That is to graduate to Boy Scouts having done everything in the book, including the religious award and the environmental patch. (It is possible to earn the Arrow of Light award by doing a certain amount of the advancement requirements) It is interesting how many boys that set their goals to earn my challenge, make it all the way to Eagle and replace one neckerchief slide with the other.

As I was working on finishing the slide, my husband asked how many I had made all together. I have no idea but I hope some day those young men will dig out the slides and put them on and give back to Scouting. They are my legacy and I am proud to have been part of their life.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Quilt group HERE tomorrow

The librarian side of me is having a big problem reconciling the chaos that is my household. 99% of the time I am living in the midst of the "Giant spoon" syndrome. For you more organized folks, that is when the giant spoon swoops down and stirs everything up.

With my quilt group meeting here in less than 20 hours, that means big-time cleaning.

First the vacuum cleaner to pick up the drifting dog hair. How nice it would be to be able to vacuum the dog. Well, the first picture shows how Nikko feels about vacuums.

Next it is scrub down the floors to remove all the dust and remaining dog hair. And then, oh happy day, a lovely coat of wax.

Quick, take a picture because this will not last very long!

#3 daughter will come following the quilt group. She will appreciate the lovely clean house but may not enjoy the smell of freshly waxed floors. Luckily it is a beautiful day and I can open all the windows but, at least to me, the smell of wax means clean.

The number of meetings at the beginning of each month contributes to my pile of blocks. This is still not enough to make anything of size... even with added sashing. I am still chopping scraps and have not as yet dipped into my stash. It is clear I will need some kind of design wall to get this all organized. Perhaps something I can tack onto a long pole and hang from the ceiling will do.

I have heard of people using flannel and also fleece (polartec?). If I am going to invest in one or the other, what do you think would work best to organize blocks and sashing and keep it in place until I can get it together (which probably means rolling the "wall" up when not in use)? Since I usually make bed-sized quilts, I would want something big enough for a double bed sized quilt.

As I was writing about the smell of wax, and the beautiful October weather, another scent came to mind that is truly a part of early fall here in Japan.

I had never met this evergreen before coming to Japan. Kin-mokusei, Osmanthus fragrans,
can be a medium shrub in a pot or a garden tree up to perhaps 4 meters.
"Sweet Olive" in English, these tiny flowers have an intense sweet fragrance described as a blend of jasmine, gardenia, and ripe apricots. It also comes in a yellow variation called Gin-mokusei. Whichever one finds, you are bound to smell it before you can identify where that scent is coming from... especially walking at night, (when the scent is most powerful), down a dimly lit street.

In another week, the flowers will be gone and likewise my clean house will be history. The phrase,"enjoy it while it lasts" couldn't be more relevant than it is today.