Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Ceremonial Button Blanket

Today is cold, dark, and rainy, a good day to wrap up in something warm and cozy. What I am showing you is not something I have made. It was presented to me at an Order of the Arrow conclave a few years ago.

The Order of the Arrow (or OA) is the National Honor Society of Scouting. It is made up of Scouts and Scouters who are nominated to the organization for "Walking the talk" or living the Scout oath in their daily lives. I was the first woman elected to the order in 1990 in the Far East Council (though the Lodges in the states had women for a number of years). I am the only female Vigil Honor member in our Lodge as well, and was the Lodge advisor for nearly six years.

For many years, our Lodge was part of the Western Region that included Alaska and Washington State. Each year the OA holds a conclave hosted by one of the Lodges in the area. I have been lucky to attend conclaves in both states and, during my tenure as advisor, the first youth members were able to attend from The FEC. The conclaves are usually held over a weekend and, with travel issues, means missing a day or two of school, thus not easy to attend even with donated airline tickets.

So, what about the blanket? One year I attended a conclave with our District Executive and during a silent auction, he bid on a button blanket without success. A plot then developed between myself and an OA member from Washington named Kathy Anderson, to create a button blanket specially for Derek, the DE. If you are interested, you can see it in the 2005 list of projects. The central crest represents the wearer's heritage. His was a beaver. (As he is of the Woodbadge beaver patrol), we discussed the elements to include and I was tasked with sewing on the buttons. The beaver is a typical NW totem. My blanket, however, is very unusual.

It came as a complete surprise a number of years later. I was called to the stage and presented with this lovely piece of work. It was explained to me that my totem, the owl, is never used as a main totem. (According to NW tradition, when the owl calls your name, your time has come). Instead, the blanket contains the dragon, which is the totem of the Achpateuny Lodge to which I belong. I love the dragon fabrics in the upper and side borders along with the blue that represents sky and sea.

The buttons are abalone shell and on the sides you can see two turtles, the totem of my younger days, formed by buttons alone.
The triangle on the large button is the Vigil symbol.

And on each shoulder, carefully hidden, are ghost owls. Though not the main totem, they are there hugging my shoulders on either side of the dragon.

A peek inside shows how the owls have been added.

There are also loops inside for hands.

The dangling blue piece is for closing the front edges.

I never learned the story behind this presentation but I am certain Kathy Andersen was much involved.

A year later, our OA Lodge was switched to the part of the Western Region that includes Hawaii. I have not attended a conclave there as the dates have been the first days back to school for our youth.
We worked for so many years to build relations with our former Section and it is hard to figure out the advantages of the switch. Still, wrapped in my ceremonial button blanket, my heart and mind go back to my friends in the Great Northwest and I share not only this wonderful design but the joy of friendships that go far beyond the seas which not only separate us but also join us.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving and giving thanks

It may have been Thanksgiving day in the States but it was "T" for test day here!
After loading up my heart with all the best wishes from my blogging friends, (and advice from my daughter to relax), I set off for the driving school.
I was put in a classroom with five other old folks where we filled out forms and waited for the test to begin. Why did they tell us to come at three if the class didn't begin until 3:40? Luckily, time =piece (and peace).
The first part of the test was to figure out how senile we had become since the last test. They allowed me to write my answers in English (or I might still be writing), and a lovely interpreter came in to tell the testers what I had written. Most of it was so easy I thought I didn't understand the instructions ... like draw the face of a clock and put the hands at 11:10 or write the date and tell what day it is. From time to time they wanted us to guestimate the time ... after making us take off our watches. The instructor was surprised to see I was exactly on the minute.
Next they showed us four sets of four picture cards ... set them out on the board, gave us a minute to look and took them down putting up the next set until we had seen all sixteen pictures. Then we were asked to list the pictures subject matter. A sixteen block quilt. I can still remember them in order now and probably will next week.
When that was over, half the group went out to drive and my half stayed for testing reaction time. That is the part of the test that was worst. It was just as bad as five years ago ... a TV screen, steering wheel, accelerator and brake. Watching the video of the car moving down the street, one had to hit the break when a kid in a yellow shirt came running out between parked cars. For walkers on the side of the road, you were to take your foot off the pedal, and for bikers on the sidewalk,...just keep going. Well, that was easy enough EXCEPT the pedal didn't do anything. The video moved at a constant speed regardless of if your foot was off or on and the angle was such that the foot was flexed at right angles to the floor, hardly normal or comfortable and difficult to figure out whether one was pressing the pedal or not. The road kinked left and right as a means of distraction and the wheel reaction was not anything like real life. Hitting the brake mad your chair slide backwards. I survived and passed that part ... reaction time in the 30 to 40 year old range, other part ... so so.
Then eye test and a video about old drivers hitting bikers when turning and other dangers of age. Funny they didn't mention the distraction of cell phones as I have been hit twice by young people on phones and, because I drive a van, I see down onto cars stopped in traffic and there is hardly an outing that I don't see young drivers texting or reading messages with the phone held in their laps.
The final bit was the actual driving. I was first after the teacher made one loop as demonstration. I think I was the only driver who adjusted the seat height and mirrors. The next guy drove fast and went over the curb on the twisty section. The other guy didn't know how to work the seat belts. All six of us old folks passed and got our certificates.
today I took the train into town and traded in my old license and papers for a new one.
At every 45 minutes or so there was a break and the room emptied as everyone rushed out to the toilets. I am glad to have a hobby that soothes my nerves. I hate just sitting around so now my block count is up to 77.
Since the blocks are only five inches, even with sashing I will need at least 140 for a single size quilt if I add a border.
The computer issues still exist because without the dashboard I can't get to the SlowPoke blogs at all. I am trying to find everyone and follow them in google reader but I am not completely happy with that arrangement. A call from my youngest Son indicates things may get better before too long in the form of an English-speaking computer. Well, HE is the one who got me into blogging in the first place!
Our Church will hold a Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow in the Fellowship hall. The best part of the meal for me is the leftovers. Maybe I should take a little lunch box and bring half my meal home. At any rate, I have plenty to be thankful for. My youngest daughter called today and commented on the kind responses from my blogging friends, saying I must be happy. She got that one right! Thanks to one and all,

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Why do I have to be a computer guru to have a quilting blog?

Why do Blogger and Google keep changing things?

Why keep fixing things that aint broke!

My dashboard can no longer be accessed. That is where I go to read blogs I follow. I get a message that I should add Google Chrome but my computer won't let me do that. So now what? Am I the only one with these problems?

As if I didn't already know that I am OLD and not too hip, tomorrow I have to take another OLD AGE driving test. At this point I have become not only old but DANGEROUS. I must get stickers for the front and back of my car to warn the public of that fact.

I did this exercise at 70 so it is not a new thing. I must pay to go to a driving school. There I sit in a lecture about how the statistics show that old people are involved in more accidents. Of course, those statistics also include old people who are passengers on cars (because they aren't allowed to drive) and old people who are hit by cars walking or riding bikes or driving) Forget the fact that this is an aging population so there are just more old people to get in trouble.

The last school had a machine to test your reaction time. It was a cartoon TV screen showing a street with cars parked on each side. A guy in a red shirt popped out between the cars, at which time you had to hit the breaks as fast as possible. Trouble was, the accelerator was only set at off and on. No adjustment of speed was possible. I would never be driving down a street that was one car wide with cars parked on both sides at 40k in the first place. The tester did not like the fact that I kept taking my foot off the gas and making the video stop.

Then there is an eye test. I already went and had my glasses adjusted for the occasion.

Then there is a fake driving course. You can not drive in your own car. That would be just too easy for an old person to drive something they are familiar with. You must drive the school's car over a fake course winding around something that looks like a kiddie course. Other than the fact it is in a strange car, that part is no problem. No trucks or traffic, just follow the yellow brick road, so to speak.

One of my friends said, "Don't worry, my mother passed the test and did perfect on the memory test", Memory test? I'm going to have to memorize something in Japanese? Don't worry?

So, now that my computer will no longer allow me the distraction of reading other blogs, I guess I will just have to sit and cut fabric scraps and try not to worry (and start feeling my age)!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A mixed bag

As you may have guessed by now, if you have been a reader any length of time, I have a lot of quilted stuff that has never been registered as a "quilt" and this bag is only one of those. I love this Japanese fabric. I don't know the technical term but the base thread is black and the colored thread is woven across. All are either solids or stripe. I made this bag to carry my quilting things when I go to group meetings. The handles can clip to the bottom and become a back pack. Not fancy but serviceable.

However, this post is not about the bag.

This morning, as is custom in Japan, I was sweeping the street in front of my gate. There were persimmon leaves from the neighbor's tree to the North and maple leaves from the neighbor's tree to the South, one bamboo leaf from my own garden and some cigarette butts and drink cans, (our house being just about that far from the cigarette and drink machines). No one would think about where those things came from, only look at the mess and think the house owner to be quite careless as the condition of the street reflects directly on the house owner.

This is an interesting aspect of life in Japan. Thinking people to be very neat and clean, I was horrified the first time I went to cherry-blossom-viewing and saw the mountains of trash left behind. Even on Mt Fuji I was appalled at all the trash dumped along the paths. My husband explains that the farther a person gets from their home, the more anonymous they become, and while they would never drop trash in front of their own home, dropping it elsewhere causes no shame at all.

While I swept the street to avoid the shame, I was thinking of another problem that is not too far removed, this years auction quilt.

You must be wondering what the connection is. The first meetings to decide the theme and design for this project did not include me. The idea was discussed and the fabric was purchased and I met at the given time to help in my usual way. The chosen design and fabrics are truly lovely.

BUT, the problem is, the plan is almost a direct copy of someone else's quilt... at least it is enough alike to recognize where the idea came from.

When I attended the Yokohama Quilt show, there in front of me I saw that same quilt. A member of the committee had seen the quilt at an earlier show and taken a picture and was working from the photo in buying the fabric and deciding the plans.

Doing a bit of research on the quilter, we discovered that she is one of the top "Senseis", a teacher who is probably making a living out of teaching quilting. If I didn't feel comfortable about the copy from the first, you can imagine how I am feeling now. There was much discussion about what to do next and I understand a letter will go to the quilter in English. Well, that is a start BUT, if the contact goes to her school and no one understands what it is about... she may not even see the message... she may not reply... Then, I am still left between a rock and a hard place.

My husband has said he would be glad to write a translation of the letter and he is very good at writing diplomatic Japanese. While, to me, imitation may be the highest form of flattery, the teacher may not feel that way. At the same show I heard how one quilter, who makes her living by her craft, felt about someone she believed was copying her designs.

As my name has been linked with the ASIJ auction quilt since the first one in 2004, I am more than a little concerned. The only quilts I have ever made copying something more than a block design are the two I drafted after seeing those of Lucy Boston, no longer alive at that time and even in my diary I give her the credit though not copies. Yes, of course, the teacher would be given credit but somehow I feel that her blessing is needed too.

I have discussed this by e-mail with some of my blogging friends and have been encouraged to post the issue. Many of us may never face this problem. I have seen famous Baltimore album quilts copied by Japanese quilters down to the last detail and the worry is not about being sued... This is a school where children are taught not too plagiarize their reports but is this any different? If I am involved in this, will my reputation be damaged? Do I have the guts to withdraw myself from the group which I happen to love? Am I worrying about nothing? Have I been in Japan so long that I am worrying about cigarette butts on the street in front of my house?

One thing my paper quilt diary never got was feed-back. Now I do believe I could use a little.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

International Quilt Week Yokohama 2011

How anything that only lasts three days can be called a "Week" is beyond me. Then, again, I have had weeks that seem to past that fast.
This is what greeted visitors at the entrance. Yosakoi-sooran is a form of group folk dance very popular in Japan. This is but a small portion of that large colorful hanging.

There must have been a festival theme because high in the rafters was this composit quilt. The Kanji is "Matsuri" or festival and many small quilts making up this giant hanging depict various festivals around the country.

The reverse side was just as colorful.

As usual in quilt shows I have attended, taking photos is limited to what is on the outer sides of walls to the main exhibits.

There was a display of small "theme" quilts. They do not seem to be a festival theme and I could not find any information on what the theme was. For a show that uses the word "international", there is not a great deal of information in other than Japanese.

Some of these little quilts were quite charming.

Here are a few that seem to have been made using the same game plan

In addition to the show, and of course stalls, there were areas where workshops were being held. There was also a large selection of quilts that had been donated to quake relief and were being raffled or auctioned off. Considering the small size of many of those, it seemed like a good idea. Those donations had come from all around the world.

There were displays of Asian quilts. Usually there is a selection of Korean quilts but this year other countries were also included. There were lectures and talks being given by both Japanese and foreigners with interpreters.

I had a nice conversation with a lovely Hawaiian quilter named Mary Cesar. She had a display of beautiful Hawaiian quilts and has a newly published book of her own designs. I hope to see her next winter at the Tokyo Dome show.

As last year, the halls were filled with miniature quilts on a theme of "hearts".

I think I liked the variety of last years theme of "houses" a bit better.

And, while this has been a VERY BUSY WEEK, straining to fit in all the activities I am involved in, rice project, auction quilt, visit from overseas friend, choir practice, Scout Leaders' meeting, Cub Pack meeting, Cub Leaders Pow Wow (advanced leader training), squeezing in a peek at the quilt show, Church and travelling hours between each thing,.....

Sunday afternoon was a special day with just family.(well, extended family), as my little granddaughter celebrated her "Shichi-go-san" (7,5,3 celebration for girls 3 and 7 and boys 5)

With two sets of grandparents, parents, and great-aunt we set out to a shrine where she received a blessing and a big stick of candy in a long bag.

We tried to find the kimono worn by my four girls but forty some years and three moves foiled those plans. All I could come up with was the hair decoration they all wore.
Then, on a sugar high from that long candy stick, we tried to get pictures. I have determined the only way would be to take a video and then sort the pictures frame by frame. We tried the tripod for a group picture but it is hard for that flashing camera to know when everyone is looking in the same direction,let alone smiling!
Tea and a lovely meal together in a traditional setting ended the week on a happy note. Sharing this special time is both sweet and a bit sad because so much of the family is so far away but for one day we enjoyed what we had.

It was a great way to end the very busy week and begin another.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

North Wind celebrates hand quilting

North Wind was begun the winter of 1994 for no other reason than that I liked that block made of triangles and wanted to see it in a quilt. I limited the colors to red, white, and blue and just pieced blocks in assorted arrangements of those colors. After laying out the blocks in various configurations, I decided I liked them best all pointing one way. Then with all that wind blowing around I thought it needed something to do so I added some sail boats and a mariner's compass to keep them from getting lost.

Once the center of the quilt was pieced, it stalled for want of a border and ended up in the UFO box with other unfinished projects.

Then in 1999. An article in "Quiltmaker" magazine, featured the block and requested pictures. I sent a picture of the unfinished top and it was printed in the May/June issue. Along with a copy of that issue came a suggestion of using a cloud print. I had never seen any in Japan so the top waited back in the UFO pile.

The summer of 2001, on a trip to the States, I visited Keepsake Quilters and bought some water and cloud printed fabric but I still couldn't decide how to use it.

Finally in 1993 I declared it to be the year of the UFO. I was determined not to begin any new projects for a year and just complete the UFOs. This was the last project of the year. The print ran across the fabric and had to be pieced. I added the gulls to cover those seams. Then I used some triangles I had originally thought of using in an outer border. finished size is 72" x 90.5"

I have only made one quilt using a machine and that is because it was a mystery quilt and the instructions were by machine. That quilt, however, was hand quilted.

I guess every quilt in my diary could be used to celebrate hand quilting.

I was very happy to see Caron Mosey of Michigan Quilts suggest a link to other hand quilters. I have been trying to connect to that group and hope you will take a look at all the wonderful hand work there. Unfortunately, I am better at figuring out quilting problems than computer ones ... and that doesn't say much if you notice how long this one quilt took me to complete!