Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Moving ahead slowly

Every year, at both the Yokohama Quilt show and the Tokyo Dome show, one of the many shops is "House of Bess". One person in that shop is an elderly man who makes quilt hoop frames. For many years I stopped by to admire his frames and a few years ago, I decided the time had come to order one for myself. I had been using a hoop stand made in the States for  number of years. I was never completely happy with it because it was entirely too high to use while sitting in my comfortable chair. Then, one day, one of the three legs cracked and broke along the grain. I could have glued it back together but I took that as a sign that  time had come for a change (and I knew which change I wanted to make).


A great many years of my life have been lived sitting on the floor. I actually choose the floor over a chair on many occasions. This stand can be adjusted in height between a stool and a floor and in between. I can swing it over my chair or rotate it out of the way. If a part gets broken, the Ojisan will make me a new part.

The hoop I ordered is 20 inches. I have smaller hoops for my lap but I like this one for working on large areas.

I am still moving along on the Batik quilt for my #4 daughter. It has been several years since I began piecing the blocks and in June  it will be a whole year since I basted  it. All the small blocks are quilted and half the large ones. Sometimes, when I want a break, I put a small hoop on the edge and quilt a few border flowers.

If  I have a chance to travel during the summer to see my kids, I would love to take this quilt ... all finished ... and deliver it. The X & + blocks now number 180, probably enough to arrange into some kind of order and sew together. And then, there is something brown and green and owl-like to be made for my #1 son and his bride.

 Each time I sit at my computer I see new ideas that inspire. I often think of my twin, who was always bored, saying, "Mom, what can I do? I'm bored!" and she would suggest lots of great ideas only to have them all rejected for one reason or another, and all along I just couldn't figure out how ANYONE could be BORED! There are never enough hours in the day or days in the week, or weeks in a month or months in a year ... and I will have to live to at least 200 to do all the things I want to do and make all the quilts and use up all the scraps. Sooooo... time to get off the computer and back to the quilting!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

May for Me BINGO ... am I too old to play games?

I will either have a post to share for May for Me Bingo, or I will go off screaming into the night.   Just as I figure out how to make a post with only a little difficulty, Blogger goes and changes EVERYTHING!!!      Pictures that once went in from the bottom up, now go from the top down. When I try to start a new paragraph, it jumps down a whole picture. I thought it would be fun to join in the Bingo game. Making a bingo card was easy and fun but I have spent far too long trying to get this new system figured out and I haven't even gotten to the link part!

There was one fun part of the day. We held the District Pinewood Derby for all the Cubs in the Japan District and a group of invited Japanese Cub Scouts. Those units too far away to attend in person, sent in their winning cars to race. 

My job was putting graphite on the wheels before they registered the cars. (A very dirty job)!  My Good Luck Cat, after resting for a month in her box, went into the race with enthusiasm and came out a winner.  There was also a race with all cars running backwards down the track and she won that race too. (Actually, I discovered that she had been running the real race backward ... her number had been stuck on her foot and that was thought to be the front) Now, doesn't everyone know that a cat always goes head-first?

At the end, before the closing, I was presented with a framed certificate for contributions to the Derbies, claiming me "Racemaster Extraordinaire".   (I suppose it is a bribe to do it again next year). I was also given a derby polo shirt and a kit for a derby truck.  I had taken a display of many derby cars made by myself and two sons over the past 34 years

One lovely spring day would not be complete without flowers. This Peach tree is so beautiful every year.
I pass it on the corner of one block on my way to my parking spot or giving Nikko a walk. It is not on a beautiful country road with a blue sky but shoved up against an apartment building with power lines running through. What a good reminder to us all to bloom where we are planted!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Herding cats - part 3

Sunday, after all the cats were joined in pairs, I played with the group to find an arrangement where each cat would stand out. The black and white cat might have had a better partner but I am not going to change that pair.

After all the cats were joined, I basted around the outer edges and now the cats are ready to be appliqued on a background.
Today I pulled out some fabrics I might use on the background. I had been thinking of putting these cats on a quilt and I found this printed hexie fabric. It might be OK but the white and yellow cats are a bit hidden

Then I tried a pink quilt print but I don't like that as well.
Maybe the cats need to get off the quilt and go outside. The color of this daisy print is a prettier green than this picture shows... definitely a possibility.
Here they are on a purple print. Hmmm, not so great.
Last of all, I let the cats back inside and told them to stay off the quilts. here they are on the floor.
This might be a good choice. I will take the no-go prints back to the box and hold the yellow quilt, the daisy field, and the wooden floor out for consideration.
A quilt group friend used this pattern and solved some of the problems by alternating print and solid fabrics in the cat pairs. Certainly a solid background would be easier to use but have less interest. More color can be added with the embroidery and the balls.
The Kerria (or yamabuki, as it is called) is now in bloom on our garden path. The tall building to the South blocks sun for all but early morning so we get to enjoy this flower a bit later than other plants in the neighborhood.
I love this hardy bush. I started it from a cutting at my last house. (A good move because I noticed on my last trip through that area that the house owner had ripped out all the lovely shrubs. They take frequent pruning to keep under control and I have noticed the new renter does not care for any of the plants. I suppose they asked for the gardener to come and do the work and the home owner balked and had the bushes removed. The gardeners had come less and less over the years we lived there). I miss that lovely sunny garden. I miss the insulated house. I miss a parking space on the property. I miss the big kitchen and a real guest room. BUT... this morning after making the rounds with rice balls for the homeless, I am thankful for what I DO have and the happy yellow blooms are a good reminder of how suddenly things might change.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Basking in the glow

Friday, what a great day! Certainly being the 13th was not unlucky for me.
The Bible quilt class worked on the second two blocks. The Garden of Eden and Children of Israel blocks are done. Too bad I didn't get out my camera before the David and Goliath block was packed up for homework but you can see Jacob's Ladder going up into the starry sky.

Since this will be a quilt-as-you-go project, the backing needed to be a busy non-directional print. Our hostess found the perfect fabric for that. I think I will mark and cut a few more blocks so we can move a bit faster now that the class has had the experience of doing those tasks.

That was the activity for the first half of the day. I came home and threw my stuff together for my Cub Scout pack meeting. Then, it was off on the train, back into town. Thanks to Lis, I got no patchwork done. She brought me three wonderful quilt magazines which I needed to devour as quickly as possible.

And, here is how the pack meeting went...
We had one new Cub just joining "Tigers" so we began with the flag ceremony and the Cub Scout promise and the Law of the Pack.
The Cub Scout follows Akela. Who is "Akela"? The leader? your parent? the teacher? I wonder why I kept hearing a father calling "wait, wait" at the obstacle course less than a week ago?
The Cub Scout helps the pack go. Yep, thanks, guys, for coming to all our activities.(and to parents for bringing them ... because I know it isn't easy when we all live so far apart and there are younger siblings to think of).
The Pack helps the Cub Scout grow. This is not about getting bigger or older, that will happen without Scouting. These boys are growing in all kinds of ways. In the past two weeks we have gone to disaster and safety training and used physical skills on an obstacle course, and tonight we will learn a new skill because sewing is not just for girls.
The Cub Scout gives good will. One Cub guessed it was to "be" good, but I suggested ways they could "do" good.
We ended with the Cub Scout "sign", two fingers raised = listen up!
Then I explained the project and how we would proceed.

I had cut red felt into pieces that would make a vest. All the boys needed to do, was sew the shoulder seams and hammer eyelets for the ties. The Cubs are beginning to get patches and a patch vest is available for sale, but it is such a simple thing to make. The felt was washable and colorfast and the boy will have something that will remind him of his capability. (as a child, I was more often reminded of my failures so I put high importance on this kind of activity)
Note ... mothers are assisting and giving support but NOT doing the sewing FOR the Cubs.
Hammering in the eyelets... And what was even more rewarding, when there was need for quiet, all I had to do was raise two fingers! I wish I had lined up the boys in their new vests for a picture. The new Cub was the first to finish and he did everything himself. I couldn't have been prouder of "my" boys.
By the closing circle, my assistant had checked all the books. We passed our beads and patches and advancements, then passed "the squeeze" around the circle of boys and parents and siblings and leaders, shouted "DO YOUR BEST"and went out into the real world where the rain had begun.
Today is my husband's birthday but he is off to the opening ceremony for this year's Asian Rural Institute class and won't return until bedtime, Lis is off on her adventure, it is too cold and wet to shampoo the dog ... no matter how badly she needs it... so... guess it is time for some quilting.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tessellating cats #2 and blogging friends

Pairing cats
Each cat is cut out leaving a quarter-inch seam allowance. Once I decide an arrangement, I put the cats together in pairs. First I pin the darker of the pair to the pencil lines on the lighter cat.
Since darker cats are marked with a white chalk pencil, the lines will disappear as I applique and the pencil lines on the lighter cat will be covered. This also prevents a certain amount of shadowing.
I have some very short basting pins which I have used on the first pair.
Even with short pins, the thread often gets tangled in those pins. I prefer to baste the two cats together. Not only does it avoid tangles but for carry-along work, I do not have to deal with pins that might fall out or need to be put in the pin-cushion during sewing.
After all the pairs are sewed, I will repeat this step combining four cats.

And now, for friends...
After about a year and a half of blogging, something I didn't expect has begun to happen. Every now and then you might comment on a blog. Then you might get a reply and before you know it there is a conversation going between bloggers. Sometimes you may see a comment on another blog that just clicks and when you check that person's blog, you find someone who seems to be thinking in much the same way as you. Like the stitches that hold fabric together, this communication begins to link you to others, and just seeing their name in your in-box makes you smile. There are people out there that I wish I might meet in person.

How wonderful it was, then, that the opportunity arose. I could hardly contain my excitement!
It was an adventure to a new (for me) part of town, an exhibit by Amy Katoh of her collection of vintage indigo fabrics and then some strolling and shopping and snacking for the rest of the day.
But, more than the activity, was the friendship that turned out to be as wonderful, if not more so, than anticipated.

Lis, you made my day and I am still smiling when I look at your picture. I wish we had asked someone to take a picture of the two of us together... maybe sitting out under those cherry blossoms.
Finally the tulip bulbs I got for my birthday have begun to bloom
The grape Hyacinth popped up in the planter among the geraniums.
And the magnolias on the south side of the street, it the shade of the apartment building, have opened. Imagine looking out of your balcony and seeing these big flowers!
Two warm days and my down jacket is off to the cleaners, then into the store-room. Rain is forecast for the next few days but I am smiling.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Herding cats - part 1

A number of people have asked me about the tessellating cat pattern. The inspiration for this quilt was my white cat, Pearl. (Actually she was a princess disguised as a cat). She had a small kink in the tip of her tail so this is how I drew her on squared paper. The pattern is very easy to draw and consists of squares and half-square triangles. The size of the square will determine the finished size. I have made my squares 3/4".
The next step is to cut a pattern. You could cut it from cardboard or any other thing but if I am going to use it for many cats or over many years, I like to use a piece of plastic. (this is from a file folder)
On my templates I like something to keep them from slipping when I draw the lines. I put some double-stick tape on the back of a piece of sandpaper. Then I cut strips and fasten them to the back of the template.
One other advantage of having sandpaper on the back, is that you will not mistakenly cut some of the cats facing the wrong way.
Another advantage of the clear plastic is that you can audition the print and mark it to the best advantage.
Here is the cat marked out on fabric. I use a white Karisma pencil for dark fabrics and regular pencil or disappearing ink for light fabrics. Since cats are appliqued together, they need to be marked on the top of the fabric.
You can make as many cats as you wish but here are some points to consider. With each row of cats, the margin moves over the width of one square. That means the side margins are not even. I did not figure this in the first time I used this pattern and after putting five rows of eight cats, I solved the problem by putting cats sideways at the two wide corners. Next point is that each cat abuts with as many as six other cats so it is a bit tricky to find the right placement that shows up each cat.
Here is a sample lay-out. I have done this with as many as 42 cats and as few as 4. 8 will make a nice square quilt of about 38"x38" with a border. Part 2 will follow later. I am greatly anticipating meeting tomorrow with my blogging friend, Lis, of "Piece'nPeace", who has arrived in Tokyo.
Today is windy with sputters of rain from time to time. This is how the street looks ... well, maybe it is a bit pinker than this. The funny part is, there is not one cherry tree in sight. These flower petals came from a tree across from the park two blocks away!

Monday, April 2, 2012


Six one-hour train rides equals progress. With the runners in the post, it is back to other take-along work. The signature piano-key border for the Women's Conference hanging had been waiting since the end of January to be completed. The lettering and about half the blocks are quilted in the ditch. The water will get some sashiko stitching in blue, then the border will be quilted and it will be turned into a hanging. My idea is to make a second hanging for next year's Conference that will be a pair to this one and use this after it is completed to advertise for next year, hopefully making the rounds to assorted churches in the area.
In addition, I am back to the x and + blocks. These make it about 172 blocks total. I wish I could see a larger dent in my stash as a result.

Saturday's outing to the Life Safety Learning Center was fun for the kids. They learned how to put out fires using an extinguisher, Saw a movie about what to do in case of an earthquake and tsunami, got all shook-up in a simulator, and crawled through a smoke-filled maze.

The funniest part was the "rain room" where they got to experience a typhoon. Dressed to the nines in rain gear and boots they got blasted with water and wind. Two brave adults gave it a try too. Me? I didn't want to get my camera wet. (my excuse and I'm sticking to it).

The Moms had their cameras at the window as the fake storm kicked in.

The funniest part was that exactly the same weather was going on outside. Every single scout lost his cap at one point or other on the way from the train station and I have never seen so many dead umbrellas within just a few blocks! The trains were stopped because of high wind, causing delay at the meeting point.

Today we are having a second, bigger helping of the same weather. School was called off to get the buses off the highway and home before the blast set in. The view from my window looks about the same as Saturday's view, minus the scouts. Strange time of year for a typhoon.

The magnolia trees on the North side of the street leading to the train station are in bloom but the petals will probably be scattered by tomorrow.

Luckily, the trees on the South side are in the shade and still in bud so there will be something left to enjoy.

The camellias were very late to open and I saw many flower heads rolling down the street even before the storm got going.

And ... Happily tucked inside my little green-house/bedroom, my tiny orchid has two more little flowers and a few more buds coming out. The hummingbird is something I carved out of wood and the wooden flower was carved by a friend at the BSA Jamboree. I thought of painting that bird but since there are no real hummingbirds in Japan, I had no good model. Now I am thinking that the wood is better and he can be any breed he feels like at the time.