Sunday, March 30, 2014

Projects that call out for a try

Sometimes, while hopping around to my friend's blogs, I spot a pattern or layout or block that calls out to me to give it a try. Even when I resist because of other fish to fry, they keep whispering to me in passing until I just have to give it a shot.

Sometimes they are like the "star crossed" quilt inspired by the Lucy Boston quilts I saw in a show. I test the pattern, I love the result but I say,"Never again", only to make "double crossed".

Once my sister sent me a maple leaf pattern ... lovely tessellating leaves that actually looked like real maples in configuration ... I just had to try making a quilt in that pattern. (and even after trying it out and saying "Never again", made another attempt with a table runner for a daughter).

There is a pinwheel pattern I just love ... or is it hate-to-love ... and have made several times. Usually these quilted pieces end up in very small items like a bag or a table runner ... and here is the reason why ...

I see these things on other blogs like this "+" block. Wow, that is so cool! What a great way to use up scraps!

How hard can that be? Just cut two squares and one piece the size of three squares and make a bunch of + blocks.

Nope, it doesn't work that way!

You have to lay all those pieces out and get them arranged first. THEN, you have to keep them in order long enough to sew them all together. It might not be a problem if you are sitting at a sewing table but this is my take-along work.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love order. One of my favorite things about library work was going to a shelf and finding a book right in place. My fabrics get sorted into bins by color or design and if I want a piece of pink print, I know usually where to look ... well it might be a stripe or check or plaid but it will be in the place it lives when it is not in action.

Yes, I do like to cross my bridges before I get to them and build a few extra ones along the way just in case. Plan As are great but I will be happier if there is a plan B or plan C waiting in the wings.

My favorite plan is to make lots of those blocks until I have enough for a quilt ... something like the Gala quilt ... lay them all out and arrange them so that they go well together ... and then put it all together, maybe add a border ... or like the + and x blocks, add sashing. When it comes to quilting, I am just the opposite of my every-day self.

I go nuts on those tessellating leaves or the pinwheels. Even on that last "broken heart" block, I spent almost as much time un-sewing and re-sewing as I did putting other blocks together. Most of those patterns that have blocks containing neighboring blocks will keep calling until I try them but they are never going to end up in a large bed cover.

I finally, after sorting out those pieces over and over again, pinned them together in rows. I can tell you now, this is going to be a very small quilted object! At least, the challenge of the Lucy Boston pattern was the set-in seams, I didn't have to keep 11 cats headed in the same direction!

Saturday I visited "Fabric Town" with a coupon for savings. I do NOT need any more fabric but was hoping to find something specific for a friendship block.

Well, everyone had one of those coupons! The sales tax will go up tomorrow and shoppers were out to make a deal. Good thing all I needed was a tiny pre-cut pack and some white lead for my marking pencil.

Along the street I was met by blooming cherry trees.

Yes, spring has finally made its way to Tokyo .... but it is not going out like a lamb.

Yesterday was very windy and rainy. Not much flower-viewing being done (and besides everyone was shopping in the upper class stores before taxes go up).

All night and all day today the wind is rattling the windows. I figure half of those petals are on their way to Canada and the west coast of the U.S.!

The magnolias that have been fuzzy buds since the end of summer are competing with each other for room on the branches.

Check out the size of just one flower!

(Of course, these petals are not even going to make it to the next block in this wind).

(And since they are growing beside an apartment building ... just like where the snow enjoyed a long life... they are not likely to get swept up).

My own little garden had a bit of spring too.

There is Sweet Daphne in white ...

and Sweet Daphne in pink and white ...

And this little pot of stars along the wall.

I have no idea what these are.
The leaves have a slightly onion-like smell.

They close at dusk and open again with the first light of day.

The picture doesn't really show their true beauty...

They actually have a pale blue-violet touch to the petals.

With all this wind, I should probably get away from my lap-top and take Nikko to the park for a good brushing.

Beware, Canada! There will be more than flower petals headed your way.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Two more book club blocks

The February book club read was "Mrs, Lincoln's Dressmaker" by Jennifer Chiaverini.

This is my favorite way to learn history and since much of the information came from records and memoirs, it contains a lot of true history.

Though I usually try to find block ideas using a number of fabrics, I decided to go with something more simple.

This pattern is called "broken heart" and I thought each color would represent the two main characters.

Certainly both women were linked, not only by dresses but by the loss of family members.

The light heart print I used from the background is a rather light weave but I had just enough and decided to go with that rather than a bright pink and white heart print. I don't know how machine piecers manage but trying to figure out how to iron all those seams so as not to create lumps is plenty difficult when there is a choice.

I have made one more block but I am not sure if this is the right block for the March book.

This block is called "Star of Mystery". I picked it out because I could use a variety of fabrics.

The book is "A Drunkards Path" by Clare O"Donohue.

I have yet to try a drunkard's path block. but if I find one I like, this might become the default block.

The next few books I will probably have to send away  to Amazon to buy, a but tricky without a credit card...

This makes 14 blocks but I think I want to make my quilt a bit larger.

I wonder who, other than Susan. have made blocks for all the books.
Thank You Susan, for the fun of a challenge I can join without pressure.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My 12th book club block

January's Book Club read was "The Healing Quilt" by Lauraine Snelling. In the story, four very different women get together to create a quilt to raise money for a new Mammogram unit for the community hospital. In so doing, new friendships and support, work to overcome struggles in each of their lives.

There was no picture of the quilt but it was said to be a "Sunburst" design and used burgundy and mauve with blue and cream.

It took me some time to come up with a block design but I found something similar to this in one of my block books, listed under the name, "sunburst".

I am trying to use a touch of the pickle fabric in each of my blocks so that will stand for the burgundy.

My purple stash is probably the smallest of all my color bins but I pulled out a few that might be called "mauve".

The "cream" is just un-bleached muslin and is a bit warmer than it looks in the photo.

This makes twelve twelve-inch blocks. With two-inch sashing, I could have a nice quilt to read under. But, then again, I plan to keep going. I have a pattern sketched out for the next book but it takes time to make it into a pattern for a twelve-inch block. Then, of course there is this month's read. I am tossing a few ideas around for that one too.

Many of my blogging friends take part in "swaps" and seem to enjoy them. For me, I think the pressure of making something for someone else to use might put an edge on the fun of creating. At least in this way, I can enjoy the read, enjoy the group and discussions, and only worry ablut satisfying myself in my own time frame. It is a challenge but not overly challenging.

If you like to read and like this kind of a challenge, you should check it out at starwoodquilter. It is never to late to begin.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Baby quilt ready to go

As it was beginning to get dark, I took the quilt to the park for a photo, then I came home and finished the quilting

Now it is washed and drying. It will be ready to pass to little Caleb to celebrate his baptism tomorrow.

I quilted the alphabet into the solid colors and they show up better than in the picture.

The sneaker border was a gift from my friend, Marion Fox, and came to me in several big boxes of fabric, brought by her son, a long-time Scouting friend.

There was also enough of a cute RJR print called "playroom" for on the back. It is a pale pink which might not be a boy color, but it has cute bears and lots of toys.

Considering I was just digging out the kid-friendly prints on Monday afternoon, this was a pretty fast finish. The blocks are five inches and I used #40 thinsulate for batting. All is quilted in the ditch and then either an alphabet letter in the center or a three inch square. The border is quilted in linked hearts. I quilted the baby's name and birth date into the bottom blanks. Finished size is 45" x 50".
I'm pretty sure this will make a handy play or napping quilt until he is ready for something bigger.

And all the while the quilt was getting finished, there was a cookie factory taking place at the dining room table.

Leia woke up Friday with the idea of making painted cookies with grandma. She helped her mom mix the dough and while it was cooling, went through the cookie cutters to pick out the spring ones. Then we mixed up the food coloring with egg yolk and dug out the sprinkles.

One-by-one, hour after hour, she persisted with her creative endeavors, never tiring until the last cookie was out of the oven and cooling!

Tomorrow she will have hundreds of cookies to celebrate her 6th birthday.

Way to go, my little Easter Bunny!

Monday, March 17, 2014

A finish and a start and in between

Three cheers for long train rides and even longer meetings.

This is what I finished last week. It is now protecting my coffee table from every-day spills.

Te center is just a printed panel. The gold print was quilted with gold thread, an inch of assorted leaf prints was added and then another inch of navy print.

The leaves were traced from some I picked up in places I have been beginning with a few at the Women's Conference where I began the quilting.

The owl is my guardian and one wouldn't have to look far to see one around my house. This one will be the guardian of the table too.

Saturday we were off early to attend the graduation ceremony of my Granddaughter, Leya. I was so tired that I had gone to bed without preparing well, and left the house without my camera.

There were wonderful photo ops ... all of which I missed. We had a lovely celebratory lunch up on Mt Takao, where snow still covered the forest floor.
An evening engagement followed and made for another late night. Sunday the choir sang for the first service so one more early morning departure, and , since I was attending an Eagle ceremony in the afternoon, I decided not to hang around for "coffee-hour" or the St, Patrick's Day Parade to follow.

As I was walking down to the bus stop, I was stopped by a young man who asked me (in English) if I would mind being interviewed for a minute. Well, OK, I guess I can spare a minute.
I was surprised when he led me off to the side where there was another young man with a big camera and another with a big microphone. The first guy then said they were from NHK, and pulled out a big poster, explaining that a survey showed that Japanese men spent almost the least amount of time on housework.

I didn't remember which countries on that chart were at the top but Japan was second from the bottom. The interviewer asked where I was from and how much time my husband spent on housework per day. I had to explain that my husband is Japanese and he spends probably three hours or so per day ... walking the dog, feeding the bird, shopping, and preparing meals. Even if we only eat one meal, I'd still say at least three hours. (however picking up his things and tidying up is a whole other story).

I was asked what I liked to do. Of course I turned the table over to the men, asking them how many hours they spent. I also told them that my two sons are neat and tidy and great cooks that also help with the kids.

They told me that NHK has a program at 10:PM Thursday night when that program will be aired.
That short interlude has given me much cause for thought and I asked the women in my Monday English class, how many hours their husbands spend. Yes, their answers verified the statistics on the poster.

Well, I can't go back and fix my husband, nor can they, but certainly we can do much in the raising of our children. My older son learned to cook by the age of three. In truth, I had to teach him how to use the stove safely when I found him making a cheese  omelet at five in the morning. Years later, when the mother of one of his friends asked me for the recipe for an after-school-snack, saying she had tried to make it but her sons kept saying it wasn't like the one at Ken's house, I told her she would have to ask Ken. My rule was don't use anything that is intended for dinner and clean up everything when you finish.  I do know it involved the oven, but other than that .... it met my standard.

We had a house rule that before you invited your friend over, the house had to be clean because it reflected on me. I could always tell of an impending visit because of the cleaning frenzy taking place. When the TV room was messy, I locked the door and posted a note that the room was off limits until it was cleaned and I would give the key to whomever intended to clean it. They could find who made the mess and get them to clean it or work together or do it alone but only when the room was clean, could it be used.

Over many years of Scouting, there are advancement requirements involving cooking and meal preparation and home duties, and I recall those boys with Japanese mothers had the biggest problem meeting basics. Now cooking merit badge is an Eagle-required badge.

The traditional Japanese kitchen is a dark hole on the North side of the house. Storage space is poorly thought out, and the architects and designers are all men who have probably never spent any time in those places because they had mothers who waited on them. 10:pm is my bedtime but I might have to stay up and see what the program has to say. I told those guys it was a mind-set that needed to be changed.

My next project is to make a baby quilt for a new little boy. His dad sings in the choir (often helping the tenors when we are desperate) and his mom is a long-time friend. They will be leaving Japan in the summer so I don't have loads of time to spend.

I just happened upon a nice one-patch baby quilt on my friend Cynthia's blog, . It looks great and even by hand, is not hard to do. Last night I dug through my box of conversation prints and cut some fabrics for five-inch blocks.

This is what I have put together so far. My plan is to quilt ABCs in the solid color blocks and an inch inside the picture blocks. A five inch border would make a 45" x 50" quilt. I am wondering if that is  big enough. I suppose it would be crib size or small enough to be dragged around the house.

What do you think? More borders?

It is a beautiful sunny day with a gusty Southern wind. The little cactus hanging in the greenhouse window may seem either very late for Christmas or early for Easter. Truly, six years ago when Leya was born, March 23rd, it was an early Easter and this cactus was blooming then, so an Easter cactus, it must be. Her mother's Sweet Daphne is also perfuming the air. Can spring be far behind?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Not much quilting getting done

Well. after lots of noisy digging and stamping and grinding, the new street is in.

There was a plan to raise the manhole but that seems to have been scrapped. The west side did get a proper gutter and the new pavement appears to slope in that direction.

Look what a lovely job the pavers made of leaving my plantings!

Here is the view in the other direction.

The new pavement goes a little beyond the south wall and covers that neighbor's weed strip next to her parking pavement.

The future plan is, that when our house would be re-built, the road will be widened up to the edge of where the house is now.

Of course, this road really goes nowhere. the end to the north is only about four feet wide. As is, only very small cars and motorcycles can
drive here.

And the pavers even protected the little hole that my neighbor to the north is so possessive of.

I wonder what the hole signifies to Narita-san.
He may have a bigger problem cleaning it because it is no longer concrete on the sides. The pavers put a wooden plug taped to the wall and paved around it.

Well, today it is raining and last time I checked, there are two small puddles ... one at the north end of the new pavement and one where it joins at he south.

No lake in front of my gate. Of course, it is not raining all that hard.

So, what am I doing instead of quilting?

Sunday I will attend an Eagle Court of Honor for one of my former Scouts.

I offer my Cub Scouts a challenge that if they graduate to Boy Scouts having met all the requirements in the book plus the Conservation and Religious awards (not just what it takes to earn the Arrow of Light). I will carve them a neckerchief slide.

That slide is a hand making the "Scout sign".
Every year there are a few boys who take on the challenge and I have noticed these "Goal Setters" often carry on to become Eagle Scouts. When that Scout invites me to his Court of Honor, I carve him an Eagle slide. Well, I have been so busy with other things, the slide was becoming a deadline.

Making something for a boy is a joy, but a deadline is not so when I was prepping for the cub whittling, I cut out an eagle shape. Yesterday I whittled and today I added the paint.

My cubs passed their challenge. One mother brought a box of band-aids as insurance but there was not even one nick. Of course this morning as I was cleaning up a few of the feathers with a small knife, I nicked my finger. There used to be a standing joke that anyone getting one of my carved slides should check for blood to make sure it was an authentic "Fukuda". Well, Josh, you will be getting the real thing when you remove your first slide to replace it with the eagle.

Long train rides tonight plus a meeting so the quilting will not be forgotten.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A patchwork life

Well, the Gala is tonight and I hope the quilt makes a good showing. There have to be a few people out there that will bid on it.

My blog readers must think the only thing I do is quilt to meet deadlines. I really do have a life beyond quilting.

Last Saturday, with my work on the Gala quilt nearly done, I was able to go out to celebrate my #3 daughter's birthday.

I am not a big eater of restaurant food but the five of us had a nice meal at a Chinese restaurant and fun getting together.

Our weather has been blustery and there was lots of rain. On Monday when we drove out to deliver rice to the homeless it was raining and this dirty snow remained along the fence to the parking lot.

When I pulled the car out from under the train lines and into the rain, my windshield turned into a big mud pie from the pollution blowing over from China.

Today the dirty snow pile still remains though a bit smaller in size. This is on the north side of the train overhead so though it gets rain, the sun only touches a very short part of the day.

I hear warmer weather is still a few days away.

This is the porch to the new house across the street. The steps are very shallow but what I see first is the dirt. When we built our house, the builders wanted to put in these same white tiles. They seem to be very popular.
I said "No way!" We had those at our last residence and they were not only very slippery, but in constant need of washing. I chose smaller gray tile. I have other things to do beside scrubbing the walk and steps, thank you!

Friday the big machine squeezed onto our street and dug a trench along this strip. From Tuesday the city will be back to install a curb with a drain. If I believe what they tell me, the lake that gathers in front of our gate each time it rains will become history. The supervisor says they will raise the walk to slope toward the drain and that they will protect my little row of flowers as they pave the road. It sounds a bit too good to be true but I hope he is right.

While my attention was taken up with quilting, I missed getting a picture of the tiny Mejiro on the wine glass and when I looked out the window, the juice was all gone.

Next day I went to refill the glass and both feeder and glass were gone. Now, I know the neighbor to the north is very possessive of his wall, but this wall to the south has been here for the past 50 years, even before the two houses were built on that lot.

The neighbor on the other side of this half of the wall doesn't even have a window overlooking the wall, but somehow, he has become quite possessive of the top of the wall. I had flower boxes of cacti on top to discourage the feral cats from using it as a walkway back and forth. One day I found all my plants taken down and placed in the street outside my gate. I wrote the neighbor a note saying I was sorry and asking him to please tell me if he has a problem instead of dumping them on the street.

Well, it wasn't just plants apparently. The feeder that has been there for many years and was made to go over the wall had been lifted off and thrown on the ground at the foot of his side of the wall along with the wine glass. (There were some flower pots too, I found when I climbed over the wall and squeezed between it and the house to pick them up). Well, once there had been only one house on that lot. Now there are two and I found that there was a marker on the wall where one property leaves off and the other begins ... so ... when the rain stopped, I moved my plants over to the section of the wall west of his part and made sure the feeder didn't cross the line. I don't think the people in the west house will make a fuss because I always sweep their part of the street and pull their weeds. I am a bit disappointed though because I can no longer have a good view of birds as they come and go.

This Bulbul was quite happy to have the juice glass back and took it over. I really hope to get a picture of the Mejiro though because they perch on the rim of the glass and drink all the way to the bottom.

When the sun finally came out, this was the scene between my house ans the train station.

Usually trees here are pruned to within an inch of their lives but I think this one is too tall to reach and has such a round natural shape.

I think it may be a Zelkova but usually their shape is more fan-like.

The crows have taken up residence. It must have a great view.

Today on my way home from Merit badge-day, I stopped off at a small gallery where a friend is holding a craft show.

He had asked for a few of my pinewood derby cars which were on display as well as my "seasons" quilt. Here it is hanging along one of the walls across from the cars and my friend's paintings.

The gallery owner told me it was getting many good comments. I'm glad the people can enjoy it. The small attached cafe had a few nice Hawaiian quilts on the walls.

And last of all, you know I can't go too long without some take-along work.

This little table runner still has a little to go and a binding yet to put on.

I will show the whole thing when it is finished but right now I am quilting in tracings of leaves picked up from here and there.

(some from the states and many from places around Japan)

Now I must stop messing with my computer and sharpen knives. Tomorrow afternoon I will teach knife skills to little kids. There is a rather recent law against carrying knives in Japan and since I will be teaching knife safety, I was hoping to get permission to carry the knives to the classes.

My pocket knife does not meet the standard and I do not want to have it taken away as I was given it when I was ten. After two hours or so dealing with the police, I learned the only permission to carry a knife can be given to carpenters or teachers (but not scout leaders like me) . They recommended I get a written request from the Scout Association and that I always wear my uniform when going out with knives. Aw, gee. I haven't cut up anyone in the last 67 years with that knife and box-cutters ... which are allowed... are far more dangerous. Technically speaking, the police could wait outside a knife shop and arrest anyone coming out after buying a knife. AND... now they know there is a dangerous old lady running around in a scout uniform carrying weaponry. BEWARE!

Monday, March 3, 2014


And here it is ... last stitches put in and pet hair removed.  On Sunday morning I passed the quilt to Kendra, (in the picture with me) and she added the binding and made the hanging sleeve. Monday the group met to turn the binding and quilt the corners and fix  "toe-grabbers" that they could find. Today just four of us joined to finish tacking the sleeve and give the quilt a good going-over with sticky tape.

Without a proper hanging pole we had to use two Scout flagpoles that didn't fit together very securely so the center of the top is not all that smooth. Since Kendra and I are the only pair of gorilla-arms in the group, we got the job of holding that quilt off the floor. Finished size is 86" x 101". I like this picture. Both of us are smiling and the deadline has been met with time to spare. Kendra and I have been working on the Gala quilts since the very beginning when her daughter was in the pre-school where we met.

After the photo-op, we sat down for a delicious gluten-free lunch and wrote down ideas for next year's quilt. Have you ever lived in or visited Tokyo? What place or view comes to your mind?
I sure would like to have a plan that can be ready for an early fall start. I have had enough stress to last the next twelve years.

Here is a view of the back side.(getting the sticky treatment) The hanging sleeve matches so well it can't be seen without a closer view.

Believe it or not, this design is not a print, but a weave. It was very soft and easy to quilt through. I have never seen anything like it before.

I suppose now I can begin another project ... but before that, I will be teaching the "Whittlin' chit" (That is knife skills) to a bunch of Cub Scouts on Sunday and there is a lot to prepare before then ... not involving needles and thread but saws and sharpening knives. Somehow the challenges and opportunities never end.

By the way....
We discussed the title for the quilt. My favorite was "FAN-tastic Sensu"  (Sensu is the Japanese word for the folding fan)