Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My quilt is getting bigger

This week I finished reading our book for April.

My final task was to come up with a block to represent that book.

Sometimes finding a good block is more challenging than finishing the reading.

Our first book in February last year was the Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas.
At that time, I dug out from my stash, a piece of paisley fabric and decided to use a little bit in each of the blocks for the Quilters Book Club. That fabric will tie the blocks together and represent this group of reading quilters.

Since the amount is not so large and getting smaller each month, I wanted to make blocks that pulled out the colors from the paisley as well as added a bit more variety of color to the quilt I will make.

I have several books of quilt block designs and it is a good thing because many of them are two or three color blocks. A number of months I have given up and drafted my own pattern. I did find two patterns that might have worked for this month but the book's ending gave me another idea.

In the story, the Friday night quilters at the quilt shop make a quilt for Ivy, each one making a block to represent their home. Ivy's house block is placed in the middle, a white house with blue windows, a red door, a stone fireplace and a garden are a few of the points described by her little daughter as the "smiling" house.

In each corner were the other houses of the four members "like mismatched sentries on a guard points on a compass, fixed and immovable." Well, I wasn't going to try making four more houses but last year when we read the first of the "Cobbled Court Quilts " series,"A Single Thread", I had made a block of four spools, one representing each character, with the threads joining in the center.
I decided to use the spool colors representing those women in each corner and the paisley as compass points.

This is my 15th block. If I make a quilt to snuggle under while reading, I may have to change from reading on the train to reading in bed!

Check out Susan's Blog if you like to read . You may discover a new author and an enjoyable read and even make a few new friends in the process.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Keeping busy

Not much quilting done.

One could look at the picture on the last post and imagine three or four new rows.  A member of the Friday group suggested an idea for the border that I will explore.

I finished reading this month's Quilter's Book Club book and I am still  thinking about what to make for the block. My next month's book is somewhere between here and the States.

Friday evening my cookie chef came to try a new challenge, Batik Easter eggs.

There is a round-headed pin in the chopstick, dip it into melted wax, and draw on the egg. Then the egg goes into the lightest dye before getting more wax and a second dye. (yellow - orange - red, or yellow - green - blue, maybe purple at the end)

It takes a bit of experience to get into the rhythm with dipping and drawing on the egg.

When we finished the dying, we poked a small hole in each end and blew out the raw egg.

The finished eggs are pretty and will keep for following year decorations.

It has been many years since we did this activity and I couldn't find the tools I had used in the past with a variety of sizes of all metal ball-headed pins. The ones that come in clothing are too thick to use in quilting but great for this project. Now I have one more year to look for the missing tools.

Saturday was the homeless meal served at our church and Leia was in charge of handing out the bananas.

The first activity was separating them from the bunches.

She was able to get this task done in record time.
Here she is waiting for her first customer.

There were three sittings and between each one, she set the tables with chopsticks.

Her mom, my #3 daughter Norie, is passing out the dishes of salad.

I am in the kitchen, washing dishes.

When we got back home, Norie took the egg whites left from Friday's project and made an angel food cake to celebrate her dad's birthday earlier in the week.

The yolks went into pancakes and french toast.

Sunday I rolled out early as the choir was singing in three services.

After church I had to hot foot it to the American Club where my cub pack was holding their pinewood derby.

The American club is out sponsoring organization and a very busy facility. We could not book a large room or get a better time but fun was had by all.

The cars are speeding down the track and my car is in the lead.

Here is this years high flyer.

I was surprised how fast it flew.

The dogwoods are beginning to open.

These have a slight pink hue.

The white ones are still opening and there are a few dark pink ones too.

This is the first year for this cactus to bloom.

It is pretending to be an Easter cactus but no one would be fooled by that giant bloom.

I have been watching the bud get bigger and bigger up in my greenhouse/bedroom and finally brought it downstairs for the family to enjoy.

I have noticed buds forming on several other cacti.

I think they are all as glad to see spring as I am.

I hope you all had a very happy Easter.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mystery solved

My last post included a mystery flower that came up among some Hostas I saved from the bulldozer in my neighbor's garden.

Today, a call from my #3 daughter gave me the answer, in Japanese "Nirin-sou". I ran out to check her information with the actual flower. Yes, there were two flowers rising above each group of leaves, though one in each pair had finished.

A trip up to my bookcase brought me the rest of the information. Anemone flaccida or Flaccid Anemone. There are several species of anemone in Japan, all spring blooming and sharing a habitat in and along the edge of forests.

No wonder Norie could identify this as her area is surrounded by this habitat.

There is very little information on Japanese plants in English, but a while back I purchased a small field guide on Wild Flowers of Japan by Ran Levy.
For a few years he had a weekly article in the Japan Times (newspaper), the "flower of the week".
I clipped those articles and kept them in a small pocket album among my nature books. When his book came out in 1995, I quickly snatched one up.

As long as I had my book out, I checked out another picture I had grabbed outside my Monday English class.

The picture wasn't so good but the battery on my camera died so there was no second chance.

Sure enough, these were also in his book. Genge (Chinese Milk Vetch) also called Renge or Renge-sou is another early spring to summer bloomer.  The pink color didn't show up so well in this picture.

And one other thing still growing is my + piece.

I have decided to stop at 44 rows and add four inch borders. It will make a runner for my coffee table to match the one topping my trash bin.

I can't imagine making a whole bed-size quilt of this pattern but I wanted to try it out and this will fit the bill. Tomorrow's sewing group will get me a bit closer to the finish.

The weekend will be a busy one. I have a date to make batik eggs with my granddaughter. (she would like to have another cookie factory but I hope I can convince her the eggs will be just as much fun).  The choir will sing three services Sunday, and from there I will be off to my pack's pinewood derby. (It was the only date we could get a room big enough to set up the track and accommodate our group).  My car is all ready to fly. I guess I should carry along a charged battery. I'm sure this weekend will bring more than one photo opportunity.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

piecing, flowers, and POWER

Friday was the meeting of a sewing group I have recently joined. The women are very friendly and doing a variety of different crafts. They are generous in sharing their knowledge and passions with others in the group. I only wish I had a bit of room to host the meeting, though I'm not certain the group would enjoy traipsing out into the boonies for a meeting.

I took along another try at the + blocks.

Though I really do not like the fact that I have to get all the blocks lined up to begin with, I rather like the scrappy look.

(And, I still had cut pieces that needed to be used).

I went out to the meeting wearing a black T-shirt and black jeans, and within minutes I was covered with colorful little threads.

(and I thought white dog hair was bad)!

I have a coffee jar full of these colorful little threads. In the spring I put them in the tree with a clip so the birds can use them for nesting material, but all these one inch pieces are contributing thread faster than any bird can use.

I am thinking of naming this little quilt "Irene". Not for my granddaughter, but for my blogging friend in Texas whose blog is named "Hilachas", because I always think of her when I am picking thread from my clothing and table and floor.

I don't think this will end up as a very large piece but might make a colorful runner for a table. Once the arrangement is decided and the rows are pinned in order, it does make a great take-along project (If I don't wear black).  The available space for laying pieces out is really too small to see more than eight rows at a time but maybe a design wall would make better arrangement of color or blocks stand out from their neighbors better. Anyway, I shall see where this takes me.

We have had a few warmer and sunnier days and I am enjoying the discovery of flowers among the planters.

When my neighbor's house and garden were torn down, I raced out in the rain to rescue some things from her garden.

She had a varied collection of Hostas. My brother.s wife has such beautiful Hostas in her garden and I have always admired them.  I dug up a small clump from each little patch, not really knowing what I was getting but wanting to save them from the bulldozer.

I had no place to put them but the rice-store-lady has some in planters, so I knew they would be OK there until I found them a better place. I just stuck those planters under the bushes and was happy a few days ago to see leaves coming up from the soil. Today I noticed I got more than Hostas. I don't know what this plant is but it has dainty white flowers and lacy leaves. I wonder if I dare separate it to a pot of its own.

My hanging pots along the wall are happily decorated with petunias.

Two of the hanging pots in the garden have volunteer violets.

I don't know how these violets got here. The pots are on the north side of the wall and get little sun except what is reflected from our windows (which isn't much because of the three-story house a foot away from the wall on the other side.

The Keria is kind of leggy in this poorly lit space but never discouraged from showing off its pretty yellow blossoms.

Do I really need two pots of violets?

I wonder if they are pot-hopping and will take over another pot by next spring.

I just don't have the heart to pull them out.

Nikko and I walked up the street to take a picture of the peach tree in bloom. It was so beautiful when we walked past it yesterday but I didn't have my camera along.

I was shocked to see that tree had been severely pruned.

Now, why couldn't they wait until it was finished blooming?

We walked past the cherry trees too. The very gusty weather this past week has pretty well finished them off. As it happened, what was left was not going to make much of a picture. In fact, there were so many electric wires ... even behind the peach ... that it wouldn't be much of a scene.

Last night on the way home from my scout meeting, there was a beautiful cherry blooming in front of the night-lit Tokyo Tower, very pretty but crossed every which way by power lines.
I began thinking it might be fun to see how many lines I could get in just one picture.

This is just outside my front gate! (not much more than a narrow path).

Maybe I could turn the best shot into a quilt design.

Isn't there something called an "Electric Quilt"?

Well, enjoy the blue sky while it lasts ... even divided into segments by all those dark lines.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A special treat

Earlier in the week, I received a call from Yasuko Kuraishi, one of my long time quilting friends. She is a quilt "sensei" or teacher who is well connected in the quilting world, both in the U.S. and Japan. She told me of a quilt exhibit that was in my own neighborhood and, as we were having a meeting of our little group, suggested that before going home, we stop and take in the exhibit.

The exhibit was the work of Keiko Minato, another quilting "Sensei". (seen on the right)

The quilt behind us was exhibited at the Tokyo Dome show and it was a real treat to see these works up close and talk with Minato-sensei about the process.

We both share a fondness for kasuri and  the way she used it in her quilts is quite unique.

Several of these large quilts on display featured kanji but the lettering was not appliqued on or printed on. The entire quilts were made of small squares, a little over an inch in size. Minato-san had selected small bits of kasuri with varying tones and fussy-cut them to put darks and lights and shading in the proper place to create the design.

Notice the piecing in the border.

each of these designs is made up of squares.

All are made the same way, by cutting out square bits of kasuri.

What an amazing variety of blocks she was able to come up with!

I don't suppose the pieces were as easy as sewing regular squares together either, because in order to get the variety of patterns, the pieces were cut in a way that many were bias edges on all sides.

The gallery was set up in a most attractive way and there were not only quilts but lovely fashion pieces and bags for sale.

The exhibit itself was a treat but it was even more special to talk with such a creative artist ... even in my rather miserable excuse for Japanese... and share her enthusiasm for the process.

The walk from the gallery back to my home was only about 15 minutes.

Along the way there were daffodils in bloom.

Thunder was rumbling in the distance, but I had to try and get a picture.

How about these ...

Hiding among the dead grass.

And here is what waited outside my gate.

These are volunteers among my geraniums.

They seem to be taking over several pots but I can hardly pull them out, now, can I?

By this time it had begun to spit hail from the rumbling clouds. It is only four days into April and those showers are running true to the saying.

On the other hand, The March lion is still roaring and the May flowers are beginning to show something new every day. And, lucky me, Kuraishi-sensei brought me tickets to another quilt show ... next month at Mitsukoshi Department store. I hope you all had a great day too.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Making use of a test piece

Well, I discovered a lot of things on this test piece.

1. It has to be all arranged before beginning to sew it together.

2. once it is arranged, the layout has to be organized by rows and secured (probably with pins) to keep the pieces all in order.

3. Sewing the little sections is easy if one doesn't mind getting the thread tangled in the pins or losing pins into the carpet... train floor ... carrying bag ... other.

4. Ironing those pieced can be a challenge. I don't know how machine piecers manage to get all the seams going the same way. As it is, because of the combination of long and short segments. the seams all ended up going this way and that.

5. Because of the seam directions not being consistant, quilting in the ditch was not going to work. I used some quarter inch tape inside the seams to quilt along.

I think a point to note in the future is to sew on the binding before doing the final quilting at the edges. The partial  + pieces would have been better quilted a quarter inch in from the edge.

I have a  small box of these cut pieces so I will try it again. Putting odd scraps together is a bit challenging so  this might be better with more solid fabrics to alternate. I do not plan to make anything large ... can you imagine the number of pins it would take for a bed cover?!! Maybe a table runner or a small bag is more reasonable. I'm sure glad I started small.

Seven and a half by eleven and a half is just right for the top of my trash bin.

I fill my coffee cup to about an inch from the top. Then I set it on top of the bin, open the fridge door with my right hand, take the milk carton from the upper door, pour milk to the top of the cup, put the carton back ... all without moving a step ... and sip the coffee just a bit so I can carry it three or four paces to the living room without spilling any.

When I left for the states last summer, there was a beautiful natural wood tray on this spot. It was made of Keyake (Zelkova) wood, just the right size with low edges.

When I returned a few weeks later, it was gone and has never showed up. All I can surmise is that it went into the trash bin one collection day. My husband didn't even realize it was gone ... or there in the first place, and Nikko wasn't talking. I also made a blue and white mug rug for this spot so now I have a replacement when one goes to the wash. Altogether, I would say the design test was helpful and useful too.

Do you test designs before beginning a project? I'm glad I did this time!