Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A week ago ....

I returned from the gathering of teachers, having attended a baby shower for a fellow worker who was taking maternity leave shortly, her baby expected in November. I am a new part-timer to this school and was happy to be included in all the activities. If I had known sooner, I might have prepared a small gift for the expectant mother or the coming baby.

Well, I guess it is never too late to celebrate a baby so, after returning home, I went through my bin of child-friendly prints and dug out something for each alphabet letter.

Some of the collections are a bit thin considering the box is crammed. For some of those letters there was hardly any choice ... kanji for K, nest for N, origami for O ... well. they are more or less covered .

Sewing the rows got done on train rides, thanks to "silver week" seats.

Over the weekend I added the borders ... a little hard to see but consisting of rows of hearts.

I had planned to just quilt in the letters but over the weekend I cut them out from solid fabrics, thinking it would help balance the colors a bit better,

This hand print had come from a friend who was cleaning out her stash and has been just sitting in the bin for a year while I wondered how I would ever use it.

Well, suddenly I had a thought that instead of sewing zodiac tenugui together and having the teachers sign their animal as I have done in the past, why not use this for the backing and there are enough hands for each staff member to sign or write a little message.

Today I laid it all out plus a big piece of batting that had come from the same friend. I usually use thinsulate but this piece was exactly the right size and the price was right. In fact, except for the thread and time, this quilt will cost exactly nothing.

The batting seems to be poly and about the weight of felt. It isn't as puffy and easy to quilt as the thinsulate. I think it will be OK to use as a cover or to put down as a floor mat. I have basted it on the floor in the loft to avoid major dog hair issues and begun to quilt each block in the ditch. I will quilt around each letter and then maybe an inch and a half inside the picture blocks. I think that will be enough but I will see how it is when I get that far.

I will have to come up with a plan for quilting the border. I had thought of mitered corners but the scale of the hearts wouldn't work.

Maybe quilt half hearts left and right in a row.

I bet a machine quilter would have this whipped out in no time

I left two blank solids along the bottom edge thinking one could hold the baby's name and the other the date. One alphabet square and one number square finished that row,

Some folded and cut snowflakes arrived in the mail a week ago as well so it looks like I will have more to do in the coming weeks than pull weeds and pick up dog hair.

As I was putting on my shoes to leave school Monday, I noticed a small framed message surrounded by photos of school children sitting on the counter above where I had left my shoes.

                                                  You are ....
                                                  Braver than you believe
                                                  Stronger than you seem
                                                  Smarter than you think
                                                  Loved more than you know.
                                                                          A A Milne
What a refreshing message to carry home! 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Silver week? What's that?

"Golden Week"? Now, that is a holiday I know.
It happens in May and includes the former emperor's birthday and what used to be Boy's Festival but now is referred to "Children's Day". (I guess that was easier than turning "Girls' Day" into a day off) Anyway, the days in between get sucked in to the holiday spirit and everyone ends up with time off.

Recently another holiday, "Silver Week" has been added to the equation. I was rather relieved to read in Tanya's post that I was not the only one not having heard of this holiday.

Respect for the aged day and the autumnal equinox have now been lumped together to make a long holiday ... week? ... well, we are also tossing in the weekend.

So, how to celebrate? I was asked to come in to school on Monday and Tuesday. Hmmm. The kids were off and I had no idea why or what I would be doing.

Monday begins early with rice patrol, leaving home no later than 4:am. Heading off to school was not so hard as I was already awake and dressed. It turned out the two days were a teacher's work shop. As a part-timer it was nice to have been included ... to talk to other part-timers and compare notes ... to get to know some of the teachers and staff when not trying to keep kids on task ... and to play a few team-building games and planning activities.   Another surprise was that, because of the holiday week, the train was not a sardine can as usual but I could actually sit!

When I returned home Tuesday evening, I had a message to "call Teddy". (Teddy is a long-time friend and former fellow tenor in the choir) He is now only part time in Tokyo for his business of decorating and was in a pinch, trying to do a job with people away on holiday ... and regular help occupied elsewhere. Would I help him out? He knows I sew and he needed some sewing done.

Oh boy, what we do for our friends!!! The sewing was 12 large outdoor drapes to hang around two, what Japanese call "pagolas" on an apartment balcony. Well, I met Teddy in front of the church Wednesday morning and went to see what it was he was needing. Then, using the large floor of the apartment, we measured and cut the pieces of what turned out to be heavy canvass-like material,

Then, stopping off to buy thread in a suitable color, I went home to see what I could do. No way all that could be hemmed and sewed by hand so the first thing was to locate the little Brother machine. Well, I thought it was on the shelf in my work-room closet, Nope! The last time I had it out was about 4 years ago when my daughter used it. Finally I found it stashed in the storage loft and dragged it out. Oh, it is all in Japanese and I can't remember which button does what. Finally I got it moving more or less, wound the bobbin, pinned the first hem along the edge of the heavy two and a half meters of fabric, and pushed the sew button. "NO WAY!" says that machine. "I am only a baby brother and I cannot chew that heavy stuff"!!!!

Back to the drawing board .... I had been given a Singer machine as a wedding present from my folks but the last time I used it was in 2003 and it barely chugged along. No longer anywhere to have it fixed, I reluctantly said goodbye to it earlier this year when we had to sort stored stuff and find a place for it. There was one more machine I had never used. It had been given me by a scouter who had left Japan. It was in a box and I had pushed that box to the back of a shelf without even looking at the machine.

Since it was a bigger machine, I decided to give it a try before calling Teddy and saying the task was impossible. Imagine my surprise to find that machine still in the box, taped up and like new. It is a very pretty singer and all the instructions were there in English, Spanish, and Italian. It took a few hours to read up and figure out how to use it. BUT, it reluctantly took on the task and by the end of the day, some of those heavy drapes had the sides hemmed. I also made one tie (out of 8 needed to pull the drapes back at the corners of the pagola.

Thursday night before choir practice, I was able to pass a few of the finished drapes to Teddy and he was pleased with them. Thursday evening I ran out of thread and I still had the remaining hems to sew and seven of the eight ties. Of course the thread store was closed so I measured, cut, and pinned the ties. Friday morning Paul went out to find me some more thread and I took the drapes up to the floor of the loft and measured and pinned the hems.

Friday after putting the new thread ... a little different color than the first but luckily not noticeable ...
I sewed like crazy. That machine really didn't like sewing through those thick seams. I broke one needle and found one a bit stronger among the spares that came with the machine. My dining table is round and it was hard to keep the heavy drapes from falling off to the side and making the stitches crooked.  No dining at the table  ... I stitched all day long and finished up in the evening thinking I would meet Teddy back near the site. Giving him a call, I found he was at a different site and, since Paul had a meeting at church in the morning, he would pick them up from him today. Whew!!!

It sure was lucky I had a machine I could use. I am glad I could help my friend in a pinch, but I will never sew for a profession. (Teddy hinted at another pending job but I suggested he book his regular guy right away) As I was carefully packing up the machine to return it to its box I noticed the instructions had settings for quilting. No thank you. I will be happy to return to sewing for pleasure.
I guess I will be getting some pay but it will go for road tax that is way overdue.

Meanwhile, new snowflake patterns have come from kids to add to the tree skirt. I have Marie's door hanging to plan. And I have begun an alphabet quilt for one of the teachers who is having a baby. I do love stuff I can take long ... and Nikko is glad to have her floor space back and no sounds of sewing.

Silver week???I guess I added a bit more silver to my hair and pocket but a holiday? Not really.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

small stuff

Well, I spent some time chopping up bits and pieces of left-overs that were really too small to put back into the color bins.

I have a tin of pieces marked for four inch, three inch, two inch, and then one inch squares (my largest box at the back) and one inch strips cut into two, three, four, and five inch pieces. I have no plans as yet for using them. The rainbow quilt relieved the crowd in my one-inch box somewhat but what I added was only a small amount.

The other day I pulled out some scraps to make a pouch to hold my cell phone.

I have severe phone-phobia and tend to leave the phone at home more than I take it with me. I hate to have it ringing at inconvenient times, interrupting what I am doing, but there are times I really need to call home with a change of plans.

This owl will take care of the phone and I can hang it on the outside of my bag so I don't have to search everywhere for it.

I really had no idea what I was doing and there was probably an easier way, but it didn't take long and it works.

I had been to a show of vendors and seen several cute phone holders ... a bear and a dog. Well, why not try an owl ... my go to helper?

Here he is, hanging on my bag between the little pockets.

If I put the phone in bottom up, I can just plug in the charger without even removing it from the bag so am less likely to leave home without it.

I put a snap under the beak and the cord can be put over the strap and the owl pouch slipped through ... no fancy attachments, just stuff from my sewing box.

Though the weather is still hot and muggy, the first signs of fall are upon us.

This is my front door behind the opened gate and where the pineapple lily bloomed the last month, the spider lilies have begun to welcome the coming fall.

"Higan-bana" supposedly welcome the autumnal equinox.
Since that is coming soon,they are pretty well in time.

I have some planted on both the east and west sides of the house . They come up quietly before the leaves appear and suddenly burst into color.

One of my neighbors has white ones in a pot but I love the red and they are especially beautiful to see along the tree lines at the edge of the fields.

Happy equinox to all!

Monday, September 14, 2015

A window on the world

Here is my living room window on the west (street or ally or front side) of our house.

In front is our set-back garden, my 1st daughter's plum tree on the right and a shag-bark maple to the left.

On the right side window you can see the "window cafe" with bird seed for the tits to enjoy.

Through the curtains I can see the new neighbor's house across the street where my friends garden used to be.

I can also see neighbors walking by ...and at night they can probably look in to my lit room and see our messy room. I do have heavy drapes I can close if need be ... someone borrowing the sofa for the night ... but basically those drapes are seldom closed. When the weather is nice, we may slide the window open and use the screen while enjoying  a breeze.

To the right of the window are two shutters that can be slid across the windows. They may be used in case of a typhoon but though we have these on almost all our windows, we have never used them in all the time we have lived here.

Many homes close these windows every night. For privacy? protection? I am not sure, but in the late afternoons and early mornings, one can hear the shutters of surrounding homes being opened and closed. Some of those homes have frosted glass for extra privacy but when we were building, I opted for clear glass. I really want to see out ... the weather, the birds. the plants, and the world passing by.

This is my neighbor to the South. Instead of a garden, she uses her set-back space for parking her car.

Behind her car is her window. This shutter has never been opened since her house was re-built.  It is a mystery to me why there is a window at all.

Of course, our house is rather short on wall space. I had no place to put a piano as all my rooms have big windows on the outside walls and all the inside walls have hallways and doors.  But, why put a big floor to ceiling window if you never intend to use it???

And, here is the new house across the street.

Believe it or not, there is someone living here but ... the three windows in the downstairs have been shuttered ever since the house was built and the guy moved in. Two of those shuttered windows are patio sized.

There may be windows to the west and south but since they are only about a foot away from the neighboring houses, it would be hard to see if those sides even have windows.

I am wondering why anyone would bother putting windows in rooms if they never intend to use them. I know opening and closing those shutters is part of a Japanese culture I have never bothered with ... actually, I like wakening to natural light and only closed the shutters in out first apartment for a typhoon .. which blew out the shutters anyway, so never bothered again.

On another topic ...
I need ideas! I have made Advent calendars for Christmas each year for five of my kids, This year it is Marie's turn, but since she has no children and little wall space, she has requested instead something to hang out to decorate her door for the season.

Her apartment is above a converted carriage house and opens into a hallway so the item does not need to face Boston winter weather. Here in Tokyo, our door gets a holiday wreath that is changed out after Christmas for a traditional Japanese New Year's hanging.

At first I was thinking of maybe an advent wreath with numbered holly leaves that could be added with round red buttons. Hmmm, that sounds like a lot of work and would she want to button on a leaf each day ... or maybe flip one over ?
Or maybe a small hanging with a wreath on one side and the new years ornaments on the back?

I am still working on the tree skirt so there will have to be two items ready to be mailed out before the end of November. The count-down has begun.

Any suggestions would be appreciated. Any ideas as to how big to make something for a door would be helpful too. Have you any ideas or seen any patterns that might fit the bill?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Home in the choir room

Last night the cushion  went with me to choir practice.

It passed the sit test.
Yes, I could actually sit during the practice and concentrate on my singing rather than my sitting.

The choir librarian laughed at the 21 quilted into the center square. Before she passes out the music, she pulls out the 21 and hands it to me.

The sopranos just couldn't figure out why I am so fixated on #21. I showed them a copy of my music with the tenor part highlighted with side notes ... turn quickly  ... and watch here.

And, here is a view of the back side. The zipper is installed just above the keyboard print.

Behind the chair is another family member.

I am not a pianist, but the very first thing I saved for after coming to Japan was a used piano, setting aside one thousand yen from my English teaching each week.

That piano lasted a long time including a trip to the states and back.  When it began to have issues, I traded it in on another piano ... a bit newer, German but assembled in Japan.

When we moved back to our small house, there was no wall space for it to live. I decided rather than trying to sell it, I would donate it to the church. The lady who kept the piano tuned twice a year, went to our church and tested all the pianos they had. It was determined this was better than all the others and it went to the choir room. Now I get to see and hear it twice a week. I miss having a piano at home but I am happy that it is appreciated and used more than I ever would have. I wonder if the cushion and piano are comparing notes when no one is around....

Tonight Cub Pack 51 meets to start our new season. Games are ready to go. am I??? That is to be seen.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Drip, drip, drip!

I guess with all the problems others are having with the typhoons swirling over Japan, I have no right to complain.

Tokyo is on the Kanto plain and fairly flat.

Nerima, where I live, is far from the rising ocean tides.

The nearest river, the Shakuji-gawa, passes several blocks away and in the past few years they have built over-flow underground water storage so we are relatively safe from the river.

And, now that my toe has no more bandages, the boots fit.

Yes, there are problems in an old house with leaky places but compared to floods and landslides, we are safe ... maybe damp, but more dry than not.

When I wrote in a post about a TV dumped in the street, I mentioned the "Ku" or ward, would not
remove it as our little street is not considered part of the Ku. (Forget that our house has the address of Nerima-ku, since our little road is to small for cars, we are in no-man's land.

Here is the view of our little street. The sign says basically, no cars beyond here ... but, does that mean they are not going to try? Oh no. Even trucks give it a try, scraping along the wall and ripping branches off the plum tree at the corner (showing just above the wall) My neighbor has a tiny car and parks it just beyond the sign on the power pole.

When we came here over 50 years ago, this was a dirt ally.

Real roads had open gutters along the sides to catch the rain.
Gradually they were covered, first by concrete slabs, and then turned into real sewers. The new house across the street from ours has a real gutter and drain (at the far corner). This has helped to relieve the small lake at out doorstep. If someone were to dump an un-wanted TV there, I  am not sure the ward would remove it. Does having a drainage system put you in the ward? How about half a drainage system" (on the other side of the road?)

Here is the alternative drainage system for those in the "no-man's-land. Under these man-hole covers is a sewer.  See that tiny hole?
Well, the rain water can drain down that hole ... so when I go out to sweep the street, I always un-plug those holes from rocks and leaves and other debris.  Trouble is, those little drains are usually in the highest part of the street and not where the water tends to collect. (you can see the drain in the first picture sitting high and dry above the gathering puddle.)

The sewer seems to end here just beyond our house.

There is a manhole cover along the wall but it has no hole.

If you have good balance you can walk along that wall to avoid the deepest part of the puddle but you need a good leap when you reach the end.

I guess I should be glad it is not mud as in the "old days" but in order for this to become a "real" road, all the houses on both sides will have to be re-built so the city can grab a meter on each side. I really can't see this happening in my lifetime.

Of course if I live to be 200 in order to use up all my stash...

So, that being the case, I am taking advantage of the rainy days to get something done.

Yesterday, on the way home from school, I stopped off and bought a zipper at the next train station shopping area.

Now it is installed and here is my cushion sitting on the desk chair,

Tonight it will go to it's new home in the choir room.

Considering I didn't know what I was doing, I think it looks pretty good ... and the pillow fit inside and the zipper closed.

Maybe I can get a picture of it in the new location.
I had cool fabric to use on the back ... and it was just the right size. Maybe I can show it off too.

Go visit Tanya and sympathize with her. maybe one quiet shedding dog is not such a big problem.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Something for me.

This may sound like a funny story, but recently the church decided to replace all the old chairs with new ones.

Yes, the old ones were showing wear after about 30 years of use and they were a bit heavy for stacking and putting away.

Well, the new chairs came. They are certainly prettier and much lighter and stack nicely. The seat is also much larger and the choir is happy with the change ... all except me.

Now why is it that a person of my size and degree of padding can not sit for more than ten minutes in one of those chairs? I might blame my ADHD, but I never had a problem with the old chairs.  On the new ones the seat is not flat but is raised toward the front edge and the pressure on the lower side of my upper legs is so painful. I tried sitting on the front edge and sitting sideways but to tell the truth, standing or sitting on the floor would be better.

Last week I brought a small pillow and that helps a bit so I decided to make a pillow to leave on my choir chair.

Several times I have been attracted to "Swoon" blocks I have seen on other blogs. I made a sketch a few years ago in my graph-paper notebook and I decided to draft that pattern to fit a 16 inch pillow I have on hand that could be put to that purpose.

I dug out some musical prints and cut them up for take-along work. Above is what I came up with. The number on my choir robe and music is 21. It is kind of a joke because no one else minds which piece of music they get, but I have been singing these pieces for many years and have highlighted the tenor part and made notes where I need to pay extra attention. The other three parts may not care because the sopranos and altos are always written in the treble clef, and the bases always get the bass clef, but the tenors are forced to jump from one to the other at the convenience of the publisher... and often at very inconvenient parts when singing. Often when music is passed out, I begin calling out to see if anyone has #21 and it gets a lot of laughter. I am thinking I might applique or quilt a big 21 in the center of the cover. Good idea?

I brought three prints down to decide the outer light patches and this one is what my husband thought worked best. He usually doesn't pay much attention to what I am making but liked this fabric best when I told him I couldn't decide. I have another black music print with a keyboard and scattering of white notes that I plan to put on the under side of the cover, once I quilt the top. I am thinking of quilting this a quarter inch on each side of the seam line. The center square is four inches square and the largest piece. Should I applique the 21 or quilt it in ... well, even if I applique it, I would quilt around the edge.

I cut the templates out of green construction paper because I only planned to use them once but now that I see how fun it was to put this block together ... I might have to save them. A whole quilt of 16 inch blocks would go together much faster than all those one-inch pieces I just spent over a year on!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

It's a finish!

Last night I put the final stitches in the rainbow quilt. That was the good thing about a day of rain ... in the end, you get the rainbow. Of course, by that time, there was no sun and I had to wait until today for a photo op.

Here is the front displayed on the park fence. The colors seem a bit washed out but I have better ones on another camera so those I print directly from that camera will go into my paper diary.
I am glad I added the outer light border and also I  am glad the binding covered the short-fall.

Today as I was cutting up the trimmed scraps to go into tins of various sizes, I was even more glad I had found a better solution.

And here is the back. Ben may choose this as the top because it is the purple and lime green he requested. The quilted stitches fall off the grid in a few places (mostly around the edges). I am satisfied though with the results and I hope Ben will be too. Finished size, 74" x 92".

When I made Ben's baby quilt so many years ago, he was just a promise ... a picture of a little baby waiting in Korea for a family to claim him. As I worked on this piece I was thinking of the boy I now know and love so much ... A fellow lefty and in his right mind, a kid who shares my love of woodcarving and can turn a block of wood into a cute owl in an afternoon. I wish I could fly to Oregon and deliver it in person. You can believe my hugs will go into the box with it.

As I was taking these pictures in the park, the window in the upstairs of the house behind slid open and a head came out. This house is actually across the street from where my in-laws used to live and the Obaasan stuck out her head and asked what I was doing.

I called up to her that I was taking a picture of a finished quilt that I planed to send to my grandson. "Oh, I want to see." and the window slid shut. Pretty soon, around the block and through through the park came the elderly lady. She helped me take the quilt down and fold it after examining it in detail.
She said her daughter is a quilter (and actually lives nearby). Maybe a new friend? (she is preparing something for January ... The Tokyo Dome show?) I hope some day I can meet her.

I was hoping by today my laptop would decide to accept my camera in a download. I went through the same steps already tried over and over. When I plugged my camera into the port it went "peep" so I know the camera greeted the computer ... but alas, the computer still could not recognize the camera. The message kept saying the same ... plug in camera, turn on, and click refresh. Nope nothing. I finally had my husband download them to his computer again and mail them to me as last time. Even that adds an hour or so of fiddling before they are accessible for me to use.  Why did something so easy before, become so difficult that now I have to rely on a step I have no control over?
Anyway, enjoy the pictures and celebrate with me the finish!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Creative solutions???

 I seem to be spending a lot of time fixing things that shouldn't be broken in the first place.

When I finished quilting the border around the rainbow quilt, I decided it would look better if it had a one-inch border on the outside edge rather than bind it directly.

On three edges it was quite easy because the backing extended beyond the quilt top.

One edge across the top was a problem. When I laid it out on the floor for basting, I placed the backing, then the batting, and then tried to position the top in the center. It might have been helpful to have someone assist me to lower the top onto the batting but I had to roll the top out, adjusting it as I went along. Meanwhile, the backing which I had taped to the floor, became un-stuck. That alone caused a few problems when quilting but I was able to get things smoothed out as I moved the quilt in the hoop, removing the basting when needed.

The only real problem when adding the outer border was that the backing edge, though OK with the cable border, was short about half to three fourths of an inch. As I was sewing that last strip, I was thinking I could add another inch of backing along that edge.

Then I got another plan. I decided to cut the binding for the top a bit wider so that I could turn it down to meet the fabric where it was short. You can see how it looks on the back in the above picture. I quilted it along the sewing line on the front so the total effect is no different from the regular binding.

I couldn't make a mitered corner with two different sizes of binding but I think this solution is working and will hardly be noticeable. (at least by a man riding by on a fast horse).

Two edges are now finished ... two more to go. 

I have to admit that I probably would have finished this up today had I never been tempted by windows 10 last week. One thing has not returned to normal yet.
In the past, when I wanted to download pictures from my camera, I would plug the camera into my laptop and turn it on, then go to the picture file. In the list would be the name of the camera and when I right-clicked that, I got to the place to download any recent pictures. My computer looked over the camera files and just took the new stuff, giving me the option to put a title on the download. Oh, so simple!
Since returning to windows 7, my picture section does not recognize my cameras. When I click on the import icon, a window pops up saying to plug in the camera and turn it on. Well, it does not work from that point on but there is a message saying if you don't see the camera identification, push refresh. No amount of refreshing would fix the problem.

After hours of working at trying everything to get the pictures to download, I took my camera to my husband at his computer and asked him to download those two pictures on to his computer and send them to me by e-mail. 

Well, they came in the mail by Jpeg and the next three or four hours were wasted getting them into a file where I could locate them to download to the blog. As a result you can see the pictures of my quilting solutions. The camera issues are still remaining. Please enjoy the pictures and appreciate the hoops I jumped through to do what was once a no-brainer. I really need a resident guru who speaks English. There has gotta be an easier way.

And another solution that seems to work ... you may recall that when Ben requested purple as one of his favorite colors, I had almost no purple fabric. Thanks to friends to the rescue, he will now have purple and lime green on the back.,,, but, when I went to my thread stash to find something for sewing the binding ... no purple there either! I did find a blue that is very close so that is what I am using . The blind stitching doesn't really show and I am not going to go out in the rain to find a store that carries purple thread. 

My #1 rule is ... if it works, it is the right way.