Saturday, December 28, 2013

Stepping Stones



It's that time again to complete a "Stepping Stones" quilt - to be given to a graduate from a Tokyo orphanage.  I have been assigned Hiroki, who likes green and blue.

I purchased lots of the fabric in Japan... supplementing liberally from my stash of green scraps at home.


The pattern is Bonnie Hunter's "Sticks and Stones" - and for our purposes we call it "Stepping Stones". You can find the free pattern here.

Although the finished quilt looks like it is made up of four patches and narrow sashing, it is actually constructed as a nine-patch with the sashing "built in":



Twenty out of thirty scrappy blocks completed!  Feels so good to (finally) get into the sewing room and feel productive there.  It seems like it's taken weeks and months to settle back into life back in the U.S.


Besides... after going completely off the rails of Weight Watchers over the past few weeks, I am thinking it's time to concentrate on fabric and sewing once again, rather than this kind of stuff:

But... one last batch of cookies today....


How I wish I could talk to Grandma Mary Lou about cookies and quilting once more!  I do feel her close though... especially in the kitchen and in the sewing room.  

So thankful for this crew... (my how the years fly!): 





Happy New Year fellow quilters out there in blogland.  Hold your loved ones close! 
xo
Cynthia

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas at home, and a very worthwhile 5 minutes!


I know that "home is where the heart is"... and now a piece of my heart will forever be in Japan...

but it DOES feel really good to truly be home-home this Christmas season...


Especially with the promise of all three chickies back in the nest...
And celebrating our daughter Kaela's recent engagement to Joe:


We refocus on the birth of Jesus:




 And have some fun as well:

This is about half of the Christmas quilt I finished last year...

It's from an old, great little book called "Favorite Quilts Fast and Fun" by Nancy Smith and Lynda Milligan.

I added a little red house to represent where we lived when I started the quilt years ago... in a little red Cape nestled in the pines...

Not a great photo but you get the idea:


I hope you are having a wonderful December.  If you are so inclined, I invite you to watch this beautiful little video -  "Good Tidings of Great Joy: The Birth of Jesus Christ" - one of a series of Bible videos produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It's an excellent way to spend five minutes!  I have found that it's one good way to refocus on the Savior when I'm feeling a little scattered or stressed with the busy-ness of the Christmas season.  "The story of Christmas is a story of love." 




Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Little " Three Friends of Winter" sashiko sampler

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One thing I love about sashiko is the inherent symbolism within its designs.  I made this little Sho Chiku Bai (pine, bamboo, and plum - the "three friends of winter") sampler for a friend who has been facing some daunting health challenges with grit and with grace.

 Matsu (pine) remains green all winter and beautifies the landscape.  It denotes endurance and longevity, inner strength and resistance to hardship:


Take (bamboo) grows quickly and bends, but never breaks, during harsh conditions.  It too represents endurance and strength, as well as flexibility:


And ume (plum) blossoms appear during the winter, signaling the approaching Spring.  They  represent hope, vitality, beauty, and optimism during difficult times.   



In thinking about what to add in the fourth square, I decided on arrow feathers (yabane) which naturally symbolize the strength and courage of a warrior:



I worked the sampler on indigo, with off-white sashiko thread (which reads pure white, against the indigo).  And for a bit of whimsy I backed this little sampler with some blue and white tenugui printed with cute plovers:


I confess that it's not really a very practical little item, but it could be used as a bread basket liner or napkin... or perhaps as a drawer liner scented with perfume or essential oil.

And now... with the house in a quiet, relatively clean calm state with dishwasher running, laundry (almost) caught up, fire in the wood stove, fridge filled to the brim...  we are happily awaiting our girls and a passel of their friends for the long weekend to help us celebrate Thanksgiving.  A few from Boston and a few from New York City - sweet compensation for last year's Thanksgiving spent far from them, in Japan!

Linking up with Slow Bloggers... hosted this month by Willis of "Hey, Sis, Look What I Made" - she has a thoughtful post about how "life happens" - we can all relate!!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sashiko sampler on gray


    Finally finished this sashiko sampler:

I just don't know what to actually do with it!  Make it into a pillow? Use as a medallion center for a quilt?  Cut out the squares and use within a quilt?  Not sure.  If it becomes a UFO tacked to my sewing room wall, I'm fine with that!

 I had started it as something to have around for handwork while I was without my machine this summer (yes, I know, we are in the middle of November now!).

shippo (seven treasures) - a very traditional sashiko design. 
I used a cotton/linen blend fabric, just wonderful to work with, and hand-dyed thread I purchased at Blue and White in Azabu-Juban.
sakura (cherry blossom) - the transience of nature/life/beauty

fundo (linked counter weights) 

Sashiko was one of my best windows into Japanese culture while I was living in Tokyo.  I still love it and am happily back in the swing of stitching.
tortoiseshell (long life) 

I'm starting to get a handle on my house, and have found it so relaxing to pick up some hand work in the evenings.
ume (plum blossom)  - beauty and hope  - it blooms even in winter, as a harbinger of spring 
Here's the back... in case you are curious! Knots everywhere, which is OK in sashiko, really:).

And in the upper right hand corner you can see how I let the thread loosely travel on the back - for this design:

arrow feathers - the strength and courage of a warrior 
With sashiko, it's best to keep things loose... and nothing needs to be too perfect or precise... a philosophy I quite like!


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sewing room bliss

We have just been basking in the beauty in our front yard... and putting off raking leaves for now.  First the sugar maples... 


Now the Japanese maple, which I can see from my kitchen window... 



It has taken me 'til now to feel adjusted and truly happy to be back in the U.S.  I hadn't anticipated how hard it would be to readjust after (just) two years in Japan!  But now I can truly say, I am content and happy to be home.  We are slowly refreshing the interior of our house with new paint, lots of decluttering, incorporating some of our treasures from Japan, etc. 



One highlight is my sewing room - thanks to the removal of maroon wallpaper, the addition of  yellow and white paint, two trips to Ikea, and some creative repurposing of furniture!


Desk with a window facing our front yard - so cozy:



Space for quilting books and the Japanese fish baskets I collected - they hold fabric and UFO's: 


Spot for machine quilting, and a dresser filled with sewing and office supplies: 


My eyes fill with tears now and then, when I realize I can't call up Grandma Mary Lou and "talk quilts" or talk food and cooking.  I can hardly believe it.  I have her old fabulous machine set up in my sewing room now.  She took such great care of it and it's a great, solid, smooth machine.  I will now have the luxury of having this second machine to dedicate to piecing, and the honor of being the next steward of this Bernina 830!  

Next to that machine is my ironing board, which is strategically placed over a rather weak spot in the 200+ year old floorboards underfoot.  Behind the ironing board you might catch a glimpse of "Fiona" and "Zoe" - story dolls Mary Lou made my girls when they were toddlers: 


And I found this ladder - a section of an old apple picking ladder, found in a barn that was cleaned out in a nearby town - for a song at Upton House Antiques, one of my favorite local haunts.  

Bottom rung - the quilt my Great-grandma "Two" made me when I was in kindergarten
Middle rung - the butterfly quilt Grandma Mary Lou appliqued and hand quilted for me when I was in elementary school 
Top rung - my first quilt - a hand pieced and quilted nine-patch for my first daughter, completed in 1992.
There you have it - a quick tour of my office/sewing room.  This is what happens when two out of three children leave the nest:).  Bedrooms get shuffled, and Mom's sewing room gets moved from the attic to pretty much the best room in the house:). 


Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Slice of Cheddar: Antique Pennsylvania Quilts at the NEQM - Lowell Quilt Festival (3 of 3)


detail, Rail Fence, c. 1890, Anonymous, Berks County, Pennsylvania; from"A Slice of Cheddar" at NEQM August 2013.


Our last treat during the Lowell Quilt Festival last month was seeing the wonderful exhibit "A Slice of Cheddar: Antique Pennsylvania Quilts" at the New England Quilt Museum, guest curated by Arlan and Pat Christ.  The show runs through October 6, and I highly recommend it!  Photos (no flash) were allowed (yay!).  I asked permission to post them for personal use, so here are a few to whet your whistle:  

This Carpenter Star was at the top of the stairs - a real WOWSA (the cheddar doesn't translate in the photo - in person it is much more orange/rich): 
Carpenter Star, circa 1900, anonymous, Pennsylvania, 84"x84"; from
"A Slice of Cheddar" at NEQM August 2013.

Appliqued Tulip, circa 1900, Anonymous, Pennsylvania; from "A Slice of Cheddar" at NEQM August 2013.


detail, Appliqued Tulip, circa 1900, Anonymous, Pennsylvania; from "A Slice of Cheddar" at NEQM August 2013.  

This next one... so scrappy...... love it!  Love the bold combination of cheddar and pink:
Twenty-Five Patch Quilt, circa 1890, anonymous, Eastern Pennsylvania; from "A Slice of Cheddar" at NEQM August 2013.  


detail, Twenty-Five Patch Quilt, circa 1890, anonymous, Eastern Pennsylvania; from "A Slice of Cheddar" at NEQM August 2013.  

And how about this crib quilt, as sweet as can be:



Tumbling Blocks Crib Quilt, c. 1890, anonymous, Pennsylvania; from "A Slice of Cheddar" at NEQM August 2013.  

detail, Tumbling Blocks Crib Quilt, c. 1890, anonymous, Pennsylvania; from "A Slice of Cheddar" at NEQM August 2013. 

And this one, so basic and so awesome!  And what an interesting historical context:

Rail Fence, c. 1890, Anonymous, Berks County, Pennsylvania; from"A Slice of Cheddar" at NEQM August 2013.


detail,
Rail Fence, c. 1890, Anonymous, Berks County, Pennsylvania; from"A Slice of Cheddar" at NEQM August 2013.
Finally, a gorgeous Basket Quilt:
Basket Quilt, c. 1880, Anonymous, Pennsylvania; from"A Slice of Cheddar" at NEQM August 2013.


detail, Basket Quilt, c. 1880, Anonymous, Pennsylvania; from"A Slice of Cheddar" at NEQM August 2013.
 There are many more quilts, and the hand quilting is just so beautiful in each one.

If you get a chance to see this exhibit, you won't be disappointed!  One of the many silver linings of being back in the U.S. is that I am back within easy proximity to the New England Quilt Museum.

So that's all I have to share with you from the Lowell Quilt Festival.  I have to say, writing this post is bittersweet... my Grandma Mary Lou would have loved this exhibit and was so close to moving here to MA to be with us...