Saturday, January 31, 2009

No dyed hair allowed!

Tetsu's getting tired of seeing patchwork pictures on my blog. He doesn't understand that world. He prefers my posts about cats and Choco and family memories. Not that he READS any of the posts but he likes looking at pictures besides fabric and fabric and more fabric.

So today I'm writing about memories of when Takumi was in high school and Leiya was in jr. high.

Japanese schools have very strict dress codes and besides the regulation uniforms there are so many do's and don'ts that it seems very militaristic. For example:

"Girls' hair must be cut above the shoulder or kept in pigtails. Only black and dark blue elastic bands may be used."

"Students must bow to the statue of the school founder upon entrance to the school" (this one was for the private high school.)

"No pierced ears or dyed hair allowed."

The hair dye rule was the one that we managed to break and got hauled onto the carpet for.

One summer Takumi and Leiya and I went back to sunny Southern California for a month to be with my family. Takumi wanted to spike his hair like the other American teenagers, something he hadn't been allowed to do in Japanese high school. Okay. No harm in that. At the supermarket Takumi picked up a bottle of hair gel called "Sunlit Sparkle" or something like that. I did notice that it said it was for blonds and was good for the summer highlighted look. My kids have black hair. Dumb me didn't think a $4 bottle of hair gel was going to do much damage.

Well, it was a great gel! Takumi's hair spiked high and hard and both kids thought this a wonderful product. In fact, both kids lathered it onto their hair and played around in front of the mirror making odd hair dos. (Yes, these were teenagers. But with a new toy they are still kids at heart!) That same day however, we suddenly decided to make a day trip to the beach and neither child washed their hair before we started out. You can see where this is leading.

After a long day at the beach we piled in the car and I got a glance of my two kids in the rear view mirror.

"Oh my gosh! You guys have RED hair! Tetsu's going to kill me!"

Back home a label check showed the hair gel had peroxide in it which was activated by the strong sunlight and thus the change of hair color. I was horrified but Takumi and Leiya thought it a great product. No one else in my family seemed worried about their hair so the kids enjoyed the summer with red hair.

The night before we returned to Japan, Leiya and I went to Wal Mart and bought some black hair dye because I knew she'd get thrown out of school with red hair. I think Takumi just decided to cut his hair back before school started. Back in Japan Tetsu wasn't too happy with the results of our summer playtime but I promised we'd have a black haired Leiya before school started again. Well, the dye worked and Leiya went to school with no one the wiser but within a couple of weeks the black started washing out and she was back to red hair. That meant a letter from the school telling us that our daughter had disobeyed the no hair dying rules and we should get her hair back to normal color right away. I dyed it again. It stayed black for two weeks.

Okay. Let's try a beauty salon and have it done right this time. Again, fine for a couple of weeks but pretty soon Leiya's hair was back to red. Another letter from the school telling us that we were slacking as parents in allowing Leiya to dye her hair. At some point Tetsu blew a fuse and wrote back a very CLEAR letter saying that Leiya had NEVER dyed her hair in the first place (true) and we had now DYED her hair three times though the rule was NO HAIR DYING ALLOWED and we were now finished with the issue and would let Leiya's hair be any color it wanted to be!

The difficulties of living in a society where everyone is supposed to have black hair...

Leiya wants you to know that she doesn't look as stupid (her words not mine) as she did when she was 13. Here is a recent picture. Both kids have black hair...

Friday, January 30, 2009


This is a well-known saying among quilters.

"Quilters make warm comforters".

Sort of a play on words about comforters and quilts. Yeah, before I ever joined the world of quilt making there used to be a big downy comforter in the cabin we visited in the summers. I never questioned the word comforter back then. Just like a sofa could be a couch or even a davenport, a comforter was a warm, fluffy thing on the bed not unlike a quilt.

I've been discouraged with my teaching recently. This happens to me occasionally, most often when a student tells me he/she can't come any longer. I guess it is a blow to my pride. My mind gets into a negative mode.

"You aren't a very good teacher anyway, Tanya. The few children that come to you don't seem to be learning very much. Nobody ever seems to become fluent in English because of you. You are wasting your own and everyone else's time. Maybe you should call it quits and pursue some other line of work."

I don't know what though... and it is not that I don't enjoy teaching in general. I love being with people. I want to be a blessing in people's lives. I think I put the effort in to make classes fun or interesting. But classes get smaller, the kids who come seem locked away in their shells, and when I ask a basic English question to some of the 6th graders, like "How old are you?" and they look at me blankly, I really wonder what kind of a teacher I am! I can't get the kids to remember the basics let alone get them into communicating with English!

So many things that I do day after day, and month after month, and year after year with the children never seems to amount to anything. I know it must amount to something but there isn't a visible result of what the hour meant nor what the hours upon hours add up to. You can't see kids' brains filling up with new words or even see if ideas are taking root. I guess teaching involves patience and faith that someday it will make a difference. But probably no one is ever going to let the teacher know that.

I've always thought that patchwork is a very satisfying pastime for me and maybe for teachers in general. Sitting down and piecing for an hour and then seeing the pile of little triangles when I stand up again is very satisfying. To spend a few hours on a quilt and be able to spread it out and say, "Well look. I got another block quilted." makes me feel like my time counted for something. It comforts me. My quilts aren't just comforting the person who may use it. They comfort me, the quilter who is making them.

Right now, doing patchwork is my reward to myself after a day of teaching and is a great comfort when my brain starts getting negative.

"Great job, Tanya! You got a lot done today!"

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Winding and winding ways

A week or so ago I joined a couple of friends for a craft day at a little workshop in the next city over. I'm afraid I can't really say what the teacher teaches! There was one lady making baskets and another lady working on a loom. It looked like a few students were in the middle of making basque dolls (heads missing) and some painting students' art work were up on the walls. There was fabric and paper and clay and beads and flowers and yarn and everything strung up everywhere and we had to move piles to sit down. (Not much for organization.) My friends and I said we'd come for the glass accessory "class" so the teacher brought out little mismatched boxes filled with beads and chips of glass and she moved a bit of furniture to get to some glass slabs. She placed all this in front of us (along with tea) and said "Have fun." I figured out we were supposed to artistically place beads on a piece of glass of our choice so I pawed through the bead boxes and placed my beads in various designs. When I said I was done the teacher offered me another cup of tea.

I guess I could have figured out that firing glass takes a bit of time (a few hours) and there was no more action forthcoming from anyone so that was the end of the class. This week however my friend went and picked up our glass pieces and I must say, for very little work (and the class was only $7!) I have a nice little pin for my sweaters or something. Now that I know what the results are like I'd like to try this again! But how many pins does one need...

On to other things.

I'll have you know that I got out paper and pencil and started making a pattern for the Winding Ways quilt. I may have to give up on this quickly. I used Kathy Somers' directions for drafting a pattern but ran into snags right away. There are templates to trace at the bottom of her tutorial BUT in her own words she says,

"Templates are provided below for the extremely lazy, but I cannot guarantee the size of the finished block. If you are really that lazy, download the following gif file and resize it."

Heaven forbid if I admitted to being extremely lazy (but I am) so I took the challenge to draft my own templates using a large piece of paper, rulers and a compass. I got as far as drawing the lines on the paper (cats thinking I'd invented a new game) but my dang compass that Takumi must have used in 3rd grade was too small! I put aside the project for a day and went to the major stationary store to buy a decent sized compass. Do you know how much they cost! A "real" compass was running over $20! NO WAY! I'm going to make ONE quilt pattern! For that money I'd do better to send away for the book!

So I left the stationary store without a new compass (think of the cost of driving all the way to the next town and back just to buy a compass that I didn't buy!) and I came home to either give up on the Winding Ways or find another way. So far this quilt is living up to its name! Okay. Let's try it this way. Tie a cord to a thumbtack. Tie the other end to a pencil. Adjust cord. And adjust again! And again! Yes, the cats are thrilled that the game now includes cord.

And I made a Winding Ways pattern. And I traced it and cut out the templates and even transferred the design to fabric. And cut out the fabric. But wait! My seam allowances aren't very even (I do a slip-shod job of cutting). I'm not going to be able to sew these on the sewing machine. The seam allowances don't line up. So try doing the curves by hand. Not too good. I've made a little tent. I guess my drafting skills need improvement (and better drafting tools than thumbtacks and cord).

Today I'm going to be EXTREMELY LAZY and use Kathy's templates that were offered in the first place. And try this again on the sewing machine. And when that is all attempted I may have to go looking at

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Quilting the Wicked Easy Quilt

I finished putting the binding on the Wicked Easy Quilt last night so I am ahead of schedule. (This had to be done by the end of March.)

I love the way this quilt goes together easily and so time can be spent doing the hand quilting. This is all stitch-in-the-ditch quilting but I randomly chose blocks for the feathers (the ones that would show off the quilting best and the ones that were easiest to trace the designs onto!) Same for the leaves in the long blocks. I probably could have given the placement more thought but what's done is done. And I probably could put in a few more feathers or leaves but I think I'll move onto other projects now.

The Wicked Easy quilt is no longer found on the Internet (I don't know why) but I notice my back links still lead to the pattern so it is on the web somewhere. If you are interested in the pattern you might get it from here (sort of like a treasure hunt. You have to keep looking and clicking on the links until you find it.) and print it out because I don't know how one ever finds it again. I have my pattern safely printed and saved in a notebook for future use.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More luggage tags

Sometimes I don't understand myself. I had plans yesterday to finish my Wicked Easy quilt and plan out a pattern for my batiks. Practically a full day ahead of me to play. However I spent too much time on the computer though and got a late start. When I finally did get up to the sewing room I made up binding and got to the hand sewing stage. The end is in sight for the Wicked Easy Quilt!

BUT... did I jump in and start planning a batik quilt? No. My mind wandered around to a young foreign student from Germany with whom I've recently made friends. She'll be going back to Germany this week. I really ought to see her one more time and take her a present. No time to be making quilts though and she's probably got her bags all packed anyway.

Aha! How about some luggage tags! Yeah! I could make a couple of those IF I've got the plastic and interfacing. I went fumbling through my drawers and found the necessary materials. Then fumbling through the back blog posts trying to find the directions (which I didn't link to before! Dumb girl!) I did get myself organized and then spent the next hour or so making luggage tags from some kimono material I had. Don't know how well it will hold up but they are bright and will remind the girl of her time in Japan!

So here are my luggage tags. And HERE is the link to Morah's tutorial! The plastic is a bit of a bear to work with but I have a Teflon walking foot that works well. And since I've made these three times I've mastered the mysteries of the button hole foot too. I can now make a long, straight opening.

Someone once asked me how the tags are attached so hopefully the pictures will make that clearer.Slip the strap part through the opening. Then slip the strap under a suitcase handle and pull the whole tag through the strap. If you make sure to keep the plastic part (with the information written on a card) inside, then important information isn't immediately available to the whole world.

Kind of snazzy aren't they? Definitely bright is best!

Back to binding and planning.

Monday, January 26, 2009


We had a light sprinkling of snow this weekend. It didn't last very long but it made for very lovely scenery. I remember reading somewhere that when doing patchwork, using a bit of grey will make a quilt rich and very elegant.

As a Southern California girl, the snow and the grey skies seem very mysterious to me. Not at all "dreary" as some people feel. Of course this level of snow is easy to handle. I've lived in other areas of Japan where I couldn't get the doors open in the house because of the weight of the snow on the roof!

Snowy days are great for doing a little quilting!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Fix it

My pictures today aren't too photogenic. Oh well. Some days are like that.

Yesterday Tetsu had a day off.

"What do you want me to do today?"

He often offers to do some job that usually will sit for months undone. (They pile up you know.) Hmm. Ah!

"Tetsu, could you please fix the walls and the bathroom door?"

This is more cat damage repair. Years ago the cats started attacking the walls. We asked someone fairly professional to come in and repair the dining room walls but Tetsu decided to do the room corners that the cats had used as scratching posts. He did a great job! But probably he isn't going to get any offers to do interior decorating. Tetsu just bought boards, sanded them down (by hand!) and nailed them up in uneven strips over the holes in the walls. I love it! My patchwork house has patchwork walls!

Tetsu's original job was coming loose and some of the boards had been so scratched down by the cats that they needed to be replaced so Tetsu bought more lumber yesterday and hammered them up on some of the worse corners. Fantastic!

Next the bathroom. I have been locking Cleo in the bathroom so that Velvet can enjoy a quiet meal (all the other cats are locked up in various rooms. Sort of like the changing of the guard at meal times). Well, Cleo didn't take kindly to being trapped and one day when I was slow letting him out he attacked the door! This is what my door looked like for awhile.

You can tell I love my cats if they do this and I still don't ban them to the forest.

Even though the bathroom door makes for an interesting conversation piece, it wasn't something I felt worth inviting friends to see so Tetsu went at it yesterday with boards and nails and fixed my door for me, a la Tetsu interior decorating!

Tetsu is very proud of himself. Just this morning he pulled me into the bathroom again to admire his handwork.

"Just look at that Tanya! No more cat marks! Here have a seat! (on the toilet) Isn't that pleasing to the eye? You can just sit there and enjoy the grain of the wood and the fragrance of the sawdust!"

Now how romantic is that? Every time I use the throne I can think of Tetsu and his labor of love!

The wall corners do look very nice.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


On the way out of my English lesson at the kindergarten yesterday some of the mothers invited me to stay for Japanese tea. I think the mothers have a tea ceremony lesson a couple times a month and there is another class for mothers to learn how to dress themselves in kimono. Yesterday they put on a mini-tea ceremony in the church and served a few of us teachers who were there as well as some of the mothers who will be enrolling their children from April.

A very unexpected and beautiful few minutes of Japanese culture in my day.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Batiks Galore!

Another wonderful package arrived in my mailbox today. Linda sent me some of batiks that she had collected! She even sent me some needles that she said were easier to use with batiks. Oh, and chocolate too! Now all I have to do is decide what to make! Thank you Linda! (She signs herself as Lurking Linda so I don't have a link for you but she sounds like she is a very advanced quilter!)

Oh, I really have such a wonderful collection now! Thank you so much Linda! And Rae Ann, and BrendaLou and the Chocolate Cat, and the Calico Quilter! My simple admission of not being able to buy batiks in Japan opened the hearts of so many blogging friends and I have no excuse to not have a batik quilt in my house now! I even have some batiks that Liz sent me ages ago and Roberta too!

So what do you think I should do? I've got to stop sitting here just looking at my treasure.

I don't think I've met a batik quilt that I didn't like so actually no matter what I do I don't think I can go wrong. Batiks just seem mysterious and natural. I already wrote about my feelings about batiks before.

A couple of years ago I saw a quilt called Wheel of Mystery that has stayed in my brain. It was made of pre-cut batiks and was huge but I'd really like to make a wall-hanging like it. I think the original pattern is Winding Ways. The trouble is that it is all curves. And one has to be artistic to place the colors just right. Maybe too far beyond my skill level? (And no actual directions to go by.)

Another quilt I once saw on some website (and I can't find the website nor the quilt picture that I printed out!) used a block called Carolyn's Star. As I recall it was beautiful in batiks. That might be within my abilities if I could figure out an artistic arrangement for the blocks. I wish I could find that picture because I'd probably say "This is it!" and start tomorrow.

I've also been debating a very simple, just squares and rectangles quilt that looks lovely in the magazine picture. VERY simple! I might get a while quilt top made into a flimsy within a few days and it would be wonderful to see all my friend's batiks set out together. Instant gratification! But I'd sort of like to savor these fabrics and work awhile with them too...


Would you play it safe and make something simple that can be struck from the To-do list right away and put on the wall to be admired by all?


Would you give yourself the challenge of a difficult quilt that would take a lot of time (and maybe irritations) and might be stuck in a drawer for a couple of years?

What to do? What to do?

Thank you Lurking Linda for setting my brain in motion again!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Examination hell

This is the time of year when Japanese students are neurotic, mothers are nervous wrecks, teachers are worried, and parents in general are secretive. And why all these emotions going at once? Because jr. high school kids are getting ready for the upcoming entrance exams to high school. And it is nothing like entering high school in the States.

In Japan there are public and private high schools. Unlike in the States, high school is not mandatory and so some students will go to work straight out of jr. high. I don't think this is so common in the big cities but in the countryside (where we live) this is not unusual. High school enrollment therefore depends on entrance examinations rather than automatic promotion to the local high school. The private high schools are expensive and not always of better quality. The public school tuition is quite a bit less and pull the better academic students. There is a lot of competition to get into the public schools yet the jr. high schools themselves don't seem to prepare students very well for the entrance exams.

I would say that maybe 90% of jr. high school students will go to a cram school sometime within their three years of jr. high school education. Cram schools are after school classes and courses, and they are quite expensive. Basically they go beyond what the jr. high teaches and the cram schools will train the kids in academics and techniques needed to take high school entrance exams. Many jr. high students will go four or five times a week to a cram school and there are cram schools in private homes as well as major cram school franchises throughout Japan.

Takumi refused to go to a cram school. He opted to study on his own but he didn't get into the public school of his choice (you can only apply to one public high school) but he was accepted into a private high school.

Leiya chose to go to a cram school when she was in her last year of jr. high but I'm afraid we could only afford to send her twice a week for about three months. I forget what the cost was but it was high! There were also intensive courses during vacations that lasted all day, but we couldn't afford those classes at all!

The interesting thing about Leiya's experience at cram school was that she really studied while she was going. She didn't seem to pay much attention in her normal classes but at the cram school she was given specific goals to aim for, specific instructions for studying, competition and class ranking were purposely evident and every student knew what everyone else's scores were in class. Cram schools and teachers are ranked by the number of students they manage to put into the public high schools and so this is great motivation to have interesting, very capable teachers. Leiya turned into a great student while she attended cram school!

The down side though was that on the days that Leiya would go to cram school she would leave the jr. high around 4:30 or so and then would walk directly over to the cram school. She would study at the school alone then go next door to a convenience store to buy a sandwich for dinner and then go back to the school to attend a class until 11:30 at night!!! Yes! The classes went that late! I remember Tetsu would go to pick her up close to midnight.

I really felt I had my head on backwards during Leiya's three months at cram school. Why were we paying all this money and allowing our family life to suffer just so that Leiya might get into a "good" high school? Why wasn't regular jr. high school enough? Weren't we risking Leiya's physical health as well as her mental health? But if students want to rise above their peers to get into the better high schools then these were necessary sacrifices. Leiya quit going to cram school after she made the decision to attend American high school and she never took any of the entrance examinations.

So you can see why students are nervous. Teachers are worried too because they advise students on their chances of getting into certain schools. If the teacher recommends a school that is a bit of a challenge and heaven forbid the student fails the entrance exam then the teacher too is somewhat responsible for the student's future. Mothers are wringing their hands and trying not to nag and they cook nutritious meals to keep the child healthy and clear headed. The whole family tends to tip-toe around the student who is supposedly slaving over his or her books. And the secretiveness comes because it would be too embarrassing to admit that your child was trying for a good high school in case he didn't get in. If he failed entrance into the high powered school, it reflects on the whole family. Better not to tell anyone what the true choice of school is.

I wrote about Japanese high school entrance exams a couple of years ago and and my feelings about this system. I am afraid I am very jaded about the Japanese education system. And there is the very real problem of the high suicide rate for high strung adolescents who fear that the failure to make it into a good high school will ruin their chances for a happy life.

The kids who plan to go to college have to go through this whole process again three years later but maybe they are older and wiser and are able to handle the pressure and discipline a bit better.

Do you wonder why Japan calls this the Examination Hell?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Which cat?

It is 8:30 in the morning and already I'm tired. And Tetsu is tired. We look at each other and say "We need a vacation from something..."

This morning I went off to do my crosswalk duties. When I came back a half an hour later Choco and the neighbor dogs were barking madly. I peered out the window and yelled at Choco to be quiet. But with the neighbor dogs putting up a fuss Choco felt inclined to join them.

"What are you barking about?"

Ah, someone is out in the forest. Someone who looks familiar. What's Tetsu doing out in the forest?

"Tetsu, what are you doing?

"Chip got loose and is out here somewhere!"


So I put my boots back on and headed out in the forest doing what Tetsu calls my Tarzan call!

"Chip! Here kitty-kitty-kitty-kitty-kitty~~~~!!!" (Japanese can't do this call.)

I'm out in the forest yelling for Chip. Choco and the neighbor's dogs are barking up a storm.

"Be quiet! Chip will never come back if you keep barking like that!"

I stomped back to Choco and happened to glance in the Japanese room window. Chip is sitting on the bookshelf looking out at me.

"Ding-dang-it-all! Tetsu! Am I looking for Chip or am I looking for Toi? Who am I looking for?!" Chip and Toi are the only ones who show an interest in going outside.

Tetsu was on the phone telling his office he'd be in late (he did not tell them he had to help find a cat.)

"Tetsu! Did Toi get out? Who got out?!"

"Chip. Chip got out when I was heating up the car."

"Chip is right there. Do you mean Toi got out?"

"Wait a minute. Toi is here too. And so is Cleo and so is Patora. And Velvet is under the chair as usual."

Which means that no cats got out. Which means Tetsu had been stomping around in the forest looking for a cat that he claims was Chip but it wasn't. The neighbor's cat is orange and looks a lot like Toi. Maybe that cat? But Toi and Chip don't look that much alike. Why did Tetsu think he'd seen Chip out in the forest? Does this mean that there is another stray cat out there? Just thinking about it makes me tired.

Chip is the most confused. Why were her humans out in the forest calling for her when she was sitting peacefully at home?

And why can't Tetsu tell the difference between our own cats and any others?

Monday, January 19, 2009

No thread

Wednesday I was quilting. Thursday, Friday and Saturday I couldn't find time to quilt. Yesterday, (Sunday) I had an afternoon free and I was raring to quilt. Get the Wicked Easy quilt out. Adjust the hoop. Get out the thimbles. Take the cats off the quilt. Choose a new sharp needle. Take the cats off again. Sit down with quilt in hand. Thread the needle....

Where is the thread? Where is the thread? WHERE IS THE DANG THREAD!!!?

I checked under chairs and sofas and in corners (the cats play with my thread and thimbles). I got out a flashlight and put in new batteries and started prowling under the cupboards and piano. I moved furniture. I turned bags inside out. Can you think of anything more frustrating?

I went upstairs to open a new spool of thread. NO NEW SPOOL OF THREAD!!! I can't believe I've been living on the brink with only one spool of quilting thread!

My quilt never got a stitch put into it and I spent the afternoon in a bad mood. The cats went back to sleep on my quilt.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Japanese products

I'm pulling a few pictures off the Internet today. The other day I came across a product in the supermarket that I've normally by-passed but I stopped in my tracks and decided it might make an interesting topic to post about. And then I got to thinking about some of the other products that leave English speaking foreigners shaking their heads or give them a chuckle. I'm sure this is true in other languages all over the world but here is a sampling of bloopers I've found in Japan.

This is an old one. CREAP. Either way you spell it, are you going to want this in your coffee? This is a non-dairy creamer and it has been around for years. Not too bad actually.

This is a sports' drink. POCARI SWEAT. I'm afraid my mind starts imagining what a POCARI might be and do I really want to drink its sweat? I have been known though to push the POCARI SWEAT button on the vending machine in a pinch.

This one looks innocuous enough. CALPIS. Say it quickly a few times. Doesn't that sound a lot like what cattle do when they relieve themselves? This is a sweet milky yogurt based drink that is very refreshing and has made a big hit in Japan. It is even available in some American markets, but U.S. marketing changed its name to CALPICO. I'm sure this is a great example of how naming affects sales and so forth. Hot CALPIS? No way!!!

I've never ridden around in this but for such a nice looking car I think the name could have been given more consideration. This is an ALPHARD. This is another word that my strange mind mulls over and comes up with other images. Say this one too a few times quickly. And no, you'll not hear me announcing this to the world after eating a pot of beans!

So sorry about that.

And now to my own pictures. This is what stopped me in the supermarket. A HOMO SAUSAGE. Oh, please!!! Is this edible? and for whom? It is a fish sausage (and even without the naming I've never found a desire to buy one of these), strangely pink and even more strangely wrapped in bright red plastic. Oh, be brave, Tanya.

So I bought it. And I brought it home. And I opened it. And the cats came flying from all directions! And I tasted it.

"No thank you. If you cats want it you may have it!"

Think piranha here! That HOMO SAUSAGE was the highlight of their lives! Gone in three seconds flat! I risked my fingers even trying to save a bite for Choco.

I've always thought I could make a lot of money offering my services in the marketing world in Japan. Somebody needs to look over these things before they go out on the market!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A friend from Australia

Patchwork Thursday was a little different this month because we had guests! To make a long story short, our normal group of 5 or 6 people met and Noriko, our long time friend who lives quite a ways away joined us with two of her newly made acquaintances, Mariko-san and Lorraine.

Mariko-san is Japanese. Lorraine is her Australian mother-in-law and Lorraine was visiting Japan specifically to go to the Tokyo Quilt Festival (and of course to visit her son and family). Mariko-san thought it would be nice for Lorraine to meet some "real" Japanese quilters and so through Noriko-san they arranged to visit us. PRESSURE! We are such a small patchwork group and mainly do work on a yearly kindergarten bazaar quilt. We sent out word that on Thursday we were having a VERY REAL Australian quilter joining us.

Thursday morning I went to the station and picked up Noriko, Mariko and Lorraine and brought them back to Mrs. Furui's house. On the way we made a quick stop at a local quilt store just so that Lorraine could get an idea of what kind of fabrics and tools were normally available to us. The quilt show will have rows and rows of wonderful shop booths but we rarely have access to all those treasures.

After the quick 10 minute stop at the quilt store we arrived at Mrs. Furui's house and introductions began. I'm sure Lorraine found it a bit confusing because there were 10 of us and besides meeting Lorraine and Mariko for the first time, it was also the first time for many of our members to meet Noriko (though her name has been thrown around regularly. So Noriko was making new friends, Lorraine and I were chatting (in English). Mrs. Furui and Mariko were joining in (in English) and translating for whoever needed translation. On top of that, we were all getting together for the first time this year and many people had pictures of children and grandchildren to show so there was a lot of oohing and ahhing about how big the kids were getting or how beautiful the daughters looked in kimonos (Japanese Coming of Age Day was at the beginning of January and three ladies had pictures of their daughters all decked out for that.)It took us awhile to get around to the quilting aspect of our gathering.

Finally we declared Show and Tell time and asked Lorraine to show us what she'd brought all the way from Australia.

Can you picture a room of 10 chatting ladies suddenly going silent with everyone's mouths hanging open? And the eruption of questions and squeals of awe and the running for cameras and the fingering, and more questions and more questions and more questions! Lorraine's work was so amazing to us! Even though I translated, I couldn't grasp all that she was telling us about the technique used (with colored pencils?) and the designer etc. but Lorraine promised to write it all down for me and send me information by e-mail. Well, all I can say is that Australian quilters have some master designers and quilters in their midst! So beautiful!!! And Lorraine's handwork on the embroidery is exquisite! We couldn't believe it had all been done by hand it was so fine, but yes, nothing but hand could produce such textures and patterns. Just amazing!

All together Lorraine had brought 4 quilts to show us and they were all lovely examples of piecing and applique and embroidery and quilting that were definitely like nothing found in Japan! The colors used are different. The patterns are unlike anything seen in Japanese quilt magazines, and the techniques were ones we'd never heard of.

The last quilt that Lorraine brought out again was such an eye opener to all of us! It was a whimsical quilt of Australian animals. Oh such fun!!! All the animals were appliqued in a buttonhole stitch, something that none of us have ever tried and we all swarmed over this quilt too. We were so amazed at the precise machine quilting that Lorraine had done on this quilt and she gave us a lap demonstration of how she used her domestic sewing machine right there. We really should have arranged to have her do a workshop for us but we hadn't realized what talent was going to appear in our midst!

"Tanya! Find out if she has the patterns for this? Ask her if she knows a book that we can order. Make sure she tells you what kind of batting she uses. And pens. Oh and get the name of the designer."

The questions just flew!

Lorraine had brought our little group Australian magazines, Australian quilt fabric and chocolates!!! What a party!

Towards the end of the few hours we had together we finally did get around to discussing the bazaar quilt and it was unanimous that in honor of Lorraine and her lovely work that we should try doing this year's applique blocks in buttonhole stitching. Lorraine gave us some advice and demonstrated a few stitches and we all went home inspired to try something new!

The Tokyo Quilt Festival started yesterday and Lorraine is looking forward to going THREE TIMES while she is in Japan! Good for her! I know many of you won't forgive me but I'M NOT GOING! Can you believe it?! Too many unfinished projects in my closet already and I know I'd just come away inspired to start something new again. I'm inspired enough with just Lorraine's work!

Hope you have fun Lorraine! Thank you for all your presents! Keep in touch! Think of us as your extended quilt family in Japan!