At the end of last year, Mrs. Harada pulled me aside and whispered,
"Mrs. Furui is going to turn 60 next summer. I think we should make a quilt for her. Would you help me arrange something?"
Nice idea, but Mrs. Harada lives a few hours away. And WHAT kind of quilt could we make for a woman who makes exquisite quilts herself?! (But who is so generous she only has two or three of her own. Mrs. Furui gives away all her quilts.)
Mrs. Harada promised to lead the workforce if I would think up a quilt we could make Mrs. Furui.
For the past couple of years, every time our group made a new bazaar quilt I would think that we really should have made one extra block to save as a remembering block. By now we would have had 17 blocks and the beginning of a bazaar history quilt. But we didn't do that and anyway, the only people who have participated in all the bazaar quilts are Mrs. Furui and me...
Well, that's an idea. How about making Mrs. Furui a quilt with all the blocks from 17 years of our bazaar quilts? But that first block was nearly 20 years ago! And all those ideas and blocks came from my books and Mrs. Furui's books, library books and magazines and in recent years from the Internet and other quilter's blogs. It would be IMPOSSIBLE to get all those patterns again!
Still, one Thursday at Mrs. Furui's house I was thumbing through her bookshelf and found one of the original patterns. Ah, and here's another one. And I have one in a book on MY bookshelf. That makes three. Mrs. Furui probably still has last year's bazaar quilt pattern...
Mrs. Furui, do you have the pattern from that quilt we made last year? Or even before that?"
"I think so. Let me check."
And Mrs. Furui pulled a box out of her closet.
"Is it this one you want? Here are the cardboard templates and the pattern." (And the left over fabric!)
"Yes, that's the one! Can I borrow your pattern? I might want to teach this pattern to the two ladies who come to my house for patchwork. (True, I teach two ladies, fib that I wanted to use the pattern with them.)
"Mrs. Furui. What all do you have in that box?"
"Oh, these are all the patterns from our bazaar quilts. I saved all of the templates too and they are all in here in separate Ziploc bags."
GASP! A treasure chest right in front of me! Mrs. Ochiai's eyes and mine met in a glimmer of clandestine delight.
"If you're not going to use those for awhile may I just borrow the whole box and let my students look at the patterns themselves? It might give them some inspiration."
YES! And I have just saved myself hours of detective work!
So work began on a composite bazaar quilt for Mrs. Furui. I took the box of templates and patterns home, made a list of the ladies we would ask to help, divided the patterns according to difficulty and made little kits to dole out. Some patterns needed background fabric which I cut up and included. Some patterns used button hole applique, I included paper. Some ladies don't really have fabric themselves (the kindergarten principal) so I added some of my own scraps. In the end I had 17 packets to go out.
Mrs. Yamaguchi's house was designated the new hub of all this activity (she lives a few blocks from Mrs. Furui.) A few of the ladies needed instruction and patchwork classes were held at Mrs. Yamaguchi's with Mrs. Harada coming the long way in to teach. Lorraine was approached about participating from afar and she just happened to be planning a trip to Japan anyway.
And then we had the earthquake. (Lorraine worked on her block at my house while we experienced aftershocks.) And then we spent a couple of weeks housebound. And when things calmed down a bit I invited Mrs. Furui to accompany me on a trip to a fabric shop where we splurged and began feeling like life would go back to normal.
At the fabric shop Mrs. Furui was specifically looking for some pink/red fabric for an Anne of Green Gables quilt she was making. (I'll show you that tomorrow.) And she found some! But actually Mrs. Furui is not much of a pink/red fabric type of person. She likes blues and light grays. So her eyes REALLY went to same fabric in blue/gray.
"Oh, I like this color better. But I need the pink/red to show off the red work we are doing. I guess I'll buy the pink/red."
Ah hah! You know who snatched that bolt of blue/gray fabric right then and there! And though I had no idea of how much we were going to need (none of our blocks were back yet) I decided to buy all the remaining fabric on the bolt...
"I think I can use this fabric in one of my projects too, I'll just go ahead and buy it just in case."
Mrs. Furui pondered whether she'd like some of the blue/gray in her stash.
"Sorry, Mrs. Furui, I really think I need all of it. If there is any left over I'll give you some scraps."
And I got ALL the fabric!
Finally sometime in May the blocks were all back. Mrs. Ochiai and I scheduled a day to put the quilt together.
"Aaggh!!! It's Mrs. Furui who always does our computing and making a layout plan for our quilts! Why can't we do this?!"
We made so many mistakes and re-cut so many times that I was beginning to worry about having enough fabric! And the blue/gray was a one-way pattern so that took a lot of measuring and computing. And for awhile Mrs. Ochiai was working with a centimeter ruler while I was working with an inch ruler and if that doesn't confuse the situation, nothing will! We finally had a flimsy!
On another Thursday the plan was to meet as usual and then have people fade away and go over to Mrs. Yamaguchi's house to sandwich the quilt. Hopefully Mrs. Furui wouldn't notice that her friends were all extra busy that day and had to leave early. Let me say clearly, Mrs. Ochiai and I are great fibbers, but sweet Mrs. Harada is a terrible liar and we all cringed when she explained why she had to leave early.
"I need to stop at 7/Eleven." WHAT!?
And before we all faded away we realized the backing needed to be sewn... On Mrs. Furui's sewing machine in her dining room. With Mrs. Furui a few steps away in another room conducting a basting party... I pleaded knee problems (this was even before my knee surgery) and stayed in the dining room sewing the backing while the other ladies guarded the door and prevented Mrs. Furui from making a sudden entrance. Actually, for the past 6 months, every time Mrs. Furui stepped out of the room to help someone with finding a book or a pattern or extra fabric, the rest of us would buzz with updates on the quilt's progress!
Over the summer the quilt was quilted and bound. A label was made. And yesterday was the big day for the party. Mrs. Furui didn't suspect a thing.
Mrs. Harada arrived at Mrs. Furui's first all dressed up for a "special day." I got there next and chatted about my summer. Mrs. Sato and Mrs. Takami came next...
"My, you're early!"
Mrs. Yamaguchi, Mrs. Takahira, Mrs. Takagishi, Mariko-sensei (the kindergarten principal).
"Mariko-sensei? What are you doing here? What's going on?"
We couldn't keep it a secret any longer. People started pulling out food for our pot luck party.
"We're holding a birthday party for you Mrs. Furui! Smile!" And the cameras started flashing.
Mrs. Ochiai got there just in time as did Mrs. Okutumi who made it for the quilt presentation!
We are so proud of ourselves! Proud of our quilt, proud of our ability to keep a secret. And we are so pleased and proud to be considered friends of Mrs. Furui! Our inspiration, our mentor, the person we all run to when we need help, advice, or sympathy... even outside the realm of patchwork.
Thank you Furui-san! We love you lots and lots and lots!