Wednesday, December 24, 2014

book report

I just finished reading a fun new mystery book, rather, I just finished listening to it.  I think I simply found it while at the library browsing the recorded books shelves.  It is titled The Preacher and is written by a Swedish author, Camilla Lackberg.  (I don't know how to find it on blogger, so I had to skip the correct "a" in Lackberg.  It is supposed to have the 2 little dots over it, which means it sounds like a long A in our terms.)  It's not a lighthearted story, it is kind of morose and creepy at times, like most murder mysteries.  The fun thing about it is that the story is set in a village on the west coast of Sweden, an area that I love and visited many times 40-some years ago.  So I could really picture the scenes with certain locations in mind that I remember, making it seem much more real.  I have now requested another book by this author, since she has published several titles.

And, on a cheerier note, we are ready for our Christmas celebrations!  We aren't having anyone here this year, we are going to visit parents and family.  So we left the big tree and all the ornaments packed away, and brought out our little tree instead.

 And I was able to put together a nice display on the mantel without stockings this year!  This was a decorative box that I found at a furniture store, The Wood Shed, in Augusta, WI.  They have loads of beautiful furniture, much of it made by the local Amish community.  They also carry a lot of decorative accents, like this box.  And those candy canes and lights came from there, too.  The berries came out of my Christmas boxes, and the greens and hydrangeas came out of the yard.  All together, it looks fun and not totally dorky-homemade!

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

finally some sewing (etc.) to share

I haven't put up much here lately about the creative side of my life, so here goes:

A young friend of mine, Molly, gave birth to her first little baby about a week ago (or so).  I had some fun making her pretty little crib sheets for the nursery and some pennants for her name (Ada) to decorate the wall.  When I first heard that her choice of colors for the nursery was gray and green and purple, I wasn't sure how that was going to work out.  I found out that the walls were painted a fairly bright limeish green, and the purple that she was going for was definitely not lavender!  She came into Bear Patch one evening and we picked out some bolts that fit into her color scheme.  After that, it was easy to visualize how it would look.  In addition to the crib sheets, I have put together this small quilt for Ada, although it isn't finished for the young princess yet!

One more touch that I added for the nursery was altering the curtains Molly had purchased to fit the windows.  And more importantly, add light blocker lining!  We know how precious a sleeping baby is, and sometimes the darkness is so important to calming and relaxing.  In the picture above, you can see the difference between the naked curtain on the left and the lined curtain on the right.  I highly recommend this little addition for any babies in your life!  I purchased RocLon Budget Blackout lining for this, cut a rectangle to fit and topstitched it across the top and down both side edges of the curtain.  I left the bottom loose and didn't turn a hem or anything because this stuff doesn't ravel.  Do use a walking foot if you are sewing this, and plenty of pins, because it tends to not feed through the machine quite like ordinary fabric does.

Just a couple days ago, I decided I wanted to make one more thing for a Christmas present.  I went for something made with bulky yarn and big needles so I have a hope and a prayer of getting it done in time, given the fact that my knitting time has been pretty limited lately.  I made this once before, it is the Gaptastic Cowl.  I gave it to Brita and she thought it was great, so I'm game to do another!  The pattern is a freebie, so maybe you would like to give it a try yourself!

And speaking of knits, Miss Penny of Whitefish, seems to have taken possession of the scarf I made for Lauren!  I guess Penny knows a good thing!

Another knit gift that is completed and in the mail is a neat pair of fingerless gloves.  In the picture below, I have one glove that is done and blocked, and the other (on the right) is done but unblocked.  I didn't know the value of blocking when I started out knitting, thinking it was just something that the really good experienced knitters did and that I didn't have time for such fuss.  Well, turns out I was wrong.  The process of blocking is simple--just soak the item in lukewarm soapy water (mild detergent), then rinse and roll up in a towel to squeeze the excess water out.  Then lay out flat on a smooth surface, and stretch and straighten to get it looking perfectly aligned.  When it dries, it looks neat and finished, plus any little bits of dirt or oil (or cookie crumbs?!) picked up during knitting are gone.  The knit stitches lay much flatter, even though you can't really see that in the picture.  But the edges and ribbing lay smooth and even, making a much more professional finish.  As far at the soap goes, there are several types of mild detergent soaps out there (dreft, soak, soaps intended for babies, eucalan, etc.) but the one I often use is called Show Paste Shampoo from the Fleet Farm store.  It is an animal shampoo, but really good to use on textiles, too.  Who knew?!

I whipped up a little sewing project a couple days ago to try out a new design from QuiltSmart.  It is called the Gadget Cushion, and is the perfect propper-upper for our favorite little hand-held computer devices.  Works great for my phone and I need to try it for my Kindle, too.

During the fall, I got addicted to making these little bags.  I think I made about 2 dozen.  It was just so fun choosing the fabrics and zippers!  I have a few more combos already in a box for the next retreat.  And a lot of these little guys are making some fun little Christmas gifts, sometimes even with a gift card inside!  The pattern is Bridget's Bagettes by Atkinson Designs.  Go ahead, see if you can make just one!

And that's about all for today!  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

a little trip

In the not too distant past, Bob and I made a trip to North Carolina.  Charlotte, actually.  The Ballantyne area, southern outskirts of the city, is where Ben, Brita, Ian and Jack are working on creating a new home.  It's a long ways to go for our babysitting gig, but so wonderful to visit them there.  It has been a big move, and it's not over yet because they are in an apartment temporarily.  That means there are a lot of boxes still packed and stored in the garage.  And one of them holds the Christmas tree stand!  We ended up sending Bob and Brita out to get a tree and new stand so the decorating could begin.  
We all got to go on an overnight trip to Asheville.  A great area, getting into the mountain region of the state.  Some beautiful scenery, good food and drink, and much more sightseeing than we had time for on this trip.  Here are Brita and Ian on one of the patio areas of the Grove Point Inn, a fabulous historic hotel.

And here's a good shot of little Jack, he had just learned how to get up to sitting from laying down, and started to get up on hands and knees, too.  A couple days ago Brita sent me a little video showing Jack actually making synchronized crawling movements!

We were eating out at a Mexican restaurant (excellent!) and Ian was trading hats around and gave his grandpa a smooch.  That puts a big grin on Bob's face!  Ben was a bit under the weather, so he had to kind of take it easy.  Mexican food, and most other kinds of food, held no appeal for him!  But about 48 hours later things were back to good again.

The Asheville area seems to be a gathering place for artistic and creative minds, so the town reflects that free-thinking spirit.  It was a young mindset that I enjoyed.  The "arts" extend to the craft of brewing, and we enjoyed a delicious local brew at the Wicked Weed taproom.  That name relates to the hops plant, sometimes known as a weed, that can transform into beer.  So clever!   
Jack thinks so, too!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Today things seem a little misplaced here in blogland.  My pictures won't line up like I want them to.  I am doing a little work-around to even get the pictures in here because the usual system I use is not cooperating, so I will just be happy that I even got the pictures to appear!
While I was just away on a fun quilting retreat, we started talking about the good places to find tools that help our sewing and quilting.  These are not items found at a quilt shop.  Let me explain.
These little paper clips/binder clips are from the office supply store.  They have a heavy paper tab added that can be written on.  I have used these not just for papers, but for groups of blocks or pieces that I can clip together, label, and then come back to later.
IKEA does hold a wealth of gadgets and gizmos that can be applied to our quilting hobby.  Even the button rug I wrote about not long ago!  This item below is a magazine or paper or letter sorter.  Now it is a ruler holder!  Hanging nicely on the wall, it helps tame the ruler madness.

Not every ruler fits into the wall holder, so the remainder sit nicely in this desktop letter/file holder.  This was a thrift store find.  If you are looking for one for yourself, be aware that some of this type of holder are wire.  That works, too, but not very well for the smallest rulers because they fall through the bottom.  The one in the picture is plastic and has a solid bottom to each division so nothing escapes.  I even put small cutting mats in here.

Again, from the office supply store, I landed on a stack of screw top containers meant for lunch or snacks.  Now they are a neat way to transport little necessities.

And lastly, these adhesive pieces can be found in your everyday discount store (Target, etc).  They are adhesive on both sides with a soft gel-like center.  Available in strips or squares.  I have used them when I need to make a seam allowance other than my usual 1/4" width.  I remove the cover from one side of the adhesive, then measure my seam allowance from the needle, and adhere the strip to the bed of my sewing machine.  It has a little thickness, so serves as kind of a bumper for the edge of the fabric feeding under the presser foot.  And when I am done, I just peel it off, replace the strip of clear plastic that covered the sticky stuff, and save it for another day.  The pack contains multiples, so I likely have a life time supply!

Another discovery to share with you--a new brand of oatmeal!  It is certainly the time for oatmeal here with winter upon us, but it can really be eaten anywhere anytime.  This particular brand of oatmeal is called Better Oats and comes from Malt-O-Meal.  Just down the road a bit from here!  I don't have a picture to share, and my attempts to "borrow" the picture from their website have been unsuccessful, but if you go to the website you will see it.  It is Oat Revolution Steel Cut Instant Oatmeal with Flax.  I purchased mine in the little Gordy's grocery store in Augusta, WI.  Mine is flavored with maple and brown sugar, but you can get them plain or in other flavors according to the Better Oats website.  It cooks a little longer than regular instant oatmeal (2 1/2 minutes) but comes out with more chew to it and I like that.  If you can find it in your area, give it a try!

That's the limit of my discoveries for today!  Have a good one!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

bike boys

Here's a little history lesson mixed with a quilting lesson!

Friday, November 7, 2014


I just happened to find an interesting article about fabric design and wanted to share it with you.  

With my work at the quilt shop and related activities, the topic of fabric designers often comes up.  When a fabric company representative is showing us samples of 20 new designer groups, we pick and choose and critique freely.  We generally have an idea of what styles and looks will be interesting to our customers.  Most of the time we are familiar with the name of the designer and the concept she/he brings to the collection.  That can help a lot in referring to past sales of that designer's fabrics and how well the past designs sold in our store.  Most often, we don't really pay attention to the name of the designer as a factor in the final decisions.  But it is nice to know about the background of the person behind the designs.  And it's nice actually know some people who do the designing, and hear about their process.

Now, for a completely different kind of design, but quilt-related nonetheless.  Lauren is quite a connoisseur of beverages, and has a sharp eye for detail.  She brought me a 6-pack of special beer called Jubleale from deSchutes brewery.  She told me to take a closer look at the label and the package.  Wow!  It's quilted applique!  Isn't that cool?!

Cheers to you!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

this and that

Our days have been packed lately so a lot has been going on that I haven't written about.  Here are some highlights:

Little Jack Robert Burke was baptized at home with us, thanks to our pastor who is generous with his time.  We needed to fit this into a weekend when Dan and Lauren were here, and we are so glad that it worked out for them.  Grant Tanner is our pastor at Cedar United Methodist Church.

It is a special day when our kids can all be in one place at one time.  Dan and Lauren live in Whitefish, MT.  Ben and Brita and Ian and Jack live in Minneapolis, but are soon moving to Charlotte, NC.  So I think these group photos will be hard to come by in the future.  But we do have a good time and laughs whenever we can.

It was bittersweet to take Dan and Lauren to the airport for their trip back to Whitefish.  So sad to see them go, but after I got back in the car and felt that big void where they had been, I decided I should turn that frown upside down and go to IKEA!  It is just on the other side of the airport and it is a treat to go there since it isn't convenient for any spur-of-the-moment trips.  And I had been lusting after this rug for my sewing room for quite awhile! 

Now it makes me happy to see it and remember Dan and Lauren's visit with something bright and pretty.

A few weeks ago, Ian got to visit his great grandma and great grandpa in Iowa.  He always gets to do something new when he is there, this time he learned how to pick tomatoes with great grandma.  I think he will be hired again next summer!

Saturday, September 20, 2014


I have become a temporary citizen of Wisconsin!  I have spent the better part of the last 10 days across the border in Augusta, WI, and have 3 more days to go.
Staying at this retreat center makes me feel kind of spoiled, it is such a nice pleasant place and surroundings, and someone else does the cleaning!  

A week ago I was here with a group of quilters, organized by the Ham Lake Piecemakers, but attended by an assortment of quilters who enjoyed the time together.
Here are pictures of some of the beautiful things that were created:

Judy G. put all the pieces together on her quilt of pears, a pattern by Fig Tree.
Love her color choices!

A wise owl quilt by wise Tracy E.--destined to be a gift.

Bags to the left of her, bags to the right--Leisl's beach bag factory!
She reconstructs discarded broken beach umbrellas during her summer
at the East coast, and they sell like hotcakes!

Tiffany, daugher-in-law of Judy, finished her first quilt!

We all shared meal duties and feasted on good food, snacks, and laughter!
Another excellent adventure, sign me up for next year!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

alive and well

Just letting you know that I am still breathing!

I have found the answer to one of life's important questions:
How many times can a 2 year old ask "What's that"?
Answer:  Infinity

We (Bob and I) spent a wonderful long weekend with our 2 little grandsons.  And then collapsed!
There are many entertaining things to do when you are 2.
Ride on Grandpa's lawn tractor.
Look for toads.
Go to the apple orchard.
Help grandma cook something.
Build a fire with Grandpa.
Pull weeds.
Play outside with front end loaders and dump trucks in the sand.

And then there's baby brother, who likes his bottle many times a day.
And learning to eat cereal.
And work on rolling over.
And tummy time.
And holding onto rattles.
And jumping in the bouncer.

We all had a good time, and we were all glad to see mom and dad return from their trip.
Being grandparents is a good thing!

One of our weekly produce bags brought us these very pretty vegies, and I just had to take a picture.  I have never seen a purple cauliflower before!  It turned the water purple when I steamed it.  I should have used it for dying some yarn!

Remember the new yarns that I bought on vacation? I made myself leave them alone until I finished the little sweater that I had been working on.

Here it is after washing, all laid out to dry.  
The letter "B" stands for Burke, their last name.
And solves the problem of whether to put their first initial on it and then the other won't get to use it.
And now that that's done, I am figuring out my next project!

Monday, September 1, 2014

2 finishes

I have finally had a little uninterrupted (well, mostly) time in my sewing room to finish up some things for new classes at the store.  Right now is the back to school time of year, and that carries over to the store, too!  We have a long list of new classes opening up, for a full list go to the "Classes" tab on the website and choose the list of classes from the drop down menu.

I am really happy to finally get things pulled together for a new class I have wanted to get organized for quite awhile.  Since learning how to do English Paper Piecing a couple of years ago, I have wanted to do more with all of the different shapes.  Maybe it's the geometry thing, I always did like that class!  But stacking, moving, shifting, reversing and twisting those shapes fascinates me.  I know, dorky!

This new class will meet once a month or so (I plan to lay low during December!).  It's mostly a social and work time for anyone who wants to come, but each time I will have a new "featured shape" and a project that showcases that shape.

Our first class (in October) will feature the clamshell and this pillow project as an example of how to use them.

Then, in November, we will feature the tumbler shape, and the instructions for this little zipper tote.  It was fun to put together the tumblers using a little "Moda Candy" pack that I had picked up somewhere.  This pack is a bundle of 2 1/2" squares cut from a whole group of coordinating fabrics.  Makes it so easy to get a bunch of prints that go together.

I assembled all of the tumblers and then had to decide what they would be used for.  Not another pillow.  Maybe a little tote?  Make that a zippered tote!  I appliqued (by machine) the tumbler blocks onto the turquoise fabric, added some Soft and Stable, lining, zipper, and voila!

After I had it all together, it needed a really good steam press.  Which is hard to do on these 3-dimensional objects.  I was reaching for my pressing ham (which needed a dusting) and realized that my special little pressing mitt would be just right for this.  It actually is an oven glove or potholder for cooking, made of some of that heat resistant silicone stuff.  It's pretty firm, yet flexible.  It fits on my hand like a mitten, and I wear that on one hand inside the little tote while holding the iron in the other hand and moving the iron over the area that needs pressing.  It's a little clumsy, but it just dawned on me that it would work so much better to have a 3rd hand!  Look out, Bob!  Next time you will be wearing the mitt!

And now my next task is to write up the directions for these 2 projects!

Then, for my wool applique class, I really should get these 4 little guys quilted and bound.  They are part of my on-going wool applique group at the store.  It's been fun to see the combinations of wool and cotton, piecing and applique.  These patterns are all designed by Stacy West of Buttermilk Basin.



And speaking of Stacy, I am so excited to be a student of hers at a special event she is organizing.  It is just a few short weeks away!  She is using a barn in the Wisconsin countryside for what I hope will be an annual event.  Classes, shopping, food and fiber!  I might never leave!  You, too, can attend.  All the info is on her website.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

home is good

So nice to be back home, after feeling cooped up in the car for 2 days!  Even though we drove a
l-o-o-n-g time Sunday (about 12 hours or so) that meant that we had an easy day (about 8 hours) on Monday and arrived at home with some time to unpack, start the laundry, mow the lawn and even take a walk!

I forgot to tell you much about our time at Glacier Distillery.  They use cherries in some of their products, and it is prime time for cherries.  Lauren showed us the huge vat of Rainier cherries that were fermenting and bubbling away.  Yes, there are bits of foreign material in there since they do come from a tree, not a lab!  But all that is filtered off so you won't end up with a stem in your cocktail!

I bought a cherry brandy liqueur, Daughter of the Sun, as well as Little Cottonwood which also has some cherry flavor along with other good seasonings.  I had a delicious cocktail at the Whiskey Barn tasting room--Daughter of the Sun mixed with sparkling apple juice (at least I think it was Daughter of the Sun, but to be honest I might be mistaken about that after inhaling all those fermentation fumes!)

And since I have a special place in my heart for a good gin and tonic, I sampled and purchased the Glacier Distilling gin.  I like that fresh flavor, like a little pine tree in a glass!
I'm not sure why the gin doesn't get a beautiful label like the others, there's one more question for me to take back to Lauren.

On our last day of vacation, we had a bird's-eye view of the Flathead River valley.  It was pretty cloudy so the picture isn't the best, but I liked to look all the way over Whitefish, down to Flathead Lake and Columbia Falls just off to the left.

Also, on that last afternoon, we went to Brewfest in the Depot Park in Whitefish.  There were several (12-14?) microbreweries present serving up samples of their brews.  Not only did it taste good, and we had fun meeting more of the Whitefish folks, but the glass was really cute, too!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

call me huckleberry hound

Yesterday Dan and Lauren took us up the gondola on Whitefish Mountain and showed us how to find and pick huckleberries.  These are a local delicacy, and folks get sort of territorial about the berry patches in the wild.  We did not witness any berry wars!  We just wandered around the mountainside a bit and didn't have to look far to find some bushes.  These berries are a little small, they do develop larger when given the right growing conditions.  We were picking them simply to eat, not collecting a bunch like a few other people we saw.  When we arrived in Whitefish last Sunday night, we were treated to a fresh huckleberry galette (sort of a rustic pie) that was delicious.  Now that I have seen how hard it is to gather any significant number of berries without eating them, I am so impressed that Dan and Lauren shared their berries with us in a pie!

Today has been spent on the road, after forcing ourselves to reluctantly leave the kids and Whitefish behind.  We did so many fun things, and have some left to do next time!
We drove east across the middle of Montana, with rain most of the way.  There had been significant rains in some areas, with lots of water in ditches, etc.
Even covering the road that we had to drive through!  There was a police-type person there who told us it was safe to drive slowly on the left side of the road, which Bob did while I pictured the car floating out to the prairie!  

I have had a chance to do some hand stitching on these wool applique samples for a future class for Bear Patch.  I did most of the preparation before leaving home.  I finished up the cornucopia that I had begun back at home.  Then today I got almost all of the candy cane done.  And tonight in our hotel I did the pressing to fuse the snowman all together so he is ready for stitching tomorrow.  I can stitch without motion sickness when the road is pretty smooth and straight, as it is in a big chunk of eastern MT as well as the rest of North Dakota that we will cover tomorrow.

patterns from Buttermilk Basin
 Before leaving Whitefish, I did make stops at a couple of shops for more "souvenirs"--
first, at Whitefish Quilts.

I found some odds and ends, patterns by local designers, a bit of fabric, etc.  I always like to find things that I won't find easily back home in Minnesota, and I really scored at this shop!  Some fabric lines that we don't have at Bear Patch, a sweet little ruler that will always remind me where I got it, some applique designs from an Alaskan woman with blueberries and lupines, both appropriate for MN, too!  The woman working (sorry, I didn't get her name) was very good at answering my questions and giving suggestions.

Then I hopped over about 3 blocks to Knit 'n Needle.  Their online presence is Polka Dot Sheep, selling both their own patterns and now their own yarn, too.  I liberated 2 skeins of yarn and one little pattern to bring home with me!  Jill was working there and was so friendly and helpful.

I think that pretty much covers the yarn and fabric shopping portion of this trip!  I did even get a little bit of sew time because I took my machine (Viking) out for Dan to experiment with.  He's interested in making some tote bags so we had a little sewing lesson.  If only I could have stayed longer, I could have taken him through the construction of a whole bag.  Instead, I left him some instructions and spare fabric to practice on.  I'm sure he can create something amazing!