Tuesday, May 9, 2017

#1 son and his surprising sewing talent!

So, I've been doting on my little grandsons lately, so I have to catch you up on something fun for my son, Dan.  He's the guy who lives way out in northwest Montana, loving life in the mountains around Glacier National Park.  He and his girlfriend, Jessica, find many ways to enjoy the outdoors there.  they ski a lot, sometimes clear UP the mountain when the lifts aren't running.

And then, there's the biking, and even though there's still plenty of snow at the higher elevations, they will bike up as far as they can go.  This picture is from Going-To-The-Sun Highway, running across Glacier Park.  It's really steep and narrow and winding, and full of cars when all the snow is cleared.  That's still awhile in the future.  But while the plows are still working, bicyclists have the freedom to use the open sections without worrying about being run off the road.  

 Between work and play, Dan has developed a new little sideline business.  It's named Totes Magotes,  a name I knew nothing about but sounds quirky, so I googled and learned this:
Totally, meaning 'Of Course' 
First used in the movie 'I Love You Man'
- Are you coming to that party on Saturday

- Totes Magotes! I'm so there.
Even his business cards are quirky!

He has started offering the bags on his new Etsy shop, and is discovering the many ways that a sewing machine can come in handy!  He's using one of my older machines and a gifted serger on his dining table to put the bag pieces together.  I think he started learning to sew when he wanted to repair and/or tailor some of his own clothing.  I taught him the basics and he's self-taught from there.  He really does a good job, even his a good cutting mat with rotary cutter and ruler.  And he knows how to use an iron, too!  That started way back in high school when he had a job that required neatly pressed khaki pants every day.

I gave him a recycled burlap coffee bean bag a few years ago, made by my friend, Kristina.  Eventually, he became interested in the idea of making his own, after a lot of people saw his bag and liked it.  Now he has 3 bag designs that he makes and sells.  The main bag is about the size of a paper grocery bag, and there's a smaller version for kids or book or lunch.  Then he has developed a specialty bag to hold a yoga mat, too.  They're shown below:

He even makes custom orders with painted designs.
This was an order from Canada for a Mother's Day gift.

Every coffee bean bag comes from roasteries in Montana, plus a couple imports from Minnesota!  Every bag is different.  That burlap can be pretty tough.  He found out that sewing through bits of bark will break your needle!
He's been stockpiling some bags in order to offer them for sale at the Farmer's Market in Whitefish when that starts up.  I've been to that market, and it's a good one.  A really good community event.  So if you see a bag on his Etsy shop, you should get it now before that market opens.  It's fun to see him learn how things are made, and then figure out how to do it.  He will really take on just about anything!  When both my kids were little, I always tried to convey the message that it's always worth a try to learn anything new.  It might not work out, but it also might be fun!  No matter what, Dan will always know how to run a sewing machine!

If you shop on his Etsy page, tell him mom sent you!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

this and that

Last weekend, we (Bob and I) made a little journey south.  We were hoping for a bit of warmer weather to counteract the unusually cold spring we are having, but the weather really didn't get much better.  After all, it's less than 200 miles, so we shouldn't expect to wear flip flops with our winter coats, right?!

We did get to attend a baby shower for my niece, Nora, hosted by 2 of her girlfriends.  It's Nora's first, and her mom's first grandbaby, so I really enjoyed catching up with them on how this baby-making is progressing!  Here's Nora, with her mom, Mary, and my mom, too.  This will be my mom's 6th great-grandchild and the 4th boy.

One of the shower decorations was this sign, and I love the verse on it!

Meanwhile, my own little grandson, Leo, is growing by leaps and bounds!  We went from the 20th percentile on growth curves at his 1 month checkup, to 50th percentile at 2 months!  I think he's determined to catch up with his big brothers, Ian and Jack.
I can't wait for Nora and Mary to get the chance to ooh and aah over their little guy's milestones!  Leo is starting to smile and interact in a real way, not just hopeful thinking!

I'm into baby-hat-knitting mode, and here's another one just finished!

And another cast on!

This yarn looks a lot like denim.  It's called Tenderfoot and comes from The Polka Dot Sheep out of Whitefish, MT.  The color is named Stillwater.  I've lost the name of the yarn used in that first hat, unfortunately.  I really should get better about keeping the names and care info with the yarn, but if the yarn sometimes needs to be wound into a ball or "cake", and then the label doesn't stay connected.

No sewing done here except to get the quilting and binding done on 2 quilts for classes at Bear Patch, that was on a deadline so I was very happy just to meet that deadline!  Especially since I was the one that set that deadline for all the class samples to be turned in!

Along with getting all the class samples ready for display, there is a lot of "backroom" work on the computer, which is what I have spent some time on the last few days.  If you want to see proof of my labors, just look through the class information for the store's website.  Click on any class, and you will get a full description plus details.  I'm glad that's all done for now, but I'm still looking for errors every time I look at it!  There are a lot of dates and times and requirements to include, and after awhile they are all swimming around in my head like a whirlpool!

Today, I'm swearing off computers and going outside while the sun is shining so I can pull some weeds!  Have a great day!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

project report

Even though I haven't shown much proof here on the blog, I really have been continuously sewing and quilting and knitting behind the scenes.  It kind of goes in little bursts and doesn't feel like I get much traction on any one project when there are too many in the works.  But here's some updates!

This lacy scarf is a long overdue completion, using a very special yarn.  It's called Quiviuk and it was a gift from my son, Dan, as a souvenir from a trip to Alaska.  What a great son, on his business trip and he finds yarn for me!
This has had some starts and stops since I first posted about it in 2012.  Sometimes it's like that.  I was frustrated with the pattern I was working on then, and I unravelled it and tried a couple other patterns before landing on this one.  A simpler lace.  I knew I would make something lacy with it for a couple reasons.  It would stretch the little pack of yarn further, with the open stitches.  And it is so lightweight, it feels like a feather, and will be fine for a simple dress-up for a shirt or dress.  And won't be overly warm!  I love the way it turned out!
I don't actually remember where I found the directions for this stitch pattern, but it's pretty simple and therefore, easy to pick up and put down on short notice.  Here's the stitch pattern:
K4, (YO, K2tog, K2) repeat between () across the width of the scarf.
I cast on 28 or 32 stitches (can't remember which), it just has to be a multiple of 4.
Knit 2 rows at the beginning and before cast off.

 And another knit that I hope is quick:

A simple little baby hat that with a little luck will be done in time for a Saturday baby shower to go along with this blankie--

 My niece, Nora, and her husband, Shane, are expecting their first baby, a little boy.  I get to attend the shower on Saturday back in my hometown.  This blankie was made from a square of plush double-sided cuddly fabric.  The binding is about 1" wide, and is sewn on by machine.  If you have ever tried to hand stitch a binding to plush stuff, you will understand why I chose to do this one by machine.  I think my mom sewed the binding for this when we were at a retreat last fall, before I even knew about this little baby coming our way!  It's good to plan ahead!

And a fresh finish!  The binding is done on my Mini Rings quilt and it's in the bag ready to go to Bear Patch.  It will be offered as a class this summer and on display at the store soon.

So that's all for now, folks!
And let's all sing Happy Birthday to my little sis, Jan, today!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

sewing and other stuff

I've got some random stuff to share with you, since I haven't been posting regularly it is a hodge podge.  I often do things, or take pictures, with the thought that I want to blog about it.  In fact, I kind of compose part of the words I want to write in my mind.  Then the moment passes, I get wrapped up in stuff, and it doesn't happen.  Today I'm clearing out some of the backlog!

Last summer I had a nice big outdoor planter dish full of thriving succulents.  By the time fall came, I brought them indoors and started a few smaller plants from the cuttings.  Part of the main plants still did well indoors, others not so much.  With the weaker light and short days of winter, they weren't real happy, but most survived.  In the picture below, that big healthy jade plant in the middle is from the last summer growth.  I uprooted all the rest and replaced them with all the little ones around the outside of the bowl.  As soon as we get more warm days, they will go outside again.  And I have more pots started with more cuttings.

When we cleaned out the garage, one of the more nostalgic finds was our original old tent, purchased in 1976, I think.  Still intact, and we even set it up in the yard to see what it looked like.  It brought back lots of nice memories.  Now it has gone to Goodwill and will hopefully bring more memories to someone else.

Yesterday was an exceedingly good weather day, plus Earth Day!  So I did a little digging and started getting rid of some of the old winter scum of dead leaves and even new weeds popping up.  I found a little bit of asparagus showing up!  Yum!

On the sewing side of my life, I am working on finishing up 2 things that will be offered as classes this summer.  One is called Mini Rings, and I don't have a picture here but if you look at the Bear Blog tomorrow you will see a bit of it.  And I'm nearly done with it, just finishing up the binding.  

The other is the big star quilt shown below.  I saw this on display last fall when I attended Quilt Market in Houston, and I was very impressed by the use of color and design.  It's called Star Storm and is by Victoria Findlay Wolfe.  The fabric is also her design, called Meadow Storm.  We have complete kits and the patterns for this at Bear Patch.  Now to get it quilted!

Since you had a bit of grandson overload on the last posting, I'll toss in some info about things that I made for little Leo's nursery!  I found some fabric that pulled together some of the colors that Brita wanted to use, and here's what I made:

A "boppy" pillow cover--it gets a lot of use with just about every feeding time!  With the first grandson, I bought the pillowform and it had directions on the wrapper to make the cover.

A little pillowcase (travel pillow size) that matches,
but for decorative purpose only at this stage of Leo's life. 
Matching crib sheets to spruce up his crib.
He's still sleeping in a little cradle in mom and dad's room,
 but will eventually move onto his own mattress.
Use this link to learn how to make them.

And his name banner, not finished in this picture but you get the idea.
You also get the idea of how many threads are stuck to my design wall!  

Last Sunday, Easter, Bob and I had the afternoon to ourselves and decided to visit someplace we had never been before but not far from home.  The Mississippi River is maybe 10-12 miles west of here, and there is a big dam and park that we have never visited.  It's called the Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park on our side (the east bank) of the river, and we walked across the dam to explore the trails on the west side, too.  The dam was much bigger than we expected, so I'm glad we went there.  We came upon an area that has had a lot of recent beaver activity, in this picture you can see all the trees that they have been gnawing on.  Lots of carefully made wood chips!  We saw lots of people walking, some folks fishing in the river, and some osprey watching us!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

this is all about the grandkids

I spent the last 2 weeks of March in Charlotte, North Carolina, (actually Ballantyne, a southern suburb) at the home of my daughter and son-in-law, Brita and Ben.
But primarily, it's the home of my 3 grandsons, Ian (5), Jack (3) and Leo (1 month).

It is such a busy, lively, happy house!  There's a lot going on within those 4 walls, and it takes a whole lot of energy just to keep up!  I got to do so many fun things with the little boys!  Here's a sampling:

Leo the Lion in his full regalia!

We celebrated Jack's 3rd birthday!
Although they don't always get along (typical brothers),
there are moments of clarity
when the brotherly love really does happen.

I had the privilege of being the "Mystery Reader" and surprised Ian at his preschool!  It's been a long time since I had to read a book upside down and show the pictures.  Then I got to answer questions from his classmates.  Such friendly teachers and kids!

Tree climbing with Papa--this was as high as it got, but I know there are some nervous moments ahead as they grow up and tackle bigger trees!

And here's the 3 of them on Leo's 1-month-old day.
I just want to cuddle them!  Ian and Jack like to know what's going on with Leo at all times.  Or Buster, which is what he was called before his birth.  I tried to squeeze in as much time to help keep up the house as I could during those 2 weeks, helping with meals, sweeping floors, doing laundry, walks to the playground, driving to/from the Y for preschool, getting groceries, etc., etc.!  It was hard to leave there.  It's such a happy but stressful time for Brita and Ben.  Brita has had to cope with postpartum depression after each baby, and that can be rough for both of them.  Things seem to be on a pretty even keel now, and I know they are more than capable of raising up these children.  But I can't wait to see them all again!

Monday, April 17, 2017

mother nature never fails

I've been putzing around with growing succulents indoors this winter.   The plants that had flourished outside last summer mostly became weaklings during their period of meager sunlight.  A few, like the jade plant shown below, didn't seem to mind.  So a couple days ago I rounded up my various pots and plants and did some dirty work.   I should get my fingernails dirty more often!  I'm always poking around stores for some new and interesting shapes and colors in succulents, and I had stumbled across some good ones, although itty bitty pots, at Lowe's last week when I was supposed to be looking at garage shelving.  Here's one of the re-potting samples that I put together:

There are several more specimens to accompany this one, and it won't be too much longer before I can put them outside again.  New plants and fresh dirt always make me happy!  An appropriate activity for the Easter holiday.

Just 2 weeks ago, I was in Charlotte, NC, for active-duty grandparenting.  And it was fabulous to be in an area that was actually in full-bloom-spring-mode!  These were a few of the plants and trees that brightened my days there, and gave me hope that once I returned to the tundra, spring would happen again!

On my last day there, we participated in an Easter Egg Hunt organized by neighborhood volunteers for all the kids.  It turned out so nice, with a lot of families present at the little playground area, just mixing and socializing.  It really is a good community of people.  My kids have lived there a little over 2 years now, and have become familiar with many of the people in the few blocks around them.  I was impressed with the friendliness and support I saw and felt.  When little Leo was born March 2, he had a bit of a struggle and had to stay in the NICU for awhile.  This was a lot to handle for 2 young parents already working to keep up with the other 2 boys at home.  The neighbors rallied to help them with keeping Ian and Jack happy and entertained while mom and dad were needed at the hospital.  They even went as far as organizing some meal deliveries, which extended through the whole month.  That's the kind of neighborly response I would maybe think to expect after living somewhere for several years, not just 2 years of residence!  I'm really happy they have a good community there!
The Easter Egg Hunt was a treat for me, because that's not something we normally do back at home.  The day was warm and sunny, a sharp contrast to many Easter holidays in Minnesota.  We probably had indoor egg hunts more often than outdoors.  And cute little spring outfits were generally worn under a winter parka!  But now, back in MN, the leaves are starting to show green and the yard is changing from brown to green rapidly.  The rhubarb is pushing bright pink stalks through the dirt, and garden plans are being discussed.  As for that garage shelving I mentioned earlier, it is still in the planning stages but we did actually find a good day to haul a lot of stuff down from the old garage shelves and sort and clean out there.  Plenty of stuff found its way to the garbage, and some things to be donated.  I'm still pushing for a garage makeover, it could really use some "sprucing up"!  The temporary rough construction steps leading from the garage into the house have lasted 30 years now, and I'm aiming for an upgrade!  Wish me luck!

Friday, February 24, 2017

what have I been doing??

Last time I was sharing here, I was on vacation, and now that seems like so long ago even though it hasn't really been that long!  I have been trying to make the most of my time at home for sewing, but that has become more limited as I have been working more at the store.  We have needed to rearrange some hours and duties there, and some of that has come my way.  It's all things that I enjoy doing, I really love being a part of the quilt shop.  

We are adjusting to the absence of one of our key players, as she recuperates from a devastating injury.  This is the kind of injury that strikes horror in the heart of anyone who loves to work with their hands.  She took a bad fall on her stairs at home, and ended up with multiple fractures of wrists and a shoulder.  For weeks, she was incapacitated for anything involving upper extremities.  Now, 4 months later, she is in the midst of constant therapy and exercises.  She has regained limited use of her hands, and can sew on her machine for brief periods and slowly knit with big needles and chunky yarn.  The physical ramifications are a huge challenge, but also the mental and emotional hurdles.  Loosing the ability to do what you love to do (sewing and knitting), loss of independence (unable to drive until a week or so ago) and just feeling like everything has changed without wanting it to change!  We all express encouraging words, but can't truly identify with her situation.  We just want her to get better!  It takes a lot of determination and work for her on a daily basis to do even some of the basic things that we take for granted.  

So, as I share with you about the things I work on, it is good to be reminded that I am lucky to have the ability to enjoy this big part of my life and creativity.

In January, I started making blocks for Urbanology by Sew Kind of Wonderful.  It's a 12-month plan to create interesting shapes and designs with the Mini Quick Curve ruler.  I've used the ruler before, and now I'm a big fan!  These feathers and arrows are my favorites from the whole quilt.  I still have to make the last section, the antlers.  And then, of course, put it all together and quilt it!  I would love to teach this at the store starting in the fall, so I hope I get it all together by then!

My little grandsons, Ian and Jack, like to help with a little stirring and mixing in the kitchen.  So I am making them some little chef aprons with a Mickey Mouse theme.  I found the fabric at the JoAnn's store, they have a lot of licensed fabrics of all kinds to choose from.  I know these guys like Mickey, so this should be a good fit.  I had enough fabric to make 4, so that's what I'm doing, and they can share with friends.

The directions are from Mom and Me Aprons by Atkinson Designs.  It's a straight forward and well-constructed design.

One of the things I do for the store is help with designing and organizing the little make-and-take projects that we use for retreats.  I altered a free online design to make this bag, and have written up the instructions for my modifications.  I get inspiration from all kinds of places, but with something like this, I always feel it's important to give credit to the source that I took that inspiration from.  We make up little kits to hand out to the 54 women at the retreat.  I'm calling it My Tiny Treasure Bag!

I'm also preparing for Grandson #3, arriving in March!  The nursery has the colors shown below in the chevron, arrows and feathers fabrics.  I just spent a little time pulling out some colors of solids in my stash to go with them.  I have some more work to do to get the combinations just right, and then do some sewing.  I'm thinking sheets, changing pad cover, boppy pillow cover, name pennants, diaper storage box and a couple other things if I can.  Better get busy!  Glad I just have to deliver these things, not the baby!

I've had little time for my English Paper Piecing project, Glorious Hexagons.  But I whittle away at the blocks and eventually I hope to have enough to make a quilt.  I have decided that I am going to simplify things a bit and instead of making several of each of the 54 blocks, I am going to make multiples of the blocks that I really prefer.  Those are the blocks with less pieces!  Here are 6 that I have basted and ready to hand stitch together.

And that's all for now!  Have a great day!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

More Montana

Last Sunday we had a unique experience.  Glacier National Park offers weekend snowshoe hikes led by a park ranger.  Most of the roads through the park are closed all winter, but the West Entrance is open and the Apgar Visitor Center near there.  We were part of a group of about 12 that spent 2 hours walking through the woods and learning some things about the winter environment from Anna, our leader.  It's a great program and doesn't cost anything unless you need to rent the snowshoes for $2.  

A snow shower from the treetops looks like a veil behind the tree trunks.

 There was some accumulation of new snow over the weekend, so Monday found Bob and Dan out skiing on Big Mountain at Whitefish Mountain Resort.  Bob had not skied in quite awhile, but he had a good day with tired legs afterwards.  Dan skis often, so he knows the terrain and people and hangouts well.  In fact, he regularly skis UP the mountain in the morning before the lifts open and before work.  There are specialized skis and boots that convert for use on the uphill as well as downhill runs.  That is one super fitness plan!  
The view from the mountain slope out towards the lake and town of Whitefish.

And, of course, warming up with a beautiful coffee drink is a good part of the winter fun!  And since we met Matthew, the barista, at the Sunday Super Bowl party, we were happy to see a familiar face.  There is such a great small town feel here!
Montana Coffee Traders has a great coffee shop on Main Street in Whitefish, a coffee roastery on the edge of town, and additional coffee shop locations.
Today we are winging back to Minnesota and some more cold weather.  Delta runs direct flights between Minneapolis and Kalispell, so we are always watching for a good deal on tickets!  Next trip has to be during the warmer weather months!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Winter vacation in Montana

 We landed in Kalispell, MT, Friday afternoon during a snowstorm.  The plane had to circle the airport awhile to find a break in the snow with visibility improved so we could land.  Dan lives about 20 miles from there, in Whitefish.  We are spending a few nights here with him, catching up on what's going on with our son.
Dan's windowsill garden of succulents seems to be thriving despite the snowbanks on the other side of the glass!

We watched the Whitefish Winter Festival parade from the top of the Great Northern Brewing Company right on the parade route.  Father and son enjoying a brew, and there seems to be some similarity in neckwear!  Snowflakes were falling, as was happening off and on throughout the day.
The Festival theme this year was One Fish, Two Fish, Whitefish.  A lot of Dr. Seuss fun!

Bob made friends with part of the Cindy Lou Who Crew!

We've done some walking around the area on the city trail system.  They are kept very well-cleared, and easy to access.  This picture was down on Whitefish Lake, with the ski resort seen up on the mountain when the clouds lifted.  Not much sunshine to be found Saturday, but we were part of a crowd watching the Penguin Plunge anyway.  Crazy people jumping into crazy cold water!  It made me flinch just to watch!
Warm and cozy at the Taphouse, choosing from their extensive list of beverages.

And there was even some sewing done!  Dan is using his spare time to craft market totes and yoga bags from burlap coffee bean bags.  This little serger, kindly donated for a good cause by Debbie, flew with us on this trip to Montana.  He's using it to finish off the rough edges of the burlap, and sew the linings of regular cotton fabric.  This is working great, but we may have to look for some heavy-duty equipment if he continues with this idea!  He's doing such a good job of teaching himself how to construct these bags.  I've given him some instruction along the way as far as running the machine and understanding the basic construction, but he has a rack of bags already made and ready to sell at some local places, plus at the Farmer's Market in the spring.  He's a quick learner!

We are going to be getting a lot more snow in the next couple of days, we'll hope we can still carry on our plans to snowshoe in Glacier National Park and ski on Whitefish Mountain.
From the National Weather Service for this area:






I love how they use the word "robust" to describe the expected storm!