Making the most of these last days of 2017

I know this is totally cliche, but what a year!  2017 has been an interesting year, to say the least.  I had a good year for the most part.  Urban Farmgal is gaining some traction, my cooking videos are improving, I got to go backpacking in the Beartooth Mountains (I need to write a blog post on that soon.  New Year’s Resolution: write that blog post!), I taught myself some sewing techniques (ZIPPERS! And…I turned a denim jumper into a really cute denim skirt–more on that soon), I’ve been baking a lot of holiday goodies, and I’ve been skiing like crazy the past few weeks with MaeBelle and the Hubs, in large part to work off all those holiday calories!  But I’m ready to say goodbye to 2017.  I need a fresh start in 2018, just like every year.

A few highlights from the home front recently:

1.) Everybody needs a pineapple pillow case!  And flannel, too.  When I saw this fabric, I knew Stepdaughter #2 needed it in her life.  I didn’t know what form it would take when I purchased the fabric–I knew I’d figure it out later. I picked up the other fabric at the same time, not knowing I’d use the two together.  But I needed a little extra length and the pattern looks like sea shells, so why not combine it with pineapples?  This is probably the easiest Christmas gift I have ever made.  When you need something clever and quick, a quirky pillowcase can do the trick!

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2) Getting outside to enjoy the snow.  I have a new pair of skis.  They are short and fat and act like sliding snowshoes.  They are from Altai Skis and they are called Hoks (pronounced Hawks).  They have built in skins, so you can climb up hills but they will also slide & glide like cross country skis.  If you get on a steep enough slope, you can even turn them like downhill skis.  They are so much fun!  MaeBelle took me on an adventure with them last week and we climbed up on the trails south of town:

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3) A friend helped me out of a bit of a pickle last week.  What better way to repay her kindness than with a knitted hat?  I love the colors of this hat and I’m quite pleased with the outcome.  I hope my friend loves it.  This photo doesn’t even do it justice.

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4) Skiing!  Hubs, MaeBelle, and I went for a ski tour up at Stemple Pass this afternoon.  It was a glorious way to spend the last day of the year.  It was cold in town (-14 degrees F when we got up this morning and still below 0 when we left the house at noon) but it was 18 degrees up at the pass.  It was a bit windy, but we followed some other skiers who broke trail for us and stayed in the trees protected from the wind.  What a great way to get a workout!

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5) Snow science!  Hubs and I dug a snow pit on our ski tour today and he showed me how to examine the snow to look for weak layers that could fail and lead to an avalanche.  We actually found some weak snow, which means avalanche danger is fairly high right now.  We knew the snow was a little sketchy because we’ve gotten a ton of snow the past couple of days.  Just after we left the truck, on a fairly flat section, I felt my skis “wumphf” beneath me, which is a tell-tale sign of weak snow layers.  We also took our avalanche beacons and wore them just to practice using them.  Don’t worry, mom!  We were not in any danger, I promise!

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6) Here are my Hoks.  They are only 125 cm long, which means my poles are longer than my skis!  They truly are just a ball of fun.  And they climbed up some pretty steep snow today, which impressed both Hubs and me. Unfortunately, this year’s stock, including my skis, have a problem with the skins delaminating and so they have to be replaced or repaired.  At least they are under warranty, but I may have to ship my skis back while I wait for my new ones to arrive.  That means I may not have a chance to hop on these babies again for a few weeks…

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7) Full moon rising.  We saw the moon rising as we were driving home and it was a glorious sight!  A full moon on the last day of the year seems a fitting way to bring 2017 to a close.

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Happy New Year, everyone!  I hope 2018 brings you much health, happiness, and prosperity.

Busy little knitter gal

The first week in November I had two people contact me and ask if I could knit them something for Christmas gifts.  Sure!  It’s what I do!

The first request for for a pair of socks.  But not just ordinary socks.  These were to be thick, chunky, lounging-on-the-couch-by-the-fire-reading-a-book kind of socks.  I had just the yarn in mind, and it was in a color that he was sure his wife would love.  I got her shoe size and then I was off to figure out how to make these socks.

I have a sock pattern.  But it is for a worsted weight yarn.  So I was going to have to make some adjustments.  And the pattern, though trusty and reliable, is very…meh.  It’s got a basic rib on the cuff and that’s all there is to it.  I wanted these socks to be more than just functional, I wanted them to be beautiful, too.  So I decided to add a cable knit down the front of the leg.  And although this photo does not do these socks justice, they turned out pretty awesome, if I am allowed to say so myself and pat myself on the back just a bit.

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Both of my stepdaughters cooed over these socks while I was knitting them (“Just so you know, I wear lots of socks,” one of them not-so-subtly said), so as soon as I finished them up, I made sure to contact my client so I could get the socks to him as quickly as possible–I had a feeling the socks might disappear if I held onto them too long.  Now I am working on a second pair for the not-so-subtle hinting stepdaughter…and her sister will receive a pair later.  And eventually I’ll make a pair for myself.  They are sooooo snuggly warm and soft!

This same client also wants me to knit him a pair of mittens.  He is my best repeat customer (the mittens will make 4 items I’ve knit for him)!  Gotta love happy customers!

The same week the sock request came in I had a request for a knitted bag.  A woman at the gym apparently really likes my bags and so her boyfriend’s mother contacted me.  We worked out a custom design and color scheme and I got to work.  We went back and forth on a few swatches with different colors of yarn until we found just the right match.  I think it turned out really well and I really love the hummingbird brooch.  The colors of the brooch work perfectly with the green and purple of the bag.  They were obviously meant to be together.  I hope she loves it.

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My final commissioned project is one that I really love.  It’s not really obvious in the photo, but the black yarn has a little bit of sparkly silver thread in it, so it adds another layer of depth and texture to the bag.  And it is because of that silver thread in the yarn that the brooch works so well with this bag.  Without it, I’m not sure I would have chosen to use it.  I hope its owner loves it as much as I do.  I think she will.

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On some of my earlier bags, I sewed buttons onto the corners of the bags as my little signature.  But for some of the bags I have used old broken brooches or other old, unused jewelry that has been neglected and potentially destined for the landfill.  This allows them to be repurposed and given new life.  I like that.  It’s the farmgal way–to use what you have and to make use of something old, breathing new life into it again.  And this now gives me a reason to poke around in thrift stores.  Who knows what kind of old gems are out there waiting to be given a second chance at life!

 

More summer knitting, including a new design– the growler tote!

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I don’t usually knit much in the summer–it seems like such a winter activity, something to do on those long winter nights while cuddled up in front of the wood stove.  But this summer I’m keeping the knitting needles busy because I have had a couple of knitting orders to fulfill.  The good thing is I’ve had quite a bit of windshield time traveling for work this summer, which has allowed me, as a passenger, to do something productive while on the road.  It works out rather nicely.  I never knit while behind the wheel, just to be clear.  I’m a proud multi-tasker, but even that one is beyond me!

A woman in my barre class loved my little Kindle bag I made earlier this spring so much that she wanted me to make one for her friend, whose birthday is this month.  The only requirement was that this friend liked orange, so I was free to mess around with colors.  This is what I came up with:IMG_2619

And the inside looks like this:IMG_2621

I’m please with how it turned out, so I’ve got a couple ideas for the next one I’m going to make.  While looking for a little decorative bling to sew on the outside, I found these really cute little octopus pendants–so my next design will be an ocean theme with blue and/or turquoise yarn and hopefully I can find some cute aquatic-themed fabric to go along with it.

And then there’s the growler tote.  I designed it earlier this summer and I just finished it last week.  It’s knit with 2 strands of yarn to create a thick fabric and I lined it with a fleece pocket to keep the beer cool and to add additional strength to the bag.  I think it turned out pretty rad.  IMG_2625

And I think it’s going to carry well, even when full:IMG_2630

The woman who bought the above Kindle bag wants me to go down to one of our local breweries and show it off to see if anyone is interested in buying one.  She thinks the tote will be a hit–because this community takes its beer very seriously.  We have 3 breweries in Helena and a 4th one is in the works.  For a town of this size, that’s nuts, especially since we can barely seem to hang on to a decent restaurant around here.  So we’ll see what happens.  I might have a busy winter ahead of me!

 

 

Zipper-dee-doo-dah

This week I taught myself how to sew a zipper into fabric.  This is a task I have wanted to learn for years, but 1) I’ve been intimidated to try (WHY? I ask myself…What’s to lose? Besides a ton of time and all my patience?  Nothing, I guess.) and 2) I wasn’t sure if I had the appropriate gear for my sewing machine, i.e., a zipper foot (more on that challenge below).  This is a natural problem when you inherit a 70 year old sewing machine and you don’t know doodle about sewing or sewing machines, much less sewing machine parts.  Nonetheless, I have slowly taught myself a few things about using a sewing machine and I’m beginning to get the hang of the basics.  Zippers, however, have remained a mystery.

Why was this the chosen week to teach myself to install a zipper?  As fate would have it, a few weeks ago I won a Kindle Fire in raffle drawing at work (thank you employee appreciation week!)–I would never have bought one of the things on my own, but I hardly ever win anything so I thought “What the heck?” and accepted the prize.  [Aside: As a neophyte in the smartphone/tablet world (I still have a ‘dumb phone’) I wasn’t even sure what to do with it.  I turned it on, then turned it off, sat it on the table and just stared at it.  Friends, family, and co-workers assured me this was going to be a great thing–so many Apps!  One thing I quickly learned is that many Apps are for Apple i-thingys or Android devices, not Kindles.  So I can’t put the wildflower App I wanted on there, but I do have a bird App.  Can’t win ’em all, I suppose.] I wanted a way to carry my Kindle and protect it from the elements, and since I’ve been on a knitted bag kick lately, I decided to knit myself a little tablet protector.  And I thought it would be nice to have a zippered liner in the bag to keep my precious little Kindle from falling out.

I finished knitting the bag last weekend, knit a small handle, and all that was left was to sew the liner.  Oh, and to figure out that zipper.  Can I just say, “Thank goodness for YouTube?”  There is no shortage of videos on how to install a zipper, but my favorite tutorial is Made Everyday with Dana.  I must have watched that video 5 times before screwing up my courage, then I watched it while I sewed my zipper into the liner, pausing the video so I could perform the described task, then watching a little more, pausing, etc.  Here was my first attempt:

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It turned out pretty well!  A few minor issues, like sewing the ends of the zipper so there’s no gap, but all in all it turned out just peachy.  There were two problems with this liner that made it unusable for my knit bag: 1) the zipper opening was just slightly too small to fit my Kindle inside and 2) the pattern & label needed to be on the inside of the liner so it would show when I sewed it into my knit bag.  Duh, I didn’t think about that one, just followed the video instructions.  But I have plans for this one:  I’m going to knit another bag and sew this into half of the bag so that it will have a zippered pouch and a non-zippered pouch (unlined).  So no wasted efforts!

So I had a minor setback–I needed to purchase a larger zipper and I needed to piece together my bag inside out so that when I turned it right side out the pattern would be on the inside of the bag.  This time I nailed it:

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The stitching on the inside of the liner isn’t beautiful by any means, but for a second first attempt, I’m pleased with the results.  I’ll be able to refine my approach and future editions of the zippered knit bag will be phenomenal, no?  I dare say they will.

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The broach was just a whimsical little piece that I thought would compliment the bag well and add a little flair.  It has little orange rhinestones in it that match the orange of the bag–something kind of fun and will make it unique from other bags I make in the future.  It’s sort of becoming my signature mark on my bags–either a single button or little piece of old jewelry sewn on the outside to mark it as Urban Farmgal and add to the uniqueness of the bag.  I’m pretty happy with the results!

Now about that zipper foot.  Again, can I just say, “Thank goodness for Google?”  Earlier in the week when I began the Great Zipper Project I didn’t think I had a zipper foot for my machine.  So I got online to see if I could locate a zipper foot that would work with my machine.  I have a Kenmore Model 84 sewing machine–it is bomber but it is old and finding parts for it would be…impossible?  Easy peasy?  I had no idea.

I also had no idea what a zipper foot would look like for it because there was not a picture of one in the owner’s manual.  In my little box of accessories (bobbins, bobbin holders, tiny screwdriver, and the like) there were a few weird-looking pieces that looked like they were different attachments for the machine.  One in particular was sort of L-shaped and had a couple of holes on the side of the flat foot.  On the website that I thought had the best potential for having what I needed, I was discouraged to find that in fact it looked like they did not have what I needed.  But I kept coming back to the weirdo piece and I decided to scan the pictures on the website to see if I could identify it.  Wouldn’t ya know I found it!  And it turned out to be AN ADJUSTABLE ZIPPER FOOT!

AWESOME!!

Wait, what’s an adjustable zipper foot?  Oh, the website has videos on how to use an adjustable zipper foot!

AWESOME!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Sewing Parts Online–you saved me!!  After watching the video, then struggling a bit to get my own zipper foot installed and properly adjusted, I was able to sew my zipper.  And now I know what a zipper foot is AND how to use it!