New Artistic Passion: SEWING!

It all started with the curtains I wanted to make for the small (empty!) travel trailer we were restoring.  I knew I’d need to make curtains at some point, and I wasn’t sure how well that would work since I didn’t know how to use a sewing machine.  But with a firm goal in mind, I bought an older Singer sewing machine off Craigslist, and in the Spring and Summer of 2015 I taught myself how to sew–with help from a couple of friends and by watching a LOT of YouTube tutorials!

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We picked out fabric for the front of the curtains and also a darker fabric to use to line them.  And while they aren’t perfect, by mid-July I’d successfully completed 4 sets of curtains for the trailer.  YAY!

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In August I turned my attention to another artsy/crafty thing I enjoy–crochet–and I made a baby afghan and little hat for a cousin’s daughter’s first baby. (Colors are accurate on the hat, not on the afghan, even though the same yarn was used for both.)

Afghan-Kirby1 Hat3

As soon as I’d finished this baby project–and despite being crazy busy getting the new school year started–I saw some fabric that I thought was so incredibly pretty that I rather impulsively decided to try to sew a baby blanket for a co-worker and his wife who were expecting their first baby–a girl–later in the Fall.  While it was definitely made with a lot of love and good intentions, it had some glitches that I just didn’t know how to fix….  Some (okay, most) of the problems came from my lack of experience, and some were caused by the older sewing machine that would randomly start making smaller stitches or suddenly speed up or slow down.


In late September I finally decided to buy a new, inexpensive Brother sewing machine that I’d been looking at for a while, and I have been SO PLEASED with my purchase!!  I’ve found it immensely easier to use than the older Singer (the drop in bobbin and automatic needle threader are awesome) and I was able to figure out the basics really quickly. Totally recommend the Brother XR3774 Full-Featured Sewing and Quilting Machine with 37 Stitches, 8 Sewing Feet, Wide Table, and Instructional DVD!

Now on what seems like an unrelated note, during the Spring of 2015 I became fascinated with Vera Bradley purses.  I just loved the colors, patterns and quilted designs, and for someone who’s as clueless as I am about “fashion,” this was an interesting–and somewhat puzzling–obsession.  I don’t remember the exact time or date that I realized the “connection,” but like a proverbial bolt from the blue, it hit me that maybe I could actually sew a purse for myself!  This started another YouTube tutorial-watching binge, and the end result–in early October 2015–was a small purse made from the trailer curtain material!

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It had some glitches, too–just like the baby blanket–but I learned so much in the process of making it.  Because it was a little smaller than one I’d want to use, I gave the “Curtain Purse” to my cousin’s daughter’s little girl to use for “dress up” times. 🙂

I was hooked.  Seriously.  I wanted to try another purse–different style, a bit larger, etc.  Still lacking confidence in my ability to make something functional without really messing it up, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to invest money in fabrics.  And so that’s how I wound up making the next one–which I finished in late October–from an old drapery panel.  I’ve been using the “Drapery Purse” on a daily basis ever since completing it.


I used the sewing machine to quilt the outer fabric AND I put in a total of 3 zippers–one on the front pocket, one on the top (recessed zipper), and there’s a zippered pocket in the lining.  I combined things I liked from three or four different YouTube tutorials instead of following just one.  This involved a lot of experimentation, and a whole lot of seam-ripping!  (As a friend quipped, “As you sew, so shall you rip.”)

On November 1st–as a birthday present to myself!–I took a Beginning Sewing class at Jo-Ann Fabrics.  Even though I was slightly beyond a “beginner,” I found this to be extremely helpful, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to learn to sew.  I took a second class there (learning to work from a pattern to make pajama pants) on November 7th!

While I’ve found that I’m not all that interested in making clothes (at this point), I had some other fabric that had been giving to me months ago with the statement, “If you can use it, fine–if not, throw it away.”  Ack, throw it away?!  I thought it was beautiful!  But what on earth would I do with a bazillion purses?  Especially ones that would be functional, but perhaps not perfect?  I offered three of my cousins their choice of the fabrics and said I’d make them each a purse so that I could practice more.

The first one, the “Apple Purse,” was completed November 13th:


I had so much fun choosing the lining fabric and bright zippers for this one!

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On November 15th, I finished the “Raspberry Purse.”  (I trimmed back the zippers after taking this picture and didn’t get another picture of it before mailing it.)


And on November 21st I finished the “Watermelon Purse,” which also has a nice pop of color with the lining and zippers:


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I’ll be making another purse in this style soon, but in the meantime I wanted to try to make a small cross-body bag.  The challenge with this one was where and how to attach the straps, and I made it and took it apart WAY too many times….  I finally opted to use D-rings on the sides, but the only ones I could find locally were 3/4″.  I’ve ordered some 1/2″ D-rings which will work much better.  I’ll be making some more of these as gifts.


But remember the baby blanket that I made for my co-worker?  I’d planned to give it to them–glitches and all–but then decided that since I could probably make it better now, that I should make it better.  And so I completely picked it apart–stitch by stitch–until all the thread was in my trashcan and the front fabric, back fabric and batting were all separate pieces again.  It turned out SO much better this time. 🙂



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And so this chronicles my journey into the world of fabrics and colors and functionally-creative expression in an art form that I had never explored.  I have so many ideas.  SEW many ideas! 🙂

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Hummingbirds – Feeding & Fighting – September 22, 2015

Hummingbirds – September 22, 2015

No thumbnail showed up for the video (link is above), but here are a couple of stills. 🙂




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Lexington, VA & Blue Ridge Parkway – Sept. 20, 2015

First back road adventure in a long time!

After a late start on Sunday afternoon, we drove to Lexington, Virginia via I-64/81, passing many pretty farms, like this one, in the Shenandoah Valley.


We drove just west of Lexington in I-64, eventually found our way to Rt. 631 and followed it along the Maury River.


Next stop was Jordan’s Point in Lexington.


We continued to follow Rt. 631 out of Lexington to the east and then made our way to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The late afternoon sun made every view exquisite!





We love our rivers and mountains!


And we love our valleys, too!

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Shenandoah Valley (west) & Rockfish Valley (east) from the northern part of the Blue Ridge Parkway.


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“Peace, Love & Harmony & Friends” at the “Give Back Festival”

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Kayaking – July 26, 2015

First non-pet update in a long, long time!  Thought I’d share some pictures from today’s outing. 🙂

We bought kayaks last summer, mainly to use on a large reservoir that’s about 5 miles from our house.  Since it’s a nearby, we’d just throw them in the back of our old (and not always dependable) Ford pickup truck and take off.

A while back we bought some Malone kayak racks, knowing that we want to go places that the pickup might not be able to take us, and today we decided to try them out.

One of the first challenges was trying to get the straps threaded through the upright supports of the rack in the center of the 4Runner.  I couldn’t reach this with a step-stool and had to get a ladder!  Then trying to lift the kayaks to the roof of the car was the next challenge!  We were both more than a little frustrated by the time we finally had them on the roof….


Fortunately, we were able to get the kayaks off the car pretty easily once we got to the lake, and away we went!

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The day was very sunny and quite warm, so we crossed the lake to the shady side.  Much better–especially when a breeze would come up!

We headed off the main lake into one of the coves…


There were turtles sunning on a log, with dragonflies and butterflies darting around above the water.  Just seemed like a magical place on this beautiful day.  🙂

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When we finally paddled back across the lake to the shore, we were able to get the kayaks loaded onto the roof of the car a bit more easily.  I hope we get this figured out soon because there are so many  lakes and rivers we’d love to explore!


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