• Back to School

    My vest-making projects came to halt in late July, when I enrolled in an online course “Introduction to Photoshop.” My previous attempts to use Photoshop had been unsuccessful, despite doing the tutorials and watching YouTube videos, so my husband suggested I look for a class. The course was offered by www.ed2go.com through my local community college.

    Little did I know that the class would pretty much take over my summer—I spent many hours completing each of the twelve lessons; however, I can honestly say that I learned a lot and now love creating artwork in Photoshop.

    I knew from my past attempts to use Photoshop that some of the basic concepts were layers and masks. These features allow you to combine elements from different photos while leaving the original photo unchanged. I learned how to create a basic photo composite and then added complexity by applying various effects (filters) and adjustments. For example, when creating a composite you would need to add shadows to make the picture look realistic.

    My primary goal was to improve the pictures on my blog and create a portfolio of my hand-made items. I found that many of my pictures had distracting backgrounds. By the end of July, I could successfully replace the backgrounds and create simple composites for my post A Year of Vests.

    Other topics included photo editing and retouching, color theory, and the difference between raster and vector images (graphic files that are infinitely scalable, while raster files are composed of pixels so resolution is lost when scaled up in size). My favorite topic was digital painting, which I used to create virtual costumes for our dogs, which you can read about in my post Happy Halloween! I recently started using my new skills to design custom greeting cards for friends and family, as well as our annual Christmas card.

    One of my other goals was to develop a new logo. I purchased my crown logo from Fiverr earlier this year, but I wanted to create a new logo that would combine the various elements of my website/blog. My new logo design started with the traditional railroad crossing signal (to focus on my father’s ALCO books I have for sale in my On Track Publishers Book Store). I created a more abstract design by eliminating the R R and replacing the yellow and black with custom colors to represent my interests in cross-stitch and quilting. I chose a triadic color theme using the mauve color from my crown logo. I am gradually introducing my new design to my blog and social media accounts.

    About halfway through the class my new Apple MacBook Air finally arrived, so that made the class even more fun!

  • Happy Halloween!

    Virtual Halloween Costumes created using Adobe Photoshop

    During the past few years I have made very elaborate Halloween costumes for our three dogs. In 2019, our groomer wanted to turn Topper into a unicorn. She decorated Daisy as a rainbow, and I resurrected my rainbow costume I had made nearly 40 years ago.

    In 2020 we adopted our third dog, Bear, and I was inspired to turn the dogs (and willing family participants) into Care Bears. My groomer also helped by painting the dogs and making the headpieces.

    In 2021 I continued the Bear theme, this time recreating Winnie the Pooh (our nickname for Bear is actually Pooh Bear). I used a combination of store bought and hand made costumes. As you can see, no one (but me) looked too happy in costumes.

    Halloween 2019 was a rain-out and there were no trick-or-treaters in 2020 and 2021 due to the Pandemic. Furthermore, most of the neighborhood kids have moved out or left for college. So this year, I decided to skip the hassle of dressing the dogs and posing for pictures by creating virtual costumes to post on Instagram, Facebook, etc.

    Over the summer I had completed an online Photoshop class offered by ed2go.com through my local community college. I basically wanted to learn how to make composites for my blog, but the 12-lesson course was very comprehensive and I enjoyed learning a variety of techniques, such as digital painting and photo restoration. I particularly enjoyed digital painting, so I thought I would incorporate this technique into my Halloween costume design.

    Our final assignment was to create a portfolio with a sampling of the projects we completed during the class, as well as any of our own work. My portfolio is available at https://behance.net/kingontrack.

    During my online class, I learned about a website called Pixabay.com to search for free images (see note below). I searched “Halloween background” and downloaded the pumpkin image. I also searched on “haunted forest” for additional background ideas. Which background do you prefer?

    For instructions click here.

  • The Blog is Back!

    After taking a break from blogging about our adventures (and misadventures) with our 2015 Roadtrek E-trek, I decided to reinvent my blog with a focus on my other interests, which include sewing, quilting, and scrapbooking,  I have included the old blog posts, since RV travel remains very popular (although not for us)  and people may still be looking for information about the E-trek. According to RV Lifestyle, there will be a huge demand for used RVs in 2021.

    Although it has been four years since we sold our E-trek, we still keep up with the latest Class B Motorhome offerings. In 2020 we adopted a third dog, Bear, and we still have our “Etrek Dogs,” Topper and Daisy, who were featured in The Etrek Blog.

    Daisy, Topper, and Bear

    During the Pandemic I rediscovered my love of sewing and purchased a new Janome sewing machine. After making a supply of masks, I moved on to various custom items, such as a car seat organizer for my husband’s car.  I modified the seat covers we had purchased for our E-trek with pockets on the front to hold cell phones, masks, and sunglasses, as well as a hanging organizer for the dogs’ accessories. Eventually I hope to offer some of my custom-made items for sale and add them to my Etsy store.

  • 2022 Year in Review

    I started the year off making another vest for my husband, per his request, he wanted a denim vest. I lined it with burgundy ripstop. Later in the month I began work on Topper’s memory quilt, completed in time for his 10th birthday on February 6th. I also finally opened my Etsy store with the Railroad Denim Vest I had made in December 2021.

    For Valentine’s Day, I made another denim vest for my husband. I purchased additional Lego sets for me and enjoyed putting together roses, lovebirds, and sunflowers.

    In March we spent quite a bit of time organizing our basement. Unfortunately, I did not think to take before and after pictures, but we did make a great deal of progress. It had become a overrun with boxes when we had to empty the contents of our attic storage when our roof was replaced in 2020. We donated and recycled a lot of old electronics, clothes, and boxes.

    In April, I added some new items to my Etsy store to complement my Railroad Denim Vest. I recently sold one of these brass trains, my very first Etsy sale, so I was very excited.

    In May I made a second “Memory Quilt” for the dogs out of their grooming bandanas. I also updated and reintroduced my blog using WordPress.com. I had previously used a hosting company with WordPress.org which required a lot more maintenance on my part (e.g., updating plug-ins, which are mini programs that add various features). I am very glad I made the switch to WordPress.com and it is worth a slightly higher monthly fee since they provide great service as well as a free domain name!

    I made a few more vests in June and worked on some other sewing projects, such as a gardening apron.

    July and August were dominated by the online “Intro to Photoshop” class. I used my new skills to design a new logo for my blog and started making custom cards for family and friends. I also enjoyed creating virtual costumes for my dogs for Halloween.

    By September I was back to quilting and I made a few quilts as gifts with some beautiful fabric I purchased at my favorite fabric shop in Gettysburg, The Needle & Thread.

    In October I purchased a number of Hinzeit samplers to work on and completed a few of them during the fall. I have twenty to complete, most of them seasonal. I plan to combine them in groups of four and hang them over the mantle. I enjoy these small projects and keep one in my purse to work on if I have to wait at a doctor’s appointment, etc.

    I finished up the year with several sewing projects. For my husband, I made a lightning fabric jacket. The jacket was considerably more work than the vests and used a lot more fabric, thanks to the sleeves and hood. I will not be making more of those any time soon!

    I also completed several Mug Rugs using a pattern purchased on Etsy. With each mug rug, I included a coordinating mug and gift check in the pocket.

    Finally, I started working on these Snowman Family Mug Rugs, using a variety of scraps from my previous quilting projects. This pattern was downloaded from ePatterns-Cental.com.

  • September Milestones

    September was a bittersweet month. The Queen’s passing on September 8th hit me hard. I had a renewed interest in British history due to watching both “The Crown” and “Downton Abbey” earlier this year. I had also recently discovered a black & white photo of the Queen my (late) mother had saved from when she had seen the Queen during her United States tour in 1957. I was looking for old black & white photos to colorize as part of a Photoshop assignment.

    I’m not sure why the Queen’s death was so personally upsetting. Perhaps it’s because I know that there will never be another Queen in my lifetime. She represented nearly a century of history, meeting with Prime Ministers from Winston Churchill to Liz Truss two days before she died. She witnessed so much history and it seemed like she would always be there. Just like that, she was gone.

    I had just finished watching the Royal Funeral, when I learned that one of my dearest childhood friends had lost her mother, who was also 96. The funeral was local, so I was able to attend. Before the end of the month yet another dear childhood friend lost her 95 year-old mother. I felt like the world had lost three queens. I had known these women since I was about twelve, they were devoted to both family and God. Like Queen Elizabeth II, they were strong, steadfast, and always proper ladies. I always enjoyed spending time in their homes.

    Fortunately, I could also happily celebrate my Mother-in-Law’s 90th Birthday. I made her two quilts to commemorate the occasion. I also made a quilt for a good friend using beautiful fabric designed by the artist Abraham Hunter.

  • A Year of Vests

    In Spring 2021 I started making fisherman-style vests. I had read that they were becoming popular as tech vests. After looking online for one to buy, I decided that I would have better luck making one to my husband’s specifications. Working from home since March 2020, he needed to keep two cell phones, ear buds, glasses, and dog supplies handy at all times.

    I purchased a pattern from an Etsy store and made my first vest using leftover brown gabardine fabric from the “Jon Snow” cape I made for Halloween 2017. The pattern called for one upper pocket; however, I added a second since my husband has two cell phones. The vest was completed in time for his March birthday.

    For my next vest, I used this great Camouflage twill I purchased at my favorite fabric store in Gettysburg, The Needle & Eye. This vest was completed in time for Memorial Day. I made larger upper pockets and added D-rings to the upper pockets and lobster claw clasps to the lower pockets.

    My third vest was for Father’s Day. I had planned to make a two-tone vest (Style D) pictured on the pattern cover. I had purchased burgundy and gold twill, along with cute football buttons, but apparently my husband thought that was a bit much.

    Unfortunately, I was lacking enough of either color to make a complete vest. However, my husband had a bright idea: use one of the fabrics as the lining. Although I had to make the shorter length vest (Style B), his idea inspired me to learn how to create a fully lined vest (the pattern had “facings” around the neck and armholes). I found this tutorial for making a lining. The lining made it much easier to add inner pockets, since I didn’t have to worry about seeing the stitching from the other side.

    After trying out the new vests, my husband had a few suggestions. Add inner pockets for his phones, and attach the D-rings higher for his Apple AirPods and Samsung EarBuds. He also wanted one of the upper pockets replaced with a pouch that could be used for his glasses. I also experimented with different types of snaps and buttons on the pockets.

    So now that he was finally happy with a vest, I had to disassemble the previous two and add a lining and the additional pockets. I later retrofit a lining, made more elaborate inner pockets, and modified the original outer pockets. By the fall, I had modified the original three vests, as well as two more I made over the summer.

    For the summer vests, I had switched to lightweight cotton/polyester blend broadcloth. I made a “Timber” Camouflage and Orange Bicycle Safety Vest. By this time I was lining all of the vests. I added interfacing to the pockets and vest front to give the lightweight broadcloth more body.

    With the holidays approaching, I wanted to make some vests as gifts. I made a royal blue broadcloth, lined with tan and green twill lined with camouflage nylon ripstop. I was also adding button tabs to hold the D-rings. So I had to do one more round of modifications on the original three vests to remove the old magnets and replace them with the new style. I made a railroad denim vest to sell on Etsy.

    This year I made several denim vests, a second bicycle safety vest in red, as well as a pool side vest out of a tropical-theme broadcloth and lined with terry cloth. I also made a second blue & tan vest for my husband. The specs for all of my vest can be viewed in my portfolio. My bicycle safety vest was recently featured on Instructables.com.

  • Happy 10th Birthday, Topper!

    A Memory Quilt for Topper

    On February 6th, Topper celebrated his 10th birthday. I had decided a while back that it would be fun to make him a quilt out of his many grooming bandanas. 10 years x 6 grooms per year meant I had plenty to choose from, especially with extras from Bear and Daisy.

    I decided on a red, white, and blue theme, since I had leftover blue fabric from another quilt project. For the backing, I used his ”baby blanket,” that was packed with him in his pee-pee crate that he arrived in.

    After researching patterns, I decided the pinwheel block would be the best, since it uses “half-square triangles.” For the complete details on this project, please visit the Instructable I posted in February. I was so proud of my quilt that I entered it in the “Scraps Speed Challenge” contest. I did not win, but my project was ”featured,” so that’s something!

    Topper’s quilt was finished in time for his birthday party! We displayed it on the table with his gifts and bone-shaped cake. His grooming was actually a few days later, so I had to take more pictures with his fresh haircut. His groomer loved the quilt!

    Topper’s actual birthday, before groom
    Handsome Topper after his groom!

    I recently completed a second pinwheel quilt, pictured in my The Blog is Back! post.

    Bear, Daisy, and Topper, freshly groomed, enjoying their new quilt

    I have more pinwheel quilts planned for the future—with three dogs getting groomed every 6 or so weeks, there definitely no shortage of bandanas!

  • Bearly Quilts

    For many years I had wanted to make a Memory Quilt, an idea I saw on one of our favorite sitcoms, “Rules of Engagement” in an episode titled “Jeff’s Wooby” from Season 1, (air date 3/19/2007). About ten years ago, I recruited my mother-in-law, who is a very talented quilter, to make one for my son. We went together to the local quilt shop, and discovered a book called “You Did What With my T-Shirts,” available at Amazon. I had already put aside a bunch of my son’s t-shirts from sports and various middle school events; we had a great time selecting fabric to coordinate with all of the bright colors.

    A few months later she made him a second memory quilt with t-shirts collected from Grades 1-6.

    For our 25th Anniversary I requested a third memory quilt, containing t-shirts from 25 years of vacations. I shipped her all of the t-shirts and fabric.

    A few years ago I decided it was time for me to try one myself, so she sent me the book and I finally started working on my first memory quilt in late 2020.

    Last year I completed two Memory Quilts, one for for my son and one for me. I used the same template for both, and some of the same t-shirts. For the backing on my son’s quilt, I incorporated his Robotics Team 303 stadium blanket.

    Daisy, Topper, and Bear enjoying the new quilt

    Quilting is very challenging, but I enjoy it. I still consider myself a beginner, but eventually I hope to offer custom quilts at my Etsy store. I have reserved the domain “Bearly Quilts” for that purpose. I created Bearly Quilts to focus on my craft items, which include quilts, vests, cross-stitch, and scrapbooks. Bearly Quilts is inspired by our newest dog, Bear. We rescued her in 2020 and she has been a wonderful addition to the family. She loves to keep me company during my quilting projects!

    Bear sits on my lap as I finish binding the quilt!
  • Legomania!

    Last year we renewed out love of Legos. We were trying to think of some “fun” gifts for our then 25 year-old son, and remembered how much he loved Legos as a child and teen. He loved his sets so much that he had them displayed in his apartment as decorations. So I started collecting my own Legos last year, and now have all of my Valentine, Easter, and Flower Legos on display.

    Lego Flowers, Valentine, and Botanicals look beautiful on my piano and music cabinet!
    Lego Tulips completed my Easter display!
  • First Etsy Shop Item

    Last year I started making fisherman-style vests customized for tech, glasses, and other supplies. In 2021 I completed ten vests, six for my husband, three as gifts, and one currently for sale at my Etsy store (the Railroad Denim Vest pictured below).