This page has photos of some of my designs. You are welcome to study my methods to create your own designs, but please do not duplicate them for commercial purposes.
This was one of my earliest original design projects–from high school. I wanted to make a life-size lion, with as much realistic detail as possible. I designed the pattern myself, constructing the head from burlap and hooking it like a rug for the face and mane. Leather details were used for the eye and nose. I even made claws for the feet. Fur fabric was used for the rest of the body. He’s very cuddly, and still a favorite. This is one of those projects that helped me to stick with mechanical engineering.
When my mother fell and broke her the ball joint of her arm a couple years ago (at the age of 90), rehabilitation was tough. But she hung in there with her physical therapy exercises, made huge strides, and was able to return to her condo and live independently (she gets help with grocery shopping–she doesn’t drive). But it made her a lot more conscious about her balance. When I suggested a train ride on the Cincinnati Dinner Train to celebrate her 92nd birthday, she was concerned about getting up and down the steps safely. In rehab, they used a rope around her waist to help her with balance. I designed and made this ‘balance belt’ to securely fasten around her waist, giving me two great hand-holds to help steady and control her when she needs help. It worked great! And she was able to enjoy a memorable dinner on the Cincinnati Dinner Train.
Custom Tech Totes
Who needs Vera Bradley when you can quilt and sew? If you know a few zipper tricks, it’s simple to design your own. Here’s a simple schematic for a couple types of totes, plus photos of a few that I made, as well as some construction photos. Now all my computer cables, external hard drives, and tech chargers all get packed in one tote when we go on vacation. And I know where everything is!
Designs with Insulation Board
If you’ve ever quilted, you know how nice it is to have a design wall to pin your blocks on as you lay out your quilt design. It’s pretty easy to make your own lightweight design wall using insulation board you can pick up at a home improvement store. Push pins also work well on this, so when we needed table-top easels for STEM Summer Camp, I designed one using insulation board as well. The insulation board also made another appearance in Surfboat version 3–super light-weight and easy to carry to the beach!
It’s not just elderly people who sometimes need help with balance. When our black retriever-mix dog George was struggling badly with hip dysplasia, I made a couple versions of this dog sling to help support his hips. Although I dreamed of a version that would hold a water bottle too, that got scrapped for simplicity. I just needed something I could quickly sling under his hips when he started to collapse. I used microfiber purse handles on my favorite version, so I could carry it on my shoulder while walking until George needed the extra support.
Butterfly Emerging Case
I started collecting mesh totes of various types when I started playing underwater hockey back in 2000. You don’t want your wet gear to get moldy, so mesh is great. Over the years, I’ve designed a variety of mesh totes, the most unusual perhaps is this portable emerging case for my butterfly caterpillars. I made this when I thought I was going to be heading to Hilton Head before my zebra swallowtail emerged from its chrysalis, and needed something small that I could fit in a cardboard box to take in the car. Fortunately, Zephyr emerged in Ohio the day before we left for Hilton Head last October (I don’t think there are any Pawpaw trees on the coast down there), but I did have a passenger for the return journey… a black swallowtail chrysalis. Fred or Ginger should make his/her appearance sometime in May. We have plenty of parsley and Queen Anne’s Lace in Ohio, so no worries about Fred or Ginger finding a mate, or finding larval plant food here for the next generation! It also got used to shelter Elizabeth, a female monarch butterfly, who got caught in a bad storm and was too weak to fly. I got her some nectar on some nearby lantana, then zipped her up overnight in the emerging case until the storm passed.
This started off as a team-building event at work–build a cardboard boat–using cardboard boxes, duct tape and 3 plastic tablecloths for water-proofing. Because of rumors of battle boats, I convinced our team to try a non-traditional ‘surfboat’ design… using cardboard trusses to build up the bottom and achieve the needed water displacement. It was unsinkable and won all three races! I was addicted, and had to make one for the beach and the dogs. Surfboat V2 was overdesigned… and I had to build a beach cart to haul it to the beach. But it was fun!… just too heavy to take often. I learned a lot, and came up with a much simpler, light-weight design. Surfboat V3 uses 4 layers of 1-inch thick foam insulation board instead of cardboard trusses, super-simple garbage bag waterproofing, and a rugged marine grade fabric exterior with zipper opening. It even has D-rings to attach a pull cord to, which also allows me to attach a shoulder strap for carrying it to the beach! Not quite as stable for the dogs to ride on… but they managed, especially my agility wizard, Harry Potter! (George, my black retriever mix, was not quite so happy with V3).
This is a design I came up with to help me be more portable with my knitting. It zips up completely for easy transportation, but unzips to provide a nice work surface for knitting, with key tools easily accessible. The folded corners at the end are an attempt to provide a little containment for those balls of yarn. I find the knitworker is really great when sitting to knit, whether in a car (as a passenger!), or on a couch. But it even allows you to stand and knit. It keeps everything organized and protected.
I started collecting mesh totes of various types when I started playing underwater hockey back in 2000. You don’t want your wet gear to get moldy, so mesh is great. Over the years, I’ve designed a variety of mesh totes, including a hot yoga sling (when doing the original 26/2 hot yoga), and more recently mesh bags for collecting rocks–or salmonberries–when visiting family in Kodiak, Alaska. Works great for shell collecting on Hilton Head, too!
Quilted Denim Sewing Machine Tote
Quilts are composites–interior layer provides cushion, but exterior layers can be decorative, functional, and/or structural. I made this tote with indigo denim on the outside, white denim on the inside to provide strength yet cushion for a portable carrying tote form my Bernina 1090 sewing machine. Additional cushion was provided in the bottom by using a foam gardening pad. Interior dividers were added to provide separate compartments for the extension table and foot control.
Mom had a lot of physical therapy exercises to do after she broke the ball joint of her arm. Once she came home, she needed her own equipment. One of the things she needed was a weighted bar that she could raise over her head (while lying down) to improve range of motion. I designed a zippered pouch that attached to a PVC pole with velcro. I used Epsom salts (in plastic bags) for the weights. This worked great, and allowed her to gradually increase the weight as needed. I also made “ankle weights”–again using bagged Epsom salts for the weight–for other arm and leg exercises.
Sew-Steady Extension Table Tote
We quilters… let’s just say it’s an addictive hobby. Sometimes you need to be portable, like when going to a quilting group or class. Or, when taking your sewing machine with you on vacation. (Yeah, it happens. Not always, but occasionally.) I have a custom designed project table at home, but bought a Sew-Steady extension table for times when I’m traveling. So, of course, I designed and made my own tote to protect it, and carry the accessory feet with it. There’s also room to carry fabric and other supplies in it. Makes it much easier to store at home, too!
Undwerwater Hockey Backpack
You realize you can make your own backpacks, right? I designed this to hold my snorkeling gear–mask, snorkel and fins–as well as my underwater camera, water bottles, and even a towel rolled up. This allowed us to hike to out of the way beaches on St. Bart’s and St. John’s and still lug my underwater camera along. I used thick neoprene for the shoulder straps–for comfort. Parachute buckles used to cinch backpack for security on long hikes.
When my mother broke her arm (ball of shoulder joint) when she was 90, she came home on a walker. She even uses it… especially any time she leaves the house. I didn’t want her balance thrown off by trying to juggle a purse, so I made this walker pouch to fit her walker, and stow her purse–and other miscellaneous items–when she goes out. There’s a double zipper pull opening, and velcro tabs to attach it to the walker. The walker can even fold up with everything attached. Yes, you can buy something similar in a store… but what fun is that when you can design and make your own?
Artists solve problems with their designs. When Queen City Dog Training Club built their main 12,000 square foot facility in 2004, I wanted something for the lobby that would represent the major areas of dog training in which we members were active: Obedience, Agility, Conformation, and Tracking. These are the watercolors I created for our new facility. For Obedience, I wanted to show the relationship between dog and handler that is forged through working together. I chose to illustrate that as a girl and her dog at the beach. For tracking, I needed the dog to be front and center–as handlers, we are blind in invisible world of scent. We have to learn to read our dog, and trust our dog’s nose. For agility, I wrote a whole poem about what agility meant to me at the time–which was all about the athleticism and control that the dog exhibits when completing a clean course run. It got shortened down quite a bit… to controlled energy, poetry in motion. For conformation, which is all about advancing the breed, the challenge was in finding the right photo and simplifying the details… leaving out a lot of unnecessary background detail clutter. I think this is my favorite of the set–I’m really happy with the color and detail achieved, especially in the handler details. I love working in watercolor–it’s my favorite medium–along with Chinese watercolor brushes.