Questionable Calm Before the Moving Storm

You know the saying, “When it rains, it pours.” Actually, here in the Washington, DC, area, that’s a fact, not just a saying. Saturday AND Sunday both had crazy rain storms with absolutely pouring rain. The Mechanic and I were driving to a friend’s party Saturday (yes, we drive sometimes) and watched that storm roll in. It was pretty cool, I have to say. Until it started to pour.

Doom over DC

The storm I was actually referring to is the upcoming weekend and next week. I am heading to my association’s annual international conference on Saturday (woot, New Orleans!) and then we are moving to a different apartment in our current complex, then we plan to adopt a rabbit buddy for Gaston. All in the span of a week. And since the move is happening while I’m at aforementioned conference, The Mechanic will be doing it all himself, and I need to have all my stuff packed before I head to the conference. Trying. Not. To. Panic.

Time for a bunny buddy!

But before I could pack up my sewing stuff, I had to finish the dress I had started. I didn’t want to move it unfinished, and besides, I might want to take it to New Orleans. Originally I purchased the McCalls 7597 pattern with the idea of doing the contrast bib and back yoke with reflective fabric and the Charley Harper cotton I pre-ordered earlier this year. However, when Britex Fabrics tweeted a photo of this blue fish rayon, I had to have it, and knew what to do with it.

I briefly considered making the waist tie out of the gray reflective camo fabric, then considered putting some of the blue reflective fabric in the yoke seam and front bib seam. In the end, the gray reflective piping I ordered ages ago turned out to be perfect; it blends in perfectly.

I am a bit disappointed by the fit. I very carefully checked the shoulders and the length and the waist location, and altered to what I thought would work better, and of course, I was wrong. I probably didn’t need to widen the shoulders, and I don’t think I needed to drop the waist. I widened the sleeve but in adjusting the armhole to coordinate, something went wrong and the sleeves now are gathered into place, rather than eased. I really wished I’d lengthened it a bit as well – it’s just a tad bit shorter than I’d like. None of these are major problems, and I’m sure it all looks fine on me, but I am annoyed that once again, I tried to get something to fit right, and it doesn’t. But whatever – I can fix these things if I make the pattern again. And anyway, it’s done and it is perfect for summer.

Had to add a straw hat! Here you can see the reflective trim reflecting.

Reflective across the back reflecting as well. Not quite as full across the hips as I’d hoped. Hope I can swing my leg over my bike’s top tube!

So this will be my last blog post written from this apartment <sniff>.  I really like this but look forward to the next one. No stompy upstairs neighbors, as we’ll be on the top floor, and a lovely grassy courtyard full of trees to look out over. I might post something from New Orleans, but the conferences usually are pretty busy, so probably not. Maybe we’ll have a new bunny when I write next! We plan on taking Gaston to a few shelters when we get back, to let him pick out a new friend.

Once this bike is finished being refurbished, it will be perfect with my new dress!

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Surprises in Northeastern Oregon

I missed a regular blog post earlier this week because The Mechanic and I were in Northeastern Oregon on a family trip. My dad’s side of the family gathered to say goodbye to my grandparents with a celebration of life and scattering of their ashes. I hadn’t been there in seven years, for my grandfather’s 90th birthday, and enjoyed exploring with fresh eyes.

Thirty-five years ago, my dad’s dad and his second wife moved to Lostine, Oregon, a small town in Wallowa County, Oregon. Their property, titled Big Foot Ranch (no idea why), is tucked in a narrow valley between Lostine and Enterprise. I was ten when they moved, and got to travel with them in my great-grandmother’s fifth wheel trailer – a huge adventure to me. Every summer thereafter we drove up to visit them. I rode their horse, swam in the irrigation ditch, and learned to drive on a Model A Ford pickup and an old John Deere tractor. (There goes my city creds – The Mechanic now has plenty of ammo to call me a country girl!)

Enterprise, in the far northeast corner of Oregon

To get there, we flew into Boise, the closest airport, and after meeting up with my brother and sister-in-law (who flew in from Texas), drove four hours to Enterprise. After being greeted by the beef industry in the Boise airport, we joked about what the cattle-raising locals would think when four  vegetarians rolled into town.My grandparents’ property is so lovely, with the rushing river and fields on either side. Marching up the hillside through the weeds is still the same, returning with socks and shoe laces full of burrs. This is my kind of wilderness! Also, the low humidity was sooo refreshing, despite the high temperatures.

I have changed in the seven years (!!!) since I’d been to my grandparents’ – then I was single, newly moved from Manhattan to Washington, DC, and unhappy with my job. Wanting to show The Mechanic all the things my brother and I grew up doing in Oregon made everything new. The biggest surprise was how bike-y the area is – whaat? Bike lanes through the middle of Enterprise?! And Joseph, OR, not only had bike lanes, but bike racks shaped like bikes, and one store had a large “Bike Friendly” sign out front, notifying all that not only were there bike racks, but drinking fountains, public restrooms and package shipping. I’ve never even seen this on stores here in the DC metro area! The Mechanic and I chatted with a woman who had been biking 65 miles into Enterprise, to get to Terminal Gravity Brewing. She said that for the most part, cars were pretty respectful of her and kept their distance, because not all the roads have decent shoulders and space to bike. I had heard that the area was trying hard to promote cycle tourism, and now I believe it.

Another surprise was just how much we loved the town of Joseph. It’s Main Street is maybe 5 blocks long, but it packs a ton of cute into those blocks. Famous for the bronze foundry, Joseph has a huge arts scene. Every corner had artwork in brilliant floral beds, every other store was something related to the arts (a wonderful quilt store too!), not to mention the artisan chocolate shop, the bistros and restaurants, and the murals. If you are looking for a relaxing, small town getaway with tons to do and see, this is your destination.

Wallowa Lake was also a surprise – having been in the area for so many years, I don’t know why we never hung out at the lake. My parents, brother, sister-in-law, The Mechanic and I ended up spending a very, very relaxing afternoon reading in the park by the lake. We had gone up to the top of Mt. Howard on the Wallowa Lake Tramway to admire the mountain views, and had planned on renting kayaks. Instead, we enjoyed the beautiful weather and gorgeous scenery around us. Ah….

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All around are remembrances of the Nez Perce tribe, native to the Wallowa area. As obsessed with Native Americans as I was as a child, I don’t remember exploring any of their history while visiting my grandparents. So I was pleased to be able to see a small bit of their history at the Old Chief Joseph Gravesite and Joseph Canyon from the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Viewpoint.

It seems like we packed a lot into a short trip; this doesn’t even include our evening at Terminal Gravity (their grassy front lawn will make you stay far longer than you planned!) and the day we spent with extended family and friends remembering my grandparents. I will leave you with more photos of the area. It is just so beautiful that photos don’t do it justice. I’m glad I got to visit one last time and have these images to share with you.

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But now we are home and I’m back to embrace my kind of outdoorsy –

ButIt seeWe packed a lot of scenery intoTheSave

Spontaneously Staycationing But Not Sewing

Happy July! Hard to believe that 2017 is halfway over, isn’t it? I haven’t gotten anywhere near the amount of sewing done that I’d hoped for this year. My plans for some June sewing while staycationing sort of flew out the window too, due to some last minute, quite spontaneous outings with The Mechanic. Even though I’m sad at the loss of my sewing time, spending time with The Mechanic is never a bad thing. : )

Staycation Day 1 – Part of the beginning of my staycation was dedicated to my volunteer work for my association, but then The Mechanic and I had a dinner date. Walking home from where the Lyft driver dropped us off (because I still haven’t figured out how to update my home location and didn’t pay attention when scheduling the ride…), we saw the teeny-ist, tiny-ist wild rabbit. Of course I had to stop and take pictures of it. Probably a teen bunny, it was smaller than Gaston, and totally unafraid of us. It was adorable to watch it groom, but such an unafraid bunny might not last long in the Arlington wilds. Still, I loved watching it.

Okay, maybe I was stalking it…

Staycation Day 2 – we biked to brunch at our favorite spot, Silver Diner. We love Silver Diner because it has such a range of vegetarian and vegan meal options. Even in the Washington, DC, metro region, it’s hard to find restaurants with decent veggie options. When a previously scheduled conference call was cancelled at somewhat the last minute, The Mechanic and I hopped Metro to the National Mall. Although our destination was the National Museum of the American Indian, we wandered through the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, taking place alone the Mall. I am not a huge fan of circuses, but it was fun to see all the circus exhibits set up – we missed most of the performances, however. After exploring the NMAI, we wandered along the Mall until we stumbled upon a lucky find – the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building was being used for the FolkLife Festival Marketplace! This building is normally closed to the public, due to renovations, but it’s my favorite building on the Mall, and of course I jumped at the chance to go in.

The Arts and Industries Building, opened in 1881. It was reopened as a special events location in 2015, after being closed for 12 years.

Through the marketing place and circus school, you could see signs of renovation work, and a series of photos near the restrooms showed what it had once looked like.

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Staycation Day 3 – This day was completely and 100% spontaneous. A friend of The Mechanic’s texted to see if we wanted to go sailing with him on his father-in-law’s 54′ sail boat. Um, yes!!! (Of course, that did require an emergency run to Target – I don’t (didn’t) own shorts, and figured that they would be more practical on a boat than a skirt – and since I didn’t have time or fabric to make a pair, well, fast fashion it was.) I love sailing, I love the ocean, I love the Chesapeake Bay, and harbors and, well, nautical style, despite my dislike for sun damage. Armed in a rash guard from Lands’ End, a wide-brimmed hat and lots of mineral sunscreen, I enjoyed a quite leisurely sail with three other people into St. Michael’s, MD.

Who needs to know anything about sailing when the hi tech boat does almost all of it on its own?!?

I love the choppy water, too, so I was happy as a clam when we sailed back into the wind. I find it very peaceful, somehow.

Staycation Day 4 – Deciding to invite friends over meant a morning of mad cleaning, but the reward was a spotless apartment when our friends arrived. And an leisurely evening of reading after they left.

Staycation Day 5 – With all the housecleaning done, I had time to sew, but alas, ran into many complications and had to stop. I made a muslin of Butterick 5602 (Version C) and since I didn’t have a long enough zipper, I had The Mechanic help me pin it. Then I realized that the denim lace fabric will need something sheer-ish for a hem faching, to preserve the sheerness. Then I realized that my white interfacing will show, then that fusible (woven) interfacing will be gross and tacky (probably literally), so I need to find something else. And that although I ordered an invisible zipper, the way the lining is constructed isn’t very invisible zipper friendly, and I’ll have to either rethink how to put in the lining, or use a regular zipper. Bah. So – basically I can’t finish my denim lace dress any time soon.

Another muslin from my old bed sheet!

Disappointing to end five days off without a new finished garment, but look at all the fun we had!

It’s now a new fiscal year in my office, and the beginning of the second half of the year. Somehow it seems like New Years all over again. I’m glad I had some time to staycation, because the rest of this summer doesn’t seem to be slowing down! I think every weekend is booked until September. So much for spontaneous!

Mermaids are spontaneous, right? LOL

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Time to Sew and Think

Use-or-lose PTO expiring in June means taking extra time off this month. Initially, The Mechanic and I discussed going back to Shepherdstown for our third wedding anniversary last week, but in the end, opted against it. So I used some PTO for a mini sewing staycation instead.

Mini champagne “tasting” and fancy desserts for a low-key third anniversary

I was probably both overly ambitious with my plans and less efficient than I could be, so I did not actually achieve all my goals for the extended weekend. I did some sewing, made a Shutterfly photo album gift for a friend, visited with friends, hung out with Gaston, and had lots of time alone with my thoughts.

Sewing

I am pleased with my sewing accomplishments, however. I made a fun new dress from McCalls 6886 and the scuba knit I impulsively ordered from Mood Fabrics earlier this year. I call this my crowd-sourced dress because I kept asking questions on Instagram about designing it – fellow sewists recommended this pattern over a more complicated one, and the scoop neck over the crew neck. I think they were right on both accounts. As my second sewing project on my new sewing machine, it was also the perfect way to learn how it handles stretch fabrics. Thankfully and unsurprisingly, it is soooo much better than my old machine! The dress turned out great, and although the fabric doesn’t breathe much (okay, not at all), it will be perfect for work, and probably not terrible to bike to work in if the weather is decent.

Accessorized with my fabulous boots from Cordings London and my Heidi Sturgess rabbit purse, also from London

I even used the label Mood sent with the fabric! #madewithmood

The other sewing project I completed was altering the corduroy trousers I made last month. Although I love the color and super soft corduroy, they were too big around the hips and waist, and the waistband did not lie flat. So I took off the waistband, made deeper pleats in the front, took out about an inch for a swayback alteration, and replaced the zipper. (I totally forgot to get an invisible zipper foot when I bought my new machine!) I redrew the waistband to reflect what I’d pinned out, and although it looked rather extreme, it worked out perfectly. Of course, as these things go, I didn’t have enough fabric for both sides of the waistband, so I used lining for the facing, and then I didn’t have enough interfacing of any kind, so it’s a pretty wimpy waistband. But I’m much happier with the pants now, and look forward to wearing them.

 

They are subtle but they are there! Bicycles on the waistband! I should have used contrasting thread.

Thinking

In between bursts of sewing, I did a lot of thinking. It’s nice to have time to think, not distracted by daily life (aka, work). I always feel frantic, rushing from work to home to work to home, and sometimes I just need time away from it all. (Seriously, how do parents manage it all?!?) The Mechanic prefers to camp when he needs time alone; I prefer to sew and read and watch British television shows. I just needed time to think about where life is going and in which direction do I want it to move.

Saturday night sewing with Gaston and Father Brown, while The Mechanic was camping and mountain biking

I’ve been at my job for just over five years now, and although I certainly don’t know it all, I feel like I’ve learned a lot, and I’m sort of ready to move on. I feel like this is a personality flaw – it’s hard for me to stick to just one thing. Through learning about transportation demand management, and doing outreach to people about their transportation choices, I’ve come across so many other really interesting topics and ideas, and I want to explore those. Overall sustainability is top of the list, and through sewing and this growing interest, I’ve learned more about sustainable fabrics, a field I’m definitely interested in exploring. Then there is general behavior change and all the psychology around that; I’ve always been interested in *why* people do what they do. And I can’t help but feeling like I’d like to return to history as a field, or maybe public history and museum studies. And always the thought – how do I make a positive impact on the world?

Alas, all my thinking was merely that, thinking. I didn’t come up with a plan or a decision or a new goal (well, a new goal beyond moving to Europe someday). Do I feel more relaxed, from all my time off and sewing and thinking? Hm…. maybe. Maybe if I’d actually gotten more done, or finished a book or something. I did, however, come up with a plan for my next sewing projects! Between now and the end of July I want to finish my star Liberty of London blouse and a shift dress with the denim lace fabric from Marcy Tilton. Maybe it’s better to just stick to the sewing and do less thinking.

What’s Better Than New Bike Day?

What is possibly better than New Bike Day? New Sewing Machine Day!!!

My “inheritance” from my grandfather, who died last December, was the funding for the sewing machine of my dreams to replace my 27-year-old machine. After some research, and a trip to a sewing machine store, I settled on the Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 965Q. My old sewing machine has gone many places with me, including three years around the world when I was the wardrobe supervisor for Disney On Ice in the mid-late 90s. But as I’ve gotten more and more into sewing, the 10 stitches and 1 button hole option just weren’t enough. And I didn’t initially think I needed a computerized sewing machine, but boy of boy, what a different world! I was sold after a 45 minute demo of all the features. Okay, honestly, what sold me was that it comes with a pre-programmed bicycle stitch!

The bike stitch on a different model Sapphire

Saturday, the Mechanic and I went out to Bonny’s Sewing & Fabric, in Alexandria, VA, to pick up the machine. Yes, I sat with it on my lap on the way home! It’s so much bigger than my White Jeans machine – look at them all together! One of the other selling points of this machine is the long arm and the wide open space to spread fabric out. I can keep my pin cushion on the machine and still have space left!The first thing I did was to add a travel key chain to the stylus of the machine, to make it easier not to lose it. The key chain isn’t a great fit but I like the way the leaf gives it a sort of elven feel. The machine has a built-in needle threader and a magnifying glass in the bobbin cover – both great features to have, especially as I’m now 27 years older than when I got my first machine, and well, er, really need those features! Other amazing features, which may be more common to less fancy machines, are the auto-tension feature, the fact that I can pick my fabric type and stitch, and the machine will suggest not only the stitch length and width, but also the foot and needle, and show me where the needle will start the stitch. So amazing!!!

I spent the rest of Saturday reading the manual and play around with different stitch options. Not only can I stitch bicycles, I can do my Twitter name, the blog post name, appliques with reflective fabric, stitch on buttons, create mirror images of stitches, and super cool buttonholes. Sunday, I felt ready to put what I’d learned to the test, and what better way to practice new skills than to sew something?!? I had the Salme Patterns Angel Sleeve Top pattern ready to go, so I whipped that up. It was super easy to sew, although I complicated it by doing French seams. In slate blue tencel twill, it is a lovely basic business top that actually coordinates quite well with my wedding skirt. I will definitely make this top again. As much as I wanted to stitch bicycles onto a bit of the hem this blouse, I wanted flowers instead. Ultimately, I went with stars, because I couldn’t quite get the floral designs I wanted to line up with the hem properly. Somehow, these stars remind me of the Washington DC flag… I think, however, that in future, I’ll have to do contrasting thread if I want the design to really show up. Now, of course, all I want to do is SEW!!! All those projects I have lined up? Everything is getting some fun embroidery stitch! And what will I make that gets reflective appliqued pears?!? I can’t get over the options before me, as I gaze upon this new sewing machine. And yes, this could very easily be better than a new bike…

 

UFOs in June

I’m back! Did you have a relaxing Memorial Day weekend? A friend from New York visited and The Mechanic was in Phoenix visiting his friend, so we each got alot of socializing in! My friend and I visited Mount Vernon (by boat from Old Town Alexandria, which I recommend – it was so relaxing!), National Harbor, the Tanger Outlet mall at National Harbor, and the new MGM casino. I’d never been to National Harbor, right across the Potomac in Maryland, and it was so easy to get to from the King Street Metro station – a quick NH2 Metrobus ride across the bridge. We had a blast and shopped perhaps a bit too much. I did fulfill a long-time sartorial goal by purchasing a Diane von Furstenberg dress at Memorial Day weekend sales steal prices. It’s not one of her iconic wrap dresses but it’s pretty amazing and I can’t wait to wear it.

And now it’s June. I have use-or-lose PTO to burn by the end of the month, so I’m going to use up most of it with some mini sewing staycations. All this unexpected time off means I should to focus on finishing up my UFOs – also known as unfinished sewing projects. Technically I only have one UFO, since I already wrapped up a few over the past weekend. I made a quickie tee shirt with the happy floral striped Art Gallery knit, shortened the lining of a skirt that I made too long, and finally added the waistband to my wedding skirt. I still need to redo the waistband on my 1940s inspired trousers, too.

I ended up using the same satin from the train to make the waistband, which actually turned out pretty badly. Thank goodness a much more talented seamstress friend did the zipper and hem! Where will I wear this? Who knows!

My one true UFO is this pair of red chambray pants that I cut out last year. The idea was for them to also be a wearable muslin, but the complicated zipper fly has prevented me from tackling them. And by complicated, I mean more than a one-weekend sewing project. I really need to get these done, but honestly, being lazy with both my diet and with my workouts lately means that I’m not the size I’d like to be for pants. I’d like to put these off a bit more. At least until I’ve gotten my BodyPump gym class groove back and feel a bit less squishy.

Someday, pants, someday….

Other things I need to finish before I jump into new projects include two dresses, pants and a blouse, all of which were supposed to be done by now.

Of course, I have that gorgeous fabric I bought in London, and then I just got this fabulous denim lace from Marcy Tilton….NO!

Focus, focus….

Some of these things should be fairly simple, so hopefully I can have one mad, frantic weekend of knocking those things out quickly. Because I think that denim lace will make a perfect summer work dress, and I need it now!

Time to just grin and bear it, and sew up this stuff before I can move on. Anyone else ever force themselves to get long-neglected UFOs completed? At least wearing my makes encourages me to want to get more done. I wore my new tee shirt and denim skirt with the reflective yoke last Saturday when The Mechanic and I went biking along the C&O Canal. Perfect and inspiring!

 

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Pink Hair Don’t Care: Giving Up Corporate

Well, I kind of gave up – I’ve been trying so hard for a long time to look more “corporate,” and I just can’t do it. So this is what happened:

Pink hair, don’t care!

Yes, I colored my hair pink! It actually has come out a lovely sort of rose-gold color after washing it yesterday, and I really love it. It’s just edgy enough to make me feel better, but not so crazy like blue streaks (which I really wanted). I’ve been blonde for a long time, so I was due for a change.

L’Oreal Colorista, a semi-permanent color – just what I wanted!

And I realized that I just can’t keep up the whole corporate look, it’s just not me. I need to be creative and express myself. Sure, I like blazers, but I also love funky shoes and bright colors and slightly quirky styles. Maybe I should be working in the office for some creative field, marketing or something. I don’t think I want to design for my day job, I think I’d get overwhelmed! Of course, I still have clients for whom I need to look professional, but I think I can do that without getting stuck in the “corporate” look of matchy-matchy dark suits, prim heels, petite pieces of jewelry and perfectly coiffed hair.

A friend and I went to the GW University Textile Museum over the weekend and saw the “Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair” exhibit. The Ebony Fashion Fair was touring fashion show for the African-American community, masterminded by Mrs. Eunice W. Johnson (of the Johnson Publishing Company), and full of haute couture pieces Mrs. Johnson chose to dazzle and delight her audiences. The clothing was amazing, but the fashion fair program covers were just amazing – some of the pieces my friend and I kept incorrectly placing the wrong decades! It was a good reminder of how fashion is not just frivolous, that it has the power to inspire and engage and delight, and allows us to reflect on who we are and where we’ve come from. I don’t presume to think that my sewing has anything nearly as serious as the impact Mrs. Johnson and the Fashion Fair shows had on their audiences, but I can say with confidence that it’s not silly, vain, shallow, or insincere, as some would have you think. We all make statements about ourselves in how we present ourselves to others. And my statement is that I am creative and not a round peg for a round hole. My peg is probably somewhat star shaped, or maybe floral shaped! And I wouldn’t have it any other way. So good-bye corporate clothing and hello, guilt-free personal expression!

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Transportation in London: Is the Bike Lane Greener?

Despite the short amount of time we were in London (3.5 days), we still managed to get a ton of photos of the transportation scene – of course. As with any new city, there were some notable differences, not the least of which was the fact that traffic seemed *crazy* to us. But also – it was really, really quiet! No honking, no loud motors, extremely few obnoxiously loud motorcycles… even the tourist hop-on/hop-off buses were quiet! We know because we took one. The most notable things were: quiet streets; hi viz everywhere; indecipherable street markings; bikeshare stations *everywhere*; and the ease with which we were able to find and get on every train and bus we took.

Quiet Streets

We were there for Friday morning and evening rush hour and Monday morning rush hour, plus the weekend in between, and were astounded at how quiet it was. Honking was the exception, not the norm. Buses were quiet. Motorcycles were quiet. Nothing at all like New York City! It was so nice, ahh….

Lots of hybrid double decker buses (also, so fun to ride!)

Hi Viz Everywhere!

Everyone wore hi viz, even the cars. Cops, maintenance workers, cyclists, little school kids in museums, people on the sidewalk. Police cars, maintenance trucks, emergency vehicles, and similar – they were also decked out in hi viz. Either the hi viz companies are doing a bang up job at marketing, or the streets really are that crazy. Maybe it’s that hard to see in the London fog?Indecipherable Street Markings

Thank goodness there were instructions at the crosswalks about which direction to look! That opposite direction traffic had us totally turned around, and not in the right way. If the intersections weren’t marked, we had no idea what was going on, and weren’t there long enough to figure it out. Seriously, what do the zigzag white lines mean in the streets?!?

Also really loved that the crosswalks were divided not only by the medians, but were not directly across from each other. Having to turn left or right to walk to the continuation seems like really smart street design to me.Bikeshare Stations Everywhere

We were amazed not only by the sheer number of Santander Cycles (aka “Boris bikes”) bikeshare stations on every corner, but also by the fact that they were all twice the size of the Capital Bikeshare stations here in the DC Metro area. We never tried them, because we were a bit afraid of the traffic and because we didn’t know where we were going. Although, from what we observed, people just biked out in traffic and didn’t seem to be phased by the vehicles around them. And honestly, I know it exists, but we never saw any driver acting aggressively towards or honking at cyclists. Thank you, London drivers, for the positive impression!

Seriously, look at all those stations!

Other notable bike-y things: the bike lanes were really narrow; there were tons of bike boxes; we saw the most bike lanes and cycle super highways in the central City of London part; Bromptons were everywhere; Transport for London had tons of information about how to travel with your folding and non-folding bike on buses and trains; buses and many trucks had stickers on the back corners cautioning cyclists about turns… It seemed like it was just part of everyday life there, not some totally outlandish idea that a crazy minority indulges in. (Ed. note: yes, that’s sarcasm.)

So Easy to Get Around

A system this big must be hard to manage, but The Mechanic and I never waited more than 5 minutes for an Underground train (Or “tube”), even after seeing a show on Saturday night, and only waited about 10 minutes for one of our buses. It was so easy to get around! The bus map I picked up in the airport was super easy to read, finding bus stops was really easy, and with our pre-ordered Visitors Oyster cards, using the Tube and the buses was as easy as using our SmarTrip cards here at home. That was definitely a dream.

I also love that so many Tube stations have shops and kiosks around them.

Is the Transportation Grass Greener?

I have to say, that if I lived in London, the Tube is so easy that I might not be a cyclist. What?!?! Okay, I probably would but I’d definitely need to figure out the streets. But given how easy it was to figure out the Tube and the buses, I might be more than happy to let someone else do the driving for me, rather than fight it out on my own on the streets. But I’m going to have to conclude that I need several more chances to explore all the options in London before I can decide. So, next flight to London?

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Celebrating My Mid-Life Crisis

Last week I turned 45, and as it is more or less the middle of my life (3 of 4 grandparents lived into their mid-90s), I figured it was a good time to have a midlife crisis. So instead of running off with a younger man (done) or buying an expensive sports car (why?), I opted for two different things – modeling in a fashion show and a weekend trip to London!

I get my hair done at a local Aveda hair salon, Casal’s de Spa and Salon, in Clarendon. I have always been a big Aveda supporter, because they do so much good stuff for the environment. Every April they celebrate Earth Month by focusing on protecting clean water, and salons around the US have fashion shows to fund raise and showcase their stylists’ skills.  So when my hair stylist asked me if I wanted to be one of their two models in the DC area show, I hesitated only briefly. I did have to audition though – that was nerve-wracking enough! I hadn’t thought much about the actual show until we got to the venue. Honestly, being up on that stage by myself made me so nervous that I thought I would collapse! But I was enormously proud of the team of stylists from Casal’s who made the outfit, all from recyclable materials from the salon, cut and colored my hair, and did my makeup, and thrilled that my look won best overall of the show! And now I can add “runway model” to my resume!

Plastic caps, hair color tubes, shampoo and conditioner bottles, and signs and placards make up this outfit, all on a base of an old pair of jeans. The white lashes are individual strips of paper glued on. I wore my own flat shoes, because the stylists didn’t want me towering over everyone else.

Then, a few days later, The Mechanic and I flew to London!

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We had found really inexpensive flights, so we went for a long weekend. We arrived on Friday and returned on Monday, giving us three and barely a half days to explore one of the biggest and most exciting cities in the world. I had last been to London in 1990, on my first trip out of the US. I didn’t remember much of London, so it was great to run past all the major sights. And although my girlfriends and I saw Princess Diana in the Natural History Museum in 1990, The Mechanic and I didn’t see any notables on this trip. Of course, I was too busy shopping to pay attention!

And shopping I did – on my list were Liberty of London and Dashing Tweeds. I planned on buying fabric at both locations. I simply *adore* anything Liberty of London, and although there were so many beautiful fabric options, I ended up buying the star print Tana Lawn cotton I wanted. Then at the last minute, I grabbed two pre-made handkerchief/scarves in prints I also loved. Dashing Tweeds is the menswear shop that makes bespoke suits, including lovely reflective tweed suits. They sell their Lumatwills tweed fabric, so naturally that was what I was after. I wasn’t planning on getting more than a yard, but the burgundy color I wanted had a yard and a half on the bolt, so of course I bought it all. And a cap in basic gray. I think I know just the coat pattern I want to use this on…

Then there were the spontaneous purchases – the most amazing shoes ever and an adorable rabbit purse. The shoes are from Cordings, a shop I’d never heard of before, but we walked in simply because they had a huge ad for the Tweed Run in their window. Full of tweed and Liberty of London women’s shirts, the blue suede ankle boots caught my eye and then the rhinestone edging sold me. My first 100% Made in Italy shoes! Definitely my Midlife Crisis Shoes.The first major purchase of the trip was actually this rabbit clutch from Heidi Sturgess London. Made in England, her website claims her small boutique items were a well-kept secret in London. I didn’t know that at the time, having purchased this clutch at a stall in Covent Garden, but I like the idea that these are handmade and the owner has her hands very much in the products. 

We just so happened to be there during London Craft Week, an annual event that showcases exception craftsmanship in all types of things. If I had known about it in advance, I would have made an effort to find some of the events. I think there is a lot of amazing craft work going on in the UK right now, and, as someone who sews their own clothes, I appreciate and admire handwork of all sorts.  It is funny – when I went to Europe for the first time in 1990, I came back with a burning desire to work with clothing, so I gave up my career goals of something international and multilingual to take sewing classes and work in theatrical costuming. Twenty-seven years later, I’m experiencing the same sort of thoughts. I really want to spend more time with handcrafted clothing. Is that the midlife crisis brewing?!?

 

Me Made May Returns!

It’s May! It’s my birthday month! It’s National Bike Month! It’s really finally Spring! It’s also Me Made May month, again, and this has me a bit flummoxed.

I love the idea behind Me Made May, of wearing clothing I’ve made myself every day the entire month. In it’s eight year this year, the challenge is intended to encourage people who sew and knit and create to wear and love the things they make. Everyone can make up their own specific challenge, be it to finish projects or wear less-loved things and/or to create a list of holes, things they wish they had. Personally I still want to try to focus on business-appropriate garments, because although I definitely have 31 me-made garments, they aren’t all “corporate” enough for all the work events in my life. And I wear most of my items pretty regularly, so making and hiding isn’t that big of a concern of mine. Although of course there are things that I wish I loved better, I was fairly pleased with how last year’s Me Made May turned out:

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In addition to the corporate looks, part of this year’s Me Made challenge will be our upcoming trip to London. I’m turning 45 and thought that this would be a good excuse for a weekend trip to London – a city I haven’t visited since 1990! For our four day trip I’m thinking two pairs of pants and a dress or skirt, then a few tops. I just can’t decide which because most of my tops are summer weather, and it probably won’t be that warm. I hate to take blouses that will wrinkle in my luggage because I hate ironing on vacation, haha! And most of my dresses are summer dresses as well. I want to take my new striped nautical dress, but I’m not sure the weather will be warm enough. I might take it anyway! I wish I’d had time to finish the 1940s trousers I’m making; I bet they would be perfect.

Maybe, maybe not….

There are other challenges that prevent me from wearing Me Made clothing, namely, the bike events in May to which I need to wear work branded clothing. I certainly don’t need another pair of jeans, but something to wear with a polo shirt might be something to add to the list of holes in my 31 day wardrobe. It seems like my list of “missing” clothing is really long already!

I haven’t pledged on Zoe’s website but here is my pledge:

I, Elizabeth of TinLizzieRidesAgain, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’17. I endeavour to wear at least one Me Made garment each day for the duration of May 2017. In addition, I will create a list of “missing” clothing to help me focus on my future sewing plans.

The drawback to this pledge, of course, is that I plan on buying fabric at both Liberty of London and Dashing Tweeds, which will probably throw off any cohesive, practical sewing plans I might have. I’ll need to finish aforementioned 1940s trousers but then you know I’ll be dying to get something made with my new stash! Capsule collection, pshaw. But really, this is a good opportunity to help me focus, and maybe figure out how to be 100% pleased with what I make.

I really want to take this as well but think it will be too cool for this as well. Bah!