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!

Life’s Pendulum Swings

Isn’t it crazy how sometimes our lives can swing so rapidly from one event to a different and totally unrelated event? One day I was on the Hill talking about public policy and transportation, then two days later I was in Pennsylvania surrounded by All Things Bunny. Whaaa…? I know, so random!

My association, the Association for Commuter Transportation, convened in Washington, DC, last week for the annual Public Policy Summit. Policy is not my strong point, so I like to attend, in the hopes that maybe one day I’ll be able to keep up with all the transportation- related policy going on at the federal level. This year, our keynote speaker was The Honorable Kirsti Kauppi, Ambassador of Finland to the United States.  It was fascinating listening to all the ways the Finnish government is seeking to integrate technological advances while advancing their transportation system. They have such a different mindset, but then again, it’s also a much (much much) smaller country. I didn’t sign up for meetings with my local representatives (or rather, their staff members), but I did attend some sessions “on the Hill.” We met in Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure room in the Rayburn Building, which was pretty cool. Congress wasn’t in session, so the halls were pretty empty, but I still think it’s fun to wander around and see where it all happens. The following day I had to take Gaston to the vet, where he had a skull x-ray and his bottom molars were trimmed, all under anesthesia. Apparently he has been having mouth pain, which causes him to not eat, which can lead to GI statis, which can be fatal and causes his mom lots of panic. But he’s been busy chewing away at all sorts of hay and straw things since the visit, so the simple (and very expensive) molar trim seems to have helped immensely. Whew!

Funny to see what is under all that fluff!

Then that same day, I jumped into my friend Emily’s car and we drove up to Philadelphia for the first-ever Northeast BunFest! She is the creative owner of HopsalotSnacks on Etsy and is our rabbit whisperer, an expert after having had her bunny, Miss Dolley Hopsalot, for over 15 years. I had volunteered to be her employee at BunFest, where she was a vendor – motivated in part by the opportunity to see so many bunnies!!! And did we see bunnies!

HopsalotSnacks in action!

The event is apparently held annually in the Midwest, where it attracts around a thousand people. This was the first time it was held in the Northeast, and some of the people with whom I spoke had come from as far away as Boston. There were rabbit rescue groups, a hay vendor, a few vendors with beautiful wooden houses and castles for bunnies to hide in and play on, and so many different rabbit themed things for bunny parents. I didn’t buy anything, but enjoyed meeting all the bunnies – some with their vendor parents, some from shelters, and some with their parents looking to spoil them. Many had their rabbits in pet strollers, some in regular carriers, and other brave (or unwise) parents simply carried their bunnies around in their arms.

Because this event was geared towards rabbit rescue organizations, there were a number of rabbits who had clearly experienced traumatic experiences – one whose ears had been apparently cut off, another with a deformed leg that had been abandoned with a broken leg which then healed badly, several with head tilt, and several others with leg deformities. All are now being well cared for and loved, I’m happy to report, but you know there are hundreds and hundreds of other bunnies out there who have not yet met their forever parents. (Rabbit PSA – this is part of the reason why you shouldn’t buy rabbits for children and as Easter presents. Too many end up abandoned and in shelters. They are NOT starter pets.)

It was a fun day, and successful for my friend’s business, plus I got to see parts of Pennsylvania I’d never been to before. We were exhausted and glad to get home, where Gaston was happy to see me. Despite father-bunson bonding time with The Mechanic, Gaston still wanted lots and lots of attention. That’s fine, I missed him too. I felt a bit wiped out, between two days of commuter transportation talk, Gaston’s vet appointment, the mad drive to Philly, a whole day of rabbits, and a long, late evening drive home, so I was quite unproductive on Sunday, even though I really wanted to sew. I even took a nap! I never do that. But I need to rest up because although this week is relatively quiet, this weekend I will be a runway model (!!!) in an Aveda Catwalk for Water fashion show, then it’s my 45th birthday, then The Mechanic and I are headed to London for a long weekend, woo hoo! So hopefully I can keep the pendulum centered and I can stay grounded until the next totally crazy swings.

Oh, I did get this Friends of Rabbits bunny magnet at BunFest, which I added to our apartment door. Shout out to the local rabbit rescue group !

Possible (Sewing) Machine Upgrade

It’s ironic to think that when I wanted to “upgrade” my commuter bike, I bought a 1973 Raleigh bicycle, but now that I’m considering upgrading my sewing machine, I’m going the opposite direction and looking at machines probably more high tech than the computer on which I write this blog post.

My old new bike, Bletchley

My mom bought my sewing machine for me in December 1990 (!!!!!). It was my first year in college, and it was probably my Christmas present. A White Jeans Machine, I chose it originally because it was (as I remember) double-belted to handle heavy duty fabrics, and at the time, I had dived into the local Shakespeare theater company and was sewing corduroy and tapestries, making medieval and Renaissance costumes.

First version of my Renaissance Faire costume, 1991, complete with hoops and boned bodice, made on my then brand new Jeans Machine!

Since then, my sewing machine has moved into multiple apartments, gone on tour (when I was the wardrobe supervisor for Disney on Ice, 1996-1999), collected dust, and been recently revived. The last attempt to take it to a shop to get serviced resulted in waiting 6 weeks for some part that never arrived, so I reclaimed it and have stitched on ever since. We know each other well, this machine and I. Nevertheless…. my mother and I have had recent conversations about the fact that it probably is time to consider replacing it. I no longer sew as much heavy fabric (although I did just start a pair of corduroy pants), I’ve been exploring nicer, finer fabrics, knits, the reflective fabric, and frankly, I am not happy with the buttonhole function on this machine. So maybe it is time for something newer, something fancier.

But what?!?

We all know that Bernina is the top of the line when it comes to sewing machines, but ye gods, expensive!!!! I hadn’t quite appreciated how “top of the line” they are until I started hunting around. I mean, who needs a computer built into a sewing machine that does super fancy embroidery?!? Not me. Although… I do like the super cute Cotton & Steel Bernina 350 SE machines….the free hand knee bar is really cool; I loved that function when I worked on industrial machines. And I have to admit, all those different stitches are pretty cool….

Cotton & Steel Bernina 350 SE – aren’t they lovely?! (Image from website)

So I decided I would take these fancy, modern sewing machines a bit more seriously, and was surprised at what I found. First of all, I’m impressed at the auto-thread snip option, although I’m not sure about that, since I like a long thread tail, to properly tie off my seams and hems. And automatic tension adjustment seems pretty magical too. Multiple buttonhole options AND the ability to sew buttons on *with the machine* make me a bit starry-eyed. And although initially I didn’t think I’d see any use for the fancy embroidery options, now that I think about it, I can see how much fun that would be. I could see if the reflective thread would work, or maybe embroider reflective fabric appliques for jackets and dresses. Suddenly, the possibilities seem endless!

I am currently drawn to the Husqvarna Viking machines, and the large sewing space to the right of the needle. That space is probably mostly intended for quilters and large rolls of quilt fabric, but I know I could really use that space for garments. I was leaning towards the Husqvarna Designer Topaz 50 anyway, but then noticed one of the fancy stitches is BICYCLES!!!! OMG how fabulous! Would I hem clothes with tiny potentially reflective bicycles? Ja, you betcha! And with the computerized embroidery options, you bet I’d start embroidering rabbits on everything too! Well, maybe not, but I’d definitely try it.

How cool is the bicycle stitch?!? (#10)

Of course, they don’t have any price info on the website, and I will need to schlepp out to the ‘burbs to find a dealer to look at either the Berninas or the Husqvarnas in person. As eager as I am to go check them out, my next three weeks are pretty solidly booked, with no free weekends (and no time to sew, weep!), so it will be a while before I can get my hands on a test machine.

What type of sewing machines do you use, Dear Readers? Do you have a fancy machine with all the bells and whistles, or do you still sewing on a beloved older machine? Do you have experience with a brand you love? What suggestions would you make to someone who is looking to up the professional look of the clothing they make? If money were no object, which sewing machine would you use?   Or want?

Muslin of Simplicity 6434 – impatiently waiting for the new Charley Harper fabric I ordered from Fabricworm.com to make the “real” version of this

 

 

Still Sewing – and Still Biking

Despite being fed up with biking (well, drivers, really), I ended up biking Monday-Wednesday last week, then rode the bus Thursday because of a work event. Then Friday I was a driver myself! The Mechanic and I took Gaston to the vet – we love the vet but they are not located anywhere remotely convenient to bike or bus, so Zipcar it is. I have to say, I felt much better about biking – maybe I just needed to vent? But also, I was pretty relieved to take the bus to work on Thursday, and not only because of the rain all day. I appreciate all the words of encouragement from you, thank you!

Gaston highly disapproved of the vet experience

And I plan on biking this week as well. But this week I am especially inspired, because I finished a new dress, and the weather will be warm enough to wear that AND my 3M reflective dress, woot!

A-maz-ing!!!

First up, I finished my Christine Haynes Marianne dress, in nautical blue stripes. I’m not the biggest fan of PDF patterns, partially because I never seem to get the pieces taped together properly. I had to do a bit of fixing once I was done, to get the lines to match…. And that was just the beginning! I think I redid every single seam on this dress, not to mention redrawing the seams on the side to fit better. Because of that, I wasn’t sure I would like this dress when it was completed, but I have to say, it’s much cuter than anticipated! I lengthened the sleeves significantly, and I took in the sides. I thought I had cut the neck binding too short, so I cut a longer piece, and then realized the first piece was probably fine. But I love the navy and aqua color combination, as well as the blue reflective fabric accents. I made a rookie mistake and forgot to hand baste the reflective trim in, but it didn’t slide around too much. And how cool are the reflective covered buttons?!?!

Fun, isn’t it?

You know sewing is an illness when you finish one project and jump right into another. Yes, I made a muslin of the Simplicity New Look 6434 blouse, Version D with the ruffled sleeves. This will eventually be made out of some Charley Harper print cotton, but I used an old sheet to make this up. Actually, I love the color, so I think I will try to clean it up so I can wear it. For this blouse, I widened the shoulders a half inch, and am pretty pleased with the results. I also lenghtened the sleeve, but may need to widen it a teeny bit. I used the full ruffle pattern, not cut down for my size, but I think I will do that next time – it’s a little too ruffled for my taste. But I know this sleeve is hot right now because it’s popping up on everything! McCalls Pattern Company is even doing a sewing contest with their version of this style. It will be a while until I can make the Charley Harper version, since that fabric won’t be shipped for 6-8 weeks (!!!). But maybe this will work.

This week is the last “calm” week before several weeks of just craziness, so I’m hoping to relax and enjoy biking and not sewing, well, not really doing much of anything. Just being. I need to get some sleep before the craziness. Or I could squeeze in one more sewing project….