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….

Maybe I’ll Give Up Biking

Yes, Dear Readers, I had this thought – maybe I should give up biking.

I am normally a pretty patient person but I was really OVER the whole bike commuting thing last week. One (or three) too many drivers cutting in front of me to get to the parallel parking on the right side of the bike lane; one (or two) too many buses speeding past me to zoom into bus stops at the right of the bike lane; and one too many pedestrians running across the road *not* in the crosswalks, then saying “watch for crazy cyclists!” Seriously?!? The selfish, unthinking, clueless, uncaring attitude is what is driving me nuts – is it really THAT HARD to look out for others?!?!?!

The next day, I saw a Tweet from Nelle Pierson, deputy director for WABA (Washington Area Bicyclists Association), saying that she knows 60 people who have been hit by drivers in cars. Sixty! I’m trying to imagine ALL of my friends having been hit by drivers, not just the few who actually have been, including The Mechanic. That same day, Rootchopper blogged and tweeted about the fact that he’s actually Number 66, since he had just been hit by a driver not paying attention. And here is my colleague’s experience after she was half-doored by a driver: Why You Should Care About Other Modes Now.

All of this was clearly the straw that broke my back – I’m so sick of having to prove to the world that biking is a perfectly reasonable, healthy, safe, green transportation option, not crazy, stupid, dangerous, or MAMIL-dominated. They do it in other countries, in quite high numbers, and without helmets! Why is it so impossible to do it here?!*

It would be just as easy to not bike, and probably easier. My alternative commute is a super easy bus route. In the morning, my bus stop is a block from our apartment, and the bus drops me a few blocks from my office. In the evening, the bus stop is in front of my office, and drops me in front of my apartment building. The bus ride takes about the same amount of time as it takes me to bike, with the added bonus of the super nice bus driver who calls me “Supermodel.” It’s nice to start the day with his friendly face and cheerful words.

Not only does the bus offer a super easy route, riding the bus means I don’t have to deal with a helmet, lock, lights, panniers, gloves, pants strap and whatever else I might need. It means that on rainy days, I get to the office comfortable, instead of mostly dry. It means I can read the news or Twitter or catch up on Instagram friends’ sewing projects. It also means I walk right past three different breakfast place options, rather than detour as I normally do, if I want to buy breakfast that day. It means not having to jockey for a spot on the bike rack, either. So there are many reasons why riding the bus to work would be SO MUCH EASIER than biking to work.

Rainy day bus stop selfie

But would I really give up biking?

I don’t know.

At least it did me some good to do some bike errands this weekend – The Mechanic and I biked to Westover where we purchased art from local artists at the Handmade Arlington craft show, then purchased potting soil and some planter boxes, so we can grow lettuce for Gaston. It was a leisurely day with minimal traffic interaction, and made me feel a bit better.

Easily transportation bags of potting soil on a Workcycles bike

Maybe I just need a break from it.

 

*I know all the reasons, but I’m tired of the excuses. Please don’t try to excuse away the behaviors, put the blame elsewhere, or whatever. I’m perfectly entitled to feel how I do.

 

 

All Biking, No Sewing

Yes, it’s true – this past weekend I did all biking and no sewing! Well, almost all biking – I walked on Sunday. But I biked errands on Friday and The Mechanic and I had a bike date on Saturday, which is more biking that my usual bike to work routine, so yay! And I really didn’t do any sewing, although I did cut out a pattern. And ordered two new patterns. And keep staring at the fabric swatches I got in the mail last week. And helped explain some pattern directions to a friend. But technically, no sewing.

My daily bike commute leaves me somewhat complacent (and with minimal exercise), so it was good for me to shake off some cobwebs and bike around Arlington. And as always, I experienced and observed some things than I feel could easily improve the experiences of others who wish to bike but are concerned, that 60% “interested but concerned” cyclists that the cycling advocates always focus on.  So here are my takeaways from this weekend:

Signage

Imagine my shock when, cruising in a bike lane up to an intersection, I spot a sign way across six lanes of traffic that read “bike lane closed.” Considering the sidewalk was also closed, because the whole block is currently a construction site, there was nowhere to go but the traffic lane. Luckily the driver in the car next to me was considerate and let me in front so I could get across the intersection and back onto the trail safely. Also, there was a jogger taking the lane because again, so sidewalk and no accommodations. For an inexperienced cyclist, this could have been a really stressful situation. My suggestion? Add a “bike lane closed” sign in *advance* of the intersection. I could have made route adjustments and gone down a different street. Seeing the sign at the stop sign was a bit too late. Covered Bike Racks

During Friday’s errands, it unexpectedly started raining. I had my Cleverlite Cleverhood in the bottom of my pannier, so I stayed dry (ish), but my bike did not, even when at a bike rack. As I struggled with pannier, bags, gloves, ‘hood, seat cover, lock, keys and lights, I thought about how this situation prevents those 60%-ers from biking more often. It’s a bit of a hassle, running in and out of shops with wet gear, fumbling for the lock while trying to keep everything as dry as possible. Think then, how nice it would be if more outdoor bike racks were covered! There are a few places in Arlington where the racks are covered, such as by the Clarendon Metro station, but overwhelmingly, most places are lucky to even have a few thought-out staples near popular destinations. Even places like schools would encourage more biking more often if the racks were covered.

Lucky bike commuters get nice large bike rack covers near the Clarendon Metro Station in Arlington, VA

What do we need to do to encourage this trend?

Useful Access Points

This is somewhat a pedestrian issue rather than a bicycle issue, but really, I get so annoyed when sidewalk curb cuts are blocked, be it by snow, cars, or construction bollards. Clearly it’s too hard for people to consider that someone *might* actually need to roll something down off the sidewalk – wheelchair or baby stroller or maybe even bicycle.

I hate this spot in particular, because I think it is too narrow and too angled to be useful to someone in a wheelchair.

If I, as an experienced cyclist, find these things frustrating, imagine what someone who isn’t as experienced or dedicated might react to these. A sudden vanishing bike lane could scare someone off riding a bike again, while rainy weather and no comfortable place to leave a bike could make someone revert back to their car. Blocked curb cuts are enough to make anyone realize that their local government and community doesn’t really care about how they get around by foot or bike, or how they might struggle with a walker, and cause them to relocate elsewhere. It might seem like a small thing, but really, it’s not.

Is it any wonder that I prefer to stay home and sew?! It offers a good refuge from a city that seems to have it out for me, the cyclist. Currently I can’t wait to order some of this Thread International canvas and jersey, made with recycled plastic bottles collected in Haiti. I want to make 1930s-style wide legged trousers and a simple tee shirt and lounge around in them all summer. Guess I’ll need longer pant straps to keep those pants from getting caught in the gears. That’s at least one frustrating thing I can control!

Not bike friendly but awfully cute!

More Reflective Sewing and Things

Although some might call my interest in All Things Reflective an obsession (or bizarre), to me it’s an art. I think about it all the time, collect pieces of value, and am discerning when it comes to what I like. But this art collection is one I wear, not hang on walls, display on shelves, or hoard for no one but me to enjoy. And to share with you, of course! So today I want to share a few more reflective things, including the pants I just made, as well as some reflective fabric travel plans.

For starters, I ordered some reflective Red Heart yarn from Amazon. It’s my favorite color, so I couldn’t resist! My mother knit me an infinity scarf from gray a few years ago, but I thought a spring color would be nice. I’m hunting through the millions of options on Ravelry to find another knitting pattern for her. Luckily my mother is willing to knit for me!

Then, while I was hunting around on Amazon, I found this reflective thread – it’s by Hatnut and shipped from Germany. I looked up the company after the package arrived, and they do some cool yarns, as well as this reflective stuff. I had hoped to be able to topstitch the hems of the pants I just made with this thread. The test stitching worked pretty well, but when I tried to actually sew, the thread got caught up and shredded. It’s fragile, not like your regular Coats & Clark or Gutermann thread. I’ll play around with it a bit, but it could be a hand sewing only type thread. Now I just need to learn to embroider – wouldn’t that be amazing?! Now, about those reflective pocket pants. I had purchased the McCalls 7547 pattern to try Version B, the skinny leg pants, to see if I could improve my attempts to properly fit pants, and replicate some of my favorite pants.

(Kinda scared of the flared overalls…)

I opted for a gray twill, something inexpensive that would work as a “wearable muslin,” aka, a test pattern that I can also wear out of the house, in a color that goes with a fair amount of tops I’ve made. And then I decided to make two back pockets, and to make them out of the reflective camo fabric I have. It’s not the perfect color match, but for a muslin, I don’t really care. And I love the idea of fully reflective back pockets for the spring and summer evenings when I’m biking (and walking) around. This pattern happens to be the McCalls Pattern Company’s Spring Sewalong, too. I happened to mostly make these on our surprise snow day last week (woot!), so I’m waaaaay ahead of the sewalong, but I had to take advantage of the time off. I posted a rather unflattering set of photos on Instagram to show my initial progress, and get some tips on how to adjust the fit, and thankfully, Amanda, Sewalong co-host and sewing blogger, had some good tips.

Oof – humility. Posting unflattering photos of one’s behind for the whole world (of my Insta followers, at least) to see!

So I spent the weekend adjusting and altering and refitting. I am pretty pleased with the results, although I know the crotch fit is not perfect. Once I released the side seams to accomodate my thighs, the crotch fit was much better. I also dropped the front 1/2″ as Amanda suggested. I tried “scooping” the crotch but I’m not sure I was doing it correctly. I tried three different ways to put in the side zipper, and ended up with a terrible center zipper. I did the pattern instructions method first, but then needed to let the sides out, so replaced it with an invisible zipper, which couldn’t go in properly to save my life (and I normally prefer them because they are so easy!), then gave up and did a basic and still imperfect zipper. Whatever. It’s the muslin. Now that the pattern is at least altered, the next time it should be easier. I don’t know how to take out a fisheye dart on the back of my legs as Amanda suggested, but I’ve recognized for a while now that I need to do that.High-waisted pants are on trend at the moment, and somewhat more flattering on my tummy, but I am not sure how often I’ll actually tuck in my top. (Confession: I’m feeling bad about how out-of-shape I’ve gotten now that my sewing has overtaken my biking as my main hobby, so I’m a bit self-conscious about how everything is fitting these days.)

Nevertheless, these pants go with many things in my closet, so I’m sure I’ll get alot of use out of them. And see? Even something as simple as a practice piece can be art! Why be plain when you can be flashy?!?

Tulips and Bicycles in Philly

A friend and I spent a freezing cold Saturday in Philadelphia, PA, admiring all types of plants in wild, brilliant blooms, at the Philadelphia Flower Show. The theme was “Holland: Flowering the World,” and my hopes for tulips and bicycles were happily achieved – so many of the display gardens featured bicycles in some way or another. Tulips, my favorite flowers, were present everywhere. I have never been to the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society’s 188-year-old flower show, but my gardening friend and I were eager to go, and let Reston Limo to do the driving. Taking a day trip in a motorcoach from the Vienna Metro Station to the Convention Center in Philly was the perfect way to spend time with flowers, and each other (see, who needs a car?). I was expecting an exhibit hall of floral landscapes and scenes, but in fact, the show is divided up into several sections. We started with the landscapes, worked our way through the educational displays (where sustainability was on gorgeous display), then studied some of the art displays before walking through the plant competition on our way to the market place, then checked out the complimentary wine and spirits tasting. There was so much to see that we didn’t get to see it all! We also ran through the Reading Terminal Market, which was across the street, and a quick peek into The Fabric Workshop and Museum. Whew! So much to do in a day!

I loved the creative landscapes:

And I loved that so many of the landscapes included bicycles and bike parts: There was definite emphasis on how bicycles are embraced by the Dutch, as well as a sustainable form of transportation. Something I wasn’t expecting was all the cool artistic flower displays, which were really amazing:

I was inspired by all the displays about sustainability and green space, and its importance in cities, and hope that visitors had a chance to really read some of the signs and information.

It was a shame that the weather was so cold, because I had made a long-promised dress for my friend, and it was too cold for her to wear it. I guess she’ll will have to wait until the weather really is spring-like to wear her floral print spring dress! But isn’t it cute?

McCalls 6520 with modified sleeve – the perfect flower show dress, if it had been warmer!

It was so much fun getting to indulge in flowers, friendship and, as always, bicycles, for a day. I think we will add this to our annual “things to do” list! To see more and better photos of the flowers, and shots without the crowds, check out the article in the Washington Post.

Current State of Affairs

After last month’s series of five year anniversary re-introductions, I thought I’d catch everyone up on the current state of my affairs. As always, there is a lot going on, so much so that I missed my last planned anniversary re-introduction! That one was supposed to be about travel and how The Mechanic and I love to travel. Recent examples include a spontaneous rental car trip, where we attempted to go by VeloOrange in Annapolis (not open on the weekends), then drove through a powerful storm to Baltimore, arriving just as the storm ended and discovering their new ebike bikeshare system and bike lane wayfinding signs.

I’ve been sewing of course – finished the Simplicity 8166 blouse I’ve been dying to make forever, at last! It was sort of a bear. I love the tencel twill, the weight and drape of it, but maybe it was too heavy for all the rows of gathered elastic. Trying to feed it at the same time was challenging, but looks amazing in the end. I haven’t worn it yet because I had to wash it – get the chalk marks out as well as the blood – I managed to stab myself every time I sat down to sew, and didn’t realize until after I’d gotten blood on the garment. Sigh. But isn’t it gorgeous?!?

Gorgeous, but not a single bit of reflective on it!

Gorgeous, but not a single bit of reflective on it!

I *bought* a sweater and then realized I had a spring sewing theme going – a nautical theme! I was lusting after this J. Crew sweater with an Art Nouveau type floral design as well as mermaids! I love mermaids, so much so that even though this sweater is merino, and I find it terribly itchy, I had to have it. I’ve already suffered through an itchy day worn it and think it’s just the loveliest thing (well, I think the ruffled collar is a bit not my style/odd).

(sorry, I couldn't manage a better photo than this...)

(sorry, I couldn’t manage a better photo than this…)

Then I realized that my current sewing plans include some Breton striped garments – a top using some cool ammonite fabric from Spoonflower, and the cute Christine Haynes Marianne dress. nautical-sewing-plansAdding these two patterns plus my mermaid sweater to existing nautical things in my wardrobe, well, I should be headed to the seaside somewhere!

A friend and I are heading to the Philadelphia Flower Show, and I am finally making her a long-promised dress –  she had picked a lovely floral print, so of course she needs to wear it when we go. I love the fabric, although its slippery polyester and has required a lot of hand basting, which I don’t normally do. Am I the only one who tries harder on clothing not intended for me? flower-show-dress

A super cool non-sewing dress came my way last week, the Betabrand 3M reflective dress that I’d supported way last fall – it finally arrived and is really cool! It’s that stretchy nylon fabric that will be perfect for travel, with pockets, pulls on over the head, and omg reflective!!!! Seriously, it’s pretty cool. I can’t wait to wear this somewhere. Clearly not designed with 360* reflectivity, the reflective fabric is only in the front. I’m a bit disappointed by that, to be honest; it seems like a lost opportunity. I’m sorry it’s sold out on Betabrand but keep Tweeting to 3M and maybe they’ll eventually figure out there is a retail demand for reflective fabric and help out us home sewers who are desperate for it.

A-maz-ing!!!

A-maz-ing!!!

Speaking of reflective, have you seen Vespertine NYC’s reflective collaboration with Brompton? It’s really lovely and I wish I could get all of it, but there’s that wool thing again. I mean, I guess I could do the shoelaces, but those seem so less interested compared to the cool designs of the hat and scarf. Check them out if you haven’t yet! brompton-x-vespertine-refective-collection

I don’t know if Vespertine will be at the National Bike Summit this week, but she’s been there before, so if you are in the area, check it out!

I’m not attending the National Bike Summit this year, as I have in the past, but I’ve been watching attendees roll in (literally) on Instagram and Twitter. Bikie Girl Bloomers, Pedal Love, Bikey Face, and many other bikey ladies I know from NBS and social media are there. But speaking of bikes, Bletchley, my new vintage Raleigh, is in the process of being taken apart to be upgraded. I’ve been riding The Mechanic’s Workcycles bike to test out the hub, and we found brake levers that I really like. Slowly but surely this bike will come together. bletchley-brake-leversLastly, Gaston is a delight, and seems to be getting fluffier by the day. He’s gotten a bit snugglier and while I don’t foresee him sitting in our laps any time soon, demands and gets as much attention as we can give him. It’s a shame I can’t pet him and sew at the same time! gastonSo what else did I miss while I was reviewing the last five years of my blog life?

Re-Introducing My Reflective Bike Fashion

In the five years since I started my blog, I have become obsessed with reflective fashion – not just making it but buying it when I can. Naturally I prefer to make my own but I love seeing what other designers are making (Current fave Chance of Rain). Because my reflective sewing projects are intended to be fashionable in the office AND make me more visible on my bike, I’ve refined what and how – just throwing reflective spots here and there aren’t necessarily the best. So I thought I’d share some of my lessons learned.

Where to Be Reflective

One of the most important things I’ve learned is where reflective trim should go to be most visible to drivers. Shoulders, wrists, elbows, ankles, lower back, side seams of pants and skirts – all the best places. Collars and anything on the front, while there’s nothing wrong with that, tend to be less visible. I’ve made tons of lovely things that are covered up by long coats and scarves in the winter, so I really need to work on making outerwear!

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Patterns

I buy patterns from anywhere; I haven’t yet gotten around to drafting any of my own. I love the big companies, Simplicity, McCalls, Vogue, Butterick, New Look, and wait until they go on sale then buy in bulk. I have also bought patterns from some of the independent companies, and downloaded a few as well, but I don’t use too much of them. The designs tend to be a bit too vintage and sweet for me (I don’t do peter pan collars, for example), and honestly, downloading, printing, taping together and the trying to figure out which size lines to follow, well, it’s more work that I really care to do. I’m thrilled that these companies exist, and love the Colette sewing planner, but I personally want to sew things a bit more on trend.

When I choose patterns, I look for seam details that will easily allow for adding reflective details: back yokes, cuffs, side seams and extra seams, any sort of sleeve interest… Check out this McCalls pattern as an example:

McCalls 7357 - plenty of seams in the sleeves and a back yoke that could be reflective fabric. Or where piping or bias could sneak in.

McCalls 7357 – plenty of seams in the sleeves and a back yoke that could be reflective fabric. Or where piping or bias could sneak in.

Personally, I always struggle with finding patterns that are “corporate” enough for work; most of my sewing projects so far are a bit more “business casual” or “Friday casual.” I have done some things that don’t have any reflective trim at all, like the Simplicity 8166 blouse I finally started.

Reflective Fabric

This is the biggest challenge – where to source reflective fabric? It’s hard to find and usually expensive when I do find it. Mood Fabrics currently has some lovely reflective fabrics (check out the sequined fabric! I can’t tell if it’s “my” reflective or just reflective because of the sequins, but I may need to find out…), and Rockywoods is still selling the water repellent reflective camo nylon fabric I bought last year. I had purchased some silver reflective fabric from Britex Fabrics, in San Francisco, but they don’t carry it anymore, and Dritz Notions stopped making their reflective piping a while ago but Seattle Fabrics sells it. Wherever I find it, I buy it. However…. some of this fabric, as lovely and reflective as it is, has a few drawbacks – it’s heavy, it’s hard to sew, it doesn’t press, and most importantly, it doesn’t breathe! This is a problem for biking in the summer! So I place it with care, knowing that I’ll sweat like mad under wherever the fabric is, yokes, collars, etc. Natural fibers reflective fabric is no! Admittedly, lately I’ve made a few things that don’t easily suggest reflective pieces, so I’ve simply added a tab of reflective grosgrain ribbon – not terribly useful in terms of safety, but, well, I feel obligated…

Bikeability

The other challenge in sewing bike fashion is how bikeable garments are. Pencil skirts are a challenge, and the main reason why I wanted a step-through bike. I don’t mind hicking my skirt up further than is acceptable because I wear Jockey Skimmies Slipshorts or Bikie Girl Bloomers under skirts and dresses, but not being able to throw my leg over the top tube of my commuter bike is the challenge! Full skirts and circle skirts, on the other end of the spectrum, tend to be too much fabric for me, but half-circles, A-lines and similar skirt and dress styles are perfect. I also gravitate towards tops with longer backs; thankfully high-low tops and tunics are stylish these days! Jackets, blouses and other tops need to allow for extended arms, and I always lengthen sleeves anyway, so long sleeves don’t end up halfway up my elbows.

All Together Now

So as you might guess, there are many calculations that go into my reflective bike fashion sewing! Can I bike in the garment? Does the pattern offer easy places to add something reflective? What goes with my limited stash of reflective fabrics and notions? Will the fabric be weather-appropriate? Given all these things, it’s a wonder I get as much sewing done as I do!

As you set about on your reflective sewing projects, I hope that these tips and ideas help. And if you find any new sources for reflective fabric, please be sure to share! Happy sewing!

 

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Re-Introducing All (Four!) of My Bikes

As part of my five year anniversary month, I am going to re-introduce you to the key parts of my life – bicycles, sewing and travel. Today’s blog post will focus on the bicycles, since that’s really what got this all started.

Six years ago, I moved into my first Arlington, VA, apartment, and finally had space to keep a bicycle (in my living room), and found myself a block away from the Custis Trail, a multi-use trail that connects the eastern and western ends of Arlington. With a low budget bike, a birthday gift from my parents, I gradually explored my new neighborhood, and was amazed to discover how much easier it was to go further, faster. For years I’d been walking to a subway station or Metro station – gosh, a bike cut that walking time in half! I biked to the closest Metro station to catch my bus to Tyson’s Corner, where I was working at the time, but soon, that mile wasn’t far enough, so I biked to the next station after that, which meant not only did I get more miles in, I didn’t have to switch buses. Freedom! Adventure! Discovery! Happiness!

April 2011 - my first new bicycle!

April 2011 – Lacey, my first new bicycle!

Later that year, I met The Mechanic. We bonded over bicycles; his first (bike) love is mountain biking. Our second date was a bike maintenance date – he brought tools and showed me how to change tires and adjust brakes and so on. Long story short, we are now married with eight bicycles between us!

Over the years, I’ve experienced all kinds of biking – I did the Seagull Century on my road bike; we went bike camping along the C&O Canal; The Mechanic introduced me to mountain biking; we got folding bikes; we have done a few half centuries and other biking events; and we did a bike tour through Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

I have biked in snow, rain and sweltering heat, for my bike commute to work and on vacations and out of necessity. I don’t like to bike when it’s icy and when it’s snowed (mostly because the bike lanes are never cleared and I don’t trust drivers), when the temperatures are below 20*F, and although I don’t love to bike in the rain, my Cleverhood makes it manageable. I wouldn’t call myself a fair weather cyclist, because I do bike in all kinds of weather, but I definitely prefer the nicer days!

I recently acquired my fourth bike, so it seems like a good time to re-introduce you to my fleet.

Fauntleroy

Fauntleroy, or Little Lord Fauntleroy, to use his full name, is my current and beloved commuter bike. The Mechanic created him out of a bike he had built for himself and since the addition of my fabulous Danish bike basket and Swedish skirt guards, imported from our trip to Copenhagen in December 2012, I haven’t wanted to change a thing about it. So much so that although Fauntleroy desperately needs a new paint job, I can’t decide what color, so the paint gets more and more beat up. Guess I should go with the same color, haha! It’s a heavy bike, but has a super wide range of gears so I can easily climb the big hill coming home from work, and pick up some speed on the trails when I have a long stretch of no lights, stop signs or others on the trail. Seriously, I love everything about this bike.

January 2013, when we added the European accessories - hasn't changed since!

January 2013, when we added the European accessories – hasn’t changed since!

Sopwith

Sopwith is my mountain bike. The Mechanic built it up and I picked a vaguely Sopwith Camel color scheme; at the time, The Mechanic’s mountain bike was red, so he renamed it The Red Baron. The Mechanic added a nice touch for the head badge, and I started adding stars every time I go mountain biking. As you might guess, we haven’t done much of it. sopwith-1

Amsel

In the spring of 2016, almost a year ago, The Mechanic and I sold our road bikes and purchased folding bikes instead. We lost interest in road biking (although it was fun at the time!) and wanted bikes that we could travel with. As it turns out, our Tern and our Dahon are not as travel-friendly as Bromptons – bigger, heavier, less maneuverable…. But still brilliant for taking on the Metro and easier to toss in a rental car for day or weekend trips. I named mine Amsel, German for black bird, and The Mechanic named his Schwartzvogel, also German for black bird.  They take up little space, which means we are unlikely to get rid of them soon, even if we don’t use them as much.amsel

And Introducing Bletchley!

As much as I love Fauntleroy, his only drawback is the top tube – not as convenient for skirts and dresses. I have been on the fence about getting a step-through bike, but the vintage Raleigh bikes really catch my attention. Alas, they tend to be pretty small for my 5’10” frame, so finding one I could potentially fit has been a challenge (honestly, finding a modern made step-through bike big enough for me was a challenge as well). But recently The Mechanic found one on Craigslist, so a quick test ride and a few hundred dollars later, I had a “new” Raleigh! Internet research and Sheldon Brown’s resources determined that this new bike is a 1973 model of the Raleigh Sport. It’s in pretty good space, most likely owned by only one person in the last 44 years.

Introducing Bletchley!

Introducing Bletchley!

I absolutely love the details on these old Raleighs – the fork crown detail, the front fender, the logo and “R” on everything and the straight angled top tube design (as opposed to those with curved designs).

I decided to name the bicycle Bletchley, after Bletchley Park. Recently, I read a book about the thousands of women who worked at Bletchey during WWII and made invaluable contributions to winning the war. They rode bicycles probably quite similar, while working intense, secretive jobs and living in rented rooms and shoddily built dorms. This simple, classic, dignified bike will be my personal homage to those women who made a difference, and to all women who have and continue to do so. riding-bletchleyThe bike needs some updating and modifying – internally geared up, taller handle bar stem, new brakes, plus of course new accessories, so although I’ve ridden it a bit, it will be a while before it’s ready to be my commute bike. Initially I thought I’d replace Fauntleroy with a new step-through bike, but I find myself still unable to dismantle my perfect bike. So we’ll see what ends up happening to my fleet!

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Over the last six years, I’ve learned what I like and don’t like about bicycles, explored types of riding, and befriended the bicycle community. During that time, I’ve developed my own style and discovered my personal preference for slow, casual, explorative biking, with a bit of vintage style and whimsy thrown in. My bikes have to have personalities, with accessories to match, because as with many things in my life, a certain style is key, so how my bikes look is just as important as how it rides. I know it’s not that way for most people, but I’ve never been like most people – I definitely have my own style. And a preference for British names for my bikes, apparently! When I first asked for a bike for my birthday, I had no idea where the road would take me, and look at me now: owner of four bicycles and a closet full of #memade reflective bicycle-appropriate clothing. Never saw that coming.

So here is to the first six years of my bike style, my currently fleet of bikes, and here’s to whatever the future of my bike life brings!

victorian-lady-cyclist

Looking backwards while looking forwards!

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