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….

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?!?