Overcoming Anxieties and Returning to Biking

Okay, let’s try this again. It’s been at least *seven* months since I have regularly bike commuted to work, thanks to two major surgeries in that time period. I briefly started biking in the middle of that time period, right before the second, unexpected emergency surgery. After that, I tried really hard to not to ANYTHING to disrupt the healing process again (nope, not telling you what it was, sorry). And in that entire time period, as much as I missed biking, I began to get anxious about it.

Throughout the time I was off my bike, I had more time to read the news about pedestrian and cyclists injuries and fatalities here in the DC area. I also had plenty of time on buses and in Lyfts to observe drivers making a range of really dangerous decisions every single day. At the same time, electric scooters sprang from nowhere in our area, leading to litany of unsafe and reckless rider allegations. Nevermind the fact that the one fatality so far was a young man hit by a driver of a BMW – it’s those reckless kids on scooters that are the menace!

Somehow, being away from the bike lanes seemed to amplify all the dangers that come from not being in a car. It’s no wonder that people who don’t bike <ever – often- in a city> tell me that they are scared to try it. If I, a regular bike commuter for 8 years, can get anxious about returning to it after 7 months, of course someone who has never done it will be scared.

I am happy to report, however, that I biked three times this week and not only survived, I remembered how great it is! Somehow, in my head, the distances had seemed soooo much longer and seemed to take so much more effort. But my short 4 miles each way went smoother, quicker, and even safer than I’d built up in my head. I did start off slowly – Tuesday I biked to work then took the bus home. Wednesday I had a work event super early and i wouldn’t have biked anyway, but then my bike was waiting for me at the office so I could bike home. Instead, The Mechanic and I met up for bike date night – something else we haven’t done in ages. Friday I biked to AND from work for the first time since March. It all felt great!

I am sure our bikes enjoyed being out on the town together again!

Thursday, the remnants of Hurricane Michael swept through town, a rainy day I opted not to bike. But the following day, Friday, was surprisingly delicious cool, fall like temperatures, hooray! I was finally able to wear the reflective brocade bomber jacket I made ages ago but never got to wear on the bike. I paired it with a charcoal and yellow sweater vest I got last winter from Ann Taylor, and was impressed at how the colors looked together and on me. All of last fall and winter’s clothing was designed around my blonde hair, so I am sorting out what looks better on me-the-redhead. This was definitely a winning look!

I’m looking forward to my regular, consistent bike commutes again, now that I’ve taken the first steps back. Who cares that it’s just in time for cold, dark weather, haha?! It’s worth it. It makes me happy.

My Hunt for Perfection

I think that everyone hunts for perfection – whatever their perfect is, and however they strive for it. Thankfully, we all have our own definition of perfect, so we aren’t all hunting for the same thing. The world would be a very boring place if we were all the same, my mother says all the time!

My hunt for perfection is rather laser-focused on clothing, shoes and jewelry. Pretty self-centered, I admit. But what I’m hunting for is the perfect personal uniform, the wardrobe that I can go to, blindy grab something, and look exactly the way I want to look and feel perfectly comfortable. It’s part of the reason why I sew – I don’t find perfection on the clothing racks in the stores in the mall. What I want is different, so I make it myself. See my Instagram account for #reflectivefashion, #bikefashion, #Bikestyle….

Sadly, I’m not there yet. And my concept of perfect changes all the time – I am currently obsessed with the perfect pants shape, but what I like now is not what I liked a year or two ago. But I did just finish another pair of the Burda 6770 drapy pants in navy blue linen, and I think they are currently pretty close to perfect. (These Danskos are pretty perfect too – I just got them recently and I think I’ve worn them almost every day since.)

Here’s the wearable muslin in red chambray. I added 2″ to the length on the navy pair.

To prove to you that I can find perfection, though, I want to give you the best example: Fauntleroy, my bicycle. There is nothing on this bike that needs to change. I love everything about it. I love the look of it, the accessories, and the way I feel when I’m riding it. In fact, it’s so perfect, that the only thing I think I could possibly change is the paint job and even then, I really want to repaint it in exactly the same color. And it really needs to be repainted – perfection does need to be maintained, after all! But I’ve been dragging my feet over the color. In my world, not being able to decide means I don’t love something enough, so keep the status quo. I think that means Fauntleroy needs to stay the same light shade of blue. Of course, The Mechanic painted Fauntleroy this color ages ago with spray paint he picked out from Home Depot, so I don’t know if a real proper powder coating place will be able to match it. Fingers crossed that I’ll find something same-ish. It is somewhat ironic that I’m constantly hunting for THE perfect ____XXX_____ that I can wear and love forever, considering the fact that I also sew because I get bored with what I have and want to make newer and flashier and more perfect things! ??? But Fauntleroy is proof that someday, I’ll find exactly what I’m hunting for.

Am I the only one like this?!?

 

Sewing Bike Bloomers, Then and Now

I recently flew to Los Angeles and used my direct, 5+ hour flight to finish Bike and Bloomers: Victorian Women Inventors and Their Extraordinary Cycle Wear, by Kat Jungnickel. If you are at all interested in women bicycling, women’s fashion, fashion history, sewing, and/or equal rights for women, read this book NOW!

There is so much to unpack and process before Kat even gets into the details of the women’s cycle fashion patents that she and her team recreate that I think that will be an entirely different blog post. But let me try to summarize: Victorian women as well as Victorian men were excited by the independence and exhilaration that the new sport “bicycling” presented. However, centuries of assumptions that women were frail, unmechanical, non-sporty, homemakers, only good for having babies, and that their lower limbs should *never* be seen, presented a challenge for those early adopter women who wanted to bike in public. Kat used diaries and newsletters as well as information from the patents themselves to illustrate the nerve that was required for women to attempt to cycle in late 1880s and 1890s Britain. In her first chapter, she quotes a letter from Kitty J. Buckman in 1897 in which Kitty, a cycling fan, says that “… one wants nerves of iron.” (page 11).

ref=”https://tinlizzieridesagain.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=5876&#8243; rel=”attachment wp-att-5876″> Consider the politics of pockets in men’s clothing but not women’s[/ca

I don’t doubt it – society then was much less used to norms being flaunted, unlike now when our choices are plentiful (although not always well-received). The choices faced by Victorian women when it came to cycling appear to have been: simply don’t; bike in corsets and long skirts; wear Rational Dress, the new and radical women’s fashion movement that rejected tight-laced corsets and layers of hoops and petticoats; or adapt or create something entirely new. Although some of the women Kat quotes in her book were comfortable in their Rational Dress, they recognized that not all women were.  So they invented and patented outfits that made them look like ordinary Victorian women while biking safely (no long full skirts to get caught anywhere!), even while they were amazing, barrier-breaking wonder women.

This is the part where I get excited – I am totally inspired to make some Victorian women cyclist-inspired clothes. My long-time goal with sewing is to make clothing that works on the bike and in the office, without having to change upon arrival, without wearing spandex, and without looking “sporty.” Thankfully I live and bike in a time when I have choices – I can bike to work in gym clothes, traditional bike “kit” including padded shorts, a dress, jeans, skirts or whatever I like. That’s not to say that I won’t be judged for whatever I wear, because of course I will be – judging women based on their appearance is an international pastime now as it was then. But society has come to accept women in pants, jeans, and sports – even if we still have a long way to go, we can thank the women in Kat’s book for breaking down barriers for us.

ttps://tinlizzieridesagain.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=5865″ rel=”attachment wp-att-5865″> Check out this casual lady cyclist, gesturing with one hand as she tells her lady cyclist companion a story. I *love* this so much.

[/caption]But back to sewing. Although there are plenty of examples of “the ideal lady cyclist” in bloomers and blazer, what I really love are all the skirts designed to allow “bifurcation,” ie, two separate pant legs. Women invented ways to quickly and creatively convert their skirts into something bike-friendly, then just as quickly back into something that looked socially acceptable to bystanders. This is something I complete understand, although I realize that not everyone does. I don’t want to look like a “cyclist,” I want to look like a normal person who happens to get around by bike.

://tinlizzieridesagain.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=5867″ rel=”attachment wp-att-5867″> This design made me immediately think of the Folkwear Big Sky pattern.

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/tinlizzieridesagain.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=5868″ rel=”attachment wp-att-5868″> This Big Sky Riding Skirt pattern looks like it would fit perfectly on a Victorian woman’s London bicycle.

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inlizzieridesagain.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=5866″ rel=”attachment wp-att-5866″> Another convertible skirt-culottes design![/caption]Since

Since culottes have been having a moment this year, mainstream stores from Ann Taylor to Anthropology have been showing wide-legged pants cropped at various lengths, and I love my culottes, I was pleased to see that some of the designs look like modern culottes. I first made Vogue 9091 because it looks like a skirt but is “bifurcated” (the word makes me giggle, I can’t say it with a straight face), which makes it perfect for me. I made my first pair in raspberry linen in 2015 and another pair in navy suiting gabardine the following year, and I wear them pretty frequently in the summer. Every time I wear them, I remember how much I love them.

zzieridesagain.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=5869″ rel=”attachment wp-att-5869″> Fabulous office bathroom selfie… but I love this outfit, too, so I don’t care!

Since read

[/caption]Since reading this book, I’ve been eyeing all the sewing patterns out there to make something a bit more “skirt” and a bit less “trousers,” and I think I recently found something that might be exactly what I want – the Megan Nielsen Tania pattern. This pattern offers not only different “skirt” lengths but two different fullnesses, so the sewist can pick how much like a skirt she wants her culottes to appear. And shortly after I became obsessed with this pattern, I saw that COS has an almost identical pair of culottes on their website! Guess I’ll be super chic when I make mine.

ridesagain.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=5870″ rel=”attachment wp-att-5870″> So excited about this pattern!

I like these other patterns as well – this is just a sample from the McCall Pattern Company family, but many other pattern companies have made culotte patterns as well. As much as I like these, I’m more obsessed with the Tania skirt-culotte style – it seems like more of a secret, don’t you think?

Although fall and cooler temperatures are on the way, I still want to make the Tania culottes. I think that out of a heavier yet still drapy fabric, maybe with a lining, they can still be a perfect office option – no one will know that my nice navy “skirt” is actually *pants* that allow me to easily swing my leg over my bike’s top tube and not crumple the fabric on that same piece of bike frame. Similarly to the way some Victorian women wished to appear that they were wearing skirts when they were off the bike, I too wish to appear to wear a skirt when I get off my bike. And now when I wear my culottes, and whatever else I feel like wearing when I ride my bike, I will think of those women who paved the way with their bike fashion patents, and sit up a bit straighter – no corset required.

Channeling my inner Victorian cyclist in the first pair of culottes I made in 2015!

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Sometimes Biking Isn’t the Car-Free Answer

Longtime readers of my blog know that it started off talking about biking, biking as a woman, biking while trying to stay fashionable, and making biking safer and more accessible. Over the years, my sewing has taken a larger role and some of the biking-as-transportation topics have dropped away. Although there are multiple reasons for the slow shift, lately, the reason why I haven’t been blogging about biking is because I simply haven’t been. Major surgery at the end of March kept me off my bike for almost three months, then emergency surgery three weeks ago put a stop to my slow increase back into the bike commuting world. It’s frustrating to not be able to bike.

This is what my commute should look like – my bike at the rack at work.

I suppose that most people now are thinking, “Oh, so you are driving to work instead.” Well, no. I don’t own a car. I haven’t had a car since 1999. And although The Mechanic now has a truck, A) it’s his hobby truck B) it’s a “vintage” fixer-upper C) it’s a manual transmission. I did learn on a manual transmission as a 15 year old but haven’t driven stick shift in 30-ish years, so I’m not exactly going to beg to borrow his car to get to work. Instead, I’ve been taking the bus. And Lyft. And I’ve been eyeing those dockless e-scooters that are popping up all over the area. I’m telling you, *those* are a game-changer.

Taking the bus to work is actually a pretty pleasant, convenient commute option. There’s a bus stop a few blocks from our house, and two blocks from my office. I’ve always managed to get a seat, although the buses do tend to fill up. I read the news (depressing) and Twitter (also depressing), post on Instagram, delete unwanted emails, write emails, and obsessively plan future sewing projects. Can’t do that on a bike.

But it’s not ideal. Buses don’t run all the time, and even when they do, you are still shackled to the timetable. No jumping on the bike and going whenever you feel like it. I don’t know what’s going on lately with the driver but I am getting seasick from all the herky-jerky driving, ugh. And I gotta be honest – there have been a few crazy people on the bus. Nothing like a relaxing ride home with the wild-eyed guy in the back cussing up a storm to no one in particular.

Never seen this before – a screen that rotates through camera views *inside* the bus – smile, your commute is on candid camera!

So I’ve been eyeing the dockless e-scooters like Bird and Lime. These electric scooters function similarly to dockless bikeshare – you download an app, agree to a bunch of stuff, enter a credit card, then use the app to locate the closest scooter. Because they are dockless, they can be found and left anywhere – preferably someplace responsible, please, and not the middle of the sidewalk! In April, the Washington Post reviewer said she couldn’t ever see a reason to use them and wasn’t sure anyone else could either. Well, I’m here to give you a reason.

Current and potential commute options

Post-surgery, I’m not allowed to bike, so even electric bikes, docked or dockless, are not an option. Riding the bus is getting on my nerves. I don’t have a personal car option. Lyft is too expensive for a regular commute and if I wanted to ride with other people in a Lyft Line or UberPool, well, I’ll take the bus. However…. an e-scooter is really appealing. I could just stand and let the scooter’s tiny motor get me where I need to go. And I could wear a pencil skirt.

I think the limited amount of effort required to make an e-scooter work is exactly what could make them so much more accessible by people who can’t or won’t bike. Older people, people with balance issues, people with certain mobility issues, people who don’t want to sweat on their way to work – all possible e-scooter users. We in the transportation industry who want to see fewer cars on the road need to find ways to reach beyond the brave, athletic, committed ones and I think e-scooters could be a solution.

Dockless bike saddle share?

Obviously there are many things that e-scooters can’t do, like haul three kids to school the way an e-cargo bike can, but that’s okay. It’s just one more option in the toolkit of carfree living. Because having a range of transportation options for all your different needs means having the flexibility to live without a car. Now we just need a single app to rule them all, Helsinki-style.

I haven’t yet tried an e-scooter but as they move into Arlington, I’m sure I’ll test one out sooner rather than later. I’ll let you know how it goes. It could be my non-bike car free answer.

Back to Biking, At Last!

Last week I finally started biking to work again, three months after my surgery. It felt really good to clean off the bike and get a few miles in. Rather than jump back into my 8 miles round trip immediately, I broke up the commutes, so I biked TO work on Tuesday, rode the bus home, then to work on Wednesday, then biked FROM work on Wednesday; repeat on Thursday and Friday. My muscles started complaining almost right away on Tuesday, so I’m glad I did that. It doesn’t matter than I only did half day commutes because I was just so happy to be biking again. And it’s not just that I haven’t been able to bike while recovering from surgery, it’s because I hadn’t enjoyed biking to work much at all in the months before the surgery. Frankly, I was privately grateful to have an excuse to *not* bike. Turns out that I am not alone in my loss of bike love. Jools Walker, aka Lady Velo, is a bike blogger, fashionista and expert in London, and someone I greatly admire. She recently blogged about how she had recently biked for the first time in six months. She had lost her love of biking – the thing her persona is so much a part of. Jools wrote a thing called “anhedonia,” which, like her, I hadn’t heard of before.  It’s basically losing interest in the things you love and a symptom of major depressive disorder. For her, being able to identify this and connect it to depression and anxiety she’d felt earlier, made something click. Allowing herself to name it also opened her up to wanting to do it again. Jools wrote that she finally realized that she had needed the break from cycling and that she shouldn’t beat herself up for it, and I think she’s right. I also think that I too needed a break from cycling.

I also didn’t want to admit that I didn’t feel like biking, and used my crazy work schedule to excuse my bus riding, then the surgery was the perfect cover. I probably could have started biking again sooner post-op but had a bit of anxiety around it – too  many days of reading about the horrible things that can ruin a simple, fun bike ride and I began to get a bit worried that I wouldn’t like it or be too scared. But something snapped, and the desire to bike again suddenly reared up and grabbed me. I’m glad and relieved that it did, because I had four days last week of just *happy* bike rides.

Fauntleroy at work again!

I feel like I’ve had a lot going on so maybe my schedule wore me out and wore me down, and biking was one less thing to worry about. Ironic, considering all the research and personally knowledge about how much happier I am when I’m exercising consistently. But I felt more in control last; there’s much to be said for being able to jump on my bike whenever, rather than racing to the bus stop to catch the bus.

I got a bit more inspiration on Saturday when I went to Clarendon and stumbled upon the Armed Forces Cycling Classic Clarendon Cup pro women’s bike race. I was early for my hair appointment so I watched them do laps for a while. It was inspiring and made me a bit wistful for my road bike and high speed cycling.

Happy Biking!

My bike commute to work isn’t anything like a pro cycling race but the feeling of euphoria is the same (okay, similar). I’m glad I had all that time off from my bike, because now I can feel free to love it again, and not dread it or feel anxious about not doing it when I felt like I should have been loving it all along.  I’m glad we had the break, but now it’s time for summer biking! And Jools – I hope your mojo comes back for you, that the slow burn becomes a steady (manageable) roar that makes you happy and content.

Three Reasons Why May is My Favorite Month

May is my favorite month of the year. I’m a bit biased, of course, since my birthday is in May, as are the birthdays of many friends, my dad (who randomly has the exact same birthday – day and year – as The Mechanic’s dad. What are the chances of that?!??!), and some wedding anniversaries. But those aren’t the only reasons.

1. Birthday Books

Okay, I will start with my birthday and be blatantly self-centered. Aren’t birthday presents fun, though? I got two really cool books this year and I have to share them with you. Okay, one I bought for myself. My copy of Bikes and Bloomers by Kat Jungknickel arrived, hurray (blogged about last month)!

Reading on the bus with my Ulster Weavers tote bag

I haven’t gotten too far in yet but was surprised to see that over a century ago, Butterick Pattern Company produced women’s bicycling patterns! I wonder if they can find them in the archives and reprint them. Then I got a surprise package from my friend in Germany, with a wonderful sewing book! Trying to translate both the language and the metrics will be excellent practice to get my language skills back up a bit.

“Now I sew for me” = direct translation. Not sure that’s how a German would say it!

2. National Bike Month

National Bike Month is celebrated across the US every May. During this time, Bike to Work Day and Week is celebrated and National Safe Routes to School hosts Bike and Walk to School Day. Watching all the kids, especially at the elementary level, arrive at school on their small, brightly colored and well-decorated bikes is one of my favorite days of the month and year. Bike to Work Day is a second favorite in May. I love the excitement and energy that surrounds something as fun as biking and it always makes me feel better about my chosen mode of transportation. (Caveat: I’m still healing from surgery and not yet biking <sad face>.) 3. Me Made May

Me Made May is a fun challenge started by sewing blogger Zoe to encourage people who sew, crochet, knit, and otherwise craft things to wear, to actually wear them, and to love them. I didn’t actually sign up this year but I’m participating anyway. I like the opportunity to analyze what I’ve made and figure out what the holes might be – and we never have the right thing to wear, amiright?! Beyond realizing how badly I need another way to get photos of my outfits other than my work restroom (eek!), I realize that my weekend wardrobe is a bit lame. And I need more plain white tops. Here’s a sampling of the first two weeks; follow me on Instagram @earletted as I keep it up for the rest of the month.

So basically May is a celebration of two of my favorite things, sewing and biking. What is your favorite month, and why?

 

PS – Another thing I love about May around here are the azaleas. Gosh they are so pretty! The colors are so vivid and bright and dense, and I just love them.

 

Reviving Victorian Women’s Bicycle Fashion

Through the magic (!!!) of Twitter, I discovered a revival in Victorian women’s bicycle fashion. Yes, Dear Readers, it’s true – someone out there is biking around London in Victorian women’s bicycle fashions. As a historian (okay, two degrees in history, even if I don’t do that for my daily job), bicycle rider and sewist of reflective bicycle clothing, I couldn’t be more excited about this!

Dr. Kat Jungnickel is a sociologist at Goldsmiths, University of London, and has recently come out with a book that explores how Victorian women adapted their clothing as they adopted the freedom of the new-fangled bicycle. I ordered it but it hasn’t arrived – I’ll update you once I’ve read it. But better than just research and write about this topic, she’s *recreated* some of the clothing AND made the patterns available for free! <squee!!!> Best part is – the patterns were inspired by patents that Victorian women themselves invented and lodged. How cool is that?! Women’s bike style, now AND then! Inspiration for all of us now.

I hope Ms. Barnes doesn’t mind me sharing her photo from the Telegraph – it’s too wonderful to not share!

Some of the clothing has been created with Dashing Tweeds tweed – yes, the reflective stuff! Check it out in her Tweet.  One of the skirts converts to a cape as well, predating Cleverhood by over 100 years. Check out the article in the Telegraph for photos and more details. Not only are there some great photos by Charlotte Barnes, there are images of the original patents. Dr. Jungnickel also wrote an article for the Guardian that has examples of other patents, so you get a good idea of what was invented and what she’s had recreated. I also love the photo in the article in The Argus, because you can see the fun printed bloomers under the model’s skirt.

In the Guardian, Dr. Jungnickel shared this 1895 patent by Alice Bygrave (photo by Handout) – how cool is this?!?

Dr. Jungnickel is doing a book tour in costume and although I doubt she’ll make it to Washington, DC, or even New York, I’d sure love to meet her and talk to her about her research and costumes.

While I was reading about Dr. Jungnickel’s book, I found two other books that are related, sort of. The first is a book called Bicycles, Bloomers and Great War Rationing Recipes: The Life and Times of Dorothy Peel, OBE. The review doesn’t say much about the bicycles and bloomers part of the title, but if it’s looking at how society changed, bloomers and bicycles are an obvious place to start. The other book is titled Fashioning the Victorians by Rebecca N. Mitchell. A “critical sourcebook,” this pulls together primary sources to examine how fashion changed Victorians and vice versa. This is 100% a topic that I love so I’ll no doubt get my hands on this sometime soon as well.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (as my dad always says), I threw together some bicycle fashion of my own this past weekend. I decided I needed a basic gray skirt so I pulled out some unwanted cotton/poly twill (ordered online and the color wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be) and my trusty Kwik Sew 3877 A-line skirt pattern and cranked it out. I lined it in light blue and of course added reflective piping to the side seams. I love how easy this pattern is, and how surprisingly flattering it is. The twill seems to coordinate with several tops I’ve made, so hopefully I’ll get a ton of use out of it. Wish I’d added pockets though – I always regret it after I decide against it.

Pretty basic – sorta like a flight attendant’s skirt…

“Signature” bicycle trio stitch

Lined in light blue

It’s not surprising to learn that Victorian women invented their own ways of managing their long dresses and skirts on bicycles; humans are extremely creative and adaptive. It’s so refreshing to see their designs  and know that they were trying to solve the same problems that many of the rest of us are working on – how to combine a sport we love with the styles we love. But I’m grateful that we don’t have to work around long wool skirts and corsets!

A la francaise – new skirt worn with Ligne 8 striped jersey purchased from Bike Pretty and Cole Haan oxfords – and a rhinestoned beret to add extra flare!

Cold Weather Biking and Sewing

Oh my goodness it has been cold!

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Temperatures in the teens and “real feel” temps in the single digits and lower – I’m sure we’ve had this weather in the years since I moved to the East Coast, but I can’t remember when. I’ve lived in New York City and the Washington DC area since I moved from Sacramento, CA at the end of 1999, but I still haven’t acclimated to these cold temperatures.

Because of this, over the years, I’ve slowly added warmer and less fashionable clothing to my collection. I’m in awe of the women who can wear cute flats and no socks or skirts with tights and boots in these temperatures, but I can’t do it. I need thermal underwear and down coats. I can’t wear wool so I have to manage in synthetics and I love the Lands End Thermaskins – no, not paid by them to say that! But no matter what I do, I still can’t keep my fingers and toes warm.

So this year I broke down and bought a pair of sheepskin-lined boots. The Mechanic talked me out of getting boots with a synthetic fur, because real sheepskin would be warmer. After much research, I finally about a pair of Ugg Niels motorcycle boots. I think it’s the most money I’ve ever spent on a pair of shoes! But I have to say, my toes have been so warm!

Okay, confession – I haven’t been biking in this extreme cold. Seriously, I can’t. Props to those who do!

I have done a bit of sewing, though. I spontaneously made a new tee shirt with some Spoonflower fabric I ordered ages ago. I had intended it to be a Breton shirt, but thought this would work out better with the yellow striped knit as the sleeves, back and neckband. I love it and can’t wait to wear it – months from now, when it’s warm again!

Kwik Sew 4027 – the third time I’ve made this! I think it’s getting closer to perfect as I tweak it each time.

I also finally basted the muslin of the McCalls 7667 coat I’m dying to make. I made it out of a corduroy fabric I’d ordered then didn’t like once it arrived, which means I don’t like the muslin and won’t finish it as a wearable coat. I hate to share photos of it, but I actually am really happy about how it fits. A bit more length in the sleeves and it will be perfect. I can’t wait to cut this out of the real fabric! With reflective tweed collar, sleeves and back belt, I hope this will be my best winter coat. I decided to play along with Instagram’s #2018MakeNine challenge. I hope I make more than nine things this year though! I am sort of obsessed with outerwear right now, since reflective details seem to make more sense than on winter dresses and so on. So after I make the coat above, I plan to make a brocade bomber with reflective trim and then this Simplicity 8055 coat is calling to me – I think the front and back yoke is perfect for reflective fabric. I’m in love with the Nell Shirt by indie company A Verb for Keeping Warm, and everyone seems to swear by the Vogue 8772, so of course I need to try that as well. The McCalls pants remind me of my high school years in the late 80s but I somehow still want to make them. The McCalls 6742 dress has the perfect seaming for some fun reflective detail, as does the Deer and Doe Azara skirt. I should try to make all these things coordinate, if I was smart. The weather is supposed to be warming up a tad (thank goodness!) and I can’t wait to get back to biking. What are you looking forward to this year?

Reflective Gift Ideas

‘Tis the season to think about holiday gifts *and* being more visible, as we approach the longest, darkest days of winter. As a fan of all things reflective, I thought I would share two businesses making some really great reflective accessories that are perfect for gift giving – and hey, who says you can’t give yourself?!

First up is Firefly Reflectors, a company started by two Swedish women living in New York. They specifically created their company to help people be stylish as well as visible. I ordered several of their adorable and fun soft reflectors from them a few years ago for gifts and for me. But now, they’ve expanded quite a bit and now have gorgeous tassels, stickers, clips and even accessories like charms and D-rings. It’s so fun to build a key chain with a D-ring, add an initial charm, and then pick a tassel color. The problem is, I can’t decide on just one color! And then, which bag would it go on? This calls for serious consideration before purchasing.

Leopard print, the perennial classic, even as a reflective tassel! (image from http://www.shop-firefly.com)

A new discovery for me is Reflective Society, a small business in Portland run by the talented and creative Iris Vondell. Iris was inspired to start her collection of reflective accessories when she was hit by a car while on her bicycle. Recovered, inspired and determined, she turned her sewing and knitting hobbies into pins, earrings and necklaces made with 3-M fabrics and reflective yarn. A woman after my own heart! I love that she’s worked out how to stamp the images on the fabric. An early childhood educator by training and a lover of the out-of-doors, nature themes pop up frequently on her pieces; she even said a bunny is on her list (of course I asked!).

I couldn’t resist asking Iris a few questions about her art and she was gracious enough to tell me some details. She admitted that it took years of testing and prototyping and hunting for sources before she found things that work best. Iris also said that moving to Portland in 2014 really kicked off her line, as she found people who understand and appreciate what she is doing. Iris’s collection of button earrings, small and large buttons, bolo ties, pendants and earrings make perfect small gifts for anyone. I think her collection could do really well here in the DC area, so I need to figure out how to lure her to town some day. In the meantime, I ordered a few things from her, and promise to show them off when they arrive.

These two different companies have enough different styles to fit the tastes of everyone, so you should be able to find some last-minute small gifts for anyone on your list. Remember, you don’t need to be a cyclist to benefit from reflective accessories – everyone walks!

 

Helmet Hair – The Struggle Is Real

I am a low-maintenance hair person. I really don’t want something that takes too long to mess with, requires a ton of products and equipment, but I still want something that looks good when I take my bike helmet off. I’ve had short hair in a range of lengths since I chopped off my waist-length hair in junior high, not because I want something easy, purely because I’m vain. I just look better with short hair. Consider, then, the irony of ending up with a hairstyle that requires 15 minutes to properly style, plus hairspray, and being 100% okay with it because I LOVE IT so much.

My hair stylist is a genius. (She also took this photo – still a genius)

I’ve switched up my routine for this hair style – I now curl it at work, so I can wear my helmet in the morning and not smush the hair. This is important, especially on days I have client meetings. I want to look good, and smushed curls are not the “good” I’m going for. I didn’t really quite appreciate how much this hairstyle has changed my attitude on wearing a bike helmet until recently, when I really loved how it turned out, and didn’t want to put my helmet on to bike home.

Curl mastery – before putting on my bike helmet at the end of the day.

I was only going home, so it shouldn’t have mattered, and yet, this particular day, I felt especially pained by having to smush my hair. I didn’t consider not biking home because of it, but I would definitely reconsider biking TO work, if I couldn’t do my hair once I get to work. So there I was, suddenly realizing that I was letting my hair dictate my commute mode.

I love my Nutcase helmet but I may love my hair more…. #vain

Okay, to be fair, it didn’t look terrible when I got home 25 minutes later.

Slightly flattened curls. Not bad, I guess.

So it was with great awareness and recent experience that I was interested to read a pair of BikeArlington’s recent blog posts about a study they recently conducted for Arlington County’s Master Transportation Plan Bicycle Element Survey. Arlington is polling people to see what they think about bike lanes. (You have to download the report, but don’t worry, you’ll get awesome emails from BikeArlington in exchange!) Of the 1206 people they spoke with, 89% reported wanting to bike more often. Yay! Fitness ranks high on the list of why people do bike, but biking taking more time also ranks pretty high for why they don’t do it more often. (People, think of it as spending less time in the gym! You’ll come out ahead, I promise.) There are a lot of really good details in this report, most of which has to do with existence (or lack thereof) of bike lanes, and I strongly encourage you to read it. Although this is Arlington, VA, specific, I’m sure the responses are not much different than you’d find elsewhere.

More like this, please!

What I found most interesting is the list of barriers that prevent people from walking and biking more. Of the women polled, concerns about appearance ranked high on the list of reasons why they do *not* bike to work. I hear this frequently as well, especially if a company does not have showers, a decent sized restroom, or a culture that supports biking and making looking a little less than 100%. I know I’m spoiled at my job, where many of us bike and finish our looks at work. We have to look just as professional as the executives we work with, so it is important to us as well.

Bunny bike style! Hated the way my helmet made my hair flip out, though.

I know that Arlington has less control over what individual companies or buildings do compared to the control they have over installing new bike lanes. And because so many respondents want more and better protected bike lanes, I hope that Arlington moves forward with plans to put in what the residents clearly want. But more importantly, I hope that planners and designers and company leaders and everyone realize that if we want to get more women on bikes, the helmet hair struggle is real. It’s not something that should be dismissed or belittled.

Ugh, I can see here how my bike helmet is smashing my hair here. #dislike

If I, who bikes pretty regularly and proudly, reconsider it because of my hair, think about what someone might think who has *never* tried biking to work. I know, from experience, how great it makes me feel, how much easier it is to be traveling on my own time frame and power, and how much more community spirit I feel from biking past the same houses and businesses every day. I am willing to have less than perfect hair (and a bit of sweat) for the benefits I receive from biking. So how do we get women to enjoy the same experience? I guess I’d say build more bike lanes.