Guest Blogger: The Return of Oanh

The first guest post by Oanh was a runaway favorite, so I’m glad I can bring you Part Two of her originally longer post. This half is about sewing. Oanh is definitely a better seamstress than I am, so I follow her blog and Instagram to see what lovely things she’s made next. She, like me, loves adding reflective details to her sewing projects; I am so happy to find a kindred spirit! And I love how her life has come full circle, first with her parents sewing for a factory, now sewing herself as well as working as a lawyer in support of such workers. This is a powerful story.

Sewing I’m sort of new-ish to, and sort of not.  I grew up in a household of ‘outworkers’: my parents sewed T-shirts for a factory (through multiple middle-men down the contracting chain/network).  They were paid a pittance for their work, which was often rushed and urgent.  I remember waking many mornings to discover that my parents and older siblings had worked through the night.  I helped out, too; I folded and bundled and my smaller fingers and better eyesight meant that I threaded the machines.  My sisters and I would also use the fabric scraps to make a million scrunchies.  I made bags when I got older, and I wore clothing made from the fabric scraps when I was younger. My family very much wanted to leave all the sewing work behind; it is symbolic of the early life we led in Australia, struggling to make enough money to live on and feed so many mouths. I know my parents were prepared to work for anything at all, but my paid work now (I’m a lawyer) is striving to ensure those in a similar situation are paid fairly for their labour, have safe working conditions and their health is not damaged by the work. My parents suffered from myriad respiratory and physical complaints, many of which were directly attributable to the sewing work.  Knowing how to sew was always in my head, and I spent a lot of thinking time on how to modify my clothes because they did not fit me (too long, too tight in the thighs etc) or lacked things that I wanted (like reflective-ness and pockets..)  I rarely got around to making the modifications, however.

Here Oanh models the reflective trim she added to her vest as well as her reflective cycling cuffs. See her instructions here.

Here Oanh models the reflective trim she added to her vest as well as her reflective cycling cuffs. See her instructions here. She mentioned to me that she also made a reflective scrunchie – I see a huge market for those!

One day, after I returned to Australia from our bike trip, I decided I should stop thinking and start doing, so I bought a sewing machine.  I’ve since become obsessed and sewing is now a prime hobby (almost displacing reading …) and an unshakeable part of my life.

I’m loving making my own clothes, because I hate shopping and I don’t much like the fashion industry.  To that end, I don’t know that much about what the women’s cycling clothing market is like in Australia.  Nor the sports gear market. I am also a hiker but I really don’t know what the hiking clothing market is like, either … a bit useless, aren’t I?  I dare say: very few are designing in Australia, and even fewer are making in Australia.  Most clothing is ‘pricey’ in Australia for a variety of reasons (smaller market, value of the Aus dollar comparative, higher cost of living in Aus, cost of importation etc).  I have some major issues about the balance between the cost of clothing production (particularly workers being paid a fair price for their labour) with the cost that we as consumers are prepared to pay (or are perceived to be prepared to pay) for clothing – whether it is technical or casual or formal.  This post would become even longer if I delved into this issue but let me end with this: Cycling is my preferred mode of transport because I want to live a low-impact-on-this-earth life (simple, green, sustainable etc); making my own (and some of my partner’s) clothes ties in with that ambition.  Making my clothes exactly how I want them, for everything that I might want to do in them, is a motivating bonus!

Oanh's a-ma-zing Belladone dress, with reflective trim!

Oanh’s a-ma-zing Belladone dress, with reflective trim!

I’m in awe of someone who does so much biking, such great sewing, strives to live a low-impact life, and works to improve the lives of others. Oanh, it’s been great to have you as a guest blogger! Thank you so much for your words!

I hope you have enjoyed reading about how other women bike and sew! I hope to bring more posts like this to you throughout the year. Stay tuned!

Guest Blogger: Oanh in Australia

A special treat! A guest post from fellow bike-and-sewing blogger Oanh, from Melbourne, Australia!  Oanh and I connected over our mutual love of bikes and sewing reflective clothing, and she’s the one who helped hook me up with the super cool reflective fabric last month. I asked her to write about biking and sewing; I am always interested in what biking is like in other countries, as well as what other people who bike sew, and I hope you are too. Follow her blog, and check her out on Twitter. Here’s the first part, about biking (mostly):

I have my first guest posting gig.  I should be famous any day now.  Thank you, Tin Lizzie, for inviting me to ramble on about biking in Melbourne, Australia to your readers, wherever they are.

So, a little about me.  I’m Oanh (it is pronounced like the number one, if you have an Australian accent. Oanh, one, won are all phonemes in my ears and if they’re not for you … any variation on how you say one or won will probably make me respond.)  I blog over at about whatever takes my fancy, and the thing that currently takes my fancy is SEWING.  But I have rather a lot of hobbies, and one of them is also RIDING MY BICYCLE, which together with sewing is how I came to find Tin Lizzie and her awesome reflective Tron dress.  I love Lizzie’s obsession with making reflective clothing because it is also my obsession.

In my mind, I’m new to cycling, but in reality I’m not.  I keep forgetting that I’m actually quite experienced.  I just counted on my fingers and I’ve been riding a bicycle as my primary and preferred mode of transport for 7 years.  Currently, I lie a little when I say the bike is my primary mode of transport, because I live in Australia and it’s a big place and my job gave me a car that I have to use to get to a number of different places in and around Melbourne which if I went by bicycle would mean that I was cycling for most of the day and still not at a site in time for a meeting (but boy, would I be having fun).  So, I drive much more than I would like but I consider the bicycle my preferred mode.  I also lived in the UK from beginning of 2007 until end of 2010, which is when I became a cyclist.  There, I pretty much rode my bicycle everywhere.  When we left the UK, my partner and I intended to ride our bikes back to Australia.  We did not quite make it – we wriggled and wended our way around Europe and Morocco for 8 months instead.  We wrote a fairly detailed blog, which if you’ve got lots of spare time, you should totally waste some of it over there:

Oanh in Montenegro - doesn't that look like perfection?!

Oanh in Montenegro – doesn’t that look like perfection?!- TinLizzie

Basically, I’m a travel and commuter cyclist.  I don’t race and I definitely do not do any crazy-ass downhill mountain bike riding.  Matter of fact, I’ve been known to walk my bike downhill because it’s just too scary (for me).  For my cycling purposes I have two bikes: my Santos tourer and a Trek Belleville, which is my commuter bike.  Both are actually in the same kind of ‘market’, they are built to carry STUFF, riding posture is mostly upright and both have wheels that can take most terrain (although the Santos has fat tyres which can take all terrain and I have extreme discomfort riding the Belleville on non-paved surfaces as it seems she handles them badly but it is probably the case that I was spoiled by the Santos’ excellent handling of unpaved surfaces.)  Actually, the Santos spoiled me for every other bicycle: she handles beautifully, she was fitted to shorty-pants me and she’s blue.  I bought the Belleville because I could rarely lock up the Santos and leave her.  I know she’s just a bike but I’d be devastated if someone stole her.  So now I have a bike that I can ride most places, lock up and leave and be philosophical about if anyone steals her.

I live in Melbourne in Australia, which is probably the most bike-friendly city in Australia, but that’s not saying much.  Australia is a very car-oriented culture.(see reference 1)  Unlike the UK, most adults in Australia have a driving license and probably own a car.(reference 2 and 3)  All of our infrastructure is made with driving in mind, and the distances between places, when one is not in the inner city, can be vast.  I’ve never been to the United States, but I suspect we are similar in that respect.  Where I live in Melbourne – its inner northern suburbs – is probably among Melbourne’s most bikey areas and the route that I travel to work is along a creek trail and along Melbourne’s ‘bicycle highway’ – Canning Street.

I looked it up, and lots of bike shops popped up too. I've been to Melbourne, but ages ago, and long before I was interested in bikes.

I looked it up, and lots of bike shops popped up too. I’ve been to Melbourne, but ages ago, and long before I was interested in bikes. Of course I’d love to go back! – TinLizzie

The cyclists that I see when I’m riding run the full gamut of bicycling fashion, from full lycra riding kits (some of them are even wearing bibs, for which I do hope they have a nice long ride) to lovely looking lasses in dresses and heels, and dapper lads in suits.  Each rides to their own ability, their bike and their dress, although I’ve seen any number of well-dressed-in-normal-clothes women overtake huffing and puffing lycra-clad men.

I myself tend towards a halfway house of lycra plus normal.  I’d love to wear whatever I would wear for work that day on my bike but a couple of things stop me.  Australia is often hot and I always arrive at work sweaty.  Slowing down doesn’t work for me – I ride at my pace and I like riding fast if I can (which is not to say I’m a fast rider; but the fun of a bicycle is the feeling of speed, and I’m not going to slow down to preserve my prettiness because that’s fairly low down on my priorities).  I don’t really want to ruin my work clothes because I don’t have a lot – nor do I want a lot – of clothes.  I’m notoriously good at getting fabric caught in chains, rubbing my calf against exposed metal bits and greasy bike chains and just generally getting dirty.  I cannot stand it when my clothes restrict me, so the trousers that I can happily wear at work give me knee resistance and I don’t like it.  It’s just easier if I wear bike shorts (summer) or leggings (winter*).  I need bike leggings, and I intend to make myself some but I just haven’t got around to it yet.

* We do not get truly cold in Melbourne, Aus.  As in,there is rarely frost on the ground. Cycling in winter is my favourite.  Australia’s danger is our hot summers and Melbourne has hot, dry, and extremely windy, summers.  I cycle much less in our hot season than in our cold season.

Reference 1: In 2012, “approximately 7 in 10 people (71%) aged 18 years and over travelled to work or full time study primarily by passenger vehicle, similar to 2009 (72%). This could have been either as a passenger or a driver. Only 16% of Australians used public transport, while 4% walked and 2% cycled.” See Australian Bureau of Statistics ‘CarNation’ 

Reference 2: At the time of the 2014 Motor Vehicle Census (MVC), there were 17.6 million motor vehicles, including Motor cycles, registered in Australia. (ABS)

 Reference 3: 30 June 2010, Australia’s population increased by 377,100 people, reaching 22,342,000. (ABS)


ICYMI: Jeans, Australia and Knitting

December is always a busy month, so I want to catch you up on all the other things going on other than my blog posts. Between the blog, Twitter and Instagram, it is hard to keep up, I realize, hence this ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) post. Highlights of the month were the Ligne 8 jeans, two packages from Australia, some sewing and lots of knitting from my mom.

  •  I reviewed the Ligne 8 Aubrey jeans for The Discerning Cyclist. I quite like these jeans, and will most likely buy them in the spring (since I had to send them back). I thought that the quality is really nice, and it makes me want to try out some of their other stuff. I really want the Camille red stripe long sleeve tee. I can see this being a really useful part of my wardrobe.
  • I got a fun package of reflective trim and zippers from Susan at Measure Twice/Cut Once, in Sydney. We have connected through the amazing world of social media, and she’s “in the business,” and able to send me some stuff. I can’t wait to play with these! I’m not sure what I’ll do with everything, but I have an idea for the glow-in-the-dark zippers already.
  • Another social media friend, Oanh at Unique Schmuck, coordinated a reflective fabric purchase, woo hoo! Oanh bikes and sews in Melbourne, and also makes clothing with reflective trim. I don’t know how she found the reflective fabric at King-Tech, but luckily for us, they were willing to sell her some remnants, which meant we got decent size chunks of some great fabric! Again, not sure what I’ll do with all this, but it will be fun to compare notes with Oanh as we go. Don’t worry though, I’m already getting ideas…
  • I retrieved my sewing machine and serger from the repair show. Neither were actually repaired, so I didn’t pay anything, but they weren’t even cleaned either. #annoyed. Immediately I made my first ever infinity scarf, and cranked out the skirt I’ve been dying to make for a while. I’m not in love with the scarf, since the fabric that seemed really cool is too limp to hang properly, but the skirt came out great and I can’t wait to wear it! I had hoped to finish it before The Mechanic and I went out to dinner on Christmas Eve, but I got sick and finished it Christmas Day instead. It will probably get its own post in early January, so check back for that.
  • My mom has done some fantastic knitting for us! The stuff she made with the Red Heart reflective yarn she sent earlier in the month, but then surprised us both with some lovely things for Christmas. I got a beaded shawl, which I love, and socks in my favorite color, while she made The Mechanic a hat and scarf. She even added reflective stuff to his hat, so while he is walking to and from work, he’ll have a bit of reflective detail on him. She makes the knitting look so easy that I’m tempted to take it up, but I still have bad memories of trying to learn it as a kid. I think I should stick to sewing.


  • Last but not least, The Mechanic got me the Christmas present I asked for – a nicer handle for my bike. No, there is technically nothing wrong with the 550 cord wrapped handle me made for me when we moved into our apartment… but there are nicer options out there. And now I have a lovely black leather “Little Lifter” handle from Walnut Studiolo. It matches my black leather handle bar wraps. Tres chic!

It’s hard to believe that 2014 is almost over; my, it has been a momentous year! Between The Mechanic graduating and starting a new job, our wedding, and our honeymoon, it has been very exciting! I think we are both looking forward to a slightly more low-key 2015. I’m not sure if that will happen, but I’m busy setting some goals anyway! Have you started your list yet?