Questionable Calm Before the Moving Storm

You know the saying, “When it rains, it pours.” Actually, here in the Washington, DC, area, that’s a fact, not just a saying. Saturday AND Sunday both had crazy rain storms with absolutely pouring rain. The Mechanic and I were driving to a friend’s party Saturday (yes, we drive sometimes) and watched that storm roll in. It was pretty cool, I have to say. Until it started to pour.

Doom over DC

The storm I was actually referring to is the upcoming weekend and next week. I am heading to my association’s annual international conference on Saturday (woot, New Orleans!) and then we are moving to a different apartment in our current complex, then we plan to adopt a rabbit buddy for Gaston. All in the span of a week. And since the move is happening while I’m at aforementioned conference, The Mechanic will be doing it all himself, and I need to have all my stuff packed before I head to the conference. Trying. Not. To. Panic.

Time for a bunny buddy!

But before I could pack up my sewing stuff, I had to finish the dress I had started. I didn’t want to move it unfinished, and besides, I might want to take it to New Orleans. Originally I purchased the McCalls 7597 pattern with the idea of doing the contrast bib and back yoke with reflective fabric and the Charley Harper cotton I pre-ordered earlier this year. However, when Britex Fabrics tweeted a photo of this blue fish rayon, I had to have it, and knew what to do with it.

I briefly considered making the waist tie out of the gray reflective camo fabric, then considered putting some of the blue reflective fabric in the yoke seam and front bib seam. In the end, the gray reflective piping I ordered ages ago turned out to be perfect; it blends in perfectly.

I am a bit disappointed by the fit. I very carefully checked the shoulders and the length and the waist location, and altered to what I thought would work better, and of course, I was wrong. I probably didn’t need to widen the shoulders, and I don’t think I needed to drop the waist. I widened the sleeve but in adjusting the armhole to coordinate, something went wrong and the sleeves now are gathered into place, rather than eased. I really wished I’d lengthened it a bit as well – it’s just a tad bit shorter than I’d like. None of these are major problems, and I’m sure it all looks fine on me, but I am annoyed that once again, I tried to get something to fit right, and it doesn’t. But whatever – I can fix these things if I make the pattern again. And anyway, it’s done and it is perfect for summer.

Had to add a straw hat! Here you can see the reflective trim reflecting.

Reflective across the back reflecting as well. Not quite as full across the hips as I’d hoped. Hope I can swing my leg over my bike’s top tube!

So this will be my last blog post written from this apartment <sniff>.  I really like this but look forward to the next one. No stompy upstairs neighbors, as we’ll be on the top floor, and a lovely grassy courtyard full of trees to look out over. I might post something from New Orleans, but the conferences usually are pretty busy, so probably not. Maybe we’ll have a new bunny when I write next! We plan on taking Gaston to a few shelters when we get back, to let him pick out a new friend.

Once this bike is finished being refurbished, it will be perfect with my new dress!

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Re-Introducing My Reflective Bike Fashion

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

Where to Be Reflective

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

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Patterns

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

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

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

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

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

Reflective Fabric

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

Bikeability

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

All Together Now

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

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

 

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Guest Blogger Wannabe (Pick Me!)

I got distracted last night by a pin I saw on Pinterest: BloggerCollage-600x600It was accompanied by the words “Want to join our team of Guest Bloggers?” – well heck yeah! I clicked on the link and practically drooled on my computer screen. Blog about sewing? I think I can do that!

The fantasies swirled in my head as I envisioned all the cool things I would make with Britex Fabric, for a fabric store I’ve loved since the late 1980s. It was Mecca when I was in high school and still has that same feel, despite experiencing Manhattan Garment District shops. I did make something last fall with fabric I purchased at Britex last summer, and naturally I sent that blog post in with my “application.”

I studied the current Britex Guest Bloggers, too. They look like a group of really talented people and have some pretty interesting blogs and shops of their own. It’s cool to see so many who design and sell their own patterns, too, since pattern drafting is something I enjoyed when I took the classes decades ago. Check out Grainline Studio’s collection, and By Hand London, and I particularly love April Rhodes’ “Riding Peplum and Party Dress” pattern – designed for “a horse, a bike or a motorcycle”! I feel like I need to buy that pattern just because (and one of the models is wearing the same Dansko sandals I have and love). And Jamie Christina is modeling her “Sunny Day Dress” on a bicycle! I think these people understand the sewing and biking success combo!

April Rhodes "The Riding Peplum & Party Dress pattern (image from website) - cute, designed for biking, and the blonde model is wearing my shoes!

April Rhodes “The Riding Peplum & Party Dress pattern (image from website) – cute, designed for biking, and the blonde model is wearing my shoes!

Although I got an email shortly after I applied thanking me for my application and saying I was being considered, I can’t imagine they’ll pick me. I think my sewing theme (reflective office fashion) is a bit too avant garde, even for San Francisco. But it got me thinking about my sewing and where I might want to take it next. Rather than design and sell my own line, I’d rather guest blog for other companies and review other people’s designs and products.

And continue to sew for myself. Although the pattern is a bit complicated and stretches all my spatial visualization skills to picture in my head, the Vogue V9087 asymmetrical top with the floral reflective fabric is coming together well. I’m trying hard to get through the work week until Saturday when I can sit down again and SEW! My fingers are itching to get this done and start the next project! I definitely identify with this funny blog post on the McCalls Pattern Company Blog, about what happens to the writer when she goes too long without sewing. I’m glad to know it isn’t just me who feels this way! Check out all the comments!

V9087 coming together

V9087 coming together

I don't know how this fabuous floral reflective pattern will read to others but I LOVE it!

I don’t know how this fabulous floral reflective pattern will read to others but I LOVE it!

Funny how I can’t seem to get away from the need to design and sew…

Sewing Project #15: SF Fog Sweatshirt

To call this top a sweatshirt is slightly misleading. The fabric is a soft, cozy velour, updated from grandmother sweatsuits and collegiate sweats with words across the bum, plus a bit of reflective handmade bias trim. I’ll probably continue to call it a sweatshirt, but I like to think it’s a bit dressier.

I bought the fabric from Britex Fabrics, in San Francisco, while meeting Melissa of Bike Pretty for the first time. I grew up in Sacramento, and trips to The City always involved Britex – as a young stitcher/costume designer, Britex was like Mecca compared to the fabric stores in Sacramento. (Actually, it still is pretty amazing. New York City fabric stores are totally different, geared towards a different audience.) Since this fabric is from San Francisco and gray, and I love (and miss) the fog that rolls in over the city every evening, I’ve decided to name this project the SF Fog Sweatshirt. You will see why!

I used Very Easy Vogue pattern V9026, version A. Initially I wanted to find some cool digital print scuba fabric for the front panel, as shown on the pattern cover, but the prices were a bit more than I was prepared to pay. The helpful salesperson at Britex showed me this velour, and I was hooked. Better to show off the shape with reflective trim in a simple color, I decided.

Not only did I put this together in one day, it went together fairly smoothly, and I am very happy with how it turned out! I lengthened the torso, partially because I have a long waist, and also to cover more whilst biking, which I’m glad I did, although the sleeves are longer than I anticipated, which is a bit unusual. It is comfortable to wear, and am I happy with the overall fit.SF Fog 2 SF Fog 3I asked my friend ZigZagMags to take some pictures for me, and she did an awesome job, don’t you think?!

I ended up adding more reflective trim than I had originally planned. I added it to the shoulder seams mostly to stabilize the stitching, and since there isn’t much on the back that is reflective, I added tabs on each cuff. I wasn’t sure how they’d turn out, but, well, they turned out great!  SF Fog 5 SF Fog 10(Please note, I am wearing my grandmother’s rings while my wedding rings are in Hawaii getting smaller. I had to take them back to Hawaiian jeweler Na Hoku to get resized, and they were sent to Hawaii to do so. It’s hard to be parted with them; we haven’t been married long enough yet that I forget I’m wearing them!)

So the burning question is, of course, how does it reflect?! I tried a selfie, then The Mechanic took a few while I rode circles on a Capital Bikeshare bike. See for yourself – SF Fog 6 SF Fog 7 SF Fog 8 SF Fog 9I’m very pleased with how the reflective tabs on the cuffs worked out! I will probably try this on other projects too.

This was Sewing Project #15 – hard to believe I’ve done so much! You can see some of the others in my Reflective Wear-to-Work Challenge post. I do have some other projects in mind, one for next spring already, but both my sewing machine and my serger are in desperate need of some TLC. It’s probably been 20 years since they had any proper maintenance done, oops. I also need to get my scissors sharpened. Since it is practically the holidays, I might as well do all this now, so that as soon as January hits, I’m ready to jump back into things! If I can wait that long.SF Fog 11