Socializing and Sewing

The Mechanic and I live a pretty quiet social life. Between him the introvert and me boardline introvert, most evenings and many weekends, we tend to stay home quietly and do our own things. But we love our friends and have been lucky enough to have seen many of them this month. I say “lucky” because with everyone busy busy busy, it’s hard to get schedules to coincide. So we’ve caught up with traveling friends, friends with a new baby, and friends who live *just* far enough away to not be able to see them often. And since they are friends who hadn’t seen our new place yet, it was nice to be able to show it off. And introduce them to the bunnies.

L to R: Sullivan, Quinn and Gaston in the front

But somehow I’ve managed to get a lot of sewing done as well as socialize. I started the month off with two projects that actually ended up kinda cute together, although that was not the intention:

Yes, the skirt has pockets!

The gecko tee shirt is the Sunny Top by Friday Pattern Company. It was super easy to make, although I did a different neckline finish that I sort of regret. It also fits really well – above the waist. Next time I make it I need to lengthen it *a lot* and, er, widen the hip curve to actually fit my hips. I ordered this Gecko Trails knit from Stonemountain and Daughter with birthday money in the spring, and it’s so cute and soft. I just need to always tuck it in…

Geckos! And stripes.

The skirt is Finding Dory cotton from Fabric.com. Between an imminent vacation in Bermuda and a trip to Disney World later this fall, I thought it would be a funny subtle theme skirt. I really love it – but… I made up the pattern and somehow made the waistband too small. Whoops. Well, I have gained too much weight this year so this is good incentive to lose it, I guess.

Finding Nemo is one of my favorite movies, so this is fun!

The other sewing project I just finished this weekend is a wearable muslin of Burda Style 6770. The Burda pattern is similar to other indie patterns out there but I was in JoAnn Fabrics with a friend, so I grabbed it instead. I made it out of red chambray I’ve had for ages, and added some of the red reflective piping I bought in Mood Fabrics earlier this summer to add a bit of visibility to each leg. Instead of doing the entire side seam, I just did a few inches on the calves.

Don’t know that I’ll actually wear my shirt tucked into these pants, but it shows the waist better.

The waistband has a top and bottom row of elastic and a center row for a drawstring, so I dug through my reflective bits and baubs and pulled out some cording. It was the perfect size for the teeny tiny buttonhole openings. Not really useful in the way of evening visibility but makes me happy, especially when I realized that you can see it reflecting *through* the fabric casing, haha! I really want to make these pants out of an amazing print I found on Spoonflower, called Dark Matter. I’m really obsessed with celestial prints these days, can’t explain it. And this print is all I can think about these days. It’s just really, really huge, and I don’t know how that will do for pants. I may ask the designer if he can reduce the scale a bit. Then I have to decide what fabric option to choose – woven or knit, drapey or not so drapey, dressy or casual, work or weekend…. Such dilemmas!

Recognizing that I will have limited sewing time in September and October, before a crazy month of travel in November, I am trying really hard to be super selective about what I sew this fall. I’m trying to balance what I need (pants and cardigans) with what I already have fabric and patterns for (pants and tops). Then I found this AMAZING rainbow reflective fabric from Mood and not only *have* to order some in both colorways, I already have an idea of what I want to make with it – and that doesn’t fit my plans at all! But it would be really really cool.

This Butterick 6496 pattern might see a lot of use in the next several months – so many ideas….

I’ve got so many sewing plans, but also – I really want to see my friends this fall! And do I *really* need that many more clothes?! Probably not. So I’ve enlisted some help with my planning. If he’s any good, I’ll hire him permanently.

Sully is a bit more ruthless than I am when it comes to making decisions.

Heavenly Bodies and Earthly Bodies

Two weekends ago, a friend and I went up to New York City to see the Met Museum exhibit, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” The exhibit explores how Catholicism inspires designers, both religious designers and fashion designers. There were pieces from the Vatican collections (sorry, no photos allowed) that had embroidery so fine that it looked like photos and gems as large as your eyeball. Then there were chiffon pieces that appeared to float in the exhibits where they were found – everything was scattered throughout the museum.  Part of the exhibit was at the Cloisters, at the north end of Manhattan and in my former neighborhood, but we didn’t make it that far. We were at the Fifth Avenue location long enough, admiring everything.

The garments on display ran from the sumptuous… 

…to the “mundane.” There was traditional….

…and there was modern. I particularly enjoyed the Versace dresses on display far above our heads, but felt it was a bit weird to be staring up the models’ dresses and skirts. On the other hand, it did let me see some of the structure of the undergarments. I definitely recommend the exhibit. It runs through the beginning of October, so you have time to go see it.

My friend and I inadvertently ended up dressed alike in floral shirt dresses and Dansko sandals – dresses I made! It was a whirlwind trip but we did make it to Mood, where I discovered a huge collection of reflective trims. I got white, blue and black reflective piping – expensive, but in colors I don’t have and it means I don’t have to make it myself! I think I need to call and order more… (by the way, my friend bought her purse from a street vendor on our way to the museum. It was the only one and we both wanted it, but I let her have it – then realized *afterwards* that it is reflective! And we never saw another street vendor the entire rest of the weekend!) Apparently my earthly body was feeling neglected, because I ended up in the hospital again. Three months after my surgery, and three months of constant pain, I went to the surgeon to ask when the pain would stop. After a quick examination, they directed me to the operating room of the hospital for emergency surgery! Internal stitches had popped and bad things were happening. So there I was, checking into the ambulatory surgery center in my business clothes with a full face of makeup, madly emailing and texting everyone who needed to know so I could cancel and rearrange my schedule. Although it ended up being a long day at the hospital and ended with more pain than it started, I was happy to see the same nurses I’d had three months ago. They made me feel much better about everything. One even pointed out that my nail polished matched the hospital gown! Although the repair surgery was not as dramatic (no incisions) as the last surgery, it still means no biking for a while, again, and taking it easy. I’ve been resting, resting, resting – I don’t want another trip to the hospital, no matter how nice the nurses are!

Hospital style, haha!

Hopefully this will be a fast recovery and I can get back to some sort of activity level before this summer is over. At least sewing isn’t too strenuous, right? I’ll be taking care of my earthly body from behind my sewing machine. Take care of yours however makes you happy.

Hoppy October!

No, that’s not a typo – this is really a hoppy October. I’ve been MIA the last few weeks because Gaston has been dating, and that has honestly taken up all my free time. My sewing projects laying neglected, but I have had some fun reflective fashion arrive. October will be all about the bunnies. Sounds like a hashtag, doesn’t it?

The Mechanic and I decided this summer that Gaston needed a friend. I love how much time he wants to spend with us, but feel bad when we don’t have the time. Rabbits are very social animals and wild rabbits live in warrens with dozens of family members. Why shouldn’t Gaston have a companion? So after much discussion and research, we approached the local rabbit rescue about bunny dating.  We took Gaston two different times to meet some eligible bunny bachelorettes.

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After Gaston met eight females (missed a photo of one) and pretty much ignored most of them, we joked about introducing him to a pair. And of course – he fell instantly in love with the largest, fluffiest angora siblings, Sullivan and Quinn. The Mechanic and I were in shock – we were not really prepared to bring home *two* more rabbits! But Gaston seemed so happy, and after having seen him with the others, well, how could we deny our bun-son? These English angoras are about 7lbs, compared to Gaston’s 3lbs, and just as fluffy and sweet as can be. Their foster mom said that Sullivan, the boy, loves to be held. Good thing too, since we’ll need to brush them every day! The angora’s foster mom took all three rabbits home with her to do the bonding. We hate not having them with us, but luckily, she lives nearby and we have been able to visit. It seems like it is going well, faster than the average of four weeks. Hopefully they can come home soon, one big happy fluffy family.Be sure to follow their adventures on Instagram @fluff_and_ears

In between driving Gaston around on his dates, I’ve lined up my fall sewing projects. I’m only planning two, since there will be so much other stuff going. The first will be a black floral peasant dress with reflective ribbon on the sleeves and hem, and reflective bias in the yoke seams.

The second, largest and most exciting project will be a coat with the Dashing Tweeds fabric I bought in London this past May. I’ve never made a coat, and will for sure be making a muslin first for fit. I don’t have enough for the full coat, so I’ll use it for the sleeves, collar and back belt.

And I finally achieved one of my sartorial goals – I finally purchased a Vespertine NYC blazer (I think I got the last black one). It’s so cool! I love it!

Fits great, good for work, and reflects perfectly on the bike! (sorry for the blurry image…)

I also ordered some reflective fabric, elastic and grosgrain ribbon from Mood Fabrics. That stash arrived the same day as the Vespertine blazer. #reflectivelove !

This isn’t reflective but also super cool – my Lorica Scudamore printed armor leggings finally arrived! I backed these  on Kickstarter months ago and they finally arrived. I can’t wait to wear them (I’m just not sure where….)!

So Hoppy October, everyone! Stay tuned for further adventures of bunnies, sewing and reflective fashion!

Time to Sew and Think

Use-or-lose PTO expiring in June means taking extra time off this month. Initially, The Mechanic and I discussed going back to Shepherdstown for our third wedding anniversary last week, but in the end, opted against it. So I used some PTO for a mini sewing staycation instead.

Mini champagne “tasting” and fancy desserts for a low-key third anniversary

I was probably both overly ambitious with my plans and less efficient than I could be, so I did not actually achieve all my goals for the extended weekend. I did some sewing, made a Shutterfly photo album gift for a friend, visited with friends, hung out with Gaston, and had lots of time alone with my thoughts.

Sewing

I am pleased with my sewing accomplishments, however. I made a fun new dress from McCalls 6886 and the scuba knit I impulsively ordered from Mood Fabrics earlier this year. I call this my crowd-sourced dress because I kept asking questions on Instagram about designing it – fellow sewists recommended this pattern over a more complicated one, and the scoop neck over the crew neck. I think they were right on both accounts. As my second sewing project on my new sewing machine, it was also the perfect way to learn how it handles stretch fabrics. Thankfully and unsurprisingly, it is soooo much better than my old machine! The dress turned out great, and although the fabric doesn’t breathe much (okay, not at all), it will be perfect for work, and probably not terrible to bike to work in if the weather is decent.

Accessorized with my fabulous boots from Cordings London and my Heidi Sturgess rabbit purse, also from London

I even used the label Mood sent with the fabric! #madewithmood

The other sewing project I completed was altering the corduroy trousers I made last month. Although I love the color and super soft corduroy, they were too big around the hips and waist, and the waistband did not lie flat. So I took off the waistband, made deeper pleats in the front, took out about an inch for a swayback alteration, and replaced the zipper. (I totally forgot to get an invisible zipper foot when I bought my new machine!) I redrew the waistband to reflect what I’d pinned out, and although it looked rather extreme, it worked out perfectly. Of course, as these things go, I didn’t have enough fabric for both sides of the waistband, so I used lining for the facing, and then I didn’t have enough interfacing of any kind, so it’s a pretty wimpy waistband. But I’m much happier with the pants now, and look forward to wearing them.

 

They are subtle but they are there! Bicycles on the waistband! I should have used contrasting thread.

Thinking

In between bursts of sewing, I did a lot of thinking. It’s nice to have time to think, not distracted by daily life (aka, work). I always feel frantic, rushing from work to home to work to home, and sometimes I just need time away from it all. (Seriously, how do parents manage it all?!?) The Mechanic prefers to camp when he needs time alone; I prefer to sew and read and watch British television shows. I just needed time to think about where life is going and in which direction do I want it to move.

Saturday night sewing with Gaston and Father Brown, while The Mechanic was camping and mountain biking

I’ve been at my job for just over five years now, and although I certainly don’t know it all, I feel like I’ve learned a lot, and I’m sort of ready to move on. I feel like this is a personality flaw – it’s hard for me to stick to just one thing. Through learning about transportation demand management, and doing outreach to people about their transportation choices, I’ve come across so many other really interesting topics and ideas, and I want to explore those. Overall sustainability is top of the list, and through sewing and this growing interest, I’ve learned more about sustainable fabrics, a field I’m definitely interested in exploring. Then there is general behavior change and all the psychology around that; I’ve always been interested in *why* people do what they do. And I can’t help but feeling like I’d like to return to history as a field, or maybe public history and museum studies. And always the thought – how do I make a positive impact on the world?

Alas, all my thinking was merely that, thinking. I didn’t come up with a plan or a decision or a new goal (well, a new goal beyond moving to Europe someday). Do I feel more relaxed, from all my time off and sewing and thinking? Hm…. maybe. Maybe if I’d actually gotten more done, or finished a book or something. I did, however, come up with a plan for my next sewing projects! Between now and the end of July I want to finish my star Liberty of London blouse and a shift dress with the denim lace fabric from Marcy Tilton. Maybe it’s better to just stick to the sewing and do less thinking.

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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Oct Travel Recap: New York City

Oh my – between travel and everything else crazy that has gone on this month, I haven’t had time to blog! But there is so much to share, so here’s the first of two recaps of October travel.

I went to New York City for four days earlier in October to fabric shop and visit friends. It was a really good trip, successful in fabric shopping, friends, art, culture and some thought-provoking museum exhibits.

Fabric shopping was on the top of my list, so after arriving on the Vamoose Bus and dropping my luggage at Schwartz Luggage Storage, I ran to the Garment District. Some friends had posted articles about the Garment District fabric stores closing, and although the large ones like Mood and my favorite B&J Fabrics don’t seem to be effected, the small, family-run stores are in danger. I found one store that advertised it was it’s last day, and everything was on clearance. Although I don’t have an immediate need for two-colored sequin fabric or brocades, well, I couldn’t beat the prices, so I purchased 2 yards of each. And a pretty knit for the McCalls 6844 sweater I’ve wanted to make for a while now.

Last day here - the owner (manager?) was very friendly and upbeat, flirted a bit, so I didn't ask about what he does next. I didn't want to remind him...

Last day here – the owner (manager?) was very friendly and upbeat, flirted a bit, so I didn’t ask about what he does next. I didn’t want to remind him…

I did buy some luxury fabrics at B&J Fabrics, to make some nice basics – a blue tencel twill for another Dressy Talk basic blouse, and a stretch gray for a Sew Over It Ultimate Pencil Skirt. Those two pieces will be nice work basics, nothing flashy, but good “uniform” pieces.

The blue is darker than I was looking for but I love the fabric. It's hard to get the color right in these photos!

The blue is darker than I was looking for but I love the fabric. It’s hard to get the color right in these photos!

Meeting up with a friend in Hoboken resulted in a stash of vintage sewing patterns. She has been cleaning out her mother’s and grandmother’s sewing stashes, and has offered me whatever I want. I made two blouses out of Liberty of London fabric she gave me a while ago. The vintage patterns were fun, especially after having attended the National Arts Club FashionSpeak Fridays talk about the collaboration between Jackie Kennedy and designer Oleg Cassini. I’m not a 1960s styles fan but seeing all the photos of Jackie’s outfits was wonderful. So I ended up with a few patterns that I might end up making.

I also went to two Broadway shows, “School of Rock” and “Something Rotten,” and loved both of them. I have friends working on both shows (wardrobe friends, so backstage, not on stage), so it was fun to see what they are up do. school-of-rock something-rottenMy visit to the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum was one of the best things I did all weekend (and I did alot of great things). I went for the Scraps: Fashion, Textiles and Creative Reuse exhibit, but found so much more. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a museum that so thoroughly engaged my intellect as well as my creativity. cooper-hewitt_scrapsThe exhibits focused on the design element in the world around us, such as the history of design of the American police system, but also how design can improve the future, how it tackles social injustice, the affordable housing crisis, and even allowed the public to design solutions for modern social problems.

I found these statistics to be depressing as well as educational and inspiring.

I found these statistics to be depressing as well as educational and inspiring.

But the Cooper Hewitt had a really cool feature that I wish all museums would do – a digital “pen” that allowed each individual guest to “collect” the display items that they like. You match the + on the end of the pen with the + on each item display, and it downloads or links or something. With each payment you are given a unique code, and then you can log onto their website and see the things you liked. So cool! Also, then I didn’t have to take photos of everything and fill up my already overtaxed iPhone storage…

I am always pleased to have such a stimulating trip, full of ideas and concepts and thoughts as well as just simple visuals of where I have been. Between the city itself, Central Park, the new Oculus at Ground Zero, and a stroll down Fifth Avenue, I feel inspired and yearning to create and design. Now, if only I had the time! After returning from this long weekend, The Mechanic and I went away for a bike weekend in the country. Still no time to create! But that was also a lovely weekend – stay tuned for that recap coming up soon.

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New Reflective Fabric Sources

The hunt for decent reflective fabric is an ongoing obsession, and a sometimes frustrating one (it’s really hard to find!). But lately I have found two great resources that I want to share.

The first option isn’t really new. I have known about Seattle Fabrics, Inc., for a while, but I’ve never ordered from them. So I finally did and wish I hadn’t waited so long! It’s not the prettiest website but they have several reflective options. Alas,  you can’t really search for them on the website, but if you look under “New Arrivals,” and keep scrolling down, you will see “reflective piping tape” in several different colors. I’m pretty excited about these, since they look like they will be easier to sew into seams than piping or the heavy reflective fabric bias tape that I make. The reflective bits are only on one side, just keep in mind. I ordered navy, gray and black, and I wish I’d ordered more of the navy.

Reflective Piping Tape

Reflective Piping Tape

seattle-fabric-3I also ordered several yards of their reflective piping, because although working with piping is not my favorite thing, there is no denying the amazing reflective power of reflective piping. seattle-fabric-2

I mean, WOW

I mean, WOW

You can also order a sample pack of what they offer, and I swear I saw a listing for reflective material, but I can’t seem to find it now. Definitely check it out!

The other new source is none other than Mood Fabrics! Are we going to see reflective fashion on Project Runway soon?!? This is fabulous, because they are selling several different colors of reflective fabrics – but hurry! The blue and the red are almost sold out! I ordered two yards of the blue, a yard of the red and a yard of the brown-gold. I have no idea what I’ll do with them yet but I DON’T CARE. It’s sooo hard to find this, especially in colors, that even at this price (which was a bit eyewatering 0_o). But I also got a free Mood tote and a “Made with Mood” label, so that’s fun.

Pretty colors!

Pretty colors!

mood-1

It's even pretty reflecting. Somehow this makes me think of a Cinderella dress....

It’s even pretty reflecting. Somehow this makes me think of a Cinderella dress….

I don’t really know yet what I will do with any of these new acquisitions, but I’m happy to see my reflective stash grow. And the timing was right – I just used some black reflective tape (marketed for motorcycle safety) for the first time, in my new Zeus skirt. It looks pretty cool with the lightening-esque design of the fabric. (This skirt is a bit too narrow and short to be a good bike skirt, but will always be good walking around in the evening.)

So make haste to Mood Fabrics! Maybe the demand will convince them to restock. We need our reflective options!!!

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