The Return of Red

A natural blonde of a rather boring sort, I started coloring my hair red when I was first out of high school, and have been every shade of red possible in the 1990s and early 2000s. I would actually buy hair color when I was in Germany, because so many women there had/have the brightest, most red red hair I’ve ever seen. But then over the years, I went dark brown, then gradually lighter and lighter, until the pale blonde of recent weeks.

Most recent blonde, as pale as I have been maybe forever.

The one constant in my life is that nothing is constant – I got bored and decided to go a different route this weekend. Voila! Return of the Red!

Power Red!

This L’Oreal Feria “Power Red” color fell into my hands in Target last week, so here we are. I love the color, properly called Cherry Crush, and The Mechanic likes it too but is having a hard time getting used to it. To be fair, it’s barely been 36 hours.

In other news, I decided to throw together a drawstring backpack this weekend. I’ve been thinking about our Disney World vacation this fall (I know, I know, it’s months away, but I can’t help myself) and wondering what sort of day bag to take. I thought this might be a good option. I didn’t bother with a pattern and just sort of made things up as I went along. It has a long narrow zippered pocket in the front, and two pockets in the back with zippers on the sides, for things I need to reach often, like my phone and maybe wallet. Made with my reflective camo fabric, I added a reflective ribbon loop to the top as well. I don’t know what drawstring I will end up with so for now it’s just black grosgrain ribbon.

I finally got a tripod for my phone/camera, too, so now I can take more interesting Me Made photos that aren’t selfies in the bathroom at work or ones I’ve begged The Mechanic to take for me. I will need some practice, though….

Speaking of fashion, did anyone else watch the Royal Wedding on Saturday? I got up at 4:30am EST to watch guests arrive so I could admire the hats and dresses. I enjoyed drinking my tea and texting with friends as everything unfolded and had to laugh when it looked like Sully wanted to get in on the action too. He and Quinn are *English* angoras after all, haha! (Aren’t the peonies gorgeous?! They are blooming in front of our townhouse!) I think the new Duchess of Sussex could look gorgeous in anything, and her wedding dress was about what I expected – simple, classic and still dramatic. I love the story behind her veil, however – flowers from every country in the Commonwealth, as well as flowers to signify Kensington Palace and California, were embroidered on it. Beyond loving the symbolism, I love anything embroidered and would love to see this close up. There’s a list of all the flowers on the royal family website as well as more details about the wedding party’s outfits. I also loved the Art Deco tiara she wore, but wasn’t horribly exited about the bridesmaids’ and page boys’ outfits. But I absolutely LOVED her second wedding dress! And the photographer who caught the fabulous photo of the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex on their way to their evening reception has hopefully made his or her fortune with that photo! Here copied from Daily Mail:

Thanks to whomever took this photo! I’d love to see a better picture of this dress.

My favorite dress was worn by Sofia Wellesley, wife of James Blunt. The Daily Mail considers her look a “miss” (really, “too wholesome”?) but I love her REDValentino dress. Did you have any favorites?

Sofia Wellesley in REDValentino at the Royal Wedding (photo from Daily Mail)

This is the sort of thing that makes me wonder about my new red hair though – can I pull off a floral dress with crazy red hair?! I need to rethink the sewing projects I have lined up. That yellow gingham might be shelved for another time, not sure how a top out of that will look with this crazy red hair!

Let’s see how this color does over the next few weeks!

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.

 

Working My Way Back to You, Bike

It’s been three and a half weeks since I had major surgery. In that time I’ve watched the trees from our bedroom windows, played with our rabbits, read alot, gotten a tattoo, done a bit of sewing, and eaten way more comfort food than planned (whoops). I’d say it’s been relaxing but it hasn’t been, really. There’s still some pain and I am exhausted all the time. The days I’ve managed 5,000 steps have wiped me out so when I’m finally allowed to start biking again, I might not be biking very far. But I’m working my way back to you, Fauntleroy – we can’t miss all the lovely spring biking weather!

Gaston, Quinn and Sullivan (l to r)

Inspirational necklace made by a friend many years ago.

I’ll be ready for that day though, because one of the things I made is a lightweight coat. This Simplicity 8055 was a super easy pattern but I decided to make it slightly more complicated by lengthening the sleeves, flat lining all the pieces, adding some dimensional stitches to the cuffs, and making covered buttons. Playing around with my Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 965q stitches was a lot of fun and I plan on doing this again on other projects.

Lately, Spring has sprung around our place so my daily walks have resulted in many, many photos of flowers.

I’m returning to work with some trepidation, knowing that I need a nap every afternoon. But I need to get back to my normal routine, or at least as close as I can. I guess I have to accept that it will be slow going, but I’m not a patient person, so we’ll see how it goes.

Pre-Op Update

Just a quick update to let you know that I am having surgery on Wednesday so I won’t be blogging (or sewing or biking) for a while. A health problem that has plagued me for at least twelve years will finally fixed once and for all (I hope), and I am looking forward to it.

I am also looking forward to some down time. I was told that the recovery is usually 4-6 weeks; I am taking 3.5. I don’t know how I will feel but hope I’ll be up and moving around enough to get *some* sewing done. The doctor looked a bit horrified when I said I usually bike to work so I am not allowed to do that for at least four weeks. Honestly, I haven’t biked much lately, due to weather, schedule or just plain not feeling like it. But after four weeks of not moving much, i know I’ll be anxious to get back in the saddle.

I failed in my plan to eat super healthy and do yoga every day in preparation for the surgery, so I am not going into it as strong as I’d envisioned. I guess I will focus on the recovery period to get my health mojo back. I know, I’ll pretend I am at a health spa, with a regular routine of veggies and yoga!

I will be back before you know it though! Until then, Happy Spring!

Obsessed With Outerwear

I’ve been a bit obsessed with designing reflective outerwear this year. I have realized, over the last year, that many of my reflective makes spend a lot of time under coats and jackets, which sort of defeats the purpose of reflective fashion. So, I decided I need reflective outerwear.

My first attempt turned out beautifully- my reflective tweed coat makes me so happy!!! Made with reflective tweed purchased last year in London from Dashing Tweeds (the burgundy) and wool from Fabric.com, its lined with flannel backed satin from Vogue Fabrics, and interlined with ripstop nylon. The ripstop is intended for added warmth and to prevent the wind from going straight through the wool as I Bike. I have to say, it holds the body warmth pretty well – maybe too well! Oh, and it looks spectacular on!

Flush with the success of that coat, I started my brocade bomber jacket. I picked Simplicity 8418 because it has a lining, and for added warmth, I am using the same flannel-backed satin I used on my tweed coat. The brocade I purchased a year or so ago from a fabric store in New York that was going out of business. At the time I didn’t know what to do with it, but my bronze reflective fabric from Mood Fabrics coordinates so perfectly that I knew they had to go together. A brocade bomber jacket seems decadent but also, a fun alternative to a work blazer. I hope. So I got started on that this weekend.

Once I complete the bomber, I have two other jackets to make. One will be a light duster, from Simplicity 8055, with the front and back yokes out of reflective fabric. It’s not lined so I plan to flat line the yokes and sleeves; I hate unlined sleeves. My initial plan was to use the black reflective fabric I just purchased from Mood, but a coordinating dark fabric just made the whole thing too dark. Instead, i think I will use the red reflective fabric and find a denim, twill or chambray to match. Red will be a fun color, and a bit more visible than black.

That should be a fairly simple project, but my last (currently) planned coat looks quite a bit more complicated. The Closet Case Kelly Anorak is pretty much exactly what I want – big pockets, tall collar and drawstring waist. And it has a lining option, yay! I will make the outside from the reflective digital camo fabric I have from Rockywoods Fabrics, and then add a fun lining. Maybe I will splurge on a fun print from Spoonflower, to make it more interesting. But my idea is to do this in late summer, for the fall, so I have a while to decide.

Those jackets should be a cool assortment to add an extra layer over my blouses and tops – a dinosaur blouse out of luscious Liberty of London Tana Lawn, two different ruffle sleeve versions of Simplicity 8454, and a basic white blouse, version C of Vogue 9299, with the adorable cameo buttons I found in New York. Whew, that’s quite a list! I’d better get started – reflective fashion doesn’t sew itself!

Sorry, still no internet at home! I’ll link all these sources when I am not on my phone with sluggish cellular.

And Now For Something New

When I moved to New York City at the end of 1999, one of my dreams/goals was to take hat making classes at FIT and become a milliner. I’ve always loved hats – my mom says it’s because she made me wear sun bonnets as a baby. I used to collect vintage hats but over the years, have reduced that collection to one, and even it’s life with me isn’t assured. I seem to spend most of my time wearing a bike helmet, but I do have an assortment of summer straw hats and even made a fabric sun hat a few years ago.

When I saw a hat making class listed in the Smithsonian Associates catalog, well, I couldn’t resist. So last Saturday, I joined close to thirty other women for a 2-hour hat making class in the Ripley Center on the National Mall. Knowing something about hat making from my theater days, and garment construction in general, I wasn’t sure how we’d learn to make hats in two hours, but all came clear when we were instructed to pick out a base to get started. After eyeballing a range of straw and felt hats, I opted for a black felt floppy brimmed hat, knowing that it would have more options than the straw ones. Then I chose some fuchsia pheasant feathers for the decoration.

The milliner showed us one by one how to steam and block our hats and helped us with the decorations. I wanted something a bit early 1920s with an asymmetrical brim, and spent alot of time free form cutting the brim (eek!). I would have felt more comfortable with a dressmakers curve to get it even but did the best I could with the offered dull scissors. I decided to drape the feathers (cut in half) around the brim, and although I like the look, that wasn’t exactly what I was going for. Well, there’s only so much you can do with a few hours and a floppy hat brim, but overall, I think I am fairly pleased with the outcome.

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The milliner teaching the class was a local man, who told us his personal story of how he got into hat making and said that since small, locally-owned stores were too expensive to run, he was reinventing himself and teaching classes. I think this is a wonderful idea and would love to help him set up more classes and really start with some hat basics and history. Maybe make it a 3-hour class with the first 30 minutes breaking down the history of hats, the different parts of hats, and techniques like blocking and steaming. I think a class making fascinators would be good – after all, there are two royal weddings coming up this year. Who says I can’t wear a fancy fascinator while watching it on TV?!?As I stare at my list of sewing projects for the spring, all I can think right now is about taking more hat making classes and wanting to reread all my hat making books. I want to learn more about steaming felt hats and creating different shapes. I think it’s time to bring back hats. It is one way to combat helmet hair, after wall. What do you think? Who’s with me? Break out your hats and start wearing them!

Hey, Minnie Ears are sort of like a fascinator, right?!

 

Practicing Skills, Practicing Patience

I’m going to Orlando soon for a meeting for my industry association and meeting some colleagues a day early to have some fun at Disney World. I promised myself that I would not make or buy anything for this trip – yet there I was, on the Martin Luther King Day holiday, madly trying to finish up a shirt. Promises, promises.

Vogue’s V8772 shirt pattern has universal praise amongst the sewists on Instagram, so I had to see what the fuss was about. I added it to my #2018MakeNine list for later this year, perfect with the lavender Charley Harper scissortail bird print quilt cotton and black reflective fabric for collar and cuffs. I want to finish winter-worthy reflective outerwear instead. But then… trying to decide what to pack for this business trip, I decided that this simple shirt would be easy to whip up over the long weekend, and give me something else #memade for the conference. I love wearing clothing I’ve made when I travel. First I had to practice my skills – reading skills. It seemed like a simple shirt but looks are deceiving – and somehow my brain was not plugged in while I was working on it! I carefully chalked traced all the markings – check. Lengthened the sleeves and body 1/2″ each, and dropped the armhole about an inch – check. Body darts – check. Cuffs – fail. I totally spaced the proper way to do the slash opening, which I only realized when I was congratulating myself on how nicely the birds matched up on the cuff. Gah. I read the correct instructions and did the wrong thing.

It only looks wrong to those who sew, I realize. Don’t look at my wrists when I wear this!

Then I did it again! I read the directions wrong on the front packet and hem, and made the error worse by trimming it, which meant I had to come up with a new way to hem the shirt. Seriously, where was my brain?! The directions pretty much said left and I dyslexically went right. Somehow, my brain is not connecting everything properly. I’ve noticed this before with other thing and hope it’s not a bad sign for my old age!

Such a complicated foot for making buttonholes!

Then, I got to practice my patience when my fancy computerized sewing machine got fussy about the buttonholes. I love this new machine because it does buttonholes automatically, yet having to do 12 of them somehow taxed my brain and my patience. Little did I know (until I took out the buttonhole the fourth time) that the sensor wheel has to be on fabric as well, in order to function properly. Maybe I would have figured that out if my brain was working. So learning about my new machine along the way…Despite the drama, however, I think the shirt turned out pretty well. I had to wash it to get the chalk markings off, so no photos of me in it yet, but it does fit pretty well. And now that I’ve had so much practice with it, the next one will be easier. I’m considering the bow collar option, since I’ve seen so many pretty versions on Instagram. Maybe for Spring? Apparently, a sewist can’t have too many of these shirts!

I think this will look professional with dress pants, a sly nod to my daily commute choice as well as showing off my creative side.And of course, when I’m biking to and from work (once the weather is warmer and I don’t need a coat), the collar and cuffs will show off nicely. Now to get back to my winter coat before winter is over!

Pretty pleased with the placement of this bird in the collar. (The reflective material doesn’t breathe at all, so I wanted cotton against my neck.)

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?

Mindful, Perhaps Green, Shopping

Thanksgiving now over, it’s time to start thinking about Christmas! My parents, brother, sister-in-law, aunt and possibly cousin are visiting us this year, to see our new home and bunnies. I am so excited to celebrate with the whole family this year, and I’m already making a list of things that need to be done – enough Christmas stockings for everyone, where and/or what do we eat, what fun post-Christmas things can we do…?

This year we all managed to agree to *not* buy each other Christmas presents. It’s something we discuss every year, but this year, we are committed. None of us needs anything, and besides, it’s more about being together. Since they are all flying here, we are gifting them an overnight stay in the Shenandoah Valley, which will be more fun in the long run. If nothing else, we’ll roll our eyes for years over the fact that any restaurant we go to there won’t be prepared for four vegetarians! (There is one small caveat – we are each getting each other one $5 stocking stuffer, something edible, handmade or eco-friendly.)

On the heels of this agreement came a report that talks about the high environmental cost of delivery. In “The Environmental Cost of Free 2-Day Delivery,” published on Vox on November 17, the authors of a study done at the University of California Davis tell us that the emissions from delivery trucks are worse than the emissions of individual cars driving around to malls and stores to buy things. The big challenge is 2-day shipping – that rush to have things immediately is killing our environment. Erk. One of the ways I manage to be car-free is to have as much delivered as possible. Josué Velázquez, director of the MIT Sustainable Logistics Department, says in a related article on Huffington Post that getting companies to add buttons sharing the impact of free 2-day shipping might inspire consumers to opt for slower delivery options. Knowing that choosing 4-5 day delivery will only kill 10 trees, compared to killing 3,000 for 2-day delivery would work for me! In fact, it already has.

I would hate to lose these trees, so I will think differently the next time I place an order.

Part of my plans for the holidays involve sewing projects that require fabrics and patterns I can’t buy locally, on my bike or otherwise. So now I really need to think about it – how much can I order from one place? I should order it all now, so that I can pick the slowest delivery option available, and not need it in a rush. And while I’m thinking about that, I need to be mindful of everything else we need this month, and moving forward. How to we continue to reduce our impact? Do we wean ourselves off Amazon? <gasp!> I think this means more trips to NYC to stock up for my sewing projects!

Started my McCalls 7667 coat, using corduroy as the “muslin” to test the fit. I still need to order lining and interlining.

If the thought of giving up free 2-day delivery right before the holidays stresses you out a bit, here are a few positive, encouraging stories about how the fashion world is trying to help the environment.

Swedish Plant Burns H&M Rags Instead of Coal, on The Business of Fashion website

How C&A Created the World’s First Cradle to Cradle T-Shirt, on Greenbiz.com

Variations on a Dream

The American Dream – the white picket fence around the suburban house, with 2.5 kids and a dog and two cars. It’s what everyone strives for – everyone except me! An urban girl, I’ve always preferred renting and letting someone else deal with repairs and maintenance and yard work. I know, I know – renting is wasting money, blah blah blah. I’ve heard it for decades. Homeownership simply hasn’t held the allure for me that is has for millions of others.

And yet – The Mechanic and I are now Homeowners!!! It’s quite the mind shift for me, honestly, and I feel somewhat like I’ve given into that suburban lifestyle I’ve never wanted. But I’m perfectly happy – apparently my version of the American Dream turns out to be a pre-WWII two-story townhouse, trio of very fluffy rabbits, and a fleet of bicycles. We’ve actually been talking about buying a place since this time last year, and we finally found a place we love. It’s a two-story townhouse with a back deck overlooking green space. We will have a yard we don’t have to spend every weekend working on, hurray! It’s not a large place, but thanks to it’s pre-war design, square rooms, one bathroom and a small-ish kitchen, the rooms are larger than the modern apartment we currently live in with the same square footage. We are no longer walking distance to a Metro station, but the grocery store, cafes, restaurants and many bus lines are very nearby. It’s exciting to think of the possibilities of what we can do with this place!

Our new view!

Old townhouse equals old and gorgeous trees

The first thing we did was buy new dishes. New home = new look!The fluffy trio will stay at the foster mom’s until we move and then join us. The Mechanic is busy adding an “attic” to Gaston’s Tavern, so the threesome will have more space to run around when we aren’t home. We’ve been visiting our bunkids as often as we can. Gaston is definitely warming up and getting braver, but we haven’t seen him snuggle with Sullivan and Quinn yet. It’s only been two weeks – I’m not worried.

Oh my goodness, they beg like small dogs!

Breakfasting together

A friend said Gaston picked the angora siblings to be his body guards. I can see it, can’t you?

I’ve had to pack all my sewing stuff of course, so I won’t get anything done for a while. I don’t mind not getting my stuff done (lie, I totally do) but I am disappointed that the baby clothes I plan to make for some friends won’t be done before their different baby showers. Fabric swatches aren’t as fun as gifts as the finished product!

See you soon, my lovelies!

It might be a while before I get a chance to blog again, but there will be tons to update you on when I do!

So much green space around our new home!