Current State of Affairs

After last month’s series of five year anniversary re-introductions, I thought I’d catch everyone up on the current state of my affairs. As always, there is a lot going on, so much so that I missed my last planned anniversary re-introduction! That one was supposed to be about travel and how The Mechanic and I love to travel. Recent examples include a spontaneous rental car trip, where we attempted to go by VeloOrange in Annapolis (not open on the weekends), then drove through a powerful storm to Baltimore, arriving just as the storm ended and discovering their new ebike bikeshare system and bike lane wayfinding signs.

I’ve been sewing of course – finished the Simplicity 8166 blouse I’ve been dying to make forever, at last! It was sort of a bear. I love the tencel twill, the weight and drape of it, but maybe it was too heavy for all the rows of gathered elastic. Trying to feed it at the same time was challenging, but looks amazing in the end. I haven’t worn it yet because I had to wash it – get the chalk marks out as well as the blood – I managed to stab myself every time I sat down to sew, and didn’t realize until after I’d gotten blood on the garment. Sigh. But isn’t it gorgeous?!?

Gorgeous, but not a single bit of reflective on it!

Gorgeous, but not a single bit of reflective on it!

I *bought* a sweater and then realized I had a spring sewing theme going – a nautical theme! I was lusting after this J. Crew sweater with an Art Nouveau type floral design as well as mermaids! I love mermaids, so much so that even though this sweater is merino, and I find it terribly itchy, I had to have it. I’ve already suffered through an itchy day worn it and think it’s just the loveliest thing (well, I think the ruffled collar is a bit not my style/odd).

(sorry, I couldn't manage a better photo than this...)

(sorry, I couldn’t manage a better photo than this…)

Then I realized that my current sewing plans include some Breton striped garments – a top using some cool ammonite fabric from Spoonflower, and the cute Christine Haynes Marianne dress. nautical-sewing-plansAdding these two patterns plus my mermaid sweater to existing nautical things in my wardrobe, well, I should be headed to the seaside somewhere!

A friend and I are heading to the Philadelphia Flower Show, and I am finally making her a long-promised dress –  she had picked a lovely floral print, so of course she needs to wear it when we go. I love the fabric, although its slippery polyester and has required a lot of hand basting, which I don’t normally do. Am I the only one who tries harder on clothing not intended for me? flower-show-dress

A super cool non-sewing dress came my way last week, the Betabrand 3M reflective dress that I’d supported way last fall – it finally arrived and is really cool! It’s that stretchy nylon fabric that will be perfect for travel, with pockets, pulls on over the head, and omg reflective!!!! Seriously, it’s pretty cool. I can’t wait to wear this somewhere. Clearly not designed with 360* reflectivity, the reflective fabric is only in the front. I’m a bit disappointed by that, to be honest; it seems like a lost opportunity. I’m sorry it’s sold out on Betabrand but keep Tweeting to 3M and maybe they’ll eventually figure out there is a retail demand for reflective fabric and help out us home sewers who are desperate for it.



Speaking of reflective, have you seen Vespertine NYC’s reflective collaboration with Brompton? It’s really lovely and I wish I could get all of it, but there’s that wool thing again. I mean, I guess I could do the shoelaces, but those seem so less interested compared to the cool designs of the hat and scarf. Check them out if you haven’t yet! brompton-x-vespertine-refective-collection

I don’t know if Vespertine will be at the National Bike Summit this week, but she’s been there before, so if you are in the area, check it out!

I’m not attending the National Bike Summit this year, as I have in the past, but I’ve been watching attendees roll in (literally) on Instagram and Twitter. Bikie Girl Bloomers, Pedal Love, Bikey Face, and many other bikey ladies I know from NBS and social media are there. But speaking of bikes, Bletchley, my new vintage Raleigh, is in the process of being taken apart to be upgraded. I’ve been riding The Mechanic’s Workcycles bike to test out the hub, and we found brake levers that I really like. Slowly but surely this bike will come together. bletchley-brake-leversLastly, Gaston is a delight, and seems to be getting fluffier by the day. He’s gotten a bit snugglier and while I don’t foresee him sitting in our laps any time soon, demands and gets as much attention as we can give him. It’s a shame I can’t pet him and sew at the same time! gastonSo what else did I miss while I was reviewing the last five years of my blog life?

April Showers Bring Spring Sewing Plans

April showers bring May flowers, as the saying goes, but also time to be inside and plot my sewing list for the next several months, yay! This month will be a bit crazy, however, with several weekends of out-of-town guests, and an industry summit in DC, which means out-of-town colleagues to catch up with, plus summit-ing. Nevertheless, I ignore reality and charge ahead with my overly-ambitious sewing plans!

Last month I finished my Vogue 7910 skirt (now apparently discontinued), in khaki twill with the camo reflective bias trim in the side panels. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, although the reflective trim isn’t as bright as I’d like. Also, I’d forgotten how wrinkly twill get, yikes. I wore it the very early morning I met some friends for a bike ride to see sunrise and cherry blossom blooms at the Tidal Basin, and am happy to say it’s a perfectly lovely biking skirt. I anticipate wearing this often in the warmer months ahead.

I tried to get my current project done in March, so I could move ahead with two tops in April, but that didn’t happen. I’m glad I made a muslin of the Kwik Sew 4104 (also apparently now discontinued) jacket I’ve got planned, because I don’t like the fit at all! It’s *huge* – and I cut out a size Medium! I’ve pin fit the muslin but now need to redo everything. Basically, I want to tailor the waist by taking in about 4″ all around, but I’m not sure how that’s going to turn out. I might cut a size Extra-Small in another muslin, I don’t know. I also need to drop the waist about an inch but that’s easy compared to how much needs to be taken in. Even though Spring showers bring May flowers, and I love almost anything floral, I’ve chosen a nautical theme for my Spring and Summer sewing line-up. I’m thinking wide-leg trousers, red and denim blue, lots of stripes, fish, and for something different, ammonites!

First up, an easy top with fish fabric from Spoonflower, in an easy Butterick pattern.

Then something more creative, also with Spoonflower fabric. I’m obsessed with the ammonite ditsy print that Spoonflower designer Coggon created! I think it will be perfect for a Breton-style top. I’m bravely going to try my first download-print out-tape together pattern (ulp), Christine Haynes Marianne dress, which I will then shorten into a top. (Seems like alot of work to tape something together to then cut it apart…)

I want to make more pants, because eventually I’ll find a pattern I like and learn how to adjust patterns for proper fit. I have the sailor pants pattern from Vogue, but I’ll put that off, and first make a nice pair of wide-legged trousers in faded red. I love wide-leg trousers, especially with a cuff. The Simplicity pattern I wanted also was discontinued, but luckily I found it on Etsy.

Then I am going to make two dresses from the same pattern, one for me and one for a friend. McCalls 6520 is *also* out of print, but again, thanks to Etsy, I was able to grab it. I’m going to do version A for me in lightweight pale denim, with the reflective floral blue fabric worked in somehow, and version C/D for my friend, but with 3/4 sleeves. She’s already picked out her fabric, but I haven’t even looked for mine yet. Deadline – a girls’ trip to New Orleans! I could be sewing late the night before we leave….

Out-of-print McCalls 6520 dreses

Out-of-print McCalls 6520 dresses

There are more things on my list but I think this will keep me plenty busy. I’ll be very impressed with myself if I can get this all done before Memorial Day weekend, but know it probably won’t happen. But if it keeps raining, maybe there will be more days and evenings at home sewing! And flowers in May…

Prints or Plain: Planning Perfect Projects

I’ve been soooo lucky to have two 5-day weekends at home over the holidays. Instead of rushing through life as we usually do, I’ve had the opportunity, with so much free time, to do things I don’t normally – I cooked two meals, baked, The Mechanic and I went to the movie theater (James Bond Spectre and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, woot!), and I was able to spread out my sewing projects and get stuff organized and completed.

Star Wars SkirtI even ended up with time to start a dress I thought I would have to wait on – a Kwik Sew pattern, it’s going together very quickly indeed!

I love it when a pattern only has one page of instructions, don't you?

I love it when a pattern only has one page of instructions, don’t you?

I’m so excited to be using my new Spoonflower chain mail print knit on this dress! I hunted all over trying to find fabric that I would like in the contrast section of this dress, debating between two solid colors or a print and a solid. I knew I found the right piece when I saw that. I had a swatch of bamboo jersey in a color that matches perfectly, so it ended up being perfect. (I’m adding the sleeves, and adjusted the length so it’s in between the two options shown.)

The dilemma over this dress highlights the struggle I’m having with the stack of patterns I have awaiting my attention. I had assembled a “capsule collection” for the fall, but alas, I haven’t completed as much of it as planned. I did get the colorblock dress done, and the bow blouse, but the pants, jacket, cardigan and second blouse have evaded even being started. I simply can’t decide what fabric to pick!

I’ve picked a nice solid color twill for the pants, which are on task for this month. The color will be perfect for the bow blouse. I’m using the twill as my muslin, but still want to be able to wear them, so I chose carefully. Pants FabricBut I can’t decide what to make the coat and cardigan out of!!! Solid or print? A neutral or a fun print? Something that goes with everything, or a really stand out print that goes with only a few things? I have so many print shirts right now, and several navy and gray jackets, and everything more or less goes with something else (even if I’m not thrilled with the combo), so I could splash out and do something crazy – but what if I end up wearing it rarely?! That defeats the purpose.

The coat will have reflective camo on the cuffs and hem (but not a collar), but I can't decide about the rest of it. The cardigan I just can't decide.

The coat will have reflective camo on the cuffs and hem (but not a collar), but I can’t decide about the rest of it. The cardigan I just can’t decide. 

This will be a great spring jacket that will reflect like mad when I bike home wearing it!

This will be a great spring jacket that will reflect like mad when I bike home wearing it!

I’m definitely obsessed with floral prints, if you hadn’t realized yet, but I like the occasional abstract print as well. I found this shoe print in the bottom of my stash (which isn’t all that big, to be honest) and think it needs to become a fun summer blouse. I don’t have much of it so it will probably be a sleeveless something.

I found this Moonglow Mystery print on Spoonflower and am COMPLETELY obsessed with it. I just can’t decide what to make out of it. I love that Spoonflower has “performance” fabrics as an option, so I have been mulling over the idea of making a moisture-wicking tee shirt with it, but I think it calls for a more structured, Victorian style. Hopefully I’ll see the perfect pattern soon, so I can order the fabric. Spoonflower Moonlight MysteryBut then that brings me right back to the dilemma – a bazillion print tops and only navy and gray pants. And don’t get me started on skirts – trying to coordinate plain or print skirts with everything else is a whole different challenge! Augh!

Am I the only one worried about making things that don’t go with anything else in my wardrobe? To the other sewists out there – what do you do? How to you manage what you make, and whether or not it all coordinates? Or do you just not worry about it?

The struggle is real - solid swatches, but nothing I like

The struggle is real – solid swatches, but nothing I like

2015 in Review: More Sewing, Less Biking

Hard to believe 2015 is already almost over! Christmas was barely over when every news agency and social media platform started trumpeting reviews of the year – hey, we still have a week! Nevertheless, I was curious to see what my nine best Instagram photos were:

Instagram 2015 Best Nine: Ironically, three are old photos I posted for a sewing challenge! (Top left, top right, bottom left)

Instagram 2015 Best Nine: Ironically, three are old photos I posted for a sewing challenge! (Top left, top right, bottom left)

Looking over 2015, I realized that I did indeed do waaaay more sewing than biking. I made 18 garments this year! Two pieces were for other people, but regardless, that is more than I made in 2012-2014 total (I made a total of 15 things in those three years)! That also doesn’t include the American Girl Doll things for my niece, plus two attempts at reflective bucket bags. Guess I was indeed madly sewing away. No wonder I’ve gotten so out of shape – I really haven’t done much biking beyond my daily commutes and errand running.

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As with most sewing, there are things I love and things I don’t. My favorites are the Liberty of London blouse I just finished and wore to Christmas dinner with the in-laws; the Bike word skirt; the color-blocked dress; the hummingbird blouse; the culottes; and the “antique” floral blouse. I love the way the reflective trim turned out in that.

It’s not that I didn’t do *any* biking – The Mechanic and I did the CASA River Ride in Shepherdstown, WV, again, and we did some mountain biking with friends.

I did participate in some bike events – BikeArlington’s Balaklava and Baklava sewing events; the Women’s Bicycle Forum during the National Bike Summit; a Ladies’ Night at Revolution Cycles; tested out Forest and Fin’s Bicycle Wrap Skirt; a bike rodeo for some elementary school children over the summer; and Reid Miller’s bicycle fashion trunk show.

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So it was a busy bike-y year – just not not as much on-the-saddle, long-distance bike riding as previous years.

My goal for 2016 is to figure out how to balance these out a bit more. Of course, I’m already planning 5 or more sewing projects for the near future, so no sign of slowing down there! And The Mechanic and I are going to sell our road bikes and replace them with something more suitable to what our interests are. I’m currently thinking we need folding bikes, so we can take them with us when we travel. And there there may be plenty of travel in 2016, depending on how things shake out!

I always enjoy planning, especially for a new year. Expect to see a more formal 2016 Goals blog post next week. I can’t help it – planning, dreaming, scheming, creating… These are the best things! Balancing it all out so that it ALL happens is where I tend to get stuck.


ICYMI June: More Bike Fashion Happened

Well, half the year is gone already. The Mechanic and I booked a trip for March 2016. I guess I’d better start my Christmas shopping list, since the holidays will be here soon enough!

I realized a lot more stuff happened in June that I thought it had – I thought it was a pretty relaxed month, especially compared to what July is going to be (out of town half the month, not at home for three of the four weekends!). So to catch you up a bit on other goings-ons, here are some photos:

Thor Nebula Scarf from ShadowplayNYC

Thor Nebula Scarf from Shadowplay New York

I’ve loved Shadowplay New York for a really long time, even though I’m much more into oceans and trees and flowers for patterns and prints. I love their concept of taking real NASA photos and making fabric out it them, and turning them into clothes and accessories. The first dresses I wanted were unusual shapes as well as fabric, but out of my price range, so I’ve been stalking them ever since. They’ve expanded their collection to cool mineral and meteorite prints as well. Anyway, I got an Etsy giftcard for my birthday and went straight to their page and pre-ordered the Thor Nebula scarf. It arrived in June and I love it! Its huge, and I admit that I’m scarf-challenged, but I’m going to wear it no matter what.

I normally wear small earrings with a back closure, so that I don’t risk losing them when putting my helmet on and and pulling it off. But The Mechanic and I had a date night that I wanted to dress up for and wear big earrings, so I braved the helmet strap. And it worked! These hoops are so fun, with this cool 3-D flower, but a bit too heavy, so I don’t think I’ll wear them as much as I’d hoped.

Oops, twisted backwards under the strap!

Oops, twisted backwards under the strap!

While I was making my reflective hummingbird top, I found a bird-print tee shirt at Target that I had to have. I have a thing for bird stuff (this pre-dates Portlandia, I’d like to point out), and was happy to add this stylized Northern Flicker to my collection. Target Flicker Tee ShirtTarget also continues to surprise and please with it’s bike accessories collection. They are really expanding their urban/casual bike rider line. I love the baskets and bags, and almost bought a mint green bungie net. And liked the Bell helmet that looks kinda like a Yakkay bike helmet cover.

How cute are those lined baskets?!

How cute are those lined baskets?!

Target Bell Bike HelmetI like to think that because Target is based in one of the most bike-friendly cities, they understand the demand for a wider range of bike styles.

Speaking of bike styles, one day I had emails featuring models and bicycles. Sure, two were bike companies, but one was Ann Taylor Loft! And the model is wearing the cutest floral print jumpsuit, the perfect thing to go biking in. I can’t wait to get mine made! Bike adsIt’s the Fourth of July weekend, and I need to get my latest sewing project done. I’d like to take it on one of my upcoming trips, so the pressure is on! And then I’m going to start the jumpsuit I’ve been wanting to make FOREVER (or so it seems), after doing some mad pattern measurements and adjustments. But having several projects queued up didn’t stop me from buying a new pattern – this Simplicity pattern was only to be found by an individual seller on Etsy, so even though I’d had it in my hand at JoAnn’s, I was forced to buy it before I’m ready for it. But doesn’t it scream for some reflective fabric?! Simplicity 0419July will be a month of few blog posts, and fewer completed sewing projects, I’m afraid. You can always keep up with my travels and adventures on my Instagram account in case the blog posts don’t come in fast and furious enough! I hope your summer is also full of adventures – who has fun travels planned?

My Lovely Reflective Bicycle Dress

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had a garment that makes me as happy as my new reflective bike dress.

Reflective Bike Dress, without flash

Reflective Bike Dress, with flash

I love the cut, the fabric, and the fact that in the right light, I shimmer! Okay, I sort of look like Tron, but really, I’m okay with that. The skirt moves very nicely, and turned out to be the perfect length; I had been a bit worried. And I’m really proud of myself for doing this.

Tron Legacy (nope, haven’t seen it)

From a professional perspective, there are many things about the dress that did not turn out the way I would like. The biggest challenge was getting the piping to not “creep” while I stitched it. I had to take the skirt entirely apart, then hand baste all of it that nothing would wiggle as much. Even then had to stop every few inches and reset. Basically it meant that I had to take longer with this dress than I normally prefer to do when sewing. On the other hand, it looks better, and I do have the space to leave my sewing machines and stuff out while I slowly work my way through things. This was impossible in my NYC apartment, where I didn’t even have a kitchen table!

Thanks, Tim, for the pictures!

I’m happy to report that it glows beautifully on the bike as well. The Mechanic obligingly took some photos last night, so I could see me in action. This is the drawback to looking cool on one’s bike – it’s hard to see it yourself!

Work Friendly! At one of the bike racks at work.

I glow everywhere! If you look closely at my right foot, you can see the tiny glow from the reflective material on my Merrell Evera Mary Janes.

My helmet looks very bland next to the rest of me. Hm…

Let me do another cost analysis. I spent $72.68 at JoAnn Fabrics, on the fabric (4 yards @ $12.99 a yard), zipper, thread, lining, and so on. The four packages of Dritz Reflective Sew-In Piping cost me about $25, including taxes and shopping, since I had to order it online. The Simplicity pattern was another $12. So materials alone cost me about $110. In terms of hours, well, I stopped keeping track when I realized I had to take it apart and start over. Easily 20 hours, times a rate of $25 an hour, that’s $500 right there! So basically this is a $600 dress! Well, it is a Cynthia Rowley dress pattern, and her stuff is high end, so I guess that’s about right! (I love that this dress is so similar! I like the pattern I chose much better though.)

This entire project has made me realize that I am a bigger fan of Cynthia Rowley than I realized. As I’ve looked through the Simplicity patterns online, every single cute pattern I pick out is a Cynthia Rowley! I do have something in mind for my next reflective sewing project, with fabric I already have in stock, something a bit easier.

But first, I have another project to tackle – clipless pedals! Eek!

I’m scared of falling, even though I know I will.


Sewing Sunday

I was supposed to go on a group ride this morning, a group of lady roadies all similarly interested in doing a century later this summer or early fall – but I slept through my alarms….

So instead I’m turning my energy into sewing projects! I am still working on this complicated dress pattern; I need to go back and fix some problem spots before moving on.

But… because I do not have a one-track mind, I’ve been haunting the sewing websites for ideas for my next project. I realized that the blue bubbles fabric I initially bought for this dress perfectly matches some of the reflective grosgrain I bought in New York, so I want to find a great pattern for them.

There are several Vogue dress patterns that I like, and I think could work for this fabric, but I’m not sure about the trim.

Vogue 8807 dress and sash

Vogue dress 8810

Vogue wrap dress 8784

As you can see, they are all fairly similar.

I was cruising the Wall Street Journal this morning and found this great article about style in the New York Public Library, which I love for many reasons: It’s fashion (duh), it’s stylish librarians (I worked in a library when I was in high school but decided it was too quiet for my future career), and it’s the NY Public Library (where I spent many hours while writing my Master’s thesis). But… check out the photo of Jessica Pigza, Assistant Curator, Rare Books. She made her dress, which she is wearing as a jumper (too cute, totally love). I hadn’t heard of the Lisette patterns before, so naturally I had to look them up!

I feel sure that I’ve missed out on Lisette while others have embraced the fun fabric and cute styles, but studying the website shows that I’m at least somewhat familiar with it. The patterns are Simplicity, and the fabric is available at Jo-Ann Fabrics.  But everything seems fresher and younger than either of those. I love these dresses too!

Lisette Simplicity 1878

Lisette Simplicity Traveler Dress 2246

Lisette Simplicity Itinerary Dress 2060

Maybe I just like them because of the names – “Traveler” and “Itinerary” speak to my perpetual wanderlust. And I’m kind of in love with the Itinerary dress, and the contrasting yoke and obi sash. It’s not what I’m looking for right now, but I’m definitely going to keep this in mind for later. With the right fabric, it would be cute in the summer, or in the fall or spring with fun tights.  I could always add the reflective piping to the yoke and sash, and if they get covered up by a blazer in the fall, that would be okay too.  Hm…

While I ponder future sewing projects, I will work on my current one today, all while watching the Tour de France for inspiration for my century. If these guys can do that, I can do a mere 100 miles. After all, this CNN article says the success is all in your mind. And right now, I see myself in a series of cute bicycle dresses!

Fabric Shopping Online

The Mechanic is away for the weekend, and today was my compressed Friday off, so I dedicated the entire day to fashion, rather than transportation. Except for walking to the market, I haven’t gone anywhere – kind of  a treat!

I’m anxious to get started on my next bicycle fashion project, this Cynthia Rowley dress. I’m doing the sleeveless version. I love everything trimmed in piping or edged in contrasting trim, so I’m excited that this dress actually calls for piping in the seams! You might be able to guess where I’m going with this – yes, reflective piping! But I can’t decide what fabric to pick!

Cynthia Rowley Dress

I know what I want – blue or gray, since the piping is silvery; a small, non-directional pattern (or something that won’t look dumb if it’s cut in different directions); and sophisticated enough that I can wear it to meet clients. But since I’m limited to a small JoAnn Fabrics near me, or the internet, I’m having some trouble. If only I’d had this pattern when I was in New York!

I spent what seemed like hours trolling website for fabrics, and I’ve narrowed it down to three so far. But I can’t decide which I like the best.

Option 1 – Expressions Circles

I love this Expression Circles print because I love this sort of “bubbles” design, and anything with circles. I think it will work well with the shapes of the pattern pieces, and the trim should go well with the pale blue.

Option 2 – Imperial Medallions

Option 2, the Imperial Medallions, is the kind of print I really love – symmetrical, circles, and historic. It would look great with the trim, but I’m not sure if it would be too busy as a full dress. But I really love it.

Timeless Treasures

But I love the clouds print too. I really wanted something blue, since my bike skirt is black and white, but this is so great. I’m mildly obsessed with Shadowplay NYC and their NASA imagery fabric and clothing – if I could find a starscape fabric that isn’t too childish, I’d consider that.

Shadowplay NYC Retro Galaxy dress

I decided to think on it and feed my design brain by catching up on my fashion scrapbook.


As old-fashioned as it now is, thanks to Pinterest, I cut out pictures of my favorite things from fashion magazines, and collage them into books. I’ve been doing this since the mid-80s (oops, did I just age myself?!), and love to look through them over and over again, when I need inspiration. It’s funny how I always seem to like the same things.

I still can’t decide which fabric I like! I’ll probably cruise through JoAnn’s again, before I commit. So what do you think? Which print would you recommend?