Back to Biking, At Last!

Last week I finally started biking to work again, three months after my surgery. It felt really good to clean off the bike and get a few miles in. Rather than jump back into my 8 miles round trip immediately, I broke up the commutes, so I biked TO work on Tuesday, rode the bus home, then to work on Wednesday, then biked FROM work on Wednesday; repeat on Thursday and Friday. My muscles started complaining almost right away on Tuesday, so I’m glad I did that. It doesn’t matter than I only did half day commutes because I was just so happy to be biking again. And it’s not just that I haven’t been able to bike while recovering from surgery, it’s because I hadn’t enjoyed biking to work much at all in the months before the surgery. Frankly, I was privately grateful to have an excuse to *not* bike. Turns out that I am not alone in my loss of bike love. Jools Walker, aka Lady Velo, is a bike blogger, fashionista and expert in London, and someone I greatly admire. She recently blogged about how she had recently biked for the first time in six months. She had lost her love of biking – the thing her persona is so much a part of. Jools wrote a thing called “anhedonia,” which, like her, I hadn’t heard of before.  It’s basically losing interest in the things you love and a symptom of major depressive disorder. For her, being able to identify this and connect it to depression and anxiety she’d felt earlier, made something click. Allowing herself to name it also opened her up to wanting to do it again. Jools wrote that she finally realized that she had needed the break from cycling and that she shouldn’t beat herself up for it, and I think she’s right. I also think that I too needed a break from cycling.

I also didn’t want to admit that I didn’t feel like biking, and used my crazy work schedule to excuse my bus riding, then the surgery was the perfect cover. I probably could have started biking again sooner post-op but had a bit of anxiety around it – too  many days of reading about the horrible things that can ruin a simple, fun bike ride and I began to get a bit worried that I wouldn’t like it or be too scared. But something snapped, and the desire to bike again suddenly reared up and grabbed me. I’m glad and relieved that it did, because I had four days last week of just *happy* bike rides.

Fauntleroy at work again!

I feel like I’ve had a lot going on so maybe my schedule wore me out and wore me down, and biking was one less thing to worry about. Ironic, considering all the research and personally knowledge about how much happier I am when I’m exercising consistently. But I felt more in control last; there’s much to be said for being able to jump on my bike whenever, rather than racing to the bus stop to catch the bus.

I got a bit more inspiration on Saturday when I went to Clarendon and stumbled upon the Armed Forces Cycling Classic Clarendon Cup pro women’s bike race. I was early for my hair appointment so I watched them do laps for a while. It was inspiring and made me a bit wistful for my road bike and high speed cycling.

Happy Biking!

My bike commute to work isn’t anything like a pro cycling race but the feeling of euphoria is the same (okay, similar). I’m glad I had all that time off from my bike, because now I can feel free to love it again, and not dread it or feel anxious about not doing it when I felt like I should have been loving it all along.  I’m glad we had the break, but now it’s time for summer biking! And Jools – I hope your mojo comes back for you, that the slow burn becomes a steady (manageable) roar that makes you happy and content.

Recap and Review of Me Made May

I was pretty impressed with myself during this year’s Me Made May challenge – with the exception of the few days I had to wear company branded clothing and the one day I wore my Diane von Furstenberg dress for a fancy work event, I wore something Me Made every day this month. This might actually be a first. It means that I have things in my sewing collection that I like well enough to wear often. So let’s break that down a bit.

  • I didn’t like everything I wore – for example, I don’t love my Colette Wren dress but like it under a blazer.
  • Not everything fits well – e.g., the pink print duster needs to be wider across the back and the sleeves are waaaaay too short.
  • I don’t actually fit into some stuff I’ve made in the past since I’ve gained more weight in the last year than I should have. (#dislike)
  • My goal is always to find the right <dress, skirt, top> and I decided that there are some patterns I could repeat, even though I hate repeating patterns.
  • Having red hair now means that some stuff I made when I had blonde hair doesn’t look quite right.
  • I finally bought a tripod and remote so I can take pictures someplace other than my office bathroom! My Instagram followers must be relieved, haha!

With the exception of my denim lace dress, which I forgot to take a picture of, here are my top faves for this month:

As I mentioned above, part of the goal for sewing is to find styles and thus patterns that I really love and that really work for me. I’ve had a lot of trial and error, and I’m beginning to figure out things. Gaining weight hasn’t helped, because I’m disappointed in myself at how I look in things, but overall, it’s not that much of a gain that I can’t see what I like and don’t like. I still don’t have me-made pants that I really like, although I do love my culottes, so I guess that’s something. I think I need to focus on perfecting the patterns I do like, rather than just trying new things over and over.

That being said…. on June 1, I finished this dress: (Note: when I bought this fabric, my hair did not match it!)

I absolutely *love* this fabric but I tried a new pattern and don’t love it. It’s McCalls 6885, and I thought it might be a nice simple summer dress. I’m sure it will be, but I don’t think it’s very flattering. It’s rather shapeless, even with the back ties. And the collar is HUGE! I feel like I should be going to a 70s party in that collar. Maybe it will grow on me. The sleeve tabs are reflective, though, which of course I love. I was thinking that I’d make this in an autumnal plaid but I think this will not be a repeat pattern.

well, when you have to take something apart, might as well make the process enjoyable, right?

Another reason to focus on what I like is that I seem to have lost my ability to ease in sleeves properly. I think I need to make a few of the same to figure out what I’m doing wrong.

That all being said, I’m trying a new dress pattern.

I’m doing Version A of this New Look 6095 dress.

I just want a nice simple dress pattern so I can make a few work-appropriate summer linen dresses. Something with a fuller skirt would obviously be more bike friendly, but I’m not in love with the dirndl skirt style at the moment. What to do, what to do? Stay tuned!

Linen on the left from Marcy Tilton Fabrics, linen and buttons on the right from JoAnn Fabrics

 

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.

 

Reviving Victorian Women’s Bicycle Fashion

Through the magic (!!!) of Twitter, I discovered a revival in Victorian women’s bicycle fashion. Yes, Dear Readers, it’s true – someone out there is biking around London in Victorian women’s bicycle fashions. As a historian (okay, two degrees in history, even if I don’t do that for my daily job), bicycle rider and sewist of reflective bicycle clothing, I couldn’t be more excited about this!

Dr. Kat Jungnickel is a sociologist at Goldsmiths, University of London, and has recently come out with a book that explores how Victorian women adapted their clothing as they adopted the freedom of the new-fangled bicycle. I ordered it but it hasn’t arrived – I’ll update you once I’ve read it. But better than just research and write about this topic, she’s *recreated* some of the clothing AND made the patterns available for free! <squee!!!> Best part is – the patterns were inspired by patents that Victorian women themselves invented and lodged. How cool is that?! Women’s bike style, now AND then! Inspiration for all of us now.

I hope Ms. Barnes doesn’t mind me sharing her photo from the Telegraph – it’s too wonderful to not share!

Some of the clothing has been created with Dashing Tweeds tweed – yes, the reflective stuff! Check it out in her Tweet.  One of the skirts converts to a cape as well, predating Cleverhood by over 100 years. Check out the article in the Telegraph for photos and more details. Not only are there some great photos by Charlotte Barnes, there are images of the original patents. Dr. Jungnickel also wrote an article for the Guardian that has examples of other patents, so you get a good idea of what was invented and what she’s had recreated. I also love the photo in the article in The Argus, because you can see the fun printed bloomers under the model’s skirt.

In the Guardian, Dr. Jungnickel shared this 1895 patent by Alice Bygrave (photo by Handout) – how cool is this?!?

Dr. Jungnickel is doing a book tour in costume and although I doubt she’ll make it to Washington, DC, or even New York, I’d sure love to meet her and talk to her about her research and costumes.

While I was reading about Dr. Jungnickel’s book, I found two other books that are related, sort of. The first is a book called Bicycles, Bloomers and Great War Rationing Recipes: The Life and Times of Dorothy Peel, OBE. The review doesn’t say much about the bicycles and bloomers part of the title, but if it’s looking at how society changed, bloomers and bicycles are an obvious place to start. The other book is titled Fashioning the Victorians by Rebecca N. Mitchell. A “critical sourcebook,” this pulls together primary sources to examine how fashion changed Victorians and vice versa. This is 100% a topic that I love so I’ll no doubt get my hands on this sometime soon as well.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (as my dad always says), I threw together some bicycle fashion of my own this past weekend. I decided I needed a basic gray skirt so I pulled out some unwanted cotton/poly twill (ordered online and the color wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be) and my trusty Kwik Sew 3877 A-line skirt pattern and cranked it out. I lined it in light blue and of course added reflective piping to the side seams. I love how easy this pattern is, and how surprisingly flattering it is. The twill seems to coordinate with several tops I’ve made, so hopefully I’ll get a ton of use out of it. Wish I’d added pockets though – I always regret it after I decide against it.

Pretty basic – sorta like a flight attendant’s skirt…

“Signature” bicycle trio stitch

Lined in light blue

It’s not surprising to learn that Victorian women invented their own ways of managing their long dresses and skirts on bicycles; humans are extremely creative and adaptive. It’s so refreshing to see their designs  and know that they were trying to solve the same problems that many of the rest of us are working on – how to combine a sport we love with the styles we love. But I’m grateful that we don’t have to work around long wool skirts and corsets!

A la francaise – new skirt worn with Ligne 8 striped jersey purchased from Bike Pretty and Cole Haan oxfords – and a rhinestoned beret to add extra flare!

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!

Brocade Bomber for Biking

I told you I am obsessed with outerwear right now and here’s more proof! My brocade bomber jacket is done!

I bought this brocade in New York City last year in a store that was going out of business. I am thrilled at how well it coordinates with the bronze reflective fabric from Mood.

I was originally thinking I would make a moto jacket but decided on Simplicity 8418 instead – the simpler lines allow the fabric to shine, plus this pattern includes the lining. And it has pockets! The same flannel backed lining I used on my reflective tweed coat matches perfectly with this as well. (I’m newly converted to how great this lining fabric is.)

I’m pretty happy with how easily this came together. However, I need to automatically add at least an inch to every sleeve I make. The sleeves aren’t horribly short but I would have preferred them longer. Helps keep my wrists warmer while biking.

Speaking of biking, check out how cool the reflective trim looks:

Oh yeah!

I’m excited to have a dressy casual jacket that I can wear a multitude of ways.

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.

Blogging Without Internet

Our internet has been out for about three weeks now. Comcast finally figured out that they need to replace an outside cable so while it will eventually get fixed, it’s taking longer than we like. Blogging is, of course, not impossible without our home WiFi and my desktop computer, but I don’t enjoy blogging from my phone.

But so much stuff is going on and I really want to share my latest reflective sewing project with you! I finished my Dashing Tweeds coat hours before I left for New York City last Friday morning, hooray!!!!

I love this coat so much! It looks great, feels great, is really warm (thanks to Sew Pretty in Pink for suggesting ripstop as the interlining!), and wow, I made it!!! I never thought I could make wool coats and here I am.

I got several compliments on it while I was in New York, so if New Yorkers like it, it’s got to be good, right?

I got a lot of compliments on my Boden bunny dress too. 😃

I went to New York for several costume related reasons, including seeing Downton Abbey: The Exhibition. Once I organize all the photos, I will share those. And yes, I did go to the fabric stores but I didn’t buy as much as I’d hoped. More on that later as well.

Cross your fingers that our internet is up and running soon! Then I’ll be back to blogging in detail.