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.

Some Adventures in LalaLand

Hard to believe it’s been three weeks since I was in Los Angeles! Technically, I was in Eagle Rock, CA, but few know about Eagle Rock and everyone knows about LA, so… It’s sort of like telling people outside of the DC area that I live in the DC area, rather than specifying Arlington.

Anyway, Eagle Rock is an adorable neighborhood near Pasadena where friends of mine have lived for decades. Despite the wide lanes along Colorado Blvd., it has a small town, homey feel – other than a Trader Joe’s, most of the storefronts seem to be locally owned restaurants and shops. And I love the architecture and all the amazing flowers – so many homes have local “desert” yards.

My friends are vegan, which was a welcome travel change. Finding vegetarian-friendly restaurants is always a challenge, so I was pleasantly surprised at how vegetarian- and vegan-friendly LA is! From small shop My Vegan to the large and wonderful Sage Plant Based Bistro in Old Town Pasadena to Flore Vegan Cuisine and the vegan donuts at Colorado Donuts, I was able to eat whatever I wanted without analyzing the ingredients lists. Several times I found myself about to ask “Is there bacon in that?” because of course there isn’t bacon on something in a vegan place! Vegan bacon, that’s a different story. I’m still fantasizing about the jackfruit “tuna” melt at Sage and the tofu benedict at Flore. And the vegan donuts, yumm….

Other than eat, we also went to Harry Potter World and whale watching. It was fun to go to Harry Potter World but the fact that it was 90+ degrees made it hard to get into the snow covered buildings feel of Hogsmeade Village! Still, the ride was awesome and I wish we could have done it multiple times.

The other fabulous thing we did was go whale watching in Newport Beach. In my tradition, we didn’t see whales but saw something better – a whole pod of dolphins! They followed our boat, swam under it and in general did wonderful dolphin-y things. It was like being in a documentary, seeing the whales leaping around us by the dozens.

There was a professional photographer on board and we ordered her photos. Isn’t this amazing?!?!

It was wonderful to be back on the Pacific Ocean and of course I had to put my feet in the water. (I must always put my feet in any body of water I run across!)

My friend and I originally bonded over our mutual love of hats and sunscreen so we naturally ended up hat shopping. A new Goorin Bros. hat found it’s way home with me….

I wore something #memade almost every day on that trip but didn’t get many photos. You can see my Liberty of London dinosaur shirt in the Hogwarts Castle photo, and my new linen vine dress in the hat photo. It’s very satisfying to know that I’m wearing clothes I’ve made myself. But it was more satisfying to spend time with friends.

Angels!

 

Sewing Bike Bloomers, Then and Now

I recently flew to Los Angeles and used my direct, 5+ hour flight to finish Bike and Bloomers: Victorian Women Inventors and Their Extraordinary Cycle Wear, by Kat Jungnickel. If you are at all interested in women bicycling, women’s fashion, fashion history, sewing, and/or equal rights for women, read this book NOW!

There is so much to unpack and process before Kat even gets into the details of the women’s cycle fashion patents that she and her team recreate that I think that will be an entirely different blog post. But let me try to summarize: Victorian women as well as Victorian men were excited by the independence and exhilaration that the new sport “bicycling” presented. However, centuries of assumptions that women were frail, unmechanical, non-sporty, homemakers, only good for having babies, and that their lower limbs should *never* be seen, presented a challenge for those early adopter women who wanted to bike in public. Kat used diaries and newsletters as well as information from the patents themselves to illustrate the nerve that was required for women to attempt to cycle in late 1880s and 1890s Britain. In her first chapter, she quotes a letter from Kitty J. Buckman in 1897 in which Kitty, a cycling fan, says that “… one wants nerves of iron.” (page 11).

ref=”https://tinlizzieridesagain.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=5876″ rel=”attachment wp-att-5876″> Consider the politics of pockets in men’s clothing but not women’s[/ca

I don’t doubt it – society then was much less used to norms being flaunted, unlike now when our choices are plentiful (although not always well-received). The choices faced by Victorian women when it came to cycling appear to have been: simply don’t; bike in corsets and long skirts; wear Rational Dress, the new and radical women’s fashion movement that rejected tight-laced corsets and layers of hoops and petticoats; or adapt or create something entirely new. Although some of the women Kat quotes in her book were comfortable in their Rational Dress, they recognized that not all women were.  So they invented and patented outfits that made them look like ordinary Victorian women while biking safely (no long full skirts to get caught anywhere!), even while they were amazing, barrier-breaking wonder women.

This is the part where I get excited – I am totally inspired to make some Victorian women cyclist-inspired clothes. My long-time goal with sewing is to make clothing that works on the bike and in the office, without having to change upon arrival, without wearing spandex, and without looking “sporty.” Thankfully I live and bike in a time when I have choices – I can bike to work in gym clothes, traditional bike “kit” including padded shorts, a dress, jeans, skirts or whatever I like. That’s not to say that I won’t be judged for whatever I wear, because of course I will be – judging women based on their appearance is an international pastime now as it was then. But society has come to accept women in pants, jeans, and sports – even if we still have a long way to go, we can thank the women in Kat’s book for breaking down barriers for us.

ttps://tinlizzieridesagain.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=5865″ rel=”attachment wp-att-5865″> Check out this casual lady cyclist, gesturing with one hand as she tells her lady cyclist companion a story. I *love* this so much.

[/caption]But back to sewing. Although there are plenty of examples of “the ideal lady cyclist” in bloomers and blazer, what I really love are all the skirts designed to allow “bifurcation,” ie, two separate pant legs. Women invented ways to quickly and creatively convert their skirts into something bike-friendly, then just as quickly back into something that looked socially acceptable to bystanders. This is something I complete understand, although I realize that not everyone does. I don’t want to look like a “cyclist,” I want to look like a normal person who happens to get around by bike.

://tinlizzieridesagain.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=5867″ rel=”attachment wp-att-5867″> This design made me immediately think of the Folkwear Big Sky pattern.

[c

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/tinlizzieridesagain.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=5868″ rel=”attachment wp-att-5868″> This Big Sky Riding Skirt pattern looks like it would fit perfectly on a Victorian woman’s London bicycle.

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inlizzieridesagain.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=5866″ rel=”attachment wp-att-5866″> Another convertible skirt-culottes design![/caption]Since

Since culottes have been having a moment this year, mainstream stores from Ann Taylor to Anthropology have been showing wide-legged pants cropped at various lengths, and I love my culottes, I was pleased to see that some of the designs look like modern culottes. I first made Vogue 9091 because it looks like a skirt but is “bifurcated” (the word makes me giggle, I can’t say it with a straight face), which makes it perfect for me. I made my first pair in raspberry linen in 2015 and another pair in navy suiting gabardine the following year, and I wear them pretty frequently in the summer. Every time I wear them, I remember how much I love them.

zzieridesagain.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=5869″ rel=”attachment wp-att-5869″> Fabulous office bathroom selfie… but I love this outfit, too, so I don’t care!

Since read

[/caption]Since reading this book, I’ve been eyeing all the sewing patterns out there to make something a bit more “skirt” and a bit less “trousers,” and I think I recently found something that might be exactly what I want – the Megan Nielsen Tania pattern. This pattern offers not only different “skirt” lengths but two different fullnesses, so the sewist can pick how much like a skirt she wants her culottes to appear. And shortly after I became obsessed with this pattern, I saw that COS has an almost identical pair of culottes on their website! Guess I’ll be super chic when I make mine.

ridesagain.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=5870″ rel=”attachment wp-att-5870″> So excited about this pattern!

I like these other patterns as well – this is just a sample from the McCall Pattern Company family, but many other pattern companies have made culotte patterns as well. As much as I like these, I’m more obsessed with the Tania skirt-culotte style – it seems like more of a secret, don’t you think?

Although fall and cooler temperatures are on the way, I still want to make the Tania culottes. I think that out of a heavier yet still drapy fabric, maybe with a lining, they can still be a perfect office option – no one will know that my nice navy “skirt” is actually *pants* that allow me to easily swing my leg over my bike’s top tube and not crumple the fabric on that same piece of bike frame. Similarly to the way some Victorian women wished to appear that they were wearing skirts when they were off the bike, I too wish to appear to wear a skirt when I get off my bike. And now when I wear my culottes, and whatever else I feel like wearing when I ride my bike, I will think of those women who paved the way with their bike fashion patents, and sit up a bit straighter – no corset required.

Channeling my inner Victorian cyclist in the first pair of culottes I made in 2015!

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Sometimes Biking Isn’t the Car-Free Answer

Longtime readers of my blog know that it started off talking about biking, biking as a woman, biking while trying to stay fashionable, and making biking safer and more accessible. Over the years, my sewing has taken a larger role and some of the biking-as-transportation topics have dropped away. Although there are multiple reasons for the slow shift, lately, the reason why I haven’t been blogging about biking is because I simply haven’t been. Major surgery at the end of March kept me off my bike for almost three months, then emergency surgery three weeks ago put a stop to my slow increase back into the bike commuting world. It’s frustrating to not be able to bike.

This is what my commute should look like – my bike at the rack at work.

I suppose that most people now are thinking, “Oh, so you are driving to work instead.” Well, no. I don’t own a car. I haven’t had a car since 1999. And although The Mechanic now has a truck, A) it’s his hobby truck B) it’s a “vintage” fixer-upper C) it’s a manual transmission. I did learn on a manual transmission as a 15 year old but haven’t driven stick shift in 30-ish years, so I’m not exactly going to beg to borrow his car to get to work. Instead, I’ve been taking the bus. And Lyft. And I’ve been eyeing those dockless e-scooters that are popping up all over the area. I’m telling you, *those* are a game-changer.

Taking the bus to work is actually a pretty pleasant, convenient commute option. There’s a bus stop a few blocks from our house, and two blocks from my office. I’ve always managed to get a seat, although the buses do tend to fill up. I read the news (depressing) and Twitter (also depressing), post on Instagram, delete unwanted emails, write emails, and obsessively plan future sewing projects. Can’t do that on a bike.

But it’s not ideal. Buses don’t run all the time, and even when they do, you are still shackled to the timetable. No jumping on the bike and going whenever you feel like it. I don’t know what’s going on lately with the driver but I am getting seasick from all the herky-jerky driving, ugh. And I gotta be honest – there have been a few crazy people on the bus. Nothing like a relaxing ride home with the wild-eyed guy in the back cussing up a storm to no one in particular.

Never seen this before – a screen that rotates through camera views *inside* the bus – smile, your commute is on candid camera!

So I’ve been eyeing the dockless e-scooters like Bird and Lime. These electric scooters function similarly to dockless bikeshare – you download an app, agree to a bunch of stuff, enter a credit card, then use the app to locate the closest scooter. Because they are dockless, they can be found and left anywhere – preferably someplace responsible, please, and not the middle of the sidewalk! In April, the Washington Post reviewer said she couldn’t ever see a reason to use them and wasn’t sure anyone else could either. Well, I’m here to give you a reason.

Current and potential commute options

Post-surgery, I’m not allowed to bike, so even electric bikes, docked or dockless, are not an option. Riding the bus is getting on my nerves. I don’t have a personal car option. Lyft is too expensive for a regular commute and if I wanted to ride with other people in a Lyft Line or UberPool, well, I’ll take the bus. However…. an e-scooter is really appealing. I could just stand and let the scooter’s tiny motor get me where I need to go. And I could wear a pencil skirt.

I think the limited amount of effort required to make an e-scooter work is exactly what could make them so much more accessible by people who can’t or won’t bike. Older people, people with balance issues, people with certain mobility issues, people who don’t want to sweat on their way to work – all possible e-scooter users. We in the transportation industry who want to see fewer cars on the road need to find ways to reach beyond the brave, athletic, committed ones and I think e-scooters could be a solution.

Dockless bike saddle share?

Obviously there are many things that e-scooters can’t do, like haul three kids to school the way an e-cargo bike can, but that’s okay. It’s just one more option in the toolkit of carfree living. Because having a range of transportation options for all your different needs means having the flexibility to live without a car. Now we just need a single app to rule them all, Helsinki-style.

I haven’t yet tried an e-scooter but as they move into Arlington, I’m sure I’ll test one out sooner rather than later. I’ll let you know how it goes. It could be my non-bike car free answer.

DIY Disease

When do you realize that you have DIY Disease? Is it when you realize, for the nth time, that you’ve seen something you *know* you can recreate yourself, better/to your specifications, regardless of how many other projects you have lined up? Do you find yourself with a growing to-do list that mostly consists of “I really need to CLEAN HOUSE” type things while you madly focus in on the latest “I can make that myself!” project? No? It’s just me?

Okay, it’s me and The Mechanic. We both suffer from this disease. We’ve joked about it for a while now, me with the sewing and him with the building. We see something we like and we just know that we can make it better, better fitting, to our specific needs, better made, handmade, made in the USA. You name it, we’ve said it. And tried to do it. Which means that some things go undone, like the weekly vacuuming (a serious matter in a house with three rabbits that track hay everywhere), washing dishes, trimming rabbit toe nails, or even hanging artwork that has been sitting around for nine months since you moved into your house. (Editor’s note: blogging often gets pushed to the bottom of the list as well….)

ref=”https://tinlizzieridesagain.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=5844″ rel=”attachment wp-att-5844″> They look adorable but they are *a lot* of work.[/ca

So I gave up a bit. I bought plain white tee shirts instead of making them as planned. I gave up on adding anything else to my pattern or fabric stack. I simply feel overwhelmed and need some time for menu planning, cleaning house and slowly working exercise back into my post-surgery recovery. I decided that as much as I want to make my entire wardrobe, it’s simply not going to happen this summer, or maybe this year. Instead, I can’t plan/buy anything else until I finish my list. And some things may not stay on this list.

  1. Navy linen paperbag waist wide-leg pants, McCalls 7726
  2. Gecko stripe tee, Friday Pattern Company Sunny Dress/Tee pattern
  3. Finding Dory skirt*, Simplicity 8391
  4. Teal linen shirt dress, undecided
  5. White floral blouse, Vogue 9299
  6. Reflective Camo anorak, Closet Case Patterns Kelly Anorak with lining
  7. Beauty and the Beast tee shirt*, maybe Pamela’s Patterns Pretty Peplum Top
  8. Charley Harper top, Tilly and the Buttons Orla Tunic
tinlizzieridesagain.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=5830″ rel=”attachment wp-att-5830″> <– Skirt   Tee Shirt –>[/caption]
Let’s

Let’s be honest though – that’s a ton of sewing! Not much in the way of summer basics, but now that I have plain white tees to go with the crazy print stuff I love to make, I’m good for a while on basics.

What helped alot was taking a two-day mini sewing staycation this past week. First, I altered a wearable muslin dress I made earlier that I now love; this New Look 6095 in seagull print cotton might be a summer fave. Then I made a third Vogue 8805 with a second gorgeous piece from Marcy Tilton Fabrics. Lastly, I am halfway done with my navy linen wide-legged paperbag waist McCalls 7726 pants. I’ll finish those next weekend.

zieridesagain.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=5843″ rel=”attachment wp-att-5843″> DIY Disease means I never properly clean up my sewing space because I’m too focused on SEWING

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Obviously taking time off work to catch up on sewing isn’t something I can do all the time, but I’m really glad I did. It was healing, in a way. It allowed me to slow down and not feel so frantic.

esagain.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=5845″ rel=”attachment wp-att-5845″> See the squirrel on the railing? I think it was scolding me for relaxing.

[/caption]Of course…. I added one more thing. I decided to make our preteen niece a Harry Potter purse for her birthday later this month. Apparently she still likes Harry Potter, so I thought that rather than buy her a gift, I’ll make her something. I’ve never made a bag from a pattern before, so I’m using this Sew Sweetness Polaris Bag pattern to learn some proper techniques.

And that is a perfect example of DIY Disease. Do you have it as well?

*Yes, I’ve gone a bit off the thematic deep end and I’m making some Disney pieces to wear to Disney World later this fall. I can’t help myself…..

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.

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.