Happy 39th birthday to me! (And coincidentally to Rosie DIY Couture, though I don’t think she’s as old as me!) Yesterday was my birthday, and thank you so much to everyone who wished me well on social media – I’d planned to get this post up on the day itself, but I ended up spending my day packing and hefting boxes as we moved into the temporary flat we’ll be living in while the boat is being renovated! We only really took these photos as we were loading my bike into the rental van to move it to the flat (you can even see it in one of the shots!) so please forgive that the photos aren’t as clear or comprehensive as usual – they were taken very quickly on my phone on a very tiring day!
Every year I like to make myself something special to celebrate my birthday, and often these garments get so closely tied in my memory to that time in my life that I still refer to my green silk dress as “my 30th birthday dress”, for instance, and it means I get to do a bit of selfish sewing for myself, too!
This year I decided to make something I’ve been planning for months and months – ever since I bought a length of pale pink & lavender leopard (or is it cheetah?) spotted activewear fabric from Stoff & Stil in Oslo back in November. I then realised I hadn’t bought quite enough to make the Cycling Top I had envisioned in my head, so I had to order another meter from Stoff & Stil online, which ended up being from a slightly different dye lot (it’s only noticeable if you get really close!).
I’ve been wanting my own Cycling Top ever since I made Emily’s for the book phototshoot, and now that I don’t have to keep lugging my laptop back and forth to the office on my cycle commute, I’m finally free to ride more without my backpack. So with the warmer weather coming up, I thought a long-sleeved Cycling Top would be perfect (warmer is relative in London – I won’t be riding in short sleeves til July at the earliest!). The sleeves will keep me from getting too chilled in the wind, and the animal print will still be different and stylish enough in a sea of flo-yellow (as high-viz yellow is the current “black and pink” of cycling and I’m thoroughly bored of it!!).
Even without having to bring my laptop, though, I still have to bring my phone, wallet, keys, and “just in case” pump at the bare minimum for my commute, however, so the big back pockets will definitely come in handy. In the book I recommend topstitching two vertical dividers to create three pockets, but as I tend to store bigger items back there, I usually just do one divider for two pockets.
You can also choose to add a secure, zippered opening to one of the pockets, too – just seal off the top opening, and follow the zippered welt instructions from the Active Jacket to make an easy-access pocket for your valuables.
I toyed with extending the front zipper down to the bottom hem, but decided against it since I reasoned that I was unlikely to get so hot as to need more than half-zip ventilation on a long sleeved top. But if/when I make myself a short sleeved version, I might do just that so I can really vent on hot summer days (including my big Ride100 100 mile sportive in July since muggins here accidentally got a ballot spot, hahah!).
I used a pale pink chunky zipper I bought at Stoff & Stil that was too good not to pass up, and topstitched the collar seams with contrast triple-zigzag stitching in black. I had originally thought I might flatlock the body seams using some black woolly nylon thread, but in the end, I decided that some black accents on the topstitching, wide black FOE on the top pocket edge, and my custom front yoke piping would be enough, and I think I was right!
A word on that piping, though – I was watching this Linda Lee serger class on Craftsy when I became fascinated with her technique to create stretchy piping using your overlocker (serger) and thought I had to try it. So I bought the stretchy fusible tape she recommended, created the thick rolled hem, secured it in place and used it on my yoke seam. I love the look, and it’s a lot easier to make and apply than traditional piping, but it’s not quite as stretchy as the surrounding fabric – though some of that might be down to operator error and not having my settings 100% right! It’s definitely worth watching her course for this tidbit alone, IMHO – it’s been ages since I learned a totally new serger trick!
I’ve been saving this top for my new cycle commute (and also because it’s been freezing in London and I’ve been sick with the flu for the past 5 weeks!) – after 11 years of living in a building site on our boat, we’re f-i-n-a-l-l-y doing the big renovations we’ve always planned so we need to move into a flat for 6 months while our boat is gutted and rebuilt inside and out. In fact, the only rooms that are staying intact on our side are our bedroom and my sewing room! So you’ll be seeing some new backdrops in my photoshoots over the summer as we explore some new settings beyond our back garden. And don’t worry – I’ve got space for a sewing room in our “Summer Flat”, too, so things won’t be winding down at all!
If you recall, I always make myself something nice and special for my birthday each year…
38th – I made a Gimlet dress out of some incredible, embroidered ombre denim with flashes of the red satin lining.
37th – This birthday sucked. I’d been continuously ill for three months, we spent six hours stuck in traffic and got turned away from the restaurant (no bookings). I couldn’t even summon the enthusiasm to post about it, let alone make anything.
36th – A pair of jeans to take along for a week’s trip to NYC, where they saw active duty in our intensive, immersive theater schedule
35th – A galaxy-print sheath dress, using a Manequim pattern and a purple exposed zipper.
34th – A satin Matthew Williamson designer dress, made with his pattern from BurdaStyle magazine and a rich, plum duchesse satin.
33rd – A leather iPad case, protecting a new gift against the rigours of a transatlantic work trip the following day.
32nd – Manequim silk blouse: still being worn and loved many years later!
31st – LMB draped birthday dress in teal silk jersey:
30th – Green silk birthday dress using a Burda magazine pattern a emerald green silk satin:
29th – A bolero and jeans, on which I put the outline of the Thames on the back pockets, and lined the bolero with some vintage apron fabric from my Granny:
28th – I was homeless and living out of a suitcase in my boyfriend’s parents’ house, watching the Shipping Forecast every single day, hoping for good weather to sail our boat across the North Sea. My sewing machine was in storage, so I couldn’t make a new outfit, and frankly, ALL I wanted was for our boat to arrive. And it did, on the evening of my birthday.
27th – New Look 6429 in a fun sparkly knit from Walthamstow Market (and then about three days later decided to lose all that excess weight for good!).
26th – (probably the first year I was really into sewing) my favourite vest pattern with a red vinyl square neckband:
Does anyone else share the same birthday sewing tradition?