New yoga mat bag

Sorry for the dodgy photos. It’s so dark here today it looks like the apocalypse is coming…..

I have been try to make myself a nice yoga mat bag since I began sewing. I don’t want to buy one as they fall within my personal classification of ‘things I can’t buy because I could make them myself’ (this also includes hats, scarves, most knitwear…). I’ve had a few attempts so far and now I am on version three. The first two where functional but they still looked pretty flimsy and home-made. I wanted to have another go as version two was starting to look tatty and also the strap was too long to be able to cycle with.

So I didn’t worry too much about bodging it up I used fabric I already had; a blue and white stripy cotton and a grey wool. While they aren’t natural bedfellows I rather like them together. I think it looks a bit 80s somehow but that doesn’t put me off

To combat the flimsy issue I used the grey wool as a lining and contrast colour for the strap, top and pocket. This was mainly because I didn’t have enough of the stripy fabric to do it the other way around!

I cut out two big rectangles of each fabric (75cm x 50 cm stripy and 80 x 50cm for the grey in case you’re interested) and then turned over the tops and hemmed them. Then I sewed the rectangles along the sides and bottom (right side to right side), cut the corners, pinked the edges (because I am lazy), pressed and turned the right way out.

Next, I hemmed the side of the draw string top, turned over the top and sewed that down right on the edge. Then I cut out the pocket (I was feeling a bit slap dash at this point so can’t offer you any measurements and I suspect it isn’t strictly square) and then hemmed along the top, ironed the sides under (again in a slightly slap dash way without my tape measure). ¬†I got to use my automatic button-hole foot for the button holes (which I love and is my favourite thing about my sewing machine) and then I sewed it on to the main bag.

I cut out the fabric for the strap (12cm x 148 cm) ironed it in half, unfolded it, folded each side into the middle and ironed and then folded the whole thing in half and ironed again (if that makes sense?). I sewed it up along the side. This time I made sure that the strap was short enough that it would fit nice and snuggly across my body and won’t shift around when I’m wearing it on my bike.

To finish it off I threaded the strap through (using the safety-pin on the end trick my mum showed me many moons ago), sewed it to the bottom of the bag, sewed up the bottom and the sides on the wrong side and sewed on the buttons. Finally I excitedly waved it under the nose of my boyfriend in triumph, luckily he is very skilled at feigning interest in things I have made. ūüôā

I’m pretty pleased with it and will definitely be taking it on my bike to yoga next time I go. However there are a few extra modifications I would make:

  • Sewing on the buttons before I sew up the bag. It’s a right pain to try to sew them on the final bag.
  • Allow a double seam allowance so that there is allowance left for sewing up at the end. This time around I had to sew right along the edge. We will see if that makes it all fall apart really quickly.
  • Make a smaller pocket (and measure it probably). I think the pocket overwhelms the bag a bit and it would look better smaller. As I’m not entirely sure what I plan to put in the pocket anyway this shouldn’t be a problem.
  • Use thinner fabrics. I had real problems convincing my sewing machine to sew through the straps and the sides of the bag. It wasn’t happy at all…..
  • Buy new thread which is a good colour match rather using thread I have hanging about which you can kind of see….
  • Try and make the strap stretchy (not sure how I plan on doing that yet).

Nest- shop review

I’ve been making a bigger version of my¬†Bridgewater¬†by Jared Flood with 4ply wool and 4mm needles. It’s going to be a nice cozy Bridgewater blanket. However for some reason when I was buying the wool I totally forgot that as it is bigger than the original version it was also going to need more wool…. I also realised that with it being Christmas eve today my lovely plan for lots of Christmas Knitting was going to be scuppered if I didn’t get some more wool today.

My Bridgewater blanket so far

I’m making the blanket out of Drop Alpaca (fast becoming my favourite wool as it is really cheap, great to knit with and feels lovely to wear). A few weeks ago a friend at my knitting group gave me the rather splendid news that there is a stockist for Drops in London. It’s called Nest and it is in Crouch End. Today seemed like a great day to go and have a look around and hopefully sort out my wool based emergency!

I was really pleased with what I found at the shop. I really liked the following:

  • The shop is about 20 minutes cycle from my house which was good as it shut at 3:00 today and I didn’t leave my house until half 2!
  • There are bike racks right outside making it super easy to lock up my bike.
  • The staff were really friendly and kept the shop open for a couple more minutes so I could buy my wool.
  • They take cards (I never have any cash on me)
  • Somehow they had the exact dye lot I needed (while this isn’t something they will have done on purpose it still made me like them more).
  • They sell Drops! Alpaca at ¬£2.90 a ball! You can’t get much better than that!
  • They’ve got lots of lovely stock and a big open shop.
  • It was really easy to find.
  • There’s a yoga studio right over the road which I’ve never heard of before and am now looking forward to checking out.

All in all I was very impressed and I’m looking forward to having a proper explore around the shop when I have a little more time.

Adventures in cycling part 2

This is my bike and I'm a little bit in love with it.

I am feeling very proud of myself this week as I have finally taken the plunge and started cycling to work. I think it’s about a 12 mile round trip. As I was very nervous I had a little practice run at the weekend. Luckily my boyfriend was happy to come with me and show me the route (he’s very nice like that). I am a bit rubbish at remembering routes and the only way I seem to learn how to get somewhere is to do it. I’d really built myself up to it and in my head it was going to be an epic trek ¬†but in reality it was fine and I got there and back without feeling too knackered. Yay!

My first day of cycling started ominously with heavy rain. I was determined not to wimp out so I dug out my all waterproof (which hasn’t seen the light of day for about 5 years) and got on my bike. Luckily for me I was leaving at the same time as my boyfriend (who works in the same place) so not only was I able to follow him to avoid getting lost but he also carried my stuff for me. I thought that the rain would be awful but actually it wasn’t too bad, knowing that I had a dry change of clothes and shoes took all the stress away.

On the way back I was on my own and I was very nervous. Could I take on the central London traffic? It turned out that I could! Well……sort of…. I walked across a good few frightening crossings, was a bit over cautious and went a bit slowly but the important thing is that I made it!

My second day was slightly more challenging. I needed to cycle there and back (and not get lost!) on my own. I also needed to take a pannier as my boyfriend wasn’t around to carrying it for me. Despite my worries the rain held off and I only got a little bit lost. My main concern about the panniers was that it would make it difficult to cycle but I was surprised to find that the biggest problem was worrying about the pannier getting nicked when I was at the lights!

I am far from being a proper cyclist commuter but I am learning. Here’s what I’ve learnt so far:

  • Cycling in glasses is a bad idea. As soon as it rains I can’t see. Contact lenses are the only option.
  • Taxis and motorbikes are very keen to kill you so they have more space in the bus lane.
  • If in doubt follow someone in lots of cycling gear they tend to know what they are doing.
  • You can’t have enough locks.
  • It is possible to cycle with a satchel handbag.
  • Cycle lanes are only put on very quiet roads and never on busy ones where they would actually be useful.
  • Pretending you are a car and hogging the whole lane at a junction (when cars won’t let you to the cycle bit at the front) means that you feel much safer
  • There is no shame in walking your bike across a massive scary junction. Even the pro cyclists do it sometimes.
  • Cycling makes you extra hungry.
I’m really enjoying my daily bike ride. It’s boosting my mood and my energy levels as well as allowing me to eat more cake!

Why are all the car drivers trying to kill me?

I have discovered that one of the pitfalls of cycling is that it fosters a dislike of car drivers. I can’t drive myself. I didn’t take very well to learning to drive and sort of gave up after I failed my third driving test. Because of this I’ve always been slightly impressed by people who have mastered a skill that alludes me. All that has changed since I have started cycling around North London; ‘impressed’ has turned into down right annoyed.

A car is rather big and heavy and a person on a bike small and vulnerable. One would like to assume that this would give car drivers a sense of care around cyclists. No such luck.  Instead I am finding that they opt for  horn honking, driving as close to you as possible and generally looking very put out that you should be on the road at all.

Now, I am very well aware that almost everyone in London moves about as though their journey is the most important one ever undertaken. Indeed, I am sure that sometimes I adopt this attitude myself . I can frequently be found striding about the tube, probably late for something and carrying a millions bags, and getting very irritated ¬†with people who decide to dawdle along in front of me and then even worse stop for a nice little chat….. Luckily for the dawdlers and chatters there is very little about me that could be found intimidating however annoyed I may be. ¬†I’m 5 foot 2 with rather cheerful looking curly hair and quite a small build; literally ¬†no-one had ever been scared of me and I couldn’t hurt anyone even if I wanted to (I’ve been in one ‘fight’ in my life – and I ran away and hid behind someone…).

On the other hand an angry person in a car is very intimidating. More so when it is your very presence that has annoyed them. The roads near by house are often narrow and once everyone has parked their car down the side there isn’t sufficient room remaining for both a bike and a car. So sadly for the car drivers sometimes they have to wait behind a bike for a little while until they can overtake. I accept that this is probably very annoying but it can’t add more than a minute or two to their journey. ¬†I don’t think there is any need for ¬†a car to drive right up my arse and starting to rev his engine and then toot his horn until I pull over and let him get on with his very important business as happened to me last night. (I am at a loss to see what is that important at half 7 on a Friday but there you go).

Maybe one day I will learn to drive and then I will change my mind but right now I’m wondering what kind of person thinks it’s okay to use a big metal box and the damage it could cause to frighten and intimate someone who is in the most vulnerable position on the road.

Rant over!

Adventures in cycling

For quite some time I’ve been going on about getting a bike and then doing nothing about it. My boyfriend has recently starting cycling into work and the extra spring that’s put in his step has inspired me to finally do something about it. I’ve been saving up the money that I would normally have spent on my travel card every month while I’ve been off work so that’s given me the cash to pay for it ¬†(I am trying not to think about the fact that I would spend the equivalent of a new¬†bike every two months on getting to work….).

I am very excited about my bike. I’m pleased that I’ve managed to find one that is pretty enough that I like it but no so pretty that it is a thief magnet. I would loooooove to have a pretty Pashley but a) I can’t even nearly afford it and b) it would get nicked in about 5 minutes.

I haven’t really cycled since I was a teenager so I am very rusty. I needed to cycle the bike back from the shop in Stoke Newington which I was very scared about to be honest. My boyfriend kindly humored me while I checked I could actually still ride a bike and I figured out a quietish route to get me home unscathed.

I learnt a few things on my first tentative ride:

a) I am frightened of right turns
b) cars hate cyclists
c) I don’t like going very fast
d) there are about a million one way streets near my house none of which I’ve ever noticed before
e) not being able to drive means that I don’t really know the rules of the road. Although I’m sure it’s somewhere in the back of my brain from when I passed my theory test when I was 17….

however on the plus side

a) I didn’t look as stupid in a cycle helmet as I thought I would
b) I’m not as unfit as I thought
c)It is possible to cycle with my handbag
d) it’s fun

Clearly I need to put quite a bit of work in before I start zipping around central London. So, in the mean time I’m going to practice on quite roads in north london (and hope that I don’t chance upon any riots while I’m doing it….) TFL is rubbish in many ways (tube closures every five minutes, daylight robbery for a travel card…etc) but one thing they do very well is cycle maps. ¬†They are very handily marker with quite roads, cycle paths and bits where you can’t cycle.

Armed with my map, and thinking I’d memorised the way I set off today for a little trip down to Stokey to buy some dye. My first problem came when I realised that the road I was planning to turn left onto out of my road is actually a one way street in the wrong direction, oops. Walking my bike down to the road before I could actually start cycling wasn’t the greatest start but I didn’t let it put me off. Once I got going my terrible sense of direction reared its ugly head and of course I had no idea where I was going next. However, despite lots of stops to check my map, one crossing that was too frightening to attempt and sneaky walk of the bike over the crossing I made it and I was rather proud.

The next challenge was to lock it up properly. Given that almost everyone I know who cycles in London has had a bike nicked at some point or another (one had hers nicked the day after she bought it and before she put it on her insurance….very upsetting…it was a fancy expensive triathlon bike with cleats and everything) I am naturally anxious. However I’ve got it insured and brought a massive heavy lock. For once in my life I actually read the instructions and figured out the best place to lock it. In spite of this I was surprised and relieved to find that it was still there when I got out of the shop!

I’m very excited about my cycling adventures¬†to come and hope that I get better and more confident quickly so that I can take my bike out a little further afield.