Sunday, 29 November 2015

Minimalist cycle touring travel wardrobe

The main problem with having a very interesting life with multiple hobbies is that they often compete. In my blogging absence, I have been trying to learn some French, and doing a lot of cycling, and have recently returned from cycling right across France with my husband and son, carrying all our camping gear etc. We cycled about 2000km, which I am still having trouble believing, then spent 4 days in Paris being proper tourists.

This was an amazing adventure, and has unsurprisingly cut into my sewing for the past 6 months or so, even though we were only away for 6 weeks. The preparation was a tad intense, and the recovery phase equally busy !Work will not just go away whilst I am on holidays, darn it.

So, you will want to see sewing. There was sewing, I promise, it just didn't make it to the blog. In fact I was almost about to leap into writing about my current project (a fancy dress, because you know I love to sew a fancy dress), when I was struck by a sense of blogger duty.

Its been such a long time since I wrote anything about sewing.This is a just-dipping-the-toe-in post about the minimalist, suitable- for- cycling- all- day- and- drying- overnight- whilst- hung- up- in- the- tent, yet co-ordinated wardrobe that I partly sewed myself for the cycling holiday, but as I forgot  was a little too preoccupied to take photographs before I left, you will have to make do with  mostly vacation/expedition shots. The clothes are pretty much worn out now. They were washed an awful lot, being worn in constant rotation.

You will see from the photos that I really didn't want to ride around France in lycra, but it is there underneath!.
To keep the sewing simple, I mostly used patterns with which I was already familiar

2015-09-27 18.08.00
1. Shirt dress, heavily adapted from Burda Style 02-2009-120  (pattern first made up here)
mid/base layer
Liberty Tana Lawn, with contrast linen collar stand, plackets etc. 2015-09-21 12.07.28

 I used french seams or felled seams for robustness, and also used Claudine's button instructions with Gutterman polyester thread. This method of attaching buttons I found to be less robust in 6 weeks of wear and wash second-daily, than a nice strong but admittedly sticking out knot, undoubtedly due to my poor stitching technique, but I had to reattch buttons on this garment whilst travelling, which I did not need to do with my other garments (alternative button attachment technique with Gutterman), or my son's shirt (hand made), which I had attached using Claudine's instructions with stranded cotton embroidery thread.. I also had to reattach buttons to my husband's purchased clothing.

Additions - internal passport pocket
Waist elastic gathering on either side at the front, and in the centre back because its not really comfortable to wear a belt on the bike.

2015-09-20 20.41.24
 2. mid/top layer Merino cardigan, Burda Style 03-2012-122 previously made,  described here. I don't have a great photo of this whilst on the trip, but I wore it nearly every day, in the evenings. I made this last  year.

2015-09-01 10.38.30
3. Long sleeved tunic blouse, Burda Style 2-2009-120 again. I told you I was making my life easy with familiar patterns!  The fabric was a slightly translucent silk/cotton batiste, white on blue print ,I wore any of my 3 base layer tanks under this shirt. The coolest was a rayon knit tank (base layer 1) originally sewn several years ago to wear under a long sleeved lace t shirt.

4. base layer 2 Merino princess t with cut on cap sleeve McCalls 5890 (fabric blotched dyed itself in the washing maching, but the overall effect was pleasing to me). I hand stitched the princess seams and hand stitched the neckline and armscyes with a nod to Alabama Chanin techniques, in a toning embroidery thread, because I was hating the bare bones nature of this wardrobe. The embroidery helped a lot. Feeble, really, being so attached to embellishment and prettiness in clothing....
I wore this as both a stand alone top, and as an underlayer garment. I made this garment longer at the back for additional coverage whilst cycling.

5. base layer 3 Merino vogue sleeveless t, pink, Vogue 2925 made about 10 times so far. Review here
Hemmed with embroidery floss, toning colour
(Embellished with running stitch seam emphasis, DMC cotton
You can see this in the neckline of the cardigan photo and also in the one below, under my rainjacket. I wore this mainly as an undergarment, but this was also cut longer at the back to allow for the cycling position.
2015-09-17 12.11.01
6. Merino buff, copied from RTW. This was an incredibly useful item, and took up hardly any room. I found it added considerably to my warmth, and from about the second week of the holiday was cursing myself for not making 2 or 3 (it was very cold at night whilst camping!)
Edited to add: I've been asked to identify a "buff". I  did not use a pattern, but here is a very nice tutorial and some photographs by Melissa at Fehr trade, where she also describes the many uses of a buff.

7. Long sleeved merino t - made a few years ago. I used an older Burda pattern, and this was worn mainly as a pyjama top

Accessories:. Silk scarf A , blue, cream, pink, (not really sewing, but once upon a time it was raw edged fabric lurking in my collection.....Silk scarf B blue, dark brown, cream and an old, squashable sunhat which I intended to replace in France, but did not see a suitable subject. This was possibly because clothes shopping was extremely low on my husband's agenda- unless the clothing could be bought in a cycling shop.....
Not pictured:
Rayon knit "denim" leggings - I sewed these a few years ago, they're very useful for camping, both as pyjamas and as an underlayer for warmth.
Skirt/petticoat - silk cotton, purple, 2 layers, originally the skirt of this dress here. I loved this dress so much that I have to get every possible skerrick of wear from it. It makes a terrific petticoat skirt.
Not sewn :
-1 pair short cycling knicks,which I wore under the dress and skirts. Later on, as the weather cooled down, I looked for a long pair, but was not able to find these, so bought running tights instead, which I wore over the top of the knicks to keep my legs warm whilst cycling.
- 1 pair stretch woven cycling capris with under-knicks
-cycling gloves,
-1 metallicus A line grey knit skirt - merino/rayon blend
-1 rainjacket, blue/green
Purchased on route (planned purchases, as we started in warm weather and cycled through to cool weather).
 -1 thin, warm pullover, coral (very hard to find, and rather $$$, I should have taken one and carried it for 3 weeks without wearing it)
-1 new scarf to blend the coral jumper with my black capris and grey skirt and blue cardigan (yes, I needed the jumper and the cardigan at the same time)
-1 hideously ugly polar fleece beanie for 2 euros from the supermarket. - this was very painful as another buff would have prevented the purchase and been much more flattering.

 I sewed a very luxurious sand washed silk charmeuse double sleeping bag liner too :)

I also sewed a shirt, a buff, a merino long sleeved t shirt and some cycling knicks for my son.He took a previously made polar fleece jacket, now four and 1/2 years old, which I threw out at the end of the trip despite his vehemenent protests that it still fit (a lie!). I tried to steal his buff after a week or so as I hadn't seen him wearing it but he said it was extremely warm at night, so no chance Mum!

I had an exciting adventure holiday, but currently, I am greatly appreciating my extensive wardrobe, fabric collection and comfortable bed.
So in summary, I started with these clothes, which looked much  more respectable before the trip.

 3 base layer tops - tanks
2 base layer bottoms, 1 batiste skirt/petticoat, 1 leggings
3 light mid layer tops - 1 blouse batiste, 1 long sleeved merino t-shirt, 1 shirt dress lawn
1 medium layer top - merino long cardigan (missing in action)
3 bottoms - 1 pr capris, one wool skirt, one batiste skirt
1 outerlayer rainjacket
2 scarves, 1 buff , 1 sunhat
(cycling gloves and helmet)

When the weather cooled further
 I added a mid layer top (coral  pullover)
another pair of leggings
another scarf, and a warm hat. These new items did not co-ordinate with everything, but with enough of the travel wardrobe to make them useful purchases.
My entire wardrobe fit in this bag (up to the "stop" section), a bag only slightly larger in height and width to an A4 sheet of paper, and weighed less than 3kg, provided I was clad at the time. I admit that although this is a compressable bag, closing it was not terribly easy on a hot day, when I just wore a tank top and capris, but for most of the trip, I wore 2 to 4 layers, especially when we were not actually cycling.

So now that I am almost caught up, perhaps I will do some sewing.

P.S. I am such a rebel, in Paris, I forsook husband and son whom were visiting the Eiffel tower and went to the fabric district in Montmarte. I have never seen so many people in a fabric shop at once before.Surely that is a more culturally valuable experience than a second visit to a tourist icon?


Sew, Jean Margaret said...

This sounds like you have been very busy enjoying a wonderful adventure. I'm very impressed with your wardrobe planning for the trip and most of it hand made too.

Summer Flies said...

Wow Karen firstly what a terrific trip. I'm impressed also with the coordination of your wardrobe and the planning, but mostly that you could get all of that into that little bag. My son was reading over my shoulder and commented what a terrific photo the first photo is too. I look forward to seeing more posts. Glad you are writing again.

Paola said...

I'm not sure what's more impressive - cycling for six weeks across France, or fitting all those clothes into that bag! What a sensational holiday!

katherine h said...

Sounds like an awesome holiday...I'm not sure I could do that much cycling! Looks like you were very well prepared, wardrobe wise!

Julie Culshaw said...

Wow, you must be in great shape. And your son will remember this trip forever. What a great thing to do with him.

Sox said...

What a lovely trip. I'm impressed by your wardrobe planning and packing abilities. I'm curious tho'; is a buff a kind of head gear? When you described the polar fleece beanie, I thought it must be, but I'm still not 100% sure.

bbarna said...

I read this post with great interest. My husband and I live in northern Canada and we do cycling trips in the summer. I also sew most of my clothing due to the fact that is almost impossible to get proper gear for a large curvy woman. Summer here can go from 35C in the day to 4C at night in the mountains, so layers are essential. Our last trip to the Yukon saw us in long sleeves and pants for 10 days straight, as it was wet and cool. I got some great ideas from reading your post. Thanks so much. PS What kind of bike do your ride, and did you bring your bikes with you?

Fabrickated said...

You look so happy in the photographs and not just because you are the packing queen. Obviously all the fresh air, exercise and French food was really something. I really love your original colour scheme, but I can also understand why after six weeks you really wanted something new just for relief, and how great it must have felt to come home to a full wardrobe!

We did a few one week cycle tours in France, always in summer, so pretty warm, carrying all our clothes (but not camping equipment; we stayed in hotels). I wore a clean T shirt every evening with my Ikea table cloth/wrap round skirt. The next day I wore last nights T and my cycling shorts (I took two pairs which I washed in the evenings). That's it. I did feel a bit exposed having lunch sometimes in my shorts but France is a cycling country and I don't think anyone noticed. I took make up, jewellry and a couple of scarfs so that I felt quite nice at night, after a shower.

I have missed your lovely, always interesting and self deprecating blog. I met up with Elizabeth a few weeks ago who spoke very highly of you.

Vicki said...

2,000 klms? Im exhausted reading about it! Yes also strangely jealous. What a fun thing to do. To see such a beautiful place at bike level would be amazing.

Hen said...

It's nice to see how you put together a cycling-suitable wardrobe in your own style. I'm very impressed with the packing-volume, too.

Sharon said...

Oh my what an amazing trip and no wonder your are looking so fit. I often wonder about doing this sort of trip but would be taking Farbrickate's approach.

Good to see you again.

Emma said...

Long time reader and lurker here - love your blog!

Just a quick question about the sleeping bag liner you made, did the sandwashed silk turn out well for this? I've been wanting to make liners like the ones they sell in outdoors shops, the silk ones that pack really small. I'm reluctant to buy them when I know I could probably get the fabric from Greenfields for heaps cheaper.

Cathie Gorman said...

Love this! I have never been entirely happy with my cycle touring wardrobe - too much black! All of your lovely creations have inspired me.

kbenco said...

My fabric was from Greenfields, and the liner was ridiculously easy to make, I just zipped our two sleeping bags together and laid them out over the fabric, doubled lengthways. As our sleeping bags are shaped, I used a whole width of fabric as the centre section, and added a triangular piece to each side at the opening end, tapering to nothing by about waist level. (This is easier to do than to explain....). I flat felled the joining seams. I offset the top edge of the liner, which I then used as a covering for my clothing bag, which was my pillow!
The liner packed down to a very small object, like the commercial liners, but is of a slightly thicker fabric than some of the commercial liners, which seem to be habouti silk, which I do not think would last long under camping conditions.
I made a stuff sack for the liner, from the silk scraps, but in retrospect I would make the stuff sack from a more robust fabric, as the seams strained and pulled after six weeks of use. The liner, on the other hand, did not seem to wear at all. I hand washed it as needed and expect that it will be useful for many more camping trips.

Unknown said...

What fun to read about your adventures! So many nice ideas in your cycling wardrobe for travel and other active vacations, as well.