Visibly Fashionable

Fashion Controversy

Biking fashion might seem like a frivolous topic to some, and yet it overlays a chasm in safety philosophy that divides many in the biking community. At the heart of the divide is the question, who should bear the ultimate responsibility for the safety of people riding bicycles, should it be city planners who design the transportation infrastructure, or should it be the individuals riding their bikes? You might enjoy this cartoon by John Greenfield which captures the gist of the debate in this imaginary rap battle between two well known bicycle advocates on opposite sides.


High Visibility Clothing

Evidence from multiple studies leaves little doubt that high visibility clothing does increase safety. During daylight, wearing florescent colors, as well as some non-florescent colors such as white, yellow, and red has been proven to increase drivers’ detection, recognition, and reaction (Kwan & Mapstone, 2002; Hagel et al., 2007). Nighttime detection, recognition, and reaction is improved by wearing light and reflective clothing (Kwan & Mapstone, 2002). High visibility clothing is also associated with fewer major crash related injuries (Thornley, Woodward, Langley, Ameratunga, & Rodgers, 2012).


But is high visibility clothing it the best approach? I recently read a post on that included this great illustration  of randomly photographed cyclists in Portland and Copenhagen. The Copenhagen cyclists look like normal people, not road construction workers. Notice no one is wearing helmets in these photos from Copenhagen either—wow! They must be terribly unsafe, right? Wrong. Copenhagen has very low traffic (motorist and cyclist) fatality rates. Research from Copenhagen indicates that as the number of kilometers traveled by bike increased by 40% from 1990 to 2000 the number of seriously injured bicyclists decreased by 50% (Jensen, 2002). Here in Portland, as the proportion of trips made by bike increased from 1.2% to 5.8% from 1990 to 2000 the total number of road fatalities decreases from an average of 60 per year to less than 35 (City of Portland Bureau of Transportation, 2009). It would seem that biking infrastructure and the sheer volume of cycling it encourages could have a greater impact on safety than factors like visibility and helmet use. Based on injury data different riding environments can be placed on a continuum of risk from lowest starting with cycle tracks, multi-use paths, low traffic local streets, high traffic streets with no parked cars and bike lanes, high traffic streets with parked cars and bike lanes, to the highest risk, high traffic streets with parked cars and no bike lanes (Teschke et al, 2012). From a public health perspective it makes sense to adopt better infrastructure rather than leaving safety up to individual discretion.

Balancing Ideals and Practicalities

Unfortunately, we still don’t compare to Copenhagen, with their 37% trips by bike. Often, especially in SW Portland/Beaverton I find myself walking or biking on streets where cars are moving at 40+ mph and there are no sidewalks or bike lanes. So, until we get some better infrastructure, and a higher percentage of trips are made by bike, it seems advisable to make visibility and helmet use a personal priority.

That being said, I remain torn, I like to wear regular clothes when biking for several reasons. First, when you’re on a bike you’re on display. I don’t always feel comfortable looking like a traffic cone; I want to look like me. Second, it is just easier have one set of clothes that takes me through the whole day. Like many of you I am balancing multiple roles (spouse, parent, employee, friend, volunteer) — who has time for multiple wardrobe changes.  The final reason is the most important to me. I want those who see me riding to identify with me and want to join in the fun.

Inspiration Strikes

I often get my best ideas while biking, there is a lot of space to reflect and ponder. One day I was mulling over this debate while biking and I got an idea. I decided to experiment with creating a garment that would be visible (both day and night) and blended into my office habitat. I wanted a pattern that would accommodate reflective piping in the neckline and waist where they could easily be seen. As well as the arms to help with visibility when using hand signals for turning.  I was taking a class at Modern Domestic to learn how to make pattern alterations. We were making the Dahlia, a dress pattern by Collette Patterns. It seemed to fit the bill and so a new project was born.

I began searching the internet for reflective piping. I would have loved to have found it in a variety of colors, but alas, silver was all I could find. I purchased mine through the internet from Seattle Fabrics.

Christmas 2014 347 Christmas 2014 346

Next, I needed to choose the fabric. I wanted to choose a color that was proven to help with visibility but yet would be appropriate for the office, red seemed like a fitting choice. I chose a wool blend. Wool has several properties that make it desirable for cycling: it absorbs and releases moisture quickly, maintains warmth even when wet, and minimizes body odor. This fabric has some lighter fibers woven in that nicely tied in the silver piping.

Sewing in piping is trickier than I anticipated. In class, my instructor recommended that I used a piping foot. At home I didn’t have a piping foot, but I thought I could get by using a zipper foot which allowed me to get closer to the piping than the standard foot. I quickly noticed the advantage of the piping foot. It has a grove on the bottom which insures that the seam is at a consistent distance from the outer edge of the piping giving it a very professional appearance. Try as I might to control my stich with the zipper foot, the results were noticeably inferior. I decided to rip out all that hard work and start again. I invested a couple of dollars in a piping foot, it was well worth it! If you are curious you can check out this YouTube video.

I chose to combine the top of one dress with the bottom of the other. I wanted a dress that would be warm enough for spring and fall riding, thus the top with sleeves, yet offer room for movement when pedaling, thus the fuller skirt.

Another lesson that I learned was that adding piping adds bulk to the seams making it nearly impossible to zip up the invisible zipper. I ended up having to rip out my first attempt and make a few adjustments. In order to facilitate the invisible zipper I clipped out the cord from the inside of the piping a little bit past the seam allowance. In addition, when sewing in the zipper I adjusted the needle position in the area of the garment where the piping added bulk so that the zipper has a little more room to get by. This seemed to do the trick–its smooth zipping now.

Here is the final result, one that is visible when I’m on the bike, doesn’t look like a traffic cone, and blends in, in the office.

FullSizeRender (1) FullSizeRender FullSizeRender3


Toward a More Self-Regulated Child

Waterfrount 206

At this stage parenting is 40% snuggles and adorableness, and 60% battleground. We are using all the traditional parenting strategies. They are using all out guerilla warfare. It’s hard to tell from moment to moment who has the upper hand. New strategies are always needed. Here is one that has been helping keep the peace in our family lately…

Discovering Audiobooks

My oldest has never been drawn to toys. As a toddler her favorite activity was being read to. We quickly learned that our public library allowed us to check out 150 books. Both my husband and I often had our accounts maxed out. We would keep renewing as long as they would let us. Friends would joke that we should be classified as a library annex. One benefit of all this reading was that our daughter practically began speaking in full sentences. Both she and her brother have great vocabularies, it was entertaining to hear preschoolers use words like dissipate and cacophony. However, I am not a big fan of reading and became very weary of this over time.

A few years ago, when I was signing the kids up for the summer reading program at the library, I noticed that audiobooks counted as a reading activity. I discovered the library’s audiobook app. My daughter loved it. She soon developed an enthusiasm for a few series: The Box Car Children, Nancy Drew, and How to Train your Dragon, to name a few. There was typically a waiting list for the books she wanted. Hoping to find a better selection I discovered the Audible app and we began accumulating a mass of audiobooks to match our library annex.

Books on Bikes: a Perfect Solution

We get around by bike. While two kids on the back of a longtail make an adorable image, the reality can sometimes be quite different. It is not uncommon for our commutes to take 45 minutes plus. Long trips can equal boredom, and boredom quickly deteriorates into tickling, pinching, poking, pushing, and other antics to excite a reaction from the other sibling. Besides the screaming that this elicits, the shifts in weights can get downright dangerous, especially when going slowly up hill in a narrow bike lane. This is where audiobooks come in handy. An iPod, headphone splitters, and a good story are the perfect recipe for tranquility.

When Good Things Go Bad

If the audiobooks had stayed on the bike we would never have had a problem. However, my kids, especially my daughter started asking to listen to audiobooks at other times. Not realizing where this was going at first, I obliged her. But before long I started noticing that when I asked her to turn the iPod off and engage in a different task she ignored me. When I turned it off, after warning her that I was going to if she couldn’t do it herself, she would become irate and hostile. I became more selective about when I would let her listen and tried to establish clearer boundaries about when it was appropriate and when it was not. When I refused she would whine, beg, and question, “whyyyyyyy not?” It was as if audiobooks were the soundtrack to her life and she couldn’t function without them. What once had been a wonderful thing had become yet another battleground.

Chances are if you are a parent you’ve faced a similar situation. With my kids its audiobooks, with others it might be TV, or video games. Even reading can preoccupy some kids to the point that it is interfering with other worthwhile activities. The point is, we want our kids to be well rounded and learn how to manage their own time better. But how can we help them move toward that?

A Borrowed Idea

Just about that time a Facebook friend, Jared Anderson, posted a picture some “Spending Time” cards he had made for his kids. I asked Jared about the cards and this is what he told me:

“My motivation in making the Spending Time cards is I wanted to give a sense of proportion rather than playing into the task-reward dichotomy. So screen time isn’t something you “earn”, making that the reward and other activities the “work”. Instead, the time cards can give children a healthy sense of what kind of balance daily activities should have.”


I could see the wisdom in Jared’s idea. We have used rewards/incentives in our household, and they can be effective, but they do have their downsides. For one, the child’s motivations is external rather than internal, if the reward is removed, they are no longer motivated. And, over time rewards tend to lose their appeal. For example a child who’s parents use video games as a reward for doing his/her homework may suddenly decide that he/she no longer desires to play video games if it means having to do homework first. I have witnessed this first hand and I want to avoid that pitfall when possible.

The thought occurred to me that something similar Jared’s Spending Time cards could help my kids begin to learn to manage their time on their own and reduce my conflicts with them.

Designing the Time Use System

When designing the cards for my kids I wanted a theme that they would enjoy. One of the biggest interests right now is our foster kitties. For the last 9 plus month we have been taking care of two kitties while their regular family is in Europe. My kids adore these cats. Their owners will be returning soon, so I thought it would be neat to make the cards a tribute to them. I tried to incorporate a bit of their personalities in the illustrations. They were a big hit. My kids giggled when they first saw them and spent a good deal of time admiring and playing with them.



MyTime012 MyTime013 MyTime015 MyTime016 MyTime018

(Card activities in order: art center; homework; audiobook; physical activity; playing a game, chores; making bed; playing with toys)

Next, I needed a way for them to keep track which cards had been spent. After considering several ideas I decided on a flannel board. This way they could see all of their options and move them around into the order they prefer. I divided the flannel board into a “To Do” side and a “Done” side. I thought it might be satisfying for them to move things from one side to the other. In addition, if something is displayed on the “Done” side it is a good reminder to choose a different option. Before leaving for work I typically put out the cards I think we will have time for when we get home. I let them organize them in the order they want to do them. On weekends we start with all of the options on the board. If we make it all the way though, they start over. I added some pockets on the bottom to store the cards we weren’t using.

MyTime019 MyTime020

So far they seem to be enjoying it and it and conflict around the audiobooks has diminished.

Now we are off to enjoy our 60 minutes of physical activity…

Waterfrount 005

Waterfrount 185 Waterfrount 189 Waterfrount 190 Waterfrount 210 Waterfrount 225 Waterfrount 226

Share Your Thoughts

If you have any thoughts about our Spending Time system, ideas for promoting harmony on family rides, or helping your children to become more self-regulating I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

G.I. Vivian

camo dress 310

The Mission

It all started when Vivian marched in and stated in a commanding voice, “Brigadier General Hanson, you have a mission.”

“A mission,” I asked?

“You say, yes Sir!”

“Yes, sir! What is the mission Major General Sir?”

“I need a combat dress!”

“A combat dress?”

“You say, yes Sir!”

“Yes, Sir!”

“I’ll make a sketch for you.”

“Yes, Sir!”

“Oh boy,” I thought, “what is this all about?” I followed my typical strategy…I played it off and hoped it was a passing fancy. Ninty-nine percent of her schemes are forgotten as soon as they are mentioned. But she kept perseverating on the design, drawing pictures and writing me notes about it. Turns out she and some friends at school had been playing army.

Camo dress019 Camo dress020


Camo dress021
What’s a mom supposed to do…I relented. We started by searching the internet for a pattern that would meet her specifications. She chose this Kwik Sew pattern. Next we took a trip to Joanne’s to pick our the fabric. She chose this camo couture, foiled satin camouflage, an olive green cotton, and some delicate cream lace. I wanted to give the lace a little more structure so I added a matching cotton fabric to go underneath it. She may want to look like a princess, but she plays like a marine.

A Tailored Plan

camo dress 081 The pattern she chose has fitted sleeves. I knew it would need altered, like her momma, she’s got some impressive guns. I knew she would need to have sleeves a couple of sizes bigger than the bodice. I recently took a sewing class from Modern Domestic where I learned to use Swedish Tracing Paper to redraw the pattern pieces to blend from one size to another. I was able to blend a medium bodice with a XL sleeve; worked like a charm.

camo dress 058

A glass table top and a flash light are very handy when transferring pattern markings for pockets, collars, etc.


Technology, I Love You!

camo dress 103Up until recently I was using a manual, bottom of line Brother sewing machine that my mom got me for my high school graduation. Every time I wanted to sew a button hole I had to pull out the manual. It took me about 20 minutes to follow all the steps for a single button hole; it was PAINFUL! That machine finally gave up the ghost and my husband got me a new Brother SE400 sewing and embroidery machine. At first I was totally intimidated by its electronic features. But when I finally pulled out the manual and figured out how to use the LCD screen it was so simple! Sewing a button hole is as simple as pushing a button, and look at this overcast stich; a thing of beauty. I love this machine! YouTube has made sewing so much simpler too. When I read an instruction for a pattern I don’t understand, I simply watch a YouTube video, or two, and it all becomes clear. Sewing is so much easier than when I first learned.

Project Oversight

This year we have become foster parents to two cats while their parents are in Europe. They love it when I bring out a sewing project. They play in the fabric and sit on the table and watch me sew. I have to be really careful of their little paws. It is pretty cute to observe their curiosity, even if they are a bit of a nuisance sometimes.

camo dress 092 camo dress 044


While working on the dress Vivian started asking if I could make a matching headband too. I had some extra fabric so decided to make some shabby chic roses. If you want to learn how to make these yourself check out this YouTube video. We had so much fun making these that we ended up making enough for a broche for me too. I used one of the hundreds of freebie buttons that Bryant has managed to collect. Shhhhh, this is top secret; I would be in some major trouble if this were to get out!

camo dress 138 camo dress 143

The Mission Was a Success!

It was a lovely, spring-like February day, so we biked to church in our matchy, matchy. Afterwards we visited a business courtyard in our downtown neighborhood, which doubles as our backyard. The kids rode their scooters. Their dad and I chased them around on the bike. We got some cute pictures. I think she makes a pretty adorable Major General. What do you think?

camo dress 237 camo dress 241 camo dress 245 camo dress 247

camo dress 319

camo dress 322 camo dress 323