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  1. The Quest for Skirt Guards and a Stylish Bike Commute

    March 20, 2011 by lolkitty: Kaela

    Since I have moved to Orange County, my bike has become my favorite means of transportation. Except for one thing, my bike has no sense of style. For me, this is a sin.

    After investigating the idea of putting an electric motor on my current bike, I realized that my problem with my bike is that it is overly sporty (mountain bike) for what I do and I don’t have the freedom to wear what I want when riding it (I get dirty). American attitudes toward bike riding are very different than in Europe. In America, cyclists tend to be very athletic and wear skin-tight neon lycra outfits topped with ridiculous aerodynamic helmets, presumably with a shower waiting for them at their destination. Then there’s super elitist hipster biking, where people tend to be just as stereotyped in their own class as a bunch of hipster kitties. In America, we’re cliquey, trendy, and snobbish about a sport that should be for everyone. I only noticed this huge difference in attitudes when I learned that everything I was looking for in a bike was standard issue in European bikes and their bike culture. A catchy phrase I saw in an ad for ‘antbikemike‘ was “Not sport… Transport!” and his shop features some jaw-droppingly gorgeous bikes.

    I needed something with some style. I decided to buy a new bike, one that fits my riding lifestyle and sense of aesthetic. I considered vintage Schwinn’s with 3 speed hubs that I could use with an electric bike. Just like with my vintage dresses, I don’t have it in my heart to modify a vintage piece in any way.  I decided to go with something modern that I could swap out parts to my heart’s content without feeling like I was dismantling a piece of history, or wear out it’s parts in the many commuting miles I would put on it. (Though if my finances would allow I would love a vintage bike for casual riding).

    I went with the Diamondback Della Cruz 2, the 7-speed version.

    It has that cute beach cruiser style but is more medium weight, like a vintage bicycle.  Plus, I think I’ll need all 7 speeds until I make it electric, and the extra gears will be nice to have even when it is electric too, because I can do more peddling myself and save battery.  Since it’s a Diamondback it’s of good quality considering I only spent $330 on it.  Another reason I opted for this model is because it has front and back brakes, unlike  most vintage-looking bikes which have a coaster brake.  I’ll need these brakes when I make it electric, and I might even upgrade one to disc brakes.

    I still have yet to receive my new toy in the mail and assemble it though, so I’ll post again on how it feels to actually ride the thing. I’m mostly looking forward to having a bike with an upright-sitting position so I can ride long distances comfortably, with a lady-like posture, and a nice ensemble of a skirt and dress shoe flats.

    I wanted this exact Skirt Guard (standard issue, Electra Amsterdam series)

    I started looking for some luggage racks and baskets because that will also be one of the advantages of this bike, I can use it for going to grab groceries, instead of taking the bus. And I can throw my purse, coffee cup, etc. in the front basket and not be bothered by annoying backpacks or messenger bags.

    I stumbled across various bike blogs and saw one post about a “skirt guard” or “coat guard” that goes over the back wheel to protect the rider’s clothing from getting caught in the wheel.  It’s such a practical and useful accessory, I decided to hunt it down as my first accessory for my bike. This blog has a few great posts on the practical use of skirt guards, in fact it’s a really great blog about biking in a commuter sense without letting your fashion go.

    Electra makes really amazing bikes, and the skirt guard that comes on the bikes in their “Amsterdam” collection are exactly the style I had in mind. (They sell the guards separately but only in black, and claim they don’t work with any other kind of bike.) So I kept looking for skirt guards to see what other kinds I could find. Also note, after looking at many varieties of skirt guards, I noticed the Electra one doesn’t seem to cover as much of the wheel as others.

    Crochet Bike Guard

    I found this lovely crocheted bicycle skirt guard:

    You can see the skirt guard pattern is in Dutch but I imagine someone skilled enough with crochet could figure it out with google translate (my glance at the translated version told me I didn’t know enough about crochet to get past the translation barrier).

    I was so enamored with the idea of this crocheted bike dress guard that I looked all over the internet to find something similar. It has that great ‘vintage’ style that I always crave, and is practical too. There are commercial versions, but I just didn’t think they were quite my style.

    An Etsy shop, JustDo, has these pre-made crocheted skirt guards and this pattern if you have the skills to make it yourself. There are also a lot of very unattractive skirt guard solutions that I have seen (wire or mesh), but since they’re not pretty there’s no sense in detailing them here.

    In any event, all this was pretty difficult to find, and I didn’t feel like shelling out $65 for pre-made one, or attempting to do it myself anytime soon. (I have a bad habit of over estimating my skills as a do-it-yourselfer and I don’t want to take on some extra random talent for a one-time need).  I started googling ‘beginner’ crochet patterns that were round, like baby afghans, to see if I could get away with an easier pattern and a similar effect. Then I had a ‘eureka’ moment and remembered the fabulous material: oil cloth!

    Oil cloth is water resistant polyester with a plastic-like glaze on it.  It always comes in adorable patterns and bright colors, and it is inexpensive, $6/yard or so depending on where you go. 

    I happened to be on to look up crocheted patterns and I am always trying to think of a good excuse to use oilcloth, so I browsed through their large selection and found some cute ‘Dutch’ looking floral prints that I think will match my bike perfectly.

    Now all I have to do is measure and make a pattern for this and I’ll have a waterproof, and stylish skirt guard for about $6 worth of materials and maybe an hour of work. I’ll also make a liner for my basket, either in the same oilcloth as the skirt guards or I got some cherry-print oil cloth as well that I might use for that (but I bought it for a re-usable lunch bag that won’t leak, and I will definitely be making that!)

    In a few days I’ll have my bike and my oilcloth skirt guards, so I’ll take some photos to post soon! I’m so excited to see it put together!! I gathered a lot of information on the subject (at least what’s relevant to America and the difficulties of finding such a useful item!) so I hope this was useful to someone out there!



  2. Henna: my new (but very old) beauty secret…

    May 19, 2010 by lolkitty: Kaela

    What do you mean I’m no natural redhead? This color *is* all natural, it’s henna!

    After being a platinum blond for many years and loving it, my hair was not. And being fickle like I am, after being one hair color for a while I get bored no matter how much I like it.

    The boyfriend voted for red hair. My facebook friends voted for pink. Guess who won.

    Going from blond to red isn’t easy, since you have to build up the color, and what worked before might not work again, since it had been a year or so since I attempted red. (I was stuck with Ronald McDonald orange for about a month before I bleached it again, damaging it so bad I had to cut my hair to a bob!)

    I’ve been pretty tired of using all these chemicals all the time, and after researching different ways to go from blond to henna red, I was pretty sure I could pull it off alright.

    Actually, America’s favorite redhead, Lucille Ball was once a blond who used henna for her vibrant red. This, of course, appealed to my 1950’s preoccupation. Let alone rumors of other notorious historical women like Cleopatra.

    henna paste

    Henna mix

    My first batch of henna was with “Light Mountain” brand in the shade “auburn” since I knew I had to build up the brown tones in my hair before using the red. I didn’t anticipate how much my hair was actually going to soak up the color, and my hair was almost exactly my natural brown after one color set (overnight).

    The pics in this post are from my third coloring. My last one was with pure red henna and this current color treatment was as well. Pure henna is *much* more fun. It’s very easy to work with, compared to any other “plant” hair dye that contains other plants to make the henna darker. (If you haven’t heard before, NEVER use henna that isn’t 100% plants, in the US it’s not very common to find for hair dye but always read the label that you’re only getting pure plant powders).

    Steps I like to use for good henna application:

    1. Boil water and mix in the henna slowly (just get out all the lumps!) Once it’s the consistency of toothpaste I add in an essential oil like Tea Tree Oil (my favorite) or Eucalyptus. Those oils are supposed to help enhance the color and they make it smell really good too.

    henna on hair

    Keep your application neat, and it will make rinsing easier!

    2. Let the mix sit for 1 or 2 hours (this helps “activate” the henna so it’ll dye better).

    3. Brush out your hair and part into sections. Apply Vaseline to your ears to keep them from getting dyed. Use an applicator bottle to apply the henna. Part your hair, apply to roots, and part again with the nozzle until you’ve done your whole head.

    4. Pull the color through, cover every bit of your hair until it’s soaked, trying to keep it neat and not tangling it (you’ll see why when you rinse).

    5. Put on the plastic cap and use a blow dryer on low or even wrapping a towel over the plastic will heat your henna enough to help bring out the color. (I think this helps more than any other tips I’ve read online).

    6. Leave in for at least 4 hours. I leave mine on 8 hours (overnight).

    7. Rinse in warm water and be patient. I don’t shampoo until next wash (so wash your hair before you apply!) I usually have to run conditioner through my hair 3 or 4 times to get all the little henna particles out. (If you get most of it, when you blow dry your hair, the rest should brush out ok, it will just leave your hair a little heavy until next washing.)

    8. Voila! A redhead.. naturally!

    henna in my hair and on my skin

    When you have left over henna, you can use it for body art!

    And if you’ve tried to keep your hair red with usual dyes, you’ll probably be really pleased with the results. You’ll see it does leave your hair much more “natural” looking and healthy looking than any dyes I’ve bought at beauty supply stores, or had applied professionally.

    So I’ve read that by the third or fourth coloring, the henna will be completely saturated as far as color. I’ll have to see how this fades, but my red is much more brilliant after this last coloring.

    So henna is much easier to use than chemicals, since if you leave it on too long, all it does is enhance the color.  (My last one I did more watery and it dripped everywhere and didn’t color as well). The henna is really gritty if you’re used to dying your hair, it feels strange like you’re putting a mud mask in your hair.

    Henna is so much fun that after I was all finished putting it in my hair, I got a little plastic back and poked a hole in it to apply some henna body art. It was a less than ideal tool, and I think I’m going to pick up a proper squeeze bottle with a fine tip to do much more intricate work. After the color “matured” over a day, the body art was very  beautiful. I think I’m going to use it as an indicator of when I need to recolor my hair. It should last about 6 weeks.

    henna color

    This is a fairly accurate pic of the color

    I tried to get a pretty accurate photo for the color result. This is the color over several previous henna applications, and bleached blond hair underneath. The great thing is, though, this is the *exact* same color as my roots! It blends in beautifully.

    I’m not the sort of girl that usually goes all “herbal” and “natural” whenever the opportunity arises. But I’m glad I gave henna another chance.

    There are just a few things that make henna difficult to find, or use in America. Unless you live in a big city, or have a large health food store nearby it might be hard to find henna. I’ve looked at buying bulk henna from several places but I’m always weary when I can’t see it or feel it in person. Because henna is a plant, the quality can vary widely.

    The final henna results

    Henna hair and henna art

    If you buy online, you can get Light Mountain brand, which I’ve been using for all my recent applications but I have tried other henna brands (once with GREEN results!!) so you have to be careful. It’s the only brand I recommend unless you know a friend or a source for mehindi quality henna.

    One thing I’m pretty certain of is that henna treatments will also make my hair accept pin-curling and other wet-set styling better. It seems to have a side effect of making my hair feel thick and full. With pin-curling or wet set styles you will sometimes lose a little body depending on the style and that’s always bothered me. After letting my hair curl naturally, I noticed that it almost looked *too* big! So I’m sure those evasive Andrew’s Sisters and Peggy Lee styles that are just sky high won’t be out of my grasp now.

    My hair has never been healthier since I’ve been using henna. It also seems to have an astringent quality that keeps my hair from looking greasy by the end of the day like my natural hair can do. Also the texture is a little “straw” like, which I’m sure some girls don’t like, but that was my favorite thing about bleached blond hair, because it’s actually easier to control when it has a little bit of texture to it.

    Henna is my hair’s new best friend! I am really surprised at how underrated henna is…

    That’s my two cents on the subject, I’ve had a lot of girls asking about how I get my hair red the way it is. If you have questions, feel free to comment!

  3. Vintage Reproduction Faux Bakelite

    November 4, 2009 by lolkitty: Kaela

    I had one of those days where my desire to be creative was overwhelming.

    Chris bought me this darling piece of Bakelite that is a simple but charming tiki head purse clasp.  I really loved it, and when I look at all the great bakelite pieces out there, I think it’s a shame that they are so expensive and hard to find.

    So I did what I always do when authentic vintage pieces aren’t as accessible as I’d like: I made vintage.

    Faux Bakelite Tiki Heads for sale now!

    Faux Bakelite Tiki Heads for sale now!

    I took some polymer clay that I’ve had some fun with recently making cute old-fashioned kind of treat charms, and tried my hand at making these little guys.

    I couldn’t get close enough to the face with my own hands, working with this new medium was a little cumbersome.  I do think it has a great deal of flexibility and I would like to do many, many more pieces like this.  I made a mold from the clay itself and baked it.  I made two faces and spent about an hour on them each getting the details just right.

    After putting on the glaze I was very satisfied with these pieces.  I think there’s a lot of potential for these to be a star piece in vintage inspired wardrobes where real bakelite is just not practical.  For one thing, when you wear real Bakelite, it makes you smell like formaldehyde, and the bangles can stain your skin! Yuck!  I’m not sure if polymer clay is sturdy enough to be a bangle, but this is definitely my next project, among a couple other Bakelite pieces I have saved photos of in the hopes of being able to recreate them one day.

    Hope you enjoyed them!  They’re for sale at Lipstick Vogue or my etsy store.