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A quest for a vest

Recently I've been searching to replace a couple of merino vests that I've run, cycled and just relaxed in for... oh... must be getting on 6 years now. They still fit just the way I like, but they are getting rather thin and there are some holes in one of them. It's time. I love merino base layers. I love the way they feel, and as I quite frequently cycle somewhere, then stand around for a bit, cycle somewhere else, and so on, having a top that copes with getting a little sweaty and not stinking or making me cold is quite important. I don't like those fancy sports fabrics so much. I can't stand the feel, and they always end up stinking. So the hunt for a new merino vest was on.

The originals were from Howies, but sadly they don't do their baselayers as vests at the moment. They do have one merino vest on offer, and I guess there was a warning on the catalogue page that it's a casual top and order down a size for a more sporty fit. I guess I should also have realised that in spite of the original tops fitting perfectly and the one long-sleeve base layer I've bought in the last year fitting pretty well, nothing else I've bought from Howies has fit me for years. For some reason, in spite of marketing to runners, cyclists and generally active people, they don't make clothes small enough for me. I appreciate that my size (160cm, 49kg) is a little on the small side, but I don't think I'm unusually tiny for an active person. 

Suffice to say, the vest had a fair amount of superfluous material, and a view down my (non-existant) cleavage that would have been pretty much indecent on a road bike. It was a good job it fit Clarkie pretty well, or it would have been straight back in the post. 

Next up is Finisterre. (I'd jump straight to Icebreaker, but I'm trying to support the slightly more local brands occasionally.) I know a Finisterre size 8 fits me pretty damn well, so that part is a winner. I got two Zephyr vests in the same colourway in the sale - Finisterre do some odd colour combinations that aren't to my taste, so I stuck with the simplest. The tops are really nice - smooth fabric, well made, fit well under the arm. There's just one tiny problem with them: 


It's kind of low-cut again. I'm flashing my bra above the line of the vest, and that bra there (an Icebreaker Sprite racerbacked bra) is one of my lower cut ones. The back is even worse:


(Thanks to Terry Webb at Didcot parkrun for the photos! I went a bit fast for my current fitness levels, I was hurting by the end.)

It's ok, women's sports vests mostly don't cover bras properly, so I'll keep the tops and wear them regardless. I like the way they fit generally, they are tight enough not to gape when I ride my road bike, and the colours remind me of my undergraduate college. I've fed back via the wonder of Twitter to both companies (complete with pictures), because if you don't say anything you just have to live with it. Kind of like voting. Fingers crossed, that'll do me for another 6 years before I have to go through this all over again!


Kind of a kit?

My list of things to buy in Florida this time was quite precise. And I pretty much stuck to it too, which makes a nice change! One of the things on the list was a pair of denim shorts - y'know, go anywhere, everyday shorts. Sounds pretty simple, right? There are many, many pairs of denim shorts available to buy in Orlando. 

The small catch is that I am 160cm and have a current fighting weight of around 49kg (5' 3" and around 108lbs or 7st 10lbs in old money). This is not a size that appears to be that common for adult women in Orlando. I may have found an entire floor of Macy's that had precisely nothing in my size. So a lot of the time this reduces me to looking for stuff in the more teenaged end of the market. Teenagers appear to like denim shorts, but (as I did when I was a teenager) they like them with holes in. 

The thing is, now that I'm 37 I prefer my clothes to cover me. Pretty much, anyway. And I've worn enough holey jeans to know that those white threads they leave are really fragile, and get really matted when you wash them. But I've been wanting to try sashiko - a Japanese stitching technique that started out as a way to patch denim - for ages, and the pair of jeans I've been waiting to disintegrate are really a bit too big. So this suddenly seemed like the perfect opportunity. I ended up with a cheap pair of holey jeans from Target, where the holes appear to have been carefully rubbed only on the front and the rest of the denim is really sound.

New (holey) shorts

(It helped that my lovely assistant said they fit pretty well.)

I have no idea why anyone would want to have a hole over the bottom of the pocket. I don't get why those super short cut offs leave the bottom of the pockets sticking out either. I am clearly not down with the kids. 

Much fun marking out and stitching later, I have ended up with something I'm pretty pleased with.

Sashiko mending

I mean, clearly it's not perfectly even. And I ran out of the dark blue thread before I'd quite finished on that big hole on top of the right leg. But I've already worn these quite a lot for gardening, they have survived washing with no noticeable harm, and my pocket is no longer hanging out. I reckon that's a pretty good win!

(More detailed pics of the stitching here.)


Garden diary - Tiny seeds of hope

I'm discovering it is almost impossible to take a decent shot of this garden. This will have to do.

May 2015

It shows a little tiny bit of progress, and the weedy grass that is growing at least hides the mud. This kind of starts to show the shape that the garden will (hopefully) eventually have. That bare patch at the back left, that's where the potting shed will go. Staying on that side of the garden, there will be a small patio house-side of the shed, which our big bench will live on and I will sit on to catch the last of the evening sun. The rest of that side will be dug out to the depth that you can sort of see down at the bottom of the picture, but that huge area will be broken into a series of keyhole beds with paths letting me get right into them. 

The bed on the right hand side looks finished, but actually we haven't quite dug all the way to the house yet. Both sides will be edged by a path made of the same flagstones as the patio that the builders built for us - one heading straight for the compost bins (well, nearly straight anyway), and one heading straight for that other patio. A wooden arch will go over the righthand path. There will also be a path across the back to join the two together, probably house-side of that birdtable. That back bit will be another huge planting area. The bits at the back and on the right are hopefully going to mostly be filled with (eventually) large-ish shrubs, for the birds and critters to enjoy and hopefully stop us having to do too much to them. The beds on the left are the sunniest spot, so they will get the more herbaceous stuff and probably need more work to go with them. Hence the keyhole bed system. Inside the paths will be grass. It's not going to be a lot of grass, but I think it will be nice and Clarkie pointed out that we've got an almost-new lawnmower. 

It's a fairly rectilinear scheme, but Clarkie wanted a little more formality than we had in the last garden. I can't say I blame her! The planting areas are generous, and are going to take quite a lot to fill, but eventually they should help to soften the whole thing. There's quite a lot of hard landscaping to be done yet and we're going to need to learn a lot to get it done, but at least there's starting to be a shape to it.

I've been going through my seed box, and almost everything is well out of date so I've decided I'm just going to throw as much of the flower seed on the new beds as I can. Whatever comes up will be a bonus, and it will help me tidy out the old seeds without feeling guilty! Earlier today I scattered a mixture of white nigella, californian poppy and poppy 'mother of pearl' across the bed between the cherry tree and the compost bins - if it comes up, it'll look great. We've had some fairly intense showers here today (hence the puddles), and hopefully that will help get something growing.

Compost tally:

  • 200l of General purpose compost
  • 90l of Ericaceous compost



Return of the Trek

We've been having some lovely cycling weather just recently. Sadly though, after a long and muddy winter, Clara (my Long Haul Trucker) is in serious need of a really good strip down and clean. She chose to make this very clear by almost entirely seizing up. Message received, thank you Clara, but that's going to take a fair bit of time that I'm not sure when I'll have.

So, instead of that, an old friend has been reincarnated once again:


This is a bit of a halfway house of a reincarnation. The important bits work, but there's no way to change front gear, no front mudguard, the handlebars aren't the most comfy...

Tell you what though, riding it is FUN! Even across utterly unsuitable ground full of gravel and potholes. Especially when mountain bike riders come by and comment on how inappropriate your bike is for the surface. Oh yeah.


Garden diary - more compost

Not a very visually-exciting update this week. I was out gallavanting in Oxford with two of my longest-suffering friends on Saturday, which was lovely. We started with a spot of lunch and some drinks in the Old Bank Hotel, went for a wander along the river before going for a pot of tea each in the Ashmolean Dining Room, and finally finishing off with a very lovely meal in the Turl Street Kitchen. Seriously, the chocolate brownie was fabulous. The company was pretty good too. It's been a while since we got together, and a catch-up was well overdue. 

This, along with three (sunny! Oh wow!) days last week with the Women's Cricket Association Golf Society (WCAGS for 'short'), meant that come Sunday all I really wanted to do was nap. So I did. It was rather lovely. 

Still, Clarkie got a bed dug over on Saturday, working in two more bags of compost. I then sprinkled it with some seed for some 'bird-friendly annuals' from Sainsbury's on Sunday. Fingers crossed at least some of it will grow, but for now it really doesn't make for the most stunning picture! 

Compost tally:

  • 200l of General purpose compost
  • 90l of Ericaceous compost