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Sailor Cycling

I cycle, and I like to be as visible as possible.  Bright red, screaming orange, and hideous yellow-green, yes,  ma’am, you’re my friends. But a boxy, horrible utility vest?  Not so much.  So I got a hold of two IKEA Patrull safety vests like this one:

and turned them into this:

It appears darker than the IKEA vest because it’s just one layer, and on a darker background (my dummy, that is).  And I took the photo indoors, apparently in bad light.  Photography is not my strong suit.

I’d been thrashing around the internet for a while, looking for inspiration when I stumbled on this:

The photo is on a site called {frolic!}, and it’s actually a reflective cycling vest.  Too cute, right?  Apparently it was sold by a UK firm called Bobbin Bicycles, but they’ve since gone out of business.  Or at least become impossible to find.  (The {frolic!} post is from 2009.)

Let me be the first to admit that mine isn’t nearly as cute as this one.  I love the nautical look, but the BB vest is too small, and too somberly colored for day use, as least in my view.  Also, my vest needed to do four  things, above and beyond being nautical :

  1. It needed to be bright.
  2. It needed to be large enough to wear over anything I’d put on while cycling.
  3. It needed to be cool on very hot days.
  4. On very hot days, it needed to allow me to wear only a sports bra under it, and yet appear in public somewhat modestly-clad.

Bingo!  My vest does it all.  Plus, it’s a bit kooky.  I like kooky.  The back is pretty tame (forgive my duct tape dummy, who is both lopsided and a lot larger than I am now):

I used a size L IKEA vest, and a size S.  First, I removed all the reflective strips from the IKEA vests.  Then  I took two pieces of the IKEA reflective strips, and sewed this trim on top of them (I used the middle-sized one):

adding velcro at the ends.  (The trim is “iron-on”, but I don’t do iron-on, especially on poly knits.)  Then I cut side panels out of the S vest, and cut replacements from breathable mesh (that’s the black fabric).  Here’s what the base vest looked like with the mesh pinned in place:

I  put the reflective strips into the back side seams between the yellow vest and the black mesh, and sewed it all together with my coverstitch machine.  The belt allows me to cinch up the vest when I want to, and let it fly when it’s too hot to wear it neatly.

I cut the nautical collar from the size L, using Burda 2424, an adorable pattern that never came to the USA, and altered the slope of the shoulder to conform to the size S vest.

The collar is a completely different style from the inspiration vest, but that didn’t matter.  They’re both adorable.

I cut the IKEA reflective strips in half to make the striping for the collar, and zig-zagged them in place.

You can see the holes from the IKEA stitching, but this is a utility vest, not haute couture, so it’s nothing I’m concerned about.

I lay the collar over the S vest, drew a line in chalk where the S vest needed to be trimmed, and attached the collar.   I probably should have used a facing, but this was a quick-and-dirty job, done very much on the fly, and I wanted to keep the weight and bulk down.

Uhh, maybe what I mean is “I wanted to keep the bulk in the collar only”.

Then I did the messiest job ever inserting an invisible zipper in the front, and finished by covering the collar seam with 1/4 inch twill tape.

Finally, I added the ties, because I’m a responsible cyclist, and there’s no wind in my hair, due to the helmet on my head.  Instead, I have flying ties.  Not a bad trade off, I’d say.  The loop that holds the tie together is sewn to the edge of one of the ties:  I couldn’t sew it to the front of the vest without making it impossible to open the top, yet I didn’t want to knot the ties.  Here’s the final result, once again:

Special thanks to Prachtstueckwerk!

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  1. May 1st, 2012 at 17:15 | #1

    That’s so great! I’ve been looking for ways to incorporate more hi-viz and reflective elements in my normal bike-wear, and I’m definitely inspired.

    • May 1st, 2012 at 18:04 | #2

      Go for it, Jessie K.! Sewing and cycling turns out to be a surprisingly good combination, doesn’t it?

  2. April 27th, 2012 at 21:50 | #3

    That’s amazing. What a great idea.

    • May 1st, 2012 at 09:58 | #4

      Thanks, Annette — it was a truly fun project!

  3. April 27th, 2012 at 06:23 | #5

    What a great idea! I have that same IKEA vest, but never would have thought to do anything with it.

    • May 1st, 2012 at 09:58 | #6

      Sometimes, Cidell, I think my best inspirations come from IKEA, but they’re never the ones IKEA seems to set out to inspire . . .

  4. April 26th, 2012 at 22:45 | #7

    I ride at night after work in the winter and this vest will make the pack riders heads turn for sure. I do wear a vest in the mornings when it’s foggy or if the sun’s coming up. You’ve come up with a very stylish idea.

    • May 1st, 2012 at 10:01 | #8

      I love me a good middy, velosewer, but I also really liked the idea of all that excess screaming yellow for visibility. The combination seemed a natural!

  5. April 26th, 2012 at 18:27 | #9

    I adore this. Safety first. Cuteness second. A close second.

    Where I live there are a ton of cyclists and a great deal of them like to play Russian Roulette and ride in the dark without reflective gear. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen someone just in time. I wish everyone wore visi-vests. Love it.

    • April 26th, 2012 at 19:46 | #10

      I’m a daytime rider only, Elle, but I kind of think it’s a great idea if drivers can see me coming for miles — better for them, and better for me! Cycling in the dark without reflective everything? Ohh, just the thought gives me the shivers (whether I’m a motorist OR a cyclist)!

  6. April 26th, 2012 at 18:21 | #11

    OMG Noile, that is ADORABLE!!! I love it!!! and have never seen anything like it. Well done!

    • April 26th, 2012 at 19:41 | #12

      Thanks, Kyle! I have a sneaky suspicion that there’s a reason there aren’t any others, but I do admit to loving to wear if.

  7. April 26th, 2012 at 12:17 | #13

    That is brilliant, in all senses of the word! I cycle, and I’d imitate you, but the boxy hi-viz vest from the hardware store fits me pretty well already. :

    • April 26th, 2012 at 15:16 | #14

      KC, you could still add the sailor collar and rule the waves!

  8. karen
    April 26th, 2012 at 12:01 | #15

    Now you need to make a matching neon sailor overskirt and you’ll really be seen!

    • April 26th, 2012 at 15:15 | #16

      Oh, I like this idea, Karen! I think I’ll do it — another IKEA vest is going on my shopping list right now!

  9. Shams
    April 26th, 2012 at 10:18 | #17

    Very clever, Noile! That is sooo cute!

    • April 26th, 2012 at 10:31 | #18

      You can see, Shams, that my IKEA trolling days are far from over!

  10. April 26th, 2012 at 09:51 | #19

    omg this is 100% awesome! LOVE this! Stylish, interesting, creative, AND safe. Well done!! Do we get an action shot of you wearing it on the cycle? 😉

    • April 26th, 2012 at 10:33 | #20

      Thanks, Melissa! I’ll see about an action shot, but the truth is that once I’ve slapped a hydration pack around my waist and added a helmet, the cute factor drops significantly. I think I’d need a safety-approved sailor cap helmet to redeem the top, once I’m all geared up. Hmmm . . .

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