Monday, July 24

The 50p cycling trousers

Back here in a previous post I wrote about the cotton trousers I'd bought for £1 and had dyed and converted to some excellent cycling trousers. I have now done the same with the 50p pair that I bought, again from a charity shop. I have to admit that when I checked the pockets and found a used tissue I did think "Ugh.......maybe I should just throw these out and wash my hands thoroughly......." but I didn't. Please don't feel sick..........carry on reading! They were too good to lose!

I soaked them first in very hot water and soda, then washed them at 60 degrees, then hung them out in the sun to dry. My way of destroying any lingering germs! 

The trousers were from BHS, which of course don't exist any more. I would never have considered looking in their shops for trousers anyway, as I thought their clothes were pretty awful....... It just goes to show that you have to think outside the box sometimes - you might find what you're looking for in unexpected places, especially if you can alter it in some way to make it just what you want.

These were the trousers before dyeing -

I dyed them a dark blue. As expected, the thread, being synthetic, didn't dye. I added a zip to one pocket, which was much trickier with this pair because having no zip fly to open up the trousers, the space was harder to get to. I actually re-did it as I wasn't happy with the first attempt. Where there is a gap in the stitching on the waistband above is where I opened it up to push the zip up underneath. I have re-stitched that bit, although it's not visible - I wasn't so fussy as to bother to find matching contrasting thread. The zip still looks a bit weird, but as I said, it was hard to get to the space. 

The only suitable zip I had was one which I had unpicked from something else, and was cream. When I had finished the job I went all over the zip with blue felt pen to make it stand out slightly less! I wish I could have attached a zip to the smaller pocket as well but I could only have done it by hand and I decided not to bother.

Here you can see that I've added tapes to the trousers so that I can roll them up.

I used some twill tape that I already had - again, like the last pair, I just happened to have dyed some previously in the right colour!

This time I used Kam Snaps to attach the tapes to the right side. If you haven't some across these they are brilliant. They come in a variety of sizes and colours and are easy to attach with the tool that goes with them. My 19 month old granddaughter Lily was quite fascinated by them when I visited one day, and I showed her how they worked. They are actually quite hard to undo though, so it might be a while before she can unroll Grandma's trousers......

As with the other pair, they are wonderfully comfortable and practical. You may notice that the colour is not even - this is because after the initial required 45 minute period of regular stirring (you don't have to stir for 45 minutes! Just stir "regularly" in between doing other things) I then went away and forgot to stir them again, which has resulted in the uneven colour. 

I did actually spot another similar pair recently in another charity shop, but I resisted, as I don't really need a third pair, but it just goes to show that there are plenty of similar pairs of trousers out there dirt cheap waiting to be converted!

Monday, July 17

My new bike, a Koga Traveller, mixte version.

Finally, after a long wait, I have a new bicycle! And here it is....

I'll give the details in a minute, but first a brief look back at last year, when  I bought a step through touring bike from Oxford Bike Works. After a month or so I returned it and had a refund as I thought it just did not fit. I felt it was too small, and wondered if I had in fact been given a smaller size than I had originally been measured up for. This was the bike -

To add an update to that story, just before going to buy the above bike, I thought to myself that the OBW bike really had been a nice bike - it was just such a shame that it didn't fit me. And then I happened to look again at the original quote for it, which believe me I had gone over and over when I got the bike and wasn't happy with it. And then, for the first time, I saw, literally writ large....... the letter "L". I had been pretty sure that I had originally been fitted up for a size Large (I got a Medium) but thought I hadn't got any proof, but here was the proof, which for some reason I hadn't seen before. When I read that I felt so cross with myself for not having seen it, and also rather sad because I had, essentially, liked the OBW bikes very much.

That was September, and I knew that it would be sensible to wait until the spring of this year to do anything definite about getting another bike, as we had another grandchild on the way, due in January, and I had promised to go down to Devon to help look after daughter and baby while Marines husband was away soon after the birth. I did however spend time looking at my options. To cut a long story short, there aren't that many options in the UK if you want a step through, or mixte, touring bike. So I had whittled it down to two choices - either a German VSF Fahrradmanufaktur or a Dutch Koga, both mixte frames.

I should say here that it was another blogger, Brenda, at Cycling in the Sixth Decade who had first put me on to Kogas. She also put me on to  Cyclesense in Tadcaster who are one of the only three Koga dealers in the UK. I rang them and had a good chat to Dave there about aluminium, steel, sizing and other things. That's another thing about the Kogas - the bike I originally would have gone for was their steel Randonneur, but by the time of my phone call they had stopped making them, so if I bought a Koga it would be aluminium. I'd been convinced by everything I'd read that steel was not only real but better, but I was prepared to listen to other opinions....

On the question of size, Dave reckoned that going by my height of 5' 6 1/2" (I've since discovered that I've shrunk half an inch since I last measured myself, so am actually only 5' 6"!!) I would need the 50cm frame.

I couldn't make my mind up without actually seeing, and hopefully riding, these bikes. Given that the VSF bikes were much cheaper than the Kogas, the sensible side of me thought that it would be money well spent if I went to the only shop in the country that has a stock of these to try one out. That shop is in Cambridge, two or three hours by car from here or a bit of a trek by train. But I quite like treks, and I had been given a Senior Railcard for my birthday so off I went, having rung the shop first to see exactly which models and which sizes they had in stock. They didn't have any of the exact models I'd have bought in stock in my size  but I still thought it was worth going. Again they reckoned I'd need a 50cm.

Pause a minute to discuss size of bike - my inside leg measurement is 31", plus I know I've got long arms. Both shops had thought I'd need a 50 cm (that's the seat tube measurement by the way) but my instinct, plus what I'd read up about sizing, told me that I'd need a bigger size than this. This was partly based on one of the most useful things I've read about frame size, on the Wiggle website, where they say that if you are between two sizes, then measure your armspan. If it is greater than your height then go for the larger size, if it's smaller, then go for the smaller size. That seemed to explain my feeling that I needed a bigger size, as my arm span, though not greater than my height, is equal to it.

Well, my present bike seems to fit me pretty well. The seat tube, by my measurement, is 508mm (the frame is actually a 20") so a little more than the 50cm I was being recommended, and I knew I could probably quite easily handle a little more "reach", so all in all I had feeling I could do with bigger than 50cm. I know it is said that a small bike can be made bigger but a big one can't really be made smaller, but I somehow think I just tend to prefer a bigger bike.

Back to the Cambridge shop - I saw the 50cm but knew even before riding it that it would be too small, and it was. Another model in 52cm fitted much better, but they only do this size in a man's, which I didn't want. Actually they don't do women's frames any bigger than 50 cm which seems a bit daft to me. The mixte frame only comes in 55 cm, which could well have been too big, but the shop wasn't prepared to order one in for me to try unless I was going to definitely buy it.

The bikes themselves were fine, but somehow I wasn't as impressed as I had thought I might be. I was also slightly put off by the fact that the owner was thinking of shutting up shop for the winter!

So, back into Cambridge I walked, got on the train and later walked back across busy London, wondering why on earth people want to drink outside at the side of  busy Marylebone Road. Not far away there is one of those pollution monitoring things!

So, Koga it was. But by the time I rang Cyclesense to ask them to order me in a Traveller in the mixte ("Women's Sport Model") version, they had all sold out! However I decided that having waited all this time, I might as well sit back and wait a bit longer for the 2018 models to come in. However, I got some good news not long after, which was that Koga had built a few more Travellers. Cyclesense sent me the details and I jumped at the chance.

So a couple of weeks later Husband and I were on our way to Tadcaster for what turned out to be a very nice three day break. In the days beforehand my nerves had been quite wracked by thinking - have I made the right decision here? I didn't really want to go all that way and then find the bike wasn't what I wanted. I had asked them to order in a 53cm - was I right about that? What if it really was too big? And how was I going to get it home? On the train? That would have meant riding it to York, not far away but I haven't put a bike on the train for many a long year and I didn't really fancy doing so for the first time in decades with this new bike. However, Cyclesense are used to sending bikes and this was what we arranged would happen if I bought it. One problem ticked off the list. Things also worked out well as Husband had a few days off and we decided to go up together for three days.

On day two there we visited Cyclesense and I had a decent length ride on the bike round Tadcaster. Here I will point out that if you look at the Koga website and then at the Traveller (which they're not doing any more so why is it still there????!!) you'll see that my bike is not the same as the women's version, which is because, and this is where even I get confused and it's my bike - !! - what happened was that Koga took a Signature frame and built a Traveller......... I I've got a better frame than I would have got but it cost a bit more.

I knew I had been right about the frame size, and the bike was beautifully smooth to ride, but was it "the one"? Was it perfect? How can you tell without riding at least, say, 20 miles? My back felt slightly uncomfortable as I rode - a bad sign? I had read enough about the make to be convinced that they made very good bikes, and in the end I was convinced enough to buy this one. But I still wondered if I'd made the right decision! When it arrived the next week I took it for a very short ride. A few days later I took it for an 8 mile ride and thought - "Am I going to make it home?" as I was so uncomfortable! But I knew it was just the saddle...... I swapped the saddle for the Bontrager one on my Trek and that was tons better, partly because the rails were longer and so I could get it further back, which I needed to. We also altered the trekking/butterfly handlebar position until it felt about right. I wasn't at all convinced about these bars, and actually rigged up a wire coat hanger into roughly the same shape as the Thorn Comfort bars on my Trek and placed it in position on the Koga, to get an idea of what it would be like with those bars. But I decided to be sensible and patient and give them a decent trial before changing them, which would be more expense.

Regarding saddles, I would love to try a leather one again, either a different Brooks (i.e. not the B17 that the OBW bike had on it originally at my request) or the Selle AnAtomica Titanico reviewed on Lovely Bicycle and elsewhere, but for the moment funds won't allow, so I decided to be very sensible and patient (again!) and simply get another Bontrager. I have had mine for several years and am 95% happy with it.  The 5% bit is mainly "I wish it were leather!" It is the Bontrage Nebula Plus Womens in the 180mm size (I'd been measured up for the first one on the shop's ingenious tool for measuring sit bone size)  and I paid £40 for it in my local bike shop, Ridgeway Cycles. Once I had put that on I thought - "Right, that's all the tweaking that needs doing for now - time for a decent ride!"

So that weekend I took it out on a 43 mile ride, on a familiar and fairly flat route so that I could just concentrate on how the bike felt and not have to worry about the route. After about 9 miles I began to feel some discomfort in my rear end and also in my right thigh, but I thought I'd just take it easy, stop now and again, and see how things went. I stopped after about another 3 miles in Bampton and had a look in their art gallery, and after this break the discomfort seemed to have gone. I then cycled on another mile or so to Aston, where I had coffee at the Pottery there - they have a lovely indoor cafe with delicious food and also a big seating area outside, where there is room enough to take your bike if you want to have it within sight. An Americano (and it was a good one)  in one of their lovely mugs was £2 - that is cheap for Oxfordshire!

After that the bike was feeling good, so having set out thinking I'd probably do 30 miles or so, I felt confident to do 40. I got more used to the handlebars, and was glad I had given them a chance, although having said that I'm not 100% convinced about them. I find the main position at the front rather too narrow and straight, and it feels like I have less control (less stability) than with my wider riser Thorn Comfort Bars. The other positions are useful, but then it seems to me that you need them because of the inadequacies of the main position. Personally I'd rather have bars with fewer positions but where the main one is more comfortable. I know that Thorn says of its Comfort bars "There are two positions - cycling and not cycling!" I think that once funds allow I will probably change them.

One thing I do find incredibly good about them though is the leather and padding - it was very comfortable to hold,  and it was also a hot day but my hands didn't get sweaty at all. The synthetic grips on my Trek have done me well, and are still going strong after 20 odd years, but I did find on a recent trip in May in VERY hot weather that by the end of the day my hands were black and tacky, although that's the first time that's happened. So that's a preference now for leather grips.

Despite reassurances from Cyclesense that the good quality aluminium Koga uses would give me as comfortable a ride as steel, I had still been concerned that it wouldn't. Whether the bike sails over the bumps in the UK roads as comfortably as a high quality steel bike, I really can't say. But I can say that I am happy with it, and certainly think it is as comfortable in this respect as my steel Trek.

The forecast for the next few days is good. I've just been given a big sewing job but that can wait! The bike is calling.......


PS 19.7.17 Forgot to add that Husband did a video of the bike and put it on his YouTube channel. Click here to watch it.

Tuesday, July 4

Janome Novum 591 Deluxe Mark X sewing machine

I bought this machine last year in a charity shop and have finally got round to looking it over.

Rather infuriatingly, it has been very hard to find out much about it. It's bit of a mystery machine. Google comes up with precisely two images, one of which is this machine itself! It was clearly advertised for sale before it was given to the charity shop. I know it's the same one as I can tell from the marks on the table. The other image is of the same model machine but as a table top. Interestingly, a fellow blogger told me that she had one of these machines perhaps 40 years ago. That certainly ties in with the original advert for the machine which said that it dated from the 1970s. Often there is a date in the manual which gives you some idea of when a machine was manufactured but the manual with this one has no date. Neither can I trace the serial number as there is no listing for machines this modern.

The feet and accessories -

The five feet on the bottom row are all shown in the manual, although strangely they do not all have quite the same attachment fitting, though they do all fit. The zip foot on the top row is a different one to the one pictured in the manual, although this one also fits. The cloth guide and the "blind stitch hem guide", a piece which attaches to the blind hem foot (third from the left, bottom row) are both missing.  The foot on the left of the top row is an invisible zip foot, which I will be hanging on to as I've never had one. You don't actually have to have one of these to insert invisible zips but I'd like to try one out. The foot on the far right, top row, is a buttonhole foot but not for this machine. The piece on the bottom right is for quilting parallel lines; it attached to the zip foot pictured in the manual, but doesn't attach to the zip foot with the machine. The straight stitch foot is currently on the machine hence not being in this photo. So, a bit of a mixture but all the essentials are there.

The machine was pretty clean so I didn't need to do an awful lot to it, although I like to do as good a job as I can so I did fuss around cleaning it wherever I could get to. Then I oiled it everywhere where oil should go. After that I tried out all the stitches, and everything works well.

All stitches work well

It runs extremely smoothly and quietly. (I have to admit to having a bit of a thing about the sounds of sewing machines - I enjoy listening to YouTube clips just to hear the sound they make!) The lever that you move to get the different stitch patterns takes a bit of getting used to because as you move it the red bits behind the display move with it but they don't always match up exactly to the stitch shown, but it's just a question of getting the hang of it.

The machine has a front loading oscillating hook.

The light - 

Unfortunately I cannot get the light to work even after trying a new bulb, and I'm not sure why. The wiring is in very good condition but maybe something is not connecting somewhere. According to the manual there should be a switch on the back of the machine, but there isn't, so I assume the light is supposed to come on automatically when the machine is turned on, but it doesn't, so that is another mystery. I have the same problem on my Bernina 801, the light on which was working when I bought it (after having been professionally serviced), then only worked if I pushed the bulb in and jiggled it slightly, and then stopped working altogether. I'm not skilled enough to find the answer although my curious brain is constantly mulling it over - rather unsatisfying to have to leave something not working!

Last year I bought a black Singer 201 in a table and realized how incredibly useful it is to have a machine in a table rather than on top of a table, giving you a nice big flat surface to work on. This table has four drawers in; my Singer Library table is very nice looking but has no drawers. But here's another mystery -

Here we have the machine folded down into the table 

And here it is with the top on -

(By the way I got that very nice Ikea leather chair on the left for a tenner from the same charity shop!)

I have only ever seen tables where the flap unfolds to the side, but this one slides down the back! The flap stops at the bottom of its runners but the plastic piece which once held it in place close to the back of the table has broken. It would be fairly easy to fix something else in place to hold it.

Flap at back of table

Perhaps this model of table was intended to be up against a wall, and the flap was not intended as extra workspace. However it could easily be converted to attaching at the side with hinges and giving that valuable extra workspace, in which case there would be no need to fix something in place of the broken plastic thing.

And one last photo, of the inside -

So, a very nice machine and now on the market for £50!

The next machine on my waiting list is this Jones..........

Happy sewing!