I seem to be going through some kind of strange period in my life where I actually am interested in sewing somewhat complex projects. That has literally never happened before – previous complex garments, like jeans, have been tackled only out of necessity – but first I wanted to make a winter coat, and now I finally found the motivation to at last make the first of the three planned merino bike jerseys, supplies for which I’ve had for at least two years. Who have I become?

As a preface: I ride a lot. Like, a lot. If my work schedule allows, which is more than half the year, I ride every day for anywhere from 20 minutes to 3 hours. I do one or two long rides (30-40 miles) a week, and ideally a few times a year I do a metric or full century ride (60 or 100 miles). And I’ve been doing this for about 5 years now. So I have a pretty good sense of what I want out of a bike jersey. After trying a lot of brands and types, I discovered that I really like merino wool jerseys more than any kind of fancy synthetic athletic material. I understand this is a fairly uncommon opinion, but I like wool because it always keeps me the right temperature (summer or winter), doesn’t hold odor, and although it doesn’t “wick” the sweat away, it absorbs it all and doesn’t allow rivulets of sweat to run down my back in a gross way like the synthetic jerseys do (sorry if that’s TMI). I have RTW merino jerseys from SmartWool, Icebreaker, and Liv, and the former two companies are no longer making bike jerseys at all (which is of course because I was the only person buying them). Of all of them, the Icebreakers are my favorite both because of design and material, so imagine my delight when I found basically identical merino knits at The Fabric Store on my first visit. Finding a pattern took longer, but luckily my procrastination is so impressive that not one but two feasible jersey patterns were released while the fabric sat in my stash: the strange Simplicity 1361, actually an “equestrian performance shirt” but with the styling of a bike jersey, and the actually-designed-for-working-out Fehr Trade Surf to Summit top. I decided to start with the Surf to Summit because it seemed to require less modification, and with the raglan sleeves it most closely resembles my favorite short sleeve Icebreaker jersey.

merino bike jersey surf to summit

I did not make basically any fit modifications to the pattern, I just cut an XS grading to a S based on my measurements (which is somewhat surprising, in a RTW bike jersey I wear a M or L). I measured all the pieces and found that size would be very close to my Icebreaker jersey. While I didn’t make any changes to the basic fit, I did change about everything else!

To start, I modified the bottom hem of the pattern. I prefer a gradual hi-lo hem, rather than just a duckbill on the back, so I kept the length of the center back and center front, but added pieces to the bottom of the side piece and the sides of the bottom to make a gradual transition from the front length to the back length. I also drafted my own facing for the neckline and zipper. I wanted to make a full zip front, like my RTW jersey, so I copied its facing style. I started by tracing the top of each bodice piece to create its own facing piece, tracing down the center of the front piece as well, then I overlapped the front and side facing pieces by the SA and taped them together to make one piece. I kept the back facing piece separate and stitched it to the fronts once I had attached the zipper.

surf to summit hem adjustment

I also created my own pattern piece for the back pockets, rather than use the included pattern piece. I’m pretty picky about my jersey pockets, as I’m sure any frequent cyclist is, and I like the pocket arrangement on my Icebreaker jerseys best so I traced them off. Luckily, they basically fit onto the back of the StS, the pocket piece was only a little too wide. On this version I just made the pockets slightly narrower, but I think in future I would widen the back piece slightly and narrow the side pieces to compensate. Of note, my traced off pocket pattern piece is substantially less tall than the included pocket, and I still think these pockets are a smidge too deep.

surf to summit jersey back

I also borrowed the construction method around the back pocket from the RTW jerseys. First off, all my jerseys have a seam at the bottom of the pocket, rather than just have the pocket topstitched on along the bottom. I thought this was smart, so I laid the pocket on the back piece where I wanted it, cut the back piece along the bottom of the pocket, flipped up the bottom piece I’d just cut off, and stitched all three together. Then I turned the seam down and laid open fold-over elastic on top of it and stitched along the edges of the elastic through all layers. This is another feature on the Icebreaker jerseys – the pockets are reinforced on the inside of the jersey with FOE. I also added it, as they did, to the areas where the top of the pockets are stitched.

jersey pocket detailBack piece done, I constructed the jersey as instructed. To attach the zipper, I tried a suggestion I saw on Sewaholic recently – use fusible tape to baste the zipper to the knit fabric so it doesn’t get all wavy from the differential feed. I was excited to try this, but it only sort of worked, probably because my fusible tape was “Quilt-n-Bond” of unknown age and questionable origin (does it expire?) I’d like to try it again with a freshly bought package of stitch-witchery. But my real problem turned out to be that I interfaced the facings (with knit interfacing, but still) and so my facings ended up a bit shorter than the fronts and caused drag lines when I topstitched them down. Like on my RTW jersey, I topstitched the facings about an inch from the zipper using the coverstitch, trying to catch the edge of the facings on the back. The drag lines could also be because of my coverstitch – it doesn’t feed thin fabric evenly at all, and if I loosen the presser foot pressure any more I think the screw will come off. Any advice? Do they make walking feet for coverstitches? Do I just need to play with the feed dog speed dial?

surf to summit zipper mod

For the hem, I wanted to incorporate silicon-backed grippy elastic like on my RTW jerseys. I found several varieties on Sew Sassy a while ago, none of them as thin and flexible as I’d have liked, but fine (as a side note, they seem to have more options now, perhaps I will order more to try). I wanted the elastic just on the sides and back rather than all the way around, so I stopped it at the front seams. I attached it with a narrow zigzag, laying the elastic right side up on the right side of the jersey, then folded the whole hem under and coverstitched. For the sleeve hem, rather than turn under and topstitch I attached a hem band, again like my RTW model. I’m glad I did, because I think the short sleeve as drafted would be too short for my taste.

jersey hem detail

I added a folded over zipper shield to the top of the zipper, like on basically all RTW zip-up anythings. After puzzling out how it might be attached for about 20 minutes, I figured it out, but all it succeeded in doing is making it look like my collar isn’t the same height on both sides. It is, I promise! Also it hits my chin a bit because it sticks up from the collar, so it might be a RTW feature I abandon on future makes.

jersey with arm warmers

I also made arm warmers, because I had the extra fabric to do so, although I tend to prefer boleros to warm up my summer jerseys, so I’m not sure they’ll get much use. It was a good way to try out a different elastic attachment method, though. I added the same grippy elastic to the top, but this time stitching it on right sides facing and then turning it to the inside and topstitching. I think the method I used on the jersey hem worked better, though. The pattern piece for the arm warmers was simply the lower sleeve that I cut off, no extra length added or necessary.

in actionFinally finished, I photographed the jersey, then took it out for a test ride. While trying on the jersey in my street clothes, I thought the size was good, but after riding in it I realized I would prefer it to be tighter around my hips. As it was, the grippy elastic served no purpose because the hem was flapping loosely around my hips. This wasn’t so bothersome on the bike (I have a few other jerseys with a looser fit and no hem elastic), but when I stood up at stops or after the ride with my phone in the center back pocket, the back hem just hung down too low in an annoying way. So I took a deep breath and headed back to the sewing room, where I picked out the coverstitch on either side of the front side seams for a few inches, resewed those seams tapering out about an inch at the hem, then folded it back up and re-hemmed. I think I took off about four inches total from the hem, and it’s a much snugger fit now. So I guess I could’ve started with a straight XS. Next time before I cut I’ll try to take the excess out of just the side pieces, to preserve the width of the front and back.

So, I have my first handmade bike jersey! I will say, this is the rare project that actually does save money – I paid about $30 for the fabric and maybe another $5 or $10 for the notions, but even on sale my RTW merino jerseys were in the $60-80 range. And they don’t exist anymore anyway. The extant merino bike jerseys from other companies range from $100 to a baffling $210, so I feel like I’ve made a sound financial decision here. I do like the level of detail on the RTW jerseys, things I can’t or don’t want to do as a home sewist, like overcast topstitched seams and reflective piping bits and a mesh panel in the same color fabric, etc. But if going forward making jerseys is the only way to get the jerseys I like most, I guess I’m in for some more complex projects. But not next. Next I just want to make a boring plain top.

This project has been a long time coming. Not just in that I cut it out a full month ago, made it two weeks ago and am just blogging it now, but in that I bought this pattern and fabric literally years ago with this exact project in mind, and it took me until now(ish) to get around to it. When the Slapdash Sewist pointed out this waffley athletic fabric on FFC back in 2011 (egad!), I immediately ordered a yard with a bike jersey in mind. I had no pattern ideas until I stumbled across Jalie 2682 – I thought the zipper version would make a perfect bike jersey. And then I did nothing about it for a long time. I even made up the regular shirt version of the pattern in the meantime. But I was finally spurred into action (very leisurely action) by  Cation Design’s Vibrant Color Stashbusting Challenge last month. And was just getting warm enough for sleeveless bike jerseys! And then… April happened. And the jersey didn’t. But, better late than never, right? It’s still old stash, and it’s certainly a vibrant color. It’s just a little late.

Jalie 2682 as jersey

And the verdict? Well, what I learned here was that the reason I haven’t made a previous foray into self-stitched bike-wear is a good one: the fabrics kinda suck. This is Poly with a capital P fabric, and the waffle weave that’s supposed to be cooling and wicking (I assume) in fact just makes the fabric thicker and poufier, not exactly traits you want in close-fitting athletic wear. It also pulls off that great double trick of cheap knits in that it manages to feel thick and at the same time still cling and show every lump and bump. In my test ride with the jersey, the word that sprung to mind was “cozy”, which, again, is not my ideal workout shirt descriptor. But I guess that means it will make a good winter jersey with one of my boleros! (Seriously, these bike boleros are maybe the best bike clothes invention ever. They don’t slip down like armwarmers and they California-winterize a sleeveless jersey perfectly. I have like three.)

But as for the pattern itself? I do think I was right that it’s a good candidate for a bike jersey. It has a sporty look about it to start with (this bothered me on the shirt version, and I think I’ve figured out what makes it that way – no bust gathers. If the bodice were gathered a little into a midriff band I think I would like it better. That’s totally my next hack of this pattern. But I digress) that works well for a jersey, and it has a somewhat looser fit through the torso, something that you sometimes want in a jersey, actually (or at least one that’s made from insulating waffle polyester). And it already has a zipper, obviously. So I didn’t really make any mods to the basic pattern. The only change I made was lengthening it in the center back about an inch to create the curved back hem all my favorite jerseys have. This is a pretty long top, though, so I ended up actually taking off an inch all around before hemming, still preserving the curved back edge.  I like my jerseys long, but not that long. (I also managed to sew a dreadful meandering hem. Oops.) The only other adjustment I’d consider making to the pattern if I attempt bike clothes again would be to try to figure out how to reduce the amount of fabric at the back neckline. I like a little collar on my jerseys, but this is a little too tall.

Jalie jersey backThe main way I jerseyed it up, though, was to add pockets to the back. Back pockets are an absolute necessity for me, because I need a place to put my phone and any food I might need for the ride. I sort of drafted a pocket piece off an existing jersey, but it was really just a very slight trapezoid shape that was about 6 inches narrower than the back piece. I zigzagged elastic across the top edge of the pocket piece, turned it down and twin needled (all my jersey pockets are elasticized across the top). I attached it to the lower back piece by flipping the pocket piece upside down and sewing along the bottom, right sides together, then flipping it right side up and topstitching along the bottom for security. Then I topstitched along the side edges and up the middle in two places to create the pockets. I did this before I sewed the side seams of the jersey to make it easier. I placed the pocket piece about two inches from the bottom edge, but I find the pockets a bit low. Next time I’ll attach the pocket piece an inch and a half higher at least, so the stuff in the pockets will sit in the small of my back.

Jalie jersey pocketsSo, would I try this again? Honestly, it all depends on the fabric. If I ever stumble across a nice, real athletic knit that’s breathable and has good recovery (something this fabric definitely doesn’t have, hence the wibbly zipper), I would totally go for it. But I’m not committed to the idea enough to order dozens of swatches online in a quest for the ever elusive fabric-as-nice-as-RTW. And frankly, I seriously doubt I can find a fabric for sale anywhere that lives up to the awesome proprietary performance fabrics my RTW jerseys are made of. I mean, really, have you ever found yardage that you’ve touched and thought, hey, I could sweat in this for 100 miles? I know I haven’t. If something perfect does just walk into my stash, though, I have lots of ideas to real-jersey-up this pattern – reflective piping along the underbust seam, back pockets finished with contrast fold-over elastic, grippy paint along the inside bottom hem… But as it is I will wear this jersey occasionally, I think. And it’ll just motivate me to ride faster, so no one will be able to see all the terribly wonky topstitching!

On one last bike-related note, I can pass off at least a little of the delay of this post (just a little, mostly it was just my traditional procrastination) on the fact that I spent last Saturday riding the Tour of Long Beach Cruz Gran Fondo, a pretty flat 100 miles going down the coast and back. It was my third century and by far my fastest at 7 hours 20 minutes, mostly because it had almost no hills. (Though needless to say, I still did not wear this jersey.) I was very happy with my time, and even more happy about the craft beer garden at the finish! That, and the fact that when we rode past the Pageant of the Masters sign in Laguna Beach I totally yelled “There are dozens of us! Dozens!” Yeah there are.

Well, now that I’m officially on summer hiatus from my new job, somehow tons of sewing/blogging time has not materialized like I was anticipating. How is it possible that having more time has transmorgified into having even less time? Hmmm, maybe it’s that I keep putting projects off because, hey, I’ll have more time tomorrow, right? Sigh. So rather than a review of a dress I finished over two weeks ago and still have not blogged, or the bags I made for work over a month ago, here is a random post about what I’ve been up to besides, you know, tending to this blog in any way.

Despite the fact that the PR contest this month is the Pattern Stash contest, I have been buying new patterns like it’s going out of style. I took the plunge (and paid the transatlantic shipping costs – erg) and ordered a few StyleArc patterns from Australia a few weeks ago. They arrived amazingly quickly, and look really great. The instructions are definitely not the most descriptive, but they’re just dresses, so I should be okay. All the patterns I got are designs I’ve not seen anywhere else, and I really like them – they’re the Paula, the Milly, and the Lazy Daisy. I also got their free pattern for June (every month there’s a different free pattern you get with your order, apparently, which is awesome), which was the Tori pant, a capri designed for stretch wovens, one of their looks-like-real-pants-but-has-elastic-waist patterns. I’m actually interested in making these up for fall to see if they really pass for pants-with-zipper or not.


The fruits of my late night out-of-print pattern buying spree arrived the other day (less one that turned out to be out of stock, oh well). It’s a mix of patterns I’ve wanted for a while after seeing them on a blog/Pattern Review and patterns I just bought cause I liked them in that moment:

Of these, I think only M6109, the tank dress, will go right into the queue – the rest are for fall/winter/whenever I get around to them in several years. Also included in my order was a brochure for new McCall’s patterns, which, as Andrea pointed out the other day, have reached new heights of crazy:

I mean, what?! Okay, I know the one on the right is a just-far-enough-off-to-avoid-lawsuits Snow White costume pattern, but I think the poor little girl on the left is just the victim of the Craziest. Pattern styling. Ever. Really, what is with the gnomes this year? And there’s just so much crazy happening in the center panel that my brain can’t even process it all. Except I know what I’m making all my friends for Christmas this year – fur-lined spats. Oops, now I’ve spoiled the surprise! Don’t worry, family and friends, you’ll finally have something to go with your bi-color tights!

Um, yeah.

Finally, I wanted to share the (also crazy, actually) thing I spent this last weekend doing instead of sewing:

I rode the ominously (and fairly accurately) named Death Ride in the Sierras south of Tahoe. Here I am on top of Monitor pass, elevation 8314 feet. (To be fair, we started at 5700ish feet, so it’s not like I climbed that far from sea level or anything.) I passed this sign twice, once after climbing up the front of the pass, and again after descending the back then climbing back up. Oh, and then I went up another pass that was 8700 feet, down the back, and back up. And I didn’t even finish the whole thing! Like I said, crazy. But you know, it was actually fun! (Though had you asked me in the four or five hours after the ride, I would not have used that word. Ah, hindsight.) And I feel tremendously accomplished. Not accomplished at sewing, mind you, but ideally that will happen soon.

Which brings me to a peek at my current project:

I did say it wasn’t done, right? These are the scraps from the dress that’s on my sewing table now. I also had better get cracking on a dress to wear to my cousin’s wedding on the 27th… wow that’s soon. I’m thinking the Cambie, but I haven’t even muslined it yet. Well, I do love a deadline. Onward!





Yes, I finished something! No, it is not something sewing related at all. Tricked you! I actually have had even less time to sew than usual; being in tech and opening a show is a real time/energy suck. Weirdly, what I did luck into some time to do was ride 70 miles on my bike. My finished item is the Solvang Metric Century!

This is by far the longest ride I’ve ever done. It took a while, but I did it and even felt great afterwards! Here is the route for anyone interested. Traditionally a “metric century” is 63 miles (100 km), because (as you may have guessed) a century is 100 miles. But this ride ended up a bit longer than advertised, coming in right at 70 miles. There were almost 5000 (!) riders participating in the event on Saturday, and it was really neat to just see that many bikes and cyclists all in one place. I ride mostly on my own, so it’s quite a novelty for me to join so many other people all doing the same thing. Makes me really want to go to a big sewing meetup or something!

Anyway, hopefully things are slowing down a little for me, and I’ll be able to get some, I don’t know, sewing done soon. It’s supposed to rain this weekend, so it’d be nice to have a nice new Minarou to keep me dry… we’ll see how fast I can put it together once I, you know, start it. I promise some actual sewing content soon!