On making friends in the Pacific Northwest, or, Hey Kwak! How’re you liking Portland so far?

by Jessie Kwak

The first rule about making friends in the rain belt of the Pacific Northwest is this: the warmer the weather, the friendlier the people. We’re a hibernating folk, and I’m absolutely no exception.

Warm, sunny days will find every Seattleite (and Portlander, apparently) drinking cocktails on a patio. You’ll suddenly discover that a family of five lives in the apartment next to yours. You’ll be invited over for a barbecue.


Rainy winter days are a good time to walk briskly, and put your collar up as a ward against the sleet and the stranger.

This cultural hibernation couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I was so burned out by the time we moved that I have basically spent the last four months staring at text messages with suspicion and inventing excuses not to leave the house. Like the rest of Portland, however, I’m starting to thaw.

So how do I like Portland?

For one, even during the Great Winter Hibernation it’s been way easy to make friends. Say you meet someone at a party in Seattle. You have an awesome conversation, you exchange phone numbers, and agree that you should totally hang out again.

The follow-up email/text exchange may go something like this.

You: “It was so great to meet you last night at the party. I’d love to grab a cup of coffee if you’re free in the next couple weeks!”

Potential Friend: “Definitely! I’d love to hang out!”

You: “Awesome. What’s your schedule like this week? I’m free Monday and Wednesday after 3.”

Potential Friend: *radio silence for 3 months until you awkwardly meet at another party and they gush that you should totally hang out but then don’t answer your next texts.*

In Portland, in my experience, that frustrating radio silence has been replaced almost universally with the prompt finalization of a coffee date. I’m not sure if people in Portland are less busy, more unemployed, or just friendlier, but it’s made it way less frustrating to meet people.

I’ve also been taking advantage of Meetup to connect with other writers and cyclists, and have met some fantastic people through groups like Women on Wheels. The Portland Society has been another great source of awesome like-minded folk to hang out with.

Last Saturday's Women on Wheels ride to Lake Oswego.

Last Saturday’s Women on Wheels ride to Lake Oswego.

I feel like I’m almost done with my hibernation period. Maybe by the time May rolls around I won’t freak out if I have more than one event on my calendar in a single week. (I’m serious. I’ve been a total shut-in.)

I like Portland, though. I can’t deny that.

I thought you could fly your freak flag in Seattle, but it turns out that Portland is trying to win some sort of championship in freak flag flymanship. It’s kind of amazing. As I write this, the dude sitting across the bar from me is wearing full on purple pajamas with rainbows on them and a chullo hat.

Anyway, if you’re still reading, that’s how I like Portland so far.

It seems like everywhere I turn people are moving new places. Did you? How are you coping? How have you created a new community from scratch?


Crafting with Inner Tubes is now available

by Jessie Kwak

Okay, all the teasing is over — I’m now officially ready to launch the first-ever Bicitoro ebook: Crafting with Inner Tubes.

Click to read more about it. You can even snag a copy of your own if you want – I won't stop you.

Click to read more about it. You can even snag a copy of your own if you want – I won’t stop you.

I already gushed about it a ton last week and on its sales page, so I’ll spare you much more here.

I’m selling it for $6, but I’ve got a special deal for anyone who’s subscribed to my email list — it’s only $0.99 until April 15. Sign up for the list and I’ll send you the code.

Happy crafting!


Flooding in Burundi hits close to home

by Jessie Kwak

This has nothing to do with bikes, nor crafts. A few years back I worked with an organization called Global Citizen Journey as their communications team leader. At that time, they sponsored a women’s farming collective in Burundi – but in February torrential rains and flooding wiped out the women’s livelihood. Their crops were destroyed in their fields, and all the tools and supplies GCJ helped them purchase were lost. About half of them lost their homes, as well.

The floods moved this storage container full of tools almost 65 feet.

The floods moved this storage container full of tools almost 65 feet. Photo by Prosper Ndabishuriye.

I wrote an article about it for the Seattle Globalist, and I wanted to share it with you all. GCJ’s contact in Burundi is raising money to help the women rebuild – there’s a link at the bottom of the page.

These women could use a hand up if you’ve got a few extra dollars to spare.

Three of the women pose with what rice they've managed to salvage from storage after the flooding. They lost nearly 2 tons. Photo by Prosper Ndabishuriye.

Three of the women pose with what rice they’ve managed to salvage after the flooding. They lost nearly 2 tons. Photo by Prosper Ndabishuriye.


Merino wool inspiration – active yet chic

by Jessie Kwak

If you’re not already familiar with Fabric Mart, then I’m sorry to do this to you. Sewists without self control probably shouldn’t click on that link, because you’ll just find crazy cheap fabrics from name brand designers. All the luscious silks, wools, and bamboos you’ve been trying to avoid buying, all at prices that are so insanely reasonable it just would be crazy to not buy a few yards.

What you really shouldn’t do is sign up for their email newsletter, because they’ll just send you tempting emails full of killer deals, like 50% off merino wool jersey in a whole rainbow of awesome colors.

(They’re not paying me for any of this – I’m totally just warning you out of the goodness of my own heart.)

I’ve been on a fabric buying freeze since we moved, because shit, moving is expensive! Plus, having to pack all those boxes of fabric reminded me that I’ve started to verge on hoarders territory. But when Fabric Mart sent me their nefarious newsletter a month ago, I just couldn’t resist snatching up some of this gorgeous merino wool jersey.

Merino wool jersey

Aren’t those colors stunning?

I haven’t cut into any of it yet, because I’m still coming up with inspirations. I’ve pinned a few here:

Screenshot 2014-04-06 14.57.43

I’m wanting to make something that’s sporty enough to work well on a bike – even a more “workout” sort of ride – while still looking cute. I have 2 yards of the green and orange, and 3 yards of the purple, so while I might be able to make a dress out of that, the green and orange will likely turn into tops of some sort.

I’m really loving something like this Equinox Dress from Morphic on Etsy, maybe in the purple (which is a bit heavier weight).

Equinox dress

I also dig this asymmetrical button dress, which seems like it would work in a lighter weight jersey. I could maybe pull that off with 2 yards of fabric. But should I do it in orange or green?

Gathered merino dress

I’ve been wanting a blouse like this Siren Shell from Ureshii, also on Etsy. That would be pretty simple to make.

Siren Shell

What do you guys think?


A first look at the Crafting With Inner Tubes e-book

by Jessie Kwak

I made a book! And I’m just too excited to keep it to myself anymore.

Introducing the first e-book in my planned series of bicycle themed craft books: Crafting With Inner Tubes.

Crafting with Inner tubes | Bicitoro bikes and crafts

I’m still finishing final edits, and sending it to my trusty copyeditor (thanks, mom!), but I hope to have it for sale and into your hot little hands by the end of next week. Here’s a sneak (un-copyedited, sorry!) preview to whet your appetites.

Crafting with inner tubes preview 1

I’ve collected much of the advice, tips and tricks about crafting with inner tubes from this blog, and gone into detail about the various tools I use.

Crafting with inner tubes preview 2

And I’ve included five of my favorite inner tube tutorials. There wasn’t room for them all, but that’s what this section of my blog is all about.

Crafting with inner tubes preview 3

Many thanks to my devilishly handsome Artistic Director, Rob.

If you sign up for my email list, I’ll be sending out a first notification, as well as a discount code to thank my email subscribers.