Guest Post: DIY Reflective band

by Jessie Kwak

Folks, I have a sad confession to make. I haven’t turned my sewing machine on in almost a month. The sewing room has become a place where I shove things I don’t have time to think about right now, so I’m not sure I could even get to my machine without a solid hour or more of cleaning. Which I certainly don’t have time to think about.

That’s why I’m oh-so grateful that Ms. Bethany Marcello is back to show us how to make reflective safety bands. You remember her–she’s an assistant editor at CraftFoxes who stopped by a few weeks back with her awesome waterproof booties tutorial. (Did you make some? How’d they turn out?)

Stay bright out there!

Reflective Band

Safe biking means being as visible as possible to everyone on the road, and as the proud (albeit scared) wife of a biker who’s been hit three times, these reflective bands go a long way towards promoting safety and visibility, which is particularly difficult with our brown-gray Pacific Northwest skies. Modify this easy sewing pattern to make arm bands, leg bands, waistbands or even to strap along a waterproof biking saddlebag.

DIY reflective band | Bicitoro

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Tutorial: Reflective Angel Wings (Halloween Costume)

by Jessie Kwak

It seems like most folks who are into sewing and crafting also love dressing up for Halloween. I’m kind of the exception, I guess–I’m always the one ten minutes before the party thinking “Don’t I have an old prom dress around here somewhere? I guess I could be…um…a girl in an old prom dress…”

This year, however, I’ll be going to Messmann’s Messquerade, a costumed Halloween scavenger hunt. Messmann’s been throwing this race for years, but this year he’s kindly agreed to throw it as a fundraiser for the North American Cycle Courier Championships, so you should show up and race and party and have a hell of a good time to support this noble cause.

As I was trying to think of a good costume (let’s face it–just a costume, good or not), I had a flash (ha!) of genius. What if I brought my new obsession with visibility to bear on the problem?

And so was born the Reflective Angel Wings:

I went to Michael’s craft store this afternoon and found a pair of closeout white wings. (And a wand!) If you wanted to be extra-crafty, you could easily bend some wire in the shape of wings, since I’m going to show you how to cover them with fabric.

I have had this shiny silver knit fabric hanging around my stash since high school, and I always told myself it’d come in handy some day. Today, friends, is that day.

I tried a couple sheer black knits I have, thinking I’d go for a dark angel look, but they didn’t have quite the interest that the silver did.

Covering a wire set of wings is pretty easy. Basically, you stitch up a tube 4-5″ longer than your wings that angles (angles/angels/angles–gonna have to really proof this before I hit publish) from the widest point to the narrowest point. I did this through trial and error, and tried it on probably three times before it seemed right to me.

When you try it on, it should fit snuggly. Like this:

(You can see the seam along in the back.)

Use a needle and thread to gather the excess fabric on the top of the wing so that it becomes taut. You may have to go around a couple of times. Wrap the tail of the thread around the fabric bunch, then backtack a few stitches to secure it, but don’t break the thread.

Cut off the excess fabric, then tack it down so it’s more or less smooth.

Repeat for the bottom of the wing. When you’re done, it should look like this:

I used 3M Scotchlight reflective fabric ribbon for this project, cut into 1/4″ strips. I used Stitch Witchery tape to secure it down before sewing it. (You know about Stitch Witchery, right? Right?)

When wrapping my second wing, I nearly did it the same direction, but fortunately I caught myself in time. What would I have done with 2 right wings?

When both wings were done, I sewed a bit of oilcloth between them to fasten them together, adding the elastic to the inside like so:

I asked my lovely dress form to model them for me. She was ever so obliging.

(Why, yes–she is wearing a cycling bolero and a reflective inner tube belt! Thank you for noticing. Both are available at the Etsy shop.)

What will you be for Halloween? Will it be cycling-friendly? Or at least cycling-proof?

Do tell!


Tutorial: Reflective recycled inner tube belt

by Jessie Kwak
Want more inner tube crafts? Check out my ebook Crafting with Inner Tubes.

Crafting with Inner tubes | Bicitoro bikes and crafts

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, right?

Or, when life gives you goat head stickers, use your punctured inner tubes to make something fun, like a reflective belt.

I’ve used the technique of insetting a reflective design in inner tube rubber before, but I’ve never talked about it on this blog. I think it looks pretty cool—the black of the rubber combined with the silver of the reflective tape—and it’s high vis, to boot.

I whipped this belt up in an evening, and I’m really happy with how it turned out. It’ll look fabulous wrapped over my Minoru rain coat, once that’s done. (I finished the muslin the same evening I made this belt—pictures to come.)

Sewing bicycle inner tubes

My sewing machine doesn’t always love the materials I try to make it sew, like bicycle inner tubes, for instance. It thinks I should buy an industrial machine if I’m going to keep up with these rubber-leather-Cordura-canvas insanities, but until I have a place to put an industrial machine, little miss Singer is just going to have to deal.

It’s very possible to sew inner tubes on a home machine. Here are a couple of things I’ve learned to make it easier:

1. How to keep the inner tube from sticking: I’ve seen a lot of tips across the interwebs for sewing with sticky materials like rubber and oilcloth, including sewing through a layer of tissue paper, and spreading a thin layer of vegetable oil on the top of the inner tube to help it slide under the presser foot better.

The method that works best for me is to use a teflon presser foot, and stick a few strips of masking tape along the throat plate to help the rubber slide better. I also found that pulling the tube through the needle rather than trying to push it helped keep things moving.

2. How to keep your thread from snarling: Thread tension is the key here. Because you’re sewing through a thicker material, you’ll need to set your machine’s tension to a higher setting. Make a few practice runs on scrap pieces to check before you start sewing your main pieces—tearing out seams and re-stitching can weaken the rubber and cause it to tear.

A sharp needle will also help. I used a titanium-coated one that I got at our local sewing-machine-and-vacuum-cleaner store (you have one of those, don’t you?), but a heavy jeans needle should work, too. Clean it off from time to time with rubbing alcohol to keep everything from gumming up.

3. How to pin inner tubes: Just as with sewing with oilcloth, pinning doesn’t work. I brought out the trusty binder clips to use on the inner tubes, and that was perfect.

With no further ado, let’s:

Make a reflective belt out of recycled inner tubes

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Tutorial: Make your own reflective ribbon trim

by Jessie Kwak

As I mentioned last week in my Bike Craft roundup, I’ve been thinking a lot about visibility. In Seattle, we’re coming off an unprecedented number of gorgeous, rainless days, but even as the sky stays clear, the sun is setting sooner and sooner.

That’s fine, though, because we’re about to enter my absolutely most favoritest month: October.

It’s the month of butternut squash and sage ravioli, apple pie, delicious hearty soups, crunchy leaves under bike tires, sunny crisp days, and the return of my favorite wardrobe item, the scarf.

There are all sorts of reflective trims available for the home sewer to add to sewing projects. Big box fabric stores like Jo-Ann’s often carry trims—in fact the Jo-Ann’s near my work has reflective piping, black and fluorescent yellow reflective grosgrain ribbon, and iron-on reflective ribbon.

Specialty stores like Seattle Fabrics will have more esoteric things. In addition to the basic fluorescent shiny stiff, Seattle Fabrics also carries nifty reflective piping, reflective shock cords, and more. They also carry reflective fabric by the yard. It’s pretty reasonably priced for what it is (I think it’s around $22 a yard), and some day I’m going to make a coat, or a pair of panniers or some such out of it and just blind the hell out of everybody. Maybe I’ll make an evening gown.

There’s a common problem with the ribbon trims, though. They’re meant to be high-vis, and as such they’re often neon yellow or orange, or some other bright color. At the very best you can find them in black.

It’s understandable—there’s not nearly enough of a demand for these ribbons that they would be available in a wide range of colors. No Rose Smoke or Tangerine Tango or Rhapsody.

Which brings me to today’s tutorial:

Make your own reflective ribbon


  • Iron-on reflective ribbon (I got mine at Jo-Ann’s)
  • Grosgrain or satin ribbon
  • Iron
  • A press cloth

First, can I tell you about press cloths? I didn’t even know what one was until last winter, when I finally broke down and bought a yard of silk organza to make one. (One yard makes 4 press cloths.) I was making a nice wool winter coat, and every blog I read about coat making talked about how important it was to use a press cloth with wool to keep the iron from leaving all those shiny marks in the fabric.

I use it for everything, now.

A press cloth is really helpful for projects like this, where you’re dealing with materials that could potentially melt on your iron. Silk organza can withstand high heat, and is see-through so you don’t have to guess what you’re doing.

The directions on the package seem pretty self-explanatory: peel off the backing, iron to the fabric, peel off the protective front coating.

I followed it all up to the last, but after I’d ironed the reflective piece on I couldn’t find the protective coating to peel off. It seems to work, though. I guess it’ll just be like when you get a new phone, right, and you don’t realize there’s one of those protective screen films until like three weeks later when someone else is using your phone and points it out, and then you just shrug and say that you keep it that way to prolong the resale value, even though it was just the free phone from Sprint, and later you peel it off when no one’s looking. Or maybe that’s just me.

Where was I?

Ah, yes.

1: Slice up your reflective trim

Use a rotary blade to cut your reflective trim into 1/4″ strips.

2: Peel off the backing

Fingernails are a plus, here. The newly exposed side will be a sparkly graphite color. That’s the reflective side.*

3: Iron it onto your ribbon

Center the reflective strip sparkly graphite side up on the ribbon. Lay your press cloth over it, then use the tip of your iron to tack it down every few inches. Once it’s nice and stuck in place, press it fully according to the directions.

Awesome, right? Now go forth and be well lit!

*Wait–so is this the protective coating that I’m supposed to peel off after ironing it on? Then where’s the clear backing? Either way, it worked for me and I only found one layer to peel off. Please enlighten me, oh crafty folk of the internet.



by Jessie Kwak

With the vest and my new bamboo tights, I look like I intended to be rocking Sounders colors. Go Sounders!

I found this Pearl Izumi vest at Goodwill a few months back. It fits me and has a decent silhouette, and I told myself that I’d wear it when the weather got warmer. Good visibility, you know. I hear it’s important.

The weather got warmer. I looked at it once or twice. Neon green. Shudder. I put it back. (Although the ladies in the merchandising office at work assure me that neon is coming back in style, for fashionable adults as well as kids. Meh. Call me when hypercolor is back in style, because that stuff was awesome.)

I pulled it out of my closet again this week, because I was almost rear-ended by a semi truck on my way home Monday.

It was daylight, I had my blinkers going (I’ve always got them on, day or night). I was riding near the middle of the right lane on E. Marginal, taking the full lane like I always do in order to keep people from buzzing by me at 50 mph (the speed limit is actually 35, but that’s never the speed anyone’s going. Think about the last time you drove on E. Marginal Way. You probably sped, too, without even thinking about it.)

I heard the hiss of brakes, and a semi veered over into the left lane, about five feet off my rear wheel. He made as if to pass me, then slowed back down and got behind me. I figured he’d been about to do that thing where cars speed around you then cut you off to make a right turn just in front of you rather than adding .5 seconds to their travel time (it’s a classic bus driver move, too).

He hung back for a long time, never taking the right turn I expected him to. He continued going forward in my lane, about 50 yards behind me, for maybe a full two minutes. Meanwhile, I’m fuming. What the hell was he doing? Is he turning or isn’t he? Why is he following along behind me like a creeper?

Eventually he changed lanes, sped up, and passed me. I flipped him off and yelled a few things I won’t repeat here. (I’m not a very calm cyclist sometimes).

And then I started thinking. He was never turning right. He wasn’t aggressively trying to get around me. Most likely, he didn’t see me until the last minute and slammed on the brakes, then was so shaken up that he hung back to collect himself before gingerly passing me. He was probably nearly as traumatized as I was. I feel a little bad about flipping him off now. Maybe.

So I reached into my closet and pulled out the neon atrocity, because, let’s face it: I don’t have a great sense of style anyway. I merrily don clashing hues without a second thought. My favorite pair of pants are so worn through that you can’t even tell that they used to be corduroy. I already look like a dork, and I’ll look even stupider smeared across E. Marginal Way.

And neon? I hear it’s coming back.

Actually, this skirt suit? It’s pretty awesome. Can you just imagine if that became the standard of cycling safety wear. Remember this skirt from BurdaStyle? (I posted about it here.) Maybe it’s time to make one. Excellent–a chance to buy more fabric!