Web Store Shutdown 12/12/16 for National Strike & Boycott

Tonight (Sunday) Makeshifter Canvas Works' web store will shut down for about 24 hours, in keeping with a national strike and boycott. The web store will resume business on Tuesday morning, and I'll launch a sale on many ready-to-ship items . I'm not spending money or doing any business on Monday, but packages will be shipped and orders can be placed as usual on Tuesday. Please join us, if you can afford to, in abstaining from spending and maybe taking the day off work.

Below you'll find more information about Monday's goings on, and how you can participate. This was published on Bikeportland.com:

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This Monday December 12th, thousands of women across America — and the people who support them — will join in a general strike and boycott. The protest is based in New York City and it’s intended to be a show of solidarity against the, “normalization of sexual assault, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, unconstitutional behavior, and hate promoted by our incoming administration.”

Strike Out by Bike!

10 am Monday 12/12 at Gladys Bikes. Donate items to Bradley Angle in new or excellent condition. Wish list includes:

  • – Pillows
    – Comforters
    – Sheets (twin or full, fitted or flat)
    – Towels
    – Kitchen Items
    – Current calendars and planners

Drop off items at Gladys Bikes (2905 NE Alberta) or Kenton Cycle Repair (2020 N McClellan St) by 5:00 pm on Sunday 12/11 then deliver them to Bradley Angle house on Monday.

To help support the effort and amplify its message here on the left coast, four women who work in Portland’s bike industry are coordinating a local event and day of action.

Gladys Bikes owner Leah Benson, Sugar Wheel Works owner Jude Gerace, Kenton Cycle Works shop manager Ashley Mitchell and Community Cycling Center assistant camp manager Kelley Goodwin have organized Strike Out by Bike! Beyond the boycott and strike on Monday, their event will go one step further: it will support Bradley Angle House, a Portland-based nonprofit that helps victims of domestic violence.

There are two ways to take part in the event. You can donate items on Bradley Angle’s wish list and drop them off at Gladys Bikes (2905 NE Alberta) or Kenton Cycle Repair (2020 N McClellan St) by closing time this Sunday night (5:00 pm and 6:00 pm respectively). Items in need include new pillows, comforters, towels, kitchen tools, and so on. Then on Monday (12/12) all the donated items will be loaded into panniers, racks, trailers, and cargo bike boxes and delivered to Bradley Angle. The ride meets at 10:00 am at Gladys Bikes (there will be coffee!). After the ride there’s a separate rally and protest at noon (links to Facebook) in Chapman Square in downtown Portland.

The instigator of Strike Out by Bike! was Benson. She told us today that the event is an opportunity to put feelings of anger and fear that have swelled up after the election last month into action. “I think it’s a time to not be quiet,” she said. “It seemed like a great opportunity to mobilize within our local community of women who bike to take our shared love of bikes and use it to support other women.”

Gerace said her involvement isn’t just about expressing opposition to the president-elect; it’s also about giving back to the community that has supported her and her business. “I am grateful for the help and opportunities I’ve had and I will do everything I can to help other women,” she said. “The relationships I’ve had with other women in this industry have been a source of strength and joy.”

And for Mitchell, the event is about women and their allies joining forces to show “how strong our economic force is when we strike out together against hatred.”

“It’s a small thing,” Benson added, “but all these little actions will hopefully add up to help folks feel safer and more supported during trying times.”

Holidaze, man.

Bootypack, All-Purpose Pouch and Snackhole are readymade and under 75 bucks!

Bootypack, All-Purpose Pouch and Snackhole are readymade and under 75 bucks!

 

Most of us have mixed feelings about the holidays--navigating the rampant commercialism and compulsory family time leaves many of us feeling unbalanced. My own family harbors an enthusiasm for the holiday food, booze, decorating and gifting that induces equal parts joy, nostalgia, overindulgence and exhaustion. Not participating in this extravagant celebration is out of the question, so I'm a good sport about it, and try to sneak away for a walk or a bike ride. My offered compromise to gift opulence is to make gifts for my family, or buy handmade gifts from the abundant and talented craftspeople in my community. I think the best gifts involve the personalities of both the giver and the recipient, and useful, handsome and long-lasting gifts are the best kind.

With this spirit in mind, here's some holiday news about Makeshifter Canvas Works that I hope you will find offers a balance of generosity, humility, and a healthy dose of advertising:

  • 5% of all sales from my website will be donated from now until the end of 2016. Contributions will help fund the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's struggle to protect their water sources and sacred land, and Bikes for Humanity PDX, a nonprofit whose mission is to "substantially increase public access to affordable and safe bicycles while empowering self-sufficiency in bicycle maintenance." I'll divide all donations between these two nonprofits, but if you feel strongly about one cause over another, you can say so in your order notes and I'll be sure your money goes to the cause of your choice.
  • Use the code LEFTOVERS to get 15% off at MakeshifterCanvasWorks.com from now through Tuesday (excludes Outback Saddlebag). I'm trying to encourage early orders so that I can pace my workload over the next few weeks and ensure timely delivery.
  • Place your order by November 28th to ensure you'll receive your item by December 24th. Some items are readymade and will ship in a day or two, but keep in mind most Makeshifter products are made-to-order and can take a few weeks.
  • Come check out my booth at Crafty Wonderland if you're in Portland, December 10th & 11th from 11-6 (free entry) at the Oregon Convention Center. There is a ticketed "pre-show" on December 9th from 5-9pm, it costs money but you get first dibs on the goodies. You can often find a limited quantity of a special Makeshifter product or color at craft fairs that are not offered on my website. Also 12/9 is my birthday, incidentally, and there's a chance I'll be drinking beer in my booth--nonstop FUN!
  • New Colorways and Products have been added over the last few weeks on my website, check 'em out! You can find sturdy tote bags, extra-large USA-made 100% cotton bandanasBootypacks, the infamous Snackhole stem bag and All-Purpose Pouches--all under $75 and most are ready to ship!

Thanks to you all for supporting Makeshifter, for believing in small business and responsibly made products, and for being thoughtful consumers. Here's hoping you'll find balance this holiday season--indulge yourself, volunteer, give generously, be with loved ones (especially the elderly ones--they're extra special) and take a break from it all to ride your bike or be outside.

xoxo,
B

 

Handmade Bike & Beer Festival

Our friends Christopher Igleheart and Joseph Ahearne will be showing off their lovely handcrafted bikes at the Handmade Bike & Beer Festival this weekend. The two custom framebuilders have more recently collaborated on their designs and builds under the name Page Street Cycles. Look for their Outback Touring bike sporting Makeshifter's Outback Saddlebag on an Igleheart bag support, as well as an elaborate internally-geared custom rig built to survive Armageddon. Oh and there's beer too, come check it out! 

This morning at some ungodly hour, the two artisans appeared on KGW News beside some maniacal news character whose behavior can only be explained as a cocaine freakout/attempt at sobering up from a night of heavy drinking that has bled into the 5am work hour. You be the judge, check it out here!

KGW Morning News: Handmade Bike and Beer Festival starts Today 1st segment

Incidentally I can't think of a better situation for Makeshifter's first appearance on local television.

Stay Wild Expo This Weekend + Dirtbag Bandana Release

Click here for a link to Stay Wild's website, and all the details.

Click here for a link to Stay Wild's website, and all the details.

This weekend I'm a vendor at the Stay Wild Expo as part of Crafty Wonderland's local vendor hall. We're tucked up in the west hills amongst the zoo and Forest Park, and our space is air-conditioned! They're hosting hikes and workshops, and in addition to handcrafted goods, you'll also find goods by Swift Industries, See See Motorcycles, Snowpeak, Scout Books, Forest & Waves, Hand-Eye Supply, and many more. There's also snacks and a beer garden--come check it out!

At this event I'm super stoked to be releasing a new product--the Dirtbag Bandana. It's an extra-large cotton bandana, made in the USA, hand-printed with my own sharpie doodle design by my homie at Printed mAtter Screen printing here in Portland. This run is printed with super-sexy lipstick red water-based ink on my power color teal. Use this multipurpose gem as a sweatband, pack towel, hotpad, bib, emergency tourniquet or bandeau top if a goat eats your shirt—endless uses! On a tour years ago, Kevin threw away his forever-damp-and-bulky microfiber pack towel after he witnessed the power and versatility of the bandana-towel. 

Dirtbag bandanas are available first and foremost at the Stay Wild Expo. Whatever quantity remains after the weekend will be available for sale on my website. Stay tuned for the live sale!

Hunk not for sale.

Hunk not for sale.

Renegade Seattle

Hello Friends,

It's yet another craft fair.

But not just any craft fair, it's RENEGADE! The holy grail of makers' markets, brimming with creativity and DIY beauty. Somehow I snuck in. 

More info here.

Hope to see you there!

I'm the Luckiest Woman Alive

I really am. You know that part at the end of How the Grinch Stole Christmas where the Grinch's heart grows three times larger? I feel like that happened to me. Especially in the last few months, I've received support from so many people who work for trade or ask for nothing at all in return, and do so with grace and kindness. It is overwhelming. I am basking in gratitude, and trying so hard to not let this feeling morph into guilt or obligation or indebtedness (as so often happens in the hearts of native Midwesterners...I can't explain this inclination, but some of you will know what I mean).  I hope I've thanked you all individually, but it doesn't feel like enough. Here's a short list of those heartful champs who've given.

My mom contributed countless hours of free labor--cutting, measuring, and organizing materials. She carries her Makeshifter tote to her ladies' group functions and hands out my business cards.

My dad purchased and put together the crate part of my display. Both of my parents lugged my heavy and complicated display materials into the venue in 100 degree weather and helped assemble it.

Matt gave up his much coveted spring weekends to design and build lightweight tear-down walls for my craft fair display, with much cheer and enthusiasm.

Photo by Kevin Purcell.

Photo by Kevin Purcell.

Paloma came over at a moment's notice, two days before the show, after a long day of work in the middle of a tough week to QC, clean, tag, sort and pack all of my products. Her patience and eye for detail is unparalleled. 

Kyle donated his time and expertise, and convinced others to do so, in photographing my work in the studio and on-location. This included 2 long days of actual shooting, not to mention the days of advance planning and post-shoot processing. His infectious smile put everyone at ease in front of the camera, and celebrated my work in a way I didn't think I deserved. 

Marcus donated a long day's work of shooting in the studio, provided much creative insight, and styled the fuck out of my bags.

Angela, Nick, Justin, Allison, Ashley, Kim, Emily, Dick, Mike, and Kevin gave their time, lovely smiles, and radiant energy to come out to Sauvie Island to model for the photo shoot. Mike drove, packed everything in the van like a goddamn champ, and modeled the Outback Saddlebag like a pro. The legendary Dick Armstrong brought the coolest old man/little kid bike I have ever seen, and got us all high. Kim drove in from the coast, and stayed late even though she gets up hours before daylight. Emily got a flat again but kept partying anyway.

Photo by Kyle Heddy of Treading Light Photography.

Photo by Kyle Heddy of Treading Light Photography.

Angela is always and forever my Booty Pack rep. Someday I hope this will be a full-time paid position.

Photo by Kyle Heddy of Treading Light Photography.

Photo by Kyle Heddy of Treading Light Photography.

Stricky burned the screen for the Dirtbag print in his print shop (Printed mAtter Screen Printing). When I insisted on printing in my basement, he said "Call me if you need help." I did, late in the evening, melting down over all the canvas I'd screwed up. He came to my rescue, gave me a lesson and printed the rest of the panels in a matter of minutes.

Cissie took care of the furry ones, gave them love and snacks when I was gone or too busy.

My sister gave many shout-outs in the internet world--a world in which I am lost and incapable.

Charles of Eberhardt Press printed my business cards, quite beautifully and quickly.

Chris Igleheart welded the base for my Snackhole display, out of his own generosity and enthusiasm for such things.

Abigail has helped with design stuff including my logo, business card, and sew-in tags. She responds to my madness quite patiently and produces results super quickly.

Brad busted out a beautiful stock of handmade leather straps to accompany the saddlebag, amidst re-roofing his garage.

All my co-workers at Breakside Brewery, especially Eliot, put up with my work-haggard self, tirelessly covered or switched shifts with me so that I could sew just a little bit longer.

My sweetheart Kevin provides the support and inspiration for most things Makeshifter. He provides insight into design and function, tests the hell out of every prototype forever, and is responsible for pretty much anything I know or do that is bike-related. He has scraped me off the floor during my meltdown mode too many times to count. Beyond this he has quite thanklessly taken on roles of dog walker, masseur, therapist, takeout food picker-upper, housekeeper, and muse. It is not possible here to infuse thanks enough to this wonderful man.

Crafty Wonderland

It's Makeshifter's first craft fair! Come by the Oregon Convention Center on Saturday to see why I've been freaking out for 2 months! Booth 174, I'm toward the back of the madness, probably between some kettle corn and screen printed t-shirts that say clever things about Portland.

Great Mysteries Revealed...How to Attach your Snackhole to your Bike!

The skinny straps connect to your stem and head tube/fork. The widest strap connects to your handlebars. B and C should be at 90 degrees to one another. Use the daisy chain to find the best placement for each strap to make a perfect fit for your specific handlebar setup.

The skinny straps connect to your stem and head tube/fork. The widest strap connects to your handlebars. B and C should be at 90 degrees to one another. Use the daisy chain to find the best placement for each strap to make a perfect fit for your specific handlebar setup.

I love leaving this sort of thing to user innovation, so I have not previously included instructions with the Snackhole. All bikes are different, and the beauty of the Snackhole is that the strap positions can all be tweaked to get just the right fit on pretty much any bike. This diagram gives you a starting place--strap it on, go for a ride, and adjust if you find wobbles.

Another tip: Try placing the abrasive side of the Velcro outward (soft fuzzy side against your bike). With time, especially when riding unpaved surfaces, the abrasive side of the Velcro may wear through the paint or enameled surface.

I don't know much about bikes, but I've learned a thing or two.

Thanks mostly to the bottomless encouragement, patience, broad knowledge and generous gear gifts from my dear partner Kevin (http://goldenpliers.tumblr.com), I’ve been fortunate to travel over much of Oregon by bike. As these two-wheeled adventures become known to my less bike-savvy friends, I’ve unexpectedly found myself considered some sort of knowledgable bike person. I feel somewhat burdened by this responsibility, since I’ve always taken a stance of curmudgeonly refusal to buy new gear, and idiotic pride in performing even the slightest mechanical efforts (“I adjusted my seat height!”). Dumb as I am, I’m still too prideful to admit it, and if you ask me a question about bikes (or anything, really), I will give you an answer that will lead you to believe I know a thing or two. Luckily I can usually defer to a humorous anecdote, or my live-in ace mechanic for bike knowledge. But honestly, I’m trying to give myself a little more credit and develop a little more confidence in this department.

For many unfortunate years I kept myself from participating in my friends’ bike trips due to a sense of lacking, in gear or knowledge or confidence, when it comes to bikes and bike culture. Ultimately I have only myself to blame for not hopping on the saddle sooner, but I think it’s important to acknowledge the intimidation factor of the racer-centric, male-dominated culture that is the bike industry. I’ve always felt there was no place for me (broke, noncompetitive, Queen of Hand-me-Downs) in a culture that thrives on pushing the newest-lightest-brightest-fastest specialty gear to its followers. The bike industry, like most modern industries, does its best to constantly render its own products obsolete so as to sell you the latest and greatest. A good friend of mine recently broke a mountain bike frame (one of his many talents) that was less than 10 years old. While it was covered under warranty, he could not simply replace the frame, since few of the components on the bike were compatible with the latest comparable frame. So now he’s got a pile of “outdated” parts, a broken frame, and an incentive to buy even more new bike stuff that will doubtless be considered outdated by the time I finish typing this post. This and similar stories are discouraging and befuddling for someone who seeks little more than fun and exercise from their bike, and can draw a line in the sand between “cyclists” and everyone else.

The borrowed bikes we rode on our trip to Michigan were won at a police auction and rebuilt with mostly free parts.

The borrowed bikes we rode on our trip to Michigan were won at a police auction and rebuilt with mostly free parts.

But deep in the belly of every body on a bike there is an animal moving forward by its own power; a sense of self worth, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, a simple joy at moving one’s body through the wind, and this is the part of cycling I understand. This allows me to forget about the money-driven clubhouse that seems to surround bike riding, to just go for a bike ride, long and slow, get some fresh air, pay no attention to how fast or far we go.

And so, in learning about and loving this tool, the bicycle, I’ve found a different cycling community, one that’s difficult to find in most bike shops. A dear friend gave me an old bike-swap bike (my first steel rig). The Durham Bike Co-op’s mechanics guided me through repairs with patience and kindness. A handful of lifelong friends just kept inviting me on rides. Kevin has been my Mr. Miagi for bike knowledge: first handing me a Rivendell catalog (far more than a mere catalog of products), then taking me on bike trips that crushed me, walking me through his best-ever tire patch method, tirelessly explaining the infinitesimal differences among handlebar curvature and stem length. He most recently guided me, with unfailing patience, through building my new Troll from the frame up. Finally I’m finding a place between the saddle and handlebars for my feminism, Midwestern pragmatism, DIY values, and a mild ignorance of what’s new or cool in the bike industry. They fit just fine. I’m lucky enough to meet more and more nice folks who share many of the same ideas about riding bikes. These kind people regard my bike style—overlarge baskets and eccentric bags built of mismatched scraps—with a sense of curiosity, or nonjudgmental wonder. So, in celebration of what I’ve learned, I’ve compiled a list of what I consider to be the most valuable and accessible advice for anyone who rides bikes, or wants to ride bikes more:

    1    Appreciate the bike you have and celebrate what it can do, and how you won’t allow yourself to be limited by the perceived capabilities of any bike. Any bike will get you somewhere. Before you decide to spend a bunch of moolah upgrading your rig, push your current steed to the limits of comfort, load bearing, or off-road capabilities. This will make you a stronger rider, and help you determine what you really want or need if you do decide to upgrade your bike. One of my dearest bicycle guru buddies notoriously acquires the cheapest and filthiest bikes from police auctions (abandoned, recovered bikes) and builds them up with free, discarded parts into amazingly versatile go-anywhere machines. For years he rode a bike that was recovered from a harbor in Lake Superior after sitting in a watery grave for several years.

    2    Go out on a ride ridiculously unprepared. Get lost, get rained on, MacGuiver some sort of repair, and learn from your mistakes. Getting lost often pioneers more scenic and less traveled routes that you can then share with a friend on the next ride. And being underprepared for weather or terrain, well, think of a hot shower after a full day in the cold pouring rain; a sauna after being caught in a snowstorm; a hot meal when you’re famished. A little deprivation can do wonders for your ability to appreciate the smallest of comforts.

    3    Or, bring a bunch of stuff, because it’s fun. Pack for a day or a weekend like you are 7 years old and you are running away from home to live in your tree fort FOREVER. My favorite handlebar bag goodies: slingshot, deck of cards, pens and doodle pad, pot brownies, bikini, bandana, a warm beer, Yahtzee (score card, pen, and 5 dice work), Leatherman, a fancy chunk of hard cheese from the “$5 and under” basket.

Crushing out the miles on our tour of the San Juan Islands.

Crushing out the miles on our tour of the San Juan Islands.

    4    Be friendly. Ding your bell at pedestrians. Reach out to people who show interest in biking. Let them ride your bike, poke at your frame bag, squeeze your tires. Recently Kevin and I were unloading our bikes at a trailhead, and started chatting with another cyclist, a woman in her 70s. She inquired about Kevin’s Surly ECR—an off-road touring bike with oversized tires—and he encouraged her to try it out. I can’t be sure whose joy was greater at the experience, with this adorable old lady whipping around the gravel lot on a bike comically oversized for her, smiling and calling out, “I always wanted to try a pair of these Jones bars!”

    5    Eat too much, and ride too slow. You burn a lot of calories riding a bike, and getting hungry and then eating a lot is one of my favorite pastimes. A little bit of deprivation turns that basket of onion rings from a country bar into the finest meal you’ve ever had. A couple of beers with that basket of onion rings is probably going to slow you down a bit—all the more reason to take your time and truly regard the scenery, smells, and local people as you pedal onward. Stop whenever you want to, pick some roadside blackberries, pee in the woods, check out that old barn, stick your feet in that creek.

    6    Wear your normal clothes. Cycling in normal clothes and shoes best serves you for comfort and practicality, plus you don’t look like a visitor from another galaxy when you roll into a bar or cafe for refueling. And when people see more bikers wearing regular clothes, they build an understanding of cyclists as regular people riding for fun and exercise, and are hopefully encouraged to do the same. One of my favorite warm-weather bike touring getups is a floral print cotton dress from the 1990s that I bought for five bucks at Goodwill. It is stretchy, comfy, and has great pockets in the skirt. I hacked the hem off above the knee and now it is too short but I still have good legs. 

Hobo bike camping in jeans pulling a 70-pound beast. Photo by Kevin Purcell.

Hobo bike camping in jeans pulling a 70-pound beast. Photo by Kevin Purcell.

7    Girls: be girls. For ladies who ride bikes, riding in a group can feel like yet another instance where we are trying to make it in a man’s world. Ladies, if you are out riding with guys who can’t help but out-pace or out-skill you, don’t stress or talk down to or about yourself (“Sorry I’m so slow, guys.”) Instead consider the strengths you bring to the group, like your patience, kindness, or an ability to talk about things other than gear ratios and chamois chafe on the ride. You don’t need to play tough to play; surely guys in the group are happy you’re there to break up the machismo and bring some balance. Give unexpected hugs at the top of that soul-crushing hill. Pack cookies for everyone. Wear lipstick. Gentlemen, invite some ladies on a ride, and appreciate how a co-ed ride feels different (maybe more relaxed, less competitive, more fun?) than an all-dude ride. And let this translate more widely: encourage everyone in your life to ride with you—your old parents, your coworker who drinks too much—because it’s good for everyone. 

Tried and true cycling "kit." Photo by Kevin Purcell.

Tried and true cycling "kit." Photo by Kevin Purcell.

To you, dear friends who ask me technical questions about bike gear: be patient with me. Slowly but surely I’m learning more about this fantastical pedal-powered machine, and as long as I find some utility in the information I’ll hold on to it and pass it on as best I can. Until then, I’ll continue to invite you on rides, even though you tell me every time how your tires are flat and your brakes kinda don’t work and you haven’t been on a bike in a long time. I’ll say come anyway; I’ll pump up your tires if you buy the beers.

That time my bike got destroyed but my bags did not.

If you've browsed this site or my Instagram account, you've doubtless seen photos of my beloved Surly Long Haul Trucker, usually loaded up to the point of abuse. Well my friends, it may be time to bid farewell to that steel masterpiece, though the jury is still out. Last week my LHT took quite a nasty spill, and is still awaiting its sentence in the form of a "damage assessment" from the good folks in the service department at  River City Bicycles.  

A group of my friends were headed out to camp on the coast to celebrate Matty's birthday. I could've easily hitched a ride in the two or three cars headed to the coast that day, but instead decided to infuse the trip with a little bit of adventure. Also, I knew if I didn't bring my bike on this trip I'd easily spend 2 days drinking beer and eating potato chips. Sad as it sounds, sometimes I have to intentionally leave myself stranded with my bike in order to get exercise. Ever seen a rat run a maze with a snack at the finish? It's like that. Being a highly food-motivated person, I put a cooler (filled primarily with cheese and beer) in a friend's car, put my camping gear on my bike, and bought a round-trip ticket on the Tillamook County WAVE bus.  A roundtrip Portland-to-Tillamook ticket is only $20, which is generally cheaper than gas if you were to drive yourself, and takes about the same amount of time. It's also free to bring your bike! What could possibly go wrong? 

I planned to ride my bike to Pacific City, about 25 miles. (The Three Capes route is way cooler, but also includes insanity climbs and virtually no shoulder).

As I loaded my bike on the wobbly front-mounted bus rack, I got a little nervous. But I always get a little nervous--using a friend's car rack, a Car2Go bike rack, or hanging a loaded bike on the hooks on the MAX light rail. It ALWAYS seems sketchy, and then it's ALWAYS just fine. I've known a number of people who've taken their bikes--way nicer bikes--on the same bus with no issue. While passengers loaded and purchased fare, I wobbled my bike back and forth a few times on the rack under the gaze of the bus driver. He shrugged. Fuck it. I got on the bus.

Rolling down Highway 6 through the Tillamook State Forest, my clenched mind released and wandered through the wonderful possibilities presented by the fast and cheap round-trip WAVE bus: hobo overnights on the Bayocean Peninsula, Cape Lookout, Nehalem Bay. My mind was deep in one of my best-loved semi-secret swimming holes on the Wilson River when the bus hit a startling bump. There was a chorus of gasps and I was dragged violently from the cool waters of the river when a passenger breathed, "We lost the bike." 

My bike was laying in the road, looking not unlike recent roadkill, twisted in that sort of unnatural posture that confounds what your mind expects to see. Anyone who has shared the unfortunate experience of seeing someone dislocate a joint will understand what I mean; that "looks like an arm but not the way an arm is supposed to look" feeling as your brain struggles to make sense of this horrific sight. Followed then, by the panic of what to do about it.

The dazed bus driver, with unexpected empathy, tenderly helped me collect my bike and the few bits of dusty and bruised camping gear that were scattered about the roadside. "Let's get it inside the bus for now," he said solemnly. Back on the bus, the passengers shared a few moments of silence, out of which grew whispers, pats on the back, gestures of kindness. Can you still ride it? Do you know anyone in Tillamook? Do you need a ride somewhere? I know of a good bike shop in Newport. Make sure you get all the information about the bus. There must be insurance. Is there someone you can call? Do you need to use my phone? Oregonians, from the city or small towns, eager to help, sharing an unspoken awareness of the meaningfulness of a bike and the devastation brought by the loss of freedom through the loss of that bike. It'll be okay.

Nitto Noodle handlebars, turned into spaghetti. Outside the Tillamook County Transit office.

Nitto Noodle handlebars, turned into spaghetti. Outside the Tillamook County Transit office.

Now I'd like to be clear, before anyone is up in arms over the negligence/injustice/irresponsibility of any party in the destruction of my dear Long Haul Trucker, that really, it's okay. Just so that you're all feeling better about the situation, you should know that a number of things happened/are still happening to make this all right. My friends promptly picked me up from the bus station, and I got drunk on the beach like anyone would handle a breakup or their cat getting hit by a car. The Tillamook County Transportation employees showed a level of kindness and concern for my well being that went far beyond the necessary apologies. Their insurance should pay for any damages to my bike and camping gear (we're still in the middle of this process, but I'm 95% sure this is what's going to happen). And through what I'd like to think of as an ironic sense of humor, a TCTD manager gave me a free round-trip ticket. For next time.

The little scuffs on my saddlebag where it hit the pavement--just enough to add some character.

The little scuffs on my saddlebag where it hit the pavement--just enough to add some character.

Hello, World // Why Wool & Canvas Ring My Bell

It happens all the time:

He says, "You made this?" opening and closing the zipper, groping the seams, unfastening the velcro with a sound that is unavoidably violent. His eyes and fingers breeze over the marriage of canvas and felted wool, tug on a handle. For a moment he seems impressed, but inevitably his next words are something like, "Have you thought of working with Cordura?" or, "I have a buddy who can get a hold of a lot of Tyvek."

I may not own a car or a microwave, but I am somehow still aware of the plethora of modern synthetic outdoor fabrics in existence. These high-tech, plasticky-looking materials can reflect, repel, deflect, protect...the list goes on. Such fabrics lend themselves well to Himalayan expeditions, unsupported Polar exploration, and whatever NASA is doing these days. But I, like many Portlanders, am a daily bike commuter. I'm riding my bike to work, or the grocery store, or maybe even down the coast for a few days--not crossing a Patagonian plateau. I'd rather look like a regular person with some aesthetic appeal and a bit of class than someone who won a shopping spree at REI. Enter the timeless beauty and unquestionable durability of American-milled cotton duck canvas, and natural wool felted for unparalleled softness and dyeability. There's no question that bags made of Cordura, Nylon and the like are durable, well-made, and serve their purpose. But when searching the local market for bike bags, I felt a lacking sense of artistry. I wanted the bags to reflect the same level of classic, thoughtful design and materials put into assembling my bike. An American-made Wald basket desires a classy canvas bag; a steel frame begs to support an army-green canvas frame bag; cork handlebar tape finds a friend in wooden toggle closures. I think of my bike as a lovingly-made penne al Arrabiata, and I want its bags to be a nice bottle of Chianti, capisce?

While natural materials like cotton and wool sure are easy on the eyes, they're not sacrificing anything in the way of function or durability. There's a reason that thrift stores and army surplus stores are still filled with used canvas rucksacks from the turn of the century onward: that stuff lasts forever! The tight weave of duck canvas cloth lends itself well to repelling water and debris. (For a shameless testimonial to the durability of canvas, see a future post on that time my bike got destroyed but its bags did not). Wool is equally mind-boggling in its magical ability to repel water and dirt, is hypoallergenic, and is naturally resistant to mildew, UV, color fading, stains, flame, and odors. Plus wool makes you look like a real class-act.

The result of all this lamenting about my all-fuzzy-inside feelings for canvas and wool is a bunch of bags, then more bags, bigger and more complex, then a new sewing machine, a growing product list, and now this website (store coming soon). If you share my love of well-made and pretty things, natural materials, non-sweatshop products, bicycles that are sort of heavy and slow, a woman's touch in the bicycle industry, and a sense of humor about all topics listed above, then please check back often for more blog posts, unprofessional pictures, and someday, a real easy way to buy Makeshifter bags online.

XO

B