Archive for December, 2012

If you are looking for vintage wool, the fewer people who have heard of a ‘Tweed Ride’ the better. Whether we are in Kansas City, Saint Paul, Cheyenne, or Oakland, our salvage forays seem to usually land us in the ghetto. 

We just spent a week on the road in the great Nation of California, visiting friends and family, searching for materials and tools, and just looking around. Who needs to travel to Peru to have an exotic time? Wowee, Pop, this State is crazy! I don’t know if it is just getting older, or the fact that your three-year-old can announce that he has to POOP RIGHT NOW! when you are driving thru West Oakland; all I can say is that when I am on the road, my mind is blown continuously.  

6 thoughts from the road:

1. California is a FUCKING AWESOME, dynamic place to live. We drove from Chico to Santa Cruz through a wild storm that dropped 4 feet of snow on Westwood and 6″ of rain on the Santa Cruz Mountains in one afternoon. Down I-5 in gale winds and peppering rain, through blur-out downpours in traffic on the 880, and over Highway 17 on flooded lanes, with mud pouring off of gushing driveways. Even the daily commuters were driving slow, and we arrived alive. The San Lorenzo River was at the tops of the levees in Santa Cruz. As the storm broke, we walked to the beach bluffs, and Ezra, on his Scootbike, laughed at the gusty winds and said ‘Wild nature, Daddy’! Monday dawned clear, and we had a bluebird drive down the 101 thru rolling green hills.  

2. You can’t have a global financial system without the movement of people, and migration is not just about ethnicity, language, or religion. New Americans are bringing us lessons on both poverty AND wealth. Their understanding of thrift, reuse, repair, and niche markets is making us a better people. America isn’t becoming a ‘third world’ country, the Earth is becoming a ‘third-world planet’ with some good neighborhoods. If you don’t like it, you can always move to Northern Idaho. You’ll have poor neighbors there too, but shittier food – we’ll ship you some organic mandarins, fresh salsa, and avocados if you promise to leave tomorrow.

3. There is no such thing as ‘first-world’ and ‘third-world’ – just walls and school districts. New Chinese millionaires are buying homes in Palo Alto like crazy. A friend there told us that all of their neighbors are new Chinese millionaires, and that their tiny two bedroom cottage is worth $1.8 million. As it gets more expensive/difficult to own a car or drive, your carpenter, pool boy, lawn guy, nurse or maid might actually have to live in the same zip code as you. Drive Middlefield Road from Redwood City to Palo Alto and try not to let your neck snap when you cross into Atherton

4. Thrift stores are the new Macys. For every major retailer that goes bust, I am guessing that two thrift stores take its place. Can I buy stock in Goodwill? They are building new, huge stores like crazy all over the country! Also, Dollar Stores are a dime a dozen. Every retail business along every main drag in every town is selling cheap Chinese shit (unless they are selling cheaper Bangladeshi shit). This includes REI, Patagonia, Home Depot, and even the fanciest boutiques. The only place to find non-cheap-Chinese shit is a thrift or antique store. 

5. There is not a ‘Tweed Ride’ in Santa Maria, California. There are, however, many grownups riding bicycles, and many vintage wool jackets in the thrift stores. Also, there are cheap toys for sale that have been repaired well, with rivets and aluminum scraps. This is the future! 

6. It’s all about the water. I-505 will become the next Fairfield-Vallejo within 30 years, and they’ll get their water from the Tehama-Colusa Canal/Tuscan Aquifer.    


We like salvage, but this is just garbage! Right around the corner from E’s mom’s house in Lompoc – aka ‘Lompton’. If I start ‘collecting’ tires, please take away my children.


In the parking lot of the Capitol Flea Market in San Jose.  


When you don’t have a warehouse and live in a shitty neighborhood, supporting the arts has its benefits.


These reminded me of Pakistani ‘Jingle Trucks’. In between them, sketchy dudes were swapping duffel bags. 


Not for hire. 


The black market is alive and well. We got to the market as the rain was ending and things were just getting set up. People were swarming the vendors as they unpacked the ‘hottest’ items – things like I phones that they don’t want sitting on the table for very long. Non-cyclist-types selling nice bike wheels without the bikes. Asked a few guys for prices on things like power tools and got prices so low that you could tell that they had no idea what things were worth, and were just hocking whatever they had come into. No thanks, we’ll buy from legit people.


In West Oakland 



West Oakland BART- our friend Janay has a shop here where she sells her amazing clothing. When I was younger I would ride the BART to SF and was always glad that I was on the train, and not down there on the street below.



A bike repair event in front of Janay’s store, West Oakland – my dad used to drive a taxicab here.



Something cubist about this.  


Probably would have been condos without the housing bust, but then where would the children paint?



It is blurry because I was nervous.  


It is blurry because I was nervous. 


It is blurry because I was nervous. 


It is blurry because I was nervous. 


It is blurry because I was nervous. 


It is blurry because I was nervous. 


Well, that’s enough of that, and he didn’t really need to poop, just peed on a tree next to a liquor store.



Blasting North, two brats not napping.



Approaching Hamilton City at the speed of light, two brats not napping, earplugs making it all a little surreal.


1,000 miles later, crossing the river with a van of plundered textile and not-stolen tools. 


The booty 



We’ll number them here, and if you want a custom bag, tell us which print suits you.

This is #1



This is #2 – it is actually quite a bit darker that this photo.



This is #3 



This is #4 


This is #5 


This is #6 (the brown one)


This is #7 


This is #8 


This is #9 


This is #10 



This is #11 


This is #12


This is #13


This is authentic.


Three new handlebar bags repurposing several great jackets and some pre-consumer Pendleton wool.








A new handlebar bag from repurposed jackets.






We are finishing handlebar bags, and wrapping up other projects before the show this weekend. Working the kinks out of some of the finer details on the handlebar bags, I often forget that it takes many, many attempts to move from prototype to production.

Realized the other night that it is more of a basket than a bag.


This one uses fire hose for trim. All of these bags are made with a cordura (nylon packcloth) body, and even the pockets are backed with cordura or canvas, so you are not counting on the vintage fabrics to do anything structural.

Pablo is learning to sew.

One of the wilder collage models.

I like the mix of brown fabrics and leathers in this bag.

We have the strapping design pretty dialed now, where it helps to cinch the rack to the handlebars.

The tags are made in the USA, too.

Here is the same bag on a different handlebar style. The rack is limber enough to bend a bit to fit on various stems.

Erika is wrapping up some field bags. I was in Portland last week and found the Pendleton Woolens Mill Discount Store, and bought various wool scraps.

This is my favorite one so far. The red flannel scrap is from a jacket that I bought at a thrift store in Bellingham, WA on my way to Alaska in 2000.




We just had a batch of handlebar racks made here in town. Dave Richer at Earthen Iron sent over these pictures of the process.
You can check our our new Tweed Handlebar Bags this weekend in Chico at the Bizarre Bazaar, Saturday and Sunday at the Womens Club.


We are going to be selling some handlebar bags at the Bizarre Bazaar this month, and have been sewing the panels for them. We have made some handlebar bags in the past, but I have never had a reliable way of making steel hardware to attach the bags to the bars.I finally have time to design a new bag suspension system, and just finished building the tooling to manufacture a whole batch of them.


The finished product – these bars wrap under the stem and over the handlebars to support the tops of handlebar bags.


Here is one of the panels that we’ll be making into handlebar bags. The excitement around here about ‘Tweed Rides’ got us going on using vintage fabrics mixed with leather and waxed cotton. This is leather jacket, waxed cotton tarp, and upholstery leather. My only complaint about the Tweed Riders is that they have decimated the local ‘used wool jacket’ inventory!


I decided to use a regular handlebar and stem to build a jig that we could use to bend metal rods for the racks. We have done some of these out of heavy wire, but never had a reliable way to bend heavier gauge steel rod. We will be bending/forging these at our friend Dave’s blacksmith shop, and decided to set up the jig so that it could be attached to his largest anvil, which has a 1.5″ square ‘hardie hole’ in it. Here we are using a hole saw to cut a ‘fish mouth’ notch into a piece of 1.5″ square tubing – the stem on the jig will sit atop this notch, and the tubing will slide down into the hole in the anvil.


Stem welded into the 1.5″ tube. with a 3/8″ bolt added to define the first ‘pivot point’.


The upright ‘spuds’ on the handlebars define the points where the metal bar needs to change direction. The tapped holes on the ends allow us to move these pivot points to make wider or narrower frames.


The finished jig.


I stopped by Fairview Auto Wrecking on my way home to see if I could track down some bar stock for a prototype. David runs the place that his dad opened in 1956. In the last 56 years, I doubt if they have ever thrown away a piece of iron. I asked if he had seen the online auction doing up for the metal shop across the street from his shop, and he said “you’ve got to have money for those, and a computer. There’s 4 things wrong with America: Computers, The Metric System, Obama, and Environmentalists”. This is a bender that he made and uses to make heart-shaped branding irons.




Papa Irle and the guy that ran a tire shop across Park Ave for many years.


Papa Irle remembers selling gas for $0.27/gallon. The sewing machine behind him was 25 years old when he was born.


David grew up in this place, and he knows every hubcap by name. I stopped in to ask him if he’d swap me some 1/4″ round bar. He knew where to look.


Before I got out of there, David knew all about my project, and gave me this bender, that he just made out of some scraps.


From there, it was over to a forging party at Dave Richer’s Earthen Iron. I showed up as they were heating up this piece of heavy 2″ bar to make a sculpture, and the flames were billowing out of the coal forge, smoke pouring out of the open door, and 7 people were playing with hot metal at 2 forges and three anvils. It smelled like an industrial city, and sounded like one too.


I met Brent Bailey there – he’s the one cranking the forge. He makesworld-class blacksmithing toolsin Orland. They got this bar set into a swaging block on the floor and Dave’s assistant Anthony held it upright and leaned out of the way as Dave delivered overhead blows to the top with a 20 pound sledge.


We got 30″ pieces of the 1/4″ round bar hot in the forge, and then bent them around the jig. I think that they’ll do fine.