Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Voila: Couture Nomad Taipei Skirt

Hey! It's my David Lynch print & I in matching blue!

So happy to show you this skirt I started & finished at Sewing School this last month! Yes, my sewing classes with Couture Nomad Shanghai have started again for the year and I’m again surprised at how talking ideas over with my teacher and her hands on approach helps me so much… the work I do there has been SO neat, and I feel like punching the air at the end of every step.

At home however, I whizz through and muck up the hem a little (luckily just the lining) as I wrapped the whole thing up… but well-rounded is a good way to consider my sewing approach… fast & slow, neat & messy… I balance myself out.


So, the pattern is part of the Couture Nomad sewing school collection, called Taipei and shows you a simple A shape, with a wide waistband and pockets. I traced it in a size M, using my lower waist just above the hips instead of that high waist part… I do like highwaist on my hourglass, but this would hang a little lower for shirts to be tucked in… but in the month after I finished it, I have lost a bit of weight so it hangs very low on my hips and with slinky tights might just slip off!

Next time, I’ll make a S, and because this is on the fold, it’ll be easy to change the traced pattern pieces … slice off 1 cm on the fold and change the pleat/darts.

My FAVOURITE part this time was the cutting… I REALLY wanted to match up the wallpaper pieces (I don’t know what this pattern is called, I just call it wallpaper pattern… anyone know?) on this fabric. It’s a second hand/thrifted cotton from my Mother in Law (there’s several of great op shops in her part of West End Brisbane, if you know the area!) and she sent it to me recently. It’s a bit light for autumn, so Teacher Catherine suggested I line it, and that’s just some cheap cotton I had from the fabric market here in Shanghai.

So for the yoke, skirt pieces and pockets… I just HAD to pattern match and it was so easy to do using the tracing paper … when I settled on the skirt pieces on the fabric… I overlapped the yoke pieces by 1cm each side (the Couture Nomad seam allowance) and traced the wallpaper pattern on the tracing paper… then found the same piece on the fold further along the fabric. As I traced & cut at Sewing School for this one, the bench was lovely and long and at standing height… if this was at home, I’d have hunched over the floor and wouldn’t have the space to see it all properly… I love having a good work bench for cutting!

couture_nomad_skirt_taipei couture_nomad_skirt_taipei

I did the same with the pocket pieces… lined up the sides, the seam allowances and traced the fabric pattern… I’m sure it’s not that surprising to some of you legends of sewing, but I usually just do it by eye, and sometimes stuff up the underside piece. What was interested with this fabric though, the middle of the fabric (with selvages together, wasn’t the middle of the pattern… I had to find the lovely little flower/wallpaper bit that looked like a central piece and fold along that. Thankfully all on grain.

And YAY, it’s all perfectly matched. I could *cry* with happiness!

couture_nomad_skirt_taipei couture_nomad_skirt_taipei

A bit sad it doesn’t fit but it’s a lovely shape, and something different for me, so I’ll make it again sometime. The back is lovely too through the middle… and I also am VERY happy with my seam matching at the yoke around the zipper area… it’s invisible and took a little time, pinning and hand basting REALLY close to the teeth. I’ve got some work in progress photos that I’ll post in my Sewing School update soon too… so proud of this one!

It’s raining a lot this week, but if I was a woman of the world, and went to the office or something other than running errands, on my pushbike often with a 3 year old on back… I would style it like this… but with tights!


Next up at Sewing School will be a top, but (always contrary) I might make it a dress because it could look cute as a dress, and I really want to try different textured sleeves. Off to the fabric market this week to have a look for actual WOVEN fabric for a top … I’m never that keen on woven tops, so why not make one!? I love trying new things at the moment. My fit & flare dress isn’t finished yet and as it’s too bright and light, I don’t think my usual favourite shape IS my favourite shape right now… so weird… I still think the season & the city are playing with my moods with what to wear & sew. Maybe it’ll settle down soon!? I feel a little crazy!


Have a lovely week, and thanks for reading as always darling!

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Where to Buy Sewing Supplies in Shanghai: Online!

This post has been writing itself since I arrived over a year ago, and I bet it'll continue to grow! Firstly, it was hard to find sewing supplies when I first got to China, mostly because the brand name sewing stores (in Australia it's the Spotlight and Lincraft usually are the go to places if you're new to town etc) just don't exist in Shanghai. Home sewing isn't a thing yet, and as you can imagine with the cultural revolution, a city like Shanghai has so many new 'western world luxuries' (IKEA is very popular here) but not the DIY culture yet. So where do you buy sewing supplies in China? Online of course: TAOBAO!

The joke here is when asking friends where you buy stuff, any stuff, the answer is always Taobao or IKEA (and there's certainly some sewing stuff and fabric there too), so for this post, I thought I'd gather up all the Taobao shops I've used, with reasonable quality. My sewing school has also recommended some good Taobao shops, so here goes!

A whole bunch of smaller items for your machine and stacks of cutting tools - AKA A crazy mini market of sewing!

Do you want:

Rulers? Here's a metric ruler.

Maybe you need thread? I bought here and didn't get tacky plasticy stuff.

Pens for Fabric Marking, these work and disappear ok!

Maybe you need a rolled hem sewing foot, works on on thin fabric.

A French Curve ruler.

A sewing twin needle, I accidentally bought too many! Maybe this is bulk?

Tracing paper, I've tried this ok!

The pink mat for cutting, I got the A4 size and it's very good.

An invisible zipper foot, it's plastic and works fine.

The little tools for making bias tape.

These bobbins & case are good value.

Little brushes for cleaning the sewing machine.

More pins, the plastic ones on the ends.

Very light interfacing: white & black... it's very light though... not thick for collars, more for airy fabric and putting along the button section of a blouse or something.

Another ruler.

Fusible tape, good for everything.

Fabric shops that seem ok, and I've tested:



Phew! If you have used any online shops in China, please send the links my way! I'll build them all into this post! Happy sewing!

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Voila: A Quick Scarf for Late Autumn

Hi there! This week I've started wearing my winter-y scarves again... it's dropped a whole 10 degrees (celcius!) during the day in the last fortnight... and I'm so not ready for winter yet! Three of our holidays this year has been back to the homeland hemisphere, and the most recent one in October really threw out my weather gauge. Ha Ha. *sigh*

So I pulled out this scarf loop I made for one of our little pop up markets in September, and now it's officially mine!

Untitled DIY scarf loop DIY scarf loop

It's almost a metre wide, and the width of the fabric long... sewn in the long edge, but I leave space each side to turn it... then right sides together - stitch - pull through your hole and then slipstitch closed with the little Veronica Darling tag sandwiched in. My friend Michell suggests everything I make needs a tag, as people prefer it... making it all a little more polished I suppose!

DIY scarf loop DIY scarf loop DIY scarf loop

What are you making for winter? I'm super stuck, but have a few things to finish off ... I think with some of my stretch woolies I can do a Nettie dress. I just feel like 'where is the time' to plan, because it's super cold already! Last year the real cold chill didn't come to Shanghai 'til December, so I wasn't prepared for an early onslaught of it!

Gotta get my thinking cap on quickly, or I'll end up at Uniqlo!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Voila: Gingham Oliver + S Art Museum Trousers

A few months ago, I shared some little boy shorts that I made from the spare tropical holiday red cotton fabric … from my Sophia Dress. They were the little Oliver + S Art Museum Trousers, but these gingham ones are my first pair!

Felix wore them a few times over summer when the weather wasn’t too hot, but he has officially gone off them… and that happens, so looking at them again here, it might be cause they’re a little small already. Kids grow! That happens too.


I just L.O.V.E.D making this pattern, it is spot on in shape, design and has just gorgeous little details! I adore little children in sharp trousers, so I will definitely make them again… but will try a bigger size… this one is a 3 and maybe if I try a winter pair in the size 4 it will be just right for the next 6 months.

Perhaps the trousers are a little on the slim shape of sizing, if you’re noticing your child has the bigger bones and the bigger tum… Felix is kind of inbetween that kind of sizing… but considering he was two in these photos, the size three was just right. He’s still got his baby shape, and often wears a 4 or a 120 size here in China around the waist/shoulders.


But overall, for a child’s trouser pattern, it’s quick to put together, but the welted pockets, the pretend fly and the pockets at the front make it a really stylish pattern! So lovely!

This week, I'm SO excited: on Thursday I'm hosting my first workshop about writing & blogging and connecting with your crowd online... here in Shanghai as part of the Literature Festival. Over the moon, and I send you all a big THANK YOU for reading my blog over the years, for it's a super successful (in my book) endeavor and has kept me learning not only about sewing but keeping across my love of media ... consumption and production of it! Thank you a million times over!


Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Seasons Change: Happy Autumn!

Thank goodness Future Islands wrote Seasons (Waiting On You) because now when I feel like the shift in temperature, the wind a little chillier, and the sun a little less strong... I have this song in my head.

And so we're feeling the autumnal vibes around Shanghai this week, especially after a sunny holiday in Australia. The weather here makes us cough a little more, as our lungs and noses adjust to the pollution level... because that air in Australia is just so clear. And through this season and climate change (and that red moon last night), I am again confronted with all the millions of possibilities and choice of this fantastically great city!

Last night I went to the comedy festival, the FIRST Shanghai International Comedy Festival, and will represent an Australian colleague today at a comedy discussion forum. I'm overjoyed to be meeting new people and sharing some stories about Australia's comedy industry. Also my friend and I are constantly working over new projects and we'll be at the Shanghai Literary Festival next week (!) talking about using social media & blogging as ways to kickstart your writing and finding your voice. Lots of things happening here!

But, sewing friends, the biggest 'Sewing in Shanghai' news for me is that I started back at SEWING SCHOOL on Monday nights with Teacher Catherine at Couture Nomad! WOO! I'm halfway through a skirt already, so I'm buzzing along with the sewing machine! Yay! The TRICKIEST thing for me has been finding the right transition outfits for this weather, and if I could find the time I'd go through my wardrobe to get some actual plans happening but for some reason I still have jumpsuits on the brain! Can we still sew jumpsuits in winter? LONG trouser jumpsuits and more woven short shorts versions with thick winter tights? I don't mind shorts in wintertime!

Hope you're having a great week! I'll be back soon with my Oliver + S Art Museum Trousers I made for my boy (who doesn't want to wear them now unfortunately!)... talk soon!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Made in China: Craft'd Shanghai & Espadrilles

There’s something rewarding about learning a new skill or completing a new project, and while it’s fun to gather up the knowledge & materials yourself and wing it (I do this plenty of times), it’s also great doing it with others face to face. Until I started sewing classes earlier this year… I rarely did face to face classes or workshops. I'd spent years problem solving sewing myself with my vintage patterns, and in sewing the biggest mystery for me was solved when I realised clothing was sewing right sides together! Or inside out! DUR. So here's Mae from Craft'd Shanghai and I grinning about making shoes!

Making espadrilles was something I’d wanted to do, to solve the shoe making mystery… I guess! Plus, the classes were with Craft’d Shanghai and I wanted to hear about another group here in Shanghai helping people be creative. And so, here’s another of my ‘Made in China’ series for you today… where I look at the offbeat & creative side of life in China. Handmaking outside of production line with photos from throughout my class!


So while I took the class with Mae (who came to Shanghai from the Philippines), she works closely with Natalie (a UK export)… who I hope to meet soon… but for now, here’s my questions with them!

How did you guys meet?

Natalie: I had been running crafty events through Meetup for a few months and Mae came along to a decoupage event at Chirps and Mews in Jingan. Mae apparently can’t remember me being at that event, but she came back to every Meetup after that so we got to know each other pretty well!

How did you come around creating the workshops?

Mae: The Meetups were originally started in January 2014 as a way of meeting creative people outside of work and to make time for learning new skills and crafts. Craft’d came about as a business when these events started becoming more popular and we were asked to run creative activities for different events in Shanghai. All of our Meetups were held in very understanding restaurants (we got odd looks when we brought out craft knives, crochet hooks and even saws sometimes!), but we were limited in the type of event we could offer - hence the opening of the Craft’d Studio! This means we can now use the sewing machines, make candles, paint and so much more!

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Have you guys always been creative?

Mae: Yes. I grew up with my aunt preparing so many crafty things to do after school and on weekends so being creative was encouraged at home since I was really young.

Natalie: I’ve always loved making things, especially with fabrics, and my mum is a seamstress so I learn a lot from her. But I think it all really took off since discovering Pinterest!!

How easy was it to set up a workshop here in town?

Natalie: I think for us we were lucky to have the Meetup community already built up, as we knew that group of people would be interested in the activities we offered. Plus, nowhere else really offered creative workshops outside of painting and art (which is not at all my strength!), so we got a lot of interest from magazines and events.

What was in the lanehouse before you held workshops there?

Natalie: It was an apartment, but the space seemed perfect for what we wanted, plus the kitchen has been especially helpful!


What are your day jobs in Shanghai?

Mae: We are both kindergarten teachers, I work full time and Natalie works in the morning.

Mae told me there are so many charities and community events your guys are into, can you share some links or point me where I can find out more?

Mae: We have tried to work with charities as much as possible. We ran arts and crafts classes for a migrant school via Stepping Stones last year, which we hope to start again soon. We are also working with the Shanghai based charity The Giving Tree - for every class booked and every kit we sell, we donate a ‘teachers kit’ to be added into their teacher bags, containing things that we as teachers have always found helpful in our own classes (praise stickers, chalk, pens and so on). We also run a monthly class making pillowcase dresses for the charity Dress a Girl Around the World, which has the mission of giving every girl in the world their own dress.

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The term 'Made in China' has got a bad wrap in the western world, mostly showing bad quality, but what's something Made in China that you're amazed by? That you love?

Natalie: I love the paper cuttings that are popular here. I would love to find someone here who could teach us how to do that. Also xiaolongbao, am I allowed to mention that?! I looooove them!

What did you think of Shanghai in your first week here?

Mae: I thought it was very bright, very modern and fast-paced. I lived in an island most of my life so it was all very different and very new to me.

What can you do or find in Shanghai that you can't do or find anywhere else?

Natalie: I love that Shanghai has so much potential. Craft’d is really a dream come true that would take a huge amount of time and investment to start up in the UK. The expat community is also very supportive which makes a big difference. It really is a city that gets under your skin - we are in the majority of those who planned on ‘only staying 2 years’!


Thank you Mae & Natalie! I agree, Shanghai has so much potential for everyone and thanks for sharing a little about Craft’d Shanghai with us! There are lots of workshops for adults and children… and as Mae & Natalie have backgrounds in schools, they’ve got a great understanding what children want to make! You can visit their website, or look at their wechat (craftd_sh) or Instagram!

Also, FYI the xiaolongbao Natalie mentions are Shanghai's famous dumplings... and are actually handcrafted little pieces of perfection! So yum!

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Voila: An Exaggerated Bettine Dress

A dress sewn in Shanghai, China and photographed in Gippsland, Australia! Very excited to show you this dress today, and yes! I’m back in Australia for a short visit, with Husbie’s demanding work schedule clearing up around Golden Week in China, we’ve secured a few extra weeks away and catching up with all the nature we can find at my parents place in Gippsland.


I made this dress the week before we left for our trip and had hoped this fabric would turn magically into a happy holiday dress, and that’s what happened! Yay! It’s a different shape for me, but after my Orangey Floral Kim Dress wasn’t my favourite fit (the fabric is exactly the same light linen feel) I wanted to try a flowy kaftan or kimono sleeve with this absolute favourite purple fabric! And I think it worked!

Bettine Dress Tilly Veronica Darling

The fabric is from the usual fabric markets (you can see it here) and I got it at the start of summer. I am in LOVE with these colours. Purple, green, red, yellow. I think they’re my absolute golden ones. Outside of black, but I actually don’t see myself wearing black as often… I haven’t sewn it for ages…. so I might be off it! Sewing this up was easy but it creases a lot and that’s why I think it’s linen… but very lightweight. I need to get a list of fabrics and have them translated so I can try and find out what things are at the markets.

Anyways, the pattern is the Tilly & the Buttons Bettine Dress but super exaggerated… I imagined Bettine dropped by while I was tracing and just kept whispering “more sleeve… you can drop that underarm curve more… you can do it” to me… so I did and in the end didn’t use the skirt pieces at all, because as I traced lower and lower under that arm… it almost matched up with the waist seam so I just drew the side seams straight down to the hem. I tried to keep the same length of the Bettine though, because I wasn’t sure how I’d make a waist (elastic like the Bettine pattern or ties like I’ve done) before I started sewing.

Bettine Dress Tilly Veronica Darling

But it’s a Bettine pattern front and back, and instead of that wide facing pieces for the neck, I just used bias and handstitched/blindstitched it down… I didn’t want any topstitching near the neckline.

So I’d stitched the shoulder seams, the neckline and the side seams… and tried it on and was officially a Bettine Bag. Lump of Linen…. and of course no shape for my curvy body made it look even more enormous… so I measured out a long couple of pieces of fabric to make the ties… then attached them at a spot either side (unstitched the spots on the side seam stitching) kind of at the same point the waist seam would be on the Bettine skirt piece (or I guessed it was). The idea came from this photo I pinned but of course didn’t have the extra fabric pieces to make it smooth like that... but hindsight doesn't work as well with fabric, so this worked fine really.

Bettine Dress Tilly Veronica Darling Bettine Dress Tilly Veronica Darling

I hemmed it and that was it. QUICK and easy and florally flowy. I tried tying it two ways… this way is pulling the ties forward first and then wrapping them around… that makes a smoother bum and a gathered front. The other way I tried to make a smoother tum and a gathered back waist/bottom but Husbie said this way was better, and showing my body shape a bit more than creating a weird extra shape at the back. I don’t feel frumpy because the fabric hangs so lightly, but I don’t think I’d make it again unless the fabric had heaps of drape.

But I like it and could kiss the big flowers for being so richly coloured. I think these jewel tones suit me ok? I haven’t really thought about it until I went normal blonde last year and then strawberry blonde this year… it’s hard finding the colours you like and that suit you… After a bit of googling I came up with pastels (not my favourite colours/tones) and jewel tones… so will try to stick to these to see which suit my skin and hair colour… When you’re platinum everything looks bold and really good (or I thought so anyways) apart from yellow… so at first I felt muddled having to find the right ones… I feel great in these colours though, so that makes me really happy!

Bettine Dress Tilly Veronica Darling

We’re going to a wedding this weekend, and I’m hoping to wear this lovely purple relaxing dress… (unless I make another dress or wear the other Fabric Market dress, who knows what I’ll be in the mood for?!) and cannot wait to catch up with loads of good friends. xoxo

Monday, 12 October 2015

Art of the City: A Creative Life

I’ve been photographing art and street art and spaces in Shanghai, as you do… living in a busy metropolis that’s still not your familiar home city. And this year, I’ve always been pondering about the creative life and who I am and how I am as a creative type. There’s a few hints at this in my ‘Made in China’ series, as I’ve just not felt artististic or creative 100 per cent… I’m extremely practical and full of problem solving and needing to know WHY all the time. USUALLY.

But in Shanghai, I’m feeling a shift. I am definitely letting things go when they don’t matter anymore…

And I guess more importantly, the self awareness has just kept growing… and recently the fog of ‘Who the fuck am I?' has lifted and I feel some great clarity. Without my job, my friends and family around me like in Australia… I’m just me, just a mother, a wife. And while I know that’s just not all there is about me… I have felt really stripped back and the need to rebuild myself has been very strong.

From talking to other people in this position, this feels like a common thing… and Shanghai has lots of people coming and going and is a remarkably energising place. Especially for rebuilding. I have been saying ‘Yes’ all the time and it's led to so many different things. Sometimes I think, what would I usually do in this situation? And then try and do the opposite. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

So instead of putting value on my identity or role or title (I felt so happy when I settled on a 'Media Consultant & Creative Strategist' to sum up who I am here in Shanghai... but immediately felt ridiculous!)... but yes, instead of putting this importance on who I am... I'm going to just be and express and do...

And leapfrog my way through it.

So I've ALWAYS wanted to do a blog series of the Art of the City (and this could be actual art or just the vibe of it) because when I was a very impressionable young woman, I read Fiona Parker's Art of the City column in the local street press every week and was in absolute awe of her... if you're in Victoria, you'd know she hosts the ABC Central Victorian Mornings Show from Bendigo... so she continues to be a legend. So this blog series is in ode to Fiona (who has since been a gorgeous friend and colleague) and I want to show the art of this city... and who knows what other city I'll end up in?!

And this artpiece: Leapfrog Scultpture from the Xintiandi area of Shanghai