Friday, 5 February 2016

Art of the City: Neverending Christmas

While I've been walking around Shanghai these past few weeks, it's still very Christmasy... I kinda love the celebrations & decorations just continuing through to February as it really brightens up the grey days. It's kinda funny too, so thought I'd share these with you...

This weekend is Chinese New Year... Lunar New Year... but everyone I know here says Chinese New Year... it's exciting and will be lovely and quiet around Shanghai for everyone has returned back to their home towns. We're looking forward to mooching around town!

Happy New Year! Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Voila: A Venus Kimono of Sew This Pattern


As it’s winter here in Shanghai, and probably will be for a while now we’re in the very low temperatures, I have been sewing with warmer fabrics and first up is Sew This Pattern’s Venus Kimono. It hasn’t been below zero (celcius) that often but kind of averaging 3 or 4 degrees this week. Last week we had snow a couple times and frozen water pipes! EEP.


Anyways, let’s talk sewing! This is a pdf pattern, and I’ve been avoiding them just for the time factor of sticking them together… For a while, I had a problem communicating to the printer place about the large copy shop size… Over summer I tried to print my Lily & Sage dress at the full size, but they just couldn’t. It’s hard enough getting the size right with printing places, but also tricky without speaking fluent Mandarin. But, I had some successful attempts and was able to get the Venus Kimono by Sew This Pattern printed up, so no stickytaping for me! Yay!

I chose this stretch fabric offcut I got for cheaps at the fabric market here in Shanghai as it had a huge stitch in the middle - you know where they join the fabric roll together with another roll or something…? It was easy to cut around though and maybe only cost $6 Australian dollars for up to 3 metres of fabric… the kimono doesn’t need to be cut on the fold, so it did help get the stretch fabric neat by cutting one layer of fabric at a time… sometimes when I'm cutting in the layers I’m not cutting correctly… wonky or off grain… might also be because I”m cutting on the floor… but let’s revisit that another time! No further options for sewing at home right now! The floorboards are flat but slippery!

Because of the chilly winter, the light is really weird in my apartment... this is just around 4pm, and it makes the photos look a little like a painting... there's just not enough light for the camera to latch onto clearly... so interesting. Hard to see the garment though, but we can't change winter I guess!

Of course, a stretch knit fabric probably isn’t exactly the right fit for the Venus Kimono… but it was the best winter stuff I had (some wooly stuff would have been fun to try, but with it being so cold right now, I don’t really want to wade around in my puffy jacket in a freezing cold market!) and so I decided to change it a bit! You might have noticed I’ve added a huge cowl neck/band to the entire neckline/edge instead of the rolled hem that is suggested! I really like the shape and was inspired by an old cardigan that I wore to death a few years ago that had the same neckband all the way around… love it.

So throughout the sewing of garments, I am trying to keep track of my googling process… for it helps put together these notes… and I only investigated serging and sewing a french seam because of course, a lovely kimono that you occasionally will see the insides of deserves to have no serged seams showing I reckon! And yes you can! It made the thicker bits here and there a little harder but I”m sure with floaty fabric it’ll be deadset dreamy.

The pattern is extremely easy to put together, and I’m already thinking of a fun rayon cotton I can do for spring time.. this is the relaxed version so not as much fabric as the oversized, but probably better for little petite bods like mine, because with this neckband this is a LOT of fabric as it is. Annie from Sew This Pattern provides some beginner details in the pattern too… if you’ve never sewn a rolled hem or a french seam, this is quite helpful. As I don’t do these things all the time, I appreciate the reminder.

And the big change of course was adding the massive neckband, it's probably about 20 inches wide, folded right sides together, and attached wrong side first to then do a french seam with right sides together. As with french seams ironing is always your best friend... so the inside seam is now very neat.

I used my twin needles for the hemming of the sleeves and a couple times when I slipped one off the folded edge it looks a bit wonky, but otherwise I’m pretty happy with it! I bought them ages ago on Tao and forgot about them, and I say them because I went to buy just one and was sent 10… that was a deal! surprise Taobao purchases are pretty fun!

Annie from Sew this Pattern shared her Venus Kimono digital pattern with me as a gift but without any strings to review, but why not… it’s certainly a lovely ‘One Size Fits All’ cover up, and in particular has some nice shoulder seam pleats that really help shape the drape of this kimono… for you could certainly guess a kimono shape without a pattern, but it might not look as lovely. I know my friend took a H&M basic one into the fabric market here and it was a very straightforward rectangle style… but I guess that’s where we as DIY fashionistas get to experiment what suits our bodies and most flatters us…. And now I’m finding that really funny as a 150 cm tall woman in a completely big oversized floppy thing! I love it though!

Overall, the stretch knit fabric here has made this kimono VERY loungey and when I wore my store bought pajamas the other day (Uniqlo soft ones): the fabric is identical! Ha! So perhaps the kimono in this fabric will now be a dressing gown. COSY!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Shanghai Fabric Market Tour #4


Time for another tour of Shanghai's Fabric Markets! As you can probably tell, Shanghai has LOTS of markets, for all kinds of things! While home sewing and DIY culture hasn't really taken off in China as much as the western world, sewing unique pieces of clothing is very popular and this market is the second offshoot/location of the famous 'South Bund Fabric Market' ... as far as I can tell... and more modern and brightly lit as you'll see!

So let's go have a look at the outside first, helps when you know what you're looking for when you see a gigantic sewing machine statue!

”Fabric ”Fabric

This market is on the southside of the large Lujiabang Lu and covers the entire block opposite the original 399 Lujiabang Lu Fabric Market that you can read about here and confirm the original address here... but I'm yet to buy fabric from there yet... I did get my cashmere purple jacket made there last year but for fabric shopping or fabric browsing, I find it dark and busy (with tourists) but I will get there to photograph a tour there for you one day!

But if you have a look southside, you'll find this quiet & well lit fabric market and it's a good introduction to seeing what's on offer. Usually the same businesses have shop fronts here, across the road and at Dongmen Lu (my favourite fabric market in Shanghai), so there are some similarities in fabrics & garments - if you're looking to get tailormade clothing!


So, you can see all the tailor made clothing first, and vendors will try their English but it's not pushy here. It's a quiet space for you to look around, and take it all in. I find that I need some quiet to have a poke around first in places, and it's tricky if everyone is after your attention. Of course, if you're looking for something made, I'm pretty sure the sewing people here are pretty good... however I would suggest knowing exactly what you want and checking out other things they've made to see the overall quality.

There is fabric for sale though and it's not too pricey, mostly the same as the other markets... you can ask 'EE MEE?' for 'one metre' and they'll give you a price and you can haggle a bit I'm sure. I've bought fabric here - can't remember what kind now - and I've had some stretchy dresses made - a few months ago - when I was deciding whether to start selling some self designed dressed. And the quality was good, both in workmanship and fabric!

I do really like this strange plasticy fabric shop! I've been thinking of getting my bike apron made up here to see what it could look like as well! In case I can sell some at the markets here. Do you remember that neon blur I made in 2011? Never not thinking of projects!

And see the funny photos below! I told you it was quiet here! However people nap in Shanghai anytime of day whether it's quiet or noisy! So there's also a few shops with embellishments and haberdashery, not as many to choose as the Embellishment Market on Renmin Lu but still things to look at.

So there you have it! Another Fabric Market, but probably the cleanest and brightest one in Shanghai for fabric browsing or choosing tailor made clothes!

I've been looking for the address, and found it's 378 Lujiabang Rd, Huangpu, Shanghai, China - the SOUTH side of the overpass. It's close to the Nanpu Bridge Metro, and of course look for that giant sewing machine statue. But the only Chinese address I can find is the northside market of:

399 Lujiabang Lu,

near Nancang Jie

南外滩轻纺面料市场, 陆家浜路399号, 近南仓街

Have a great week, maybe dreaming of Shanghai!?

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Scenes from Shanghai: Winter Streets


Happy Saturday! This week we've sunk into the Shanghai winter... a few extremely chilly days, with bad pollution and my son home with hairlice from his kindergarten! Urgh! We'll get through, lots of shampooing here at our house!

Today I'm sharing some photos of our winter streets here in Shanghai, some ordinary corners as we've been walking around. Slowly, it's starting to be too familiar here, the shops, the bikes and the people... I went to a new area for a voice over job and was quickly reminded to talk more photos because of the different decorations and perspectives again. Maybe it takes about a year to get settled into new surrounds and not find meat hanging outside on a coathanger to be strange. It still is strange, but I'm less likely to stop for a photo perhaps?

Wishing you a relaxing weekend!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Making: Toy Bag & Play Mat for Duplo


A few days before Christmas I had a quick idea, my son was getting a few Duplo boxes for Christmas (we found a special deal on Taobao on the famous 11.11 sales) and as I suddenly realised he’ll need some extra storage for the colourful blocks, I remembered the lovely playmat I’d seen on pinterest five years ago (or around then) that you could easily build and sift through the blocks, but then once finished you can draw it all up and hang it on the back of the door or somewhere out of the way for next time.

I googled up a few photos and tutorials, but for these first attempts, I followed the very straightforward Fabric Mill idea. It was great and used up some fabric I had in the stash leftover from birthdays through the year and other bunting adventures… the smaller ones are for smaller children who also got their first batch of Duplo this Christmas, so a useful bag for them for the next year.

”fabric ”fabric

The one I made Felix is bigger, around a metre wide at least… and now that I’ve sewn it up, next time I’ll put the drawstrings on both sides… kinda like the Swoop Storage bags I later found… (you can sew your own, or just buy them from this small business!) as that distributes the drawstring gathers a little better and less likely for the bag to be too heavy. As right now, with the amount of Duplo Felix has (about 4 boxes of the stuff over the last 2 years) is just ok, but it’ll get too heavy if we have more.

What storage ideas do you have for Duplo or Lego? I love something that can serve two purposes, like a playmat and a bag. I’m really happy with how neat this was to sew, it was a bit of time getting the circle flat and neat and matching the two fabrics up… but the stitching part was super quick and very easy to put together.

The Vera Bradley fabric I’d got from my very small fabric shop (it usually doesn’t have much on offer, it’s like the bargain cotton bin at Spotlight - if you’re Australian you’ll know) but the green and pink colour combo was intersting to me, but I had no idea how to sew with it… my sewing teacher declared it for quilting and not good for garment sewing… so I’m happy I’ve used it here… I love the khaki green with it.

Duplo is our preferred building block right now, as Felix is 3 years old and very happy using this size block, but I know eventually it’ll be Lego and that stuff is small.

What are you sewing at the moment? I tried a green velvet dress last week, that just went so wonky everywhere... Wrong pattern I think! Will try a skirt next!