Friday, 22 May 2015

Scenes from Shanghai: Pink & Purples

Happy Friday! What a beautiful week in Shanghai... I hope it's been lovely for you wherever you are. These photos are a collection of pinks and purples... showing you some more colourful parts of Shanghai... ordered to a colour scheme as I am a virgo and I shall order my things here in the blog how it feels lovely and ordered in my brain.

I have green next for you, but for today... enjoy! And the purple spinach was absolutely delicious!

Everything in Shanghai is delicious (I am avoiding durian & stinky tofu though) and so pretty!

Have a lovely weekend xoxo

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Shanghai Fabric Market Tour #2

How's your week going? I haven't been sewing much, just sightseeing when the weather is good and eating our way around the city! So while I'm touring around, you can have a squizz of another visit to the Renmin Lu's Haberdashery Market because the first time I visited, it was very overwhelming! I'm not the best at shopping for fabric or notions because of my opshopping days... when you scour over actually trying to find things to sew with... having so much on show like this makes me completely stunned about what to buy, what to make and how to actually choose stuff. Having a shopping list is definitely better at these markets, but you can still feel very overwhelmed... I  remember feeling very shy about asking for prices and saying what I wanted.

So this market is your one stop shop for embellishments, notions, elastics, ropes, buttons and all things about sewing but no fabric... there is some lace, sequined fabric, felt and some low quality knits... but have a look around... everything is negotiable and cheap... and definitely cheaper if you buy more.

But overall this visit was a little easier than my first trip, even though I had my two year old with me. As I knew where the markets were and knew roughly a bit more Chinese, especially to ask the price and to understand the price. That's handy!

I found the elastic I needed for the child’s smocking dress at 15 kwai for a large bobbin (what’s that called then?) so I got 2. One of my sewing school friends suggested just BUY things when you’re AT the market, because you’ll regret it later. That's one way to build my stash & supplies I guess, because it IS a big adventure getting across town (even more with a little one).

But let's keep sticky-beaking around... belt buckles, more zippers... and then tulle!

The market is all indoors, and the stalls are very small and you squeeze through tiny aisles to get around. After the elastic, we turned a few corners, and found the tulle that was ‘not in available in China’ according to a woman (at a costume shop) who sold me a lot of ribbons a few months back. At 6 kwai a metre, I bought yellow for a friend & blue for Felix… for tutus! Then I bought the wide elastic that was 2 kwai a metre, so got 10 metres just in case for future projects.

After that Felix was getting a little bit loud playing with the cardboard tubes/bolts (the shopkeepers were gushing over him and giving him lots to play with) and I bought 10 zippers at 1 kuai a zip (that’s about 20 cents Australian a zip) and went to leave but saw overlocker threads for 3 for 10 kuai and thought that was a deal as they were nicer quality than the plastic ones I bought the first time! I have no idea what plastic thread is for... any clues and do you want some?

We had a play in the park and went on to the Dongmen Lu Fabric Market, where most people get their clothes made. I had seen a cotton shop there last time, and went straight there, and spent most of my cashola. The cottons were 58 kwai a metre, and I tried hard to bargain and we settled for 50 kwai a metre if I bought 6 different ones… one of the gingham fabrics we negotiated 40 kuai as it was lesser quality. I am really trying to get better at knowing my fabrics, I guess I have to just buy and sew with them to get the feel. She said that an English woman remarked recently that she’d seen some in the UK for 15 pounds a metre, but you just can’t tell and I don’t want to be cagey all the time when shopping. You should bargain a bit, and I’m guessing $2 bucks off for a larger quantity is better than no discount.

So all this for around 1000 kwai, 200 Aud, 150 American, 100 pounds. At the time of shopping last month. SMILEY FACE.

The blue swallows turned quickly into a Sophia Dress, and I've sewn the tulle for tutus for the children and the gingham and glasses fabric for Felix. The black and white wallpaper fabric became my lovely Spring for Cotton 1970s dress.

So! There you go! I'm not sure if you've followed Jen at Cashmerette's tour of all the sewing stores in Japan (here's her Kyoto update), but after seeing all her photos, I'm just a little jealous of how clean and organised Japan can be... our markets in Shanghai are very dirty and chaotic and just old... of course, the whole experience is hilarious and I wouldn't swap it... but I actually can't wait to have a little spare cash to go to Japan again. I didn't really sew that much when I last visited, so I'll totally be using Jen's links!

Anyways, for now, the tour is over, and details below! Hope you have a lovely week!

Markets I visited, for you to show the taxi driver the street address in Chinese when you're next visiting Shanghai... (!) (please let me know when you're visiting)...

The Embellishment Market:

388 Renmin Lu,
near Sichuan Nan Lu

and the fabric was from Shi Liu Pu Cloth Market:

168 Dongmen Lu,
near Zhongshan Dong Er Lu


Monday, 18 May 2015

Voila: Pattern Testing the Pin Pegs Mini Skirt


Happy Monday! Hope you had a great weekend! We have my parents visiting us in Shanghai so it's been busy but it's just a dream sharing the city with them. Husbie even had a day off! YAY!

I'm really happy to show you my Pin Pegs Mini Skirt this week... it's a new pattern from a brand spanking new independent pattern designer.... Annie Mollison who's 'Sew This Pattern' stems from a lifetime of fashion design, sewing and modern living & blogging. I can't remember when I first saw Annie's blog, Nine Stitches... but I just remember her moxie sewn garments & sunshiney photos and her fabric choices being really strong. So when I saw she was looking for pattern testers, I was very curious about her pattern design... and I wasn't disappointed ... this skirt has as much spunk and edge as Annie!

So first up, I'm very happy with the skirt... delighted it fits so well, but mostly really happy with my sewing on this one... it was a challenge for me at times (there are more pattern pieces that I usually sew with because I usually try to cut corners) and that's a VERY GOOD thing for me right now.

I can't even look at tracing a pattern until I confirm my fabric for some reason at the moment... I bought this faux suede from my closest fabric shop that is EXTREMELY limited with fabric choice as there were probably no more than 5 bolts that I could have sewn with and 2 were corduroy (!) that I was not interested in even touching! The pattern calls for a cotton-sateen like weight with that kinda stretch... but in my travels through the fabric markets here, I have not found anything like it yet... so the animal print faux suede with a small amount of stretch was kind of my only option. It really is an autumn or winter fabric and I don't think I'll get to wear it again until later in the year now as Friday (when I wore the skirt out) was our last hurrah of rainy spring (I suppose, we'll see) here in Shanghai.

So tracing the pieces were great, but you totally have to number and mark and even name all the pieces correctly because as you can see the waistband has a facing and also all the skinny edges have facings... so there's a bit of time there for tracing but now I have a proper ruler and chalk for transferring markings I felt swish and virgo-like in ticking all the boxes as I went along.

Seeing Annie's version of the skirt gave me a lot of guidance, so that's why I thought I'd show my insides here too... because before I began, and even while cutting, I just couldn't imagine how the skirt was sewn up... often with dresses I know the steps and the process... but the wrap skirt exterior looks very polished so I was a little daunted and hoped hoped hoped mine could look the same.

The pattern includes photos (and I believe there are even more in the finished pattern) and I did rely on them mostly to double check the order and shape of the waistband and those skirt facings. There was a couple of times I actually said out loud 'I think I'm doing it!' because I had to concentrate a lot more and don't we all need a little positive cheering on...!?

I strongly recommend ironing a lot and basting like Annie suggests because putting in the zipper could be problematic if you don't plan that out... I was SO surprised how neat and flat and I guess a little easy it was after it was all sewn up... a big relief after the zipper was completed and a bit relief to be pushing out those facing pieces with the chopstick knowing the finishing line was around the corner... !

The skirt wasn't a quick sew for me, only because my parents also arrived mid-make and I moved my sewing machine so I could finish it (and thanks to Dad for his photos!) and because of parenting a small active child, so I didn't really take note of the hours I put into it... but I really enjoyed the challenging parts and I think I said in my review (or to my mum) that it's a nice balance of easy bits and tricky bits for my level of sewing... which I'd say is between beginner & intermediate most of the time. And it's a totally different skirt for my wardrobe!

What I do love about wearing it, and this is a size 10 with no changes at all, is it shows off my legs! My pins! And I totally don't mind a mini skirt at all... it doesn't actually look that short on me, but you'll recall I'm 150cm tall (4 foot eleven) so if you're petite, it's not that mini for a mini skirt. I would like to sew it again in summer fabric, but only if I can find the fabric... last time I was at the market I bought only stretch velour in gigantic floral print so I have no idea what I'll find the next time I go.

I actually can't think of any negative part of the pattern... only that the amount of pieces is a lot for lazy sewing queens, but it's appropriate to the pattern and wouldn't be as stylish or polished otherwise! There may be a bit of extra fabric on my flat bum area (just under the waistband, some extra fabric hangs out horizontally, if that makes sense) so I might just drop that waist line on the skirt a little next time. But the lines of the pattern vertical are very sharp and feel very flattering on. The pattern pieces do have a nice curve in places so Annie has really considered the design overall rather than rectangular waistbands etc.

FYI, Annie provided me and her other pattern testers with a copy of the pattern in draft form, in exchange for our thoughts & feedback & a couple of photos... and in return we received a copy of the final pattern for free. I bought my own fabric and spent my own time pattern testing and these thoughts today are all my own opinion... and this is totally all my personal experience sewing with the pattern. I feel quite happy to have contributed to Annie's creative process in some small way, and also feel like it's a fair process, considering I don't have a lot of patterns with me in Shanghai and for the first time in my sewing lifetime, I have the actual time to sew! Slowly, but still I'm making stuff!

Have a great week to you! This week, I have a blog post coming about the Haberdashery Market in Renmin Lu here in Shanghai ... so see you again soon!


Thursday, 14 May 2015

ATTN: A Free Pattern & Sewing Challenge!

*Stare Out The Window*
*Stare Out the Window Some More and Put Your Hand Just So*
*Hands On Hip and Look Down at Dress*
*Turn and Put Hands On Shoulders While Staring Down At Dress You Made With Your Own Hands*
Hey guys, guess what? I don't think I've used captions on photos in my blog before... have you read that Twitterer (have no idea which one, and no time to find it) that started copying the Daily Mail or some UK paper's photo captions...? It's quite funny from memory, as copywriters obviously get very drained writing captions for the newspaper and they were just SO literal... just writing what was happening in the photo. Anyways!

I've got some 'free' news... and I like 'free stuff' and I'm sure you do if you're thrifty like myself!

My Sewing School is called Couture Nomad... and it's a very small wonderful & welcoming sewing group here in Shanghai AND Teacher Catherine has been working on some new patterns! To celebrate, Couture Nomad is hosting their first sewing challenge where you can win all the patterns in the Urban Jungle Collection (a very aptly named collection, especially for the places the patterns are named after... most areas in Asia) ... and details below:

I just realised the sign up day is TOMORROW, but if you're reading this on the weekend, please email them and tell Amaia that you came via my blog... she might help you out! Or pop over to the Facebook page and ask if it's still ok to register...

But the free part: if you sign up, you'll be sent the Manado dress pattern for free... and that's the dress I'm wearing in the photos here... and my Voila - Finished blog post is here... and I found it a good straightforward pattern (even for a beginner perhaps) and a lovely light dress... I'll be making another Manado Dress for the Urban Jungle theme, just have to decide what jungle print I wanna cut up... my idea of the jungle print is not animal print but massive palm trees in neon... or a crispy white fern like pattern... still deciding.

As I'm a frank & open blogger, just a note to let you know I am a paid student of the Couture Nomad workshops, and while Catherine & Amaia told me about their sewing challenge... I want to share with you some independent pattern designs that aren't often seen in the wider (UK/US) sewing blog community... and the Couture Nomad has a variety of patterns to sew up! Teacher Catherine's saying is 'Do it yourself, to be yourself' and that's just so spot on. This week, I read Gillian's blogpost about What Makes Patterns Popular and felt a bit compelled to go find the well designed under-promoted pattern companies... but hat's another story!

So, happy sewing! After writing this post, I am now thinking how I can make a knit Manado Dress with more of a swing skirt to it?

Talk soon xoxo

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Voila: Exotic Tiled Davie Dress

My first Sewaholic sewing pattern! I've read the Sewaholic patterns are very suitable for the pear-shaped figure, and they flatter all the right bits... so I have never bought one before now (I feel very hourglass, however I have no clue how one decides this) but, the princess seams in this Davie Dress (released earlier this year by Tasia Sewaholic) caught my eye as I was browsing the internet one night looking for some spring/summer easy knit dresses! And after reading Tasia's blog for so long, it's about time I try one of her patterns!

This version is the shorter one, with the cap sleeves... and I followed a size 8 because my measurements are in-between sizes, and thought the knit fabric wouldn't mind a bit of a stretch over the bust. Size 10 would be way too big on the sleeves/shoulders anyways, and having worn it now, next time I'll keep the size 8 but adjust the shoulders somehow as the underarms are even a bit low on me. But that might have been my lazy cutting...

The fabric comes from... Shanghai's Shi Liu Pu Cloth Market in Dongmen Lu (I'm now going to list the Chinese Address at the bottom of my fabric posts... so fabric loving travelers can just show the Taxi Driver!) and that's a bit of joke for me at the moment because I haven't found any stretch fabric anywhere else, so this one guy is very happy I'm visiting him! When I'm fabric shopping these days, I'm just trying to push myself to try a different print, a different drape and just go for it. I am gathering better sewing skillz through my lessons at Couture Nomad (but we only are sewing with wovens right now) so this 'exotic tiled' (I'm calling it) patterned light synthetic (I'm assuming) stretch fabric had an interesting border on the bolt, so I just bought it thinking it'd be a maxi dress for summer or something... 

But when I got my Davie Dress pattern (I am going for hard copy patterns where I can, because we don't have a printer at home, and can take ages for Husbie to print at work)... I saw the front pattern pieces were separate and not on the fold (of course, for the keyhole to work!) but were straight pieces...  and the 'border' on my fabric was actually parallel with the grain of the fabric (not the stretch of the fabric), so being a stretch fabric, it must be for vertical stripes... right? I don't know, anyways, I pfaffed around for ages with the pattern pieces (I cut them seperately even though the pattern calls for 2 together... I just wanted to make sure the blue edge and border - red pattern - was super even)... and I'm very happy with the matching and racing stripe down the front... just something different:

The keyhole is REALLY easy and uses the seams as its own facing (I had it in my head that it would be super fiddly with a facing) but I just used fusible tape to keep it in place... and I made it the suggested length, but some people might not want to flash that much cleavage... I'm fine with it of course!

I found that once I finished all the seams, my side panels *might* have been cut a little shorter in the underarms... the fabric is super slippery, so it might have been my pinning too, they fabric could have creeped away from me ... I'll have to make another to see what I did wrong. But it's still wearable, just a little gapey. The cap sleeves are very attractive, in my opinion... super cute!

The thing I spent the most time pondering over was the neckline because I wanted it to look polished and not crafty and my topstitching is sometimes off on my machine... it wobbles a lot if I'm not super slow. But after stalking some of these neck binding tutorials, I felt confident to tackle it:

The Colettorie's Ultimate Binding Guide for Knits

Cashmerette's How to Bind a Wrap Dress because I might do one, some day, right?

And I checked Made by Rae's Knit Neckline post as well just to double check which direction on the fabric I cut, and it's *with* the stretch not with the grain.

It sits flatter than most necklines on knits I've sewn, so I'm happy! 

The hem however, I wasn't really happy with (and you can see in one of the above photos it's flipped down already from wear)... as it's a knit dress you have to hang it to get it all evened out for at least a day... and then I cut it all to the shortest piece, then overlocked the edge... and tested out a topstitch that looked ghastly and too small and wonky and looked like the machine wanted to eat the fabric... so I did a bit of machine blind hemming on a swatch fabric piece and it looked ok... at least it held in place most of the way around:

But I won't be flipping it around to show people... it's still pretty messy. I also used fusible iron on tape for the blue racer stripe, so to not have any red blind hem stitches poking through... I think you can get a way with a lot of fix up jobs when you use knit fabrics!

The only thing, if you stare at the racing stripe too long... it kinda over emphasizes my boobs and turns them into a shelf... so I'm not too sure I like the dress in profile, or an angle like this photo:

This is better:

So if you see me wearing this, do NOT approach me from the side! I shall be just pointing my racing stripe toward everyone when I wear this Davie Dress... until I make another without a boob shelf enhancer! LOL never thought that would be something I would ever type! BUT, I love the shape and will certainly make more of darling Davie!

Fabric from the knit guy on level 2:

Shi Liu Pu Cloth Market:

168 Dongmen Lu,
near Zhongshan Dong Er Lu

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Sewing School Scoop - Volume 3

Well, I’ve been going to sewing school weekly now since March, and of course REALLY enjoying it. There are so many gaps in my sewing knowledge and this week I worked out I've been sewing my own clothes for FOURTEEN YEARS. Blogging about my sewing for 8 years (could it really be?) as well. But the gaps in my technique have become bigger and bigger and it's weird now because I have a high expectation on myself and what I can produce, but realistically I do need to spend time and learn and relearn some things. Plus, I think a lot of techniques, when we don't do them frequently or know a nifty way to do them, we just put to one side ... like my button holes for example. I haven't done them for AGES and now I'm like, I don't need them!

In these Sewing School Scoop blogposts, I hope to do a round up of what I've been learning ... for myself mostly, but they seem to be really of interest to you too, and I love hearing some of your suggestions! Keep them coming... So, here's my round up of what I'm getting from my sewing school:

1. The last pattern I made for myself was the Manado Dress, and while it's a perfectly normal lovely dress to wear (I've worn it already for MMM '15) it could do with a better fit and here Teacher Catherine is showing me some different ways to draw my pattern next time for that better fit... it's lowering the neckline (I think we thought 2.5 cm was best) and perhaps dropping the armhole a little. I need to get one of these rulers!

To find your mark in lowering the neckline, you measure 2.5cm on the front, underneath the original neckline, then draw a line 90 degrees out from the fold line... then you can see how this ruler will give you a gradual shape to that line. I'll try this next time on my other traced pattern.

2. My next Sewing School project were the Hanoi Trousers for kids, and you can see them finished here for Kid's Clothing Week. I bought a big roll of tracing paper from Teacher Catherine's supply: 135 RMB / $27 Australian / $21 US / 14 pounds. Nice price I reckon! For me, I have only really traced a few things, so now I'm learning there's a few ways to go about it... You can trace the pattern of course, but Couture Nomad like a lot of European patterns (I'm told and know though Burda Style online) don't include seam allowance... so I tried that out first (but promptly forgot this when I went to cut)...

I cut the botton of the trousers, the hemline first (the pattern is just one piece with no side seams, just the inner crotch seam)  and then remembered I needed to add the seam allowance, so one way you can do that is draw in chalk the seam allowance.

3. Do you know a good way to join elastic together? I learnt a good way! See below photo, I drew Teacher Muriel the original way I would use a normal straight stitch to join the elastic together...  basically layer the pieces and sew a square and then just go around and around until there was no square just a bit mess of thread. The elastic always slipped into the casing, so no one ever saw! But now you see my PERFECTLY zigzagged and joined ever so nicely elastic... zigzag twice on one side and then zigzag twice on the other. So both ends are sealed.

4. I have a new habit! I actually double back on all my ends now! Before sewing school I never sew-ed forward, then backwards, then forward again on my machine. What a time saver I was! What a dickhead! Because then darts would come undone after 3 or 4 washes or other slow burns like that. Now I do the thing where you double back and nothing ever comes undone! Very good for ironing/pressing too! Yes I do a lot of that now also!

5. So as Couture Nomad uses 1cm seam allowance on the patterns and I tried this myself recently on a shirt I drafted from a couple of existing woven bodice pieces and an old RTW tshirt sleeve… and it’s so much easier on my overlocker to do the corners… it’s actually dreamy. I feel like I’m ‘driving’ it a whole lot better...

6. But yes, I may actually be a pattern tracer who needs to include the seam allowance because luckily I only stuffed up the hemline! I cut the size 4 just to be safe around his middle, but he really only needs a size 2 in the length... so I was saved by the bell. Or the size. or the shortness of my son? But anyways, Teacher Muriel then showed me what to do to pattern to make sure I had enough fabric along the hemline...

It's not super exaggerated because it's a small size but you fold the pattern piece up a few times and you'll see the gap in the hem... just a slither of fabric less, so you want to ADD more fabric to the trouser hem, so that when you fold it, the amount of fabric is even and then makes it better to hem. YIKES this was very helpful and worked no problem!

So there's a few little techniques to help out with my tracing and cutting....

Sometimes when we sew and post photos on our blogs or to our flicker or wherever, garments can look so polished and so much more complicated and I know I’ve made plenty of outfits over the years where I was amazed how GOOD it looks. When I started blogging my sewing adventures I was just so excited by everything I made, and each time I’d finish, I’d be like “This is the best thing I’ve EVER made”...  now I'm really keen to learn more about what makes a good garment for really real... I've had at least 5 years of 'good' made garments in my wardrobe... so now I'm keen on that 'well made' garment. I don't want to be making a million outfits (during Sew Weekly in 2011, I made at LEAST 52 items, and before that in 2009 I made 100 outfits - many for friends but still) and they just don't last because the stitches weren't secured or the hem just never sits right unless it's ironed... I want my slow fashion to be well-made slow fashion.