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

Friday, 9 October 2015

Making: Red Flowery Espadrilles

A few weeks ago, there was ANOTHER Chinese holiday (it constantly feels like it’s party time/holiYAYs at the moment) and I met up with Mae from Craft’d Shanghai at their new little studio just off Fuxing Lu here in Shanghai for an Espadrille Workshop… and as they’d had a few last minute cancellations, I was the only one for the morning session! So luckily Mae wasn’t shy at telling stories, so we spent the time making and chatting about our lives in Shanghai and before we came here.

So the SHOES! They are MUCH easier to make than I’d imagined.. and really quick to make them… as the actual template/pattern is quite small and the sewing part is very minimal… the time is in the stitching it all together. And for me, taking the time to choose the fabric… oh the agony of choosing from someone else’s stash! Craft’d is very equipped with all the woven for this kind of shoe, so I wanted a two tone but once I decided on red for the main colour there were about 10 different options to make up… so settled on floral and stripe inside.

DIY Espadrilles DIY Espadrilles DIY Espadrilles

I’ll write up a blog post soon about Craft’d Shanghai and their workshops… but I had such an enjoyable morning taking my time with these shoes. It’s so great to chat and craft.

Like I mentioned the red stitching is the most time consuming and you also want to get it very neat because it can look unbalanced really quickly if you rush it… I have no idea what the stitch is called…. but you rely on tension a fair bit as you push the needle and thread through the sole of the shoe and then make sure you have the top stitch in place … um, it’s hard for me to explain without holding the shoes & thread! It was great to make something so neat though, so very happy I didn’t rush them!

DIY Espadrilles DIY Espadrilles

While it was super fun to make some shoes, once I’d made the second one up at home (the workshop allows enough time for the first shoe… but you do the second at home… unless you’re a stitching whizz!), I don’t think they’re the kind of shoes I wear. They feel like slippers to me… and are still a bit gapey at the back even with some darts at the heels.

I’ll deffo use these around the house (because we all wear slippers inside all the time!) and may even use them as my special sewing slippers when I start sewing classes again. BYO slippers!

DIY Espadrilles


Thursday, 1 October 2015

Hanging: Some Shanghai Bloggers Events

September has been beautiful and busy here in Shanghai. Lots of events, people in town visiting and it felt like Design Week, Photography Week, Art Week, Fashion Week (and so on) was all at once! My evenings were so full up and it was really great meeting people outside of my usual social circles. I love hearing people's stories! As always, people with different cultures & nationalities are in Shanghai, so over the space of a week, I was hanging with Mexicans (my girls!), eavesdropping on two Danish women from different backgrounds (one Chinese Danish!) and giggling with Chinese Australians while talking about kite surfing with a New Zealander! And that was just one day.

This year, I joined the Shanghai Blogging Society with their newly launched App (now with about 50 bloggers, but we started with 20) and I feel instantly connected to a bunch of new people and great ideas. If not for blogging, I’d not have met Line, nor Marta, nor Sandra this year or been involved in these different (and new to me) events.

Shanghai has SO much potential: for networking, for ideas, for entrepreneurial things, it’s actually dazzling how much is on offer here. I knew it’d be a bustling city (with 24 million people living in the city, you’d expect so!) but I am surprised how generous, friendly and warm people are… from local Chinese through to international business people. And I can’t honestly imagine a place where I’d be talking with people from all walks of life, from all levels of society, and from so many different parts of the world. As a sewing blogger, I do tend to read mostly sewing blogs… but when I need particular things I go on the hunt for new blog genres… from food and cooking, to fashion, to travel ideas. And being in a new city, I spend a bit of time googling & bing-ing (when the VPN doesn’t work as well) Shanghai and ‘Where to buy/find’ type topics.

So when there are blogging events on, I try to get to them! So great chatting about life in Shanghai with other people face to face!

The first event pictured above was A Fashionista Dinner, held through the new ‘MEET’ function of the very awesome Bon App! app (a generously planned out - great for taxi hopping around Shanghai - restaurant/foodie app) where anyone can join public dinners and meet new people. It’s a must for anyone new to Shanghai! Line from Shanghai Bloggers (pictured with me in my maxi dress) hosted the event with Sandra from Style by Asia and I was a co-host representing the bloggers of Shanghai… it was easily the best co-host event for me because I love talking with people and it was a popular event, a full house! The event was at a very gorgeous place just back from the bund called Light & Salt, and it was a fantastic vegetarian meal especially mapped out us veggie types!

Shanghai Bloggers & Style By Asia next organised a panel discussion on creativity, and a bunch of the Shanghai Bloggers came along to the Hay Concept Store in Shanghai… it was pretty interesting to hear about creativity in China but also how designers have adapted to the Chinese demands… Danish furniture is very popular, but changes the textiles from wool to linen for the Shanghai climate & to suit consumers. Lots more to learn about Chinese culture, but seeing how many people are in China, and how they love buying and being consumers… it’s no wonder lots of brands and businesses are hoping to come here. I was talking to someone working in New Zealand trade department (I see a lot of NZ butter, milk, and cheese here) and she’s just showczased a bunch of different coffee blends, not really expecting much, but younger Chinese groups were totally into it. Coffee (Starbucks is EVERYwhere) is getting to be more popular here, especially in Shanghai. Lucky for me! I can now find a great latte or flat white in several spots around the city! And that’s NOT including Starbucks. YAY!

OK, so I took few photos at the Hay event, but I loved my blogger gift bag! Especially the Lanehouse Apparel gift… I got to meet them too, so will hopefully get a ‘Made in China’ blog post about them soon because their gear is CUTE and very street and I would like to show you a different side of Shanghai… urban and hip hop wear is VERY popular here! Would you believe it! Hearing some awesome MCs rap in Chinese is AMAZING! If you're interested, Style by Asia has write up here and Line at Shanghai Bloggers wrote this up about the week.

Have you got a blogging network in your town? I’ve never really hung out with other bloggers before being in Shanghai in mass… so it’s kinda fun hearing how other people write their blogs… at the Hay event I talked a lot to Marta (Marta Lives in China) and Gosia (Shanghai City Girl) and it can be such a personal thing… writing a blog… and an eye opening & social experience for others! BLERGS HEY?!

Monday, 28 September 2015

Voila: Summery Kim Dress

Hi! Welcome to my fabulously printed Kim Dress blog post! It’s full of brightness and clever camera angles thanks to my clever clogs Husband and his new camera attachment on his iPhone! I’ll tell you about that at the end, but sewing this dress was fun! Pity I didn’t get the fit right!


I bought lots of light fabric this summer as I visited the markets here in Shanghai. It’s been very hot and I wanted to be prepared but I actually couldn’t sew much. I got too hot even inside with the AC on. Of course I did sew up a few things, but it’s only these last few weeks that I’ve felt like sewing again. Luckily, in Shanghai it’s mid 20s for a while and it doesn’t seem to get cold at nighttime till November (I remember really balmy November nights) so I might be ok with making these lighter dresses … as I have a purple one on the go this week.

But ALSO, we’ll be visiting Australia for a bit, so I’m hoping it’s not freezing cold there when we’ll be there!

So, this is the Kim Dress of the By Hand London pattern collection… I have no idea when it came out, maybe this time last year? Anyways, it officially is a party dress… and perhaps (now I’m 37 years old) a younger person’s party dress as I just don’t feel comfortable wearing it.


Size wise I went for 8/12 but shortened the shoulders by 1cm and shortened the bodice by 1cm.. the other BHL patterns are larger for me in both places and I’d seen Heather say she’d shortened the shoulder seams (I mean shoulder to bust measurement when I say that… is that right?)… and sometimes I feel her changes are similar to mine there.

So I traced it out, and decided to do the gathered skirt (AKA large rectangle with gathers how you like it) to save some tracing time and so felt the pieces looked ok after the small shortening. For patterns like this, I definitely want to avoid large flowers on the boobs, so I tried a few options for the front pieces (it’s the princess seamed) and was happy with how it looked together. I absolutely love the fabric and the painted look of the flowers in the pattern, but as it was around 6 bucks Australian per metre I also didn’t mind using it as a wearable muslin. Might be someone else's dress though... I have to have a think if I'll wear it again.


The lining is completely unknown grey cotton, probably a lawn but as I’m in the markets going on feel - who knows… it feels light but I don’t think I cut the bodice pieces on the grain (or maybe something else explains the pulling of the back pieces). Gah. I’ve been going too quickly at sewing lately… rushing to get it done rather than paying full attention.

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The invisible zipper is good, I can do better... I just read about Jenny sewing the zipper and the facing together at once, which sounds do-able but I'm not sure my invisible zipper would be so invisible after that... will have to try that one time! So this little dress was lovely and quick to make up, but I can see that I DO need a small FBA for it and should probably just do the Size 6/10 (like I always do for BHL previously) with that adjustment. The bodice sits too high now because I took off the length and I actually think it feels too WIDE. The straps slip off even though they're shorter and while the fabric is lovely and light on, it's just not right for a fitted bodice like this one.


But I feel like a little girl or extremely matronly (what a contrast) in this style. I also look a bit pregnant - which I'm not - in some shots because the dress hangs from a higher than the waist waistline. I’m trying to find a fit and flare dress that I can make oodles and oodles of versions, and this isn’t it. I’m also wanting to be really quick and not have to fiddle with a FBA, so perhaps I’m dreaming there. But the other thing is that depending on the time of the month, my body measurements are fluctuating! What a woman hey?! Plus I ate a bunch of chocolate and drank all the wine when my Australian friends came to visit! Tim Tams, Mint Slices! All the Australian treats!

My sewing classes with Couture Nomad come back next month so I could ask for help in blocking one up for my size… as I’ll just be adding different skirts, I just need a bodice front & back. Unless you know of a great pattern for larger busts & curvy petites bodice pattern for me!?!

Did you have luck with the Kim Dress? Should I try it again or just keep searching!?


Now, about the photos! Husbie met a guy here in Shanghai who is developing a new attachment for your iPhone… it helps you take photos just like a Digital SLR and while these photos have amazing contrast with the shadows and the dappled light of the trees on this gorgeous Shanghai Former French Concession Street… the ordinary iPhone camera wouldn’t be getting the images as sharp. (He is actually telling me now that the 'latitude in the exposure allows you to have a really large contrast ratio without you losing information' and the lens is really sharp compared to the iphone camera... it's 20 megapixels so that helps too. Here ends the photography chat! Latitude, haha!

He’s testing it out for another week, so we might get some more photos to show you, but we’re pretty impressed with it so far! I’ll have to sew like the wind to get a few more street photos with it!

Friday, 25 September 2015

What! It’s Autumn!? 

August & September are busy months now in our family & world… it’s taken me a little while to find a rhythm to our days and weeks! Birthdays and parties and then visiting friends and relatives have made me soooooooo happy! I’ve pretty much eaten and drunk all the dumplings and wine and as I catch a moment to myself this morning, I’m like: IT’S now autumn/fall. It’s almost OCTOBER!

We’ve been in Shanghai for one whole year so I know how to handle the season changes… but it still feels like it should be gearing up to summer holidays as Australia tends to have a season change around now and then it’s all GO til Christmas. But in China, we’re all busy with school days for Felix and crazy work hours for my husband, and then it’s the Chinese Golden Week holidays and we’ll be travelling back to Australia for a short time. The year’s broken up so different in China to Australia, not to mention the northern/southern hemisphere thing!

This week, I’ve also been workshopping a workshop (!) for the Shanghai Literary Festival… which will be in November! My fellow Shanghai Blogger & good friend Olivia and I hope to run through some ideas for new & potential writers and how they can use blogs and social media to help them develop their voice and content. While I write this blog, I also sometimes update my own personal journal… and tend to write & journalise my day and life in Evernote… not for anything but to document my thoughts. Over the years with my job in Australia, I’ve gained so many storytelling skills across so many different platforms and mediums, it feels like I have the experience to share this now… At the time with daily deadlines on a radio show you just plough through and be the best you can be… and having the space and time here in Shanghai to reflect on that now has been really weird. I have a career full of radio, writing & storytelling experience… so when we were asked to get together a workshop for the festival, at first I thought… "Oh No What Do I Know"? But storytelling and leading teams and helping people be the best they can be as storytellers is kinda what I do. And people tell me I do this well. Gah! I’ve spun around this idea that I’m a creative strategist… and I actually feel creative for the first time this year. Gah x 2! So weird to get self aware but being away from usual, everyday Australian life, has really spun the questions for me, Who Am I and What’s My Identity!?


So, I wanted to show you my finished Kim Dress this week, but now it’s Friday and it’s still not hemmed! So here’s my birthday party photo from the start of the month wearing my other By Hand London dress! I love my hair style! Melinda my Chinese hairdresser nailed it! Vintage style in Shanghai!

Over the next month, I have some ‘Made in China’ type posts to show you, some ‘What Have I Been Up To in the Blogging World of Shanghai’ type posts and a few ‘Scenes from Shanghai’ posts… and I’ll hem that Kim Dress now before picking up Felix from school so we can take some photos this afternoon to show you next week instead!

Hope you’re well! Thank you SO much for all your lovely birthday wishes to Felix! He's had a great time turning three! We're off to the park now! And Happy Friday to you xoxo!

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Happy Birthday Little Darling

My little baby is 3 years old today! Here he is as he was in 2012! SO squishy! I'd made a wrap skirt that I wore only a few times and felt didn't suit me, but these photos show that it wasn't too bad. I just don't think I got into this 1970s style while I was maternity leave, like I thought I would! But this is a birthday blog post today! For Happy Birthday Darling Boy!

When I was going through my blog post drafts a few months ago (a blog tidy up) I found these photos of little Baby Darling in his vintage pram that I never published. He was maybe 2 months old... he always looked big after 1 month, so I can't really remember! I'd had a few vintage baby suits for him that I'd collected up from the op shops of Queensland's Redcliffe and he just grew so fast, I think this was the only one that fitted him for a bit. But while I love the vintage suits they're just not very practical for modern parents and babies... buttons! Even zippers were annoying for me. But it's so weird to think all that regular baby dressing (several times a day!) and all the baby stuff is such a short time of our lives with Felix. We found the vintage pram on ebay, and had some fun pushing him around town while we waited for the modern one to arrive.

These days, he definitely knows he's not a baby anymore, but he's not too sure on being a big boy!

Three years old definitely feels like a huge shift in him - yesterday when I told him it was his last day of being 2, he started to talk clearly and continually all through the day... his sentences getting stronger and more exact after every word... like he was talking himself into being a little older... maybe becoming that big boy. Three years of this gorgeous human!

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Scenes from Shanghai: One Year Here

Well, today is our one year anniversary of being in Shanghai!

I am absolutely shocked with how fast the days and weeks fly by here. I know that naturally time speeds up as we grow, or it feels like for me. Some times with motherhood, I feel the time really slows down again though... some days last forever. I feel very lucky that we've had the space to learn about our new lives here in this city... and in turn I've had so many funny days with Felix. He'll be three years old next week!

For me, there's so much to say about living here... personally I feel challenged without my regular day job in radio (14 years long & fun career)... I have felt in flux; inbetween times. I do think about the Cure a bit with the Inbetween Days phrase... I'm often just floating around trying to find who I am and what I do (outside of the parenthood thing)... I like it but it feels very unlike me. Of course, having my blog, my writing and sewing has kept my even keel and that balance in my life has now helped me find other people, other projects and hopefully a lot more events in this city ... I love connecting with people to hear about their world. Last year, I wasn't sure if I'd be interested in sewing as much, or blogging, but I feel passionate still about both and proud to put this 37 year old face and body on the Internets... and contribute my thing, my world... for I do think our western and mainstream global media has a lot missing... and places like China is seen as mysterious and foreign. I am the foreigner, while living here, and I love learning a new culture and a new perspective on things.

When a new business opens in Shanghai there are these amazing flower arrangements out on the street... dozens of them all around the opening doors... and I feel this week (as I've ordered Veronica Darling business cards and will head to my first market stall on Saturday) like I've opened for business! Happy new beginnings! One Year Here!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Making: All the Fabric Wrapped Buckets Ever

It's Market Day this weekend! Also see my Birthday present!!! David Lynch floating above the world print! Squee!

Have you made anything for a market before? I know lots of lovely creative types who attend the regular handmade markets in Australia... lots of lovely friends with great handmade wares! But I've never really sold my things beyond my etsy shop - now closed - or to friends directly! Until now! I'm involved in this:


The lovely Shanghai Bloggers Society are just the best for networking and Line, the co-founder, has been checking in on me... and we're hosting a dinner together tonight for Bon.App and she mentioned that the Spotlight Festival is looking for vendors, and as I've been making lots of rope bowls lately, I just kept going this last week! A little more hardcore and thanks to She Sews A Lot from Perth/Instagram who suggested trying with fabric wrapped around the rope... I've sewn up most of these with my fabric scraps from this year's creations. I feel very light and free sewing up stashed scraps!

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The children who visit all try the bowls on as hats... and call them buckets! I also love Chooktopia's buckets for succulents, and maybe some of my taller ones will be plant holders too?

I am excited to set up a stall, but more excited because my good friends will join me... and one of the reasons I'm going to the festival... to share the stall and use the day as a bit of an experiment. I love handmade things but do Shanghai regular shopping punters? I want to write up about my friend Rosa's Karobi designs soon... but here's her red sweater that I wore to death in springtime.

So YAY, a little bit of sewing for selling! And now... I've added some pinky scraps (I've sewn about 4 more since these photos) but what other colours would work? More plain yellow ones? I'm not sure.


Here's my original post about the Rope Bowls - and links to tutorials on the web on how to DIY. It's rope and a steady zig zag stitch on your machine! Very relaxing!