Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Making: DIY Christmas Tree


Before it gets too New Years-y around the internet, I thought I’d quickly post my DIY Christmas Tree, made from cardboard boxes, and perfectly petite for our small apartment living.

Being in Shanghai, Christmas is a little Christmassy, but considering that the day is a normal work day some traditions around town are just WESTERN traditions, so while there are Christmas Trees for sale here, they’re the plastic kind or they’re some strange kind of tree that aren’t pine trees, they just look like Christmas Trees do. I’m not sure, but they’re SUPER expensive. SO, throwing my thriftiness around isn’t hard… especially when there’s oodles of cardboard around.

Last year, I made the tree with these same strips of cardboard (groceries can arrive in very stable awesome cardboard boxes that you can return, use or recycle) but don’t think I posted it, and it was strung up with rope from a coat hanger, each piece was tied by threads and it looked like a large mobile … and I tried to do the same thing this year, but obviously you can’t replicate genius - ha - and it wouldn’t hang the same way!

Through the Craft’d Shanghai peeps, we had a DIY stamp kit, and it was so fun drawing up these little pine leaves on the tracing paper and etching out the stamp. I haven’t done lino cutting (as our art teacher called it) for years, so while Felix enjoyed a Mickey Mouse Christmas Movie I cut it out and then he did the stamping …


I used extra green washi tape for securing and while it’s not the greenest, realest, or prettiest tree, it’s certainly unique and was kitschy and quirky for our family for the month. Felix chose where it would go, right in a corridor to the bedrooms from the dining room, and luckily near the powerpoint. Clever cutie, and a good lesson for him about electricity and we probably spent every day together plugging it in and unplugging those lights. 3 years olds are sponges!


Hoping you’re having a relaxing week between the big festival days, again, being in Shanghai it’s so weird to see everything carry on as normal… but equally as strange seeing people’s beach photos on social media while it’s coffee & rugged up in jackets season here!

xoxo Happy New Years Eve to you tomorrow!

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Happy Festivus & Merry Chrimbo!

Happy Holidays!

Wishing you a happy holiday & merry festivus time, from us Darlings in Shanghai! We're zonked out - Husbie has worked nonstop for 6 weeks - and so we've quickly partied ourselves out... enjoying the luxuries of gorgeous friends in this city & the wonderful Internet this weekend. We shared a French family Christmas Eve dinner, exchanging presents with the children... then woke up to any other Friday! In China, this time of year isn't really significant for locals, apart from all the decorations and markets and ironic Santa clad couriers all around town ... (or maybe I'm the only one who think it's ironic) ... but my Husband's company is UK owned, so all the deadlines finished on Christmas Eve like in the western world. YAY

But, as Husbie finally getting a rest and with no family with us in China... it's a bit lonely. Thank goodness for our lovely friends here in Shanghai, it's made being so far away from Mum & Dad that bit better.

So instead of BBQs & salads (like we would be enjoying in Australia), we've eaten Pizza! Japanese! Mashed Potatoes! Instead of family hugs, we've hung out on Skype for hours on end and played with friends at an indoor park (the pollution has been yuck this week too). And instead of Boxing Day Cricket Matches (my Grandma's favourite, Vale Marie) we watched Making a Murderer (Felix watched endless Octonauts) and crashed out on the couch with our sparkling... water. I did drink bubbly on Christmas, cheers to you Mama!

Christmas in China is different, but still a time to find the warmth in my heart and I feel so thankful for the people I have and have known in my life. I'm so happy the pollution cleared and we saw the full moon. Ahhh the world is big and chaotic, and we're so tiny. I love seeing the moon, for we all do and can check in there, no matter where we are.

Thank you as always for reading my lil blog, and I'll leave you with another photo of this Christmas Baby in the Manchurian Restaurant near my house, who always get into the festivals, however creepy and fun, they do a good job:

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Making: How to Add Larger Kimono Sleeves to the Bettine Dress

Today I thought I’d show you how I exaggerated the Bettine Dress sleeve and bodice to put a summery twist on this Tilly & the Buttons Pattern! You might remember this dress I made for wearing to the ever gorgeous & lovely October wedding… it was a cool light (maybe pretend) linen fabric and super soft for the warm sunny weather back in Australia. When I posted the sleeves on Instagram, Abigail asked to see the pattern pieces, so here we go with my behind the scenes photo series!

I loved sewing my first Tilly & the Buttons Bettine Dress over summer, it was very light in some rayon cotton fabric and comfortable on those hot days here in Shanghai. (I miss them so, it’s freezing right now!) And after picking up this very light linen (for the above dress) at the local fabric market, I just wanted something that wouldn’t be a full on kaftan but kinda like a kaftan. These gigantic purple & red flowers are just the best, and I didn’t want to cut them up!

So, onto some 'How To' DIY ideas... please let me know if you need more information anywhere... typing this at the hair salon, so don't have the pattern pieces in front of me! Here's the two pieces loosely placed over each other... the bottom piece is the new kimono-sleeved piece and you can see where I just wiggled the 'around about here' length, but I think I made it a little longer just in case.

Firstly, I got my existing front bodice piece of the Bettine Dress pattern (I traced all my pieces for this one)… and traced the shoulder, the existing neckline and the centre fold. In my mind, I wanted to sleeves to be around my elbow, and so I then continued that shoulder seam line out further and on the same angle… you can see all the measurements and shapes in the photos…

I should point out that my Bettine Dress bodice has a little shape as I graded up at the bust... so you can see the original side seam in pencil, but my changes is my actual cut out curve of the underarm...

My ruler is in centimetres btw! So you can see the exaggerated sleeve, the dropped underarm curve that's closer to the waistseam (which in the original Bettine is then elasticised so isn't the true waistseam)... and it was the underarm curve that made it a bit trickier… but it came up ok for me. So the ’T’ shape is more a thick horizontal rectangle… Mushroom shape instead of a T shape? More mushroom and less stem?

I added waist ties into the side seams a few inches lower than the original waistseam too... meaning that when I tied the ties around my middle it came up a more and created the floatier loose overhang (what can we call that?) upper gathers/paper bag scrunched look... (please don't send me to fashion school, terminology is not my strong point! HA!)

So I just made sure in my changes that the back and front pieces match up at the shoulder seams, but considering that the only difference between the front and back pieces in the Bettine dress is the neckline (it's a loose fitting top) it wasn't that tricky. But play around (with cheap drapey fabric) and see what you get!

I tested out tying the ties wrapped around my front first or my back first... it looks way smoother on my bottom/waist tying across the front first. I would tie the ties, and then pull little pieces of the dress out around the waist to see how it hangs best.

Anyways, let me know if you try it, and yay for a little exaggeration on a straightforward pattern!

Monday, 7 December 2015

Wearing: A Winter Grace Kelly in Sneakers AKA Personal Style a-Changing

As a non-style blogger, I came about thinking of personal style this past month … as like a lot of sewing bloggers, I really enjoyed Bimble & Pimble’s Sewing Themed Photo a Day Instagram Posts… called ‘bpsewvember’ … and after posting a day on the subject of ‘Style’, I just started thinking and thinking of this self expression and where I sat with it right now.

In my wardrobe these days I’ve built up loads of colour on top of my usual black base… and last week (especially these photos) I’ve started to feel a little Grace Kelly in Sneakers. SHOCK. Would she EVEN wear sneakers, she’d deffo do shorts and slacks… but Skechers? No. Yellow Skechers? Definitely not!

But I love the stripes and capes and flick of the hair. I even wore stud earrings pretending they were pearls. I felt great with this everyday style.

I know this is not consistent though, Grace Kelly in Sneakers is just a quick and satisfying look for a couple of days. I’ll start to feel too Mummy (not with these Skechers though) soon, and wear a mini skirt. I’m just so moody with dressing up, I can’t find a consistent style for me.

Is that my current style? Inconsistent, but colourful modern vintage? Being in a city with so many modern feels and vintage throwback (Shanghai has a huge deco influence in places) can adjust style. I don’t really embrace my vintage pin curls as much here in Shanghai… it’s so easy & cheap to get a blow dry at my local hairdressers… but when I do pin curl, I feel most myself and individual. But it feels ridiculous wearing sneakers with pin curls!

How do you feel about changing your style… ? Personal style is so… personal. Right? I know I’m lacking in winter boots, so when I get those, things will just go right out the window! (And as I post this, I *did* get some boots. Gold Boots. G.O.L.D! So we’ll totally see where my personal style is headed soon… so yes, I’m a-changing again!)


Friday, 4 December 2015

Made in China: Lanehouse Apparel

Today, I’m so happy to show you this Shanghai design group: Lanehouse Apparel! When I was mucking around on instagram late last year I did heaps of Shanghai based searching, and found the Lanehouse Apparel insta feed! Early this year, I saw some people wearing the ‘HAI’ hats around town and I was like: SO GOOD. And it wasn’t until the Spotlight Market I went to in September that I got to meet Jussara & Shauna and pretty much jumped up and down with happiness because they’re awesome people with a great strong look brand. Before I leave Shanghai, I plan to fill my suitcases, because the street style is very Shanghai, the simplicity of their design is classic but modern and frankly, I need to get a little more street. I do wear yellow Skechers after all. And gold laced Nikes occasionally. I could wear a cap too right?!

HAHA, so in following along my Made in China blog post series, where I have a little question & answer back and forth about great design, made in China, without the stereotypical plastic vibe (Have you noticed your Christmas Decorations at the shops this year at all?)… it’s all about original, new and Made in China, and (hopefully) something that YOU may not have seen before. Today you’ll hear from Jussara Bierman (below, left) who runs Lanehouse Apparel along with Shauna Upton:

How did Lanehouse Apparel begin?

Lanehouse Apparel began out of frustration of not being able to find any quality Shanghai clothing and accessories to gift to friends back home. I wanted to created a range of clothing that mapped out Shanghai’s former French Concession, and from there our initial range was designed. Adrian provided the backing to get the range started, and Shauna and I have driven the vision and style of the brand, and created our online and physical presence.

What was your first piece of clothing or hat?

Our first piece of clothing was a t-shirt. I had designed a (former) French Concession crest that we placed on the t-shirt, and from there the other items grew.

Where do you get your inspiration? Materials? Fashion trends?

As a Kiwi, New Zealand is in opposite seasons to China so I watch trends there closely to see what might be popular for Shanghai’s coming season. Some items haven’t been as popular here as they are in NZ (e.g. 5-panel hats) but I believe this is largely due to a gap in local the streetwear/urban-wear market in Shanghai and lack of uptake of trends in these clothing styles.

How do you settle on style, or vibe, of your collection, it’s such a true look, in my opinion!

As a small brand, money is always a key issue. Because we are self funding, we need to be fairly sure that the items we end up producing are items that will sell. Initially I will create a theme (e.g. The French Concession, The Hai’Life) and design a full range of items, then ask friends and online fans to give us feedback on the mock-ups. This gives us a good guide to the styles of clothing and hats, and which designs will (hopefully) sell. Usually, the most simple of designs are the most popular - we have a lot of cool designs that will never see the light of day!

I love your photos, especially on instagram! They're very fun! How do you style them and put them together?

We are keen to have as much user generated contented as possible on our Instagram and Facebook accounts. Our brand is about building the story of life in Shanghai, and much of this is about the people you meet during your time here. We have recently launched our online magazine, “The Hai Flyer” to further tell these stories and give other expats a platform in which to launch their experiences, style, and loves (or frustrations) of living in Shanghai.

(I especially love Shauna's piece in the Hai Flyer '10 Things You Realise After Moving to Shanghai'.)

Jussara, I have a passion to learn where creativity comes from... Do you feel creative? Where does creativity come from? HELP ME (ha ha)

I’d like to think I have always been creative. I started my own graphic design business (now branding agency) whilst studying Architecture at University. I love to draw (not that I get much time to do that living in Shanghai) and now design clothing - not something I ever thought I’d get the chance to do!

Where are you selling your gear? And outside of China?

We sell mainly online or via WeChat, to customers mostly within China. We have learnt the hard way that it is very expensive to ship individual packages outside of China, often losing money to do so. We’d like to build our presence here and open a store on Taobao & WeChat, trying to keep the brand as “foreign” as possible. Our next step is to find retail stockists to continue to build our footprint.

THIS WEEK, Lanehouse Apparel have just started selling on Asos as well, congrats guys!

What are the popular items?

We sell a lot of hats - we sold out of our “Originals” beanie, and have limited numbers left on our Shanghai and Hai’Life snapbacks left. The grey “Originals” sweatshirt has also been extremely popular.

What are your day jobs, how do you spend your time and make a buck?

Shauna and I both work for an independent PR agency, so we have learnt a lot about building a brand in Shanghai!

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?

I definitely think China’s quality of production has improved tenfolds (this is somewhat reflected in the higher costs we face). There are a lot of young Chinese entrepreneurs and designers sprouting up who are creating innovative and beautifully designed products - they just need the platforms to promote and be seen/heard on.

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

I’m from Auckland, New Zealand and have been living in Shanghai for almost 4-years. My initial arrival in Shanghai was not a fond memory as I felt overwhelmingly lonely and isolated - I had travelled to China numerous times before I moved here, but nothing could prepare me for being in a non-English speaking city on my own.

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

I believe the pace of life in Shanghai is unmatched. Nowhere have I been yet that has the same vibrancy and life, nor the same feeling of safety (being a younger female). I’m not enjoying the current cold and gloomy weather right now however! From a business perspective, it would be very hard to produce and sell clothing like we can here anywhere else in the world.

Shanghai is a vibrant and safe place to be, and so many inspiring people! Thank you Jussara for sharing the Lanehouse Apparel story with us! I’m always excited to see you in my Instagram feed, and wish you guys a happy winter! BRRRR!

If you’re in Shanghai or China, and have a small business involving art, design, fashion and anything about (my beloved) DIY… please get in touch… and let me know!


Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Talking: Self Publishing Basics in Shanghai

Lately, I've been doing a lot of talking (not uncommon!) but in particular ... about self promotion, personal online presence, blogging, social media. And I've been invited to do some group talks and workshops around Shanghai. If you've been reading my blog for a long while, I've often just left my writing here to be about some personal stuff but always sewing and creating stuff. I don't see myself being a 'ALL IN' or 'MY WHOLE LIFE' kind of blogger, but rather someone who loves the digital space, and appreciating the slow craft of sewing and how it's helped me find my true writing voice.

Reflecting on writing here and self publishing somewhat regularly for 8 years, or so, is a hard task for me... I am very outgoing and have flashes of shyness so sometimes being truly person here on the blog doesn't come as easily as saying how much I love floral fabrics or shopping at the market for supplies. But, of course, when I'm not sewing much and doing other things, it's hard to write about sewing and I have SO many things to tell you about right now, about our lives in Shanghai... so for a while maybe I am turning to personal passions and stories from my life here.

So, that's what I've been doing, helping people gather up their toolkits and their writing skills and get online to capture their world here... I've been talking about HOW you can self publish: write a blog, get on instagram... write & share thoughts on twitter... all that stuff. We've had lots of discussions here and there about basic social media and blogging that I look at my blog here and I'm doing ALL the things I say not to do. I AM currently typing this in the CMS and not in Evernote... I have suggested to some new bloggers to write outside of the content management system, as it helps the writing flow rather than "I have to write this quickly and press Publish right away!!!!".

Anyways, just letting you know that I'm still here! And YES I will update my 'About Me' page soon, and YES I'd like to publish about 3 of those blog posts I have saved in the drafts folder. YES, I have stuff to say about Sewing School recently! YES I love reading your comments, and YES, I have read your blog post, but haven't left a comment. Building, engaging a community, sharing stories... etc etc etc... so much of the basics lends itself to marketing... but from my personal career (which has its strong base in storytelling instead of 'selling stories') I just don't know the buzzwords or the marketing terms.

So, if you want to see what I'm doing day-to-day, follow on Instagram! I'm keeping very busy there, so if you prefer slow paced blog posts, stay here, but if you're missing my little face, follow over there AND here! Hee hee!

Hope you're keeping well anyways! Love from Shanghai!

Dongmen Lu Fabric Market

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