Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Voila: The Lilly Dress in Gingham

Hey, I made a dress! Yes, I have returned officially as a sewing blogger, because it is a sewing project for just me!

AND it's a LILLY DRESS by Katie at Orange Stitches.

Lately, I've been hanging around on twitter while my boy goes to sleep. I know there are various ways to help or not help your child to sleep, so I just hang out with him with my phone brightness down low and 'read my book' (as I tell him) which is actually reading twitter. Ginger Makes had a little note, 'Can anyone pattern test for Katie!?' and as I'm in a 'joining in' vibe now I'm back blogging & sewing... here I am with a Lilly Dress... and it's my first time at pattern testing. Voila!

Katie describes the frock as a dress you can wear running around the house or running errands, and then something you can make it look a bit more special later on if you go out for drinks ... and we all need those kind of dresses! The gingham for me makes it a little more House Dress-like, and I wanted it shorter for that "day dress easy switch to night dress" (That's a thing right, day/night outfits?) because I love my pins.

Katie sent me the pattern pdf and instructions, and it's an easy one to piece together as there's only 3 pattern pieces and I decided to trace to paper this time and there was no confusion for me as to how to piece it together. I have only done about 5 or 6 pdf patterns, so I'm kinda beginner on this... I haven't made up my mind if I like the pdf patterns or not... I would like to find a place in Shanghai who can print off the entire pattern sheet because Kazz the Spazz told me once this is a quicker way to get it done.

ANYWAYS! All three pattern pieces are on the fold and you gotta love that with a long piece of fabric, I had 2 metres, ("liang mi" in Chinese) so made the skirts shorter (remember, I need to show my pins) and it all fitted on there fine, with enough space for bias tape as well.

Katie's instructions were very clear and she provides photographs along the way, so really, this pattern is superb if you're just starting out sewing and need a bit of step by step stuff. If my life didn't have a 2 year old in it (shock, I would cry first) and I didn't live in this crazy place, I'd prob have sewn in 3-4 hours MAX... But I'm not going to pretend, it took all week and I have to sew in 20 minutes blocks, just because life is so busy. Plus I want to watch House of Cards with Husbie, so 20 minutes - 40 minutes by myself a day is sometimes all I get.

But, I did take care with the insides and so I did take a little more time, because I want to take photos of my seams and neatness ... a goal of mine to be a little tidier on the inside now that I'm going to Sewing School! All neck holes and arm holes are bias binded, and I used my beautiful new neat way of making bias tape that Teacher Muriel taught me... and you'll see the easy peasy elastic casing at the back that Katie talks you through as well.

For me, maybe because I have to take so many breaks with sewing and I got a little muddled, the front seam and the back elastic casing didn't match up, so I turned a quick little bust dart on either side, and it balanced out fine, making the bodice have a little more shape, but it is a little roomy still. I sewed a size Medium, I actually think I'm a small in Katie's sizing. But it is tricky when my measurements are so petite but busty.

The shape of the skirt is my favourite. So cute!

Because I used this type of cotton (which I thought was light) it is a little boxy in the front bodice...  but next time I will use even lighter and flowy fabrics, and maybe that will lighten it up around my bust...

This version is sweet enough, but I don't think it suits my shape... the skirt part is cute but the shoulders and front part is boxy with my large bust. And yes, now I've taken the photos and look at them again, I think my sizing would be better if I did the size down... so the small... oh well, it's still a great dress and now my friend can enjoy it (I hate tailoring down sizes once the garment is done!) so that's a plus!

And WHAT the fucko am I doing with my phone? Using it as a freaking remote control for the camera! I laughed sooooooo much when I connected it... I got a Panasonic Lumix again here in Shanghai, and the newer versions have this wifi connection... I am so impressed and even though it always took 3 photos in the auto timer setting, now I can pretend I'm a fashion blogger with the remote! You can even see yourself on the phone screen to make sure you're all in shot. THE FUTURE.

OK, so that's it for now, sorry for my SUPER overuse of photos in this post, but you can tell, I'm excited to sew, excited to photog the dress, and very excited to finally pattern test for someone lovely and awesome like Katie. My disclosure (I've seen people write this): she did send me the pattern for free, but I bought my own fabric and wrote my own words with my own hands. AND I said she was lovely and awesome, entirely on my own free will. 

Ok, see you again soon you bunch of legends!


Monday, 30 March 2015

Made in China: Basmat & Chris Chang Collab

Hi guys! I'm really excited to show you my first ‘Made in China’ creative blog post, it's a combined fashion & art launch in Shanghai! Thanks so much for your chit chat last week about the idea, and so here's a very true example of something creative from Shanghai, that you wouldn't expect from China. I was completely giddy (I have been about most ‘grown up’ things in Shanghai, being with a 2 year old mostly all day can do that, plus it’s an extraordinary city) to be invited and spent all evening smiling my head off.

This is my first official fashion launch, and guess what? I have no idea how to write a review of fashion, so I’ll just tell you about it my way. Oh well! Also feel free to point out anything I may have missed… I don’t really know my high end fashion designers so can't do a 'it's kinda like...' 'you can see their inspiration from ... ', but I can show you all my photos, and there’s heaps of clothing photos and COLOUR (woot woot!)! But yes, be warned, there are plenty of photos! 

Look at that pink flower on the green... LUSH.

Now about the artists...

Basmat Levin is a NYC Israeli artist, living in Shanghai, and we met back in October, as our husbands work together. She is so lovely with rich conversations, and when I heard she was doing a collaboration with a fashion designer, I was so intrigued. She mainly creates very large portraits, but there is a great collection of her patterned pieces, some that could be amazing wallpaper or tiles. She has been the muse for designer Chris Chang who trained at the Parsons School of Design (!) and was leading Prada in Taiwan before launching her own clothing label Poesia, for children initially, but now women. And their work together is just very rich and full of personality! Right?

Here's my date Michell with Basmat, and me too!

 And Michell with Chris Chang inside the shop, and me too!!!

And you can see Chris' childrenswear hanging to the right of the photo too! We gushed a little about kids! I'm wearing a handmade (by who else, but me) dress, and it's probably the only lovely dress I brought with me to Shanghai... it was a vintage curtain and part of my Sew Weekly designer challenge in 2011... and I've got to start sewing some more cocktail frocks in case I get invited out more, because I got nothing else in my wardrobe right now!!!

Michell and I marvelled a lot at the colours, and everything felt very luxurious. China LOVES luxury brands... or at least lots of Shanghai shopping centres reflect this. Because it's a communist country though, I have to wonder about who is buying the luxury fashion... but from this launch plenty of women were trying on the clothes!

Seeing all the Poesia collections, I don’t know how to describe the style, but it’s very pop art and full of the big dramatic shapes I see around in Shanghai. Tailored dresses then exaggerate at the hips for skirts and dresses…. or very cocoony and rounded for jackets and tops. Stuff I don’t think suits me with my boobs and hips doing that for me… but who knows. I want to mix up my wardrobe and style a bit while I’m in Shanghai anyways. But other pieces from the other Poesia collections are really interesting, with subdued colours, and less pop craziness.

So, the LOUDness of this Basmat collection is just so unique.

We are so little! Look at the woman to the left, with her massive key outfit!

But from the other collections, this was my favourite... a fitted dress with these wonderfully vintage Chinese woman... just so delicate but strong:

Some fabrics were thick, like scuba or some quilted feels... but others were really gentle and lined to be completely tailored and shaped. There are a lot of drop shoulders and puffy sleeves, and peplums! Peplums are very fashionable for Chinese woman, for many fashionistas are slight and they love the exaggerated curves!

We enjoyed drinks, and conversations with friends and opened our gifts, which are gorgeous Basmat & Chris Chang scarves… Basmat always has a headscarf or an updo, so I feel very artistic wearing mine!

What do you think of all the colour!!!??? Too much, or very exciting?

Already, I can tell this ‘Made in China: creative insights into Shanghai’ series will be just so inspiring, for me, and I’m sure for you. I don’t think we hear about China & it’s modern culture in western media that much. There’s a lot of mystery about it, but I didn’t get much perspective of what the art & fashion scene in China would be like from Australia. From the sewing community out of Asia, Adey’s blog was my only go-to read… maybe I hadn’t researched enough sewing bloggers in this area and it’s hard not speaking or reading Mandarin. But when you think about it… so much of the clothing industry comes from here. I’m not that savvy on Chinese designers, or artists, and so I’m really excited by everything that’s happening here in Shanghai!

And VERY much look forward to bringing you guys some more inspiration!

Talk soon, xoxo

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Sewing School Scoop - Volume 1

Hi and welcome to my Sewing School Scoop blog post! If you hadn't seen I started my first ever sewing course here in Shanghai, through a gorgeous sewing & design collective called Couture Nomad, set up & run by a wonderful bunch of expat women living through Asia! I got to meet Catherine, the founder, this week as I've joined Teacher Muriel's Wednesday class as it's closer to my house. Only a 10 minute bike ride, instead of a 20 minute taxi ride! YAY!

So I thought with my sewing scoop posts, I'll highlight some 'A-ha moments'... because what I'm finding now after 3 classes, it's stuff like "OH THAT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE"... because for years I've been sewing and cutting and dreaming without techniques to help... so now I'm picking up those finer tuned ideas about sewing. I've found short cuts, neater & tidier ways to create things, already. PLUS, check out that smocking above... did you guys realise how easy as all hell that elastic is to sew with? I DID NOT KNOW THIS.

Ok, so onto my scoop notes:

Bias Binding is quite quick and exact if you use the ruler! I've NEVER used a ruler before with sewing (I did buy a curved one once, but didn't really use it - it's in storage somewhere)! Teacher Muriel has just a really basic and long sewing ruler, and I even used the pencil to mark the 'wrong side' of the fabric. I never use pencils or things. I just use my eyes. And that is why, my friends, my garments are off grain. And often uneven. So pencils, rulers... pin magnet collection thing. I have a very long Shopping List!

I learnt that you cut a square (very evenly measured!), fold in half to make a triangle, press... and then trace your lines and CUT the bias from the folded edge first. Oh and pin the shit out of it if you need to. That way the fabric won't lose it's shape or get off grain. WOW #learningshit to the max. I might have read this somewhere in a 'cut your own bias binding' tutorial, but learning these things from Muriel just helps understand it all!

Manual sewing machines are easy but hard and heaps diffo from the automatic ones. You actually re-learn how sewing works! I did the bobbin tension thing myself here:

My bindings have always been a bit rough, but I don't like facings. Yay for learning bias binding properly! I was also wrapped to see Coletterie's blog post this week (however they show you knit bindings ideas, not woven), because, in Sewing Class I was doing the same thing! For some sample collars, I finally worked out that cutting slits for the curve encourage the binding... and then some different topstitch or handstitch securing ways:

The hand stitching cross over thingie is perfect for when you don't want a topstitch to take away from your print I reckon! My test fabric is pretty funny, just some cheap cotton from my local fabric store (I am so happy to finally find a little shop front in my neighbourhood!) it says 'Frapbois'. I have no idea what that means, but we had to bring something with an obvious front and back.

So then onto yesterday's class, to try my first sewing pattern with the group... I wanted to make a girl's dress (a friend of ours turns 3 this weekend) with my red gingham... and first was to get that stretchy thin elastic to the bobbin & into the bobbin holder thingie!

It was weird at first threading the little bobbin, but I had to help it a lot ... what's that called... to "load the bobbin with elastic"? But once I got in all 'loaded' and then 'loaded' again into the bobbin holder, I was like. I AM AMAZING. Getting stuff right with the manual machine is just so rewarding. It works! And then I quickly did a test of the elastic/smocking thing and it was just so straightforward.

Of course, you have to leave the ends long (I snipped my first attempt) because you pull the thread through to the underside and then just tie thread & elastic together to secure it... but my other 'revelation/mind fuck' moment was when Muriel said you sew this smocking in a big spiral around the tube of the dress... I thought you had to do a row of elastic/thread on the flat fabric, then sew the side seams... and was worried about the overlocker cutting the elastic and it breaking... this may have happened to me a few times before!

But, you just sew the sides, and sew around and around (on the right side!) until you get the width of smocking you'd like! AMAZING

Oh and before I did the side seams, Catherine showed me the really LOVELY curved ruler, to get a nice hem, rather than just a boxy skirt:

Just a little curve on the hem (as it's curved, I turned it under just a little, then again just a little... like less that 1cm ... to get a nice flat top stitch)

And so, my first little dress from Sewing School And my first 'Inside Shot' as now I'm committed to making things look neat inside & out!

It will be just gorgeous on her... she's Australian Mexican, but her dad is European-Australian... they speak English (with an Australian drawl!), Chinese & Spanish. I think the red will be beautiful for summertime!

Have you tried smocking or sewing with elastic before? I'm now thinking I'll use this technique for the top of my boy's trousers for summer... it's so light and comfy rather than just one elastic band... I wonder what it'll look like for a beach dress for me? Maybe I'll try one too.

So my sewing school scoop is probably quite simple for some of you experienced sewing pals... but for me, even after so many years of sewing solo, it just really helps having guidance face to face. I love it! Now I have Mandarin Class & Sewing School, I think my week is pretty set! (And some cocktails planned for tomorrow! ADULT TIME FTW)

Now I have to stress about what to wear to cocktails, I have a red H&M dress up my sleeve, but hoping I can finish a new dress in time!

Hope you're having a great week! And totally appreciate all your comments on my 'Made in China' post!


Monday, 23 March 2015

Made in China: A Creative Series

Hey! How was the weekend!?

Today, I wanna talk about this blog, and maybe some areas where I’d like to take the blog… AND see what you think!

I’m brimming with blog content ideas, and I’m trying not to bombard you with too many too soon (and at the same time try to set up my blog as having regular posts again)… but one thing I’ve noted after being in Shanghai for a short and quick 6 months: There is just SO much creativity and so much create-ing in this town. In the English speaking world, I am overwhelmed, and I’m only seeing these amazing glimpses in the local and (tricky for me, but maybe one day) Chinese speaking Shanghai art & fashion scene. 

So, as I started to plan my sewing projects and to ‘get back’ my sewjo mojo and body love (to make my own clothes & feel happy!) … I have started to also say ‘YES’ to all things, and because I’m not working my usual radio job here in China … I also have the independence and time. For the first time in my life perhaps… to do whatever I want to do.

And I guess, with publishing & choosing blog post content, what do you think about this? Some sewing makes & pattern reviews, & fabric market tours  … of course, I am sewing again and want to show my hand made things (because I will need your feedback on fit issues, and perhaps colour & fabric choices. I have lots of worries now that I’m outside of my vintage/second hand fabric & pattern comfort zone! I’ll show you what I’m talking about soon!) … (back on track! Train of thought is so busy!) So, I’d like to see if YOU’d like to see some of the things in the art/fashion/creative world here in Shanghai? 

Some of the things will be fashion (my first post will be all my photos from a Collection Launch from an established artist - a painter - and a Chinese fashion designer collaboration that I was invited to last week) and maybe design and maybe ethical & local fashion designers… or maybe ethical & sustainable fabrics from China (my big puzzle at the moment and how I’d like to be sewing eventually… as I create my slow fashion world) … 

Obviously, I’m getting more and more excited by being a sewing blogger again… but just wanted to check in with you… 

Have you been reading my blog for a long or short while? What are your favourite blog posts from me? 

Are there sewing bloggers you love, and I don’t read? Please share!

What is the best thing about reading straight up sewing blogs? What's missing from the sewing blog world?

You totally can tell me anything, or nothing, I do love hearing from you… if you’re not into comments, please email veronicadarling @ gmail . com … remove the spaces (if there’s still spammers or whatevers) … as some of you lovely readers have over the years! 

At the moment, I’m just so happy thinking and sewing and writing and instagramming and I want to pique your interest from time to time… I’ve been blogging for a LONG time now, so it seems. So nothing too crazy will happen and anything I do here on the blog, you’ll hear about it long before it does happen. Like eventually I will set up my veronicadarling.com instead of the blogspot address. Because I did get that registered in 2011. 

*breathing deeply* Because now I have time to do some things just for me again.

After a little drunken chit chat here and there at the fashion launch, I thought about how oftentimes in the western world we think of things that are "Made in China" as being low quality or not as good as local made products (wherever you are in the world, we love locally made stuff, right?) and so I was thinking... we are in China now... there has GOT to be some wonderful & unique things that are 'Made in China'... I will be looking more about fashion, DIY, art, culture and design more than iPhones... and try to get off stereotypes! And so...

My first "Made in China" blog post is accompanied by photos here that are taken on my camera, by a then 4 (almost 5 year old) called Freyja! We’ve met her family here in Shanghai, through friends in Sydney, as they just moved a month or so before us. Freyja’s mum is Olivia Martin-Mcguire, a photographer, and my new Shanghai friend and blogs here.

(photos by Freyja in Shanghai, Aged 4)

*** just a quick note, now I'm about to publish, I'm a bit nervous 'deciding' things for the blog now that I've written all the above. I know you won't mind, and I know it's just me being silly. I keep thinking 'What Do I Know?' I'm just some dickhead who is fine about posting gawky photos of herself, but writing real heart felt passion blogpots, makes me itchy & self aware. ***

(And then you know what, I am passionate about stuff like this, so I can do whatever, right?!)

Love to you and have a great week!!!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Scenes from Shanghai: When We Arrived

We arrived in Shanghai in mid September last year, when all the trees still had their leaves and created this umbrella canopy for us to walk the streets without the sun glare... as it was still very hot. A few days were hot and steamy with a bit of rain.

These freaking trees made me so happy. I had thought and tried to prepare myself that Shanghai was a busy concrete jungle... so I was taking so many photos of the trees when we walked around. WOW! Through the Former French Concession part (and even extending to many other parts of Shanghai) you'll see these trees. I *love* them. Sometimes it feels like a street in Europe, or a quite countryside town instead of a gigantic metropolis. Really.

I had to show you my boy Felix's first taste of the excited Chinese tourists as well... most Shanghai Locals are used to westerners, but we spent Golden Week in town so lots of Chinese tourists were holidaying here too. And he just got so much attention with his super white skin and blonde locks.

'Scenes from Shanghai' will be my weekly blog post about our new home, and I'm loving your notes & comments, so thank you! Any places you wanna see, or any kinda parts of Chinese life, let me know. I have taken SO MANY photos in the last 6 months, as you can imagine, so I'll group together some for you over the next few months.

Have you been to China? Or planning a trip?

I had never been to China before moving here. I am still quite taken aback that this time last year, we were just living our lives in West Footscray without any idea we'd be here now. Every day we're here, I say to myself 'LIVIN'. It's so hard sometimes, but we're really living our lives.

EEP *gulp* WOW.

Dongmen Lu Fabric Market

Happy Wednesday! Time to get some fabric inspiration from the Dongmen Lu Fabric Market here in Shanghai! Can't believe how quickly 201...