Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Scenes from Shanghai: Yellow Colours

My last Scenes from Shanghai post was about the red colours, and it seems apt to keep my People's Colours going, and showcase yellow (as the nation's flag is red and yellow!) because there are great yellows around town and even more if you're a two year old who can spot the bright colours!

You can probably gather by now that I'm taking a LOT of photographs of our time here, and talking to a few people recently about our time here, I have started to really think that what I create here (through the blog and sewing) will be just such a brilliant archive and a storybook of our lives. I forget that I've done this here, and I forget that I've blogged for so long without really see that in 20 years I can (hopefully) look back on all this ... I forget that this is a web-log. This whole internet thing just comes so naturally to everyone these days, it's such an extension of our lives.

Anyways, hope you enjoy a brightness from this collection of photies this week... I'm certainly dwelling on the compassion of so many in our world, and the lack of it in particular countries and groups of people. I'll also be sending some donations toward the people of Nepal. Oh! Wishing you all well and hug your loved ones tight. xoxo

Monday, 27 April 2015

Spring for Cotton: Sassy Wallpaper Dress

Yippee, I've sprung into action and joined in with the Spring for Cotton Group Sewing Challenge this month. It's my first time in the same climate, northern hemisphere for one of Rochelle at Lucky Lucille's sewalong. When I lived in Australia, I felt at odds sewing for the opposite seasons, I was all spring for the Sew Weekly, while everyone up north did the fall colour palates! NOW I'm in Shanghai, I'm all for it! I'm enjoying the blossoms and the newness and really can see it's a beautiful season and there's such an awakening that's so different from Melbourne's spring. Just everything is really coming alive.

So the Spring for Cotton group challenge is about sewing a vintage pattern paired with cotton fabric, and I'd stumbled upon a huge collection of cotton at the Fabric Market so chose this wallpaper-like print because it looked a little art deco to me AND Shanghai has lots of art deco or 1930s influences around town.

For a second, I didn't think I had any vintage patterns with me so was wondering if I'd have to draft something, but then remembered I'd bought a couple of new (to me) patterns from the op shop in Brisbane in March when we'd quickly visited family. And it hadn't even been cut! W o W!
I *almost* changed my mind on this pattern at the last minute... just because all the #TeamCulottes were floating around in my instagramz and bloglovin' reader this part month... and while at 4 foot 11 (150cm) I am not on Team Culotte's sadly, I am on Team Palazzo (if there is such a team) because even short girls can pull that off (in my opinion of course!). And then I thought I could sew this wallpaper fabric into palazzo pants instead... but I don't have a pattern yet. By Hand London's Holly was on the way and just arrived yesterday, so watch this space!

But considering there were lots of this fabric, and other colours at the fabric market, I can always go back for some more once I get into Team Palazzo! The fabric has a lovely drape for cotton, and a nice bit of stretch on the diagonal, so don't know if that makes it 100% cotton, but I had no extra info from the fabric market lady. But, it makes this 1970s dress pattern give proper credit to the earlier part of the 20th century, I reckon!

The fabric was pretty straightforward, but I made LOTS of pattern changes to this vintage Simplicity 6086!!

First up, I wanted the dress shape, especially the bodice gathers, but not the buttons! I AM wanting to learn new techniques this year, and you might not realise but I ALWAYS opt out of the trickier techniques. I'll get to them eventually, but I wanted a dress I could wear STRAIGHT away (it's MMM coming up soon!) so going for my old gusto sewing here. Instead of the buttons, I put all pattern pieces on the fold ignoring the overlapped flap (there was indication on the pattern pieces which bit was the button line, so followed that) and carefully matched the wallpaper as best I could, and quite happy with the pattern matching here along the front line!

Because I didn't do buttons, I had to add a side zipper (very invisible!) to keep the lovely shape of the back bodice piece. Pretty much, because of the pattern matching, I cut each pattern piece at a time, instead of just chuck all of them on the fabric at once and cut... so I put it together very easily, all before cutting the sleeves. Even though I cut a little larger than the 34 bust size (I'm now a 36 I think - it changes!) it is pretty loose fitting but I couldn't take up the shoulder seams because they're those over the shoulder/collar bone sitting gathered ones... which aren't actually *that* gathered in this pattern. Next time I'm going to make this a lot more noticable.

And THEN: I ummed and ahhed about the sleeves.

Talked about it on twitter, slept on it, and then decided to created my own sleeve using Slash n Spread and I used these instructions as a guide but followed the original patterns sleeve line:


Very happy with the floppy sleeves! They move around like the skirt hem, however next time I will slice a bit off the back bodice to make them sit up on the shoulder a little more... as my shoulders look a little wide in the photo above! AND because I made the front pattern pieces on the fold instead of with buttons, the facing provided wouldn't work, so I followed this V Neck facing/bias binding approach instead. And it could sit flatter and less loosey goosey, but it kinda suits the whole dress that has a fluttery look so why fix it!?

Yay, my Spring for Cotton is a Sassy Wallpaper Dress made in Shanghai!

We were on our way out for dinner last night when we stopped for the last rays of light along Huashan Lu, so Husbie was able to take these gorgeous photos. OUTSIDE of the apartment for once!

Thanks Rochelle for a lovely sewing challenge!


Saturday, 25 April 2015

Voila: Kids Clothing Week 2015

This week is Kid's Clothes Week and I've seen So Zo post about it before, so I thought I'd join in... because I'm on a "Joining In!" vibe, and looking for the motivational deadlines for sewing... but I didn't take note of the theme 'Wild Things' because I live in China and I'm working with what I've got at home and usually refashioning for my kids stuff anyways, because #sustainability & #slowfashion where I can.  These trousers could be zebra-esque though?

They are refashioned from Husbie's tshirt, a thick top from Uniqlo that became a smidge too tight after a wash, and I followed a pattern from an existing pair of trousers that were hideously stained. This kid can find the dirt! But dirt in China is not hard to find, having said that... it's clean where it needs to be clean here in Shanghai, but where it's dirty it's horrid and perfect for child snooping. So Felix is dirty a LOT and hence why I'm not particularly fussed what fabric I use for him! I took photos while I made this pair of drop crotch stripey trousers, so might post a 'How To' on them... 

But this week at Sewing School, I also created these trousers... which are the Hanoi Trousers from Couture Nomad's pattern collection (My head teacher of Sewing School creates all the patterns for class, and they're available for pdf online).

They were lovely to sew up, it's a nice light cotton gingham, from my local fabric shop, and I have enough for a gathered skirt or something. The patterns are extremely straight forward for our classes, and they match what we're learning at a good speed... this was helpful for my tracing skills (I forgot the add seam allowance and waist band) and for the casing & elastic that I'd been learning this week. These trousers are a little long, so I've rolled them up for him to wear now... I also adjusted the elastic to fit him too. 

And lastly, I resized one of my tshirts for him as well... A DJ Snorlax original tshirt (from my radio show producing days)... I have no idea why they were made...  I think it had something to do with Alex from the breakfast show needing a DJ name very quickly for an event, and so it was created:

And now refashioned for a two year old DJ Snorlax!

Have you been sewing for children this week? Do you sew for children even if you don't have any? I did a bit before I had Felix... but now I think it's much harder to get the fit right than I realised before... they're all such different shapes!

The Kid's Clothes Week is about sewing one hour every day for your child, but I didn't really stick to it, especially since I had a whole 3 hours on Wednesday at Sewing School that was luxurious to sew. I can't keep structured days at the moment, while I'm not working in Shanghai, our boy does go to a little kindergarten/nursery place only three mornings a week and we have a part time housekeeper so I find we're just very unpredictable with our outings as a family, and what we do in down time, and then all the admin type domestic stuff too... I haven't found a regular rhythm with all that stuff yet... so we just do whatever whenever... and that includes sewing too. Sometimes if my Husbie is home I get to sew while he does reading and sleepy time with our boy... but I love all the unpredictable-ness of our lives right now... everything feels really spontaneous and I love going with the flow!


Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Voila: The Manado Dress by Couture Nomad

Since I’ve started my Sewing School with the Couture Nomad group in Shanghai, I’ve been sewing almost everyday and making at least 1 creation a week… a dress, a t shirt, a bow tie (yes really) and getting back into the swing of blogging & reading blogs big time. AMAZING as always. 

It’s so fun and I’m feeling really body positive most of the time, and loving slowly growing my wardrobe with handmade things! But one of the BEST things about going to Sewing School and hanging with a small group of sewing enthusiasts is the GOSS and if you know me IRL, I LOVE talking because I just love stories! I’ve learnt so many things about Shanghai and where to buy fabrics… and because of my new French & Spanish speaking sewing friends, I’m getting a different perpspective on sewing and fashion, and culture and language. Just love it.

AND, who in a million years would think I’d sew something that wasn’t a fitted bodice dress and/or leggings and actually think it wasn’t half bad. At first glance the Manado Dress looked ok, certainly lovely for the tall, shapely shouldered woman, but not for me… but I had some cheapie fabric to use and it was about time I try some techniques on me… AND it was actually the next step in my Sewing School... they call them ateliars!

The pattern is either front piece and two back pieces but I opted for the front & back piece all as one piece, which meant I had to do the facing differently. It’s high-ish necked, with thin shoulders, and it’s very nicely shaped… however my problem lay completely with the fabric & interfacing choice… which I’ll get to.

It was a very simple pattern to follow, I adjusted down a half size from the Medium, but after fitting, I think I’ll cut a M next time and just adjust the waist/hips in the future… for this dress turned out ok, but a little snug on the bewbs. I traced the whole thing, onto the loveliest paper that Teacher Catherine had (I’ll have to buy my own roll soon!) and felt very swish using the rulers and being NEAT. I made the facings to include the neck hole and armholes and they scooped nicely around … or so I thought.

Cutting the cotton was just ok, it moved a little as I was using the dining table, to try and be profesh (instead of the floor) but it shifted as I adjusted the fabric & pieces and the facings were out a little then… and my DAGGY choice of interfacing wasn’t stable enough… it ironed ok initially and stuck to the fabric, but my iron also loved it toooooooo much and it got a little burnt… eep. 

This will forever be my lesson here in China, I reckon… not having a clue about the materials (either online or in the store) until I test it all out… the interfacing glued better than previous thicker stuff I bought but it’s not for clothing I reckon… Teacher Muriel thinks maybe embroidery or something. It’s just so hard to know … face to face at the market, I can’t ask because my Chinese isn’t up to it… and then online my translator through Chrome just doesn’t give enough detail. And you know when you buy online from eBay or whatever, we use Taobao here in Shanghai (everyone does in China) and the embedded pictures have all the details of the product? Like jpgs of explanations? Well Chrome can’t translate the text in the pictures, right? So I might just slow down my local online purchasing until I get a little more acquainted… and find the good stuff! Teacher Muriel suggested I try the big Haberdashery on Renmin Lu, and told me a stall to find better interfacing material then. 

The fabric feels shiny cotton, and may be polyester blend… it was 18 RMB a metre, which is $3.75 Australian // $US 2.9 // And almost 2 pounds UK. So cheap, and while it’s pretty… it also looks pretty cheap! Oh well, sewing school is all about learning stuff...

Have a  look at the insides, not so gorgeous at all....

SO after I attached the facings to the neckline, you sew the side seams, and then you turn the facings through the armholes, and sew right sides together all the way up on the front and back piece… until you can’t sew without bunching… then you flip inside and topstitch the lot… and because of my shitty interfacing and my shitty cut of the facings, it was bunchy and didn’t match… at that point I gave up sewing, and waited until I could talk it through with Teacher Muriel… that’s what’s also so great with the Sewing School… I can show and point and winged and cringe face to face… rather than bin the whole thing. So, I changed the shoulder seams, making them shorter and they kinda fitted… but still, not super polished or flat but #learningshit is like that, right? I’ll cut better shaped facings next time and be better-er with the choosing of interfacing and ironing it and sewing it. YEP?!

AND, lastly the Manado Dress comes with a belt... I once had an addiction to making belts when I first started sewing all the time! Because the dress isn't fitted, I thought I'd deffo wear the belt so went ahead to make it... The red fabric is a refashioned pillowcase I bought from a shop front near my Chinese Class (for less than 20 cents … 5RMB), because I couldn’t be bothered riding over to the fabric shop … lucky the red matched! 

But can you see... I'm thinking, why did I make this freaking belt. I don't think it's my style right now. 

Still, it’s a nice frock, and because it's so light it will probably be good for the hot days that are coming here in Shanghai. I was really excited at the thought of summer, but now people are telling me it's so hot you can't do anything... so I'm really worried I'm not prepared. EEP

Couture Nomad have their own drafted patterns for the sewing school, and if you’re an indie pattern junkie looking for different shapes & different styles that aren’t in the blog world so much, they’re available on the pdf to buy as well… but yes a few are in French! 

Talk soon!

Monday, 20 April 2015

Shanghai Fabric Market Tour #1

Happy Monday to you all! TIME TO GO SHOPPING! Today I thought I'd start my tour/blog post series of the Shanghai Markets... mostly the good ones if you're a sewing enthusiast/reader of my blog... I'll tailor it just for you! There are markets for everything here, and streets full of stuff... So if you ever are in Shanghai, you can find fabric, haberdashery odds and ends and I hope to bring you what I find as I go snooping around town trying to find my stuff! 

LOOK AT MY GLEEFUL FACE above. This was back in November last year, very happy to talk my 2 year old to kindergarten because I was going FABRIC MARKET ADVENTURING. I dropped him off, and I jumped on the metro to a couple of markets people had recommended on the Shanghai Mamas website, a great resource for sharing the WTF (that's "where to find", mind you!) stuff! So the first stop was to find Renmin Lu Haberdashery Market... near the older Yu Yuan Gardens.

What I've discovered about being here in Shanghai, is that everything never looks like what it should be, and signs are all in Chinse. I'm used to navigating around Australia looking for the over advertised and familiar billboards (in English) of Australia. SPOTLIGHT LINCRAFT RATHDOWNE REMNANTS is very understandable and easy to spot, plus in your home town you are familiar with their locations anywayzzz ... here in Shanghai, street names are in English, and numbers of course but not much else... and here is the haberdashery market... not very obvious, right?

And if all the wares weren't outside I could have walked straight past!

I could not even think, let alone decide what to buy. If you’re new to my blog, you might not know that I usually sew with a vintage fabrics and rarely buy new stuff to sew with, so still shopping lok this for me is weird and super daunting already let alone crazy shanghai ways of bargaining for a better price (I don't do that yet too scared and things are kinda cheap!)

My main goal on this first visit was to find where to buy zippers & threads and then get some basic fabric for cushion covers… i wanted to design some fabric, or make my own textiles from the vintage tea towels I’d brought from Australia… that project did turn out, I’ll show you soon… but it’s way different for a different couch than I intended!

So after walking in a few big circles, gaping at everything with my mouth open, I bought some overlocker thread (on the bigger spools that the little ones) and several zips, and I think it was all less than 40RMB.

The stalls are really squished in at the Haberdashery Market, so I only took a few photos because I was just way too overwhelmed, I'll get more photos another time for you too...


A little more obvious, in English! I trotted down Renmin Lu to Dongmen Lu to the lesser known fabric market… most of these gigantic fabric markets in Shanghai are actually set up for you to take your ideas & measurements, and they will sew for you. So you go with photos, recommendations of stalls (who has the best service and results) and then describe what you want. The South Bund Fabric Market is the most touristy spot in Shanghai for tailor made clothing… it seems fabric is pricey but labour is cheap, especially tailoring… maybe not as cheap as Thailand or places like that, but still very affordable. 

But why don't you have a look around *waves hand like a tour guide*:

Really I was just stickybeaking at this stage, so I went to all the floors to see what actually was for sale, what fabric I could sound out… that’s where I bought the scuba for my Pinky Space Explosion Skirt and the basic cotton drill & linen pieces for the cushion covers. I just pointed at things mostly and nodded a lot very basic browsing, for back then I only really knew how to say 'Thanks' 'Very Good' and 'Hello' and it was toward my last lap of the place, as I was leaving a French woman, who was walking around very pregnant, said to me ‘Ee Mee - that’s one metre’. Yi Mi. So that helps, a LOT. I now know numbers a lot better than my first trip too, so can say two metres, and three metres. Important!

I found some interfacing down in the basement, but it looked like it was the glue/iron stuff but it doesn’t really work like that. Definitely better quality interfacing is on my (never-ending Shanghai) shopping list because the stuff I bought online locally was terrible… I'll show you it this week, as I've got a finished dress again! Yay!

So with that first trip, I was suitably scared off for a while - not being able to communicate was very hard... and a lot of fabrics were wintery and a little daunting for me to 'begin' sewing again, but eventually I ventured back so I’ll post a few more Market Tours blog posts again soon...

In googling these markets, I found it VERY difficult to unearth any information... so if you need anything in particular, or need to know where the address for these markets are in Chinese (handy to show Taxi drivers) let me know... I'm going to get a little better at the format as I go along... just leave me a comment or a question...

Talk soon! 

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Scenes from Shanghai: Red Colours

Some reds for you today, as I find all the colours in my photos from the last 6 months of living in Shanghai. Red is a very Chinese-y colour... at Chinese New Year the town was covered in red lanterns, and you could even buy red underwear because it's lucky to wear it over the new year... I think it'll bring good fortune. Lots of things bring good fortune! I was at an event last week and the performance included a gigantic cabbage, for that's also a good fortune icon here! I love it!

Hope you've had a lovely week! Enjoy your weekend! We're loving the warmer weather and spending it out in the parks!


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...