Saturday, 30 May 2015

Scenes from Shanghai: Green

Hi there and happy weekend! It's our last few days with my folks visiting from Australia, so we'll be out and about in Shanghai seeing a few more sights! Today for you in my collection of Scenes from Shanghai blog posts, I've found all the green colours this year (Chinese New Year fireworks right by our 18th floor apartment!) for you!

I've really loved collecting the colours of Shanghai together for you, it helps me get a sense of order in a choatic city... but also pleased my virgo-esque neatness... you can see my other colour collections here:



Pinks & Purples


Hope you have something lovely planned for your weekend, talk soon.


Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Sewing School Scoop - Volume 4

Hi again! I've got a few more Sewing School Scoops for you before school HOLIDAYS (a lot of the Sewing Teachers will be in France and out of Shanghai for the summer, so we'll take a break! SAD)! If you're new to my blog (thanks for reading), I've been sewing for a while, blogging for a while but have only *just* started learning about sewing & the techniques at a wonderful sewing school here in Shanghai. My teachers are French expat women, and run through Couture Nomad, where Teacher Catherine has created her own patterns for us to sew through the ateliers/workshops. In my class there are two Spanish speaking women, and the rest French... and myself - little old Australian/English speaking me - so you can imagine the chitter chatter going! MOSTLY in French, but I get lots of translated jokes handed down so it's just the best learning to sew... in Shanghai... and trying to understand French & Spanish at the same time!

For my scoop this week, here are a bunch of my observations... but mostly my most recent "WTF Amazing" moments in learning about sewing:

1. Tracing patterns is still a new concept for me, and it's not straightforward for me yet, and as you can see I'm getting the hang of the lingo of naming pattern pieces, transfer markings and then... adding or including seam allowance. What I really like in tracing patterns, is you can do inbetween sizes, for these Yokohama trousers (for children, in the Couture Nomad pattern collection) are size 2 or size 4... and my boy is kinda 3 year old sizing right now... so hey! Make your own inbetween size!

2. You can spot a quilter/pattern maker from a mile away! Look at Teacher Muriel's pocket pattern piece: It's a lovely puffed out but folded pocket that's perfect for a little boy to put his cars in... and totally ON the grid...

3. Lots of patterns have different seam allowances, right?! The Couture Nomad ones have 1 cm, which makes things really neat (we sew on Singer machines in the studio) and oftentimes you have less bulk... I did ask why they use 1cm instead of 1.5cm or the 5/8 vintage seam allowance BUT I have forgotten the answer... next time!

4. I'm not sure if I'm a person who traces INCLUDING the seam allowance or a person who ADDS it later while pinning/placing the pattern piece and then drawing with chalk around the pattern. Can I do both? I'm not sure yet, as it probably pays to be consistent with your preference... the last skirt I made in class I remembered the seam allowance, so included it on my traced pattern... but forgot it again when doing the waistbands... grrr... luckily, I remembered just before cutting!

5. I'm getting very good at topstitching! The trick is... sew slowly! WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT. It's not perfect, but I can definitely see an improvement... I would sometimes just omit the topstitch to save time, but how darling does the purple look with the fabric? I grabbed the purple thread, because I honestly thought there was purple through the fabric... but maybe it was the red/blue combined that gave me that impression!? WEIRD

6. I am also choosing weird fabric because I have SO much choice at the fabric market. Lately, there's a radar in my brain seeking out fabric I've never sewn with before or SEEN before (there's a weird one coming up, EEP!!!) and maybe I'm a little overstimulated by it all... but 3D glasses and moustaches are fine for 2 year olds right! This cotton is a little starchy and stiff, so better for trousers, rather than the dress I had planned to make (some sort of 50s frock, I had thought) ...

7. When Teacher Muriel says to transfer all the lines and marking from her pattern piece, you DO IT! Then you get to use that awesome marking paper (pink this time) and the tracing wheel.... WAHOO.

8. Also, Teacher Muriel also showed me a common way to mark fabric, the right and wrong side. The top 'glasses' are the wrong way... often you can just mark the wrong, and she said you can remember by 'looking' at the wrong way with the glasses.

And speaking of glasses, here's the front piece of my little Yokohama trousers, the straps tie at the back...

9. And lastly, I am becoming quite neat (when I'm at sewing school... at home I have to straighten up a bit!) at sewing! Look how clean and lovely my work is?! I try and snip the thread ends as I go instead of have a big clump at the end ... and keep my patterns all lovely and flat until it's time to sew again in class. What a big sewing nerd I'm becoming!

How is your sewing week? Are you finding some short cuts (please share!) or some amazing more time consuming techniques in your craft? (please share them too!)


Monday, 25 May 2015

Voila: Gathered Skirt & Floppy Blouse

Hello from Fuxing Xi Lu! It's springtime in Shanghai!

And today here's a 'no pattern' outfit... a gathered gingham skirt with a linen hem... with a floppy blousie thing. A knit tshirt tucked in... sounds more posh as a blouse. I'm in the Former French Concession in these photographs, so it's totally a blouse.

A few weeks ago, I made some gingham trousers for my little boy, as part of my Sewing School... and since I'm buying 2 metres (liang mi in Chinese) of fabric these days (is that how much you buy? A bit different from op shopping - I would usually just buy everything at the op shop/thrift store)... I had some left over. Childrenswear doesn't take up much fabric, of course, so there was enough for a gathered skirt of some kind, so I fiddled around for a while finding the right kind of shaped rectangle (the skirt) and making sure I had a waistband as well... and then during all my fiddling and folding and checking I found the green linen remnant!

This year, with a small stash, and an even smaller scrap box I'm trying to use it all up... mostly it's easy to make kids clothes from decent scraps, but I'd also like to push myself to make different clothes to what I'd usually make. Because usually, I take short cuts and choose easy patterns with sewing, and it's time to change! So my spare green linen has become a hem, and added length and weight for the skirt to be perfect for bike riding.

The hem became my main focus for a while, and it turned out how I'd hoped, with this little flap of the gingham over it, as you can see above. I cut two long pieces of the green linen to match the skirt pieces, overlocked them together... then stitched them together vertically. A bit more faffing around, pinning and ironing (linen is just so perfect to iron, but creases so terribly) I then topstitched the green bit underneath to create the flap in the gingham fabric.

Of course, I was concentrating so much on the skirt pieces and that hem, that I totally forgot the waistband pieces, so they're made of three long rectangles sewn together... and not matched that well... nor is the front seam of the skirt ... because again when I gathered the skirt up I couldn't decide where to put the zipper, side or back, and where to put the gathers all the way around or leaving a space with no gathers... and then I was faffing around again with the zipper, should it be exposed or not exposed... and actually, I might have put it in twice because the first time was wonky as a lapped one...

That's me sewing without pattern & directions, I guess! A FAFFER.

My blouse is kinda the same... I did use a bodice piece from a McCalls pattern I've brought with me (it's for a woven pattern though) but traced it to have more of a swing from the bust and then I winged the sleeve tracing around an old RTW tshirt... but ended up cutting it into a cap-style.

While it's a totally wearable floppy t-shirt, it's not really the best fit or shape... again, no pattern makes it all a bit weird for me. (I have been pinning a few actual t-shirt patterns since trying this one) The fabric was from my local fabric store, which is tiny and they had about 10 knits to choose from (with different weights) ... and this feels like it will pill eventually. :( BUT it's nice enough to wear when it's warm and really, I'm trying out some different shapes on my bod!

I have worn this skirt at least 3 times for Me-Made-May already... so that's a good sign! I love the heavy hem on the bike so it stays over my knees ok. But because I kinda went a bit fast with putting it together after I got the hem so lovely, it does annoy me a bit that the gingham isn't matched well. OH WELL! Looking at the photos I have such full on pin curl hair! This fringe is totally bouffant!

And lastly, I have completely LOST the blouse! We have a housekeeper who does our clothes washing (everyone has a Ayi in China) and I can't find where she's put it! So I need to make more now... and get a bit better at sewing them as well.

Have a great week, talk soon!


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!


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...