Monday, 29 June 2015

Making: A Million Rope Bowls

Maybe not a million rope bowls, but I have definitely made 20 of these things! It might have been pinterest or a google search that revealed the rope bowl to me, but after I found the tutorial on Pair & A Spare DIY blog, I stored it away on a pinboard as a maybe project. I'm not sure about you, but I like sewing the most... and then I don't mind craft but would probably prefer knitting or crochet over learning a new craft or fiddling around with dinky craft things.

I am definitely not a Martha Stewart type, and perhaps not a huge interior decorator even... and it's actually been a great break from our 'things' being here in China... as I'm learning what I do and don't like in a home... I totally like a few personal touches and photographs and plants... I love these indoor plants we have here in Shanghai. But looking around our apartment, it's not really that decorated. Maybe I'll get the urge when we move back home again... but I'm enjoying the minimalist approach for now.


When you find a quick tutorial like the Rope Bowl one, and then a few weeks later when you're looking for something to make a 'fishing rod' for your two year old at the fabric/haberdashery markets of Shanghai... you stumble upon rope supply HEAVEN. YOU HAVE TO BUY THE ROPE. You just have to!

They are the most relaxing things to make as once you start the zig zag stitching bit (the hardest bit is forming the coil to begin with, I've tried different ways, and the centre cross - as you can see in the messy black one - is the most secure for me, but you can hand stitch maybe?) ... as once you get on a bit of a roll, it's just the whirl of the machine and then when you lift the base to form the walls of the bowl, you actually feel like you're making a pottery bowl... around and around... whirrrrrr. Oh, so calming!

I'll write up a blog post soon about the market's back streets (because there are even more bargains behind the actual market!) but there was just all kinds of cords and ropes to buy and really cheap! I would love to try dying (maybe Shibori!) and finding more different looks. These ones here I sent home with Mum as presents for her and my sister in law, so I won't show you all of them but these are the larger ones. I've since experimented with coloured threads and with flecks of threads through the white stitching.


At the moment, I'm storing toys in the larger ones, little coins & things on my desk and elastics on my sewing desk for the smaller ones. Of course they'll look gorgeous with all your knitting yarn in them, because they do look cute with lots of colourful toys! I want to work out how to sew handles with the rope, because when I tried a handle (like a basket) it all kind of went floppy. Anyways, I really enjoy these as a lovely sewing project between garment sewing!

OH and I clicked through the Pair & a Spare tutorial, and the concept is by Melbourne maker Gemma Patford (she also runs workshops!)! Hi Gemma, and thanks! (And I won't link to the rope bowl tutorial on the Martha Stewart website, because it's all glued together. Which could be fine too... but sewing feels like the calming pottery wheel... ahhhhh.)

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Scenes from Shanghai: Street Patterns

Shanghai Patterns Veronica Darling
Shanghai Patterns Veronica Darling
Shanghai Patterns Veronica Darling
Shanghai Patterns Veronica Darling
Shanghai Patterns Veronica Darling
Shanghai Patterns Veronica Darling

My Scenes from Shanghai blog post today is about the patterns I see around town... I have another set to post next week as well, because there's so many and they're quite graphic all at once. Walking around some parts of the Former French Concession is never boring, but all streets can look the same unless you pay attention to the details. The details are my favourites!

Wishing you a lovely Sunday!

Friday, 26 June 2015

Sewing School Scoop - Volume 5

Hi and welcome to my FIFTH update from my sewing classes here in Shanghai, and as Sewing School wrapped up in the first week of June, I haven't got stacks of info to share so that's why you can see the Nonna's above for my intro photo today! I'll give you a shout out if you can name the fashion brand that features these lovely women! It's a photo I quickly took at the K11 Art Gallery Shopping Centre (Yes, Shanghai has a mall for everything, I saw lots of Damien Hurst sculptures there last time I went!) and unfortunately I forgot to remember the store... I adore them though, what darling women!

But there are a few things from the last collection of sewing classes... of course, I'm not writing every class down, just my thoughts of what I learnt and how I'm growing as a person... I mean as a seamstress! Last time, I wrote about a few things, but thanks you guys - lovely people who know a lot - I've also learnt a few more things too... so here goes!

1. What's the deal with different seam allowances?

Sofie M, you legend, says "Industry always uses 1cm seam allowances and it is only home sewing (not sure about indie pattern makers as I don't buy them) mostly big 4 that use 1.5cm. I think that was to give home sewers a little bit more to play with but in industry you can be more accurate and less fiddly (especially on curves - try doing a princess seam or sleeve heads with 1.5cm and 1 cm and it does make a big difference to not getting puckers).

2. Phones are good weights, right?

I don't have any at home yet, so I've been using my phone and the small pot plants (which are too heavy sometimes) but at Sewing School we have lovely ceramic ones of all shapes and colours and my phone still gets a work out too! I'm still swapping between tracing my patterns - at Sewing School all my patterns are traced like the skirt below - and using the tissue from the hardcopy patterns but as I want to keep the sizes I'm not cutting the tissue, and there's a bit of guess work around some of the curves. This is not ideal, and I feel like the seams are not the best shape sometimes. My Holly trousers were not traced, and I think the curves in the crotch were a little rough. Tracing and getting your size right is my goal at home in the sewing room!


3. Wrap skirts are quick to make!

My first sewn & wearable garment was a wrap skirt from a 1970s (very similar to Tilly's Miette skirt) pattern of my mum's... so I know how quickly and easily they can go together. Here in the leafy fabric is the Angkor Skirt by Couture Nomad (my Sewing School) and it has some lovely slits at the sides (that what you're seeing sticking out along the seam line) so has extra seam allowance. It was great to sew up but I haven't got a white blouse to wear it yet... plus I'm not sure it's my shape... a straight wrap skirt on a petite curvy figure. When I make a tshirt up, I'll blog it and you can be the judgy judge!

4. My fabric choice is NOT improving and it's taking ages to decide things!

This fabric is just the weirdest, but pretty right? The pattern is for a woven fabric, so I brought along several to choose from and I ummed and ahhed for EVER and a day... so finally choice this green leafy thing. It had an 'up' and a 'down' and after another five years of thinking during class, I decided the leaves will climb up me, instead of swishy downwards. Who freaking knows why, but I had to make a choice. How do you decide these things? It's such a personal preference! But have a look at the light flickers through the fabric... it's synthetic elastics! So this woven fabric, is a stretch woven, has the leafy white & green print but ALSO a strange embossed look to it. Like as if it's a bridal white fabric, and then printed with the green. WEIRD

5. Balance your foot out when stitching thicker seams

Teacher Muriel showed me a great technique for when you need to topstitch a thicker end of the strap (below you can see one of the ties for the wrap skirt I'm stitching in the photo)... fold a scrap piece of fabric over so that it matches the thickness of the seam you're topstitching and stick it under the foot at the back to balance it out... so the foot is level while it goes over the thicker seam and then goes downhill (!) smoother to the less thicker fabric of the tie. Your stitches are better staggered as before I did this, they'd be all tight at the end and then get really loosy goosy later. Now everything is quite neat. I will even allow you to inspect my topstitched ties when I see you!

6. Crazy Woven Elastic Fabric is weird to handstitch

As I went to finish the hems and the slits on this wrap skirt, and you know when you go to handstitch and just grab that one little piece of thread so that your blind hem is really blind on the right side of the fabric? Well, this sneaky fabric has only the little plastic elastic on the cross grain. Have you seen fabric like this before? Is it common? I have sewn with a few cotton sateens but haven't really noticed the total cross grain being elastic... and it's not really that stretchy a fabric.

7. Outsource your handstitching!

My handstitching is really slow, so I went to finish the skirt at home... and my Housekeeper (who can be quite bossy!) got frustrated with how slow I was stitching and so she grabbed another needle and started from the other side of the wrap skirt! She sped through the handstitching! I only finished one edge! I know I'll get faster eventually, and I'm really pleased I finally know a nice way to handstitch instead of the way I just made up all those years ago. My threads don't pop any more! I KNOW WHAT A LEGEND!

Ok, so these Sewing School Scoops are very 'revealing my sewing sins', aren't they!? Yes, that's why I am going to sewing school, to get better, overlook these sloppy techniques and because my Housekeeper probably won't follow us back to Australia, I better learn how to handstitch myself. Eventually right?


Have a great weekend! Can't believe it's Friday already!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Voila: Neon Fern Skirt

Hey, wow, it's Tuesday already! Yesterday was a work holiday for Husbie, and so we actually had a long weekend together... but we're trying to save some money so we hung with friends and didn't get out of Shanghai like a lot of people do. It was lovely and quiet (as far as a massive city goes) and it's always the best when there's no work!

Today I thought it's time to quickly write up about my neon fern skirt... a really straight forward stretch knit fabric DIY pencil skirt that I made during May. Same fabric as my latest Manado Dress and same shape (and construction) as my Golden Jubilee Wiggle Skirt. It's two pieces, a skirt piece and a waistband piece sewn into tubes, and then attached. Very straightforward.

Neon Fern Stretch Skirt

And there are quite a few DIY tutorials online for this kinda thing, no waistband elastic needed if your fabric has enough thickness and reboundness. Is it called recovery? Not sure. Again, fabric description is not my strongest point... but this one feels so comfy to wear, especially around your middle.

These photos are from a hot summer's Saturday, and we'd been out for lunch with some new New Zealand friends, and it became way hotter than I expected. I like my floaty op shopped shirt (it reminds me of my friend Nina Las Vegas) but I think it is styled better with short shorts and leggings than with this pencil skirt. Plus, I look hot and a little bit wilted. We started to stroll home, took these photos and as Felix was feeling a bit sick we jumped in a taxi soon after.

Wish there was more to write about this one, but you know how fast stretch fabric is to sew up especially with an overlocker! It's like 4 seams... and the hem was a slow topstitch on the straight stitch machine that is just OK not perfect. I broke my twin needle so have to order a new one from Taobao this week! Taobao is like all the online shops of China all rolled into one!

Neon Fern Stretch Skirt

Neon Fern Stretch Skirt

So! I thought I'd try out some larger photos here, because I only had a few piccies of this skirt... just to test what it looks like on my blog. Let me know if they're TOO big but at the moment they look ok on my little laptop... I have to scroll a little more, but at least the skirt is a little larger. The print is so great, I'm happy I have two versions of it, now with this skirt and the swing dress! But yeh. Staring at my black wedges now, I actually want more summer shoes... I only have these and my yellow platforms (or maybe they're flatforms - hee hee) with me here in Shanghai. And thongs, but the streets are quite dirty, so I don't feel the best wearing the flip flops as I would at home! In China, we wear slippers that are like thongs inside and at the pool!

So funny the habits I'm picking up here! I carry tissues with me everywhere, as toilets most of the time don't have toilet paper (!) and you ALWAYS take your shoes off going into people's houses. This week, I also realised I know more Chinese than Japanese ... which is a bit weird... I studied Japanese through High School and did first year uni (just one semester) so in 9 months of living here in Shanghai, and studying it one-on-one with my teacher once a week, I feel my conversations are really going places! I'm amazed!

Anyways, here are some notes to finish with and hope you're having a great week! Thank you for reading, as always!!!

Pattern: None
Fabric: Stretch something, same as this swing Manado Dress and my Davie Dress. Purchased from 168 Dongmen Lu, near Zhongshan Dong Er Lu, 东门路168号,近中山东二路
Size: My hip measurements... around 36 inches/92 cm  
While Sewing: All came together fine, but had to reinforce the hip seams where it joins the waistband as it's right on size.  
Will I Wear It? Yep, it's totally cool for the summer even though it's fitted-ish and have worn it about 3 times already

Friday, 19 June 2015

Made in China: Shanghai Bloggers App

Moving to Shanghai last year has been quite inspiring for me, but also incredibly challenging. Learning a new language, leaving our friends and family and putting my radio career on hold for a bit; these and many other things are all contributing to the ups and downs of our new life in China. There are over 24 million people living in Shanghai, with around 150 000 foreigners (I think around this many in 2011… so maybe more now) and without speaking or reading Hanyu/Mandarin, you can float around in a little English speaking bubble by yourself.

But earlier this year, I started hunting down other bloggers in Shanghai, and came across Line Fricke’s blog Shanghai Habits. I then got in touch after seeing her Instagram post about a Shanghai Blogging Group… and last week, we all joined together to help Line and her project partner Nando Fonseca launch their new project, the Shanghai Bloggers App. My blog, along with many other wonderful local bloggers, are all featured on the app, and there will be many more blogs and features added soon. Personally I have never really joined any blogger meet ups or hang outs in the sewing community or the overall blogging community… in Australia, I didn’t find the extra social time I guess… but here in Shanghai, I feel so happy to be connected to such a great bunch of bloggers in this vibrant city!

Shanghai Bloggers
Photo Credit: Blank Shanghai and you can see Nando and Line on the far right!

Because I’m really keen to showcase some different & interesting ‘Made in China’ ideas and projects (rather than stereotypes from what we know of that term in the western world), I asked Line and Nando some questions about their app, the blogging society and being in Shanghai… and you’ll see my fascination growing (as it has done since I got to Shanghai) with creative people’s passions and what makes them creative. So it's a different blog post for you this week!

Line, from Denmark, came to Shanghai in 2012 having never been to Asia before and up until a short time ago she worked with corporate events. Nando is from Colombia, and for the last five years has run his own credit company, and he ventured to Shanghai in 2013. Together, they first came up with the idea for the Shanghai Bloggers App after talking over how difficult it was for bloggers to reach readers, and as Nando points out, he saw two main problems, “It was very difficult to find the bloggers in Shanghai, even when I was spending a quite amount of time searching. The second problem was the amount of time it took to read them.” So he began thinking about an easy way to flick through and read blogs on his phone (mobile works best here!), like a reader or Bloglovin’ but just for Shanghai blogs!

Shanghai Bloggers
Photo Credit: Blank Shanghai

Shanghai Bloggers
Photo Credit: Blank Shanghai

The app is completely a DIY project for Nando! That’s also one of the reasons it’s a ‘Made in China’ feature this week on my blog! Not only did he learn to code over a period of 6 months, he built the app himself, and discovered it’s not that difficult. WHAT! It’s just like all the wonderful online sewing resources, but for code! He found tutorials and helpful information out there online, which saved a load of money and time. DIY for the win here! They’re both now committed to the Shanghai Bloggers project, and hope to see it become a must-have app on all phones here in Shanghai!

"​I want to see Shanghai Bloggers become a window for the readers to see the city,” says Nando, and for the app to be "the first source of news and information for curious expats that want to explore the city or just want to have fun reading all this amazing stories from our bloggers.” Definitely the personal stories and the variety of blogs that are involved can offer newcomers and travellers a lot more than a tour guide or map-type app. Personally, I went though a lot of apps when I got here, and never really settled on one I liked… many local apps in English are not updated regularly, so you don’t know if businesses are current and things change a lot here in Shanghai, and quickly!

Shanghai Bloggers
Photo Credit: Blank Shanghai and it's Melissa from The Pursuit of Snackiness

Of the expat community here in town, Line believes sharing information and telling stories is easy! “Everyone loves to share and kind of ‘show’ they are a Shanghai expert in some field. In general the expat community is very kind,” she says. Nando notes, "I have been amazed since I arrived in Shanghai, how the expat community is willing to help each other and share information etc. and how curious we all are about information of the city. With the right tools, and the right people, sharing information in Shanghai can become an easy task.”

Moving to Shanghai has been a whirlwind of information gathering, and there’s so much to take in. I have been swept along with the new-ness of being in the city, but also so inspired by the crazy cross culturalisms, the new and the old surroundings, and the contrast of communism and consumerism (Shanghai is the financial hub of China, but in a communist country). But also, there’s such strong creative vibes here… like any big city, there’s street art, beautiful independent art galleries peppered through downtown and the Former French Concession and massive international art spaces (the Shanghai Biennial was here over wintertime) and I’m sure so much more I haven’t had space or time to discover.

Shanghai Bloggers Veronica Darling

So I asked Line and Nando about creativity, and whether they feel like creative people… Line says "Yes I do. I find it in taking it easy and taking time to appreciate life around us and small moments everyday. My challenge is to express my creativity and ideas - whether its verbal or in design.” and Nando adds, "I consider myself a creative person, but my surroundings helps me a lot. Living in a city full of people with great ideas and new things going on everyday is definitely a source of inspiration."

I think we can feel creative by taking the time to appreciate our lives and what’s around us. No matter where we are in the world, but it certainly helps being in Shanghai for us to get motivated and see how different our lives are here than back in our home countries… or it is for me.

Shanghai Bloggers
Photo by Blank Shanghai

And here’s a couple of questions that I hope to ask everyone that I talk to about the topic 'Made in China'...

What's something Made in China that you're amazed by? That you love?

LINE: I am absolutely fascinated and a bit obsessed with Traditional Chinese Medicine. Currently studying it every weekend and hope to start blogging and sharing about it to get more western people hooked. It's all about balance, holistic health and long term sustainable solutions in regards to our health - not short-term quick fixes.

NANDO: ​Authentic things made in China, like food!

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

​LINE: Such a mix of ​West vs. East, Old vs. New and Charming vs. disgusting.

NANDO: People full of new ideas and a great expat community. And REAL Hotpot!

Yes, the food in Shanghai is absolutely incredible and I haven’t even eaten hotpot yet!

Shanghai Bloggers Veronica Darling
with Kimberley Tai - from Gre3n

So, today, I want to send a big congratulations and thank you to Line and Nando, for creating their new app and including little old Veronica Darling (now sewing in Shanghai!) and I look forward to connecting with more bloggers and Shanghai locals now! Happy reading and writing to all. *gush*

If you know of anyone visiting Shanghai or moving here, please send them to Shanghai Bloggers for details on the app, and you can find blogs for everyone! There are foodies, photographers, cartoonists, artists, scientists, stylists, fashion lovers and many more… people from all around the world all writing about their passions and life in Shanghai.

Notes: All the photos by Blank Shanghai are by Eric and Gloria, and the photos on my camera with me in them are taken by Combustion SH

I'm part of the Shanghai Bloggers App, but am under no obligation to post about it! I want to share with you things from my life in Shanghai though, but don't fret (if you do fret!) because we all know this is a sewing blog, not a blogging blog!

Meeting other bloggers is fun, why didn't I do this more often earlier!?!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Voila: A Deer and Doe Plantain

Plantain Veronica Darling

Last week, I posted my Holly Palazzo Pants and I'm wearing a Deer & Doe Plantain tshirt... yes... a tshirt pattern that is NOT a Built by Wendy one. Back in the day (2009-2011) I started sewing stretch fabric like the world would end and we needed supplies... it was so easy and fun and once I got the overlocker all was well... the Sew U Stretch Built by Wendy was my main inspiration and I used those patterns as blocks and created my own versions for dresses mostly for me and all my friends.

Lately, of course, I am in Shanghai without my usual supplies (no BBW books!)... but I actually think that's a good thing, because now I can try other patterns instead of the same ones... AND test what works for my current body shape... instead of attempting something that suited me 5 years ago. I have seen oodles of Plantain patterns made up, so considering it's a free pattern, it's a quick & cheap one to try. But it's not a cheaply put together pattern in my opinion!

Plantain Veronica Darling

The pattern is pdf, and as we don't have a printer at home, I waited a while for Husbie to grab it for me and it was a quick one to put together... but I think the work printer drags on one side as it was just out by 2 or 3 mm. So annoying! I'll have to find a place in Shanghai that prints, but maybe can print the full A1 or A2 or whatever as well. Other than that, I traced it to balance out the print and it's probably the best pattern in the world for knit tshirts... especially for the larger bust size as that scoopy neck is quite flattering.

This is my second version, because like Elena at Randomly Happy, I don't think you can stop at just one... I had a bunch of knit fabric to test out and I've made (at the time of writing) 4 versions already - one for my Housekeeper even, I'll show you soon! So this black knit is light, feels rough though and I think my knit guy said 'LINEN' but who knows... it's definitely stretch, and definitely slightly see through in parts. The fabric reminds me of a H&M top I got in LA which was lovely to wear, and that's why I kinda cut it differently along the hem... it's about a hand size shorter. My hand size!

Plantain Veronica Darling
Plantain Veronica Darling

The pattern is completely easy to follow, and a little similar to the Built by Wendy stretch way, but you sew both shoulder seams and then sew the neck binding together and attach... the sleeves are sewn in the flat, which I like the best anyways, and then the side seams all together. It's a great way to sew tshirts!

My changes for this version were to shorten the bodice, I folded the pattern pieces to shorten by about 5 inches, making the front piece a little shorter... and I also scooped the sleeve by about an inch... I did that in the pattern cutting as that's how I used to get a mock cap sleeve (or maybe it is a cap sleeve? I have no idea) when I did my Built by Wendy dresses. Back in the day, mate, back in the day.

So yeh, the top is completely casual, and I like the shape overall. It'll be great with my short shorts and I quite like it with the Holly Trousers. This fabric makes it floppier and MORE casual than the other versions I've made, but it is so comfy to wear. It *is* a little booby, which I don't mind... but if you're going for a looser fit, remember that with the scoopy neckline and I'll remember not to bend over in public.

Plantain Veronica Darling

Hope you're having a great week so far! I'm trying to toss up which dress pattern I'll sew up next, I'd like to try Sophia By Hand London - the full skirt version - but also I have the Kim By Hand London to try as well. It's raining so much this week in Shanghai - but super humid - so it's hard to feel like wearing fitted dresses. I'd really love something floppy... maybe a wrap dress? I like this Maria Denmark one!

Monday, 15 June 2015

Wearing: Shanghai Springtime Cycling Chic

Back, in April, I joined Jorth's #30DaysofCycleChic for the days I rode my bike through Shanghai, our new home! Initially I wanted to document a little moment of my life on the streets (as I love the streetscapes and all the places we end up) but also show that bike riding isn't just about lycra... and as I went along, I of course realised that everyone in Shanghai rides bikes and scooters and no one wears lycra! So my intentions were then to see what I was wearing through springtime in Shanghai and then my parents came and then it was MMM and taking photos all the time of your outfit can get tiring. I don't know how those Outfit Of The Day people/fashion queens do it.

However, here is my life in the Shanghai springtime, lots of photos, and lots of handmade starting to creep in... so I'm happy. 

So there were 30 days of cycle chic, but not 30 photographs... Husbie took a few of these, mostly the ones I'm cracking up because he's a tease.. And you can see the variety of the weather!!!

We don't have a car, or driver (!) or scooter here in Shanghai, so we ride most days. We can take Uber (I've just figured that one out in the last month) or taxi's if the weather is bad, and also there are a few subway stations, but they're not super close to us. They are cheap though... usually 3-4 kuai to ride, so less than 50 cents a trip. But pedal power is always free!

Now I've got these photos of myself, my next goal is to collect up the best styles to ride in... that's why I've been sewing thicker hems on some dresses and skirts to see what is nice. It's NOT nice to have a light skirt fly up in your face when you're pedalling around town!

Do you ride? What's your best normal everyday outfit for riding? 

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...