Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Voila: Bettine Dress by Tilly & the Buttons

This week is my BIRTHDAY week and I wanted a bright and cheery dress to wear out and about in Shanghai… but especially to wear a nice new dress on my birthday day. It’s my first time having a birthday in Shanghai, so I was looking forward to sitting on a rooftop sipping some bubbly and generally being amazing in the summertime… compared to wintertime birthdays in Melbourne. BUT, no one saw more TYPHOON weather coming! It rained all day Saturday & Sunday and even most of my birthday on Monday. Husbie was glowingly positive saying “Shanghai smells so beautiful and fresh thanks to all the rain!”. He was right, despite the wetness, the town was smelling amazing! So before we picked the little one up from kindergarten, we popped out for some photos but without a lot of covered areas near our apartment, we found a little corner near the cafe that was sheltered from the blustering wind and rain for some photographs!

And can you see my birthday present from little Felix? A phone case shaped like a camera - Oh China, where you can find everything fun!


The dress pattern is Tilly & the Buttons Bettine, and this is the FIRST time I’ve sewn one of Tilly’s patterns. Moving to Shanghai last year, I only brought a few patterns with me… and now that I’m back enjoying sewing so much AND blogging so much again… I started to pick and choose a few new patterns to try! While I thoroughly welcome all the independent pattern designers, I am usually consistently thrifty & mindful of just buying secondhand. BUT, this recycling way of life is WAY different & trickier in Shanghai… there aren’t ANY op shops here and definitely no sewing patterns for sale! LOL! Anyways, new patterns can be EXPENSIVE, right?! This dress & the little underwear set pattern Fifi were on sale together, so thought I’d take that as a sign to get thrifty AND sewing. I was curious to try a different dress shape too… and I think it’s a lovely casual day dress.

OK, so I actually loved how simple this pattern was to sew… there are not many pieces, and the skirt front and back is the same piece. I don’t have much of a toosh sadly, but it might be something to consider if you’re more rounded at the back than the front. But it's a simple beginner project, this version, and while I’m probably an intermediate seamstress, it’s nice to have some simple projects once in a while.

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I size between a 4 (at the bust) and a 3 at the moment, so because the shape of the bodice pieces (a big fat T!) so I traced the 3 size everywhere but around the bust/underarm area where I tapered to the 4. Also while tracing the skirt, I shortened it by 2cm, which made it all perfect in length for these short legs but also made the shape of the skirt tricky to know the right side up… which is why I attached it upside down. Oops.

The fabric is some very light cotton from the Dongmen Lu Fabric Market, and the same market stall I got the fabric for my Anna/Circle Skirt dress. The seller said it was cotton, but due to it’s drape it could be viscose or a rayon, I just don’t know my fabrics well enough to guess. But it’s very comfortable to wear and irons ok but there are a few creases that come with it while wearing. The floppy nature of the Bettine bodice is perfect for the amount of drape in this fabric.

I also have become a bit of a french seam lover when it comes to this fabric, it’s lovely to sew up… with the 5/8 seams the Bettine suggests, I just did 5mm wrong sides together and then 1 cm right sides together. Have no idea if this is the right measurements… it comes up lovely on the insides though… I just wish I’d folded and stitched the overlocked facing edges and hem now as the overlocked finish with the grey threads looks a bit ghastly with the nice neat french seams. Oh well!


As I made this up over several days, sneaking a few minutes here and there around my Mama Life Responsibilities… I somehow lost track of the top of the skirt, and until I tried it on finished & sewn up, I realised the skirt piece with the blue pattern was upside down… looking in the mirror I was like, hey that blue key looks different on the skirt piece. URGH. Maybe I’m more of a beginner seamstress after all. What a dickhead! Of course a print like this can hide it well… but there’s a slightly different drape shape in the skirt (haha drape shape) so I will have to make it again to get it done well.

It’s a very quick dress to make up, and Tilly’s instructions are VERY easy and fun to follow. I don’t mind a bit of handholding sometimes and I took the advice of actually measuring the neckline facing topstitch and drawing a fabric pen line… it makes it incredibly neat. Thanks to all you Instagram friends who suggested the black threads (instead of yellow or white) sometimes it’s hard to know what to do!


Thinking back to my old vintage pattern stash, this dress would probably have been similar to a late 1970s or early 1980s elastic waisted dress… the built in sleeves making the T shape… I wonder why the dress couldn’t have been just one long T shape instead having a separate T or skirt piece. I also wonder if trying the pocket version will hide a cute as a button tummy bulge or will it accentuate it?

Anyways, I’m looking forward to trying the Fifi pattern now! I think I’m going to team it with a Sew This Pattern Venus Kimono! Just gotta work out how to mix and match the fabrics!

Hope you’re having a lovely week and remember that my giveaway is still open till Monday. A great prize, your own personal Shanghai shopper (me!) and a gorgeous Megan Nielson Pattern of your choice!


And because this is my first Tilly & the Buttons pattern, here are some Tilly-esque photos! Il est une petite femme mignonne! Just like you Tilly!

Notes & Summary:  
Pattern: Bettine by Tilly & the Buttons
Fabric: Cotton with a floaty light drape. Purchased from 168 Dongmen Lu, near Zhongshan Dong Er Lu, 东门路168号,近中山东二路  
Size: Size 3 but a Size 4 at the bust  
While Sewing: All fine, and lovely! Just got to label the top of the skirt a little better next time!  
Will I Wear It? Yes, the weather is a little cooler so it’s not annoying to have elastic around your middle. This could be my autumnal staple!


Monday, 24 August 2015

Giveaway! My Birthday & 1000 Blog & Instagram Posts

Hi! I’m excited for it’s my BIRTHDAY today! YAY!

AND, I have planned a very sweet and small giveaway for you! I’ve just recently posted 1000 blog posts AND coincidentally 1000 Instagram photos, so I thought it’s time for a little celebration and to help out I called on a very old blogging and sewing friend… Meg!

You know Meg, I'm sure, from Megan Nielson Sewing Patterns! Her Briar Sweater & Tshirt Pattern is probably one of the most sewn & blogged tshirts I've seen online and this year she has not only rebranded a bunch of her sewing patterns, they’re still available as hardcopy too! YAY! Meg has also launched a smart phone APP to help you keep track of your sewing patterns of the digital kind… but she’s also started working on some children’s sewing patterns as well. What a busy amazing woman!

Meg was one of my first sewing friends in the online sewing blogging community, and she has always had a strong sense of design and her own fashion & style. It’s so amazing seeing someone like her grow and I’m just so happy to read all her ideas and big picture things on her blog… she’s definitely a ‘reach for the stars’ type person!

So, I thought a lovely little sewing GIVEAWAY would be nice and I want to say a big THANK YOU to Meg, who has kindly shared her patterns for my giveaway … and because I’m a small personal kind of sewing blogger, I wanted to share a couple of things with you and make it specific to you … but as it’s my birthday, I’ll need some sewing presents too… so on Friday I visited my favourite Fabric Market in Shanghai to get some ideas...


AND so for my very special "Veronica Darling’s Birthday Giveaway" today, you will WIN three things:

1. A SEWING PATTERN! From Megan Nielson! Choose a pattern from Megan Nielson’s pattern collection for yourself AND for me! It’s my birthday, so you’re sharing your pattern prize with me!

2. BUTTONS? ELASTIC? Tell me what you’d like from the Haberdashery Corner at the Dongmen Lu Fabric Market in Shanghai and I’ll pop along soon and pick up somethings for you and I!

3. FABRIC? Tell me a few fabric options and I’ll find some interesting lightweight cotton blend (maybe 2-3 metres worth) fabric at the Dongmen Lu Fabric Market in Shanghai for you. (and for me!)

Again, here's the Haberdashery Corner for you to see all the potential notions and goodies! And some of my recent fabric purchases!

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"But Veronica Darling?" I hear you say, "What Do I Have to Do to Win?"

WELL, What you need to do to win this stuff is:

Follow me on Instagram or Twitter and Facebook or Pinterest (@veronicadarling) (whatever social media you use, I don’t mind!) and leave a comment here letting me know that you’re following (like a legend) by Monday 31st August and I’ll be checking & drawing the winner on Tuesday 1st September and post it here that following Wednesday! That's IT

If you have any trouble leaving a comment (you’re on your mobile, or you’re having disqus problems), you can email me your note but I’ll need to get in touch with you somehow, so be sure that your email is clear somewhere! YAY! I’ll use the random number generator online, and number 1 will be the first comment/entry and so on. When I contact you, that’s when you can share with me what notions & fabric you’d like from Shanghai, AND tell me what sewing patterns from Meg’s collection you’re choosing! WOO! I want to make clear guidelines here because then it’s a fair giveaway, right?!

As this giveaway is through a personal blog, I’d like to add that Meg is kindly donating two of her patterns to my Birthday giveaway and I thank her SO very much, and I’ll fund the Shanghai Fabric Market tour loot myself. I'm going to be choosing lightweight fabric and notions, and while I want your suggestions with the prize, I'll be selecting items from the store myself and factoring in what's affordable and what will still be lightweight to parcel up. All prizes will be sent out in good humanely fashion (i.e., I live in China, so please fingers crossed it won’t take too long) and good luck to you! YAY!

Is that it? YAY time for dumplings/cake and bubbles for my birthday!

Friday, 21 August 2015

Voila: Two Dresses for Summer Part 2

We made it! Ah! It's a Happy Friday!

Here's my second version of the summer dresses I've made recently; for some reason the entire week has flown by due to sickness in our house! *glee* being ill in summer just hits you for six! *gush* love being sick with a toddler around! *squeal* (actually genuinely here) I watched the rest of Orphan Black season 3 and now all of Sense 8. I am officially addicted to Sci Fi TV shows when I'm sick. Learning new things all the time about being me!

This fabric was also from Taobao, and while it's not my usual colour, I actually just picked it because it looks weird. I thought it looks like pixels like the flowers are hidden underneath gingham pixels or something. I like it. It also has a little stretch in the fabric, and while I used the same pattern for the bodice pieces as my black dress, this fabric is a lot more floppier, so stretched out a little differently widthwise... I noticed this week after wearing it a bit that I have to wear a certain bra that doesn't show too much of the boob because this dress is way scoopier.



I just checked the Taobao store where I got this weird fabric, and there's Liberty fabrics (if you're into that stuff) for really cheap! Maybe they're fakes? It's so hard to know!

For this dress, I cut it the same, but had less fabric for the skirt pieces... I decided to sacrifice a little for bias binding tape, so that the neckline/armholes had the same fabric... so I only had about 50cm to 70cm for the skirt pieces each... and actually turned them to be on the opposite grain (what's that called again?) so that the longer widths were gathered, to make a fuller skirt. The print pattern is so weird, I didn't think it'd be noticeable and I like the effect it gives the skirt.

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There's the front bodice pattern piece above, and I kept the back bodice a little longer to accentuate the high low hem. But in this dress, I had to go with what fabric I had left, and so made the skirt this length and slowly graded the back to match it... it's not perfect, but I made a very thin hemline so it's ok for now.

The neckline also sits very flat! Yay! Very happy with that!


And this is my "I'm not sure I like this one" face:


It's hard fabric to photograph too, some shots came up really overexposed. Don't stare at the dress too long though, it'll make you feel weird.... I think it's like stripes on television, sometimes it doesn't work...!!!

BUT, I wore it a couple times in the last week and it IS cool, and it's much better than I thought... after making the two-for-one I thought the black one would be the best and I'd give this one away... but I like it now.

And, since Carolyn asked about the turban style attire with my last post, here's my blog post from wintertime on wearing the 'urban turban' and where I found some great videos on tying different styles! I've often liked a headscarf in helping pincurls set, but have a read of my post for some more thoughts.

Lastly, next week, it's my BIRTHDAY and I'm going to be hosting a GIVEAWAY! So if you like sewing things (and sewing patterns!) check in for that one (and to wish me happy beeday!) xoxo

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Voila: Two Dresses for Summer Part 1

Darlings, today I have some double trouble darling dresses! Have you ever needed something sewn up super quickly because the weather calls for it? You need to wear it EVERY day because everything else in your wardrobe is so hot and heavy, you need a floppy frock STAT!

Here’s my quick fix for that humid hotness and I quickly created two dresses at once and I made this first black one, put it on, and then started the next one right away. Shanghai has been a huge bowl of hot velvety air, and just these last few days thanks to a (very) southern Typhoon, we’ve started to breath normally again and felt some fresh cooler winds! Oh it’s hard to do anything when it’s THAT hot, so you can imagine me slowly plodding through the days with a 2 year old…dragging him from various pools to indoor play centres trying to avoid the crowds and any stickiness!

Summer Dress Veronica Darling

So, the first dress to talk about today is the black one, and tomorrow I’ll post about the creamy/greeny one!

The fabric is light cotton, that my Chinese friend helped me buy from Taobao (maybe you can see here, if you use Chrome it'll translate for you - that's how I do most of my shopping online here in China!), and while I asked for 3 metres, I think it was '3 units' where 1 unit is 50 cm. Oh well! It's super cheap for such lovely fabric and I kind of wanted to test out buying fabric from Taobao to see what the quality was like! This says it's South Korean in 'style' but have no idea! Anyone able to read the characters for me in the selvage? Luckily there was only JUST enough for this dress. There is also a slight stretch to the cotton, and thought it could be good with making a summer frock even comfier and floaty.

Summer Dress Veronica Darling Summer Dress Veronica Darling

I have used this dress shape a few times in my sewing, originally I had an 80s dress that I refashioned to be a cute shortie toddler looking thing (yes I have often dressed like I’m a child/Strawberry Shortcake) and then I made a red floppy summer dress one morning because I didn’t have anything to wear to a music industry panel I was talking on. You know that feeling, when there’s NOTHING to wear. But I also wore it on holidays in Bali. And then I made this floppy frock for a few summers ago in Australia and I wear it ALL the time. From the MMM month of wearing my handmade clothing, it was the thing I grabbed the most as the weather hotted up and so I had it in mind to sew up a couple more when I had the chance.

So pretty much the pattern is two bodice pieces and whatever fabric you have left over for the skirt. This time, since I have tracing paper, I decided to use the Plantain pattern pieces from Deer & Doe’s free pattern, and make them a little more like the dress I wear. So the pattern is now a hybrid shape that’s evolved to this silhouette… but I’m kinda happy with how you can just chuck it on, no zipper or clasps and flop around on a hot day. For you step by step readers/sewing peeps, I cut the bodice pieces, measured what fabric I had left and then cut two rectangles, for back and front skirt pieces. I used the longer rectangle edge for the gathered skirt piece to create the volume/width to the skirt.

For the construction, I stitched the shoulder seams, attached the neckline bias tape, gathered the skirts, attached the skirt pieces and then stitched the side seams with the overlocker. I then did the armholes with bias tape, and that turned out great, but I’m not so pleased with the neckline. I had to guess the length of bias tape (I think I even googled to find a measurement tutorial or some such thing - I found Grainline’s fantastically smooth tutorial on attaching), and used this gingham bias I made earlier in the year because there was no fabric left to make bias tape to match. While this is totally wearable and fine, I’m not too happy with my skills on the neckline though...

Summer Dress Veronica DarlingSummer Dress Veronica Darling
Summer Dress Veronica DarlingSummer Dress Veronica Darling

It curls up and I think that’s because I haven’t included enough bias tape length, so that made it harder to stretch out the tape to the curves… sound right? I have done this in sewing school just three months ago, so maybe I should check my notes. Also, in the above right photo, you can see my little patch up job under the arm... as my scissors snipped a little too much as I was cutting the loose threads and I had a teeny 5mm hole right on a fabric spot... so it was easy to patch and stitch up... I got a bit carried away by the swatchy patch though, so it looks much worse.

But YAY for summer floppy frocks, soooooo cool to wear and the high-low hem is perfect for bike riding, I sit on the longer hem while pulling the front around a little so it doesn't fly up while riding around town. Last week when it was oozy steamy hot, we all went on a trip with the children to a museum and the pool and I felt just lovely and as cool as one can be in that heat.

Summer Dress Veronica Darling

Notes & Summary:  
Pattern: None but used Deer & Doe’s Plantain as a guide for shape even though this is woven, and that’s for stretch fabric.
Fabric: Cotton with a seersucker look  
Size: Not sure, my size!  
While Sewing: All fine, but snipped the fabric with the little scissors while cutting loose threads! DAMN.  
Will I Wear It? Already worn 5 times in the last 2 weeks! And what a special day for you, you've had an EXCLUSIVE glance at my indoor slippers! Glamour inside the house here in Shanghai my friends!

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Knitting: Baby Blanket for a Darling One


My bestie in the UK had a baby! YAY! I knitted him a baby blanket! YAY!!!

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I'm very happy with it, but it's more of a pram accessory type blanket than roll up your baby like a kebab type blanket. I found the pattern on Ravelry, and it was simple to follow (I'm not a big knitter these days, I do like it, but I can't concentrate on anything other than purl or knit!) but looks slightly tricky with those diagonal stripes. It took a long while though, maybe 2 months? I don't sit and watch tv shows as much as I used to! But the sweetest thing is when you can give your child a crochet hook and a scrap of wool and we both 'knit' together for a bit.

The wool came from a small wool shop in Wuyi Lu in Shanghai's Changning District, it's near Dingxi Lu, and about a 15 minute walk from our house. The women were so sweet and helpful, I didn't speak much Chinese when I bought it but I wanted green and tried to say 'lu' because I know how to order green tea! It worked, and it's a little minty fresh green than the grassy green I'd hoped for. But looks lovely with the cream.

Now that we live in Shanghai, I also started investigating about visiting her because wouldn't you think that flights would be cheaper since we're a little bit closer to England than Australia? Nup. It's peak time to fly (even though I was looking at the end of the holidays) and my little budgeting dream got squashed as our insurance bill came in and other ridiculous "adults who live abroad" things that cost money. So instead, this little baby blanket has arrived safely by China Post!

I REALLY want to visit the UK in the next year though, so fingers crossed xoxo

Hope you're having a lovely weekend! I'm out of whack with my blogging at the moment, it's been so hot and now the weekend is actually a little stormy, we think another typhoon is around! What a summer!

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Voila: Short Shorts for a Boy

Hello again! Today I have a lovely little boy joining me, wearing some lovely little hand sewn shorts for summer! You've probably seen the photos I featured last month on my blog, but we snuck a few extra in because that random Shanghai scooter in the random Shanghai street... pretty cute, right?

Understandably, I've just been so sluggish lately with the 36 degree days in Shanghai. If you’re in a super humid climate, how do you spend the days? I’ve been trying to get up early (doesn’t ever work) to do some things before it gets hot, but it’s hot like RIGHT away… we take Felix to school at 8.30am on the bikes and we’re sweltering on the ride home… it’s only 10 minutes on the pushie but it feels like an hour in the heat.

Luckily, these photos were taken right after the Typhoon in July on a super normal summer day, lovely and warm and a little overcast!

Veronica Darling Art Museum Shorts Oliver + S

I’ve never made a Oliver + S pattern before this year, I bought two of the boy patterns a while back, and luckily I have time this year, because he might be too big for them in a year or two! I bought the 6 months to 4 year old size, he's a size three already as a two year old! So weird to think that! Children really grow quickly!

Veronica Darling Art Museum Shorts Oliver + S

These are a short version of the Oliver + S Art Museum Vest + Trouser Sewing Pattern, and the second pair I’ve sewn. The first was a test pair from red gingham, and I have photos somewhere of Felix wearing them, but these photos were ready first! The fabric is the same as my Sophia Dress, a vintage replica of some sort, it’s quilty type cotton and features my favourite - planes!

For these shorts, I initially had a plane on the knee, but they suited little boy short shorts instead of saggy longer shorts (he has trouble climbing in longer shorts, and he’s also becoming very opinionated on these ones now too… each week he’s showing us his likes and dislikes. Clothes, this week he doesn’t like them at all. I can relate - it’s so hot!)

Veronica Darling Art Museum Shorts Oliver + S

So instead the planes on the back are there instead of the welted pockets, it felt too sad to cut them into the fabric and plus, it made these quicker to sew. Now that I have the traced pattern and his size ok, they’re sewn up in less than an hour, and for woven fabric - that’s pretty great right!

The front pockets are SUPER quick to put in and the waist is elastic with a fake fly. Next time I’ll sew a fake cuff and put the belt tabs on… there’s a lot of variation in this cute pattern.

Veronica Darling Art Museum Shorts Oliver + S

This matchy-matchy style of dressing isn't really my thing... often I find we wear the same colours but as I'm dressing him and myself, it tends to unfold that way (when you've got purple and stripes on the brain, you dress both of you the same without thinking. But in Shanghai, people dress very matchy-matchy all the time... like the whole family! I've seen everyone wearing Minnie or Mickey Mouse tshirts. I've seen families in all sorts of yellow tshirts with different Minion characters on the front. I just find it so hilarious that it's a thing, and not ironically. EARNESTLY. I want to dress us a bit the same more to 'blend' in. LOL ... we'll see. But I just couldn't waste this darling fabric, so matchy matchy it is.

Well when I convince him to wear clothes that is!

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...