Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Seasons Change: Happy Autumn!

Thank goodness Future Islands wrote Seasons (Waiting On You) because now when I feel like the shift in temperature, the wind a little chillier, and the sun a little less strong... I have this song in my head.

And so we're feeling the autumnal vibes around Shanghai this week, especially after a sunny holiday in Australia. The weather here makes us cough a little more, as our lungs and noses adjust to the pollution level... because that air in Australia is just so clear. And through this season and climate change (and that red moon last night), I am again confronted with all the millions of possibilities and choice of this fantastically great city!

Last night I went to the comedy festival, the FIRST Shanghai International Comedy Festival, and will represent an Australian colleague today at a comedy discussion forum. I'm overjoyed to be meeting new people and sharing some stories about Australia's comedy industry. Also my friend and I are constantly working over new projects and we'll be at the Shanghai Literary Festival next week (!) talking about using social media & blogging as ways to kickstart your writing and finding your voice. Lots of things happening here!

But, sewing friends, the biggest 'Sewing in Shanghai' news for me is that I started back at SEWING SCHOOL on Monday nights with Teacher Catherine at Couture Nomad! WOO! I'm halfway through a skirt already, so I'm buzzing along with the sewing machine! Yay! The TRICKIEST thing for me has been finding the right transition outfits for this weather, and if I could find the time I'd go through my wardrobe to get some actual plans happening but for some reason I still have jumpsuits on the brain! Can we still sew jumpsuits in winter? LONG trouser jumpsuits and more woven short shorts versions with thick winter tights? I don't mind shorts in wintertime!

Hope you're having a great week! I'll be back soon with my Oliver + S Art Museum Trousers I made for my boy (who doesn't want to wear them now unfortunately!)... talk soon!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Made in China: Craft'd Shanghai & Espadrilles

There’s something rewarding about learning a new skill or completing a new project, and while it’s fun to gather up the knowledge & materials yourself and wing it (I do this plenty of times), it’s also great doing it with others face to face. Until I started sewing classes earlier this year… I rarely did face to face classes or workshops. I'd spent years problem solving sewing myself with my vintage patterns, and in sewing the biggest mystery for me was solved when I realised clothing was sewing right sides together! Or inside out! DUR. So here's Mae from Craft'd Shanghai and I grinning about making shoes!

Making espadrilles was something I’d wanted to do, to solve the shoe making mystery… I guess! Plus, the classes were with Craft’d Shanghai and I wanted to hear about another group here in Shanghai helping people be creative. And so, here’s another of my ‘Made in China’ series for you today… where I look at the offbeat & creative side of life in China. Handmaking outside of production line with photos from throughout my class!


So while I took the class with Mae (who came to Shanghai from the Philippines), she works closely with Natalie (a UK export)… who I hope to meet soon… but for now, here’s my questions with them!

How did you guys meet?

Natalie: I had been running crafty events through Meetup for a few months and Mae came along to a decoupage event at Chirps and Mews in Jingan. Mae apparently can’t remember me being at that event, but she came back to every Meetup after that so we got to know each other pretty well!

How did you come around creating the workshops?

Mae: The Meetups were originally started in January 2014 as a way of meeting creative people outside of work and to make time for learning new skills and crafts. Craft’d came about as a business when these events started becoming more popular and we were asked to run creative activities for different events in Shanghai. All of our Meetups were held in very understanding restaurants (we got odd looks when we brought out craft knives, crochet hooks and even saws sometimes!), but we were limited in the type of event we could offer - hence the opening of the Craft’d Studio! This means we can now use the sewing machines, make candles, paint and so much more!

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Have you guys always been creative?

Mae: Yes. I grew up with my aunt preparing so many crafty things to do after school and on weekends so being creative was encouraged at home since I was really young.

Natalie: I’ve always loved making things, especially with fabrics, and my mum is a seamstress so I learn a lot from her. But I think it all really took off since discovering Pinterest!!

How easy was it to set up a workshop here in town?

Natalie: I think for us we were lucky to have the Meetup community already built up, as we knew that group of people would be interested in the activities we offered. Plus, nowhere else really offered creative workshops outside of painting and art (which is not at all my strength!), so we got a lot of interest from magazines and events.

What was in the lanehouse before you held workshops there?

Natalie: It was an apartment, but the space seemed perfect for what we wanted, plus the kitchen has been especially helpful!


What are your day jobs in Shanghai?

Mae: We are both kindergarten teachers, I work full time and Natalie works in the morning.

Mae told me there are so many charities and community events your guys are into, can you share some links or point me where I can find out more?

Mae: We have tried to work with charities as much as possible. We ran arts and crafts classes for a migrant school via Stepping Stones last year, which we hope to start again soon. We are also working with the Shanghai based charity The Giving Tree - for every class booked and every kit we sell, we donate a ‘teachers kit’ to be added into their teacher bags, containing things that we as teachers have always found helpful in our own classes (praise stickers, chalk, pens and so on). We also run a monthly class making pillowcase dresses for the charity Dress a Girl Around the World, which has the mission of giving every girl in the world their own dress.

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The term 'Made in China' has got a bad wrap in the western world, mostly showing bad quality, but what's something Made in China that you're amazed by? That you love?

Natalie: I love the paper cuttings that are popular here. I would love to find someone here who could teach us how to do that. Also xiaolongbao, am I allowed to mention that?! I looooove them!

What did you think of Shanghai in your first week here?

Mae: I thought it was very bright, very modern and fast-paced. I lived in an island most of my life so it was all very different and very new to me.

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

Natalie: I love that Shanghai has so much potential. Craft’d is really a dream come true that would take a huge amount of time and investment to start up in the UK. The expat community is also very supportive which makes a big difference. It really is a city that gets under your skin - we are in the majority of those who planned on ‘only staying 2 years’!


Thank you Mae & Natalie! I agree, Shanghai has so much potential for everyone and thanks for sharing a little about Craft’d Shanghai with us! There are lots of workshops for adults and children… and as Mae & Natalie have backgrounds in schools, they’ve got a great understanding what children want to make! You can visit their website, or look at their wechat (craftd_sh) or Instagram!

Also, FYI the xiaolongbao Natalie mentions are Shanghai's famous dumplings... and are actually handcrafted little pieces of perfection! So yum!

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Voila: An Exaggerated Bettine Dress

A dress sewn in Shanghai, China and photographed in Gippsland, Australia! Very excited to show you this dress today, and yes! I’m back in Australia for a short visit, with Husbie’s demanding work schedule clearing up around Golden Week in China, we’ve secured a few extra weeks away and catching up with all the nature we can find at my parents place in Gippsland.


I made this dress the week before we left for our trip and had hoped this fabric would turn magically into a happy holiday dress, and that’s what happened! Yay! It’s a different shape for me, but after my Orangey Floral Kim Dress wasn’t my favourite fit (the fabric is exactly the same light linen feel) I wanted to try a flowy kaftan or kimono sleeve with this absolute favourite purple fabric! And I think it worked!

Bettine Dress Tilly Veronica Darling

The fabric is from the usual fabric markets (you can see it here) and I got it at the start of summer. I am in LOVE with these colours. Purple, green, red, yellow. I think they’re my absolute golden ones. Outside of black, but I actually don’t see myself wearing black as often… I haven’t sewn it for ages…. so I might be off it! Sewing this up was easy but it creases a lot and that’s why I think it’s linen… but very lightweight. I need to get a list of fabrics and have them translated so I can try and find out what things are at the markets.

Anyways, the pattern is the Tilly & the Buttons Bettine Dress but super exaggerated… I imagined Bettine dropped by while I was tracing and just kept whispering “more sleeve… you can drop that underarm curve more… you can do it” to me… so I did and in the end didn’t use the skirt pieces at all, because as I traced lower and lower under that arm… it almost matched up with the waist seam so I just drew the side seams straight down to the hem. I tried to keep the same length of the Bettine though, because I wasn’t sure how I’d make a waist (elastic like the Bettine pattern or ties like I’ve done) before I started sewing.

Bettine Dress Tilly Veronica Darling

But it’s a Bettine pattern front and back, and instead of that wide facing pieces for the neck, I just used bias and handstitched/blindstitched it down… I didn’t want any topstitching near the neckline.

So I’d stitched the shoulder seams, the neckline and the side seams… and tried it on and was officially a Bettine Bag. Lump of Linen…. and of course no shape for my curvy body made it look even more enormous… so I measured out a long couple of pieces of fabric to make the ties… then attached them at a spot either side (unstitched the spots on the side seam stitching) kind of at the same point the waist seam would be on the Bettine skirt piece (or I guessed it was). The idea came from this photo I pinned but of course didn’t have the extra fabric pieces to make it smooth like that... but hindsight doesn't work as well with fabric, so this worked fine really.

Bettine Dress Tilly Veronica Darling Bettine Dress Tilly Veronica Darling

I hemmed it and that was it. QUICK and easy and florally flowy. I tried tying it two ways… this way is pulling the ties forward first and then wrapping them around… that makes a smoother bum and a gathered front. The other way I tried to make a smoother tum and a gathered back waist/bottom but Husbie said this way was better, and showing my body shape a bit more than creating a weird extra shape at the back. I don’t feel frumpy because the fabric hangs so lightly, but I don’t think I’d make it again unless the fabric had heaps of drape.

But I like it and could kiss the big flowers for being so richly coloured. I think these jewel tones suit me ok? I haven’t really thought about it until I went normal blonde last year and then strawberry blonde this year… it’s hard finding the colours you like and that suit you… After a bit of googling I came up with pastels (not my favourite colours/tones) and jewel tones… so will try to stick to these to see which suit my skin and hair colour… When you’re platinum everything looks bold and really good (or I thought so anyways) apart from yellow… so at first I felt muddled having to find the right ones… I feel great in these colours though, so that makes me really happy!

Bettine Dress Tilly Veronica Darling

We’re going to a wedding this weekend, and I’m hoping to wear this lovely purple relaxing dress… (unless I make another dress or wear the other Fabric Market dress, who knows what I’ll be in the mood for?!) and cannot wait to catch up with loads of good friends. xoxo

Monday, 12 October 2015

Art of the City: A Creative Life

I’ve been photographing art and street art and spaces in Shanghai, as you do… living in a busy metropolis that’s still not your familiar home city. And this year, I’ve always been pondering about the creative life and who I am and how I am as a creative type. There’s a few hints at this in my ‘Made in China’ series, as I’ve just not felt artististic or creative 100 per cent… I’m extremely practical and full of problem solving and needing to know WHY all the time. USUALLY.

But in Shanghai, I’m feeling a shift. I am definitely letting things go when they don’t matter anymore…

And I guess more importantly, the self awareness has just kept growing… and recently the fog of ‘Who the fuck am I?' has lifted and I feel some great clarity. Without my job, my friends and family around me like in Australia… I’m just me, just a mother, a wife. And while I know that’s just not all there is about me… I have felt really stripped back and the need to rebuild myself has been very strong.

From talking to other people in this position, this feels like a common thing… and Shanghai has lots of people coming and going and is a remarkably energising place. Especially for rebuilding. I have been saying ‘Yes’ all the time and it's led to so many different things. Sometimes I think, what would I usually do in this situation? And then try and do the opposite. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

So instead of putting value on my identity or role or title (I felt so happy when I settled on a 'Media Consultant & Creative Strategist' to sum up who I am here in Shanghai... but immediately felt ridiculous!)... but yes, instead of putting this importance on who I am... I'm going to just be and express and do...

And leapfrog my way through it.

So I've ALWAYS wanted to do a blog series of the Art of the City (and this could be actual art or just the vibe of it) because when I was a very impressionable young woman, I read Fiona Parker's Art of the City column in the local street press every week and was in absolute awe of her... if you're in Victoria, you'd know she hosts the ABC Central Victorian Mornings Show from Bendigo... so she continues to be a legend. So this blog series is in ode to Fiona (who has since been a gorgeous friend and colleague) and I want to show the art of this city... and who knows what other city I'll end up in?!

And this artpiece: Leapfrog Scultpture from the Xintiandi area of Shanghai

Friday, 9 October 2015

Making: Red Flowery Espadrilles

A few weeks ago, there was ANOTHER Chinese holiday (it constantly feels like it’s party time/holiYAYs at the moment) and I met up with Mae from Craft’d Shanghai at their new little studio just off Fuxing Lu here in Shanghai for an Espadrille Workshop… and as they’d had a few last minute cancellations, I was the only one for the morning session! So luckily Mae wasn’t shy at telling stories, so we spent the time making and chatting about our lives in Shanghai and before we came here.

So the SHOES! They are MUCH easier to make than I’d imagined.. and really quick to make them… as the actual template/pattern is quite small and the sewing part is very minimal… the time is in the stitching it all together. And for me, taking the time to choose the fabric… oh the agony of choosing from someone else’s stash! Craft’d is very equipped with all the woven for this kind of shoe, so I wanted a two tone but once I decided on red for the main colour there were about 10 different options to make up… so settled on floral and stripe inside.

DIY Espadrilles DIY Espadrilles DIY Espadrilles

I’ll write up a blog post soon about Craft’d Shanghai and their workshops… but I had such an enjoyable morning taking my time with these shoes. It’s so great to chat and craft.

Like I mentioned the red stitching is the most time consuming and you also want to get it very neat because it can look unbalanced really quickly if you rush it… I have no idea what the stitch is called…. but you rely on tension a fair bit as you push the needle and thread through the sole of the shoe and then make sure you have the top stitch in place … um, it’s hard for me to explain without holding the shoes & thread! It was great to make something so neat though, so very happy I didn’t rush them!

DIY Espadrilles DIY Espadrilles

While it was super fun to make some shoes, once I’d made the second one up at home (the workshop allows enough time for the first shoe… but you do the second at home… unless you’re a stitching whizz!), I don’t think they’re the kind of shoes I wear. They feel like slippers to me… and are still a bit gapey at the back even with some darts at the heels.

I’ll deffo use these around the house (because we all wear slippers inside all the time!) and may even use them as my special sewing slippers when I start sewing classes again. BYO slippers!

DIY Espadrilles


Thursday, 1 October 2015

Hanging: Some Shanghai Bloggers Events

September has been beautiful and busy here in Shanghai. Lots of events, people in town visiting and it felt like Design Week, Photography Week, Art Week, Fashion Week (and so on) was all at once! My evenings were so full up and it was really great meeting people outside of my usual social circles. I love hearing people's stories! As always, people with different cultures & nationalities are in Shanghai, so over the space of a week, I was hanging with Mexicans (my girls!), eavesdropping on two Danish women from different backgrounds (one Chinese Danish!) and giggling with Chinese Australians while talking about kite surfing with a New Zealander! And that was just one day.

This year, I joined the Shanghai Blogging Society with their newly launched App (now with about 50 bloggers, but we started with 20) and I feel instantly connected to a bunch of new people and great ideas. If not for blogging, I’d not have met Line, nor Marta, nor Sandra this year or been involved in these different (and new to me) events.

Shanghai has SO much potential: for networking, for ideas, for entrepreneurial things, it’s actually dazzling how much is on offer here. I knew it’d be a bustling city (with 24 million people living in the city, you’d expect so!) but I am surprised how generous, friendly and warm people are… from local Chinese through to international business people. And I can’t honestly imagine a place where I’d be talking with people from all walks of life, from all levels of society, and from so many different parts of the world. As a sewing blogger, I do tend to read mostly sewing blogs… but when I need particular things I go on the hunt for new blog genres… from food and cooking, to fashion, to travel ideas. And being in a new city, I spend a bit of time googling & bing-ing (when the VPN doesn’t work as well) Shanghai and ‘Where to buy/find’ type topics.

So when there are blogging events on, I try to get to them! So great chatting about life in Shanghai with other people face to face!

The first event pictured above was A Fashionista Dinner, held through the new ‘MEET’ function of the very awesome Bon App! app (a generously planned out - great for taxi hopping around Shanghai - restaurant/foodie app) where anyone can join public dinners and meet new people. It’s a must for anyone new to Shanghai! Line from Shanghai Bloggers (pictured with me in my maxi dress) hosted the event with Sandra from Style by Asia and I was a co-host representing the bloggers of Shanghai… it was easily the best co-host event for me because I love talking with people and it was a popular event, a full house! The event was at a very gorgeous place just back from the bund called Light & Salt, and it was a fantastic vegetarian meal especially mapped out us veggie types!

Shanghai Bloggers & Style By Asia next organised a panel discussion on creativity, and a bunch of the Shanghai Bloggers came along to the Hay Concept Store in Shanghai… it was pretty interesting to hear about creativity in China but also how designers have adapted to the Chinese demands… Danish furniture is very popular, but changes the textiles from wool to linen for the Shanghai climate & to suit consumers. Lots more to learn about Chinese culture, but seeing how many people are in China, and how they love buying and being consumers… it’s no wonder lots of brands and businesses are hoping to come here. I was talking to someone working in New Zealand trade department (I see a lot of NZ butter, milk, and cheese here) and she’s just showczased a bunch of different coffee blends, not really expecting much, but younger Chinese groups were totally into it. Coffee (Starbucks is EVERYwhere) is getting to be more popular here, especially in Shanghai. Lucky for me! I can now find a great latte or flat white in several spots around the city! And that’s NOT including Starbucks. YAY!

OK, so I took few photos at the Hay event, but I loved my blogger gift bag! Especially the Lanehouse Apparel gift… I got to meet them too, so will hopefully get a ‘Made in China’ blog post about them soon because their gear is CUTE and very street and I would like to show you a different side of Shanghai… urban and hip hop wear is VERY popular here! Would you believe it! Hearing some awesome MCs rap in Chinese is AMAZING! If you're interested, Style by Asia has write up here and Line at Shanghai Bloggers wrote this up about the week.

Have you got a blogging network in your town? I’ve never really hung out with other bloggers before being in Shanghai in mass… so it’s kinda fun hearing how other people write their blogs… at the Hay event I talked a lot to Marta (Marta Lives in China) and Gosia (Shanghai City Girl) and it can be such a personal thing… writing a blog… and an eye opening & social experience for others! BLERGS HEY?!

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...