Thursday, 31 March 2016

Talking: Sharpening My Skills

As a sewing blogger, the hardest thing for me is when you don't sew things, what do you blog about?

I have some projects I'll show you this next week, that aren't garment sewing exactly... fun relaxing kind of sewing! Like my millions of rope bowls last year, I have started some new ways to sew and make things. Art. Dare I say it! But, actually I feel throughout March, I spent a lot of time *sharpening* my skills... and rather like my son's lovely collection of pencils above... the more I'm sharpening, the more colours and pointy pieces of my career & personality are coming through. It's been a funny month career-wise, and full of more personal/professional development instead of getting paid, but I guess that's where I'm at right now here in Shanghai!

Here's a hilarious (to me) list of things I've been up to in March:

  • Started being a filmmaker - documenting aspects of Chinese Weddings, recording audio & video for the first time, seriously. (Not just for youtube at work!)
  • Blogging Workshopwise - with M Glam and Shanghai Bloggers, I launched M Blog Club as part of the Shanghai International Literary Festival... very happy! And made a blog about blog tips in Shanghai!
  • Hosted a 10 minute presentation at a corporate conference, on the subject of Wechat: Social Media at Work
  • Moderated a Q&A session with author Joshua Scher, as part of the LitFest! Channeling my radio interview skills, dream inspo being Zan Rowe!
  • Made a website for my organisation IPWS where I'm a Board Member in sponsorship, but now a Web Admin Guru (!)
  • I've been a Guest Judge for the China International Comedy Festival at the very funny Kung Fu Komedy club here in Shanghai
  • Ran a Speed Networking Event through my group last night
  • And was almost going to run a Sewing Skirts for Beginners class, but with Easter Weekend they had to postponse! 


I'm a bit pooped on this last day of March, but I'll head out for more judging laughs at the Suzhou leg of the comedy festival... should be fun, plus I've never been to Suzhou before!

What have you been doing in March? Keeping busy? Hiding until springtime/autumn? I hope you've been keeping well and happy whatever you're up to!

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Voila: Briar Top with Tiny Spots

Briar Top Pattern

Yay! So happy to show you my sewing today! Last week I had a little window for sewing (I’d traced the Briar Top Pattern - size S - the week before) and so I jumped quickly into cutting & sewing this Megan Neilsen Pattern...

If you look through any of my sewing creations from 2009, you’ll see how much I love sewing with knits! Peak Knit Sewing Year for me, 2009 when I sew-ed and sew-ed all the stretchy things. They are SO quick! And while I’ve never sewn this Briar Top pattern before… I just knew an hour of cutting and sewing would be enough and I was spot on with the estimate! LOVE a quick project.

So the Briar Top is definitely a popular pattern and I've seen SO many great results with it, but I only bought it last year after thinking about sewing with knits again … I’m a little stranded without my sewing books here in Shanghai (however maybe I gave the Sew U Stretch away? Can’t remember what’s in storage anymore!), so bought this pattern to try out for winter… and as always, the season passed quickly… so now it’s a springtime top.

Briar Top Pattern Briar Top Pattern

The fabric is a Taobao purchase, and feels lovely and healthy cotton… the cotton I used to sew my Venus Bay Kimono has a synthetic mix and I get a bit hot while wearing it! This black cotton was a punt (ordering fabric on Chinese websites can absolutely be a gamble!) but it’s lovely!

Great to sew with, great width, so I got most of this top in under a metre of fabric… it was quick to cut and then SUPER quick to sew up. Thank you Meg for the best tip: IRON a lot… because the clean finish on knit tops (especially the neckline) is all in the pressing… I pressed every seam after overlocking. The hems were finished with my twin needle, and while aren’t exactly perfect (so many missed stitches on the right needle.. have no idea why?), it’s not that noticable. I didn’t stitch the neckline down just the armholes and hem.

I love the curves of the hemline! I definitely need to wear a top underneath, for it is short... but might be nice over a tight dress? I’m on a Megan Neilsen Pattern kick (my last sewn up skirt was the Brumby Skirt) at the moment, and will probably make another Briar Top … maybe even try a dress version next?

BUT, before I dash off, I’m so happy I finally found a friendly photography spot near my house. The sun came out yesterday and I was wearing the top for the second time - just in case the weather turned! I packed my tripod just in case, and turned around the corner behind my house into another apartment block’s garden… and voila! A lovely little spot where the sun came through at a lovely direction. AND amazingly, no one was around! In Shanghai there’s ALWAYS people around! SO happy!

But MAN! Now I have to find a remote control clicker for my camera, because it looks like I’m completely phone obsessed, but actually I’m trying to see the ‘shoot’ button on the screen! So daggy, but I’m happy to find a nice outfit spot in a nearby garden in case Husbie’s not around.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Talking: Update on Spring Blogging Workshops

Hi there! Happy Monday!

Just quickly wanted to update you on the Springtime Blogging Workshops, here in Shanghai! So if you're not local, skip over today's post and I'll bring you my Megan Nielsen T Shirt later this week!

In January, I was knuckling down the details for a Springtime Session of Blogging Workshops... that I wrote about here... and just wanted to announce that my workshop is now included in the Mini March LitFest (along with a bunch of other actual authors & interesting talks!)... ! So happy! Our first workshop will be about Food Blogs (there are AMAZING foodie bloggers in Shanghai! The restaurant scene is - as you can imagine - diverse & plentiful!) and my first guest will be the delightful Nancy of Plus Ate Six. We'll host a little Q&A with Nancy and run over some ideas that make a good food blog!

Thank you again for your comments about Blog Ads last week! I'm firmly on the fence about them, however with some time, we'll see. Food Blogs are a great genre to start our 2016 workshops, because M on the Bund is a very beautiful setting - the view from its balcony above - and the menu changes with the season... but it's also a very photography focussed blog genre... while recipes & foodie talk is great for sharing information... photography in food blogs can be critical to a successful following & professionalism... what do you think? Do you follow food bloggers as well as sewing bloggers? Personally, I google up my most of my recipes... so find a lot of new bloggers this way. Would love your thoughts!

But! Have a great week, and I'll catch you soon!

Monday, 7 March 2016

Making: A Giant Crochet Toy Bag

So here’s another funny thing I’ve made recently! I noticed a lot of ‘dress ups’ floating around our apartment recently… a pirate costume from Halloween, a ‘Backson’ outfit I made for our Winnie the Pooh loving child and lots of accessories like dinosaur tails and binoculars always on the floor.

Time for a dress up basket!

Without ever wanting to spend money on anything, I decided to try some large scale crocheting with my rope that was too thick for my normal sewing machine… and using a small rope as the main crochet or weaver material… it was a long process but it’s a fun and easy accessible basket for the small boy.

I used the large crochet hook, and used the thinner rope as the main crochet thread... and crocheted around the big rope, I didn't really know where I was going, so just went around in circles for ages and then adjusted it for the sides as I went around and around...

After lots of sewn (zig zag machine stitched) rope bowls, my domestic machine isn’t keen on sewing this thick rope… I think an industrial one would do a better job… but I can’t really justify getting one … especially since I’m not really bringing in stacks of dosh (just a few voice over jobs here and there isn’t really a regular pay day!)… anyways!

When we get more dress ups, I think I’ll unravel it… but Felix likes it for now and his favourite dress ups are the Tiger costume (a cheapie Chinese made synthetic mess) and the Backson costume (that I made last year and never blogged about) and his pirate hat.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Talking: Blogging Workshop & Ads on Blogs

blogging workspace cafe coffee shop

Hey there, if you read my blog in a browser or through bloglovin' you'll see I've added some Google Ad things and an Amazon Ad thing recently just in the side banner bit of my blog. Of course, this has nothing to do with sewing (however I hope they're showing content that relates to sewing or educating ones life), but a little to do with what I'm up to in Shanghai.

This year, I've been elected (lol) Blogging Workshop Guru by the Shanghai Blogging App group, and personally requested by the awesomely gorgeous Michelle at M on the Bund & Glam Bar to run the workshops with them... it's a lovely setting and perfect for afternoon gatherings (Um, and cocktails at night time!). But while I've been blogging (and working in media making & content creation for around 14 years), I haven't really tried affiliated links or ads, and lots of bloggers or potential bloggers are keen to talk about monetizing. Some even begin without a following... and some use it to grow a following. BUT, while in my heart I'm very 'independent' and that's what happens from working at a place like the ABC with strong ethics/values and editorial policies... I'm feeling like there are gaps in my knowledge.

So I'm testing out the things... testing out the ads. But I'm curious about your experience? Are you into them or dislike ads on blogs? I have been happy just writing and sewing and not really into earning money from this blog. Sometimes I think about starting a new blog (oh really, maybe I have done that already?!) that exists entirely about products and ads and monetising just so I can learn more about it... but it's not really me. So a little here and there, to check and to help point people in that direction when they ask.

I really enjoyed Heather's How to Monetize Your Blog post a few years back... and have shared that with people here. I know it's not for everyone, but if you're thinking of starting a blog - especially in Shanghai - what could be the goal posts for you? I like knowing what's out there. If you've had experience with making money from your blog, do share!

Also, the photo above in the cafe features my Beats by Dre Headphones - I won them in my Husband's work lucky Chinese New Year raffle game... but thought I'd link to them here through the Amazon Affiliate Links program and see what that means. Disclaimers are good, right? I like when bloggers let people know what they're linking to in blogs...

Happy week to you! xoxo

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Viola: She Wore Green Velvet!

As a David Lynch fan, I had to with the title of this post! And though I’m wearing green and not blue like the film, there’s a bit of the Blue Velvet theme running in this skirt! On the surface, it appears all beautiful and happy green (although very wintery!)… but below, beneath the surface, things are a bit different!

The velvet-ish fabric is from Dongmen Lu Fabric Market in Shanghai, in the Basement. I hardly go to the basement, mostly because I forget it’s there… but it does have some different textures like vinyl, stretch velours and other stranger tulles and satins and a little cheaper in price and quality than upstairs at the regular ‘tailor’ part of the market… so it’s fun to have a poke around there. I once saw a shopkeeper burning a wood sign… like carving with hot tools to get a burnt shop sign… so it can be a fun eye-opener DIY explore too!

The shopkeeper with the velvet said it was ‘silk’ and the rolls were in bold colours and wider and taller than me… I’d say about 10 rolls of them in her tiny shop… I almost got some red but opted for trying green (trying to find more ‘jewel’ colours to suit this hair colour of mine).. and I think it’s a great colour… it’s not exactly too emerald or too bush colour (have no idea if that’s a real colour - but you know that bush/khaki green colour?). ANYWAYS, again not knowing enough Chinese I couldn’t ask more about the fabric, it seemed cheap enough so I don’t think it’s super good quality and the pile of velvet is only slight… not higher than 5mm in thickness so I doubt it’s good… but it was slippery to sew with and irons weird like other velvet or velour. It doesn’t have a right way or a wrong way though… so if you’re a velvet expert let me know what you think…

Before making the Brumby Skirt, I firstly tried a simple shift dress with sleeves… but the pattern I used had both a plunging neckline both front and back with thin straps… so in my haste to make a dress before Christmas I didn’t carefully research how to sew with velvety fabric, opting for the straightforward fuck it approach, I then ended up with frayed seams that broke out… and wonky necklines with the attached cotton lining. IRK! I guess it was only just over a metre of wasted fabric though, because I had enough to cut this length Brumby Skirt… I must have got 3 metres of the stuff for about maybe around 20 bucks Australian.

The Brumby Skirt Pattern was a present for my Birthday Giveaway last year, kindly gifted by the lovely Megan Nielsen to myself and giveaway winner Kathryn… and it’s a nice familiar feeling to use one of the MN patterns again… very straightforward and helpful… I made version 1 with the pockets and the less fullness (due to the velvet, I treated it as thicker fabric) but made it a little longer to see what the length would look like for winter… I’m not super into longer skirts, but thought I might be ok with this one and if not I’ll chop it short!

I love how the velvet hangs around the pockets, very happy … because it’s super tricky to topstich (it looks bad) velvet, I just left them unstitched but otherwise made no other changes to the pattern… it’s a size S, with a 71 cm waist, and perhaps on the snug size as the zipper needs a big tug to get over the seam of the waistband…

Velvet like this, as it’s pretty cheapy and flowy, was hard to press. and it’s still showing my original bad pressing (I since added thick folded knitted fabric ot the ironing board to help and hung it for ages in the sun to get rid of the iron board pattern - most notably was around the middle seam)… in retrospect, I should have perhaps ditched the middle seam and just cut the front piece on the fold… but also, I probably should have paid more attention the some of the seams on the inside as they're fraying like crazy…. so hence my David Lynch vibes of something terrible on the inside.

Whoa, I cut that zipper off in a rush too - didn't even notice that rough cut til now!

Oh well, testing new fabrics is my vibe here in Shanghai… I'm happy with this one! It's probably going to be heap nicer to style in a few weeks from now... it was freezing again when we took these photos... and so dull around Shanghai. I need some springtime delightful colours next I think!

Hope you're having a good week, and hooray for Spring! Thank you again lovely Meg for my birthday giveaway present! WOO!

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...