Are we having fun yet?

I sure am!  There is a lot going on at the moment and all of it is fun!  I have eleven new sewers going through my classes at the YWCA with the majority being very keen to learn more and continue on.  Tomorrow is the final session of Basics I where the ladies will get to make their first project which is a simple shoulder bag.   Basics II starts later in October and I think nearly everyone has already signed up for those classes.

I’m getting ready for the Helena May Bazaar on Thursday, 14 October which is held from 9am to 6pm.  This is a photo I took of a few pieces that I’ll have available.   I’m showcasing my pearl jewellery this year.At the bazaar, I will be launching my Pearl Party concept.   A Pearl Party is perfect for anyone who is looking for a fun activity to do with friends or a theme for a gathering (bridal shower, going away party, birthday).  I will bring in a selection of pearls and have all the supplies.  After preparing the difficult or fiddly aspects of making a pearl necklace, I’ll instruct and lead the group.  At the end of a leisurely 3 hours, everyone will have a completed necklace to show.  The Pearl Parties I have done in the past have been a huge success and provide wonderful memories for all who attended.

A few weeks ago, I had a photo of this embroidery which I completed for a book.  Well, here is the finished book!   I had so much fun doing this book that it has inspired me to do more.  Unfortunately, the beginning bookmaking course runs for 5 consecutive Mondays and I do not have 5 consecutive Mondays available for the remainder of this year!  I will have to book this into my schedule come the new year.  I really am pleased with the brass butterfly hardware catch that I used as a closure on the book.  I highly recommend this to anyone who is remotely interested in picking up a new hobby.  Go to www.bookworks.com.hk for more information.

Later this week I am going to be leading a sewers tour of Sham Shui Po.  I have put together a map of my favorite places for fabrics, buttons, ribbons, zippers, buckles, … ; all those things you need for sewing.  I am always on the lookout for amazing fabric so while wandering through the Hawkers Bazaar I spotted this cotton face/satin back hunter green and black jacquard fabric.  It is absolutely beautiful and will make a great jacket.  I asked the cost and it was HK$40/yd.  I started looking at it and noticed that about every yard there was a scorch mark across the full width (you can see them in this photo) which probably happened in the factory during finishing.  I pointed this out to the vendor and asked for a lower cost.  After a frown and huge sigh, she grabbed her calculator and typed in HK$30/yd.  “Hmmm” I said, “Lots of damage, see, here and here…”.  I spent a bit more time looking at the fabric like I was really interested and then picked up her calculator and tapped in HK$25/yd.  “Ay ya”, she said which translates roughtly to “Are you serious?”.  After a bit more to’ing and fro’ing, we finally agreed on my last price for 4 yards.  I come from a long line of bargainers and I could feel my Dad smiling down upon me for getting this fabric for this low of a cost.  I thanked her profusely and walked away feeling very, very pleased.  I’ll have to do some creative cutting and pick a jacket style that has a lot of cut and sew lines to ensure that the pattern pieces are small enough to fit between the damage, but to get this type of fabric for HK$25/yard where it would easily cost that much in US$  in a fabric store in the States, I can handle doing a bit of extra work.

Here is another find from this past week.  This headband is made using Chinese knots in a very creative way.  The hard plastic band is covered with a flat knot (or square knot for your macrame’ers) where the band is used instead of a base cord.  As an asymetrical accent, two pan chang knots are joined with what looks like a brocade knot on top that is shaped to look like a butterfly.  Very ingenious. 

And finally for today’s post, if anyone is interested in a holiday to the Top of the South Island in New Zealand, some friends of mine have a wonderful boutique apartment accommodation.  Ron & Fiona Oliver are very lovely people and will no doubt treat any guests like family.  Their house is built on the Kina Peninsula very near to the town of Motueka.  Their website is definitely worth a look, www.almyra.co.nz

This week I’ll be teaching 3 classes on Monday, and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings.   Mixed in there will be  some pearl knotting and jewellery making, some sewing and, hopefully, a bit of stitching.  Unfortunately, stitching has taken a back seat at the moment primarily because Nikki is out of town and I do not have my regular Thursday afternoon sessions to go to. 

Have a great week everyone and those of you in Hong Kong, enjoy this beautiful Autumn weather we are having!

Home…where’s that?

I just returned home last night from my home.  Confused?  Me too at times.  Being at home in New Zealand was fantastic; just the break that I needed.  I had a big huge dose of nothingness mixed in with long days in front of the fire trying to stave off those single digit temperatures.  I got together with some of my best friends and had a grand time catching up.  However, I could not wait to arrive at home in HK because I knew there would be 6 furry faces waiting to greet us at the door.  It is always nice to know that you’ve been missed and the “kids” do a fantastic job of expressing that.  

On the flight from Auckland to Nelson, I was in the front row facing the flight attendant on arrival.  We were chatting and he asked where I had been.  I told him HK and  after the normal questions about this, mentioned that we lived there.  “So,” he asked, “visiting family in Nelson?”  “No, we have a house here and I’m coming down for a bit of a break.”   “Oh,” he says, “So, where is family?”  “In the States,” I reply.   At this point, most people just twist their head to the side and give a bit of a funny look.  So home, well, home is where we are.   It really does not matter as long as those you love most are within arms distance.

I sold a few (well, actually quite a few!) pearl necklaces and earrings and have had more people wanting me to get together with them and their friends on my next trip.   With a few well placed, and connected, people, I could have quite a booming business down there.

I was admiring a friends sweater and she told me that she got it at Cruellas (great name!); check out their website  www.cruellas.co.nz  .  I stopped in for a look and could have walked out with a half dozen sweaters; fortunately I narrowed it down to just one.  Everything in their shop is made from hand spun yard and is hand knitted; you can purchase finished garments or raw materials and patterns to make your own.  Beautiful, beautiful things.  At the end of my trip, the New Zealand Cancer Society was having a fund raising drive and Cruellas had knitted items on auction for the cause.  I had the winning bid on this necklace/scarf.  Besides the colors being totally me, the way it is made intrigues me.  It is 6 ropes of approximately 6 rows of knitting all join together at the back.  I think this concept could look quite good with a smaller yarn and some beads thrown in here and there for effect.   I refuse to allow myself to pick up another hobby but I just might have to attempt making something like this!

The one thing I love so much about being in NZ is our home.  Having designed and help build it, I feel intimately connected to the place.  I can look at any wall, corner or cabinet and know what it took to create it.  This is the heart of our home; the entry and dining room which opens to the back yard.  This is a very special spot and one I find myself drawn to.  The columns are hand painted concrete.  There are 7 of them to signify the 7 energy centers or shakras.  The artist who painted the columns apprenticed with a Dutch man and together, they painted the columns in the Bee Hive (NZ parliment building) in Wellington.  This is a home that loves people and our last weekend we had guests all around the dining table.  Laughter filled the space.  Perfect…

My elusive yucca is doing it to me again!  I have had these plants for nearly 10 years and I have yet to see them bloom.  In defense of my poor plants, they did have a rough start which put off  blooms for many years.  But still, it could cooperate and coordinate with one of my trips!  These plants came to me from a friends yard whose preferred method of yard maintenance was a sprayer full of herbicide and a shovel.  He came over to see me one day with these two yuccas in the back of his truck and asked if I wanted them.  They were beautiful and I was thrilled, until he pulled them out and I saw that they had 6″ or less of tap root.  It took a lot of  TLC to keep them alive and now they are thriving.  If only we can get the blooming sorted…

 This is one thing I am glad I got to see.  This is my favorite rhododendron.  I just love the varigated flowers and leaves.  Mrs. Roosevelt I think it is called.  I know that it is named after a President’s wife and Lady Bird just does not sound right.  This rhody is nestled right up next to the pine forest in a nice shady spot so the blooms are always big and full.

Now that I am back home, I am going to be getting organized to start classes the middle of the month.  By all indications, the YWCA is having a high turnout on enrollment for Autumn classes.  My dressmaking students are increasing which is going to see me add a second morning.  I have a group of Chinese knotters who are very keen to learn more and I have a few fun projects for them.  And there is always my stitching that I am setting aside one afternoon a week to do…something just for me.

I hope everyone’s transition into Spring or Autumn (depending upon which side of the equator you are on) is a good one.

When It’s Meant to Be

I have always believed that if I am doing what I am meant to do and remain in a positive frame of mind about it, all things will align and amazing things will happen.  Case in point this past week…  Friday I had a meeting with a local Image Consultant in HK who is very well respected.  Eve Roth Lindsay of Savvy Style works with individuals and corporations.  I met Eve about 6 months ago and we have stayed in contact.  On a whim a few weeks ago, I sent her an e-mail explaining that I was venturing into the jewellery business and was wondering if there was any common ground between what we both do.  Eve invited me in to have a chat and show off my designs.  She liked everything she saw and asked me to provide some pieces on a commission basis.  What Eve does is present an entire image package for an individual from color to style to accessories.  She has other designers who provide jewellery for her to use in presentations and has been looking for someone to fill in with pearls.  Fortunately I had time this past weekend and pulled together about a dozen pearl necklaces in various colors, designs and lengths.  I will be delivering them to her this morning.  I am very excited about the opportunity that Eve has presented to me and hope for good things to come!

I finished another stitching project that I’ve been working on for about a month.  This butterfly and dragonfly design will be used as a book cover that I will be completing in September.  The butterfly on the far right of the design is a brass box latch that I found at a local hardware store.  I am going to stitch the upper body onto the front cover of the book and then create a strap for the lower body to attach to the back of the book.  I’ll put the finished book in the blog when its completed.  I am so enjoying stitching that I can sit down and loose hours in it. 

These are two necklaces I finished this past week.  This is one of those designs that is born from the clasp. I found these 3 cup clasps and thought they would be perfect for adding a tassel at the front.  The tassel can be removed.  I am going to see if I can buy extra cups so I can make different colored tassels for a multitude of looks.  This photo is also on the Gallery page, but just had to show it here too.

And what would a blog post be without at least one photo of the “kids”.  This is the most sought-after position in the flat on a sunny day.  Simon, Jackie and Thomas are all enjoying the luxury of a sunny location and a great view.  Ahh, a cats’ life!

Check out the Gallery page for What’s New.

I am away today to NZ for a few weeks.  Going to have a bit of a break, pull some weeds, prune some trees and probably chop some firewood.  All those things that are nearly impossible here in HK.   So next you hear from me, I will be at the bottom of the world in the middle of winter.

A New Hobby

With so many wonderful art and crafts out there to do, how can anyone avoid them…particularly me!  This spring, I started taking classes with a friend who teaches stitching (embroidery) here in Hong Kong.  Nikki’s website, with her mother, is www.les-designs.com    I learned to embroider when I was very young being taught by my Mother and Grandmother (they also tried crochet but that did not stick).   What I am re-learning now with Nikki is light years away from what I learned then.  All of the stitches are 3-dimensional and literally jump off the fabric.  I just love the unique and wonderful ways to use thread, yarn and even silk ribbon to create beautiful designs.  These are my first two pieces so don’t look too close!  They are a series of 4 that I am going to complete and then patchwork them into a pillow cover. 

And this new hobby has lead me to another form of stitching called “Sashiko” which means “little stabs” in Japanese.  I have had this jacket for years and have always wanted to learn how to do this.  By chance, a friend showed me a book that she picked up and there it was!  Although it looks simple, the designs are complex, geometric patterns which need to be stitched in a very strict directional manner.  This past week I made up a very simple linen slip dress and intend on putting a Sashiko design at the hem and around the neckline.  

One can never have too many hobbies…it’s the time thing that gets in the way!

In April this year, I lead a group of women who are learning to sew with me in making their own dressmaking body forms.  A friend in the USA had made one of these and told me about the process.  The forms are made with paper packing tape and are wrapped right onto the body.  These forms are an exact duplication of your size and shape.  I use mine all the time now.  Even though I have a very willing husband who will pin me into a fit garment at any time, it did slow down my sewing because I had to wait for him to be available to help me.  One woman saw my form and instantly wanted to make one, not for sewing, but to have as a sculpture.  These forms can easily be covered with a thin layer of plaster and smoothed.  I am going to build a stand for mine because it is hard to fit full length dresses with the form having to sit on the table.  I’ll be teaching this class again later in the year.

Could not resist putting this photo into the blog this week.  We grow oats for the cats to graze on.  This is a new crop that was put out a few days ago.  The boys from NZ, being originally outside cats, absolutely love grazing.  Porsche is a city gal so she just stands back and looks at the boys like they are crazy.  For her, if it does not come out of a can or a package, it can’t possibly be good for you; and, it’s green!  And Felix, well, he likes to sleep on the grass. 

Have a look at the Gallery page.  I’ve put a few new things at the bottom under the What’s New heading.

All for this week.  Take care everyone and will be back soon!

Some things must move farther down the list

And that has been my blog for the first half of this year.   Other things have been in the spotlight.  Let me briefly catch you up on what I have been spending my time on.  I have been teaching 3-4 days a week for the better part of the past 6 months.  And to keep up with all of these classes, I have been spending a fair bit of time creating and coming up with new ideas.  Shortly after the first of the year, David decided to open his own office here and I stepped in as designer/architect/contract manager/decorator.  He has no end of clients commenting on the beautiful, calming environment.  I have been concentrating on growing the jewelry part of my business (more on this later).  And I have been in discussions to consult on developing a training curriculum for factory sewers overseas. 

But first…  We have another new member of the family.  Let me introduce you to Felix.  He is an orphaned Hong Kong street kitty who came to us shortly after Chinese New Year.   He was very malnourished and had a bad case of cat flu.  We nursed him back to health and he has made a very welcome addition to our family.  His adorable factor is off the charts.  He never ceases to amuse with his antics. 

You will notice a couple new pages on my blog.  I am going to start teaching jewelry lessons in September 2010 and will work with others on home shows and parties.  I have been getting a lot of positive comments from what I make and decided this was a natural fit with the other arts that I do. So have a look at the Jewelry Lessons page to see what will be upcoming.  Also browse the Gallery page.

I have updated the Knot Lessons and Sewing Lessons page with upcoming classes for the second half of the year.   Dates are yet to be determined for the private classses and will be posted by early September.

A wee thanks to all of you for your continued support.  Since there is a lot to look at, I won’t make this post too long. 

Everyone take care and enjoy the remainder of the summer!

Angels for the New Year

I am well and truly back into the swing now.  My classes have all started and, as usual, I am having a blast sharing what I know with others who are interested in learning.

Last Thursday, I had a group of 7 women at the YWCA for the Chinese Knot Basics class.  We went through the first 5 introductory knots, did our take-home project, had time for a tea break (which is a huge giggle for all my students because I get so wrapped up in what I’m doing, I forget to let everyone up to stretch their legs!), and finished on time!  Every one of the women receive a huge “atta girl!” for catching on to the knots so quickly.  I always give an extra-credit knot to try at home and I am fully expecting to have everyone tell me on Thursday that they did it with no trouble.

I made this gaggle of wee Chinese Knot angels as New Years gifts for family and friends.  Now that they are all made, they will be winging their way around the world very soon to bring best wishes and, no doubt, a smile to the face. 

This will most likely be the Christmas project class that I teach at the YWCA this Autumn.  Everyone who sees these precious creatures wants to make them.

My last term sewing students and I started up our sewing group.  We met Tuesday morning this past week to start on our next project.  Everyone is making a dress.  Last week, we all got our muslin fabric cut out for a fit garment and this week will be doing fit trials and pattern modifications.  We also took a quick trip to Sham Shui Po last week so I could point out a few fabric shops.  Talk about the addictive nature of fabric…I think everyone got back on the train with at least one piece of fabric for our current and future projects.  Yes, that includes me.  What can I say, there are worse things to be addicted to!

Sewing Basics at the YWCA also starts up this week for a new group of people interested in learning all about sewing machines, seams and basic construction techniques. 

I had made this design up in white rice shaped pearls for myself ages ago with the metal beads and leather braided cord.  I was playing around before Christmas with my pearls and found these huge green/blue rice pearls; they are about 13mm long.  I started thinking, “Why do pearls have to be just for girls?”.  So, I strung these up for David as a Christmas gift.  He absolutely loves them.  He had this necklace on one day and a couple of our male friends saw it and asked for me to make them a necklace too.  I think it is great that men get to enjoy the specialness of pearls.  So when I go pearl shopping, I keep my eyes open for others that would be suitable for the men in my life.

All from me for this week.  Enjoy your week everyone and may it be filled with fun!

Happy New Year!

I’m rested, recharged and ready to get back at it!  As you can tell, I’ve taken a bit of time off and have really enjoyed allowing my creativity to flow freely again without the full diary of appointments and lessons.  There is a bit to catch you up on so I’ll start where I left off.

The fair in New Zealand was fantastic.  We could not have asked for a nicer day.  The event was held at a local winery which has a beautiful yard around the house.  We were positioned on the tennis courts with other craft type stalls.  This fair features all local artisans and crafts.  The rough headcount for the day was upwards of 3000 people; I think nearly all of them stopped by our table!  Kiwi’s are very inquisitive and friendly people.  Nearly everyone approached the table wanting to know all about our wares.  I was very happy with our sales for the day.  And I was even more pleased with my sales the following week!  As our friends came around the house to visit and catch up, everyone wanted to know what I was doing to keep myself busy.  What better way than to do a bit of show-and-tell.  I generated more sales by just talking about what I was doing without even trying to sell anything.  So many women said that they knew people who would love what I do so when we are back in New Zealand for Chinese New Year, I am going to have a few friends organize “home” parties with their friends and family. 

I made a lot of Christmas presents again this year.  Seems like table runners were the theme.  I went to Shenzhen and picked up a lot of beautiful Chinese brocade fabric to use in my table runner and pillow cover class at the YWCA in December and a bit extra for gifts.  The green runner was a gift for a good friend, the red one was on my table over the holidays and the white/gold runner will be sent to a friend for her birthday.

I also made a scarf for another friend (which, I understand, can double as a table runner).  I found some beautiful crinkle silk and had fun piecing it together, adding fabric and bead fringe and other decoration.

A wee moment of silence for the closing of our local Spotlight store.  It was truly a one-stop shop for all sewing related items.  The final weeks were chaotic as the sales got better and better.  One weekend two friends make a trip out there (I think I’m glad I did not go) and relayed that all packaged items were HK$1 each and the queues were over an hour long to get to the cashier.  I tried to keep my visit to mid-week.  I did not get the selection; however, I found enough good things to keep me going for quite a long time.  I am now the local Hong Kong dressmaking pattern outlet.  I was fortunate enough to get to go through the pattern drawers and pick out the patterns I wanted before they went on the sale table for the masses at $1 each.   I won’t divulge exactly how many patterns I walked away with; let it suffice to say that I could use one of those large, 4 drawer pattern file cabinets! 

A bit of house keeping items for you all…I’ve updated the Knot and Sewing pages with dates for upcoming classes.  Private Knotting classes will be advised after my first YWCA class concludes at the end of this month.  My Y sewing students from last term are getting back together and we are having a weekly sewing group meeting here at the flat to continue building our skills and techniques.  Anyone with basic sewing knowledge and your own sewing machine is welcome to join.  Future meeting of Baubles & Knots will be determined shortly and will be posted. 

And with that, I’m going to venture out in the rain to do a few errands.  It’s good to be back to my blog and back to work.  And my wish to all for the new year is that happy surprises and pleasant adventures come your way.

Until next week…

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