Nothing makes me happier…

Than spending time around fabric!  I started my day today in Shenzhen at the fabric mart on the 5th floor of LoWo Commercial City.   It’s really dangerous to turn me loose in a place like that.  I walk around and touch every fabric that catches my eye.  There are so many beautiful fabrics.  I was looking for my drapy linen and found it…in two colors no less!   And then there were the impulse buys.

Green Purple distored building printBesides being incredible colors, this fabric reminded me of a Monet painting.  It is cotton/silk so has a beautiful hand and drape.




Primary Color StripeAnd then there is this primary color stripe.  The vibrancy of the stripes is great and the color hues they matched together are perfect.  I can see a summer dress made out of this or a nice tunic and skirt.


 Fortunately common sense prevailed and I got myself out of there before I needed to buy a suitcase to pack home all of my yard goods.  The way I figure, if I leave some fabric for next time, it gives me a reason to go back and find other surprises lurking in those tightly packed stalls!

I was up at the YWCA yesterday and got a picture of the table runner.

Table Runner

The reason I was at the Y yesterday was to talk about the sewing classes.  I knew people were interested in sewing, however, the number of people interested has taken me by surprise.  The first two courses are full and have been for nearly a week!  We have added more day courses and, for those who work, have added evening sessions.  We are in the process of formalizing the new dates.  There are people already on the waiting list for the new classes so if you, or someone you know, is interested, have them call the Y immediately and get their name on the waiting list.  If the next classes follow suit of the first, they will be full nearly as soon as they go on-line.

Last Friday was our first gathering of Baubles and Knots.  Great group of people and we all had a joyous time talking and catching up.  I finished a shell pearl necklace which I thoroughly love.

DSCN0451These are large pill shape pearls in the colors of brown, bronze and dark green.  They go perfectly with so many things that I have. 




Because of a scheduling conflict, the next meeting of Baubles and Knots will be changed from 30 September to 5 October.  The B&K page has been updated and an e-mail will be sent a week prior.  But why not mark your calendar now!

I’m nearly feeling like I am getting on top of my To Do list.  I finished the Sewing Basics curriculum last weekend and it turned out to be quite a weighty document.  I’m in the process of creating the Intro to Sewing curriculum.  Fortunately, I have all of the Knotting Basics information complete so have put knotting on the back burner for the moment. 

But not too far back!  I have come up with a list of private classes that I’d like to offer this autumn.  I have attempted to come up with some new projects and concepts for the experienced knotters as well as basic classes for the beginners.   I am nearly ready to publish the class list; however, I’m going to wait a few more days  to make sure that I don’t over extend myself.  So stay tuned.  As soon as I have classes organized, I’ll send you all an e-mail so you can see what interests.

Time to go and do some more paper shuffling at my desk!  Have a great week everyone!


Papers and computer files

Well, I don’t have much to show for my week other than a pile of papers sitting on my desk and a whole lot of new computer files.  I have been busily working on the curriculum for the Autumn sewing classes.  I’m finished with the Sewing Basics and am pleased with the way it turned out.  The Intro to Sewing class is going to be fun; lots of terms, techniques and skills will be learned. 

The process of setting up these sewing classes has been good for me.  I have been sewing for so long that there are many things that I don’t think about any more, do automatically or take for granted.  In attempting to give a complete from A to Z introduction into the world of sewing, I have had to stop and really think about everything that I do right down to how to turn a corner before pressing it.  It is always good to go back and be a student even if it is with a subject that you know well. 

I was in NZ this past week and in the month since I was last there, the weather has warmed and Spring has started happening.Daffodils

These daffodils are all grouped together in one area and when they bloom it is stunning.  I saved these bulbs from a friends yard years ago.  He could not see the benefit in flowers and the only thing he wanted growing in his yard was a tree and some grass.  I was successful in getting him to leave these bulbs alone until it was the right time of year to dig them out.  They are beautiful delicate little things; I’m glad I saved them!Camelia

This camelia has more blooms on it this year than its combined total since I put it in. 

Some plants love hard, cold winters and with the one we just had in NZ, the plants are going to be in rare form this year.  All of the camelias are gorgeous and the rhododendrons have more buds on them than I’ve seen. 



I have a group class on Wednesday to make knotted bookmarks.  Friday is the first gathering of the Baubles & Knots group at Jamila’s.  I have penned together private knotting classes for the Autumn and will have the schedule with me on Friday if anyone is interested in seeing what is up coming.

And with that…I’m off to do more planning for classes.  Have a great week everyone and I’m looking forward to seeing some of you on Friday!

Sometimes you can be just too busy…

I just realized that the past 2 weeks posts have had the theme of simplicity.  Funny that.  Starting a new business has thrown me into the thick of getting everything ready.  And me having perfectionist tendencies, I cannot do things only good enough.  No, I need to go above and beyond.   But, I would have it no other way.  I have been spending nearly every waking hour working on my businesses of knotting and sewing; planning, organizing, gathering information, writing class curriculum, getting handouts and show-and-tell items ready, etc.  And then there are the classes that I have started teaching.  Don’t get me wrong, it is all very fun and exciting and I am thrilled with what I am doing; however, time does have a way of slipping away without me realizing it. 

This past week, as I was working on new knot samples and getting a couple sewing projects completed, I glanced at the counter in my craft room and noticed a plastic bin sitting there nearly buried by everything that I had on top of it and gathering dust.  It is the bin that I keep my pearls in.  All the lovely pearls that I have gotten over the past few months  are in this bin, carefully labeled and some with design idea sketches.  I stopped what I was doing,  put the bin on the table and emptied it out.  I had forgotten about some of the pearl in that bin.

 I set aside one project that I have wanted to do since I first learned pearl stringing and, I believe, were the first pearls that I purchasedConcept.  This is going to be a four strand necklace with “stripes” of white pearls.  The main body of the necklace will be maroon.  I am thinking that 5 stripes will give good balance.  I finally have a board large enough to lay this out .






Pearl StringsThen there are these strings of the most amazing soft olive green chevron drilled sticks.  I am going to pair these pearls with knots.







Pearl StringAnd finally this string of gold and bronze round pearls.  The iridescence on this string is incredible.  The pearls are so beautiful that simplicity is key in this necklace.  Straight forward pearl knotting is all that I’m going to do with a nice gold clasp. 


I have promised myself that within everything else, I do need to take time for me and the other things that I enjoy doing.  I am going to do one project a week that is just for me.  Whether it is pearl stringing, cooking or making a dress that does not have the intention of being a project for a class.  We all need to maintain ourselves within the busy lives that we live.  We must never forget to connect to our essence and what makes our soul sing.  Simplicity in life, getting back to basics, taking care of oneself…whatever you want to call it, we all need to take time to do it.

I have all of my class displays at the YWCA complete now.  I finished the table runner and took it up on Friday.  The space that I claimed for this display is not all that large and I was having trouble packing the runner in there, but finally made it look nice.  I was happy with my display, locked the cabinet and then headed down to Central.  Halfway down the hill, a thought stuck me…I forgot to take a photo of the runner.  Silly me.  So, you’ll just have to take my word for it that it looks really great…or take a trip up to the Y and have a look.  Just so I can give you some idea of what I’ve been working on, I mocked up a runner with the extra fabric that I had.Fabric Mock-Up

I used an off-white Chinese brocade fabric with a delicate gold embroidery for the center panel and then this gold knobby silk for the sides and back.  I then tied up a Chinese knot combination for the center with a tassel at each end.  

This past week, I found myself in Sheung Wan with a bit of extra time so allowed myself the luxury of going to one of my favorite “clothing outlet” stores to do a bit of “bin diving”.  This store has bins out front that has everything that they want to get rid of.  They have three bins that are marked HK$5, HK$10 and HK$20.  The vast majority of what is in these bins is hideous; however, I have found a few jems…a Liz Claibourne unlined jacket, a Ralph Lauren pair of linen pants.  So, it pays to do a bit of digging.  I was in the $20 bin and found this brown fabric poking out from the bottom.  I gave a tug and out came a dress.  I held it up and granted it did not have great “hanger appeal” but there was something about it that struck me.  The neckline was quite wide and the overly large collar was cut on the cross grain.  There was no size tag so I did a quick assessment of it and me and decided that it was probably about the right size.  And for HK$20, I really did not have to worry about breaking the bank.  When I got it home, I put it straight into the washing machine to release it of all the HK grime that it collected and get the massive wrinkles relaxed out of it. 

Full DressWhen I put it on, I was amazed at how it looked.  The neckline is fabulous; very wide with the back collar standing up.  The style is great too.  The only thing, the color is just not me.  That milk chocolate color and me just do not get along well. 

Having remembered that there were other dresses the same in the bin, I made a second trip to Sheung Wan and found the exact same size dress.  So now I am the proud owner of two of the same size dresses.  Why you ask?  Well, one is going to be used for a pattern.  At HK$20, I cannot purchase a Neck Viewpaper pattern so I am going to use the second dress as a pattern.   Having the luxury of taking a garment apart and have your pattern pieces there is much easier than taking a pattern from a completed garment.  The first thing I did was mark each individual fabric piece with an identifying name.  This will allow me to match up left and right side pattern pieces to see if they are the same or if they are unique.  Next, its out with the seam ripper and a few hours of very tedious seam ripping.  Every stitch needs to come out to get the dressDSCN0431 back to the point at which it started its life…just a pile of cut fabric pieces.  I’ll keep my progress with this project on the blog so you can follow along.

Happy week everyone!

There is beauty in simplicity

This past week I have been working on a lot of samples for upcoming classes.  As I was working on ideas for projects using all of the knots learned in the Chinese Knot Basics class, I was struck with how beautiful those knots are.  Once you get beyond the basics of knotting, you tend to forget about the knots with which you started.   You use them, absolutely, but you forget that they can stand on their own and be worthy of a statement.  When I am asked to come up with a project based class, I tend to skip over the basic knots because they appear “too simple”.  However, for someone who has never knotted before, they hold beauty in the very nature of their simplicity.  

Three Knot NecklaceI have had this glass pendant for a while and with the colors in it, it screamed for wild cord.  I paired up a royal blue, bright green, gold and bright maroon.  I then started using those basic knots to come up with this design.  I was stunned when it was complete because of how beautiful it is with the combination of knots used.   I have a new appreciation for knots, all knots, whether they be basic or complicated.



Here are some of the other items I came up with using basic knots for various projects…

Group Photo

Creative WorkshopI also had fun thinking about the Knot Creative Workshop that will be held in November.  So many people have commented that they know how to tie the knots but don’t know how to put them all together or to come up with ideas for projects.  Here are a couple simple knots used in unique ways as well as a more advanced pattern for a wall hanging. 

Just look at these adorable Christmas decorations that can be made from knots…DSCN0408

I found these (and a few more that I have not knotted up yet) in obscure Chinese knotting books that I found at the library.  I photo copied the pages and then worked through the sequence of making them.  I will be holding a Knot Christmas Decoration class at the Y.  I may also be doing a private class to share a few more just because they are way too cute to keep to myself!

And let’s not forget about sewing.  Displays at the Y for two of my sewing classes are a bit tough to make look attractive.  This is what I came up with for the Intro to Sewing class…Intro to Sewing Open Case

I really do not think I’m going to need to do too much “selling” for these classes because everyone I have mentioned them to have been interested and considering the class size will be limited to the amount of machines available, I am fairly confident the class will be full.

This pillow will be one of the samples to be made in the Sewing Homewares class.DSCN0407

While making this pillow, I thought of my Dad.  No, Dad was not a sewer.  He started out his life as a furniture maker and ended it being a master custom home builder.  Over the years, Dad helped me do many projects and one of the pearls of wisdom that he imparted to me was “measure twice, cut once”.  That has become so much a part of me that I hardly think about it any more.  It also has saved me yards of fabric being ruined when my brain was not  fully engaged in what I was doing.  While coming up with a design and pattern for this pillow, I was thinking about the “measure twice, cut once” mantra and smiled to myself because I had made a mistake in measurements that would have cost me a chunk of ruined Chinese brocade fabric.  Dad is never far away and he was obviously tapping me on the shoulder this past weekend as I was doing this pillow so I would not make a mistake.  It’s comforting to know that I carry a part of him with me each and every day and that this one mantra is so applicable to so many things.

I found out this past week that the YWCA will have the Autumn class schedule up on their website on Wednesday, 19 August.  Their web address is

I just glanced at the wall above my computer where I have pictures of all my feline “kids”, cartoons and a few words of wisdom.  Louis Vuitton did an ad campaign last season that struck me.  I first saw it on a  Cathay Pacific flight of all places.  I then went on an all out search to find it and copy down the verbage.  I’ll leave you with this for the week…

What is a journey?

A journey is not a trip.

It’s not a vacation.

It’s a process.  A discovery

A journey brings us face to face with ourselves.

A journey shows us not only the world,

But how we fit in.

Does the person create the journey,

Or does the journey create the person?

A journey is life itself.

Where will life take you?

Its the simple things in life…

I’ve said it before, there is something incredibly satisfying about taking a pile of raw materials and creating something wonderful.  When I mentioned “building project” to David on Saturday morning, he nearly ran to the utility room and started pulling out his saws, tape measures, tool box and power tools.  Talk about a kid in a candy store!  What we were building is a rack to hold my knotting cord spools.  I have made the decision to stock every color in every size that Tak Cheung carries, plus a few more that I’m finding at other retailers, so you can buy the spools in the colors you will be using the most and get those wild and wonderful colors from me in small yard lots.  What this has done is leave me with a pile of about 80 spools that I had poked into a cupboard that frustrated me every time I needed to pull them out to make a project. 

It took a while to talk about and design this rack in our heads.  It took even longer to go out and find all of the materials we needed with many trips to Ikea, B&Q and Wan Chai.  (While I’m thinking about it…for those of you who may not know, B&Q is closing the end of August.  B&Q is the Home Depot of HK.  If there is anything you need in the way of tools or building materials, they are having a huge sale! )  Building the rack took both of us working on it about 4 hours in the cramped and incredibly hot back stairwell.  It is wonderful having a man around the house when a building project is happening.  Now, my father was a carpenter so I can do all of this stuff; however, it is the process of doing something together that gives the joy and satisfaction that both of us felt.   At the end of this, we were able to stand back and admire our handiwork…DSCN0374

We put caster wheels on this so it is moveable and can roll into a closet when not in use…and to keep it safe from the cats!  Can you imagine…as soon as they found that they could grab one of those dangly bits of string I would have utter chaos in the flat.  I’ve got #5 cord on one side and #4 and #3 on the other.  I do not yet have quite enough rods and am waiting for more stock to come in at Ikea.    This rack is going to make my life so much easier and allow you to see all colors in their ranges and choose which best suits.  Many smiles are on this girl’s face!

The other knotting projects I’m working on are display items for the cases at the YWCA.  Autumn classes will be up on the website soon.  If you are interested in sewing lessons, I suggest you sign up early.  With the response I’ve been getting from people I mention them to, these classes will fill up quickly and the Y has only a limited amount of machines.  If  you find the class is full, please do send me an e-mail and we can see what we can do.

I finished the purple paisley dress I was working on.  From the fit garment last week, I made marked adjustments of where it needed to be taken in, out and up.  From there, I made exact marks directly on the fit garment and adjusted that garment.  Another fit trial to check all the alterations.  Once the fit garment was accurate, I then transferred the markings directly onto the paper patterns making the appropriate adjustments.  Now its time to lay up the pattern pieces on the fabric.   This project is one that I am going to be using in the Y’s Intro to Sewing class as a demonstration for this process.  And this is the finished dress…Finished Dress

I used a Vogue Very Easy pattern for this dress.  From start to finish, I probably put 8 hours into making this dress from pattern check, to fit garment, to alterations, to finished garment.  Sewing is time consuming and if you make a fit garment, it doubles the amount of time it takes.  I’m telling you this so you can be prepared.  When one picks up a basic pattern, there is a misconception that you can whip out the garment in a couple hours.  I have to admit that I sometimes  under estimate the time it takes to make something.  Don’t let the time commitment discourage you.  Once you learn how to sew, a few basics about fabrics and fitting, and have the confidence to “get in there and do it”, you will find the joy and satisfaction in creating your own clothes or home furnishings.  Sewing is addictive!

And finally, I have said that we have five cats, however, we actually have six.  This is Andy.  Laying downWe have had him for 8 years and he lives outside at our home in NZ.  He is definitely a “wild” cat but not to me.  The people living on our property put food out for him and it is almost always gone but they have never seen him.  The second night we are back, he shows up and is sitting on the picnic table.  In preparation for his arrival, I always get a package of chicken hearts at the grocery store.  I go out with his food bowl and get the obligatory hiss.  He sits across the porch for a minute or two and looks at me, and then boldly walks over and allows me to pet him.   And then my heart melts…

Have a great week all!

Fitting a new pattern

Well, I did do some sewing last week but did not get as much done as I had expected.  I went through my bin of fabrics and patterns and found this beautiful purple paisley that I’ve had for a while.  Fabric & Pattern

A few months ago, Spotlight (at Megabox in Kowloon Bay) was having a sale and had a huge box of patterns that they were selling for HK$20 each.  This is even less than a pattern cost 30 years ago wehn I first started sewing.  And better yet, they had quite a few in my size!  Normally these sale patterns are either ultra small or ultra big.  I found, oh, 10-15 that would make a nice addition in my pattern file.  Most are quite basic designs that will be easy to modify.

Anyway, this dress is very simple, fitted with princess seams and a  low, square neckline.  I wanted to make a few adjustments with the length and wanted two side vents rather than one center back.  When I opened the pattern, I did a quick check of the measurements to another dress that I recently made and realized that there were enough variances in size that I should make a fit garment before cutting my fabric.  You know, there is something about instant gratification.  I was ready to lay this up and cut it out and had hoped that I could wear it to the airport that evening when I met David.  But the thought of having to make a fit garment saw me put everything away and do something else.

But, I went back to it the next day and did happily make a fit garment.  Multi size patterns are great because you can grade cutting lines from one size to the next in certain areas to either give more room or less room which is exactly what I did.  This is what my fit garment looked like…

Full FrontSide Close UpBack

The armholes were perfect.  The front neckline  needs to be raised 1″.  The majority of the changes need to be with taking the princess seams in from bust to hips.  I’ll sew up these changes on the fit garments to check, will adjust the pattern accordingly and then lay it up on my fabric. 

The hard part about working with a fit garment is trying to look at yourself from all views without twisting your body and mishaping the garment and then putting pins through the fabric WITHOUT catching any skin.  I am in dire need of a body form. 

Project completed at classI held my first group Chinese knotting class yesterday.  This was a project focused beginners class.  We made this 10-Accord knot necklace with a double coin collar.  I challenged the group with the difficult 10-Accord knot and I am pleased to say that everyone completed the knot and tightened it beautifully.  Unfortunately we did not complete the entire necklace; however, we did get far enough so everyone can finish the double coins and the flat knot closure at home. 



On Stool, far view - Best PhotoThis is furry creature #5 of the clan…Jackie Chan.  Most people give me a look when I tell them his name; I think we had recently watched a Jackie Chan movie when Jackie came to live with us.  As you can see, Jackie finds it very difficult to get comfortable.  Most days, he can be found either on this stool in the living room or on the futon in the guest room…usually on his back. 

Today sees me working on my Chinese knotting Sham Shui Po guide, viewing the sewing machines at the YWCA in preparation for classes this Autumn and finishing up my purple paisley dress.

Wishing you an equally productive and fun day!

My brain is back!

Oh my goodness!  I normally am not affected by flying and actually enjoy jetlag and waking up at 3am because I get a lot done.  But yesterday…I was completely out of it.  My brain was simply not functioning and I was even having trouble forming complete sentences!  I’m happy to say that I’m MUCH better today.

On the flight home, I started thinking about and working on the course outlines for my upcoming sewing classes.  I just love sewing, fabrics, patterns…  The one thing I did do yesterday was pull out all of the fabrics and patterns that I have waiting to be made up.  I always seem to have projects in my sewing bin to be done…what sewer doesn’t?  Find someone addicted to sewing and ask them how many projects they have waiting to be made!

Projects to makeThese are three projects that I am going to be starting on soon.  I just love color and the fabrics I selected for these garments will look fabulous.  I have knotting cord in two colors of green that match the fabric at far left that I will be using to make a belt using the tassel head knot.  The top at bottom is probably going to be modified to have a high neck in back and more of a mandarin shaped collar which may lend itself to a row of creeper knots or clover knots around the edge.


Green Thai Silk Asian OutfitI found this gorgeous green Thai silk on my recent trip to Bangkok.  I decided that an Asian inspired suit would be great.  The top will have an asymetrical closing and hemline.  The sleeves will be bellshape with a slit opening.  The two samples of ribbon I found at Sham Shui Po and will be putting one of them along the opening and around the neck.  Problem is, I can’t decide which color to use.  The purple ribbon/green fabric combination is stunning but may make too much of a statment.  The green ribbon version has a brown background and blends in nicely.  I guess I’ll just have to see what type of mood I’m in when it comes to applying the ribbon!  The pants will be simple with a straight leg allowing the top to be the focus.

I am also on the hunt for some drapy linen fabric to make another pair of pants.  One of my Chinese knotting pals had a pair of pants on one day that I just have to copy.  They were simple in styling with the exception to the outseam.  The pants were split up to the knee and had Chinese button knot closures down to the bottom.  How fitting would that be for me to have a pair of these!? 

Another idea is a gussetted pair of jeans.  While riding the MTR one day, I saw a woman with a pair of jeans on.  At the hem, they had a gusset on the outseam made from Chinese brocade fabric.  The gusset was held together with a couple Chinese button knots.  Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me so could not covertly snap a picture.  But the concept was very cute.

Fabric SwatchesThese are some of the fabric swatches I pulled out of my stash in New Zealand and will be using for classes.  It is a good mix of knits, wovens and prints.  In the Sewing Basics class, I will be giving an introduction to fabric and talking about knits and wovens and their differences.  I will also talk about prints and choosing the appropriate pattern for a project. 

Hmmm, after all this talk about fabrics and sewing, I may just spend the rest of today in my craft room (which is actually our guest bedroom when no one is visiting) and see what I can find to do.

Something for you to do this week…if you have not ever thought that much about fabrics, go to your closet and have a good, close look at some of your clothes.  Fabrics are very complex and unique.  You will find different weaves, textures,  hand (feel of the fabric), and fibers. Some fabrics are stiff; others have beautiful drape.  I guarantee, you will have a greater appreciation for what you are wearing once you have a good look at the fabric it is made from.

Have a great week!