Posts Tagged ‘Sewing Lessons in Hong Kong’

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!

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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.

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…

Looking forward to some sewing…

The Helena May Bazaar is over and I’ve put my knotting cord away for a wee bit.  Mostly  to give my hands a break and also to go onto some other projects that I’ve been wanting to do.  The Bazaar was actually really good and I am very glad that I did it.  Unfortunately, I do not think that my product is well received in Hong Kong because there is so much Chinese knotted items available in the markets here and in Shenzhen.   That “specialness” factor just is not present.  That said, Whole TableI think our table looked good, I think we had a great mix of product and colors and who could be two more personable and approachable women!  We had a great spot in the Blue Room right in front of this huge window with great light.  One thing  I did take away from the bazaar is that my passion lies in creating and teaching and this is where I am going to concentrate my efforts.

The next event of this type that I will be attending will be the end of November in New Zealand.  The winery just down the road a ways from our house holds a yearly charity fair called A Country Occasion at Neudorf.  In NZ, the Chinese Knot items will be new and different.   In addition to the sales part of the fair, I am going to generate interest in holding classes there on a regular basis.  What better excuse to make a trip!

Remember my “humbling” skirt from a couple weeks back…?  Well, it has been deconstructed and reconstructed and now fits me like a dream.  What a giggle I have had over that one.  I smiled to myself the entire time I was ripping seams.  Lessons I’ve learned from that experience….too many to list.  However, the most impactful is to always remember that you are never too good at something to make a huge mistake!

The project I have cut out and on the table now is a pair of wide leg linen pants where I am going to clean finish the side seams from knee down to hem and use self-fabric Chinese Button Knots as closures.  I’ll post a picture as soon as they are complete.

People have been asking me about Feng Shui lately and I thought it would be a good topic for these pages.  I am by no means a Feng Shui Master.  What I know of Feng Shui comes to me primarily intuitively and through reading that I have done.  I have used Feng Shui principles in all the homes I have lived in since my initial move to Asia and all offices that I have worked in.  The one comment that I get from most is that the spaces I create are always comfortable and inviting.

I am sure that most people are aware of Feng Shui and its principles; however, for those of you who are not…  Feng Shui is simply how chi (or energy) flows between the levels of heaven, earth and humans.  It is this chi that makes something feel “good” or “bad”.  Negative energy (or chi that is blocked or stagnant) is called sha chi.  What keeps the energy moving between the three levels is the constant movement between two opposing forces – yin and yang.  Earth chi also has five elements of earth, wood, fire, metal and water.

Have you ever walked into a room and absolutely loved it or felt incredibly comfortable?  How about the opposite when you felt very uncomfortable, agitated or even anxious about being in a room?    If you have, then you have experienced Feng Shui.  This is where I always start with a room – the feeling.  Is it warm and inviting, cold and off-putting, kind of okay but needs something?  What is the view from the windows and is the light coming in good?  From this point, you can make decisions about what needs to be done.  If the room is not inviting, look at the colors and furnishings.  Maybe some warmer, softer colors or some softer furniture with pillows.   Even the position of the furniture has an impact on the overall feel.  Your furniture should always “welcome” you into a room meaning that you should be able to walk right up to it and sit down.  Maybe the decorations in the room are not right.  Remember, that too much of a good thing can have a bad effect as well.  If you have an already inviting room, you can make it too much so where it turns into a space where no one wants to leave (when you really want to end the evening) or it is so relaxing that you always fall asleep. 

So start with assessing a room, determine what the “feeling” is in the room.  Identify items in the room that either enhance or detract from the overall feeling.  Also, know what the room is intended for (i.e. socializing, sleeping, relaxing, etc.).  The furnishings should be appropriate for the function.  For example, it can create  negative energy to have a piece of exercise equipment (that keeps you moving) in a bedroom where you are trying to rest. 

Next week, I’ll talk about color and Feng Shui.

I’m going to go and do some sewing!  Take care everyone…

I’ll be back next week…

Just wanted to let everyone know that I’m taking a week off from the blog due to a whole pile of work needing to be done.  I have the Helena May Bazaar next week and, of courese, have not done as much as I had hoped by this time.  I finally realized how much still needs doing and how much time it actually takes…Yikes!!!  I’m spending all spare minutes knotting up items for the bazaar.  Spending so much time on knotting makes me want to do some sewing as well.  I would like to make a few of my Chinese brocade bags to see if there is interest in these; however, this is at the end of the list.

Here is a preview of some of the things I will have on sale…

Sale Item Examples for Blog

…and hopefully a lot more!

And just to refresh your memory about the bag…

Red Bag on Spirit House

The Baubles & Knots gathering on Monday was wonderful.  Everyone had great projects that they worked on.  Good company, good food, good conversation…what more could you ask for!

I’ve been hearing from a lot of women as of late saying they are incredibly busy at the moment.  Is it the time of year, alignment of the planets or just life?  Whatever it may be, I hope everyone is finding  joy and fulfillment in their “busy-ness”. 

Have a great week everyone…

Ahhh, to be humbled

Apologies for the delay in this weeks post…I’ve just been way busy teaching.  I’m having an absolute blast with this.  The sewing classes are just amazing.  I have been sewing for decades and never thought about sharing the knowledge I have.  I am finding so many women out there (and one man!) who are  eager for the information and chance to sit behind a sewing machine and see what it is all about.  This terms knotting classes are also going really well.   I’m challenging the women with some pretty complicated knots and we are moving through quite a few in each session and they are all doing fantastic!

Well, I had a humbling sewing episode this past week hence the name of this weeks post.  I  found some cute lavendar/brown/white print cotton and had a length of it in my fabric bin.  Last Sunday, I had a bit of free time on my hands and decided to “whip something up” to wear to my sewing class on DSCN0547Monday.  This fabric matched perfectly with a pattern I have for a very simple skirt with a flare from the knee to hem.  Operative word here is “simple”…so much so that I did not even unfold the instructions.  Just cut the fabric and got right into it.  After the zip was set, I did a fit trial and adjusted a few seams.  I then finished off the waist, turned  the hem and did a final pressing.  To further admire the excellent job I had done, I went in the dressing room to try the skirt on and it nearly slipped down over my hips!  Horror of horrors…what had I done!!!  It fit perfectly before the waist facing and then…ahhh!  Now I got out the instructions and located the waist section and it said “To ensure that the wasit does not stretch, add seam tape…”.  Right…  Because of the way the pattern was laid up on the fabric, the waist area is on a bit of a bias and does have quite a bit of stretch.  So, now it is out with the seam ripper to remove the top stitching, waist facing, and zipper.  I need to overlock the waist seam to secure the raw edge so I can then give the skirt another soak and tumble in the dryer to take the stretch back out of the fabric, another fit and THEN the use of seam tape when I reapply the waist facing. 

I was just a wee bit too sure of myself when doing this skirt.  I hardly even had my mind on what I was doing because it was so simple.  This is exactly the time when you make mistakes…like I did.  So, for all of you new sewers out there, have a wee chuckle over my “blond moment” and learn from my mistake so you do not have to make one of your own.  It is always a good idea to be completely connected to what you are doing regardless of how simple your project is.  It is the attention to detail that gives you a garment that you will be proud of…and does not take twice as long to finish as it should!!!

I have friends visiting HK this week from New Zealand.  They knew that I was teaching but I guess that I neglected to tell them exactly what I was DSCN0548teaching.  When they found out it was Chinese Knotting, they said  they have been reading about how important knotting is to the Chinese culture and the history that it has. They went on to say how amazing they thought it was that I actually learned this art and was able to teach it to others.  Wow, talk about feeling a bit proud.   I am having dinner with them tonight so thought I would knot something up for them to take home as a rememberence of their trip here and Chinese knotting. 

I dipped into my pearl bin again last week.  It seems that it is calling me more frequently as of late.  I knotted up a beautiful string of pearls that David got me at the jewelry show in June.  I simply put flattened gold spacers between the pearls.  It looks beautiful…he will be pleased!

I  have a few gifts to make for some very special women I know.   I had intended to string pearls  for them.  When I got everything out, I stopped because these women are fairly down to earth ladies and I thought they would think a string of solid pearls would be “far too good and fancy” to wear.  Can’t have that because as our Pearl Lady says, “Pearls have to be worn and see the light of day”.  Use in Blog I started playing around with different ideas and came up with this design.  It has a center knot.  You see, to justify spending time with my pearls, if I can work a knot into them somewhere, then it makes it okay!!  I thought this design is much more approachable and wearable…perfect for the women that I will be making these for. 

Just a few things to remember…

Monday, 5 October, Baubles & Knots gathering

Monday, 12 October, Knotting continuation course – Pan Changs

Thursday, 15 October, Helena May Bazaar

Monday, 19 October, Knotting continuation course – Double Coin Variations

Thursday, 22 October, Knotting Project course – Belts

Have a wonderful holiday weekend everyone!