Disregarding the fact that spring has not made its appearance yet, we are having our spring sale! Shop online using the sale code SpringFling for 25% off all regular priced fabric (including new arrivals). Check out the sale section for some fabrics at 70% off! Of course, if you are in the area, come by and check out the fabrics in person. Sale continues until March 17, 2019.
I lived in Hong Kong from 1980 to 1984 before moving to British Columbia, Canada. I haven’t been back since so when the opportunity came up to visit, I took it! I knew there were many changes in the country since the early ’80’s, so I was interested to see if I still remembered the places that I had frequented when there.
The visit was scheduled over Chinese New Year, which is good in some ways but not so good in other ways. Chinese New Year is the biggest holiday of the year where many businesses and factories close for 2 weeks. (As one taxi driver explained, many factories were closed for longer this year because the contentious trade talk between China and USA had slowed factory production.) But since I was mainly there for family reasons, shopping was not a priority.
Back in the 70’s and 80’s, the fabric trade was a booming business. Many fabric retail stores lined Nathan Road and they carried everything from cottons to silks to imported woollens and European laces. My family owned three stores; Gala Fabrics Ltd, Illinois and Fourseas Silk Company. Fourseas Silk Company was the largest as it occupied 3 floors in a building on the corner of Nathan Road and Tak Shing Street. I remember playing hide and seek with my siblings among the stacks of fabric and watching the pretty ladies come in and be served tea while they shopped. The city later laid claim to some of the ground floor and basement to provide access for the then new MTR station. The building still stands however, the fabric business has moved to a second floor location on the corner of Nathan Road and Austin Road. I would have liked to go inside to see if I recognized anything, but the current tenant of that space was closed for the holidays.
As is the situation in the West, there are few fabric stores left in Hong Kong. There may be some located in the Sham Shui Po district but everything was closed when I went to check. The family still has a presence in the rag trade in Hong Kong. The current store is Gala Fabrics Ltd located at 186 Nathan Road. It is located on the second floor and carries a selection of silks and fancy laces. Sorry, no quilting cottons here. Instead, this store caters to people requiring fancy gala outfits as there is also an onsite tailor who is knowledgeable in both Western and Asian design.
My eldest uncle is the patriarch of the fabric business however he is no longer active as a business person. He focuses his time on his philanthropic endeavours as he is an active member of Rotary International, the Scout Association of Hong Kong, the Police Auxillary Force, the Junior Police Corp., the Hong Kong Buddist Association as well as the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals. But he loves to throw a party! Here, we are enjoying a Chinese New Year feast at the store.
We also got to watch the fireworks celebrating Chinese New Year. However, with the smog in the air and the residual smoke from the fireworks, the sky became so murky, you couldn’t see the light display!
A novel and exciting experience for me personally was going to visit my grandparents’ graves. Traditionally, the girls do not visit as it was the boy’s duty. Even though my father is the youngest of seven, he is the only son who has children. As far as I know, my aunts and therefore their children, my cousins either male or female, have not visited the graves. Gotta love patriarchal laws! However, that ‘rule’ has been relaxed recently since many families do not have sons, especially since the Chinese one child policy. Little did I know I would have to gird my loins to access the graves since we had to climb all over different areas of the cemetery! I’m not sure if I could find the graves by myself, but thankfully, my cousin knows.
We had the opportunity to visit our old residence. Located in the hills of Hong Kong Island, Braemar Hills was where we called home. And it hasn’t really changed in the years since. The surrounding area has developed a lot though; new schools, more apartment buildings, an increased shopping area.
A huge change that bought bittersweet memories is of the old airport, Kai Tak International. Located in the middle of Kowloon City on a finger of reclaimed land, Kai Tak was an exhilarating experience for the air traveller. And a grey hair inducing experience for the pilot, I’m sure. Afterall, its nickname was Kai Tak Heart Attack.
I remember being able to look into people’s apartments and watch their TV shows as the plane came in to land. Or older gentlemen doing tai chi on their balconies. Don’t believe me on how close the planes came to buildings? Check out the pictures in this article! But as with any growing city, the airport became too small to handle the air traffic and was decommissioned in July 1998. Now it acts as a cruise ship terminal.
What fun it was to visit all these places. And even some of the fashion choices have come back! Leggings and ripped jeans to name a few!
If you get the chance to visit Hong Kong but are dreading the 14 hour flight time, try a business class seat in Hong Kong Airlines. Talk about luxury! I have travelled business class before with other airlines, but that usually involved a slightly wider seat. What I got with Hong Kong Airlines was a fully reclining chair with a lap quilt, real silverware with my meal and my own TV/movie screen. Those 14 hours just flew by! I definitely recommend it. Bon voyage!
Since I have all these leggings made up, now I need tops! I prefer the slightly longer tops as I am a believer that leggings are not pants. Burda 6475 intrigued me since it is a longer tunic, it has a hood and I loved the kangaroo pocket. The front yoke is cut on the bias so I thought that was an interesting design detail.
It is a fairly easy pattern to put together. Just make sure you use a heavy needle to get through all those layers when top stitching! One little hiccup area that stalled me for a bit was threading the cord on the hood through the eyelet. (I used a Prym’s 5mm silver eyelet since I had extra from another project.)
The instructions suggest a (twill) tape as a drawstring which I guess would be easier to thread with a large eyed needle. I, however, chose a 1/4″ round braided cord. I taped the ends to make an aglet (the plastic end of a shoelace) as suggest by the pattern. The problem was that I couldn’t feed the cord past the front top stitched seams of the hood. It just wasn’t firm enough to feed through that thick spot. I couldn’t thread a needle because the doubled cord wouldn’t fit through the eyelet.
What I did end up doing was ‘lassoing’ the cord onto a large eye wool needle. Worked like a charm!
And here is the garment. Unfortunately, the deer didn’t seem as excited as I was!
Leggings seem to be a basic wardrobe necessity of which my wardrobe is lacking. With all the cotton knits the store is now carrying, it seemed like a good opportunity to remedy this situation. Being such a simple design, they should be quick and easy to make.
I liked McCalls 6360 as it has a variety of pant lengths to choose from.
Starting with some basic black cotton lycra knit, I chose option E (middle style on bottom row) in size 14. Option E actually has small side zippers at the bottom of the leggings but I omitted those.
So, can you spot the difference? Same colour top, same colour leggings, even some gold sandals (although I will admit not as fancy!) Standing at 5’3″ or 161cm in my bare feet, I don’t consider myself a short person. But certainly not model tall either. Yet the finished length on this pattern comes down to my ankle, not my lower calf as in the pattern picture. I ended up shortening them by 5″ or 12.5cm! There is a shorten/lengthen line to do this, but I spread out the total 5″ by also shortening at the hem line for style A, the shortest style as well.
Now I have a closer approximation of the length suggested by the pattern.
Then when the space printed cotton knits arrived, I had to make a pair of those! I decided to pair them with the tunic top Butterick 6388. The blue top is a light weight ponte in size large as per my 39″ bust (99cm)
The purple top is a bamboo cotton french terry but in a size medium.
As per my comments when I blogged about B6388, I think the size L is too big. I’m much preferring the smaller size. And even though I already shortened the top by 4″ or 10cm, I think I will shorten it some more by a couple inches.
It may take a couple tries, but success is feasible!
I have lived in Canada since the mid 1980’s (having come from Australia via Hong Kong) so have slowly adopted clothing suitable for this Northern climate. That means more sweaters (or jumpers in Aussie slang) including a Cowichan sweater that my mum knitted, a puffy vest, hiking boots (because I have 2 active dogs) and the ubiquitous rain jacket. What has been sadly missing is a garment made in the (apparently) very Canadian red and black buffalo check.
How this has become something of a traditionally Canadian fashion statement, I’m not sure. From the internet research I have done, it seems to reference back to the lumberjacks of the early 19th century. Think Paul Banyan (except he is American). Interesting side note, the term lumberjack is of Canadian derivation.
Since this red and black check design is the Rob Roy tartan, maybe it came to Canada via the Scottish immigrants who became lumberjacks. Other internet sources say the buffalo plaid originated from the American company, Woolrich Woolen Mills which began producing the red and black buffalo check shirt around 1850. No matter, when the shop received a red and black buffalo check in an acrylic and wool blend (made in China), I felt a garment from this fabric had to be made.
The pattern I chose to make was McCalls 7202. Option B no less!
It is a poncho design with optional hood or collar with extended ties. I chose to make the hooded version in a size Medium. According to my measurements, I should have made Large, but decided the style was roomy enough for me to get away with a Medium.
It is an easy pattern to follow. If you wish to match the check design, you will definitely need to calculate extra yardage. I did find that the pattern pieces were slightly too wide for the fabric. The body pattern pieces, even when placed on the fold, were 3cm too wide for the fabric. I ended up shortening the poncho length by 5cm. This observation has not appeared by other reviewers of this pattern.
I did end up using a narrow bias tape to finish the neckline. The seam allowance was too narrow with the thickness of the fabric to fold down twice and finish.
Did you know of this neat trick to turn a point in thick fabric? Such as turning the point of the facing and hem? Instead of stitching a regular right angle, clipping the corner and turning it out, take the edge off the point. Also use a smaller stitch length so when you do trim, the small stitches will keep the fabric from fraying out.
Because the buttons I chose were bigger than my buttonhole maker from my Janome sewing machine, I had to make the buttonholes the “old” way – by sewing 2 narrow lines of zigzag stitching close together with a wider zigzag stitch across the bottom and top of these lines. I also used backer buttons behind the fashion buttons. Although not necessary, I find the backer buttons useful on heavier weight fabric garments since you can pull on the garment when buttoning and unbuttoning.
A quick and easy garment to sew. Now all I need are some sled dogs (my dogs are an Aussie shephard and a Border Collie) and an igloo! Eh!
Because I was on a red and black buffalo check kick, I decided I would make some little fabric shoes for my new nephew with this fabric. Well, not so new as he is now 7 months and 20lbs (9kgs). Since babies seem to grow quickly, I searched for and found these toddler sized, Tom’s-inspired shoes by homemadetoast. Easy instructions, lots of pictures to guide you and fun to make! The nephew has to grow a little more, but it won’t be long! And it’s a great way to use up scraps.
Interesting reading sources:
Tis the season for those social gatherings of festivities and good cheer. Like most of you, I usually just pull out my trusty LBD for these events. But this year I wanted to have something different. I found this Butterick 6418 pattern when looking on their website and thought it would be both easy to make and festive to wear.
The written description on the Butterick website reads as :
Close-fitting pullover top has sleeve and hem variations. A, B, D: Front yoke. C: Front and back overlays. For moderate stretch knits only.
Initially I was thinking of using some red stretch lace with some red bamboo knit, but unfortunately I couldn’t find any reds that matched. I ended up falling back to black! Oh well. I chose to make option D except using the lace in both sleeves since I had the yardage and didn’t want to waste it.
This is a very easy pattern to put together.
One recommendation I would make is to use a stabilizer (tear away or wash away) when hemming the lace sections. When I first hemmed the lace sleeves, I used my cover stitch machine without the stabilizer. The machine stitches actually tighten up the hem so it made it like a ruffle. Thankfully the sleeves were too long so I was able to cut off my inadvertent ruffles and re-hemmed the sleeves using a tear away stabilizer. The stabilizer worked like a charm – I just had to tweezer out the product from under the stitches! Luckily I experimented on the sleeves first since I did have room to adjust. I hemmed the neckline without a problem with the stabilizer.
So bring on the eggnog and Christmas pudding. I’m ready for the festivities to begin!
BTW, the store has some copies of this pattern is you would like to add it to your wardrobe too.
A couple sewing friends turned me onto this pattern since Butterick is not usually in my immediate horizon. I particularly liked the look of the shawl wrap collar of the top/tunic and thought it would be the perfect pattern for some of the printed pontes we had just received at the shop.
Semi-fitted, unlined vest has front extending into draped collar. Wrong side of fabric will show. Tops and dress have side-front seams, lapped collar, and back yoke. Pull-on pants have elasticized waist, front pleats, and side-front pockets. C, D: Lower sleeves. D: Side-front pockets. For moderate stretch knits only.”
Going by my measurements, I chose the size L but after having completed the tunic I would like to try the M. I feel the size I made was a little too roomy!
Construction-wise, this is an easy pattern to put together. I did omit the pockets after feedback from my sewing friends. The only sewing hiccup was trying to attach the collar to the body with my serger. My poor machine was having difficulty cutting 5 layers of fabric where the collar overlaps! Measuring 3/8″ or 4mm in fabric layers, it was no wonder my machine was protesting. I ended up basting everything together, trimming down the seam allowance, then serging the seam together. All the other seams went together like a dream.
I foresee more versions of this garment in my fall wardrobe. It is quick to sew and comfortable to wear and who doesn’t love that!
November’s Sewing Forum will be on Sunday, November 4, 2018 at 11:30am at the store.
Do you like colour but don’t know how to put colours together? Do you know which colours suit you? Did you know your colouring changes as you age?
For our November forum, we welcome guest speaker, Brenda Stengel. Brenda is a mixed media art instructor with a special interest in textiles. With the use of a colour wheel, she will discuss how colours work together and what colours would suit your skin tone. We will get to explore which colours to use as your main colours, neutrals and accent shades, and which to leave out completely.
If you have your own, bring a small colour wheel and grey scale or the store will have them available for purchase.
Brenda will demonstrate and guide you through a new way of developing a personal guide for your wardrobe and accessory choices. You will never look at fabrics quite the same way!
This will be our last sewing forum for 2018. The next forum will be February 3, 2019.
Our fall sale starts November 4!
Check out our brand new fall items from coloured ponte knits to stretch velvets.
All regular priced fabrics will be 25% to 50% off.
Special sale on our solid coloured Italian light weight wools.
Regular price at $33.90/m.
Sale price $15/m (for 100% wool!!)
For online shopping, use the code November
Sale until November 10, 2018
Ok, I will admit it. I have a bit of an addiction. I have such good intentions when I acquire ANOTHER piece of fabric but somehow life gets in the way, so that new piece gets added to the pile. I was digging around in said pile looking for something (I can’t remember what now!) and found this 3m piece of grey 4 ply silk crepe.
I can’t remember how long it had been aging in my stash but I do remember envisioning a pair of pants from this silk, just not a tailored pair. I wanted a softer silhouette to take advantage of the drape. After drooling over it for a while, I realized there should be enough to make the Marcy Tilton pants (V9193). But life is never that easy. In fondling the fabric, I discovered what looked like grease marks scattered over the yardage (and not it wasn’t my drool!). I then remembered that was why it was cut off the roll and stashed away.
Can I try washing the fabric to see if I can remove the stains?
Some silks should always be dry cleaned. Silk doupioni, taffeta, peau de soie and brocade are some examples of fabrics that should be dry cleaned. Washing will change the texture and hand of the fabric. Also silk garments with embellishments, linings or detailed construction (boning, shoulder pads etc) should also be dry cleaned. Very dark or brightly coloured silks should also be dry cleaned to keep the intensity of colour. Washing will likely lighten the colour. (black will become grey …)
However, if you are like me, and have a skin sensitivity to dry cleaning chemicals, silk can be cold water hand washed or delicate machine cycle, but care must be taken as silk fibre becomes weak when wet. Hence do not wring the fabric. Wrap the fabric in a towel, squeeze the moisture out and hang to dry. Do not dry in direct sunlight as this will cause fading. If I’m washing more than one garment in the machine, I like to put the silk fabric/garment in a garment bag. This way it is not likely to tangle up with the other garments in the wash. Like my silk undies, silk slips, silk nighties, silk blouses … (yeah, right!)
Because silk is a protein fibre (like wool and your hair), use a suitable laundry soap such as Eucalan, Woolite Extra Delicate Care or Persil Silk & Wool. You can even try using a mild shampoo like Ivory. Soaps with harsh chemicals such as bleach or optical whiteners will damage the silk.
Also check for colourfastness. To do this, cut a small fabric sample and wet it with cold water. Place the wet piece on a some white fabric and press with a warm iron. If there is little to no colour transfer onto the white fabric, your fabric is colourfast. If there is colour bleed, dry cleaning is recommended.
So I tried to wash my fabric to see if I could remove the stains. No such luck. But my fabric washing resulted in a suede appearance in the fabric. (The colour difference is not significant as these are from different dye lots, but note the surface difference between the fabric still on the bolt – top left – and my washed 4 ply silk fabric – bottom right)
Then I spent a good 30 minutes laying out the pattern pieces so as to avoid as many spots as possible. I was mostly successful with that. There were a few spots in some seam allowances, a couple spots on a pocket bag and one spot on the inside crotch curve, but I figure no one is going to see that!
Now I have a comfortable AND luxurious pair of pants. My problem now is that everyone wants to touch them!
Here are some handy links if you want more information about caring for your silks.
Do you have any patterns that you are interested in making but cannot decide what fabric to use? I usually have the opposite problem, where I love the fabric (afterall, what’s not to love), but cannot decide which pattern to use!
I fell in love with the Sewing Workshop’s Fillmore Duster when a friend, Marilyn Carter, had a trunk show at our local sewing and craft show back in the spring. I found it to be an interesting silhouette and Marilyn presented a variety of options on how to wear it. The Sewing Workshop website also has a gallery of pictures showing this garment in a variety of different fabrics as well as colour blocking suggestions. The pattern description is:
“Knee-length, button-front duster with circular pockets, winding seamlines and strategic tucks. Soft, fold- down mitered collar and extended shoulders. Narrow stitched hems and armhole binding. Wrong side of fabric shows.”
But I couldn’t decide what fabric to use! Should I use something with a bit more body to emphasize the shape of the garment, such as a taffeta or doupioni? Should I use a print such as the striped fabric in the illustration? If I use a solid colour, would the design lines show?
After much debate, another friend suggested the tencel denim because
- it would present a sleeker silhouette, especially since I’m not that tall (5’4″ or 162.5cm height)
- it has an interesting weave and sheen that would show up in the bias cut pieces
- it has an obvious right side/wrong side which would show up at the collar
- and being grey, it would go with all the black in my wardrobe!
As with previous Sewing Workshop patterns, I chose to make the small, even though with my 40″ bust, the suggested size is a medium. Everything was coming together nicely as the instructions are well written. Even though it was optional, I did add interfacing to the front facings as I found the front edges would ripple. The bust fit nicely. The mitered corners on the collar worked out well. Then I put the bias binding on to finish the armholes and found the armholes too tight!
Note how the shoulder seam extends past the edge of the shoulder. Maybe because I have broad shoulders, this style didn’t physically work for me. After unpicking the bias tape, local sewing guru, Fern McDonald at Sawyer’s Sewing Center, helped me reshape the armhole. Starting about armpit level, we redrew the curve so that it measured 1.75″ or 4.5cm in from the edge of the shoulder seam. See below for the piece we removed.
Here is a picture of the new armhole.
Another lesson I learned from this armhole episode, is make the bias binding fit the shape not the other way around. Since bias binding has inherent stretch, I have a tendency of stretching the bias tape as I sew which results in shrinking the armhole shape. If you look at the second picture of the tight armhole, you can see the gathering of the vest body under the arm. This was because my bias tape was stretched too tight.
Once this hiccup was fixed, I had a fun conversation garment piece. Other women have stopped me on the street to compliment me on this garment. When they ask where I got this, I proudly say, “I made it!”