Self-Stitched Shanghai!

I hate to complain but progress on my Lady Grey has been way too slow and catching a nasty cold which makes me drowsy half the time didn’t help either.  I just hope the cold will go away soon. I have finished the sleeves but need to sew on the shoulder pads (I chose to use thin ones) and to finish up the bound buttonholes before sewing on the facings, collar and lining pieces. With the addition of sleeves and shoulder pads, most of the wrinkling issues on the back seem to be gone and that’s good news.

While I heal, I decided to take this opportunity to blog about Self-Stitched Shanghai, where I set out to wear at least one self made item a day while on vacation. My first made-me vacation and definitely not the last.

Day 1: Singapore-Shanghai

Flight time from Singapore to Shanghai is approximately five hours and we chose to take a day flight which wouldn’t disrupt the kids’ sleep cycles. It can get cold on the flight and definitely at the airport so I wore my self stitched black Esther coat with leopard trim, a grey knit dress, black tights and boots. This was a laid back, comfy ensemble  which proved to be very suitable for the flight. My hubby snapped this photo at the flight gate while the kids were running around the play area.
We arrived in Shanghai around 3.30pm and I must say immigration services for parents traveling with kids have improved remarkably at the Pudong Airport. We were brought to a queue for families and people with special needs by the ground staff and went through immigration in no time! Shanghai traffic, however, was a different story. It took us one and a half hours to reach the hotel for an otherwise forty minute journey.  We  stayed at the Novotel Atlantis Shanghai and were given a corner room with panoramic views of Pudong and the Huangpu river. It was beautiful! I took the photo below from the room. The highest buildings in the photo house the Park Hyatt and Grand Hyatt Shanghai and the third highest structure is the landmark of Shanghai, the Oriental Pearl Tower.

Day 2:  Shanghai Science and Technology Museum/ South Bund Soft-Spinning Material Market

One thing we have learnt after all our family trips was to plan one major event for each day with a bonus second minor event. That has worked out for us pretty well so far. We visited the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum and I must say we absolutely enjoyed the visit and the kids were thrilled with the many interactive activities which truly engaged them. My prince loved the animal world, spiders, robotic world and space exhibits. My princess , being the scary cat wanted to be carried as she was afraid of the animals, thinking they were real!

My four-year old prince attempted to snap his first photo with our camera while the princess was having a tea break at the museum :) The photo below of my hubby, myself and the princess was taken by the active boy. Not bad for a first try! As you can see, I wore my Ahoy! Cape Vest over a black halter tank with corduroy jeggings and boots. I love this vest cos’ it is so unusual and yet so autumn :)

After a quick lunch at the museum, we visited the fabric market which I have blogged about here.

Day 3: Shanghai Ocean Aquarium/ Shanghai Natural Wild Insect Kingdom

My kids heart creatures of the deep and have always enjoyed visiting aquariums so it comes as no surprise that we ended up at the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium. It reminded me a little of the underwater world back home but is on a much grander scale. We met a saw shark for the first time and marveled at the rays, great white sharks and exotic fishes. The only things I didn’t enjoy were the noisy crowds and inconsiderate smokers visiting the aquarium but soon grew to realize these were inherent in Shanghai.

After lunch we took a slow stroll to the Insect Kingdom which was located at the other end of the Oriental Pearl Tower and off course took the opportunity to take more photos of the place. Here’s lil old me with my princess on an enormous circular pedestrian bridge in front of the tower. I was wearing my Bella Jeans, red kit top and handmade scarf that day and I must mention that the pair of jeans received quite a lot of attention as I noticed people looking at it. I guess it’s partly because few people wear high-waisted jeans in Shanghai. Actually, I didn’t meet anyone who did throughout our trip. I love my bella jeans but have started to notice the waist portion expanding with wear. Perhaps, I need to move the buttons to tighten it more. My prince has been fascinated with insects and is always asking me to show him clips on YouTube on scorpions, centipedes, Rhino Beetles and Spiders (though not technically an insect). So, he was really excited to meet the real creatures at Natural Wild Insect Kingdom. While this was not as spectacular as the aquarium, I found it to be pretty educational for lil kids. Other than insects, there were also many reptiles at this venue which kept the kids amused.

Day 4, 5 and 6: To Hangzhou and back…

My husband and Mr. C have been best friends for the past 30 years.  Mr. C has been working in Shanghai for many years and is married to a local. Our families decided to hangout in Hangzhou, around two and a half hours drive from Shanghai, together for a couple of days.

With three kids in tow, we arrived in Hangzhou in the evening and enjoyed a sumptuous dinner. I tried the steamed hairy crabs for the first time as it was in season. This is really an acquired taste and I would go for pepper crabs in Singapore anytime in place of this. The steamed hairy crabs are quite the fear factor material if you ask me.

I had no time to snap a photo until we returned to the hotel room at Hyatt Regency Hangzhou. The room was spectacular with a view of the very serene Westlake. I wore the Esther coat again, this time with the red knit top, jeggings and boots.

The Westlake is renowned for its beauty and was the inspiration behind many great Chinese poets. We took a long stroll along the lake to take in the sceneries and stories. The site also inspired the story of Madame White Snake. The photo below was taken on the bridge where Madame white snake was said to have met her lover and she is said to be trapped at the bottom of the Pagoda in the background of this photo, the Leifeng Pagoda.

I wore my Echino scarf that day and truly enjoyed the quietness and beauty of the Westlake.

We rode on the pagoda inspired boats which brought us to one of the island on the lake, a place called ‘Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon’.
The West Lake features a number of manmade islands, with this island being the largest. Notable for its three hollow stone pagodas which date back to the 11th century to the time of the Song dynasty, the island is said to be the best place to view the reflection of the pagodas when the moon is full or almost full, an illusion that gives the lake its name.  Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon is touted as one of the ‘Ten Scenes” of the Westlake. The next day, we also rode on one of the paddled boats which I reminded me of the gondolas in Venice.

Before driving back to Shanghai, we took more shots of the lake from the roof top terrace of the hotel. I wore my Ahoy! Cape vest over the red knit this time.

Day 7: Shanghai Yu Gardens

After our Royal Highnesses finished clowning around the hotel room, we visited the Yu Gardens in Shanghai. The garden was finished in 1577 by a government officer of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and was meant as a place for his parents to enjoy a happy time in their old age.

It is a lovely garden marred only by droves of tourists that packed the place. But, what is even more famous is the ‘Xiao Long Pao’ (soup dumplings) and local specialities served in the garden’s Nanxiang Restaurant. The establishment is always crowded and never disappoint.

The weather in Shanghai was surprisingly getting warmer while we were there and while I did wear my Mystery Cardigan that day, it was mostly in the evening as it was more breezy and cool. A family in green as you can see in the photo below :)

Day 8: Nanjing Road

Nanjing Road in Shanghai links the Bund to the People’s Square. It’s a long shopping street and I wore my Bella jeans with a black halter and grey knit combo.

We tried the ‘Crossing the bridge’ noodles for lunch. This is a dish from Yunnan province where we basically added all the ingredients and raw beef into a bowl of piping hot soup base. The taste is incredible!

We then took a tram ride which cost RMB$2 per person one way along the entire stretch of Nanjing Road. Something the kids enjoyed very much.

We didn’t do any shopping here as I knew of a better, cheaper place nearby with a huge variety. The Qipu Road Wholesale market! The wholesale district is made up of many buildings selling specialized items and is the place some fashion retailers purchase their stocks, at wholesale prices and then applying the necessary markup when it goes to shelf. There are so many shops here, you probably need a week or more just to browse through them. We went to a building selling kids clothes and bought corduroy boots and a woolen coat for my princess at US$5 each, Japanese inspired jeans for my prince at US$9 and a leather belt for my husband at US$4! It’s the place for a real bargain and I first found out about this market from a friend who lived in Shanghai many years back.

That night we had dinner near the oriental pearl tower so that we could also enjoy the night scene of the city. And, indeed, it was gorgeous!

Day 9: Home Sweet home

It rained on our last day in Shanghai so we basically stayed in the hotel until checkout and made our way to the airport in a world expo cab we booked directly with the driver.

We tried the food at the Cantonese restaurant at the hotel and it was good! Cantonese food is said to be the most delicious of all chinese food. I wore the Take Manhattan tunic and absolutely love not just how it looked but how comfy it was! It is definitely one of my favorite made-me vacation piece! And here’s a photo of me and my hand luggage at Pudong airport. The flight was delayed for an hour and we had to keep ourselves amused.

One thing to note about taxis-try to take those from the big five taxi companies as some privately owned cabbie might not be very honest.  We heard from a couple of taxi drivers that the dark blue and maroon taxis are the likely culprits. We had one experience with a dark blue cab and indeed paid double for the fare.

I am thrilled to have done a made-me vacation not only because I got to wear self stitched garments overseas but also I don’t feel so bad boring you with vacation details since some form of sewing was involved :)

Phew! That’s a long post! I hope you are having a much better week than me and hope that I heal soon!

Fabric Shopping Shanghai Style

My family and I just returned from a nine-day trip to Shanghai and Hangzhou and I don’t even have to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed fabric shopping in Shanghai. There were fabrics which I have never seen and at pretty good prices too. That said, I only had time to visit one fabric market! There are probably a few others worth visiting in Shanghai if you have the time. The place I went crazy fabric buying is called the South Bund Soft-Spinning Material Market. It is located at 399 Lujiabang Lu in Puxi.

Here you will find three floors of fabric stores with all of them provide tailoring services to those who do not sew. Due to space constraints, some of the stores display smaller pieces of the fabrics they sell. Once you have placed your order, they will go to their storage which might be 10 minutes away to fetch your order. If the fabric is more pricey, they might request for a partial deposit in case you change your mind before the fabric arrives. For a small fee, your order can also be delivered to your hotel. There were MANY stores selling silk and linen. I bought quite a bit of linen as they were available in an amazing number of hues. While linen is readily available in Singapore, they are usually from Japan and comes in more subtle shades. My purchases include these lovely linen in lime and cherry as well as a black linen piece with embroidery.

The only cotton (excluding cotton jersey) with a slight one way stretch which I could previously find were the stretch cotton sateen I found at Spotlight (like the fabric I used for this dress). These were slightly heavier than ordinary cotton but I loved them for the slight stretch. There was one store at the materials market which sold my dream fabric, stretch cotton! These look and feel more like ordinary cotton and are lighter than sateen. I love them in these plaid/ gingham prints!
Here’s a picture of the store in case you are visiting Shanghai and are interested to give these stretchy cotton a try, just like me.
Located at the ground floor,  it’s store 157. What I really love are these stretchy cotton with a satin like finishing from the same store. The photos do not do the fabric justice as the effect of the finish is not well captured. I bought them in black and lavender but it’s also available in apple green, turquoise and white.
I was also on a look out for wool fabric for my Lady Grey but didn’t find one that I wanted for the coat so I think I might turn my muslin into a wearable coat. Instead, I was attracted to this border print wool fabric which I want to sew into a simple tiny coat someday. The seller couldn’t tell me but I suspect this is a designer fabric.  It is only available at store 238 on the first floor. In fact, there were many unique wool fabric at this store so it is worth checking out!

Also spotted were stores specializing in a wide variety of denim and jersey fabrics. Most store owners speak some English so communication should not be an issue. Besides fabrics, I snapped up elastic laces and buttons at the market.  A happy and satisfied shopper! Just wished I had more muscles and space in my luggage :P
I almost forgot to mention that I received a hundred spools of threads just before I went on vacation. I’m so blessed as I won a giveaway on Sew Retro sometime back. It’s a good mix of colors that will last me for some time :)
In my last post, I mentioned that I would be attempting a Self-Stitched Shanghai vacation. I am in the process of sorting out the photos and will do an update soon. Meanwhile, I am gonna start on my Lady Grey. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t complete that before my trip with all that packing but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise as Shanghai’s weather was very mild so I wouldn’t have needed it anyways.
I hope you have all been well! I have missed blogging, sewing and responding to comments for the past two weeks so I’m gonna start getting my sewing groove back!
Have a blessed week everyone!

Holiday Wardrobe Completed with ‘Take Manhattan Tunic’

It’s a little past the deadline but I have finally completed my Holiday Wardrobe Project. My target was to finished these five pieces by the end of September but, with these many distractions (here, herehere and here), I am glad it actually got done :P

Here’s my take on Twinkle Sews‘ Take Manhattan’ from the same titled book by fashion designer Wenlan Chia. I love the original in grey so I used the same color.

This design called for a viscose fabric but I used a heavier, stretchier cotton jersey from my stash as I find jersey great for travelling.

I am a size 4 according to Chia’s designs and one great thing about the pdf files is every size comes with its individual file so there is absolute no confusion of converging lines here. I printed the sewing pattern on letter sized paper and when I stuck them together, many of the edges didn’t meet. So, I focused on getting the pattern lines to meet instead and thank God that worked! I have been warned that Twinkle Sews pattern were designed whole instead of half. Usually, we print half a shirt front and cut on fold but for this book, you print the full shirt front and cut one. I tried to print only half a shirt to save trees but being inexperienced with this book’s sewing pattern layout made it tough to execute. Sorry trees :(

My favourite part of this tunic has to be the crowl neckline. It’s the first time I tried such a neckline and I adore it. I also thought this tunic looks somewhat similar to a garment I would expect to find in a Japanese sewing book. With Chia being originally from Taiwan, there must be strong Japanese influence in her designs.

This pattern was rated Easy by Chia and rightly so. However, her instructions are pretty brief which subjects us to our own creative interpretation. Not necessarily a bad thing for more experienced seamstresses but a beginner might be left with lots of questions. For anyone who is not sure about getting Twinkle Sews, I would recommend trying out these free patterns which are also found in the book. Here are the links to a summer dress pattern which is rated intermediate in the book on Craftstylish and an A-line skirt pattern listed on burdastyle.

Once again buttonholes came to good use in this outfit with the crowl neck drawstrings being inserted through two buttonholes and a casing.

The other design element which propelled me to work on this project was the sportswear inspired pocket which should come to good use for keeping my hands warm. The photo below gives a better view of the pockets and I wore the tunic here without layers, the way I would back in Singapore.

I did a Holiday Wardrobe Project collage as a summary of the items completed. My first coat, first cardi and first jeans!

I did a check last night and the weather in Shanghai is expected to be between 22 to 14 degrees celsius while we are visiting so my holiday wardrobe should come to good use. I hope this can be a made-me holiday with me wearing at least one made-me item a day for nine days. I’ll update on whether this actually happens after the trip :) I am pretty excited myself as I have never wore a self-made garment during my overseas trip.

Before I end this post, if you are interested to know a little bit more about dear old me, do check out my little Q&A with burdastyle. I am also incredibly honored that my Sunny Day Dress is in the slideshow for the Burdastyle’s Best of September (It’s #17). There are some superb creations in there, my personal favorite being #11 Pattern Magic Bow Dress by veryprairie. It’s GORGEOUS and she even dyed the fabric herself! I love that lime green!

 

Ahoy! Cape Vest

Here’s a photo of Project 2: Gathered drape cape vest from the Japanese sewing book, ‘Drape drape’. When I saw the photo, I loved the design and thought it shouldn’t be too difficult to sew. Well, now that I’ve done it, I’ll have to say this is the most challenging project I have done from a Japanese sewing book. Having said that, this is only the third Japanese sewing book I’ve worked on :) I’ll consider this an intermediate level project and pins were my best friend. The cape, the sides with a draped bottom portion and armholes have to be sandwiched and sewn between the centre front/back and their facings.  So patience and lots of checking are essential. Thank goodness the diagrams were super clear so there was no issues there. After all that hard work, I am truly happy with the results. I love the drape of the cape and the sides.

I chose to do a L size as I wanted to use this for layering. The Ahoy! Cape Vest was made using a combination of navy blue and navy/white stripe cotton jersey fabric from my stash and big red buttons to add some nautical charm. It turned out to be a pretty interesting piece of garment. I’m impressed with the designer as this pattern though it looks simple, is very well thought out. I just love how the bottom drape hugs my hips and how the front centre portion curves with the body. It’s amazing!

Here’s a peek at the back. There are four centre back pieces joined by a fifth piece across them (I used navy blue for the piece across as I thought it would be more interesting and flattering). The back facing is identical. I tried my best to match the stripes on the piece and is happy with how it turned out.
Just a word of caution. There are two Projects 2 in the book so look for its Japanese name when tracing the pattern pieces. The first piece I traced look funny cos’ it was for drape pants!

Ahoy! I’m happy! It’s perfect for my holiday next month!

First Jeans: Retro Dots Bella

I am so excited to have completed my first pair of made-me jeans! I named it Retro Dots Bella but I would most probably be the only one to see those dots when I am wearing this pair of jeans. Made from burdastyle’s bella sewing pattern, I used an indigo denim for the jeans and a retro dots fabric from my princess’ stash for the lining at the waist and front pockets. Here are some photos of the Retro Dots for your eyes only :)

I also did some stitching on the back pockets to make them more interesting before top stitching onto the back of the jeans.

Perhaps denim is thicker so I had to go over the lines twice for them to be this obvious. I love the fit and I must say it looks really flattering from the side and back. I usually wear low waisted bootcut jeans so when I told my husband I was making a high-waisted jeans, he laughed  as he thought that it would look nerdy. But, nerdy the bella wasn’t. I think if anything, it is a little flirty. I showed it to my husband last evening after sewing on the buttons and he gave his nod of approval, which made me a happy gal :)

The jeans wasn’t difficult to make as I have already done a pair of shorts based on the same pattern but this time I used the size 34 patterns instead of 38 and it fitted really well. I think I have lost a little weight and also I realised and was also informed by some of you (thank you so much!) that the bella loosen at the waist with wear. Here’s a closer view of the buttons and stitching (sorry about the blue glare from my camera!) The toughest part for me was the buttonholes as this denim was rather difficult to cut/ rip so they took longer than normal to finish. At certain point, I was pulling my hair to get it done.

I finished the hem at floor level as I read in a fashion article that high-waisted pants which finishes there gives the illusion of longer legs. Sure hope that’s true!

This pair of jeans was part of my holiday wardrobe project and after this I have two more tops to create before my trip to Shanghai from 15 to 23 October.

For the two tops I have identified previously, I have a little change of mind. I will still sew a piece from the Twinkle Sews book but for the second piece I will be sewing this top from a new Japanese sewing book I acquired called ‘Drape drape’ by Hisako Sato. It has a cape like structure and I think it is great for layering. Definitely something I will wear on normal days too :)

Have an amazing week my sewing comrades!

Mystery Cardigan Completed!

This lovely yellow cardigan stood out in the Japanese Sewing Book  “Les couleurs francaises” but the sewing pattern for it didn’t come with the book. I used to call it the Mystery Cardigan. When I really needed to make it as part of my Holiday Wardrobe Project, I made modifications to the sewing pattern of project m (below) to create a long green cardigan.

Instead of woven fabric which I believe the book suggested or cotton jersey (I couldn’t read the rest of the Japanese words but I recognized ‘cotton’), I used a very stretchy knit fabric which felt and looked like what you would usually find in RTW cardigans. I needed this to keep me warm and am happy I finally used this fabric. When my mum saw the fabric, she told me “That’s gonna be difficult to sew.” At the end of the project, I gave mum an update “It wasn’t that difficult to sew, it was horrifying to cut!’. Compared to what I now think is a lycra blend knit fabric used for my Melissa dress, this knit fabric was not difficult to sew. However, cutting it was a nightmare because the ends kept rolling, making it almost impossible to match the selvages. I just hoped I got the grain lines right!

The ruffles at the bottom of the cardigan worked well and looked lovely but those attached to the sleeves didn’t. Somehow, they turned out too short after I gathered them for the sleeves. I think it might be due to the direction of the stretch of the fabric so this might not be an issue if you use woven fabric. Unfortunately for me I used up all the green fabric and did not have any extras to redo them. Do you think a thin elastic sewn just above the gathered fabric would ruffle them up or should I just leave them alone? I am happy to hear any suggestion on how to improve the lack of ruffles situation.

I made a very long belt, as you can see and that turned out to be really interesting to  play around with. I got to tie my cardigan in so many ways! I didn’t plan for that to happen and only realized its potential when putting the belt on for the photographs. When I wore it this way, it created a cross knot at the back. I love it!

To create the Mystery Cardigan, I cut the paper pieces of project m and put them against myself, I then used the measuring tape to determine how much I needed to lengthen the front and back pieces.  Mine was lengthened by approximately 17″.  I only lengthened the sleeves by 3″ but the very stretchy knit and the weight of the ruffles pulled it down, making it look even longer. I created my belt from my leftover fabric but if you want one exactly like the photo, you can follow the one from project x, 185cm by 5cm before adding on the seam allowances. Oh! I also drafted  smaller pattern pieces for the shorter ruffles at the sleeves. There is supposed to two layers of ruffles at the bottom of the cardigan but I left that out, opting for only one row of ruffles.

Have a fruitful sewing week everyone!

Two looks in one Esther coat

Silly silly me…I thought I was mixing woven with knit when I was planning to sew the Esther Coat but as I felt the corduroy, I realized there was some stretch in it. This is my first time sewing with this fabric and I was glad to have read this informative post on working with nap and pile on Colette Pattern’s blog just in time. After reading it, I ensured that I cut the fabric in one direction.

I needed this coat to go with anything and everything I would be wearing for my trip to Shanghai in October so I chose to make it in black cord and black jersey. Why the mixture of fabrics?  This is part of my stash busting effort and they were the only combination that I could get together to formulate a coat of sorts.

Leopard prints are everywhere, I think it’s wild and like it quite a lot. But, it does age the wearer if its overwhelming so I added a leopard print trim on the sleeve facings instead just to up the meow factor. I love it!

Nonetheless, I felt that leopard print only goes with black stuff and  jeans and nothing else. So, it might not be that practical for a holiday coat. Not to worry,  the Esther works in such a way that if I were to fold the sleeves higher, the leopard trim could be completely covered and the coat goes with everything and anything in the world!

See what I mean, I am wearing the same tee and shorts I have been wearing the entire day and just threw on the coat and a scarf.

Now let me reveal the source of the leopard print trim. No, I did not buy any new fabric and no it wasn’t originally a trim. One day while browsing through Daiso (US$1.50 store), I was immediately drawn to this cute little leopard print pouch and thought I could sew a thick elastic around it and make a waist pouch.

But, my husband thinks waist pouches are the most unflattering accessory a woman can wear. I dropped the idea and the pouch has been on my sewing table for months until yesterday morning anyways. I am happy with how it looks on the coat. At least it has been put to use.  I love the texture, the furry feel and the contrast against black cord.

I thought I would need at least a week to complete a coat but this pattern was so easy and fun to sew! It only had 4 pieces! I took my time and finished this in a day including cutting and sewing.  For my version, I made 3 pieces out of the black cord and piece number 2, which covers the upper sleeves and upper back area in black jersey. For a burdastyle sewing pattern, this one has reasonably clear instructions. This coat is designed to keep you warm, with the exception of pattern piece number 2, all the rest had the fabric folded in half. This means there are two layers of comfy cord shielding me from the cold!

P/S: I have to thank dbsewer from Pattern Review who told me the coat looks hunter green on her monitor. I had to compare a black and white shot to realize the difference and did a color correction. Thanks so much. This updated version is closer to the actual color.


Holiday Wardrobe Project

I am planning a simple holiday wardrobe for my trip to Shanghai in October. Yes! Shanghai!  Can you imagine me going crazy at the fabric markets!!! I am going nuts just thinking about it LOL! If you have shopped there, I welcome tips, recommendations and any information :)

From now till end September, I wanna sew a few essential pieces to squeeze into a luggage I am sharing with my hubby and kids. With kids around, we always try to travel as light as possible.

I figured layering is the way to go. The weather has become temperamental. It was just 40 degrees Celsius (typically, it should be 30) in Shanghai a few days ago and by past years’ records, typical weather in October should be 15 to 22 degrees Celsius. My plan is to sew my first fall coat, first cardigan, first pair of jeans and to create a few coordinating knit pieces to bring along. At the same time, I am hoping that all these pieces will be versatile enough to be wore back home.

1) My first coat

I am gonna tackle the coat first. I have the Butterick 5295 sewing pattern but I am constrained by my stash busting effort to sew this-Insufficient yardage. Major major bummer! So, this pattern has got to wait.

I considered some coat sewing patterns on burdastyle where I chanced upon my dream coat named Alden.

This looks so retro. I love the back details! But alas, I still have a fabric constrain issue. I relooked at my stash and reluctantly let this go. It shall be made for my next fall holiday. It has been raining so much in Singapore, I just might get to wear this here if I use a waterproof material.  I convinced myself that Alden has got to wait. Stash busting is my priority at this point. That’s when I met Esther and got totally inspired by this lovely cosy version made of woven and knit fabric by Kitzler. I checked the yardage required and am a happy woman! By mixing knit and woven, i have enough to get this going! What an ingenious idea! Thank you Kitzler!

2) My first cardigan

I fell in love with this long cardi from Japanese sewing book ‘Les couleurs francaises’ but never thought I would actually make it.

The good news-I have the fabric for this in green! The bad news- the pattern is not provided. But, they did provide pattern for a shorter similar version (image below) and the sew gutsy in me said I’m not gonna let the lack of pattern get the better of me. I shall modify this to create a slightly longer cardi.

3) My first jeans

I am still tossed between making jeans from Wendy Mullin’s Sew U pants pattern and a high-waisted pair from burdastyle’s bella pattern. Afterall, the shorts version is so comfortable. The only certainty is I’m making this pair of jeans out of the only denim fabric in my stash, in Indigo.

Here’s what bella jeans look like. I love this pair by the Cupcake Goddess.

But, I am equally smitten with this Sew U pair by Le Printemps Jolie

What do you think? Bella or Sew U jeans?

4) Twinkle Sew Tops

These two tops from Wenlan Chia’s Twinkle Sew caught my eyes when I was going through my sewing patterns and I hope to create them in cotton jersey fabric from my stash. I have heard issues with printing out the CD Rom patterns but would still love to give them a try.

This project is going to be challenging. I have only sewn knit fabric twice.  Knit fabric. First Jeans. First Coat, First Cardigan. I’m ready.

Unforgettable Japan Part 2: Fukui

I am sure my son is not the only dino crazy three and a half-year old. It is the same with most of my friends’ sons. A few of them even had dinosaur themed birthday parties!

When my son told me he wanted to see dinosaur fossils, I honestly didn’t think I would end up in Japan. More than fifteen years ago, I saw some fossils in a Museum of Natural History in the UK but had no idea where is the best place to see them now. However, while researching the internet for his sake, I stumbled upon the Fukui Prefecture Dinosaur Museum.

Besides being the only dedicated dinosaur museum in all of Japan, this museum is one of the “World’s Three Great Dinosaur Museums” along with the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Canada and the Zigong Dinosaur Museum in China.

So if your kids want to learn more about pre-historical creatures and you are visiting Kansai. Do not miss this museum. It might be off the beaten track but it is worth the trip. Besides a TV crew filming there and a handful of other visitors, my family basically had the museum all to ourselves. I am only posting a few photos here but at the museum you get to see at least 20 to 30 fossils.

I can’t recommend this museum enough. This could very well be THE place to see that many dinosaur fossils and even those of pre-historic creatures such as the mammoth.

Most information are available in Japanese and English. Digital animation and robotic dinosaurs were extremely well presented and kept visitors amazed. My kids loved them!

Fukui city is around two and a half hours train ride from Osaka or Kyoto. It is approximately 3 hours from Kansai International Airport. Katsuyama, where the museum is located, is another hour from Fukui city.

The dinosaur museum is in the shape of a dinosaur egg at the foot of the Japanese alps. We were at Katsuyama on 13 April and the sakura trees were in full bloom! In Kansai, Sakura season had already ended but in Fukui and Katsuyama, spring had just began.

It wasn’t easy looking for accommodation in Fukui. Most of its hotels didn’t have an English site. It is still a place with few foreign tourists. I had to email one of the hotels (Hotel Riverge Akebono) which had a partial English site to enquire and fortunately I received a reply after a few days. We managed to reserve a Japanese styled room. When traveling with children it is always better to reserve the room via email as we managed to get a much better rate than offered by the internet system which only asked for the total number of people regardless of age.

While majority of the people we met in Fukui didn’t speak English, they were one of the friendliest and most helpful. We arrived too early to check into the hotel but when the manager saw us with an infant, he immediately asked the reception to contact the cleaning team so that we could have the room earlier. We arrived at 1.30pm and were handed the room keys at 2pm instead of 3pm which was great. The river just behind the hotel was lined with beautiful Sakura trees.

Being a rural town, the local train had many unmanned stations. To facilitate ticketing, there is a train ticketing lady on every train. Besides collecting payment and assisting senior citizens to their seats, these ladies are extremely warm and helpful. On discovering that we were tourists visiting the dinosaur museum, the lady not only gave us a brochure of the museum but also the train and bus schedule to and from the museum! They are the true ambassadors of tourism.

The Tojinbo, a rugged cliff formation by the sea is situated on the Echizen coast, 45 minutes on a local train from Fukui city. You can tell the ticketing office at the train station that you are going to Tojinbo and they will provide the train and bus schedule.

The scenery is nice, the waves amazing, the wind super strong and you can get a taste of Echizen crabs and seafood at the many eateries around Tojinbo. We found that the nearer the cliff, the more expensive they seem to be.  I had a delicious BBQ Squid but didn’t dare try the creature in the shell, whatever it is. My prince enjoyed a yummy seafood fried rice.

After lunch, I would recommend taking the same bus you alighted from to the Echizen Matsushima Aquarium since you are in the vicinity. It is a pretty old aquarium and not very impressive with the exception of these.

A glass tank full of tropical fish which you can walk on or even zzz on:) Remember to remove your footwear before going down the stairs.

The experience is simply tranquil and relaxing! It’s dreamland material:) Roll over and on one side you can admire the sharks, rays and hammerheads in the next tank.

The aquarium also had the friendliest dolphins that swam over and greeted my prince thrice. Off course, he was super thrilled!

And a room full of octopus, tiny sharks and fishes you can touch, if you dare…

How can I end off without mentioning the word fabric. If you are walking from the hotel to the train station (20 minutes walk), there is a fabric & craft store near Seibu (in front of JR Fukui station) but I didn’t get a chance to visit due to the rain. Nonetheless, the fabric store in Osaka had a lot more selection and there were many more items I wanted to buy on the trip back to Kansai now that the baby food have been consumed and I have more room in my luggage:)

Unforgettable Japan Part 1: Osaka

My three and a half-year old prince is totally hooked on the most enormous and fearsome creatures. He is especially nuts about dinosaurs and sharks. And to him the bigger they are, the better! With him around, even my one year old princess can recognize these creatures and utter the words dinosaur and shark. Last month, our family of four visited Japan. Not only did we meet the friendly whale sharks, had a Jaws Adventure, laid above a fish tank while admiring sharks swimming next to us, we came face to face with dinosaurs and prehistoric fossils!

Osaka

Japan is a great place to travel with kids. If you stay in a minshuku or ryokan, you get to sleep on a futon mattress on the tatami floor. This means you do not need to get a connecting room for kids (which can be costly) and absolutely no worries of them falling off the bed in the middle of the night.

Sweet Dreams

Unlike a hotel, kids usually pay a lower rate when staying in ryokans and for a kid or infant sharing a futon with a parent, there is usually no charge (though some ryokans charge a small fee). Travel on Japan Rail is also free for kids under the age of six!

We stayed at a minshuku 5 minutes away from the Osakako Station. For a big city in Japan, the Osakako area is considered a quiet area to stay. It is also convenient as the Kansai Airport Limo stops at the Tenpozan at Osakako. What’s at the Tenpozan? The enormous tanks of the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, IMAX, Suntory Museum, numerous F&B outlets and the Tenpozan Ferris Wheel.

I highly recommend the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan.

An encounter with the whale sharks (there were two of them!) is an awesome experience and simply unforgettable!

Knowing that he was going to meet these enormous creatures, my prince happily packed his toy whale shark ‘Spot’ so that it could meet its mummy and daddy at the aquarium!  He still talks about them on a regular basis!

While  the two whale sharks are the stars of the Kaiyukan, kids will also love the other exhibits such as dolphins, rays, seals, penguins, crabs, otters, porpoises and not forgetting the magnificent jellyfishes.

Giant Crabs

Magnificent Jellyfishes…


More Jellyfishes…

Hammerhead shark

There is even an area to the front of tanks set aside for young children and people with disability to see the creatures in the enclosure easily.

Happy Feet!

Rays

Nicely tugged in a corner behind the Tenpozan food court is an area housing small but famous restaurants which used to exist in a certain district of Osaka. I highly recommend that you try the omurice (butter rice served in an omelette) with katsu (deep-fried pork) and brown sauce. It was yummy and kids would love it! Food choices at Tenpozan are nothing short of the abundant!

My princess using her toy excavator on my omurice! Oishi!

In the evening, bring the kids for a ride on the Tenpozan Ferris Wheel! The view of the harbour,  Universal Studios Japan in the bay opposite and bridges is breathtaking!

Universal Studios Japan is another fun stop for kids and the kid in us!

With my prince and princess’ interest in sharks, how could we miss the Jaws ride. Kids enjoyed the ride while parents had fun too! I am not sure if there is an age limit for this ride as my princess was only one.

Which little girl can resist the charm of Hello Kitty?

My princess was entertained by her favourite ‘Kitty’ and Sesame Street characters. She kept repeating ‘Elmo! Elmo!’ that I chased after the bus till it entered a private zone! Which bus? Here it is:)

My husband and prince enjoyed the Spiderman amusement ride and my son loved the shop in Jurassic Park! Here’s his treat of the day, a Spinosaurus- the biggest land predator ever!

The famous covered shopping street in Osaka Namba area is a popular tourist hunt.

For any crafter, I reckon that this is the most convenient place to visit for fabric shopping. Afterall, it combines sightseeing and fabric shopping hence less room for husbands to nag:) It is also a stone’s throw from Den Den Town where you get to check out the latest electronic gadgets. Best of all, it is a covered shopping street so your shopping experience is less likely to be affected by weather conditions.

Even though there is only one fabric store at Ebisibashi, The Sew Convert is certain that you will find something you’d love especially if you are a Japanese fabric fan. I did and I only managed to browse through level one of Toraya. If you see any item you like, tell the helpful store attendants how many meters you’d like to buy. They will send instructions upstairs through some air pipe system for your fabric to be cut and give you a receipt. Wait for around 5 minutes and your fabric should be at the cashier.

Don’t miss the remnants section at the side of the store. Most of these are in one meter rolls. Lots of lovely fabric selling at a fraction of the price! Oh..and remember to bring cash as I didn’t see any credit card service at the cashier!

Next Sat: Unforgettable Japan Part 2: Fukui