Massive life changes ahead!

You can likely deduce from the odd post here and there that there are big changes ahead for us, and there’s a lot we haven’t officially shared on our social media.

In mid-October, we’ll be expecting our first child. It’s been such an adventure being pregnant in London and also travelling around Europe. In my third trimester, I’m still going strong on the morning sickness (which should be called pregnancy sickness because there is no time of day that it doesn’t strike). I’ll probably be one of those lucky 40 weeker’s (i.e. sick for the entire pregnancy). Thankfully, there is something called doxylamine that my sister recommended that has made it very manageable. The other big change is that at the end of August, Joe and I will be moving back to the US – San Diego to be specific. It has been an amazing 5 years in London. It’s been our home for a majority of our married life, and we’ve made such incredible friendships that are going to be hard to say good-bye to. There are a lot of reasons why we’re moving back, but a big one being that this is probably being the last opportunity for his job (that brought us out here) to relocate us back. Either way, with the many factors, it seemed like our chapter in London was coming to a close. It has very little to do with the fact that we’re having a baby. If anything, that was the really exciting part of the adventure we were looking forward to.

The move back is bittersweet. We love how simple life here is, and it makes you realise how much space you don’t actually need. We walk and public transport everywhere and we’re close to so much green space. There’s amazing food, and we truly love living in the UK/Europe. At the same time, there are modern conveniences in the US that would make life with a baby easier. More space for less money…because let’s face it, living in London is expensive, having cars and an extensive friend and family support network.

A big part of what we’ll miss is our friends network here. We found a lovely church just over a year ago, HTB Courtfield Gardens, where we’ve made some amazing friends that we wish we could hold onto for a bit longer. This past week we were at the annual church camping retreat with everyone, and I just had this sense of how special HTB and the community there is. We will really miss that. For me personally, it’s saying goodbye to another country and another city. Having moved around so much, I love how diverse and multicultural London, and our friends are. People are from everywhere and love to travel and explore just as much as we do. I’ve never “gone back” to somewhere I’d left, so going back to San Diego for me will probably be a harder adjustment than it will be for Joe, who grew up in San Diego. Saying that, it’s likely that our time in San Diego won’t be long term, so we also want to enjoy it there as much as possible.

We’re approaching our last 2 weeks of work in London, packing up our belongings for shipment and then heading to Asia for a 2 week holiday before flying to San Diego. I’ll have my first ob appointment in the US at 35 weeks, so it’ll be a different kind of adventure from there. London has made such an impact on us, and we’re both definitely open to moving elsewhere if the opportunity arises. Our lives are so much richer as a result of experiences, travel and friendships. I hope that as we move on, our friendships all over the world will still be accessible and that they will even come visit us wherever we end up.


Summer shirt round-up

Over the summer I sewed a lot of short sleeved shirts that I never got around to blogging about. In the time since then, they have been loved, worn a lot and then packed away as the weather in London cooled.

First up, the Sewaholic Belcarra. This is a simple raglan sleeve top that goes with just about anything and is super easy to make. I made a few that were too big, but ended up giving away as gifts (I really need to look at the finished garment measurements better). This shirt is the culmination of quite a bit of tweaking, but I’m really happy with the final fit and will be making good use of the adjustments to make more when the weather gets warmer. This shirt is made from a cotton fabric I bought on Goldhawk road.

The ever popular Grainline Scout Tee was my most worn and made tee this summer. This pattern is really popular in the blog world and it’s not hard to see why. It is a clean and simple pattern that you can make out of pretty much any type of fabric. This pattern is what made me realise that all of my measurements could be spot on one of the sizes, but my shoulders are broader than usual at that size. I end up having to go a size up at the shoulders and then everything else is the same. Once I got that fit right, it was a breeze.

This first version is also made of a cotton fabric I found on Goldhawk Road. I’d originally bought some to make a Belcarra out of, but it was a bit too big so I gave it to my sister. I loved the fabric so much I went back to Goldhawk Road and found the fabric again (thankfully they still had some left) so that I could make a Scout Tee.

This Scout is made out of a lightweight viscose that has a fish scale type pattern to it. I bought this from the Textile Centre.
On this version of the tee, I tried the blind hem stitch on my machine to hem the bottom of the shirt. It worked out really nicely! I’d done the blind hem stitch when I hemmed a pair of work trousers and thought I’d try it here to a) cut down on the amount of hand sewing and b) making sure I actually finished this project because I tend to procrastinate on hand sewing.

Last but not least, my favourite Scout of all. I lengthened this top and made it out of another flowy viscose from Textile Centre. The print is florally, but it also looked a bit Asian-inspired which I really liked. It’s not as lightweight as my fish scale viscose fabric but it’s still really drapey. I wore this top a lot when we were on holiday in Asia.


A Victoria Blazer for me!

A while back, I purchased a paper version of By Hand London’s Victoria Blazer. I’ve mentioned before that I love their patterns so I figured that even if I didn’t have immediate plans to make it, I would still buy the pattern. It’s ironic that the few paper patterns I own have been the most neglected yet I have completed loads of PDF patterns. PDF patterns need to be printed, a couple of sides trimmed off, taped together, cut out and then traced. It’s a laborious process, but one that ends up being very worth it once done.

With the weather getting colder, I thought it’d be nice to make this up. I pondered making it a full long sleeved blazer but decided for the cropped sleeve because it’d be perfect for layering over a long sleeved shirt or turtleneck in the colder months and over a short sleeved tee in the warmer months.

The Victoria Blazer is more of a slouchy blazer rather than a structured one. The fit is still really great, but if you’re after a structured pattern, then this may not be for you. I personally love structured clothing. I don’t do oversized or baggy clothing, and all of the blazers I own are very structured. That’s why it surprised me how much I love my Victoria Blazer.

It’s made out of a stretchy denim with white polka dots on it that I bought from the Textile Centre‘s ebay shop. For the lining, I went JAZZY and used the bright blue and patterned fabric I bought in Dubai. Beth from 110 Creations has a great blog post about tips and tricks for the Victoria Blazer. I didn’t see these until after I created my blazer but will definitely use some of them for my next one which is currently in progress!

I’m really happy with how this turned out. You kind of just follow step-by-step and before you know it…you have a lined blazer! The dart is a bit confusing at first, but I utilised BHL’s sewalong and it worked out just fine. One thing I realised after I’d already started sewing was that I’d missed a couple notch markings on my pattern. I had to go back and mark them on my pattern pieces after I’d already sewn some pieces together…oops. I think I miss those notches a lot easier on the tissue paper patterns when tracing. It was a bit fiddly, but worked out perfectly in the end!

The shell in progress

Setting the sleeve

Finished product with the jazzy lining showing a little 🙂

Sleeve cuff up

Sleeve cuff down

After some pondering, I decided to topstitch the lapels and collar down so that they stay in place a bit better. I like the final result even more!


September Trip – Fabric Shopping!!

We are back in London after 2 x 8-hour red eye flights. It’s lovely to be back, but sad to leave all the great food in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Ever since I’ve started sewing my own clothes, I rarely buy ready-to-wear (RTW) clothes. The only time I’ll buy clothes are when it’s more time-effective to do so. Like needing new tank tops that I can’t be bothered sewing and are fairly inexpensive at Uniqlo. Even before I started sewing I wasn’t a huge shopper, and that extended to shopping when on holiday. Now, it’s fun to explore the fabric options at places that I go to. We made 4 stops on this trip: Dubai, Taipei, Hualien and Hong Kong. I’ll break down the experience and some of the stuff I bought!

Fabric shopping in Dubai
From reading blogs, I saw that the places to go were Satwa and the Textile Souk in Bur Dubai. People had said that the Textile Souk was mainly for wholesalers and so I thought perhaps Satwa would be better. I asked the concierge at our hotel and he said that the Textile Souk wasn’t just wholesale, so since it was across the river from the Gold Souk, we decided to go there. Getting to the souks were a bit of a challenge. We opted for the metro way and the walk to and from was a bit confusing but also sweltering hot. If you plan to go, bear in mind that the fabric places don’t open until 1pm. We got there early and all the shops that had “textile” in their name were closed. I asked a wholesale shop owner who happened to be open, and he said they would open later. We wandered around the different stalls (they don’t just sell fabric) and it was tiring getting propositioned as we walked by every store. By the time the textile shops did open, I had lost the will to browse. I found a piece of fabric at 1 stall and was able to haggle for 10 dirhams per meter instead of 15 (which I was jazzed about) but after seeing that everywhere was basically wholesale, I called it a day. I was disappointed, but at the same time, knew I’d have the opportunity to shop in Asia.

This is the fabric I bought it Dubai. The colours made me happy 🙂

Fabric Shopping in Taipei
The place to go is Yongle Fabric Market. It’s a building just chockablock full of fabric.

This is me in front of just 1 stand. 1 of…A LOT

One of the big questions I had was how willing they would be to bargaining. Some websites said no, some said yes but only 10-15% less. I’m not as comfortable using mandarin so my husband helped test the waters. Turns out, they don’t bargain at Yongle anymore. Maybe if someone bought massive amounts of fabric, but from our experience and the fact that no other customers tried to bargain, we basically concluded that they didn’t. It was fine, since the prices were already amazing when converted to GBP. Bargaining also makes me nervous, and having to do it in mandarin was seriously stressing me out. It was much more enjoyable after that factor was taken away! I found some amazing stuff there: sweatery knits and jerseys for some long-sleeved projects. We’re approaching the colder months in the UK so I need to get cracking on some warmer clothing! I also found a lovely teal plaid that I want to make a pencil skirt out of, a lovely creme cotton that I’ll probably use for a long-sleeved button up shirt and a poly-cotton mix houndstooth fabric. The cost for all 7 fabrics (and I bought between 2-3 yards of each) was around £40. Pretty amazing, even without bargaining! Incredibly happy with my purchases here.


Fabric Shopping in Hualien
Hualien is a small coastal town on the east coast of Taiwan. We’d chosen to go there because of Taroko Gorge – a beautiful park with lots of hiking trails. We figured it’d be our bit of nature for the trip, since the rest were all cities. Little did we know that a category 4 (and then upgraded to 5) typhoon would hit when we got there, so that basically washed out our chance of hiking since all the trails were closed both days we were there. I hadn’t intended on doing fabric shopping in Hualien because it’s a smaller town and any searches I did for fabric shops there came up empty. Our first night walking around, I saw a fabric store not far from our hotel. They were having a sale on pre-cut fabric. They were 6 chi (30 cms or 1 foot) or 1.8 metre long pieces of cotton fabric. I ended up finding some really pretty fabric and it was only £3.80 per piece. We ended up discovering 4 fabric stores, all on Zhonghua road, or not far off of it. It’s difficult to put in names of the shops because they’re in chinese.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with each of these pieces as some of them are fairly heavy cotton, but I know I’ll probably use a couple for projects that will be gifts. I am really happy with the selection they had, and I think these will make some lovely items!

I took a photo of the shopping bag for one of the stores if someone wants to translate it into pinyin.

Fabric Shopping in Hong Kong
Hong Kong…our final stop on the trip, and I was already really happy with what I found in Taiwan. I figured if we had time, we’d go to the fabric market, if not, no biggie. I’m really glad we ended up going because I found some really great stuff. The area is called Sham Shui Po and there is all types of shopping, not just fabric. The fabric stalls and stores that I went to are towards the south side of Ki Lung Street. I’m much more comfortable speaking in Cantonese (despite my nervousness for bargaining) so I thought I’d give it a go. Unlike Ladies Market, Sham Shui Po is not an aggressive bargaining market. You might be able to get 5-15% off, if you can really charm them, but they don’t hike up their prices to overcompensate for tourists. Because…let’s face it…how many tourists (other than fellow sewists) will fabric shop on their holiday.

I bought these two pieces at a brick and mortar store (not a stall along the street). I love stripes and dots and knew I had to get this black and white polka dot crepe. The second piece is silk and isn’t something I’m normally drawn to, but the pattern really intrigued me. Both are 3 yards long (the silk fabric is quite narrow). The silk cost 85 HKD or ~ £7 total and the crepe was 75 HKD or ~£6 total. Literally a STEAL. I did negotiate a little. I think the silk was supposed to be 95 HKD and the crepe was supposed to be 85 HKD. She called me pretty girl and kept telling me how cheap it was compared to other places and it wouldn’t even be as good quality as hers 🙂 It’s also the first time my cantonese has been complimented (it’s really not that great). But I think it’s because I told her I was visiting from the UK.

These next two pieces of fabric I also bought from a brick and mortar store in the area. I had gone in at first and thought it was a bit pricey, but the quality was really good and I knew I couldn’t get the equivalent in the UK for as cheap as it was here. They weren’t bargaining friendly, but I didn’t mind. The first is a boucle-like fabric that will be great for something long-sleeved. I bought 2 yards for 90 HKD which is ~ £7.50.

The second is a black and white paisley print medium weight cotton blend. It’s not slippery but it is drapey, which I really like. This was also 90 HKD for 2 yards.

Last but not least…the fabric purchase I am happiest with. I bought this wool fabric from a stall on Ki Lung street. The reason I was drawn to it is the pattern but also the colour. When the weather gets cold, it’s so easy to pick and wear clothing that is black or grey. It’s a winter wool so it’s definitely warm, but it’s also a nice colour to offset the more drab pieces in my wardrobe. The original piece he held was 7 yards long (and 160cm wide, so it’s really a lot of fabric). It was 35 HKD per yard if he had to cut into it, or 200 HKD for all 7 yards (a discount from 245 HKD). I considered the full 7 yards but thought “Deb…realistically speaking, what will you do with 7 yards of this fabric?!” I made it clear I didn’t want the full 7 yards but wanted 4 instead (which would total 140 HKD). I said I’d pay 100 HKD. He kept saying how it’s real wool and how beautiful it is. I won’t find another like it. So, I was polite and said thank you for his time, and continued down the street to browse. I then came back up the street and lingered at stalls near him. Then I heard him say “Ok, I’ll give you 4 yards for 120 HKD”. 4 yards of wool for £10 is a no brainer and a 15% discount…not bad 🙂 I was pretty happy with the result, and super happy with this fabric! Chalk up 2 successes for bargaining in Cantonese!

I’m grateful that I have a husband who is supportive of my fabric purchases and never rushed me once when I was looking in all the stores. I think he knows there are more expensive things I could be into and is probably glad that I’m not! The fabric ended up being extra useful as we bought one of those self balancing boards for his brother at Ladies Market (he’s a great bargainer and negotiated hard for this and a fake designer watch) and my fabric was used for padding the bag and board so that it wouldn’t get damaged on the flight back to London. The picture is really blurry, but the only one I could take during the repacking process.

I think holiday fabric shopping is the best because it pretty much guarantees that I’ll have at least a few things to remember the places we visited by!

Dubai Aquarium

I am literally never this fast at updating my blog. There are trips and sewing projects that I have yet to write, let alone publish. There are a couple contributing factors to why I’m a bit faster with my trip blogging. First, I discovered that I can use a link from my flickr site to insert photos into wordpress (old news for many I’m sure, but a revelation for me!) and secondly, we’d been in Hualien the last couple days and had a typhoon come through that basically kept us indoors for almost the entire time we’ve been here. May as well take hold of the opportunity to blog and keep up with photos!

So, as promised in my last post, I’ve dedicated an entire post to the Dubai Aquarium. As I mentioned before, I LOVE aquariums, so I thought it fitting to share them here. The aquarium itself isn’t huge, but we took our time and enjoyed it. It also wasn’t that busy, thankfully, so it made it that much more enjoyable. The highlight for me was the otter feeding. I’ve never seen them this interactive with a trainer before! It was really incredible to watch. They are such smart creatures and it’s neat to see how they’ve been trained.


At this point, the trainer came out and proceeded to demonstrate things with them. He got them to wave to us, would also use his relationship with them to check their health and then reward them for good behaviour. It was really neat to see a couple of them paint as well.


Checking their hearts

They’re painting! The gift shop actually sold artwork that the otters had painted.

A tank dedicated to all things Finding Nemo 🙂

The resident salt water crocodile

In the shark tunnel

That’s it for now. Hopefully Taiwan and Hong Kong won’t take as long to follow 🙂

September Travels: Dubai

A while back I’d told my husband that I wanted to do a sunshine/beach trip. Most of our travels end up being city breaks and a lot of hiking/exploration. So, I started researching places to go for a week-long trip. At the top of the list was Sardinia. Gorgeous landscape, clear blue water…basically ideal. But as I looked into it more, I realised that we’re the type to get bored and not want to lay by the pool/beach day after day. We’re also massive foodies and I knew that we’d want great food, no matter where we went.

As we discussed Sardinia a bit more, it started feeling like it wasn’t the place for us. Then, out of the blue, I suggested Taiwan. He looked at me and said…”Ok”. Don’t ask me how this came about, because I have no earthly idea. I think I was thinking “food” and we love Chinese / Taiwanese food…so why not go to Taiwan. It then turned into Taiwan + Hong Kong (both countries that our parents grew up in) and instead of 1 week, we made it a 2 week trip. We then booked our flights and the cheapest flights ended up being on Emirates with a layover in Dubai. I’ve always wanted to go to Dubai, but mainly for the sake of curiosity whereas Joe has had no interest. With a layover in Dubai it seemed like the perfect opportunity to spend a couple days there (at no extra cost with the flight) to get it out of my system. I think the convincing factor for him was that we’d spend a day at the Atlantis Resort Water Park – Aquaventure. A bit of background…at the ripe age of 28, I introduced Joe to waterparks. He’d never been (despite living in California) and has loved them ever since. Living in the UK means not very hot summers, so we actually haven’t been since we moved to London.

So what started out as a week-long trip to Sardinia, turned into a Dubai / Taiwan / Hong Kong trip. The Dubai leg has been completed so I thought I’d share some photos from our time there. We are currently still in Taiwan having waited out the typhoon that headed this way.

We stayed in the Jumeirah Beach Residence area, which thankfully was quite accessible by metro / tram. I can’t say the same for all of Dubai though because we tried to take the metro to as many places as possible but because of their locations and the lack of walkability of most areas of Dubai, getting around was a bit of a challenge. We’d been told that taking the taxi everywhere is normal, but we liked the flexibility of not having to queue. The times we used the metro was great. They’re spacious, air conditioned (VERY important) and clean.

The view from our hotel was of part of the Palm and the water.


We also visited the Dubai Mall and grabbed a snack in their massive food court.


They had a dunkin’ donuts and Texas Chicken which was pretty much Church’s Chicken (same logo and everything!)


We then went to the Dubai Aquarium. I LOVE aquariums so this was kind of a no brainer. It’s not huge, but it is interesting. We took our time walking through it and the absolute highlight was getting there in time to see the otters being fed. I am fascinated by otters because they’re really smart (and cute!). At seaworld and the other aquariums I’d been to, I hadn’t ever seen them interact with a trainer as much as we did here. Because of how many pictures I took, it’ll need to be a separate post… 🙂

I think the thing we most looked forward to, was the food. We wondered how their restaurants and buffets compare to places like Vegas. We first went to Asado which is an Argentinian steak house. We ordered their variety meat grill which was huge. Their speciality is slow cooked baby goat. The meat was really good, but we found that some of the steaks were overcooked. The sirloin was perfectly cooked (by our medium-rare standards) but by the time we got to the tenderloin, it was almost at medium-well. We mentioned it to our waiter, and he promptly had another one brought out. Sidenote: the service we experienced in Dubai was AMAZING.


On the way back to the metro, we walked past Burj Khalifa. It is really pretty at night!


We also went to Aquaventure, which was really fun. Joe took video of the rides on his gopro here. We’d originally considered staying at the Atlantis hotel, but I’m really glad we didn’t because it would have made getting into different parts of Dubai a lot longer.

The next night we wanted to explore the Madinat Jumeirah area so we asked our hotel for a restaurant recommendation. They suggested and Italian place called Segreto which was a fabulous suggestion. My seafood soup and cannelloni was probably the best I’ve ever had.


The next day we went to the Bur Dubai area to visit the Textile Souk. I actually didn’t have much luck with fabric here – I ended up only buying 1 piece of fabric. I don’t do well with extreme temperatures and it was really hot. Also, the men from the different souks would call out to us, follow us around trying to get us to come into their store etc. I know this is normal, but with the heat and not having much luck with fabric, it didn’t put me in a very good mood. I don’t know why, but when they bring my ethnicity into it, it really annoys me. Yelling “Ni Hao! Ni Hao!” at me is not going to make me want to talk to you. Or we would get “Konichiwa!” We took a water taxi over to the gold souk and then headed to dinner, which made the whole day much better.

My one fabric purchase.


On the water taxi


Dinner was at Yalumba‘s Tuesday night seafood buffet. Note, this is at the La Meridian near the airport, so quite far from where we were staying. We had such a hard time getting there from the airport metro stop, that we ended up taking a 5-minute taxi ride there. Joe found a way to walk back (thankfully) because the taxi driver wasn’t happy he had to get out of the queue to take us less than 1 km. If you’re in Dubai on a Tuesday night, and you love seafood, then you must go to Yalumba. The seafood was SO fresh, and there was a lot of it. They had the cold seafood, as well as hot cooked dishes with fish, crab etc. Joe’s favourite were the small dishes of whole scallops.


A zigzagged Bettine

The Bettine…one of the latest pattern releases from Tilly and the Buttons.  I really liked the Bettine from the moment I saw it because it was simple, didn’t have zips (yay!) and had pockets. I also love kimono sleeves, and the neckline is a great scoop neck which is interesting but not too low. Looking at the shape of the skirt, I knew I’d need to make the hip silhouette less pronounced. I kept the hip line where it was for the size I cut, but graded the line after the hip out a bit so the bottom half of the skirt was wider and longer. I just wanted to see what the silhouette would look like as the pattern was drafted.


The top part of the dress was quick and easy to sew up. I like that the facings are topstitched down because facings tend to be the bane of my existence, particularly when ironing after a wash! I think it really accentuates the shape of the neckline as well.


When sewing down the casing for the elastic, one of the pockets got caught so I ended up having to unpick it. Slightly annoying, but it wasn’t too difficult to fix thankfully.

After trying on the dress (pre-hemming) I noticed that the hip lines were still a bit too pronounced for my liking. So, I eyeballed a line to grade down the hips.

It ended up working perfectly! I’m super happy with my completed Bettine, and have already modified the pattern and finished a second version!! I’ve since worn this dress twice (in 1 week) and LOVE it. The pockets are so functional and useful, and the shape is flattering. I like the blousey top and the comfort of elastic. I’m heading on holiday to Dubai and Asia next month and will be bringing Bettine(s) along for sure.