More Hong Kong Stories: The Silk Road

Our first morning in Hong Kong, I headed north to Hong Kong City. Thoughts of silk had been running around my mind since the moment I first found out we were going to Hong Kong, so had done my research. I’d read a great deal about Cheung Sha Wan Road in Sham Shui Po being a mecca for fabric and embellishments. This area is considered the fashion district and is where the designers go for supplies. I’d also read several accounts of a silk merchant named Angus, who was over in Ho Man Tin, who was said to have quality silk at the best prices.

I emerged from the subway onto Cheung Sha Wan Road and set off to find the fabric shops. I walked up and down the road and couldn’t find them. I found lots of fashion retailers, with merchants that looked askance at my large American size body in their shops full of size zeros. Those clothes were so pretty though, dresses the color of the ocean, with filmy, floaty layers that brought to mind frothy waves lapping the shore. But I was just looking for someone who I could ask where the fabric was. I was learning that English wasn’t going to get me very far.

I had read that most shop owners or clerks in the city had enough English to make a sale, but that wasn’t my experience. One woman told me it was two streets over, so I went in that direction. On the way, I stumbled upon a market street, filled with vendors selling all sorts of things. On one table I found a small, but very heavy, bronze statue of a mermaid. I wanted it really bad, but knew that carrying that in my bag all day would be a pain. I reluctantly put it down and turned to go. The seller chased me down, punching numbers into a calculator, jabbing his finger at it insisting, even as I walked away shaking my head. I had no language to explain my dilemma. Now I’m wishing I had sucked it up and carried it. At the time I was saving my bag space and carrying muscles for silk.

ribbon shop Hong Kong cityI turned my attention back to the hunt. I wandered into a shop selling handbags and found a very helpful English speaking woman. She told me I could find what I was looking for over on Tai Nan Street. Along the way, I found shops that specialized in ribbons and others in buttons or lace, the goods spilling out the doors and onto the sidewalk. As I approached Tai Nan Road, the smell of leather grew strong. I realized then that she must have thought I was asking where to buy leather to sew my own handbag. Tai Nan was one long street full of leather shops.

I continued to wander. I finally found fabric on Ki Lung Street. Shops lined each side of the road and canopied stalls filled the sidewalks with more fabric. Many of the stores just had swatches for the customer to peruse. You make your selections, then have the fabric lengths delivered to you (so I’m given to understand from what I read online). I had also read that most of the fabric stores were wholesale, but that many will sell to the retail customer.
I didn’t see much silk, and what I did see, I really had no way of knowing if it was real. Not without a match to burn it with and I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have gone over well. I was already guilty of being American. Again, I had no language to discuss fabric content or prices.

I did find a nice piece of Japanese linen printed with owls. It was hanging on a rack outside of a shop and had a sign with a good price. I carried it inside to pay. The clerk punched a price in a calculator that was not what the sign said. I turned to go point at the sign and the guy came running after me. He may have thought I was stealing it, or then again, he did have his calculator. I got it for the published price.

The day was hot and humid and my tongue was dry. I’d brought one bottle of water, not accounting for the liters I would sweat out. I had passed a couple of convenience stores on my journey and the thought of getting additional water flitted in and out of my head. Now, I was done looking at fabric and ready for the next stops on my itinerary, as I made my way toward the silk merchant. I couldn’t even be bothered to buy a length of ribbon or packet of buttons; I needed water.

Hong KongAs I wandered on foot to Flower Market Road, I was moving away from the more commercial district. Hot and thirsty, I finished the last sip of the water I carried. I told myself I’d stop at the very next convenience store I found. Except I couldn’t find one. I must have been getting delirious with dehydration and heat because I could see on the map a fairly straight shot from the flower market to the bird market but I seemed to have gone in a big circle out of my way.

I finally found the bird market, but still no water, and by this time I was really questioning my reasoning of “I’ll be fine.” I’ve been in Australia too long; I’m starting to fall for the “she’ll be right” line of thinking. After winding my way through the birdcage-filled lanes, and considering drinking out of their water cups, I turned in the direction of the silk merchant’s home. I saw on the map the MOKO shopping mall sat between me and the silk, so I headed there first. On the way, I was blessed with a brief misting of rain. I had to fight the temptation to turn my open mouth to the sky, and tried instead to imbibe the moisture through my skin.

I decided to have a liquid lunch, but not the fun kind. I sat at a table and pointed to the liquidy looking items on the picture menu. After a bowl of soup and a pot of tea, I was ready to continue my quest, but not before finding another bottle of water.

I walked out of the mall, heading in the direction of the silk. Sometimes I am amazed at the difficulty I have with simple tasks. I could not for the life of me find a pedestrian path across the street I was on to get to the street I needed to traverse. It appeared the only way to do it was in a car. There were no sidewalks, no room to walk between brick walls and the busy road, and a tall wall stood between the east and west sides of the street. I kept going, hoping not to be run over, and finally found my way out of the maze.

fabric shop in Hong Kong cityThe silk merchant was at 8 Soares Avenue. “Go up to a penthouse apartment and knock on the door,” were the instructions I’d found on the internet. OK, except you can’t just walk in, you need a key for the front door of the building. As I stood there wondering what next, someone else came along and held the door for me. There was a woman sitting just inside in a small, dark foyer, at a tiny table, who appeared to be the gatekeeper. I told her the name of the person I sought and she sent me up a rickety lift to the penthouse level. At the top I stepped out. There was a door to an apartment, some stairs leading to the rooftop and a confusing sign that made it sound like the fabric sales took place on the roof. But that didn’t make sense, so I went back and knocked at the door. Mrs. Silk Merchant opened the door, and wiping her hands on her apron, told me that Angus had retired from the silk business just one year ago. I think she questioned the sanity of this strange American woman laughing hysterically in her hallway.

More Hexie Love

Mom's tea towel (3 of 4)
My crafting life is all about hexies hexies hexies!  I just finished this tea towel for my mom.  I sewed the hexie flowers onto a piece of cotton/linen blend fabric.  I added a crochet edging.

Mom's tea towel (2 of 4)
Yesterday was her birthday, so I added a little embroidered sentiment.

Mom's tea towel (1 of 4)
and some flowers:)  I hand stitched the hexies, and machine stitched them to the towel.

Mom's tea towel (4 of 4)
I’m working hard on a goal of finishing up all of my in-progress sewing projects.  Next up on my work table, I have a small hexie quilt I’m making for my granddaughter, and I still need to finish the wonky log cabin table mats.  They are all pieced; I’m now assembling the layers and quilting.  I hope to be able to show my progress next week!

Monday Musing

August stitching 2014 (3 of 3)
I have lost my favorite crochet hook.  The last time I remember using it was in April at my mother’s house.  That’s how long it’s been since I’ve done any serious crocheting.  I needed a break from that, but I didn’t expect it would last this long.  Now I’m ready to crochet again, but can’t find the hook.

August stitching 2014 (1 of 3)
Back in April is when I discovered English Paper Piecing.  Most of my down time since then has been spent sewing hexies.  I’ve been pulled to other sewing projects as well, anything that lets me look at bits of pretty fabric.  I decided to try my hand at wonky log cabin squares.  I’m mostly happy with the way this table topper is turning out.  I wish I’d made some of my log cabin strips wider, and the sashing strips less wide.

This project is an illustration of just how out of focus my mind has been.  I didn’t read the instructions closely, otherwise I would have known to cut the sashing strips again.  I had a piece of black fabric for the backing.  I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing and I cut it too short.  At least I was able to salvage that to make the bias binding, but I’m getting exasperated with myself!  I’m lost inside my head instead of engaging in what’s happening around me.

August stitching 2014 (2 of 3)
This is some fabric I picked up last year and didn’t get around to using.  I cut it wrong too; I sewed the little cat fabric into a tube, cut it in half to make two, then realized that I had sewn it with the cats going sideways instead of up and down.  Luckily, again I was able to salvage it, but geesh!!

My goal for this week is to pay attention to what is going on around me and to what I’m doing!  I’m trying to put those thoughts that keep distracting me away for now.  I can come back to them later when I can actually do something about it.  For now, I need to go buy a new crochet hook apparently. And some more black fabric:)

Autumn in July

wool felt applique autumn banner (1 of 1)
It never fails.  Each year, I start thinking of autumn long before summer even dreams of being over.  I may be even earlier this year than most; although, I think I say that every year too!

We had a much needed cool, rainy day here in Salt Lake yesterday.  I used it to pretend that it was autumn.  I opened the windows and pulled out some wool felt I had picked up last year and not gotten around to playing with.  This is the first panel in a wall hanging I’m making.  I recently gave my bead collection to my daughter.  Now, I’m wishing I’d held back just a couple tablespoonfuls to embellish this banner.  There is more to do on this section.  I’m going to stitch a leafy vine held in the crow’s beak.  He needs an eyeball.

I think it’s curious how typically I’m drawn to a sleek, modern (even if it’s mid-century) look, but when autumn comes I pull toward primitive styled decor.  I guess because it’s homey and gives a feeling of warmth and coziness.

We’re having another lovely rainy day, so I think I’ll keep working on my stitching, dreaming of pumpkins and crows.

A Stitch in Time

wheel of the year (1 of 1)
I sit here, forcing myself to write a blog post.  All I really want to do is curl up in a chair and stitch.  I’m afraid my old “friend” depression has sneaked up on me again.  I always think I’m going to be vigilant and catch it before it catches me, but by the time I recognize what is happening, I’m already sliding down that slope.

I do acknowledge that it’s summer, it’s hot, and I tend to get depressed this time of year.  There is something about having the house closed up that messes with my brain chemistry.  Other things are at play too; I’m really struggling with the state of the world.  Every day some new horrible thing has happened.

I wrote a few weeks ago that I wanted to do an ongoing Friday Activism post.  That idea was interrupted by traveling, but also, I just feel so overwhelmed with all the sadness, war, and hate in the world that I can’t face the page.  My goal was to write about topics to raise awareness, and to offer ideas of small things we can each do to support human rights.  Instead I find myself completely clueless and feeling helpless to make any difference in the world.

Another element at play in my mental state is that Craig’s and my personal world is in a state of flux.  Limbo really, as we wait to learn about big changes on the horizon.  I’m not ready to write about that yet, out of fear of jinxing it.  Suffice it to say our world will turn upside down, one way or another.

And so for now, I’m just biding my time, allowing myself to ease through this depressive state that I know from experience will pass.  I’ve been stitching on my “wheel of the year”; it helps ground me and remember that time does pass and things will look bright again.  And I will be able to open my windows again:)

On another sad note, many of you are familiar with Pam and Diane, mother and daughter from Gingerbread Snowflakes and Craftypod.  Two weeks ago, they lost their husband and father to a heart attack.  Diane has set up a donation page to help with the unexpected costs involved.  It’s so terrible to have to worry about money when one is grieving.  If you can help at all, please stop by the donation page and leave a small offering.

Monkey on My Back

patchwork and embroidery (1 of 6)
They say the first step is admitting you have a problem.  Fine!  I have a problem, ok!  I am absolutely addicted to making hexies.  The squares and individual hexies in this box are a quilt in progress.  I still don’t know what the peachy flowers on top are for.   I’ve decided though, even if I wasn’t making anything out of them, I am quite happy to just sit of an evening and make these little shapes.  Feeling the texture of the fabric, looking at the colors and designs, and the needle pulling thread is so soothing and relaxing.  Except when I stab myself with the needle and draw blood, which I do at least once a night.   I don’t have to think about it so my mind can wander or I can binge watch Orange is the New Black.

patchwork and embroidery (4 of 6)
I’m still hand stitching the top of this kitchen cloth.  Again, even if I never finish, I just like looking at the pretty colors:)

patchwork and embroidery (2 of 6)
I have the triangles pieced for the bunting.  Now I’m sewing a muslin backing on each one.  When that’s finished, I plan to stitch them to a length of grosgrain ribbon and hang it over my kitchen window.

patchwork and embroidery (3 of 6)
I alternate between working on these and stitching hexies.

patchwork and embroidery (6 of 6)
This is another project I’ve been finishing bit by bit.  It’s a picnic set of a couple cloths to put over food and some napkins to match.  I have a big piece of blue and white ticking that I think would make a nice tablecloth to match.  It might be too blue.

patchwork and embroidery (5 of 6)
And finally, since I haven’t finished my other 393 projects, I felt it was time to start a new one.  Inspired by Pam at Gingerbread Snowflakes I’ve embarked on an embroidery piece that will celebrate the wheel of the year.  Back in April, Pam first posted about her embroidered Norwegian Primstav.  I was intrigued and decided to start my own interpretation.  So far I have part of a sun to mark the Solstice.  Perhaps I’ll finish that up by Saturday!  If I’m not sewing hexies.

Pam has been one of my strongest cheerleaders lately, working harder to promote my blog and shops than I am!  I was just tickled that she followed my tea cozy tutorial and posted the results.  Pam has a most wonderful blog herself, with lots of craft projects and yummy cookie recipes.  Do go check her out!  You won’t be disappointed!

Another Project Completed

pot holder Mom 2 (1 of 1)

I finished another project last week.  This time a pot holder and oven mitt for my mom.  I followed this tutorial by Amy at Nana Company for the pot holder.  Have you looked at her blog?  She has so much lovely over there! And lots of easy to follow tutorials to fill your home with lovely too!

The oven mitt is a modification of the pattern that came with my apron pattern (McCall’s M5825).  The fabric is Calliope by Stitch Studios for Riley Blake.  I am so smitten with this fabric! While sewing the gingham edging, I remembered a gingham skirt I sewed waaaayyyy back when.  It was my first big sewing project as a young girl.  Mom helped me through it.  I was making a tiered maxi skirt in sort of an aqua gingham.  If I remember right, I got the pattern instructions out of a teen magazine.  It was just three rectangles sewn together, gathered and with an elastic waistband added.  A good first project!

Do you remember your first sewing project?  Please share!

Catching My Tail

apron 1
I’ve been working my way through my fabric stash, finishing up projects I started ages ago.  I love wearing pretty aprons while I cook.  I have to wear an apron, because I’m a messy cook!  Wearing a fancy apron is a little like playing dress-up and I can get away with it;)  This one is McCall’s pattern M5825.  It was so quick and easy to put together.  I don’t know why I’ve been holding onto this fabric for two years!  The fabric is Moda from the Oh My by Sanae collection.

apron 2
This is some more fabric I’ve been holding onto for a couple years.  It’s also Moda, but I don’t know the collection names.  Sorry.  I love love love this apron!  It’s a tutorial I’ve had pinned for some time and finally got around to making up.  It was a bit more involved, but nothing very complicated.  It’s so pretty that I’ve decided I can only wear it while making yogurt or baking.  No grease or tomato sauce will come near this one!

Being a very amateur seamstress, I’ve mostly sewn using fabrics from the chain stores.  After sewing these aprons, I can really see and feel the difference using quality fabrics makes in the results.

sewing projects (5 of 5)
I’m still finishing up the English Paper Piecing projects.  I hand stitched the hexies to a length of linen.  Now I’m going to continue to hand stitch around each one.  I also switched over to triangles to make a little bunting to match.  I find that I don’t get quite the level of point-matching-accuracy with the triangles.  I don’t know if this is because I made my own templates – something I’m not likely to do again – or if triangles are just harder than hexagons.   I figure I plan to hang this up high, and one would need pretty good eyesight to see the mistakes, so it’s all good.

sewing projects (4 of 5)
I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with these hexie flowers yet.  More tea towels perhaps?  Or they might become coasters.  I kind of like that idea.

sewing projects (3 of 5)

Here are two more projects that are on my worktable for this week.  I’ll tell you more about them later!


Oh dear.  I have a new addiction.  Paper piecing and Mini Charm Packs.  I’ve been wanting to try this for a long time, and decided it would be a good project for while I’m here with Mom.
I love how easy it is to do.  It’s a perfect project to keep my hands busy while visiting or watching TV.  And I did squeal (several times!) at all those corners lined up so perfectly!  I have never ever been able to do that with regular patchwork techniques.

When I get home, I’m going to sew this piece to a rectangle of linen to make another kitchen cloth.

Because I was out of little squares and jonesing for more, I had to run to the store!  I need some more ideas of what to do with my hexies.  I found this and this on Pinterest.  And I’m already dreaming of making a quilt!  I need to rein it in and focus on a few small projects first:)  Do you have any ideas for me?  What have you made with hexies?

Zippered Pouch Tutorial

A while back, my daughter mentioned that she’d like to have a travel art journal kit to carry with her. Knowing she had a birthday coming up, I said to myself, “!!!!!”  Down below, is the beginnings of how I made that kit.  I’m wishing now that I had written down all the instructions as I went!  I’m looking at some of these pictures and thinking, “if I don’t know what that is, how will anyone else?”  Let’s try and just see what happens:)  Oh, and one more caveat; I am not an expert seamstress, and I did approach this in the haphazard, “I wonder if I can do this” fashion that I do most things.  For being the gold personality, rule follower, that my husband claims I am, I often don’t follow directions and sometimes get myself in a pickle because of it;)

I started out with an old pouch I already had, to use as a pattern.  I traced it on some scrap paper.

I wanted to be sure that each half was symmetrical, so I folded the paper to cut it out.  The resulting pattern was 8 1/2 inches long by 5 1/4 inches tall at the short end and 6 1/2 inches tall in the middle (the top is curved).

I pinned the pattern to two fat quarters placed with right sides together.  I did this twice, ending up with two of each fabric piece.  I also cut two from a piece of thin cotton batting.  You could use interfacing if you wanted or nothing at all!

Cut two 1 1/2 by 2 inch rectangles of fabric to use as zipper tabs.  Pin the bottom one to the front of the zipper,  just covering the very end of the zipper mechanism, and the other one just up to the top of the zipper.  Sew them on, being careful not to hit the zipper with the needle.

Baste each piece of the inside fabric to a piece of batting, with the right side of the fabric facing up.  Use a 1/4 inch seam.

Baste along the top of each outer fabric piece and gather the top edge up just enough to fit it to a 7 inch zipper.  Pin the zipper to one piece with right sides facing.

Sew the zipper on.  I found it easier to have the zipper open, sew down a ways, then pull the zipper up to finish.  Now do the same with the other side.

I use this a lot!

Ok, this is the part I hope I can describe accurately, because I don’t think the picture does!  Baste the curved top of each inside piece and draw them up.  You’re going to pin them to the back of the zipper.  Lay the assembled outside piece folded flat, with the back of the zipper facing up.  Pin the inside piece to the edge of the zipper, with the right side of the fabric facing the wrong side of the zipper.

This is the other side of that.  Sew the pieces together on this side, following the original stitches.

This is what it looks like sewn on.  Now do the same on the other side.

Here are both sides attached.

Next, position your pouch so the right sides of the inside and outside are facing their matches and stitch them together with a 1/4 inch seam.  Leave an opening for turning on the inside pouch.

Turn the pouch right side out and stitch up the opening.  Remove any unsightly basting stitches.

Now stuff the inside back in.

Ta da!!  You have a pouch!  You could put your glasses in there I suppose, but come back tomorrow and I’ll show you what I put in there:)