This month we start our "Meet The Bloggers" moments. Every week we introduce you to a Shanghai Blogger so you can get to know the bloggers a bit more and so you can get a feel for what you can expect from their individual blog.
First one to go is our fashionist Amelia from the amazing sewing blog Veronica Darling.
Tell us a bit about Amelia?
Twelve months ago, if you’d asked me about who I am… I’d have said quite confidently, a happy positive person, a radio producer, a mama of a then 1 year old boy, and quite content with my life & loves in Melbourne. But my husband was offered a job (he works in film & television) and we decided to take a challenge as a family and move to Shanghai. So within a year, I’m no longer a radio producer, I can now speak Chinese (badly, but still way better than my Husband!) and I’m still parenting an almost 3 year old… but in a much different way to cosy but lovely Australia. What a challenge it has been already! We’ve all grown so much as a family, and all my senses have been heightened living in Shanghai, and my storytelling brain has taken over… I now say (not as confidently - haha) that I’m a writer, a photographer, a blossoming (always) seamstress and a magnet for the fun stories & people living in China.
Somedays I ride my bike around town and just take it all in, thinking this will be such a great time of my life to reflect on… we’re probably not going to be in Shanghai for a long time, so we’re making the time here as enjoyable as we can… and through that I can feel myself growing in such a different way than I would in Australia.
Tell us a bit about Veronica Darling, when and how it was born?
My first job at a radio station was in the small town I grew up… I’d moved back after university to take a job working on a breakfast radio program and I found myself with oodles of spare time in the afternoons … with no friends (my age!) and a love of op shopping (thrift stores, where people donated second hand clothes and homewares!)... I found lots vintage sewing patterns and fabrics! So I taught myself to sew using these old patterns and eventually when I moved to me next job… I started blogging what I made…. as Veronica Darling! I am from a generation of internet users that always used pseudonyms, we never put our real names online in the circles I moved in… plus I worked for Australia’s national radio station that adhered to editorial policies and I just never wanted my employer to be involved with what I created. I quite like my nom de plume and that I’ve become this sewing queen through Veronica Darling!
I found writing about something like sewing really helped develop my writer’s voice, so as Veronica Darling I could write and focus … and feel like I was sharing from the heart. I’ve been blogging since 2001 in various ways and for different projects… and my Veronica Darling blog has helped me write in a real way, a heartfelt way, and without the roadblocks of making writing perfect or poetic … I forget that someone will read my writing and it flows.
Blogging is fun! What’s the most fun part about blogging in Shanghai?
Blogging is so fun! It’s great writing, sharing your life (however big or small) with people! Changing my blog to ‘Sewing in Shanghai’ seemed like a natural shift for me.. I’ve been writing Veronica Darling’s Crafty Adventures since 2007… and have changed the focus of the blog depending on my life through that time. I’ve shared my knitting, crochet and sewing… but when I was pregnant, I didn’t have the feeling to sew as much… so I blogged about what petite pregnant women (ie ME) wear day to day, as it was a struggle to feel good and fashionable!
But, meeting the community of bloggers here in Shanghai has been so great, and opened up a whole lot more of the city to me through reading a whole bunch of blogs I wouldn’t have found so easily. There is SO much of Shanghai to showcase, and while my blog readers are mostly overseas, they’ve not really considered China to be so thriving and interesting… I get a lot of feedback when I photograph the fabric markets here (most people visit them to get something tailormade - but we DIY fashion makers go and buy fabric!) and show different ‘normal’ parts of town… I don’t think Shanghai is a top holiday destination… for sewing lovers, Japan is VERY popular with the lovely fabrics available there.
I also started sewing lessons for the first time with Couture Nomad and have really enjoyed blogging about what I’ve learnt! I feel like there’s so many stories here in Shanghai, and my blog only really touches the surface!
Blogging can be challenging! How do you keep yourself motivated to keep up the blogging?
If I don’t feel like sewing, or don’t have the time to sew, I instantly lose some blog content! It’s hard sometimes when you’re busy or you don’t have the creative vibe to make something… so I use the blog to fuel the sewing and vice versa… Joining the sewing classes at Couture Nomad has given me some different blog posts: Sewing School Scoop! (http://www.veronicadarling.com/search/label/Sewing%20School) So while Finished Garments Blog posts (for me) are the most popular… these ‘extra tips’ are also really interesting for my readers. So last week, I blogged about my finished colourful birthday dress (http://www.veronicadarling.com/2015/08/voila-bettine-dress-by-tilly-buttons.html) and instagrammed it too… it’s a new pattern in the sewing community, so not only is it a pretty easy dress to make, a new pattern will get shared around (and pinned on Pinterest too!) so every now and again, I’ll sew a popular pattern to get the feedback and that also keeps me motivated! Regular blogging is what makes a good blog, I think… but also new and unique content.
If someone wants to start a new blog in Shanghai, what’s your suggestion for topic - What’s missing on Shanghai’s blogging scene?
There are a lot of great food & restaurant blogs… so if you’re very passionate about food, you’ve got endless resources because new restaurants open almost daily here! But, I would love read about the short tours around the city… I’ve taken an Untour Shanghai and a Daniel Newman Tour (to Hangzhou) that were great, but I’d love to know a little more of the ‘doing things’ not just where to eat and drink. Cidonie (http://www.threadsandginger.com/sail-away-in-shanghai/) of Threads & Ginger recently posted about a yachting adventure she did with her family, and I thought the personal story combined with the ‘doing’ of the sailing was a great blog idea.
Also, on instagram & flickr people often post extreme photography… like photos from rooftops you’d rarely get to experience yourself with AMAZING views… and I thought that could be a great idea for a blog! And then personally a Vegetarian in Shanghai blog would be good! Haha, these are all ideas for what I‘d like to read! Please let me know if you start any of these blogs!
What’s your best advice to someone who wants to start a blog in Shanghai?
Think and plan seriously some content ideas before you begin… consider what could be regular weekly content because great blogs have all KILLER content, no filler. I see lots of bloggers take the ‘links round up’ round up blog posts when they get too big… and those weekly digests are ok, but they’re pretty much filler content. My regular and most loved content is my weekly creation ‘Voila’ blog post (like this one http://www.veronicadarling.com/2015/07/voila-cheeky-stewardess-sophia-by-hand.html)… other sewing bloggers & sewing enthusiasts love seeing something sewn up & finished, also this kind of content get shared by the pattern maker, and the lovers of that style of fashion. I know I’m not a style or fashion blog, but it’s nice to be noticed by readers outside of the sewing community. That’s why sometimes I do photograph posts or themes around photos instead of link round up posts. But you really need to write about your topic well, and passionately… so if your passion is taking photos of dogs, do that REALLY well and write about the owners and the stories behind having a dog in Shanghai… you’d have endless content as there are so many great dogs here!
So find something you’d love to write about regularly and with passion and plan out some content ideas … but also, if you’re in China, research what blog platform will work within the firewall… if you want local readers! I have used Blogger for too long now, and it won’t work without a VPN… when I get sometime, I’d love to switch it over to a more accessible one.
What’s the best way to start sewing in Shanghai – how to overcome the challenge of exploring fabric markets in Chinese etc. Do you have a guide or a post with good tips on Veronica Darling or can you share some advice here?
A visit to the fabric markets here can be daunting to anyone, I had to go at least three times to feel comfortable in knowing where to look (which floor, which stall etc) so if you’re just starting out with making or sewing your own things, take some time to just browse the markets, see what’s available and what you like and then… I’d suggest a sewing or craft course to find out if you actually like it!
Make in China (Shanghai Group) and CraftSH are local craft groups who offer short workshops (like 2 to 3 hours) if you want to start some DIY first… and then get in touch with your local community centre (Shanghai Community) will have longer courses. I study with Catherine & Muriel at Couture Nomad, which is a bit longer and one on one lessons… but there are some other teachers around in Shanghai… so get in touch if you’re interested in starting sewing! And if you need these groups contacts, as I’ve only seen them on Wechat & Instagram.
Knowing some Chinese is very helpful at the fabric markets, and also having some idea of what fabrics you like… I never remember the name of fabrics… but I feel the fabrics and after lots of sewing years now can imagine what the garment will look like from the fabric drape, texture and heaviness… I think it’s one of the main problems at the fabric market when you get something tailor made… not know what fabric will suit a garment. I’m planning some advice posts soon on how to shop and ‘speak’ enough Chinese to get by at the markets .. so stay tuned.
Oh we will stay tuned for that, thank you so much Amelia for your insights & positive vibes from www.veronicadarling.com!
Don't forget to sign up for one of Shanghai Bloggers' fashion dinner next week, Tuesday's dinner is co-hosted by Amelia. See more here.