April 20, 2014

Taipei shopping experience

My last evening with the students ended on a high note, indeed. Vanessa very kindly offered to take me to the famous dumpling place in downtown Taipei for an authentic Taiwan upper class experience.

Here is the Taiwan 101, which is the World. Trade. Centre, named in 2004 as the tallest building in the world. I could not look up high enough to see the top, much less try to capture it from the ground this close up! 101 stores high, hence the name.

Downtown Taipei is magical at night. Everything is lit up, even the trees in the walkway.

Inside 101 is an array of high end stores to rival any high street in the world. Loius Vuittton, Dior, Tiffany, Cartier, Armani and Versace to name only a few.

Walking outside on the street, we came across the Gucci building with pink lights. I had to have a picture of that, of course!

But a very odd thing preened itself here. As we were walking along, I spotted a sewing machine motif. Vanessa said there was a sewing expo inside. Woohoo! With free admission! Double woohoo!  This was a display featuring re-purposed materials. 

And what blew me away was the quilts! row after row of the most incredible and artistic quilts you could imagine. Quilting and sewing are alive and well over here!

I would have taken many more pictures but security asked me not to are pictures, so reluctantly I put the IPad away. Drat!

But I did get a picture in one of the buildings of a fresh flower wedding arch. made entirely of fresh carnations, roses and other flowers I couldn't name, it smelled as good as it looks, folks!

As we walked around and got further away from 101, I was able to get a better photo of it. You can't see the top because of the fog last night. But the lights in the spire are on so you can see the outline.

What a night to remember! My heartfelt thanks to Vanessa for taking me to this magical place! 

April 19, 2014

Taipei's Night Market

Last night, the teachers and students "conspired" to take me to the famous Night Market. This is a market that only starts up at 6 pm and carries on until midnight, each night.

It is a very popular place for locals and tourists alike, and I can see why. With a carnival atmosphere, throngs of people, shops and stalls selling everything from jeweled shoes to medicinal herbs, this place has something for even the jaded shopper.

This is the street in front of the market. You can already see the taxis and cars and buses starting to line up. But behind this reasonably organized exterior is the heart of the madness and fun!

There were 4 students along for the fun - Irene, Agneta, Cindy, Yuti. I have to say, this was the perfect group to go with, they were so fun and wanting me to experience the market in all it's glory.

First on the agenda...food! To be honest, it was never off the agenda for the rest of the evening! I had a fried chicken Taiwan style, which was a chicken breast flattened to the size of a shoe! This chicken is spiced and fried but super moist. Did I take a picture? <hangs head in shame> I ate it before I thought of the IPad in my knapsack! Oh yes, and a spiced garlic sausage to go with it!

They also have what can only be called a sweet potato puff ball. I don't remember the name! But they make a dough from sweet potato and when they fry the small balls of dough, the whole thing puffs up into a ball about the size of a walnut shell. But it is empty inside! Just a shell of sweet potato goodness! What happened to the dough? That's a mystery not meant to be solved!

I also had a drink that was orange juice and lemon mixed, no sugar, just juice. Oh, the Taiwanese are fond of their juices! This honey and lemon was the perfect blend of sweet and tart, just enough lemon to take the too-sweet out of the orange.

One of the things they do here is called shrimping. It's like fish pond at the carnival, except these are real shrimp. You hook them and then they cook them. It is very popular with the men here!

There were tons of arcade games too, from pin ball to balloon darts and a shooting range. Don't worry, it was all air guns and balloons. I broke two balloons but Cindy was the big winner with 3 balloons burst. She won a dragon key chain!

Here's a typical night market treat. 4 or 5 pieces of fresh fruit on a skewer , dipped in some kind of glaze. Strawberries, tomatoes and cherries are shown here. I had to have a picture of this!

Then I spotted something I recognized from our Ottawa Street Food Fest (Sew Hungry) - the twisted potato or hurricanes as some are called. I can't believe these students had never tried these! We all got one. Here's Cindy and her wasabi spice potato, or what is left of it when I took the picture. Yuti's is on the right- he had already scarfed his sea salt creation down!

To the teachers at the university who orchestrated this - a big bow of appreciation! To the students who made this a magical night - my heartful thanks to all of you! I can see why Taiwan is such a magical place!

Teaching in Taipei

I was invited to teach Bra Design & Draft at  Shih Chien University in Taipei and I have been here for a week. I had no idea of what to expect - I was only told they were fourth year students.  Also, two of the pattern drafting teachers were in on the class to evaluate my teaching skill and course content. No pressure, there!

I  learned  from one of the students yesterday that Shih Chien is the top rated  fashion school in all of Asia. If you want a fashion degree with a pedigree, this is the place! But they haven't had bra or swimsuit instruction...until now! But here are a few projects they did in their second year. Apparently they do two years of creative studd while they are learning to sew, then the final two years are very technical. So this assignment was to create 3D sculpture into a garment. 

The final collections done, this class was available as an extra credit. It is "only" two days, but I have come prepared to teach 5 days worth of Bra Design & Draft. The morning lecture covered all the basics of bra styles, types, ready to wear sizing, measuring, industry standards, fabrics and findings. Whew! That's a lot of learning in four hours, but material absolutely necessary before the drafting can begin. Here they are examining suitable fabrics for the cups with a fabric swatch kit I provided. The watch kits had all different cup and band fabrics, as well as elastics so they could  feel the differences between them. Of course, I also included a pink Bra-makers Supply pen. Of course!

In the afternoon we started on the drafting of the frame. I hoped we would get the frame done in the time allowed, but these students not only got the frame done but also did a second frame assignment before they left for the day!

On the second day, we started right in on the cup draft. Once again, these students were up to the daunting challenge of not only following instruction, but following in English! We had two students who did translation of the tricky parts. Many thanks to Agneta and to Vanessa!

On the second day, we finished the cup draft by noon, so I talked out changing the cup style lines. They all did their own designs in paper and some taped the paper together to see what the cup would look like. I encouraged them to go the fabric markets and buy some sheet foam to make the 3D versions of the cups. Sheet foam (we call it spacer fabric) is available in every colour of the rainbow here!  Here I am measuring Vanessa  so she can make a frame to her own measurements.

The teachers and I went to lunch and since lunch is the biggest meal of the day, this is what I had. baked sea bream with lemon and mustard sauce. The plate was artistic as well as delicious! The orange bit is caviar and the other colors are edible flowers!

Finally after the afternoon break, we did have time to do cloning so I showed them how to clone a bra without taking it apart. They found that very interesting, but some expressed doubt when I said it could be done in half an hour. Not that anyone questioned me outright - they are far too polite! Here's a picture of the class.

At the end, every student wanted their picture with me and most wanted autographs! I defineiltely felt like a Superstar! Several students commented that I was willing to tell them why something was done, and that they could change things according to their design. Well...of course...I wouldn't have it any other way! Here I am with Agneta on the left and the teachers Sue, Lumi and teaching supervisor, Fina.

I have loved my time here in Taipei interacting with a super group of students and teachers, all willing to learn what I have to offer. They went above and beyond to make my stay here memorable and enjoyable. Best of all...they have asked me to come back, but for two weeks next time, so I can teach some hands-on workshops too!

April 18, 2014

Move over Ottawa Street!

I have been very proud of the fact that Hamilton's Ottawa Street was named Canada's top shopping street, due partly to the abundance of fabric and antique shops within a few short city blocks. Yes, I counted 13 fabric shops between Barton and Cannon Street, so Ottawa Street definitely qualifies as the "fabric district".

However what constitutes a fabric district in Canada is vastly different than that of Taipei. In two days here, I have visited more "fabric district" than I have in my whole life! What an amazing city! The street we were on today is considered the wholesale fabric area, so samples are hung outside (near the scooters for convenience, I suppose)

The stock is in the back, or down the street or wherever. Wherever it is, it is piled high. To. The. Roof. The ceilings are 16' high (5 metres) but it doesn't look like that here. How they ever locate anything is beyond me, although Agneta says they use an ingenious coding system to number and locate fabric rolls.

I did visit one store that was well organized, and that store carried spandex and performance fabrics.

Again, these were all just samples of what they carried in the back. I have to say, all the fabrics were up to date, and they were quick to tell you if the fabric was "older" which means they will sell it cheaper!

I was tempted to buy swim fabric but resisted, as I knew there were more lace stores to come along.
There was also a store that sold notions, but not like any other notions store in Canada or the USA! Picture a yard sale paired with an elastic and sequin store and you have the idea.

We were going to stop at this restaurant for lunch, and I snapped this picture because I thought the name was very unusual. ( the Dumpling Tiger) But the place closed at 2 pm and we didn't get there in time. We ate some roast chicken and veggies in a street stall down the street.

So that was my shopping trip for today. I think Ottawa Street has some competition out there! Serious. Competition. But you need a few days in Taipei to take advantage of these great treasure troves!

Oh yes, I did buy more laces, all multi coloured embroidered tulle and a few stretch laces too. I'll post pictures tomorrow. Right now, I have to get ready for my class tomorrow at 9 am!

April 17, 2014

To market, to market #1

Yesterday was a great day. Even though I am still screwed up over the time difference, I wanted to post the pictures I took .

First after breakfast, I took some pictures of our very quiet street in front of the hotel. I expected the noise of traffic and throngs of people, but that was not the case at all.

The little dining patio to the side of the hotel. 

When Agneta arrived, we walked to the university, passing at least 4 of what I thought a most American of convenience stores...711 stores in a ten minute walk! Apparently you can buy anything or do anything at a 711, including bus passes, concert tickets, raincoats, umbrellas, and in my case, bottled water!

At the university I met with the director of fashion design, and she showed me the classroom where I will be teaching on the weekend. Ah, there's a whiteboard! Also a projection screen where I can plug in my Ipad for the presentation. So we are all set! We also got invited to the fashion show put on by the graduating students Friday night. Perfect!

The we took a taxi to "one" of the fabric markets. There are many individual merchants in one building as you can see from the wall directory.

So this is what greeted us upon entry. But that was the last time I saw any open floor space!

I'm thinking WOW already! But what I didn't expect was the maze of stalls, you really can't tell where one merchant stops and the next one starts!

Really, it was like a maze! Some of the "doorways" to the stores, was less than 18" (50 cm) wide, so if you are wider than that, you have to squeeze through.

But EVERY type of fabric was in that building, from home decor, to bridal, formal wear, spandex and yes, quilting fabrics (some advertised as "imported" from Japan!) 

Upstairs, the families were sewing. Yes, whole families in on the business of making draperies, ball gowns and men's suits. Sometimes granny was cutting out or watching the babies, and the daughters were sewing or cutting out on the floor - some of the bigger stalls had cutting tables. Lots of animated chatter. Reminded me of the days when my mom and my sister worked in my shop in New Brunswick. We always had a great time, and certainly all the folks I saw today looked happy to me.

 The fingers in a "V" formation is a typical Taiwanese greeting and popular for photos. The thread behind this lady was all arranged in a decent colour order. Maybe a little CDO there? Lol...for any of you who don't know CDO...it's OCD but arranged in a correct alphabetical order!

All the machines I saw were newish or at least maintained well. Mostly Brother and Juki straight stitch and sergers which is understandable for the long straight seams needed for draperies.

Even with all this fabric, I only saw one piece that got me excited! A pink sheer mesh with polka dots...very retro and very me. I can see this over cut and sew foam cups!

We went out onto the street to get some food...the best part of any trip, I think! We got sweet onion cake, which is more like roti with green onions in it. The fellow cooked it right in front of us. It was the size of an extra large pizza but very thin and sliced up into 8. I thought I could never eat my 4 pieces, but I proved myself wrong once again!

On to the lace market! A different building, down a different alley on a different street. Again, all lace merchants seem to be concentrated in one area, which makes it really easy to shop. One wonders how they all can make a living! Obviously Taiwan's economy is faring much better than Canada's!

I think this shop was VERY happy to see me. I won't be taking any money home with me, that's for sure. I was able to buy lots of embroidered tulle. Multi coloured of course! I will get them sorted and arranged for photos in another post.

I was exhausted after this. I even had to turn down Agneta's offer of taking me to the famous night markets tonight. Not sure if it was the time difference, the after shock of spending so much money or the effect of the mango ice and all that sugar, but I was quite ready for bed when I got back to the hotel. 

However, I am ready for another day! Friday's plan is for the big market (where I hope they take Visa) and the fashion show at the university in the evening!

April 16, 2014

I have arrived!

When I say, I have arrived, I mean that in both the literal and the figurative senses of the word. After 3 flights ( Toronto to Detroit, Detroit to Tokyo and lastly Tokyo to Taiwan) almost 18 hours in the air...I have arrived.

After picking up my bags at customs (believe me it was a relief that they followed me here through all the flights and border crossings) I was greeted by two new friends, Agneta from Sweden and Irene, both students in the Fashion program at the university.

Here I am in front of the doors to the hotel.

What a posh hotel entrance! But after some confusion about how to make the room door open ( everything is wireless so you just wave the key in front of the door and it magically opens) this is what greeted me in the room.

I was certain I was in the wrong room! This is one end of the living room around the corner from the main part.

And this my friends is the bath suite. Am I sure I won't have to share this with someone else? Lol...seems too big for just me. On either side of this counter are rooms..one big one for the WC and one big one for a walk in shower.

But wait, there's more! Yes, also a whirlpool tub!

Last but not least...a room off the bath suite with two chairs and a huge window overlooking the area.

I just had to share this..it's really over the top! Oh yes, fresh bottled water in the room too! So already I have forgotten the long, tiring flights and I am looking forward to some sightseeing tomorrow. We are going to the lace market. Ta tas for now!