Community Post - Meet Zoe!

As part of our on going mission to get to know the makers in our lovely sewing community, we would like to introduce another of our fabulous Hong Kong makers - Zoe (no, not Wild Boar Fabrics founder, Zoe. Another super lady with the same awesome name!) 

I’m the sort of person who needs to be busy with my hands in order to feel calm and centred: I embroider while watching TV, have stitched entire Alabama Chanin designs over beach holidays, drawn people while I wait in airports and I am constantly making and fixing things. My mum taught me to sew when I was little (I still have the hand-stitched, fringed rock-god waistcoat that I made for my teddy Iggy-Oggy when I was 6? 7?- Well, he still has it and I still have him!). 

But I never thought I’d make my own clothes.

I bought my first sewing machine in 2013, intending to use it for art projects (I’m an art teacher, and majored in Ceramics at university here in Hong Kong as a mature-student). But I had a favourite T-shirt that had an interesting twisted/puff sleeve that was falling apart, so I thought “I love putting up Ikea furniture, how hard can it be to deconstruct and reconstruct this thing?” Ah, the folly of inexperience! But I managed it, and then I was hooked.

Since then, I’ve developed my skills with the help of the amazing, diverse, open and giving online sewing community. I made 3-4 items of clothing per month in my first year of sewing, and although I’ve slowed down, I still make perhaps one item per month. I’ve even taught my mum a thing or two, including introducing her to the wonders of YouTube tutorials which you can watch while you sew.

I make my own clothes primarily for my emotional health (ah, that state of flow), and also to get things that fit me (hello waist which is two dress sizes bigger than my butt). I’ve also found it a way to be a more mindful and slower consumer. I love the power that sewing gives you: to problem solve, to alter, to create, to fix. Finally, through sewing I have started to pay attention to clothes in a different way, and this has really allowed me to develop my own personal style. I like clothes which are a bit architectural - strong shapes, interesting details, slightly “off”. Most importantly, sewing lets me be me.

Sewing has become a huge part of my identity now: whenever I travel (oh, remember those days?) I try to visit the fabric area of the city (Chiang Mai has the best cotton, linen and ramie in neutral colours with geometric patterns; Tokyo has vintage kimonos by the armload which are great for upcycling). I’ve been on two textile-themed trips with my mum (one to mountainous southern China to visit the indigenous communities there, one to Gujarat in India where we did block printing and visited handloom weavers in their workshops). Textiles are a lens through which we can understand world history, economy, society, the role of women… it’s a deep and wide world with so much to explore.

I love sewing with natural fabrics almost exclusively, and am passionate about texture and woven pattern (I have almost no prints in my wardrobe). The rust double-gauze from Wild Boar Fabrics fits my style perfectly. It’s 100% cotton with a lovely subtle crinkle pattern, and the colours are lovely (I struggled with which one to get and may go back for the yellow).

It’s a beautiful, light and almost foamy fabric which softened just wonderfully in the pre-wash. I always iron my fabric before cutting (just a good habit) which is particularly lucky in this case as I didn’t know before that you should always do this with double gauze to release the wrinkles otherwise your work will come out oversized!

The colour is gorgeous too: I took a little risk on this as I don’t often wear warm tones close to my face (pink cheeks!) but the undertones on this muted brick-ish pink work well. I also usually buy fabric in person from the markets in Hong Kong, but wanted to give Wild Boar Fabrics a go to support a local business, and was delighted to find out that it’s run by a fellow Sai Kunger and fellow Zoe!

I thought carefully on which pattern to use: I wanted something practical I could wear to work that would also show off the softness and drape of the fabric. The Kalle shirtdress by Closet Core Patterns is perfect as it has an effortless yet stylish vibe that allows the fabric to speak for itself. The double-gauze is opaque too which is something I always consider carefully for my work clothes!

The fabric pressed well and I had no trouble with the details (e.g. collar) which I interfaced first. It was a dream to sew with the stitches sinking beautifully into the fabric. I didn’t need to unpick anything: if needed, do so with care as the open weave of the fabric is delicate.

One note: some of the cut pattern pieces frayed a little before sewing/as I stitched, so if making something with a small seam allowance I would perhaps interface or just be super careful. I also made sure I stay-stitched the neckline to make sure it didn’t stretch out.

I love the final outcome: it’s light (just wonderful in the heat) yet modest, floaty yet also minimal. Such a wearable piece that I’m also styling as a duster on top of navy, mustard yellow etc.

What’s next in the sewing queue? I have a Seamwork Quince duster cut out: the front will be plain navy while the back is a beautiful geometric block print in natural dyes that I bought from the printer himself in Bhuj, India. And, I have some of Wild Boar’s beautiful watercolour swimwear fabric that is waiting patiently for me to decide between my second Friday Pattern Company Seabright Swimmer and a Megan Nielsen Cottesloe Swimsuit.

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