Hi engraced, You have some excellent questions, which the previous posters have answered. I would only add a couple of observations. I speak the worst Turkish in the world. Even small children look at me curiously before they start to laugh. In spite of this, I have never found a Turkish person who did not seem to appreciate my efforts, regardless of how badly I mangle their language. My husband is much more fluent than I am, and everyone seems to enjoy chatting with him. I'd try to learn a few phrases just to bring a smile to a Turkish face. No one will think you are arrogant. It is Turkey, not France.
Bursa is lovely during the period when you plan to visit, and the ferry system operates all around the year. I love visiting the Silk Bazaar, touring a couple of the more famous mosques and eating an Iskender Kebob.
In addition to the area explained by Enigma in Eminonu there used to be a small side street between the Spice Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar where you could purchase hunting rifles and knives. I cannot guarantee that anything you buy will be made in Turkey. There is no law requiring that an item identify the place where it was made. These days there are lots of Chinese goods in Turkish markets.
If you are talking about traditional Turkish ceramics with ethnic patterns, I do not think I have ever seen a dinner service in this type of ceramic. People buy them to display them, use them as serving pieces, or for other decorative items in a kitchen or elsewhere in a house. I do not ever remember seeing dinner plates, salad plates, soup bowls and dessert plates displayed in a service for 8. I have been in several places where ceramics were made, and I have not seen anything like a dinner service.
I have seen some lovely china, particularly in the home shops in the modern malls. I have no idea where this china is made, but I always have a few minutes of lust when I see some of the patterns and configuration of dishes. I rather suspect, however, that it is made in China or another European nation.
I absolutely love the glassware manufactured by Pasabhce. They make expensive display items as well as utilitarian kitchen items. I rarely return without some little piece of Pasabhce glass.
I have never shipped anything home from Turkey except very large rugs. I would take a very minimal amount of clothing, and the maximum number of suitcases allowed. We always have two empty suitcases when we pack to return to the US. These suitcases hold items we bring from the US for Turkish friends, and they hold our purchases from Turkey on our return. Using space bags and some creative packing we have never had to pay for excess luggage. To avoid exceeding my weight allowance, I have occasionally put my heavier items in my carry-on, which no one ever weighs. I particularly like to hand carry my glassware and ceramics.
I pack clothing that I can wash in my hotel room, so I pack lighter weight things that I can layer. The only laundry I have to send out are our slacks and maybe a couple of heavier sweaters. I give my laundry to the staff at my hotel and they send it out and return it to me. Laundry is expensive, and I do not always trust the Turkish laundry to follow the washing temperature instructions on my clothing.
I was very surprised to read in Enigma's post that there are now self-service coin-operated laundries in Istanbul similar to the typical public laundromat we have in the US. I have never seen one of these in Turkey, but I have always thought it would be a great business venture for someone. It appears as if there are now some laundromats, but I would worry about finding one that was convenient to my hotel, and I never like to spend two hours of my vacation day watching my clothing spin around.
I think we have spent November and part of December in Istanbul for the last four years. I really enjoy traveling during this time period. The weather is not always wonderful, but we do not do many things in Istanbul that are outdoor activities. There are so many fewer tourists in November and early December. There are almost no lines anywhere. The sidewalks are not filled with tourists, and the exhaust of lines of tour buses is not polluting the air. Best of all, this is off-season and hotel rates are lowest during this time.
You may miss Thanksgiving Dinner and you probably won't find a restaurant serving a Thanksgiving meal, with the possible exception of one of the very expensive five star hotels where dinner would be very expensive. Turkish people eat turkey, but generally it is served on New Year's Day or New Year's Eve. We have been fortunate enough to celebrate Thanksgiving with a Turkish friend who always makes sure we eat turkey, but if we could not eat our traditional meal it would be a small price to pay in return for spending November in Istanbul.
Do not worry about your tattoo. Istanbul is a very modern and sophisticated city, and is unusually tolerant of individual differences.