Monday, January 6, 2014

Happy new Sewing Year 2014!

Over Christmas, there was little sewing happening around here, since we had my parents here, visiting from Norway. It was a fun time of lots of attention and new toys for the kids, and we had a great time. I had started this skirt before our company arrived, but since they stayed in our bedroom (where the sewing machine lives too), I had to put it away unfinished. But here it is, finished, and looking cute!

The pattern is from Ottobre 3/2013 - design 14. It's an A-lined skirt with flounces in the back. I chose the materials from a mixture of fabrics bought in America, Norway, and at the local fuka - open-air flee market. My daughter liked it a lot, and happily posed for pictures with her favorite soft toy friend "Bamsen" (AKA - "the Bear").

As always, the instructions that come with the Ottobre magazine are a little on the slim side, but there was nothing here that wasn't pretty self explanatory anyway. I think the sillhouette is a little wider than I'd like it to be, I don't plan on making it again, as one of these probably covers our flounce-skirt-need for a while, but if I were making one more, I'd cut the skirt panels a little narrower. There is plenty of fabric that has to be eased into the waistband as it, so narrowing it down would not cause a problem. 

Size wise, I cut a 104 width, but added the lenght of the 110 size. My daughter is three and a half years old. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Quarter cicle skirt and apron

My three-year old daughter has decided she loves wearing skirts. Since this is a new thing, she only actually had one skirt, a full circle-skirt I made for her last year. A few nights ago, I suddenly got the urge sew up a quick and pretty project, and decided another circle skirt was in order.

After googeling a little, I found this page that explains the math needed to calculate the fabric for the skirt, and I decided to try a quarter-circle skirt with a waistband made from ribbing this time. 

I found a little duvet cover in my fabric stash and loved the pink little flowers. Turns out I had already made an apron from the same duvet cover, and the other day when Princess K was getting dressed, she found it in her little wardrobe and decide to wear them both together. I wish I'd gotten a picture!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I visited a local tailor for the first time in years

I think the last time I went to have clothes made by a Guinean tailor was back in 2009. I wasn't very happy with the results back then, thoug. A very beautiful print that totally depended on cutting it the right way was botched by careless cutting. After that, I started sewing for myself (not because of that, however), and since learning to make my own clothes became a hobby, I didn't much see a need to send any more fabric out to be cut and sewn by others.

That was until I realised how much I can learn by studying West African techniques up close. So I really wanted to find a tailor that did good work. A few weeks ago, I stopped by an aquaintance who owns a little clothes shop near where I live. I asked where to buy bias tape, and she walked me over to this tailor working close to her booth. I got my bias tape, and much more importantly, I got to see some really nice work of embellishing African-style clothes with bias tape. I see women wear this stuff every day, but never, ever owned a garment made like that.

So I decided to ask the tailor to make me some clothes. I found this "pano" (I think they call it "pagne" in French) which is a wax print type fabric in the typical vibrant colors that women love to wear here. It had been sitting in my stash for about 10 months, and I was a little reluctant to use it, because the print is so big. You do NOT want to end up with huge circles in all the wrong places, right?

So I asked him to use some of his fancy embellishing techniques, and was very curious to see how it would end up.  When I was walking by his shop a few days ago, he had a young boy (presumably his apprentice) sewing on my fabric and I strolled up to see. He was fastening the golden rope  around all the edges by sewing it meticulously to the fabric, thread by thread, on his treadle machine. It was serious work, and I was really impressed. 

I went to pick up the garment yesterday, very curious about the result. I knew it would probably look nice, but would it fit me? He had taken my measurements, but that was no guarantee for success in the past, so I was trying to keep my excitement in check.

When I paid him, he told me to take it home and try on there, and if I needed any alterations done, he'd do them. I took it home and tried it on, and really, it was not bad at all, fit-wise. If i didn't know better, (read: If I didn't know how to sew myself and trained my eye to see fit issues others might not notice) I wouldn't have seen any problems with it at all. And since I was supposed to go to a party the day after, I decided to go ahead and do the alterations myself, so I could wear my new outfit the next day. I widened side seams of the blouse a little, and finished the seam allowances with zig zag stitches. The treadle machines only have a straight stitch, so it is rare to see any seams finished around here. To my disappointment, there was no evidence that my dress had seen the bottom of a pressing iron during construction. Therefore, the darts were not as flat as they could've been. Even though I tried my best (with my home made tailor's ham!) to press them flat, it was not to be.I could almost hear the Pressinatrix lamenting the lack of pressing as I was sweating over my iron, trying to smoothe out the creases.

I also cut off the top 3 inches of the wrap-around skirt so I wouldn't have to wear it all the way up to my waist. I sewed some side and back darts too, to make it sit a little nicer around my hips. The whole process took me a couple of hours, but I figured it was worth it so I could get to wear the dress at the party today. My friends all thought it looked nice, and I am very happy with it too.

Here I am posing with my former neihgbour who had also had her clothes made by a local tailor. Not the same one, but she was very happy with what he'd done.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sweat pants from Ottobre Kids

I made these several months ago and finally got around to blogging them! My son really likes to wear these pants, as they are sooo soft and comfy, but most days are way to hot for them. We do get some cooler days here, though, when it rains heavily or during the "cold season" of mid-November through January, so I am foreseeing a lot of use for these.

The pattern is from Ottobre kids 4/2011, and the design is # 25. I cut it in size 104, and they were a little on the long side when he first put them on (at 3 years and a month), but I know he will be growing into them soon enough.

The fabric is all imported (by me - in my suitcase), the green sweat shirt fabric is from Stoff og Stil, a fabric chain store in Norway, and the yellow is probably from there too. I used FOE and a three stitch zig zag stitch to bind the pockets, and loved how much time I saved doing that instead of cutting the binding from fabric. The pocket lining is cut from a promotional t-shirt my hubby got from the company that provides us with internet service. We're not really happy about the service, and he never felt like wearing it and promote them, so I decided to put it to better use here.

If you wonder if I used my serger for this, the answer is no. I just bought a serger too, but it hasn't arrived yet. It's in a container somewhere in the USA right now, and will be arriving here in well over a month. So for now, I'm using a narrow zig zag for all my knits. It works ok, but it is not awesome. There's a reason I wanted a serger, and I'm really looking forward to start using it!

 Here's a true action shot from a day he and his sister got to accompany their daddy out to the rice field where daddy is working!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Embracing "My Africa"

As a mostly self-taught home sewist, I find most of my inspiration in sewing blogs written by people that live in a very different world than I. They live in a world where you can order all the fabric and notions they need online, and the package actually makes it all the way to their address for delivery. Even better, they can visit a brick-and-mortar establishment and actually get to fondle dozens of fabrics before choosing which to buy, between the many different styles and prints available.

The reality here in West Africa is very different. "Fabric stores" are unlit stalls in the market that offer at most, 30 different prints, all loud and colorful, usually with very large patterns. Most of the fabric is medium to heavy-weight cotton of varying quality. There is no silk, chiffon, lawn or velour, and there are definitely no knits. Notions are sold in even smaller stalls, and you get to choose between a few different colors of bias tape, ric rack and some very fancy trim. That's about it. 

Some days, I tend to look around and feel a little discouraged. I see people sewing up such awesome creations that they share on their blogs, and feel a little left out for not having access to the same resources.

But I have decided it's time to embrace where I am and instead of griping about the down sides, celebrate the up sides. While working with African Wax prints require some pretty serious pattern matching and planning before cutting in order to avoid awkward placement of huge colorful design elements, it is a fun, and certainly different kind of experience. And in terms of blogging, I have fodder for blogs that the majority of other sewing bloggers will never have. So why not celebrate it?

In that spirit, I have embarked on a new sewing adventure. Around here, women wear the most elaborately embellished dresses. Many of them wear clothes I'd deem worthy of wedding attire for a simple trip to the market. The local tailors use a lot of ric rac and bias tape to embellish their work, and, while I've used bias tape before, it has always been in a functional, rather than decorational way. Finishing sleeve openings? Check. Binding napkins? Check. Actually using bias tape as a main design element? No check.

So I decided to do a little test run as I did my (hopefully) wearable muslin for Butterick 5917. The fabric is a very red, and quite demanding cotton print that has been sitting in my stash for well over two years. It is not ideal for this dress, which I ideally see in a much lighter fabric and preferably in a solid color, or with a small print.   But hey? I'm celebrating the uniqueness of being a western sewist in a West African reality, right?

The dress is almost finished now, and hopefully I'll get around to blogging it in a few days or weeks. Unless it is a total fashion disaster, in which case I will spare you the experience of seeing it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Once upon a time, it must've been over a year ago, I started prepping the pattern pieces of McCall's 6554.

I can not remember why I decided not to make it according to the pattern. Looking at the illustration today, it looks like a cute dress. Maybe I was just tired of making dresses I rarely wear and wanted a more versatile  tunic to wear over jeans? So when I started on the muslin last year,I nixed the skirt part, and the the dress became a tunic with a much narrower skirt.  I did a lot of changes on the muslin, and I really liked the fit I got, so I decided then that I would use it again some time later.

I finally did. This time, I made further changes to the neckline to avoid some gaping issues, and I cut the skirt a little smaller. I sewed it up in a pretty African wax print (no-brand) that I got at the local market where I live.

Around here, respectable ladies cover their shoulders. I'm not really a big fan of sleeves in this heat, so I opted for a cap sleeve, and simply used the pattern from the cap sleeve on the Washi dress. Boy, has that little pattern piece gotten a lot of use! This is not the first time it has been Frankinpatterned with other patterns.

The bodice is fully lined, and there's an (almost) invisible zipper in the back.(I haven't seen any invisible zippers for sale here, so I had to use a white one from my stash) I finally got to try out my new invisible zipper foot, yay!  And did you notice how the pattern lines up pretty awesomely in the back?

My hubby took these pictures early on a Sunday morning, and sadly, there was not enough light to get a crisp picture. But you get the idea, right?

The skirt is a simple wrap-around with side and back darts. It didn't make it into the pictures because we were in a hurry and there wasn't enough space for hubby to walk backwards enough for all of me to fit in the viewfinder. I haven't worn a wrap-around in years, since they have a scary tendency to fall off, but I did find that with the darts, the skirt stays in place all day. 

 With the new skirt and all the changes I made in the bodice and sleeve of this top, I do feel like I'm entitled to call the pattern my own. Is that allowed?


Saturday, September 7, 2013

The bag I gave to Rose


About a year ago, I decided to rip apart a well-worn over-the-shoulder bag my mother got me in Italy. I loved the shape of it, but the fabric was worn out and I figured I could easily replicate it. I was right. The basic pattern is only two pieces, but I adapted it to my personal gusto and added some pockets on the inside, as well as a little loop to hang a key chain on.

I hate having to rummage through a huge purse to find the ever-elusive key chain. Now I don't. I just zip open the bag and reach in... and the keys are hanging safely in the loop I made out of a ribbon with a snap button. 

I also added a zippered pocket  for coins and other little things and a big open pocket in the lining. 

Then I took my bag with me to a ladies' function. And I got stares and "aaaws" all around. So I quickly realized there was a potential for mass production here. Except I have only made one more. For a friend's birthday. She chose the fabric out of three different ones I bought in Gambia and Norway, and she asked for the loop to be another 20 cms longer. It is a 120 cms long! She loved the bag and so did I.