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.

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