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.


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