Wednesday, June 1, 2016

When Sewing and Social Studies Collide




Hello Friends! As I half expected, the chilly temperatures we experienced during the first three weeks of May have taken a sudden turn and the last few days have seen temperatures near ninety degrees! Yes, our temperatures surged forty and fifty degrees higher than what it was just a few short days ago.  I am not complaining,....exactly.....but my body needs more than a few hours to acclimate to summer-like temperatures. So anyways, I had to shed my beloved Lands-End fleece pj's for lightweight cotton pj's and maybe, just maybe, I can finally put my winter clothes away!

I've been working on a project that has actually turned out to be an interesting cultural lesson for me and I want to share it with you. Additionally this project has taken me away from my usual work with neutral tones and reimmersed me in  a world of brightly colored, bold printed fabric......

A friend of mine and her husband have been invited to a summer wedding. The groom is from Africa and in some African countries it is customary for family, friends and other guests to wear a garment made from aso ebi. This translates roughly to "family cloth" and it signifies solidarity, unity and respect for the event.

It appears from what I have read that the both the bride and groom may pick their wedding colors and the fabric (aso ebi)  and then the guests are either gifted the fabric or expected to buy the fabric and have clothing items custom made such as long tunic-style tops, matching pants, hats, scarves, dresses, etc. Some garments and accessories that I have seen while researching the topic are quite simple while others are very elegant and sophisticated. Click here to see a site called The African Sweetheart. There are many photos to scroll through to get an idea of how the women dress.


As you may have surmised by now, my friend's husband will be wearing an item made from the chosen aso ebi and he asked me if I would be willing to make it for him. Of course I said yes....I was rather intrigued by this particular cultural tradition but in addition, I would never pass up an opportunity to work with beautiful fabric.....and let me tell you....it is beautiful fabric! Notice the little crystals randomly placed on the fabric.


We agreed on a style and I was able to find a pattern for a dashiki-styled shirt which is a very loose fitting tunic or caftan styled shirt. I used an old sheet to make a "practice" version because I wanted to make sure that if there were any problems with the pattern I would be able to work out all the kinks prior to cutting into the very expensive fabric. It was an easy pattern and it went well the first time. He tried it on and I took it in an inch on each side.


I placed the pattern piece on the fabric so that I could utilize the border prints on the sleeve and the bottom edge. This saved some time pinning and hemming!


The one issue I had was that just before cutting I realized that I would have to do some matching of the two front pieces. With a center seam it would've been very obvious if the two pieces did not match. Believe it or not, I have never matched front seams before so I did what made sense to me (and folks that is not always a good thing) but in this case I came semi-close to a matched seam and when it is on, you cannot even notice the slight mismatch. The side seams and side slits match perfectly and I wasn't even trying for that.....go figure.


Anyways, once I was finished my daughter tried it on for good measure. She is rather petite so it was a little large on her but she loved the style and asked me if I could make her one before she went back to school. (She was leaving in two days.....)


The only thing I did differently than the pattern instructed was the top stitching around the neckline. Even though I tacked down the interfacing at the shoulders, it still seemed a bit difficult to tuck in neatly while trying it on. The top stitching did the trick, keeps it neatly inside where it belongs and gives it a much nicer finish.


This was a fun project and it was very interesting to read about the tradition of the aso ebi. I find traditions of other cultures fascinating and it is interesting in this instance to note the sharp contrast to wedding attire that we are so used to. I hope I get to see some photos from the wedding. I think it's going to be beautiful!