Whew. It’s been a minute. 2020 has really done a number on me and the last time I sat down to write a blog post was in the first half of May! I’ve not had any creative energy AT ALL. I haven’t been sewing or knitting or doing anything other than homeschooling, household chores, sleeping and repeating. The weird thing was, I didn’t even miss it, I had no desire to sew – the love for it was just gone.
I have still been scrolling on Instagram now and then, trying to feel inspired, and I was absolutely thrilled when Lena King and Juliet Uzor announced they were going to do a week of sharing their love for Ankara fabric. They both shared many of their inspiring Ankara makes on Instagram as well as wrote blog posts and loads of people got involved and finally I was feeling that spark of inspiration that had been missing.
Lena and I had swapped some fabric last year when she generously offered to share some lengths of her Ankara fabric. I sent her some metallic cotton and she made a beautiful shirt with it a while ago but I still hadn’t sewn up my wax print. This was partly because I was worried about cultural appropriation, I love wax print fabric but I know that many of the prints have special meanings and I don’t want to cause offence to anyone, impact over intent was at the forefront of my mind. Sew Ankara Fabric week definitely sparked a lot of discussions around this and I concluded that as long as I don’t appropriate any African fashions or styles then I am confident using some of these beautiful fabrics, especially if I buy them from black-owned businesses like Dovetailed London which stocks a range of amazing Ankara fabrics.
The other reason I hadn’t used my beautiful piece of fabric was because I couldn’t choose a pattern. Lena made a Stevie top with her piece of this same fabric and I was really tempted to copy. I love a good Stevie but something held me back, I wanted to make a dress. Then I saw the Papercut Patterns Axis Dress and it was love at first sight!
I had 1.5m of the wax print fabric so had to do some serious pattern tetris to make it fit. I had to go for the pencil skirt shape as the A-line skirt wouldn’t fit, I also had to take a few inches off the length of the ties and had to use a contrasting fabric for the facings/lining. No matter though, I made it work!
Despite looking quite complex, the pattern is suprisingly simple and it came together relatively quickly and easily. I am not in love with my zip insertion, I thought I could get away with a regular zip as I don’t have a concealed zip in my stash and shops are closed. It doesn’t look great but it won’t stop me from wearing the dress.
As an Ankara fabric newbie I thought it might benefit some to read what my experience of the fabric was. When it arrived I was a bit worried it felt quite stiff, even after a prewash I felt like it was still stiff. My lovely friend Lena assured me it would soften. The stiffness certainly meant it was easy to cut out, and the fabric gave me no trouble at all. Similarly when sewing – it stays put, holds creases beautifully and is possibly the most well-behaved fabric I have ever worked with which was brilliant as it was just what my brain needed after such a long break from sewing.
The construction is really strange in that you construct the front of the dress and the back of the dress separately so the first opportunity you have to try on is literally the step before hemming, but when I tried on the garment at the end I was so surprised to notice how much the fabric had been softening up the whole time I was sewing, it no longer feels stiff but has a soft almost brushed feel and is comfortable to wear. I am in love with the bright and vibrant print and feel like I’ve made the perfect summer dress.
I made the size 4 bust, graded out to a 5 at the waist and a 7 at the hips, I then had to take it in an inch each side of the hips so obviously didn’t need to grade out two sizes there. I am pleased with how it fits and like the way the wrap at the back can adjust the fit. Because of the position of the straps I don’t think I could wear a bra with this though so if you have a larger bust that might be something to consider. I also wanted to mention that I am 5′ 7″ and you can see the length is quite long on me – if you are shorter then you may want to take out some of the length.
I absolutely love the shape and will be wearing this all summer even if I don’t go anywhere. Thank you Lena for the fabric, I adore my new dress!