Monday, May 29, 2017

African Easter Dresses

Oh the dresses here in Africa, they're just so fun! Bright colors, bold patterns, and fun designs - I just love them!
These are the styles commonly worn here - so much fun!
My team arrived in West Africa, Cote d'Ivoire to be exact, the week before Easter. We saw the fabulous clothing, fell in love and wanted our own African dresses for Easter. Then we encountered a slight problem. You see here in Africa you don't just go to the store to buy a new outfit. Oh, no. You buy fabric, take it to the seamstress or tailor, and have your new outfit made. This knowledge left me with the desire to go fabric shopping, acquire a sewing machine, and make my entire team new dresses for Easter. Unfortunately that wasn't a practical idea. So, on the Friday before Easter one of our fantastic hosts, named Zebedee, took us to a stand in the market where we could buy slightly less fabulous, but still fun and colorful, pre-made dresses for Easter.

After much hemming and hawing we each picked out a pretty new Easter dress. Then Sunday morning we put them on for Easter Service.

photo credit: Haylee Butler
It was so fun to still get to observe the tradition of new Easter dresses despite the fact we're half way around the world from home!

This has been one of my favorite things to wear ever since I got it! It's quite comfortable in the African heat, has a pocket (yes! I was able to find a dress to buy that already had a pocket!), and makes me feel pretty! Especially when I wear it with a belt to give it some shape.

African Easter dress? Check! It (and the second dress I acquired from a teammate) have been my most worn garments over the past two weeks. They work for sharing the Gospel,

Doing children's ministry,

 Learning how to make traditional African foods,

Visiting with seamstresses,

And catching goats!

Yes! I finally succeeded in catching a baby goat! Now I have a second goal for this month - to go fabric shopping and have a "real" African dress made! (And, you know, buy extra fabric to bring home to sew into dresses myself when I'm re-united with my sewing machine in about 6 months!)

To keep up with what else I'm up to in here in Africa check out my World Race blog!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

My Sister's Much Worn Pink Plaid 1890's Dress

Last August I was in the middle of planning my 1890's dress. I was re-watching Tales of Avonlea for some costuming inspiration, and my sister's birthday was coming up. Due to this combination of things, I really wanted to make my sister an 1890's dress. So, I paid special attention to the tween girls' dresses in Tales of Avonlea and started browsing Pinterest for 12 year old girls' dresses from the 1890's.

1890's silk girls'  dress, Philadelphia Museum of Art
As I looked at dress after dress I began to see that while the materials and trimmings of the dresses varied from cotton, to wool, to silk, most of the dresses were very similar in cut. More gathers toward the back of the skirt, full sleeves, some pleating or gathering on the bodice, maybe a bodice yoke, and typically a high collar.

1890's girl's dress, Wisconsin History Museum
So, I pulled a few patterns out of my stash, mixed them together and adapted them until I had what I wanted, then I went fabric shopping in my stash.

 In my stash I found yards upon yards of pink plaid homespun that I'd picked up at a thrift store once upon a time. Perfect. I sat down one weekend and turned that pink plaid into a lacy, ruffled, 1890's dress for my little sister.

She unwrapped it on her 12th birthday about a week later and was thrilled! She immediately ran to change into it before cake and ice cream! 

Then a week later she wore it for her American Girl Tea Party themed birthday party, where she received a bunch of fun hats as gifts. . .

. . . made flower crowns with her friends. . .

. . . and led her friends in the fun activity of bottle-feeding baby goats and gathering chicken eggs. (what else would you do at a tea party?)

And that was not the last of the activities this dress saw. In September my sister, mom, and I dressed up (all in different eras) to go to the "Walk Back in Time" Festival.

I took this opportunity to wear my fan-front 1840's dress, my mom wore a "prairie dress" she'd made when my sister was a baby (How can that really be over 12 years ago now?), and my sister donned on her birthday dress and the bonnet we'd made her the year before.

Then in November my sister auditioned for the Church Christmas play, set in the 1890's, got a roll, and was delighted to tell the director that she already had a costume! Only one issue, she was playing the part of an old woman and her dress was clearly a girl's dress. 

This was fact was most evident by the short length of the dress. So, since my sister really wanted to wear this dress, I just added an extra ruffle to the hem, making this tea length dress ankle length. 

She looked pretty grown up in it, especially when the gray hairspray was added to complete the outfit.

Thankfully, the gray hairspray wasn't permanent.


Though I think the dress will keep its new longer length, as my sister was pretty darned pleased with it.

Personally, I love how this dress turned out, both in the original length and with the extra ruffle.

I'm incredibly pleased with all the opportunities my sister has had to wear it.

It's just been a lot of fun for my little sister and I to have dresses from the same era! I'm so glad I've got a sister who enjoys dressing up in historical clothing as much as I do!


Monday, May 15, 2017

A Split Skirt For Chasing Goats

Sewing my World Race wardrobe was fun! I used it as an excuse to make a few items outside of my normal style, such as a split skirt.

For some reason last fall, I'm not really sure why, I became rather fixated on the idea of making a split skirt to bring on the Race. I'd heard that in Africa women only wore skirts, no pants. So I thought maybe I could make a split skirt to wear in Africa on days I really didn't want to wear a skirt. Thus, I decided to make a split skirt of some sort.
I considered multiple different methods of making one, and looked at many different patterns, before finally picking Butterick 3836 up at an online pattern sale. Well, once the pattern was bought I knew the split skirt idea would actually have to happen so I picked up 3 yards of dark green poly suiting at the Mennonite fabric store and set to work.

I really liked the full A-line shape of the pattern and I absolutely loved the button-placket detail on the front waistband, but once I was ready to cut my split skirt out I saw there were a couple of changes that needed to be made. First, I would need to add pockets. To do that I altered the front pattern piece to accommodate pockets and drafted a pocket bag pattern.

That was easy enough. The second alteration I wanted to make didn't require any change to the pattern itself, just to the construction of the garment.
As I mentioned, one of my favorite features of the pattern was the front button placket. According to the pattern, that placket was just for show, there was supposed to be an invisible in the center back seam. Well, I'm not a huge fan of putting in zippers, and I really like buttons. So I skipped the zipper, sewed up the center back seam, and figured out how to make that decorative button placket fictional.

I'm quite happy with the result! This split skirt has gotten lots of wear so far, so it was definitely worth making!

Now, the question is, can I wear it in place of a skirt in Africa? Well, I'm 5 weeks into my time in Africa and I'm not really sure. Last month in Cote d'Ivoire the dress code was skirts only and I never got tired of wearing skirts. Africa is HOT, and skirts are way cooler than anything else. 
Now, I'm in Ghana, where the dress code is more relaxed (aka pants and shorts are allowed here). Last week there were a couple days where all my skirts were dirty, so the split skirt got worn.

It's fun to wear! The legs swish and swirl wonderfully as I walk and most of the time you can't even tell it's not a skirt! Also, with the width of the legs it's honestly no warmer to wear than a skirt would be. (Very important in Africa. Just in case you didn't know, it's HOT here!)

So, yes, my split skirt is comfortable to wear in Africa, for activities such as sharing the Gospel and chasing goats.

Yep, chasing goats! There are goats almost everywhere in Ghana! They just wander through the city streets. This fact makes me happy.

I rather miss my goats at home (though my family is doing an excellent job caring for them while I'm gone!), so I couldn't resist attempting to catch a goat here. I just really wanted to hold one!

The goats did not want to be held unfortunately.

.Oh, well. One of these days I will catch a goat here, just to pet it, no matter what clothes I happen to be wearing at the time!

Now, if you want to know what else I've been up to in Africa (and South America if you missed it) check out my World Race Blog!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Father of Creativity

Hello friends! Last month I was in Cote de Ivoire, with no wifi. So, that meant I couldn't post any blogs. Well, I am now in Ghana, and I have wifi! So I decided to share on here one of my World Race blogs to give you an  idea of what has been occupying my mind recently since I'm separated from my sewing machine for another 7(ish) months!

I’ve always had a creative mind. As a child I loved to use my imagination. I loved playing outside, building forts and making playhouses. Imagining how things could be, instead of how they were. Playing as if everything was how it was in my imagination. I loved drawing and painting. I loved playing with dolls, dress-up clothes, and my doll house. I loved coming up with stories for everything I was playing with. Starting in high school sewing and writing became my creative outlets. Now sewing is firmly my art form.
I love the process of sewing. Coming up with an idea tweaking it until it’s just right in my mind, figuring out how to make that idea become a reality, and finally doing so. I love making each project different, rather than repeating the same thing over and over. The project is quicker, but lacking in fulfillment for me if I just repeat a project I’ve already done, if, say, I make two or three identical dresses. (Thus, when I do make multiples of the same thing I do them assembly line style, get ‘em all done at once.) It’s so much fun to come up with an idea that is different, if only slightly, than anything I’ve done before, and see it through to completion.
Now, I would love it if I could draw or paint, or take amazing pictures, and have these things turn out just the way I want them too, the way my sewing projects do. However, I don’t have those talents. I must confess that there have been plenty of times I have been jealous of those who do have those talents. I’ve thought less of myself for not being able to do something as well as someone else could. I’ve focused on what I’m unable to do, my short comings, rather than the things I’m strong in. I’ve wished God made me more like someone else, rather than realizing God created me exactly the way he wanted  to.

God has the most creative mind there is. He came up with the idea for the world and He spoke it into existence, and he didn’t make it uniform. He made each corner of the world different, and beautiful. As I sat at a window in a church balcony here in Cote d’Iviore, I admired the landscape. There are palm trees, big, beautiful flowers, bamboo, and plants and trees growing so many different kinds of amazingly delicious fruits. It’s beautiful, and so very different from home. But does the beauty here make my home any less beautiful? No. The middle of Missouri, with it’s hills, forests, plains, bluffs, creeks, rivers, lakes, seasonal trees and flowers, and, for that matter, four different seasons, is just as beautiful. Different, but equally beautiful, made by the same hand. God is creative, he doesn’t make the same thing over and over.
Psalm 104 talks about all the different places and things God made in the Earth. As I was reading this Psalm, sitting up in that church balcony, the second half of verse 13 really grabbed my attention. It reads;
The earth is satisfied with the fruit of His works”
~Psalms 104:13 (NASB)
If the earth is satisfied with how God made it, how can I not be satisfied with how God made me? Why, how, can I compare myself to others? My talents to someone else’s talents. My body to someone else’s body. My accomplishments to someone else’s accomplishments. We are all made by the same God. The God who created the world. A God who is creative, so he did not make us all the same. No, he created us each individually, one of a kind. Creating us was a process, and he enjoyed every step of it. He created us just how he wanted us to be. God didn’t make us assembly line style.

For you formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I give thanks to you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
and my soul knows it very well.”
~Psalms 139:13&14 (NASB)
On this earth, as we seek him, he is growing us into who he wants us to be. He is never finished with us. He never forgets his creations. Over all, God has the same desire for each and every one of us. He wants us to recognize him as our Lord and Savior. However, the path he has for each of us, the life journey he is taking us on is as unique as we each are. God does not use the same exact mold or 5 step plan for each of us. No, He’s creative. He goes through the entire creative process for each of us. He comes up with an idea for each of us, for who we are and will be, then he turns that idea into reality.
God is the father of creativity.