Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Dress I Sewed in Africa

A free afternoon, a hand-crank sewing machine, and a dress that resembles a sack. Put it all together and what do you get? One very happy Alyssa! I had a plan and it worked out better than I expected.

It started with the sewing machine I found at the pastor's house where I'm staying this month. These hand-crank sewing machines are quite popular here in Ghana. When the pastor's wife learned of my love of sewing, she offered me use of her daughter's sewing machine. So, all month I've been looking for an excuse to use it.

The perfect excuse came when I commented on some pretty fabric one of my squad-mates had in her stack of clean laundry. She told me it was a dress she'd been gifted last month, and I was welcome to it if I wanted it. She didn't want it any more. So, I grabbed the pretty "fabric" off the pile and this is what I found.

The creative wheels in my mind started turning, so I took the dress home. About a week later I had a free afternoon, so out came the sewing machine and the scissors.

I cut the dress apart right above the pockets (because of course I had to save those!), and right below the zipper (because I needed that too). The half with the pockets just needed to be gathered up and it would be my new skirt. The other half? Well, it needed some help.

First off, there was a zipper down the center front. So, the center front would become the center back. Second, clearly this "bodice" was way to big for me. To fix that out came the scissors again, along with a great fitting woven shirt I happen to have. 
I used the shirt as my pattern. I laid it out on top of the bodice and traced around it, then cut out my sew bodice. Next I pinned the bodice together and tried it on. It fit, but could use some adjustments. So, I stood in front of the mirror and pinned some darts in place until the fit was perfect. Then I took my new bodice to the sewing machine.

The hand-crank sewing machine proved easy to use as I sewed the darts, side seams, and arm hole facings. It wasn't long before I had a bodice ready to attach to the skirt!
So I gathered up the skirt, sewed it to the bodice and checked to make sure the zipper worked (it did!). After a new hem (done while I watched the new Beauty and the Beast movie with my team) my dress was done!

I wore it to church on Sunday, and the previous owner of the dress was quite impressed.

 I must say I'm pretty impressed too! Despite my lack of a pattern and an electric sewing machine, the dress turned out fabulous! And it was a ton of fun to make.

Now who would have thought I'd figure out a way to make myself a new dress while in Africa? Certainly not me!

* Huge thank yous to my squad-mate for the original dress, the pastor's wife for use of the sewing machine, and Katy Herder for taking pictures for me!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

My African Princess Dress

Well, I did it. I bought the fabric, designed the dress, and let someone else sew it.

A couple weeks ago Mable, one of our translators here in Sunyani, Ghana, took a few of us World Racers to a fabric store. It was amazing! So many pretty fabrics to choose from! After admiring everything I left with only two pieces of fabric. . .

Six yards of this red fruit fabric. . .

And six yards of this green and burgundy fabric, covered in trees and flowers and little scrolls that say "dua kur gye enum a obu" (which approximately translates "A tree alone will fall, but if two trees stand together they will remain strong").

I decided to save the red fabric to take home (sometime next year, once I'm reunited with my sewing machine, it will be turned into something) and have the green tree fabric made into a dress.

Once everybody had picked out fabric, Mable took us to her dressmaker's shop. Here we sat down and were handed magazines showing us the latest Ghanaian styles to pick from.

After admiring the outfits in several of the magazines, I finally found exactly what I wanted.

This peplum top, lengthened into dress. I showed the picture to the head dressmaker and explained exactly what I wanted. "This shirt, lengthened into a maxi dress, with pockets." He then sketched out exactly what I described, took my measurements, and told me my dress would be ready in a week.

A week later I returned and tried on my dress. An under-seamstress was on hand to make minor adjustments until the dress fit just right.

I left that evening absolutely thrilled with my new dress, and very excited to wear it to church the following Sunday!

Wearing the dress, with new earrings and my hair all done up by my talented teammate, made me feel like a princess.

Which was fitting as I received quite a few compliments to the effect of, "You look like a princess this morning!"

I had so much fun going fabric shopping, designing, then getting to wear this dress!  And I even have fabric left over from it to take home and turn into something else as well!

As always, If you wanna see what else I've been up to in Ghana, and keep up with me over the next 6 months, check out my World Race blog!

All of the fabulous dress pictures are thanks to my talented teammate Katy Herder