My mom gave me an impressive 5 yards of this great fabric about a year ago. My dad had given it to her years ago, and she had never done anything with it. She trusted that I could put it to good use, and sent it my way. The fabric is a wax cotton from Ghana that my dad brought it back from a work trip.
Initially, I was really intimidated by the fabric. I’d never worked with, or even seen, wax cotton before. After a thorough search of the internet and other sewing blogs, I cautiously cut off a section to prewash in the laundry. It looked fine coming out of the washing machine, so I threw it in the dryer, and all worked out just fine. The fabric got a lot softer after the wash, an added bonus in my book.
I knew that I needed a simple pattern to show off the large-scale print. And, I wanted a tried-and-true pattern to make sure I wouldn’t mess up the dress. For a few days, I debated between this NewLook pattern (previously made here and here) and the Go Anywhere Dress (previously made here and here). It came down to a tradeoff between the princess seams on the Go Anywhere Dress and a waist seam on the New Look dress. In the end, I went with the NewLook pattern, because I figured I could always wear a belt if my waist seams didn’t line up perfectly.
Once I picked the pattern, the next challenge was cutting out the dress. It took me another couple of days to figure out the pattern placement. Dealing with such a large-scale print for the first time was not easy. My goals were essentially to avoid having the big blue knots on any specific body parts. This was easier said than done, and I ended up needing more fabric than I originally cut off to make this happen. I threw the rest of the fabric in the laundry and then decided that it didn’t matter how much extra fabric it took, appropriate pattern placement was important.
I was careful to align the stripe down the middle of the dress, in both front and back. I spent far less time concerned with how the side seams lined up. The pattern is actually running in different directions at the side seams, but it doesn’t bother me.
I used a mixture of finishes on this dress. I finished most of the edges using my serger before sewing the together on the sewing machine. For the armholes, I used store-bought bias binding, but tacked it down by hand, as I thought the traditional topstitching wouldn’t go with the overall style of the dress. I actually tried topstitching one side, but didn’t like it and unpicked it. I hemmed the dress by hand as well. The zipper in the center back is lapped. I like this treatment, and appreciate how it doesn’t break up the pattern of the fabric. The pattern doesn’t match perfectly on the back, though, because I took a wedge out of the center back to prevent neckline gaping. I also forgot to incorporate seam allowances when attempting to pattern match. Doh.
Now that I’ve made three versions of this pattern, I really appreciate its versatility. Even though I’ve made the same neckline option on all three versions, they each feel distinct. My first is made from a stretch cotton sateen, so it is super comfortable. The second has the flared skirt and feels a little dressier. This latest version is the only non-floral one of the bunch. The pattern feels distinctly African to me, without feeling like I’m wearing a costume. At first I had a hard time to figure out how to style it. After I bought some little navy blue booties, it became a lot easier!
Pattern: NewLook 0180 in size 8
Fabric: wax cotton from Ghana
Cost: Gifted fabric + $1.39 bias tape + $1.74 zipper + $1.65 thread = $4.78
Time: 5 hours (plus cutting…)