African Wax Print Dress


One of my daughter's best friends, Wen, went to Rwanda a couple of years ago, and brought back several beautiful pieces of fabric to give to us.  My daughter said that I could have one of them, so I chose the most subdued piece of the bunch which was this one.


I found the stickers interesting, and in researching African Wax Prints, I found that counterfeit fabrics are a problem, so that must be why it came with these markers. I had 3-1/2 yards of 44" wide fabric to work with.  It did have a very slight waxy coating on it, which washed off when I preshrunk it, but didn't effect the color in any way.  The remaining fabric was kind of a cross between a broadcloth and a canvas- lightweight, but crisp, with a slightly coarse texture.


I hung it on the dress form for a while trying to envision it in another form.  I went to the manufacturer's website and was surprised to see that the fabric actually was made in China.  Here is an excerpt from their About Us page:

"Our textile factory has a history of more than 10 years, and an area of 150,000 square meters. It has a personnel of 1,200 workers and employees, including some senior professional engineers. Our factory specializes in producing 100% cotton real wax, 100% cotton super wax, and 100%cotton kitenge, dyeing cloth, embroidery cloth etc… The majority of which are sold to underdeveloped regions, such as Africa. "
 
Wow!  Such a big factory- they must be producing a huge amount of fabric.  Very interesting!  Although they didn't have any examples of things that the fabric was made into, I had heard before about a company called Vlisco, which is a Dutch company, and went to their website. Oh boy- if you want to see some beautiful pictures, check out their fashion lookbook.  You can order all of these fabrics, and they are not too expensive, but you must order 6 yards at a time.  Here are some examples:




My quandry was how to make this fabric into something that would fit into my lifestyle.  I decided to make a simple dress that was work appropriate- I work in an elementary school, and although there is not an official dress code, I like to make sure that my shoulders are covered, and dresses are knee length.  I pulled out an out of print pattern Simplicity 4632 which checked all the right boxes.   I cut the shorter length, and tried to put the yellow flowers close to my face.


After making up the body and trying it on, I discovered that the fabric was just a little too coarse to wear without a lining.  I bought a lining bundle a few years ago from FabricMart that included 5 yards of this gold lining which never thought I would ever use- gold is just not in my color palette!  So, I was tickled pink to find something that it would work with!  I still have another 2 yards left, but hey, it just goes to show that if you wait long enough...!


The pattern didn't originally call for a lining, but I just cut another front and back, sewed them together, and then sewed the facing onto the lining. Here is is from the inside:

The entire armscye is encased in a bias binding, even though it has a cap sleeve.

And here it is from the back- there is a centerback seam which is nice for fitting.


Oh, and of course, I added pockets!


I'm really pleased with the end result- I think I'll get a lot of use out of this one.  Thanks, Wen, for bringing back this fabric with you!!!  My daughter who is in Madagascar is also on the lookout for some fabrics to bring back with her, so I'm looking forward to sewing more with this kind of fabric.

What about you- have you tried sewing with African wax print fabrics? 
 

Happy Sewing,
Ann

7 comments

  1. What a fun and colorful dress. The elementary students will love it. Thanks for sharing the story of the fabric and your pattern search.

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  2. Ann, you look fantastic! Super cute dress.

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  3. Your dress is gorgeous and you used the fabric to the best advantage! I understand about holding onto things from Fabric Mart - a huge part of my sewing cave is dedicated to things I've purchased from Fabric Mart! *LOL*

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    1. Thanks, Carolyn. I like that you call your stash a cave- haha! I think I'll borrow that name from you.

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