Well, I have had the absolute joy and privilege to work with some gorgeous African batik fabric. I was very interested when Comfort from Letasi design studio asked if I would like some of their fabric and as I scrolled through their website I got very excited and just could not choose!
Letasi design studio specialise in East African hand batiked fabric. Batik is a wax resist process whereby hot wax is poured onto fabric and then dyed, the areas with the wax resist the dye. Heat is then used to remove the wax. Batik can also involve the use of stamps to print on a design, or brushes can be used to paint dye on or splatter dye on. The process of waxing and dying can be repeated to add more colour. That’s my simplified version of it, correct me if I’m wrong. It is an involoved process.
As I looked at the fabric on the website I was drawn to big, geometric designs as well as some amazing splatter designs that reminded me of a Jackson Pollock art piece.
I ended up choosing this design with pinkish red circles against a black/ green background and was sent about 2.5 yards of it. The fabric feels very similar to good quality ankara that I love to work with. It is 100 percent cotton and it has a tiny bit of stretch to it. The fabric is waxed as I’ve said but it feels a little less stiff than ankara fabric.
The fabric was a dream to work with. A strong, stable fabric which will withstand being unpicked and allow you to work quickly because it stays in place and you can get away with not pressing every seam as you work. With fabric like this, I adopt my mum’s method of “hand pressing” with thumb and forefinger, it works.
Perhaps you’re wonder what the difference is between African batik and ankara/ African wax print. At a basic level ankara is imitation batik and mass produced by machines. Ankara tends to be more bright and bold where as batik produces more muted tones generally. As a lover of story and as someone who takes a lot of interest in how things come to be and who makes my stuff, I get a little fuzzy feeling as I look at this fabric, thinking about the crafts women and men who eorked on it. Every dribble, dot and blob,every crackle, every bleed and blend make each piece of this hand made fabric truly unique and the colour hard to pinpoint.
I decided to make my fabric into a dress, I like dresses. I chose to make the Mindy dress by Fibremood. I have really liked the various versions of this dress popping up on my Instagram feed. I’d even seen a couple of wax print ones that caught my eye. But I was concerned about the shape, it strays out of my usual leaning towards fitted waists and away from gathers. Also I’m going to confess that I’m not a massive fan of big sleeves. My thought is always “will they fit in my cardigan or coat?” However the feeling to make one was strong.
Am I sorry that I made a Mindy? No! Am I a little bit uncomfortable wearing it? Yes! Why? Because if I don’t stand in a certain way it sits on the lower curve of my back, billowing around my bottom looking odd!
That said, this dress is super comfortable to wear, that could be because I actually remembered to add the seam allowance which is something I sometimes forget when making Fibre Mood patterns. It has an empire line a side zip and is gently gathered. I added about 3 inches to the length. The sleeves can be left big and floaty or puffed by adding elastic to the sleeve hem. Most of the making process was really straightforward but when it came to adding the facing to the front and back necklines I was stumped. I couldn’t understand the picture instructions or the more detailed instructions on the website. My facing pieces also seemed longer than they needed to be. I eventually worked something out and it looks okay. I have heard people complain about the scanty instructions for Fibre Mood patterns and I tend to agree.
The one thing missing from the Mindy are pockets. I think I might retrofit some patch pockets on the side. I really like the neckline and the shape of the bodice. The Mindy and this batik fabric are a perfect pairing. It could just be me but I find that when I wear unlined wax print garments with tights, I get a lot of static and the fabric clings to my legs. I haven’t lined this dress but am wearing a slip to combat the static.
I think this particular fabric design is sold out but do head to the Letasi website and see what other beautiful designs they have in stock, and if you chose to purchase, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.