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Ankara Appreciation Week- Saraste Dress Hack

As I write, it is the day after the beautifully bright and colourful week of Ankara celebration that Juliet Uzor and I had the pleasure of hosting over on instagram. Ankara appreciation week was first launched in 2020 and it really seemed to hit the mark so we thought we’d do it again. Back then in 2020, there was a lot of pain and heart ache surrounding George Floyd’s killing and the week of black joy and unifying creativity was such a welcome. This year the week of celebration coincided with the racial abuse 3 young footballers faced for missing penalties in the Euro finals. So sad and such a reminder of the never-ending struggle and the need to find joy in this broken world. The week was indeed joyful. I want to share some of my looks from the week in my next few blog posts.

First up is this hacked Saraste dress. I have had the book Breaking the Pattern by Named Clothing for about 3 years and have been very slow to make the patterns even though I think some of them are really lovely and classic. To me though, they all need re- imagining to fit my lifestyle and preference in colour and fabric and it’s taken me time to think how I would make the patterns. The Saraste shirt dress was a particular favourite and in my mind had been made in so many fabrics. I had wanted a chambray one, I think I may still make one. I saw a really lovely one made in white broderie anglais and set my heart on that till my daughter nabbed my fabric! Then I was thinking a black shirt dress would be good but I hadn’t found the right crisp, deep black poplin.

Then I came across this dress by Toast and I knew I had to have a leafy print shirt dress.

I knew I also had to have it in waxprint, so the search began and Ankara shop, an online seller of amazing ankara fabric had what I was looking for. Ankara fabric is slightly stiff, holds it’s shape well and can be very crisp. I felt it would work very well for what I was going for.

I was a little nervous to make this dress as I expected it to be fiddly and tedious but it actually wasn’t, I very much enjoyed the process. There were three things I was unsure and undecided about. Firstly the sleeves, I really felt I wanted them to be bigger and longer. Secondly I didn’t want too much gathering and thirdly, should I add pockets?

My measurements fell between the size 5 and 6. Recently I have been feeling that I need to allow my clothes to be a little less fitted, after all, breathing is essential, also comfort is key. I love the fitted silouhuette on me but that obsession has led to me making clothes that fit just for that moment and not being that comfortable because my weight fluctuates. So I cut a 6 for the bodice pieces and a 5 for the skirt pieces so that I would have less gathers.

For the sleeves, I used another pattern, the Carol by Fibremood patterns, and I decided to cut out a couple of large rectangles for some generous patch pockets which I added over the side seams.

The sleeves are gently gathered at the head and have elastic at the hem.
I do like an elbow length sleeve and a little bit of puff is good I think.

The finished dress made me chuckle just a bit. I ended up unwittingly making a dress similar to dresses I’ve seen on my fellow ankara week host Juliet. Also the finished dress seemed unrecognisable as the Saraste shirt dress! The wax print totally transforms it, as do the sleeves and pockets. This is one of the amazing talents us sewists have, we can choose a pattern and make it totally our own in our fabric choice and even by the smallest hack or adaptation.

This dress is so lovely to wear. The bodice has room to move freely without looking oversized. The gathers hit at just the right place at the back and because of the flat front pieces in the skirt, the whole shape isn’t bulky. The print on the fabric is busy enough that I don’t think it matters that I didn’t bother to pattern match, that’s what I’m telling myself anyway! This is a pattern I will return to.

It was great to be able to meet up with Juliet and take pictures in our Ankara dresses. Puffed sleeve wax print shirt dresses for the win!

If you missed out on Ankara Appreciation Week you could head over to Instagram and search the hashtags #sewankarafabric and #sewankarafabric21. You’ll be sew inspired!

Published by The Unpickstitch Papers

I'm a teacher, baker and own clothes maker. I like to read, I like to work out. I wish there was more time in the day to do life. I have 1 husband, 2 daughters and no dogs yet, though I'm working on wearing my hubby down!

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