Boys · Sewing

Mama Made: Dashiki Top

Way back in February, when I was still toying with the idea to start this whole blogging adventure and I was getting even more convinced to take on this sewing thing much more seriously, a letter came home from my son’s primary school indicating that they would be celebrating African Heritage Awareness Day with plenty of activities centred around this theme.

In the letter, parents were being encouraged to not only let their child participate in the activities, but let them wear traditional African styles and clothing to help the school in this cultural immersion endeavour. To be honest, when I first read the letter, all I got from it was “woo hoo, I can so easily make a dashiki for my son to wear!

And with that inspiration, I headed straight to Abed’s in Sheraton Mall the very next evening after I picked up my son from school.

This was when I realised that the African Awareness Day celebrations must have truly been a Ministry of Education endorsed activity because there were plenty of other mothers scouring through the 30 or so fabric bolts trying to pick out the best one for their sons or daughters. Some of them were even being referred to Abed’s main branch in Bridgetown, because there were even more options to choose from.

An hour and a half later, after trying valiantly to get my son’s attention and opinion on which of the very colourful fabrics he likes and then waiting very patiently on a sales girl to cut a yard of said fabric, I came home with these:

African Print Shopping Spree
African Print Shopping Spree

Yes, I know that only one of those fabrics can even remotely pass for boyish and yes, I am quite ashamed that I bought two sets for myself but those prints were just toooooooo gorgeous to leave!!! One of them will even feature on this blog in the very near future!

But back to my son… So the very weekend before the African wear was due, I got the fabric out and started scouring the internet for design ideas. A Dashiki is such a simple shirt to make, especially when you just take a shirt that’s too big and make a pattern from it. This was an easy task as my son doesn’t seem to be getting any bigger, while my mom and his godparents keep buying larger sized clothing.

It took me about an hour to trace the base shirt for the pattern, transfer the pattern to fabric, make some sleeve and neck modifications, and then cut out the front and back. Why did it take so long? Because African print fabric tends to have a lot of large and small motifs, which are each interesting in their own right, and then there are these kind of connecting squiggles that join the large motifs to the small ones. And I really wanted the fancy shield to be the focal point on the front and then have it around the neck at the back of the shirt. So the preferred design took some careful planning and, obviously, cutting to ensure that I maintained grainlines as well (yes, Lisa, those nine months of basic tailoring classes didn’t go to waste!). Two hours later, this was what I ended up with:

African Awareness Day Dashiki 2012

I was quite proud of my efforts, which, I’m sure you can see, did have some technical errors like the armholes, the facings, and the neckline. But I made this before my actual formal class on shirts so I was literally trying a thing. Best part? My son loved it and it fit him so yeah for me!!!

African Dashiki 2012
All ready for African Awareness Day!!

7 thoughts on “Mama Made: Dashiki Top

  1. Apologies Abbey for being so tardy in replying! Silly me – I kept checking but my brain was expecting the reply to be above my question. I’m always wanting to push doors that say ‘pull’ !

    Thank you for taking the trouble to answer and I’ll definitely give it a go! I’ve been given a huge quantity of material of various designs which can be turned into Dashiki’s for boys and Apron dresses for girls – girls patterns are easy to find!

    I volunteer for a knitting charity which operates on the web, whereby members all around the world knit squares, post them to South Africa, where the township ladies and others stitch them into blankets for the parentless children – SA has nearly 2 million kids without parents or families. The blankets can be worn as coats during the winter months – which can be as cold as here and they do get snow!

    If you get a chance please do check us out and we are on Facebook, here is the link to our Forum as it is friendly and supportive :
    [Our website is about to be replaced and is seriously out of date.] On the Forum we have photographs of the distributions so members can see that the goodies do actually reach the kids.

    Anyhow, kind regards and all the best for Christmas, New Year and beyond!



  2. Hi Abbey, I realise you are a busy lady, but would you know where I can get a pattern for the lovely dashiki you created for your son? I see you drew your own, but unfortunately, I’m not that confident and do not have an appropriate size live model to measure! All the best, Pam


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