wax on, wax off

A surprising sidebar came up in a recent post, the original topic of which was surprising in itself (however, said surprises were most likely surprising specifically to me, which is unsurprising, as I am surprised by A LOT these days.)

Of course, the post was about anything but the wax print dress pictured (and after 143 comments, I'm tapped out on that discussion). However, Gillian, one of the most thoughtful members of our stitching community, brought up a sewing dilemma:

Gillian: I've never decided if it's ok for a white lady like me to use Ankara fabric. Cultural appropriation, or awesome print used with knowledge of its history? I don't know, and it's not the kind of thing any one person can decree is ok or not, so here I am, Ankara-less!

Well, my friend, my FRIENDS, as Mixed-Chick-Party-Of-One, I am here to resoundingly decree this ever so much more than "ok." In fact: GO FOR IT!

Go for it, because it is fabric, and who better to treat a beautiful fabric with the respect it deserves than a home sewist?  A commenter pointed out:

Anonymous: as a white lady who appreciates the beauty of African and many other ethnic patterns I would hope that when I employ its use in my own creations others will perceive it as a thing of beauty and my joy in presenting it as such.

Go for it, because, as several commenters were quick to add, its backstory is as mixed as the chick who runs this here blog: it is of Dutch origins, but intended as a knockoff of Indonesian Batik. The "flaws" in processing spoke not to Indonesia, but to Africa, and the colors and prints were changed to suit the audience--geometric shapes and vivid colors, rather than the more muted floral design of Batik. It's now produced in Africa & China as well, and you could call those knockoffs, or you could say the original was intended as a knockoff in the first place. Is it distinctly an African fabric now? Yes. But in my opinion, it's more of an as-tweed-is-British and denim-is-American sort of thing, not a question of racial appropriation. Don't get me wrong, I understand, and am often hindered by, the lines in the sand drawn over race. Some are real, some are manufactured, some grow by perception. Two out of three of those lines should be crossed.

Karen: I am very aware of the multi-cross-cultural journey these patterns have made from Indonesia to West Africa, while both were under Dutch colonial subjugation, and are still being made in The Netherlands! Culture and language are very complex things, continually evolving to reflect current conditions. Let's keep our minds open to other peoples' truths.

Go for it, because, as its origins prove, MIXING IT UP A WONDERFUL THING. And something we are in dire need of today. Yes, I understand the ignorance of wearing a ceremonial Lakota war bonnet to a music festival, but I don't think any sewists wanting to dip their toes in wax print waters are talking about sporting a Kente head wrap.

Leigh: It's just fabric, unless you exact copy a traditional african dress. That could look a bit odd as they're kind of distinct, but you know what? They look comfortable, and how many people have made "kimono jackets" and didn't get crucified in the press?

Go for it, because of the joy you will create around you. Another commodity we are in dire need of today. It is impossible not to smile when you see 12,000 colors walking towards you. And if you don't want to wear 12,000 colors, choose a more docile print like the one I'm sporting here! YES IT'S DOCILE I MEAN IT'S PRACTICALLY A SOLID IN COMPARISON.

CinderellaRidvan: I will say that my ambuyas (grandmothers and aunties) are delighted to see my white friends wearing it, they say the everyone looks better in beautiful prints...

If a civilian raises an eyebrow? Politely divulge the bio of this glorious mixed up cloth. (You could also ask if they're into Rock n Roll, and if so, how much Little Richard do they have in their collection.)

Erika: I am a white lady, who has lived in Zambia and Uganda, who has several garments made of US patterns with African fabrics. I figure it will upset some people, and not others, and my job is to be ready to have a conversation with people who are upset, with a humble open heart.

If a sewist chastises you for using the improper name for it? Again, go for the origin story. There are many names for this stuff, and they are all proper. However. If you've chosen to call it Dutch wax print, and a homesick lass compliments you on your fabric from Ghana? Um, do not inform her of the technicalities of the origins of wax print. Recognize, as I did not, that she's lonely, and it lifted her day to spot some fabric from her homeland. Hey, Professor Sewist: technicality isn't always paramount.

CinderellaRidvan: culture is more about nuance and belief than technicalities.

Well, if you've been on the fence, I hope I've convinced you to jump in, along with these thoughtful words from my fellow sewists! If I had my way, wax print would be everywhere... and all the buildings would be painted in technicolor, and pizza would be free, and we'd have little wine spigots on the streets that popped on every day at dusk...

(One last GO FOR IT: Because you get 6 yards in every cut! Now, if you're like me, you will dive into your bounty with wild abandon, and come very quickly to a point where you realize that while you can make 3 garments out of 1 cut, you cannot print match across seams if you didn't plan ahead. That happened here, with Vogue 9253. Patience and planning. Who knew. Now go sew some wax print.)


Construction (not the kind you think).

As I sit here with my morning cup of black gold, soft breeze drifting through the open window, reveling in the sounds of the NONSTOP, DEAFENING BUZZ of a circular saw cutting through brick (a cacophony that has gone on ALL SUMMER LONG), I look to the weekend with equal parts anticipation and melancholy. The last weekend in August! IT CANNOT BE.

This weekend will be 50% creating and 50% celebrating, which equals 2000% awesome (because that's how kalkatroonaan math works). I'm also hoping to get some shots of the many things waiting to be documented...about fifteen outfits, I'd say, more than enough to make my photographer quake in his flip flops. We're getting pretty good at doing this quickly, though. Rob has two rules when he's snapping: he doesn't speak, and he shoots from the ground up. We now have a handsignal to allow passersby to safely cross without fear of being captured:

There's my guy, on the ground! Not talking, like a weirdo!

(He sings, though. Beautifully. Just not in public. At the moment, he's serenading me with a ukelele rendition of Ozzy Osbourne's "Goodbye to Romance," lyrics adjusted to reflect my current murderous mood.)

You'll excuse the haphazardness, won't you? Blame it on the table saw. I'm really just here to tell you about my Tribute dress, made for the Sewcialist's first challenge after their re-launch. But considering the NEVERENDING NOISE AFFECTING MY BRAIN FUNCTIONS, I'll leave the explaining to my previously crafted post: check out the dress & inspiration for it, over at the Sewcialist's blog. So happy to see them up & running again!

Ah, they're lowering the construction cage system! I sense a construction break. I'm off to take advantage of it. 


Simplicity 1687 & Complicated Thoughts

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | sewing Simplicity 1687 & Complicated Thoughts

WELL NOW. Unfortunately, it seems I must say some things about my the use of the English language, in order to continue to say anything at all in these parts.  It is unfortunate mainly for me, because to be quite honest, I DON'T FEEL LIKE IT. I'd like to just talk about the six yards of insanity I've got on, but, there's the rub, I shouldn't be describing a dress as insane... and so, the post goes back into the Realm Of Draft... again. Not because I can't think of another opening sentence, but because I DON'T WANT TO.

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | sewing Simplicity 1687 & Complicated Thoughts

Let me explain. Following my last post, a reader (quite politely, actually!) suggested to me via Twitter that I rethink the usage of certain words, which is fair enough. It's not the first time my off-color sense of humor has chafed, and it probably won't be the last. If you're looking for a calm, sterile, and properly punctuated use of the English Language, I am not your huckleberry. 

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | sewing Simplicity 1687 & Complicated Thoughts

But, I also don't intend any harm, with my random capitalization and colorful talk. So let me clarify, when I call my closet "schizophrenic and delusional," I am referring to the general, and not medical, definitions of the words, which are; schizophrenic: a mentality or approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements, and, delusional: based on or having faulty judgment, mistaken. 

To wit: in the past, my closet held many inconsistent, contradictory elements of style, having everything to do with the fact that I had to be able to pull different looks for whatever role I was auditioning for. And in the present, where I am still a working actress in need of many looks, I THINK my closet still has those inconsistent or contradictory elements, but my judgement is faulty and mistaken: IT DOES NOT, because now that I sew pretty much all of my own clothing, there is no longer any room for RTW lawyer/nurse/cop wear. Yet I delude myself into thinking I can don something like this African wax print maxi dress to audition as a Suburban Mother with an Edgy Vibe. (The hair gets me to edgy all on its own, folks.)

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | sewing Simplicity 1687 & Complicated Thoughts

Hrm. Four paragraphs later, I guess I do feel like saying some things about this subject. But I don't. LET ME CAPITALIZE: I REALLY, REALLY DON'T. And contrary to what four paragraphs of rambling would suggest, I truly don't want to make a big thing out of it! Raising my pitchfork because someone doesn't agree with my yammerings about the idiosyncrasies of my closet would be, how do you say, blowing things out of proportion.

But are we, as a whole, maybe blowing things out of proportion in general? The (again, gentle and friendly) tweet came complete with a link to an article warning the reader against using words like Grief, Depression, and Insomnia as descriptors, unless you have truly personally experienced those afflictions. (That was about halfway through the article, and also where I tapped out).  

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | sewing Simplicity 1687 & Complicated Thoughts

Again, not meaning to start a Riot, party of one, over a tweet. It was simply a small reminder of the much larger liberal minefield that we've become, in the face of the impossibility of what we are. Our opinions and ideals have become our most precious possessions. Words are what the bulk of us have right now to protect those possessions. Words have become both weapons and prisoners. And on the liberal side, specifically, we're imprisoning words to protect our possessions from those who probably aren't out to damage an already beaten and bloodied society with an innocent turn of phrase.

But, words are loaded things with meanings that can shift entirely based on personal experience. There are plenty of nasty words out there that should be obliterated, and plenty of words that have taken on new weight when we weren't looking. That's just it, isn't it? Even if you think you're clear on the meaning, you have no idea how your words will affect someone else, because you are not living their life and their experiences.

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | sewing Simplicity 1687 & Complicated Thoughts

As for myself, there are plenty of words that conjure up real life experiences for me, that rub me the wrong way. Words that are mine in a way that they are not yours, because I have experienced them. They're innocent enough to others, and they're not going anywhere, and that's just fine. When humor is your weapon of choice (whether you're skilled at wielding that weapon or not), I think you have a wider...allowance. 

I know that in our current climate, the great good bulk of us are trying to be more careful with each other, and I applaud us for it. But can we try to assume that the person to our left, and I do mean left, most likely has our back? Because it's getting censored around here. And by here, I don't mean my small nonsensical corner of the web, I mean out there. There's no room for humor, no room for questions, no room for language, there's no room to talk about anything. When everything is sacred, nothing is safe.

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | sewing Simplicity 1687 & Complicated Thoughts

WELL. That's just about enough of that, although I do 100% invite you to share your thoughtful comments. Let's talk for a minute about the pattern, Simplicity 1687 (who, by the way, after a deserved backlash over their lack of ethnicity in vintage patterns have since made strides to correct that, and from what I can see have received no kudos for it--so kudos, Simplicity. And yes, I can already hear my fellow liberals fire back that a couple of pattern envelopes and reposts are not enough, but to this liberal, steps forward are steps forward.)

TOUGH TO GET OFF THAT SOAPBOX, EH, MIZZ BALLOONA? The pattern. I maxi-fied this midi dress, and shortened the waist by about an inch--and in doing so, made the pockets useless for actual hands. They will hold a phone, keys, and dinero, tho. The yoke was abandoned in favor of adjustable straps. I flat piped some of the shorter seams with remnants from this Vogue wrap dress, and both prints hail from AKN Fabrics. I feel like Holly Hobby in some alternate universe, which is just how I want to feel some days.
And with that, I believe I'm out of words.