This Christmas, I received a beautiful piece of vintage indigo fabric – a one-of-a-kind stitched-together compilation that was one of many fabric pieces that the women of an indigenous tribe in Africa created to raise money to support their families. This large rectangle of fabric could be used as a shawl or a wrap, or even a table topper. It had fringe on both short sides, and the fabric itself was unique and well-loved — frayed in places, stitched by hand in others, it felt like threads of many stories stitched together.
What to do with such a unique piece? I own so many shawls and wraps – and rarely use the ones that I have – and I didn’t want it to just languish in my closet. At first I wanted to make it into a wrap dress, but I didn’t have enough fabric. Next I thought of a long shirt or a tunic, but the fabric was so delicate in places, I wasn’t sure how it would hold up to being sewn and repeatedly worn.
Then, I saw a blog posting by Karen Templer of Fringe Association. She was discussing a piece of hand-dyed indigo fabric that she was thinking about sewing into a kimono. Inspiration! This piece would make a beautiful casual shirt-jacket with drop sleeves and wide front bands.
I started with the Crossroads pattern Contemporary Kimono as the base for my idea. I first stitched a sample jacket (size medium) in muslin, since once I cut my indigo fabric, there was no going back. This turned out to be a wise precaution, as I made multiple modifications, including:
* I reduced the sleeve width and altered the sleeve length
* I changed the approach of the cuffs (rolled and tacked, instead of sewn on separately)
* I changed the approach of the neck band by reducing the width and finding a different method of attaching it
The biggest change I made was to first make the fabric double-sided. I wanted to line the fabric, because I knew it was too fragile, and too soft, on its own. I could have sewn a jacket lining, but I didn’t want it to feel separate – I wanted the actual fabric to be double-sided. Using 2 yards of Robert Kaufman’s Double Gauze Chambray in color Marine, I stitched the two fabrics wrong sides together and, in effect, created one single double-sided piece of fabric. I then cut all of the pieces I needed, basted the two fabrics together, and then sewed the pieces as I would have with any other fabric.
I even managed to preserve the fringe and place it at the bottom of the jacket pieces, and even at the bottom of the front band pieces! I used up almost every inch of the fabric, which made me feel good – no waste, nothing leftover. I tried interior side pockets, but because of the positioning of the jacket’s side seams, the pockets seemed to be set too far back, and it was awkward to use them, so I sewed them shut and trimmed them away. I thought about trying after-thought patch pockets – I think I had just enough fabric left – but I didn’t want to clutter the front of the jacket, or detract from the fabric in any way.
I don’t have a good moniker for this creation – it’s of the style of a kimono, but fitted enough that I don’t think it actually fits within that category of jackets. Regardless of the name, however, I absolutely love how it turned out. It’s well-fitted, comfortable, and shows off the vintage fabric exactly as I had envisioned. It is truly a one of a kind piece, both in terms of fabric and pattern, and its creation has allowed me to add my own story to the running tale of the fabric.