Laurel round three is here! This time I made it with lace. Or I think this is lace. And bed sheets. I’ve got a side story as usual so just scroll to the end for more Laurel photos, because we have a little tour of Ouidah to do first.
Obviously, she makes salads. Salads in Benin usually consist of lettuce, onions, tomatoes, hot dog (they’ll call it sausage though), pasta (yes), eggs, a slice of bread, and a big wallop of mayonnaise on top.
To keep her food somewhat shaded and free from flies or insects, she covers the entire table with lace. They might be old lace curtains or old lace table clothes, but whatever they are when you’re in Benin and you see a table with lace thrown over it, more than likely there is food underneath it.
The lace, by the way, is always secondhand. And not secondhand Beninese, it’s secondhand American or European – the stuff in perfect condition we throw out doesn’t go to the landfills, it goes to Africa.
Another place you’ll see lots of lace is at the windows or doorways of houses. It’s too hot to keep doors shut and windows shuttered, yet people do want a bit of privacy and a way to block flies from coming in. Plus it allows some breeze to come in as well.
If you look carefully, you’ll find lace everywhere! Here it’s used as a hairnet. Side topic, I once asked a Beninese girl how she kept her hair so nice when sleeping… and she told me that she sleeps face down. Another side topic, hair is another reason why it is difficult to get people to adopt helmets here even though there are terrible motorcycle accidents here daily. When a woman is dressed to the 9s and has a complicated styled hairdo… she will not wear a helmet and ruin it. Also, often times the head + hairdo just won’t fit into a helmet either. Ok, back to lace!
Time to go shopping. Welcome to the friperie. Friperie is french for second-hand clothing shops, and the Beninese have adopted this word although the friperies here are nothing like the friperies in France. A wall, two wooden poles, and a metal roof: that’s all you need to start up a shop here.
This is also where local painters come to buy their canvas for paintings – art supply shops don’t exist here, so you have to make do with what you have. And there are plenty of sheets that can be prepped and stretched to make canvases for painting. I picked out a plain white cotton sheet and a lace sheet for 2,500CFA each, thus totaling 5,000CFA (10USD.) Later did I realize I should have bargained even more as I was able to buy more somewhere else for about 1000CFA. Lesson learned!
I don’t photograph often as I sew, so I usually wait until after I’ve cut out my pieces to photograph the fabric. I’d love to show you the sheets that I had leftover that I didn’t cut up, but… it rained. And because it was the first rain, out came the mayflies. These insects are harmless but they flooded my house. They come out with the humidity, are attracted to light, and die after a few hours. This dust pan is after the 85th sweeping. My floor was caked with mayflies as they were coming in through gaps in my kitchen.
I used the plain white sheet to underline the lace, which made this dress rather thick, especially with the 3 rows of gathering stitches at the sleeves. However there is one part of sewing I love love love. It’s the part where you get to trim off the messy bits with scissors and notch them… not only does it feel satisfying to remove all that bulk, the edges look so nice and smooth. I always get a bit too excited when I get to trim off bulky parts.
Followed by the top. I also moved the darts down 3 cm (my first time modifying darts!) but I think they might be too low so I’ll try lowering them 2cm next time. Honestly I don’t think it matters too much since this dress is loose on me.
The other thing is that this Laurel won’t be worn again until America… not because it’s too short but because the lace was already very thick, plus I added a lining… Benin is too hot to wear this! This is more an autumn or winter outfit. Just five more months, so that won’t be too long for it to be in storage.
Pattern: Colette 1025 Laurel
Fabric: Secondhand lace and cotton sheets