Colette Laurel round 6. The last one for a very long time. The expanded title for this Laurel is: secondhand sheets dyed in hibiscus juice but washed out by detergent with paneled secondhand lace drop waist skirt inspired by the japanese book I am cute dresses with beaded lace pockets inspired by a Coletterie blog post on Chanel lacey pockets and beaded keyhole peter pan and tear drop lace neck details. Whew! Story time now, or scroll to the end since I’ve already said everything in the very long runoff sentence above.
“Bissap! Bissap!,” I continue yelling, waiting for her to turn around and set that plastic container down and open it. You might be curious as to why I’m chasing this woman. It’s because I recognize that container. I know why it is clear and I know why there is a slight look of condensation to it. “Bissap! Bissap! Bissap!” Bissap, by the way, is the french word for hibiscus. When you see someone selling something you want, you yell out what they’re selling so they know they’ve a customer. “Madame!” could refer to any of the 10 women standing by, but by yelling Bissap! she knows she’s the one you’re looking for. (For the language lovers: the –no suffix in Fon means “mother”. So bissapno = mother of bissap = seller of bissap.)
It’s my favorite snack in Benin, but I never know when I’ll get to eat it. The ladies walk around town and you have to catch them as they don’t have a set location you can visit. And it isn’t all day, it’s usually around 10AM-12PM when it is hottest – smart, as that is when the cravings for something cold is at its peak.
Now it’s time to work on the Laurel. I went to the friperie lady again and bought some more secondhand sheets. This time I bargained it down to 2,000CFA (4USD). Yeah! The only hint to this fabric’s previous life are parts of some stamped words near the hem: “home drev” and “ter” and “e” ? A mystery.
With the help of google, I found many blogs with tips for natural dyeing. Here is my process I decided to use: 1. Boil fabric in 4:1 ratio of water to vinegar for an hour, then discard liquid. 2. Bring hibiscus leaves to simmer and strain. 3. Add fabric to hibiscus dye and add 1 cup vinegar, bring to boil and let simmer for an hour. 4. Turn off heat and let fabric sit in mixture overnight. One thing that would have helped would’ve been tongs because I had to move around this hot fabric with my bare hands, and it was not fun.
Originally I was going to add a simple gathered skirt, but I accidentally cut 2 small rectangles instead of 1 big rectangle. So that made me think of something paneled, and then my brain wandered to a dress I had seen in I am Cute Dresses… the very last one, #25, I am Satin Doll. Perfect. 16 panels of alternating lace and fabric, just the thing that would work! And so I sewed sewed sewed. Everything was going so well. Until a bit of machine oil got on my fabric. I decided to wash the spot out immediately with some laundry detergent. This is where the long dramatic drawn out “nnnnnnooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo” happened, at least in my head. You see…
I guess my dye wasn’t fixed properly or that the detergent was too strong because see what happened. It immediately killed the pink and turned it into gray. There are worse things to happen, I agree, but it was sad to see the pink disappear and know that I could never bring it back.
Here it is left to dry, again. I’ve photographed it with some leftover dyed scraps I had just so show the color difference. I thought about redyeing it, but I really wanted the lace to remain white and that wouldn’t be possible If I redyed it. Nothing to do in this case but to move forward.
My thoughts wandered back to a post I saw a while ago from the Coletterie blog that featured a beaded lace pocket. I loved this idea and thought that this pocket would go perfect with my lace panels.
I made the pockets shorter because if I had made the pockets true to the pattern piece, it would’ve overpowered the dress and I wanted it to remain subtle. Of course my beading isn’t as pretty. I can’t top Chanel, but that isn’t what was bugging me.
It was the fact that I used large beads instead of tiny beads, and it wasn’t by choice. It was because I couldn’t find a place that sold needles small enough to use with the tiny beads. Reluctantly I decided to go ahead and bead with the larger beads.
I had about finished both pockets when I decided…. no, they look so bulky and awkward and crammed and too big and not delicate and like teeth, no, I’d rather have no beads at all than to have those beads on my pockets.
Bonus iphone photos: I bought the beads at the Ganxi Market in Cotonou. I probably got ripped off but I was tired and didn’t feel like searching elsewhere. As you can (barely) see, this little stall also sells detergent, cleaning supplies, and wooden souvenirs. What a mix, right?
I didn’t feel like stopping so I added tiny teardrops/keyholes to the rest of the collar. And beaded the edges. Sometimes it’s just so nice to do something by hand, and it’s hard to stop once I’m into it.
Ta da! Photo shoot time. This time I decided to use the school grounds on an early Sunday morning where no kids would be around. Otherwise they’d be swarming around me. Perhaps later I’ll do a photo shoot with the kids at recess just for the fun of it. Yes, I think I will.
So the final color of the dress turned out to be off white with a tiny hint of pink. Not that deep crimson color but not that steel gray either. Oh well, I’ll just keep experimenting with natural dyes until I figure out what works. Or perhaps I’ll experiment with washing dyed fabric to see what kind of soaps do and don’t affect the dye.
Oh, and in the end I didn’t accomplish the entire point of adding a drop waist skirt: my knees are still showing. Barely, but they are showing. It is a definite no wear without tights for bikes or motos, but I’m still on the fence if I’ll wear tights with it for just walking. In any case, once I’m back in America that won’t be an issue at all.
Pattern: Colette 1025 Laurel
Fabric: Secondhand sheets and lace