grainline archer shirt + southern benin tourist spots

archerinbenin01If you can ignore my friend the snake, you might notice that I’m wearing the Archer shirt by Grainline Studios. I bought this pattern because I wanted to make a button up shirt but didn’t to be following Burda instructions for my first attempt. Burda is good if you’ve already made a similar style before… otherwise, for new styles and techniques independent patterns is where I go to have my hand held and build up my sewing self esteem. I know I’ve made the Negroni by Colette patterns, but that is for men and didn’t have a collar stand, which is what I wanted to try making. So hello Grainline Archer!

archerinbenin02I actually made this shirt with leftover contrast fabric to match a skirt. But they didn’t look good together so they’ve now been separated into separate stories and photo shoots. I made a minor mistake near the beginning when I fused interfacing to my right front piece instead of the button band… no big deal except I *have* to wear this shirt buttoned up or else you can see the interfacing on the inside. Oops! Archer #2 will be better.

archerinbenin03The other mistake I made was fixable. Uhmmmmmm I don’t know what I did… but my collar stand ended up way too long… and this is why I’m glad I didn’t go with Burda, because when I was stuck all I had to do was refer to the archer sewalong and I had all the help and tutorials and photos and videos I needed!

archwordWhat I do is copy and paste the sewalong parts I need into word when I have fast internet. This way later on when I’m at home I have the tutorial saved already and don’t need the internet. All I did to fix my strange collar stand was just look at the photo of the correct one and trim mine down until it looked like this photo. Better too long than too short, right?

archershirtfingerI put the Archer away until Frances came because I knew photo shoots with her would be a lot better than photo shoots by myself. I took Frances to CIAMO/my classroom, where she made me model the archer and my cut finger. Tip: don’t leave a razor in your bag and then forget about it, because later on when you’re rummaging for your keys you’ll end up slicing part of your finger off. Not fun.

archerinbenin04After that we went to the Python Temple, Ouidah’s other big tourist attraction. I got tired of constantly paying the entry free anytime visitors came, so I finally talked to them and pointed to my face: “You recognize me, right? I live here. I bring you lots of tourists. Do I really need to keep paying the entry fee?” Happily, they said no! So yeah! Now I get free entry to the temple since I’m always bringing people here.

archerinbenin05Pythons are a sacred animal for the people of Ouidah. They worship them and even have facial scars to reflect the facial marks on the python.

archerinbenin06The pythons are harmless and have no teeth… but one can’t help freaking out a bit when you hold one.

archerinbenin07Or when you have one put around your neck. PS note that my skirt has two pockets. My shirt has two pockets as well. Which means I had four pockets to throw stuff into that day – I loved it!

archerinbenin08Eventually you calm down a bit.

archerinbenin09Until the next part: entering the actual temple where the pythons live. A giant gulp of water helps.

archerinbenin10Inside, it’s just as you expect… snakes, snakes, snakes, and more snakes.

archerinbenin11They’re above you, to the right of you, behind you, in front of you, to the left of you… having a nice afternoon nap.

archerinbenin12There are even baby pythons that fit perfectly in the pocket. Practical, right? I’m pretty sure the pattern designer wasn’t thinking of snakes when she made this pattern… but along with loose change and cell phones, baby snakes are perfect to put in the archer pocket.

francesgoat02Afterwards we visited a museum/former fort and stumbled upon some cuteness: mama goat with baby goat taking a nap on a bench.

francesgoat01I wanted to photograph Frances next to such cuteness, but baby goat jumped off. However, mama goat slept through this drama. This is one of the small things I love about Benin, how the line between city and country is blurred – when’s the last time you sat down next to a goat in a major American city?

archerinbenin13After that we went to visit my mobility impaired kids where I teach once a week. They’ve got cerebral palsy and MD, but that doesn’t stop them at all from enjoying art and music classes. Frances was my co-teacher of the day.

archerinbenin14I have a sad tale, but this isn’t the moment to talk about it. Just look at how happy these kids are to have made some origami fortune tellers!

archerinbenin15After we finished our art lesson, we headed to Grand Popo. This is essentially a beach town tourist trap… there’s not much to do but see the ocean.

archerinbenin16I was still wearing the Archer, but there are no photos of Frances or me at Grand Popo because we were sick. Uhmmm I am a bad friend to visit because I like to eat street food and unless you are good at saying no you’ll end up eating with me. I don’t know if it was the porridge and fried doughnuts we had for breakfast, the snack of spicy peanut butter balls, the plastic bag water, or the lukewarm vegetable sauce with rice for lunch that we ate that day that did it…. but we were not well. Frances had it worse than I did. Sorry!

archerinbenin17We didn’t stay here long – just a night, and then off in a taxi to our next stop.

archerinbenin18Possotomé! (Sounds familiar? This is where I modeled a 1966 Jiffy dress) All we did was sleep and read magazines at this quiet lakeside hotel to recover from our stomach illnesses. Still wearing the Archer.

Back CameraOnce the worst part of the illness had passed, we took a little boat ride.

archerinbenin20I’d be a terrible host if I didn’t make Frances get in a boat at least once. One can’t travel to Benin and miss out on the fisherman, stilt villages, and fish breeding traps that line the lakes here.

Back CameraProof the Archer was in a boat. With my trusty scalloped hat, of course. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I made the Archer with short sleeves simply because I didn’t have enough fabric. I’ll learn about cuffs for my next Archer, promise.

archerinbenin22Then we took a relaxing/terrifying moto ride back to the nearest taxi station to head back to Ouidah. Relaxing for me, but terrifying for Frances. Sorry!

Pattern: Grainline Archer
Fabric: Woodin Gray contrast
Outfit photos: Frances S.

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