The Colette Beignet climbs a ladder in Benin. You work with what you have here… and why ever would you spend money on a “real” ladder when you can make one yourself? I don’t want to know the statistics on construction related injuries and death, but I can only imagine it is high when the standards are so different from the USA’s. Ok, back to the Beignet skirt!
I lied. Story time first. Scroll to the end for the Colette Beignet photo shoot, right now the focus is another type of beignet: ata. There are many fried street food snacks to be eaten here, and they all have their individual names in fon. However they all get called the same thing in french: beignet. So if you come to Benin and ask to eat some beignet, don’t be surprised if you end up with something completely different than what I’m about to show you, which is called ata in Fon. As you can see from the photo, ata is a bean based snack. Step 1 is washing your beans.
SIGH. Welcome to my life. Trust me, live here long enough and you stop caring when there are small bugs in your flour, beans, and pasta… once cooked you can’t even see them or taste them anymore. Plus you get lots of extra nutrients. In any case the UN has just released a report that we should all start eating insects by 2050 because of overpopulation and food shortages. So I’m just getting a head start now since it seems rather inevitable.
Step 2 is to peel all the garlic. It actually isn’t a lot because garlic here is tiny. I would say the cloves are good 2-3 times smaller than garlic from the states. In fact all the foods and fruits here are tiny compared to what we are used to in America. For example, the largest tomatoes I have seen are about a big as a golf ball. (Of course in Cotonou they have produce from Morocco and Europe flown in at expensive prices and you can find stuff at “normal” sizes)
Step 3 is to add a bunch of pepper to the garlic. Make sure to keep the garlic and pepper mix separate from the beans. We aren’t going to mix them up just yet. Step 4 NOT PICTURED is to slice up some onions and set them aside in a different bowl, you won’t be needing it for a while.
What you want is the grinder next to it. Manned by an eight year old girl. Uhm at eight years old my parents would never let me near a machine that had the potential to pulverize my fingers. But in Benin, child labor is alive and well… The first thing she does is grind the garlic and pepper together.
And if you’re a crazy American, set aside a bit of the mix and add some herbes de provence because you’re curious. And suffer the wrath of the neighbor’s mom because she was horrified and enraged that you had the nerve to *change* a recipe even though it was only a small portion and you had purchased all the ingredients– here’s some advice, don’t ever try to modify a Beninese mama’s recipes, even when it’s a little portion – keep your experimentation with local cuisine behind closed doors. (Side note: my theory on why the Beninese are against any recipe modifications or experimentations is that 1) when they learn to cook as a child, they get beat if their food doesn’t taste “right” and 2) there can be no throwing out of food if an experiment goes bad – food costs $$ and you just do not throw it out, so to be safe they follow tried and true recipes so there is no risk of messing up 3) they haven’t eaten as many different foods as we have, because, well, expat food is expensive and a normal Beninese person can’t afford that. Also expat food is only found in the Capital. Again, these are just my hypothesis.)
For this beignet I decided I didn’t want to hand sew my buttonholes ala my Colette Ceylon. Soooooooooooo I just decided to learn how to make bound buttonholes, yay! My first advice is: do not use busy fabric to make samples and learn how to do them… dig out a solid color scrap, because crazy prints will just the learning process frustrating.
For my first sample I used the buttonhole guide written by Karen of Did You Make That?. While it is well written, it was too much information for a complete beginner like me. I needed something more simple and more straightforward while her guide was text heavy and very detailed. Which is a good thing, but it isn’t what I needed. I ended up being rather confused. I think it would have been much more helpful had I looked at her guide last instead of at the beginning. I think her guide is best for those who are trying to perfect their buttonholes rather than trying to make their very first buttonhole.
For my second sample I used the tutorial from Colette Patterns. Much easier. Also, the CP tutorial is image heavy and light on text. I am a visual learner, so my buttonholes made from this tutorial turned out much better.
I also used a tutorial from Gertie’s blog. So many different ways to make buttonholes!
Four yards of the blue print plus two yards of the gray contrast. The gray is what I made the Archer shirt out of and originally it was to go with this skirt (hence the gray bound buttonholes) but in the end the two didn’t look good together.
Try having an entire army! This is where Karen’s guide was helpful as the Colette and Gertie guides didn’t cover the army pen technique. Buttonholes done and basted shut! Please don’t judge how they aren’t perfectly aligned… it was my first time. Once it was finished, then it was time to start sewing the skirt and just pray that the buttonholes would match up fine at the end.
In the end it wasn’t the buttonholes that gave me problems… it was a printer low on ink that tripped me up. You see, where the size line labels are is exactly where the printer was running of the ink so when I cut out my pattern I forgot to cut out my size and accidentally cut some pieces six sizes too big Ooooooops!
I didn’t discover this later until it came time to attach it to my lining. I don’t know how or what, but I just did some pinching, some fudging, and then nobody could tell anything went wrong! From the outside at least.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaand done! But I want to know why not many sewing bloggers show off the inside of their Beignet. It’s just so pretty. I actually stare more at the inside than I do the outside – that’s how much I love it!
Here was my original Beignet + Archer sketch. It did not work out because the beignet is very high waisted and the contrast fabric for the Archer I used was too stiff, so all that happened when I wore the two together was major poofage at the top.
On Frances’ last day in Benin we stayed in a small guesthouse. With a wall. Which is why we could have a photo shoot outdoors, otherwise there’d be just too many stares. Check out the giant banana plants behind me – and emphasis on the word plants as they are not trees as people commonly think.
Climbing the ladder, with one foot on the ground because in the beginning I wasn’t sure if this homemade ladder could support me.I might be smiling but I’m still terrified. I’ve got my right hand braced against the wall (hidden) just in case something went wrong.
Big cities + rainy season + lots of standing water + lots of trash + crowdedness = mosquitos everywhere. Ugh!!!Yay Frances joined in!Once you’re done looking at my bound buttonholes that I am oh so proud of, then please look at Frances’ top.
You see, due to length I had to split this entry into two (too many side stories) which resulted in me also splitting the photo shoot. So that’s a wrap for the Colette Beignet and Beninese Beignet for the moment!