Friday, 20 December 2013

Fab-you-lize: Kanga Nostalgia Blues

Kanga (kah-ng-ah)
A kanga is a brightly printed rectangle of pure cotton cloth with a boarder around it that has bold and elaborate designs. They originated along the east African coast in about the 19th century by swag savvy womyn who would buy different printed kerchiefs and sew them together to get individual designs. By the early 20th century swahili sayings began to be added to kangas. The ever elusive 'they' speculate that this was started by a famous trader in Mombasa, Kenya who would often print proverbs on kangas, others may tell you that this originated in Zanzibar (off the coast of Tanzania) where aphorisms were first printed on kangas in Arabic and later in the roman alphabet. The different kanga prints and sayings have come to reflect social meanings, changes and political events. A fanciful and creative way of advertising and expression! The great thing about them is they are also multi-purpose! I bought this charming book while visiting in Tanzania called Kangas: 101 Uses. The title is pretty self explanatory, it shows you how to tie a kanga into a head-wrap, skirt, different style dresses, bikini top, bathing suit, underwear, how to use it as a towel, baby carrier, scarf, shawl, rug, hang it on your get my point. But one thing it doesn't cover is how to sew kangas!

Example: Kanga Head Wrap!
Tusker Bottle Cap Earings!
Example: Kanga Tube Top!
I was strolling around my favorite undisclosed location and came across a store filled with kangas! I have never seen them for sale here in Canada so I got excited, plus they were only $5.99 each! I instantly fell into deep nostalgia, day dreaming of east Africa caressing the kangas with with a huge smile on my face. Right there and then I decided that I needed this little slice of my paradise to feel a little more at home. I bought four double kangas with a spontaneous project in mind. I have been looking for a fly duvet cover for a while, but I never find anything exceptional or tantalizing. I'm sure impatience drives my creativity, cause I can't wait around for someone else to please me, ain't nobody got time for that! So I decided to fab-you-lize and make it myself! In order to get this project popping here is what you will need;

1. Measure your duvet/bed cover (length & width)
MEASURE TWICE CUT ONCE! That is the number one rule. I made my duvet cover for a queen sized bed so the measurements were roughly 76"x 98" I had to use a hand tool tape measure cause the sewing measuring tape was far too short. You will use these measurements to cut your fabric.
Measuring Tape
2. Iron all of your kangas
If you are going to sew, you need to know how to iron! If you don't, you gon learn from this video. This step is critical! Because you will be cutting the fabric you need to make sure that all the wrinkles are gone so the final product doesn't turn out oblong. I like to use starch when ironing kangas because they are pure cotton it helps to keep it from wrinkling longer. 

Iron & Speed Starch
3. Cut your kangas to the required measurements 
I bought four different kangas because my bed is queen sized, so I had to sew all the pieces together. Depending on the size of your bed you might use less.
- Lay the first two kangas over top of your blanket/duvet and make sure that the black lines are matched up evenly. (This is the way you will sew them together & make sure it is the right length and width that you measured!) 
- Cut little notches where you want to make my final cuts. 
- Cut across each piece...with scissors.
By the way: having sharp fabric scissors will make your cuts a lot less jagged.

How to match the lines 
4. Pin & sew your project together, piece by piece
Make sure that you are pinning it with the inside out! That way all of the sewing you do wont be seen. I pinned from the black lines first. They act as a reference point to insure your project doesn't turn out lopsided.
- Pin two kangas together lengthwise & sew 
- Repeat for the remaining two
- You should end up with two huge kangas sewn together at their longest sides
- Match up the black lines again and pin the two huge kangas together lengthwise & sew
- Repeat for the other side
- Pin & sew the top (width wise) side of the kanga together
- You should now have 3 sides sewn together
- For the final side, from each end sew in 1/3 of the way leaving a gap in the middle (this is where you will insert your duvet from)
By the way: When sewing, sewing needles will save you from a mess of confusion and will help your project move a long faster. They help to secure pieces of fabric together, they help you to imagine how your project will look before you actually sew it. I like use them as markers of where I need to sew and to use them to make sure I sew in a straight line.

Sewing Pins

Kanga Throw Pillow & Reversible Duvet Cover!
My bestie gave me some trim she didn't want and I wasn't sure what to do with it, but you know how we crafts hoars do and I took it anyway. Look at me now! I used the scrap pieces from the kangas to make this really cute throw pillow! 

My kanga bed!

This took me quite a while, and a few funk ups to make, so take a break walk away but make sure to come back to it! This is probably one of the most exciting projects I have done yet, I am so pleased with the way it turned out! It makes me so happy I even feel more inclined to make my bed in the morning! Now there are 2 more uses for kangas! The colours are so bright and warm I see no better way to beat the nostalgia and winter blues than to cuddle up to a little piece of east African paradise by fab-you-lizing.

Update 2014: I made a basic 40" x 40" pillow that is great for lying in bed and reading...or doing anything else! It is filled with a 20" x 20" foam square enveloped with cotton stuffing.

Smiles :)
Tuly Maimouna

Any questions, something not clear? Just ask!

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