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!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Found and Lost?: African Unity

I had intended on making and posting this on remembrance day in remembrance of the Kings African Rifle (KAR), but since the passing of Madiba Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela on December 5th 2013, this seemed fitting.

I feel conflicted. Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere, visionary and former president of the United Republic of Tanzania in his 1983 speech stated that he was 'tired of being told that Tanzania's present condition arises out of our own mistakes of policy, our own inefficiency and our own over-ambition - that Africa's present condition is the result of African incompetence, venality or general inferiority in capacity, and being told that the solution to our problems is an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), despite the severity of the terms which can be obtained, followed by the single minded pursuit of private investment"

I completely agree with his sentiment, it is far too easy to blame the existing conditions of African countries solely on despotismnepotism or political corruption. It is a surface level and simplistic analysis of issues that have deep historical roots. Yet still I remain conflicted. The evident regression of Tanzania in the past 15 years since Mwalimu Nyerere's passing I had to ask myself, how much responsibility does a democratically elected head of state hold when the trajectories established by former leaders are completely diminished? How have leaders gone from ambitious visionaries like former President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana who called for the African Peoples Congress Organization meeting in 1958 reflecting and promoting geographical unity (Nyerere, 1974). Leaders who believed in regional, national and intercontinental trade, founders of the East African Federation, leaders who believed in disaporic cooperation from the Pan-African Congress to the Organization of African Unity (OAU)? To ending up with leaders like Jacob Zuma the current president of South Africa, who recently raped a woman and justified it by saying she was wearing a short skirt. Or the Kenyan African National Union (KANU) the former Moi regime who in 1996 allocated over half of the public Karura forest located in  Nairobi for logging, to raise funds for his 1997 re-election (Njeru, 2010). Uprooting, displacing and destroying the livelihoods of thousands of people. In short what has happened to positive government leadership that people can believe in? So in the passing of Mzee Madiba Mandela, I felt worried. Has the passion and insight died along with the first African leaders of independent African nations? Have we lost the fundamental unity required for liberation? What has happened to the models of African liberation and African liberation movements our fathers and mothers of passed generations fought, suffered or died unflinchingly for? 

Like I said I feel conflicted, because the answers are not clear. Who is to blame? Or does it even matter? What I admired about Mandela, Nyerere and others was that their dialogue was not around who was to blame, but how we can move forward together. Investing in alternative models of political and economic development like the Arusha Declaration on Socialism and Self-Reliance or Rainbow NationIf anything I hope that action oriented dialogues will persist with African leaders, that there will be an emergence of those who do not talk but live what they believe. I see glimmers of hope. Like the recent establishment of the East African Community's (EAC) Monetary Union, where Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi hope to merge currencies over the next 10 years and create a central bank to wean countries off foreign aid, and promoting south-south cooperation. I see grassroots organizations mobilizing people around the foundations of liberation that have not been taken up by existing governments. Unity is being taken up in varying shapes and forms in different capacities, and so I am also hopeful.

I decided to make this flower to represent my confliction, worry and hope as well as to acknowledge those fallen, lost, found, uplifted or caught between the challenges and successes of liberation. Red for the blood that unites us, the blood spilled and lost. Green for the rich land. Black for the people who belong to the land, and yellow for the characteristic and ever persistent sun that gives life. To the people past and present who participate in Africa's liberation from colonialism, oppression and racism, and for so humbly cooperating in laying down the foundations, supporting and believing in human liberation this is for you. Furthermore, to the people who never got recognition, farewell memorials, statues erected in their honor, medals, government compensation or even a thank you for taking up arms or non-violence because they believed in the independence, autonomy, freedom, dignity and unity for Africa I pay my respects. 

Smiles :)
Tuly Maimouna

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

R&S: Small waist, Big booty, Thick thighs

Thick Thigh Problems
I just learned that there is this thing, that's become a thing. Leg gap? Whats that all about? My thighs rub together. In fact, in the summer it creates so much friction that I sweat. I have to make sure to put baby power between my thighs as a precautionary measure. HAHA! No joke...They rub together so much that when I wear pants they turn into a ripped up disaster!

When I was I young and naive I was all about Apple Bottom jeans. They hugged my body in all the right spots! They came at a serious cost to my wallet and ripped at the crotch anyway, but at least they fit. Now I am not even about that life anymore, buying grossly over priced clothing no longer makes sense in my mind or cents to my wallet. So when I started buying cheaper jeans not only did they rip in the crotch, but I had to start buying pants a size bigger because what fits my thighs and booty definitely can not fit my waist. Nothing fit right and I started to think 'Ughh if only my booty wasn't so phat and I lost a little more weight this would look really cute!' Instead of asking 'who were they making this for and who actually fits into this?' I started blaming my own body for something I had no hand in designing. It never crossed my mind that manufactures have a hand at deciding who can wear what and who should fit into what. Looking good started to feel like a luxury, available to me only when I could afford it.

But this is not something that I face everyday, and I would like to acknowledge that. Being able to go into a store and at least find something that fits at a reasonable price is a privilege I had never considered before. This is an issue that is not just particular to body shape, but anyone who's body doesn't fit a standardized norm. Whether it is someone who is fluffy, voluptuous, tall, short, differently shaped, has fewer or more limbs or whatever. We all deserve to look as fabulous as we choose to or choose not to. Choice being the key word here. It is interesting to me how isms have mutated. They have managed to weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life masking them selves as a standardized norm to the point where they are nearly invisible! Just because they no longer exist in their original form, does not at all suggest that they no longer exist! So what did I decide to do? Recycle and save of course! I am soooo over always throwing away my jeans cause the inner thigh ripped, or always having to wear a belt so my booty crack doesn't show then getting that awkward bunched up material at the front. Or looking dumpy and wearing clothes I don't want to wear simply cause I can't afford the ones I actually want. I think learning to sew is an excellent way to resisting the limited bullshit presented to us as consumers, it is also a simple way of challenging industry norms that exclude certain people from wearing certain clothes.


How to take in jeans at the waist, really helped me in figuring out how to make darts. It is super easy and you can take in as much or as little as you want when trying to get perfectly hip hugging pants! 
Pulling in the Waist of Pants
Making A Dart

I decided to use scrap fabric and sew two patches on the inside of my jeans to cover up the hole created by my rubbing thighs. I like the rips, they tell a reoccurring life story (the first picture at the very top shows how they look flipped right-side out).
Ripped Crotch 'Band-Aid'

Sure clothing designers can make looking good inaccessible for a number of reasons, but that doesn't mean that we can't and shouldn't look good. Why should we rely on them anyway? And why should we try to change our bodies to fit an industry standard? So let your jelly roll, thighs rub, clap your three hands, strut your long ass legs, move your body how ever you can! As people who live outside the box, lets keep up the creativity, keep surviving, and keep resisting all while looking absolutely fabulous doing so!

To quote Jason a character from one of my favorite shows Home Movies 'Am I regular? Because my pants say irregular...

Smiles :)
Tuly Maimouna