Adventures in African style

OK, so I’m about to show you a fairly miraculous transformation in this post, but first things first, meet my latest catsitting client.

catsitting burmese DIY

How cute is she, despite looking a bit disgruntled in this shot? I’m looking after her at her house while her mum has a holiday. (Pop on over to my Instagram for more kitty snaps. You know you want to.)

Now that that important matter is out of the way, let me show you what I found at the Salvos a few weeks ago (excuse my “strictly at-home outfit” look in the “before” pics, which coincidentally were taken during a previous round of catsitting for another client!).

I didn’t go looking for this but it is orange and heavily beaded and covered with jangly things. So of course it managed to find me (I was about to leave the opshop empty-handed when I happened to look over in the men’s shirt section and – oooh shiny! sparkly! – couldn’t just leave it there.) Take a look at the crazy beading!

African beading shirt

It was the colour and the beadwork that drew me to it, but I was not at all keen on the check fabric trims and it was too big for me to wear as a shirt. Plus, collared shirts just don’t look right on me. The collar definitely had to go!

If I had known when I bought it how much hassle it would be to remake it, would I still have bought it? Well, given how pleased I am with how it turned out, yes, yes I would have.

orange beads jacketSo what was hassly about it? Where do I start!? The unpicking of the check fabric wasn’t too bad, and nor was the cutting off of the cuffs. It was when I got to making the armholes and sleeves more fitted that my problems started, because I kept running into beaded sections and couldn’t cut through them or sew over them. Darts were a challenge because it was hard to find enough plain uncovered fabric to take in without running into beads and jangly doodads (yes, that is the technical term). Nevertheless, I managed to tailor things to look a bit more my size!

opshop African shirt My next stumbling block was refitting the back as I’d taken either end of the back yoke section off to make it narrower across the shoulders. I had to put pleats in the back body section and refit it into the back yoke.

African beaded shirt DIYI wanted to be able to wear what was actually a men’s shirt as a lightweight jacket or tunic, so I made the front hem straight rather than leaving it rounded and shirt-like. Turns out this makes for quite a flattering silhouette when viewed from the side! Well, when I wear it belted like this, anyway.

orange embroidered shirt

The fabric is polyester blend, which has made it difficult to iron out bad warping down the front edges which I think was caused by all the beading, which seems to have been done by hand (when I ironed one of the cuffs, I melted the edge of it. Oops! Luckily it’s not that visible). I think I’ve managed to conceal the warping by putting in some interfacing and folding the edges in to make them a bit stronger. What else… oh yes, I added fringing around the neckline after edging it in bias binding.fringing Africa beads

One of the biggest challenges about this jacket-y garment is how to style it, because it still doesn’t hang so well just by itself. It has no fastenings (yet. I’m still thinking whether I want to add any) but doesn’t swing flatteringly as it was cut to be a shirt, not a swingy A-line-y type thing. So for the moment I will be wearing it with one front edge crossed over the other and with a belt around the middle to hold it in place.

Another challenge will be entering a room unobtrusively while wearing it as it is so noisy due to the jangly doodads. And it’s not exactly a subtle colour either! But if it were, it wouldn’t have found me, would it?

I’d love to know more about this shirt – I feel it must have been donated by someone with African connections as the beading is surely from that region, as is the original aesthetic. That’s part of the fun of opshopping – thinking about your latest purchase’s original owner. If he’s out there reading this, I hope he likes what I’ve done with his shirt!