Dashiki Time

by Bill, fabric, sewing

Two hot summer days ago, UPS delivered bolts of our new Barbados fabrics. Wanting to make something right away, I thought of the cool comfort of dashikis I learned to love when I lived in Kenya years ago.

Weeks and I combed the internet for a good pattern and she found an affordable ($5.99) and downloadable pattern — Burda “Men’s Linen Shirt #138.” Though the pattern calls for a fabric that is the same on both sides (which is to say not a print), with a little adaptation I hoped I could make it work.


This was my first time using a downloadable Burda pattern. Though it has only four pattern pieces, it required 26 sheets of paper and a fair amount of tape.


The material requirements called for 59″-wide linen. I calculated that I’d need 2 1/2 yards of 42″-wide fabric which I prewashed as I taped together the printouts.


I’m a sucker for blue and thought the scale of our “Breeze” fabric would have the cool summery feel I wanted. Unlike any patterns I’ve purchased in stores, this one did not include seam allowances. I used a flexible drafting curve to extend the pattern and create the seam allowances. I don’t know if this is common in downloadable patterns, but I found it a bit annoying (though easy enough to deal with). In fairness the pattern did say it didn’t include the seam allowances.


Though it adds work, I prefer to sew french seams when I make shirts. If you’ve never sewn french seams, they’re counter intuitive. It’s a two-step process. First you sew your pieces wrong sides together:


Next you trim close to the seam, press the right sides together and sew another seam to encase the raw edges. It creates a smooth, finished seam with no raw edges to fray and no need to overlock:


The front comprises two sides which each fold inward to create a front facing. They are joined with a center seam. Given the graphic wave motif, it required careful planning and alignment of the pattern before cutting the fabric to ensure alignment of the repeats. The reason most dashikis have a center seam is that it allows you to have nicely finished neck and hem slits. It also lets you mirror large scale motifs if desired.


Earlier I mentioned having to make a small adaptation since I was using a print and not a solid linen. The change had to do with how the back neck facing and inner front facings were attached at the shoulders. If you decide to make this pattern, it’s not hard to figure out, just know that it’s indeed possible.

After wearing my dashiki all day in the summer heat and being so comfortable, I know I’ll soon make another. So what would I do differently next time? Add an inch to the sleeve length! I’ll probably wear the shirt with the sleeves rolled up most of the time, but when I unroll them they’re just a tad short.

Overall I’m happy with the pattern. The dashiki has room for movement without being boxy. The biggest question is which fabric do I use next? I’m leaning toward the red and gray Lanai print but am fond of the tan and taupe Resort print as well.

Any thoughts?



Coming in July 2015 – Barbados!

design, fabric

Just in time for summer! Modern Quilt Studio’s new fabric line Barbados is perfect for a summer skirt, a casual summer shirt for your favorite man or a lightweight quilt for cool summer evenings. Get ready, get set, MAKE! When our yardage arrives it will be in our web store but ask your local quilt shop if they will be carrying it so you can find as much as you need locally.

Here’s the link to the free pattern we’re currently making.

Get it in Writing

design, fabric

We’re sharing a blog post here written by Abby Glassenberg at While She Naps on the prevalence in the quilt fabric world of designers working without written contracts, which is something we would never advise anyone to do.

Our experience has been that not all companies do stand by their word and a written contract is a designer’s only protection in knowing who owns her work, when her fabric will be printed how and when she will be paid and the terms of how the designer and fabric company can part ways. Things happen. Companies merge, design directors come and go, people retire, people get sick. A contract is a record of the agreement that provides continuity through the inevitable changes that happen in the business world.

It is the hallmark of professionalism and wise management to be offered a contract without having to ask for it and to be given one promptly when requested. Asking for a written contract is not a sign that there’s a lack of trust. It’s to remind both parties of what they’ve agreed to. In fact it’s a sign of respect. I’ll add here that Andover Fabrics, for whom we design, has been outstanding to work with and in the way in which our contract has been handled.

We’re hoping that Abby’s post will embolden fabric designers to ask for contracts to clarify who owns their work, the terms of their compensation and the terms on which the designer and fabric company can part ways. A good contract is nothing more than a written agreement of what has been discussed verbally or through emails. There’s no rational argument for that not being beneficial to both parties.