Thursday, 5 July 2018

Shweshwe outfit for Lindiwe

A few weeks after the Sasha Celebration Weekend I was asked if I would make a shweshwe outfit similar to the one I had donated to the raffle, as a special commission for a doll who was having a complete makeover.  The doll was an early dark skinned Caleb who had suffered an unfortunate haircut so was being completely re-rooted as a girl and eyes repainted.

The re-rooting was done by Pam and the long black hair braided in 204 tiny plaits (3 plugs of hair to each plait) by Janet, who also repainted the doll's eyes.

I sent Janet some photos of all my shweshwe fabric pieces in various colour combinations with plain fabrics.  Laying out and playing with my various fat quarters of the different colours and patterns was fun.  I had a strong feeling that Janet would choose the combination she did, which was 2 shweshwe patterns (green/yellow/black swirls and brown with yellow/orange spot patterns) and 3 plain fabrics (mid green, brown and yellow).  All the previous versions of the dress I've sewn have only had 2 plain colours not 3. We discussed what I would do with this combination and as a result, the skirt of the sundress was lengthened to encompass plain bands of colours between the 2 different patterns.

Once I had nearly finished the outfit and was making the tassels, I thought about making a pair of sandals on the chance that I would manage to make my first pair of shoes for a Sasha doll, and secondly that Janet might like them.  I adapted the sandals pattern in the Sasha Dolls Clothing book as I was making the shoes in fabric not leather and wanted to use a different type of fastening - braided cords rather than straps and loop buckles.  These were inspired partly by my younger daughter making friendship bracelets from wool for a forthcoming Girl Guiding trip.  I wanted to use the colours of the tassels on the brettels of the sundress in the braids.  I wove the sandal braids using a kumihimo loom made of corrugated cardboard.

The kumihimo braiding nearly completed, using 2 different greens, 2 different yellows and brown (7 threads altogether)
The front strap of the sandals was stitched to a piece of felt, followed by the heal strap (which was doubled over fabric to make a loop for threading the braided ankle strap).  The front braids were stitched to the front strap of fabric and the underside of the felt.  Then I glued together two pieces of thick stiff leather for each sole which I had cut out before gluing.  While they were drying, I glued the fabric shoe inner onto the felt to hide the stitching and give the inside of the sandals some pattern.  Then I glued the soles onto the underside of the felt and fabric straps.  Once they were completely dry, I ironed the heal straps forwards so they would stand upright.  The braided ties were threaded through the loop of heal fabric and tied in a bow. I stamped the bottoms of the soles 'DollMum' with letter punches.

Completed shweshwe fabric sandals with kumihimo braids and leather soles

The leather soles before I name stamped them

The sandals and underpants

The sandals with their soles name stamped

Fortunately Janet liked the sandals so they were added to the commission and posted with the outfit after Florence modelled it for her alongside Melanie wearing the original shweshwe sundress I had sewn a few months ago when I made the Studio size version of the dress for Dorisanne's Emmalee Rose.

Florence and Melanie in the shweshwe sundresses, Florence wearing Janet's special commission

The hat is double sided, with different fabrics on each side

Back view of the dress, hat and sandals

Hat, underpants and sandals

The complete outfit with the matching sandals, front view of the dress


The complete outfit with the matching sandals, back view of the dress, with the other side of the hat

The following are Janet's photos of Lindiwe, with her wonderful braids and eye painting, wearing her new shweshwe outfit.

side view of Lindiwe wearing her new dress and sandals

Lindiwe in her new dress, sandals and hat

Showing off her sandals

Lindiwe holding her hat
A late 1940s sundress pattern which was originally created in blue gingham with yellow trim for a Swiss designed Sasha Studio doll has proved remarkably versatile - it works well with African print fabrics in combination with plain fabrics. It also looks good with more subtle colours and patterns and in Christmas colours and prints. Below is a line up of all the versions I've made so far.

Melanie wearing the 16" doll sized outfit and her shoes from Dorisanne alongside the 20" doll sized outfit for Emmalee Rose. 

The day before the SCW my Florence modelled the Raffle outfit I made while Melanie wore the dress I had previously made to match the 20" Studio doll outfit for Emmalee Rose

At the 2018 SCW: Melanie in her shweshwe outfit, Laura's studio doll Sela in her sundress and hat I'd made as a prototype, Laura's Jackie in her new raffle outfit and baby Nina playing with her abacus

Louisa, my toddler, wearing her version of the dress for Christmas
Florence wearing the dress for Janet's doll, with Melanie in her own dress. The same plain green fabric was used in both dresses.
As a bonus of this commission I've made my first pair of sandals for a Sasha doll (the most time consuming part was making the braids).  I have other ideas of how to fasten the ankle strap, making it shorter than using a bow to tie it.  Janet fastened the bow around the back of the ankle which looks neat, I had fastened it at the front when Florence modelled the outfit. So maybe when I can find the time for some more shoe making I'll experiment with my ideas and see what happens.

5 comments:

jamamy said...

Thank you Anna for this wonderful Lindiwe blog post! I have really enjoyed reading about how the outfit came into being and seeing all the adaptions you have made to make each dress special for it's recipient. The sandals are really wonderful, I love the detail of them, the different fabrics, lovely braided ties and stamped leather soles. I am glad you were inspired to make them as I'm sure you will now make many more pairs. I love that Lindiwe was a collaboration of three good Sasha friends, it makes her especially dear to me now.

Laura said...

We will all be the special Shwe Shwe girls - a unique group of 4 !

Triciamj said...

These dresses are amazing, such beautiful fabrics, and I love the shoes

Dee said...


Great post ,
interesting how you adapted the pattern to suit.

I love the shoes too.

Ginger said...

A great post DollMum. I love the outfit and the bright colors of the fabrics but I especially love the sandals which are just perfect with the outfit. Janet’s doll looks wonderful in her new outfit as do the other dolls. Well done! ❤️ xxx