Happy Independence Day, Nigeria

Today is Nigerian Independence Day – 58 years of independence from the English crown.makingtheflame-body-positive-sewing-nigeria-independence-day-shrugEvery year this day comes and goes and I never commemorate it, but I think about it. This year I started thinking about it over the summer, quite accidentally, when I asked my father what there was before Nigeria. In other words, what was there before UK forces came and carved up the land for their own personal use? My dad surmised it was just the tribes, and that there was no Nigeria.  It got me thinking.

I wrote a post about representation for the Sewcialist blog back in June (side note: they’ve got lots of great identity content and themed sewing posts – check it out). That was terrifying, cathartic, and the comments were thoughtful. But I’m not just my appearance – nobody is. :) We’re all multi-faceted, multi-identity beings, and while this fact can fuel personal insecurity and interpersonal conflict, it can also foster strength, comfort, and connection with others.makingtheflame-body-positive-sewing-nigeria-independence-day-shrug-11For me, being Nigerian has always been a point of pride and a comfort. Maybe I wasn’t a sweet, meek, quiet little girl, maybe I wasn’t pretty, maybe I had three left feet and no attention span, but I was still Nigerian and that was cool and special. Years after shedding (most of) those insecurities, the idea that Nigeria itself was a made up concept was kind of nervewracking. So I thought about it.

Since this is a sewing blog and not (technically) a personal essay blog, I won’t go in depth into my thoughts – unless you ask me to – but I did decide that I wanted to connect with my roots and my culture in personally authentic ways. Nowadays, people of all stripes are wearing ‘African print fabrics’, both in the sewing world and the ready to wear world, so simply grabbing some 6 yard cuts and making something cool out of ankara didn’t feel authentic. I also decided that while Nigeria is a fairly new and made up thing, it does give me a flag and colors I can wear when I want to express that part of my identity. And since I NEVER wear green, it would be particularly special for me to change that habit.

makingtheflame-body-positive-sewing-nigeria-independence-day-shrug-ddWhen this 1.5 yard piece of bark cloth popped up on the discount rack, I snapped it up knowing it would become a garment for Nigerian Independence Day. But what?

makingtheflame-body-positive-sewing-nigeria-independence-day-shrug-07-smallSince moving back in June, I’ve been exploring no pattern sewing. I made a dress for someone sans pattern that turned out quite cute, and some successful project bags for my knitting. A no pattern shrug for Nigerian Independence Day made of green and white bark cloth was the natural continuation of this trend.

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It was quite easy; I folded the fabric lengthwise by bringing the selvages together, and then trimmed the crossgrain edges straight. They were going to be the sleeve openings, so I hemmed them by doing a 1/4″ double fold finish. Then I stitched along the selvage to create the shoulder seams, which ended up being 9.5″ inches long. The space between shoulder seams was 33″ long. I’d sewn the shoulders with a 1″-1.25″ wide seam allowance, which I encased in purchased bias binding and topstitched down with a decorative stitch. I picked a stitch that looked like a heartbeat, to reflect my affection for my heritage. :) I then got a small piece of speckled sweater knit and made it into a narrow shawl collar as a finishing touch! I folded the knit across the grain, then along the grain, and freehanded the curve of a shawl collar with the wide part at the on-grain fold. I then serged the raw edges to the seam allowance and finished the rest of the seam allowance with the bias tape and top stitching. Et voila!

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The garment is done, but there’s a part two to this project that I’m hoping to execute during the month, as a way to deepen my connection to my roots in a personally meaningful way, which for me means crafting and writing. For now, though, I hope you enjoyed this bit of green and verrrrrrry quick no-pattern-sewing tutorial!

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4 Comments

    1. Hi Jill! Thanks for the kind words. :) My in-depth thoughts considered whether I lean on this (and other) identity as a crutch, since it is easier to claim this and cling to that, than stand up on my own two feet and be myself – warts and all. I started out life as a people-pleaser, putting others – and what they might think, or might like – well before myself. I still have to be mindful to not do this, even after all these years. I wondered if relying on identities that others might like more than the real me might be a form of people pleasing. In the end, I decided that as long as I am expressing my identities in a way that is personally significant, and as long as I stay true to the advice ‘to thine own self be true’, then I can do whatever I want! Like make a Nigeria-inspired shrug and blog about it.

      On a side note, ‘to thine own self be true’ is from Shakespeare (of course). I just read the whole passage it comes from and discovered it’s also the source of the saying ‘clothes make the man’ – which is very sewing related! Hah!

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