African fabrics are something I had never considered working with until recently. I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable appropriating elements of another culture just for aesthetic purposes. But then I spotted a fabric that screamed my name, so I did a bit of research into the history of what is often referred to as ‘Ankara’ fabric so that I felt I understood a bit about its history, and to ease my discomfort in using it as a fashion fabric.

For those of you who’re interested there is much more to be read on these sites: vlisco ,

Since that first piece of cloth caught my eye I’ve grown quite a stash of African Wax Print cottons (and a couple of polyester impostors that might be lucky if they get made into garden cushions).But this got me thinking, and I put together a list of patterns that would work well with Ankara, without going down the classic 1950’s full skirted silhouette whig quite frankly ain’t my style.

So here are my current faves…

Vogue 1498

This is a recent pattern so I haven’t tried it out yet, but I love the neckline and the sexy slim fitting skirt. I think the style of this pattern really lends itself to an Ankara print fabric, it would look great with either an invisible zip or a chunky contrast zip – depending on your style. This one is firmly on my ‘to make’ pile.


Vogue 8815

A great wardrobe basic if you’re a fan of a peplum. The darts at the shoulder allow a really good close fit across the back, and a centre back zip means…

You could also just use the bodice part of this top and get adventurous with your own skirt style.


Vogue 9091

A great pattern for cullottes with a fitted yoke and wide pleated legs. I love the idea of lengthening these and making them into palazzo pants.


Vogue 9189

Again a brand new pattern, so I haven’t had a chance to make these yet, but I love the simple cut a flat fronted (tummy-flattering) shape. I might be tempted to face the waist rather than adding a waistband, but these remind me so much of Betty Draper in early seasons of Madmen, that even though I wouldn’t normally be drawn to the high-waisted look, I think these are a winner. In all fairness the style might benefit from a fabric with a little stretch, but if they were lined to the knee these would look FABULOUS in an Ankara print!


McCalls 7330

To my eye this is the ultimate utilitarian jumpsuit. I want one. I’m imagining this in so many different fabrics, what about a cotton chambray with Ankara cuffs, placket and patch pockets? Or a notch-potch of different African prints. It is just slim-fitting enough to carry off an Ankara from head to toe, maybe with a little piping for definition…


Burda 7113

View B really appeals to me. I can just imagine this little top as a coverup for a simple dress, or even over jeans, with a scallop detailed hem. Here’s an example of a top that could be made by adapting this actual pattern.


Vogue 8577

Although (as previously mentioned) I’m not really big into full skirted styles, there is something special about this dress. Let’s face it, it’s the pockets! Having recently made this pattern, I’d like to make it again, maybe with contrast fabrics to highlight the panels and details in the pockets, waistband, yoke and facings.

If you are super shy of using such bold fabrics then this could be a good way of adding a little spice without going full-blast Ankara. Why not try just adding a print to the inside pocket pieces?


Grainline Studio Alder shirtdress

I’ve made this up twice recently, once in a viscose crepe, and then in a chambray. I think it would be fabulous made up in the straight version in an Ankara print. I love this pattern, although initially it’s a little daunting that there are lots of pieces for the front placket, this lends itself perfectly to using contrast fabrics to add extra little details into the dress. Or how about doing this?

Slicing the entire pattern diagonally and making half up in a classic shirting or chambray, and the other in a wild print. I’m really excited to try this!

il_570xN.1012376665_fh9f  IMG_8809

Simplicity 1099

This is a great value pattern with several tops and skirts all in the same envelope. I particularly like the loose shaped hem top, it would be great in an Ankara fabric, and could be made reversible which would give it added body/structure and make a really versatile piece for the capsule wardrobe. I’ve recently made myself tis skirt which is also really similar to the cut if the one in this pattern.

1099 IMG_9731

Then there’s little beauty which I couldn’t find a pattern similar to, but I’m totally in love with everything about this and I’ve even tracked down the same print in a different colour way.

It’s firmly on my list.


I hope you find my suggestions helpful, I just wish I had time to sew all of these ideas! Until then my stash grows larger and my plans bigger. Maybe next month….


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