Saturday’s Patternmaking Lesson

I went to Boma Siara to teach the girls how to do a rub off. This is a popular trick used by every major designer I’ve worked for, because there’s always some amazing garment one might want to have a pattern of. Because said garment is often rented from a vintage purveyor, or bought from a store to be returned shortly, it’s best to be able to copy it without taking it apart. This is called a rub-off because you literally rub wax chalk or pencil on muslin laid over the garment, to transfer its seams to the muslin. The muslin is then used to make a pattern. I figured this would be a great lesson for the girls, as they could copy any client’s favorite garment, which is much faster and easier than making a pattern from measurements. The students were overjoyed to see the process, and I was overjoyed to be showing them a marketable skill. Especially when one pointed out that they could use it to copy a popular used garment, as pretty much all the non-African style clothing sold here is used, and there’s a really interesting documentary about that whole process, called “Travels of a T-Shirt” or something. Anyway, I copied a lovely leather jacket I’d gotten from a Rozae Nichols sample sale, and cut it in a Tanzanian Kitenga fabric printed with Giraffes and Zebras. I’ll know later this week if the girls remembered the lesson well, as they did not have time to practice the method themselves. Lucky for me, the sewing teacher was also there, and she sewed up the jacket, since I have never used a foot-powered sewing machine and didn’t want to try just yet. I find it very amusing that here I am surrounded by Husqvarna (non-electric, at that!) sewing machines, and back home I have a Husqvarna motorcycle!

So I was telling Mama Siara that I chose the giraffe/zebra print because my favorite animal is the zebra, and my Tanzanian boyfriend’s favorite animal is the giraffe. She asked me what tribe he was from, and I told her I didn’t know, but that he’s from Karatu. She said “I’m from Karatu! That’s my tribe! Wow, this is really something special!” Mama Siara and I both think I have some sense of kinship with the Karatus, anyway, it’s a very interesting coincidence. Mama Siara is really impressive, she uses a significant part of her salary as Headmistress at Help to Self-Help to build the Faraja Vocational Training Centre, which is at her home. It started out in a small room in her house, and she has since expanded into two large, airy classrooms in her yard, one of which we held class in. She is working on getting the school registered, and desperately needs volunteers to come and teach, as she’s providing the education free to the students. Many of these girls are orphans, and at high risk for living as street children, and she told me it was very hard to get through to them at first, as many of them had been abused as well. They were all so happy, it’s hard to imagine. At lunch we played some game like “monkey in the middle” where we throw a ball to each other and the person in the middle tries to catch it, and the grandkids wanted to play too. I fell in love with the littlest one, Amani, because he likes to wear his flip-flops on the wrong feet.


All the kids here are adorable, so loving and happy to see a Mzungu they can practice their English with. At the end of the day, her students always sing a few songs, then pray. They had this heartbreaking song about being AIDS orphans, but they sang so brightly it was hard to cry over it. Then they said a prayer, and Mama Siara asked me to say my favorite English prayer, so I said the Serenity prayer, in the plural, and she translated it. I offered to pay the girl’s bus fare, as many of them lived far away, and we let two Dala-Dala’s go by because they were both full. So then we started walking toward town, to at least get a start, and the 3rd Dala-Dala was also full. At a narrow bridge we paused to let the cars pass, and one was a pick-up truck, with only one guy in back, so as he passed I jokingly put my hand up and said “Taxi!” We were happily surprised when he actually stopped to let us all pile in the back! So we got a ride halfway to town before he had to turn, and he let us off. He was so nice, he wouldn’t even let me give him some money. So I went up the road toward my place, and gave the students money for the rest of the trip home. Dala-Dala’s cost 200 TShillings for adults, 100 for students, so the equivalent of 80 cents was enough to get all 8 of them home and then some.



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