“You Know Your Style Faster When You Pattern Draft” and other tips from a Nigerian sewist

How to find Chioma (Chi9ja)






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Speaker 1: (00:04)

Lisa: (00:14)
Hello Stitchers. Welcome to stitch please the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where black lives matter. I'm your host Lisa Woolfork, I'm a fourth generation sewing enthusiast with more than 20 years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax and get ready to get your stitch together.

Speaker 3: (00:40)
Music intro

Lisa: (00:49)
I'm delighted to welcome Chioma to the program today. She is a sewing and style blogger based in Nigeria. Chioma and I talked about her sewing background, current projects, future projects and her overall philosophy of sewing. Let's tune in to hear what Chioma has to say.

Chioma: (01:15)
Hello, Lisa, Chioma, Thank you so much. Oh, this sounds good. Does it sound good on your end? Yes. Yes it does. Oh, wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time. I know it's 9:00 PM there, so you've probably had a long day. Yes I did but It's no problem. It's my first podcast, I couldn't say no. I'm very excited. I am very excited. Thank you so much for agreeing to speak with us today. Um, I'm so glad. So Chioma, I was so excited that you agreed to speak with us because I really admire your work. I like what you're doing. I love how you, you have the YouTube videos, you do IG TV videos, you do live videos, you cover sewing techniques and so you do so much and it fits in so splendidly with what we believe in here at Black Women Stitch. Um, and I wanted to talk to you just about a few things about how you started sewing.

Chioma: (02:18)
Um, how your sewing 2019 challenge is going. I saw part of your video from your plans for 2019 and just a few things like that. So can we begin by talking about how you started sewing? Yes, yes we can. Um, first of all, my, I remember being little and my mom used to sew. She had an Elna sewing machine. And even, I mean then it wasn't, it didn't strike me as something I wanted to do. But as, I grew up, you know, my mother is fashionable. I think my grandmother is fashionable. I had that sense in me that I wanted to, you know, be fashionable the way they were or the problem was in Nigeria at the time, there weren't that many. I mean, there were tailors, but there weren't that many and they weren't that skilled. So I'd see, um, styles in fashion magazines and I'd go to a tailor and say make this for me and they didn't have the skill then to make it.

Chioma: (03:22)
So it just dawned on me that I'll have to stop making clothes myself. And, uh, actually that, that didn't even start until very very later on because there wasn't, you know how life happens and there wasn't time to learn until, uh, I moved back, um, to Enugu state, which is where I am now, to get a job. And I had free time with me. So I, you know, like you remember, I'm like, I remember I really want to learn how to sew this, you know, what can I do to fill my free time? So I decided to take that on, on that. It's been a wonderful experience. I haven't regretted it at all. hopefully it's foreword from here.

Lisa: (04:07)
Yes, I think so. I think you have such a powerful story, um, that your mother sewed and your grandmother sewed and that you, they were very fashionable and you wanted to be fashionable too. Um, and yet the tailors, the local folks who were good at sewing, um, some things weren't able to copy or emulate the stuff that you saw in the magazines that you wanted. So you said rather than not have it, you said, I will make it myself.

Chioma: (04:37)
Yes. Yes. And because I tried several tailors, you know, but they weren't , I mean, what tailors would do then its better now. What they will do then is they just, if they can't make what you want, it'll still take your fabric and your money and make whatever they feel is right for you. So it was,

Lisa: (04:56)
Oh my gosh,

Chioma: (04:58)
I'm telling you. It was like you would be thinking you're picking up one type of style and get there. Then they were like, "Oh no, this is better." You know, they're trying to sell it to you. "This is better, a young girl like you should be wearing this."

Chioma: (05:11)
Oh, it was, Oh my goodness. It was a complete nightmare. It was a complete nightmare.

Lisa: (05:18)
Oh my goodness. That's [inaudible] funny that they took the fabric. So it's not like you could even get the fabric back and make what you wanted.

Chioma: (05:25)
No No you had to take what the, what they made for you. and, yeah, I think, and I think that's where real sewists are, born, you know, because any other like so many of my other friends or people at the time would just take it but, you know, like if you have that sewing, well I say spirit or creative energy in you, you just, I, I just thought to myself, you know, I will do this. It can't be that hard. I mean, I now know. It's not that easy, which is another reason why if you see my sewing, I liked to, um, copy a lot of what I, see online and show people the process of how to make it.

Lisa: (06:09)

Chioma: (06:10)
I just thought, no, I just thought. I'll do it myself. I'll do, I'll figure out a way and I'll do it myself. Um, yeah, I did, I guess.


Lisa: (06:18)
I think you very much did. I'm looking back now, your videos from me made May. Um, can you tell us a little bit about your approach to me made, May? I remember you saying that it was your first time doing it and, um, that it was a particular challenge that you wanted to conquer and I think you did. I think you've made some really amazing things. Tell me about how me made May worked out for you this year as a first timer. Okay. First of all, my, I think my pledge was to wear at least, uh, uh, two me made garments in a week. And I chose that because it was my first time. I didn't, like if you see in my video, I put my review on made me May you know, like in your head you think you're making so much, but in reality you're not at all, you know?

Chioma: (07:09)
So I, I wanted to at least, uh, participate in the challenge so that I know where my sewing is at you know, because the goal for me is to have at least a 90% me made wardrobe. So I really wanted to figure out, you know, like can I wear two items like in a week and can I wear a complete set of outfits, a top and a skirt or a top and a pair of trousers. So that was really it for me with me made May, I really wanted to know where my sewing was at, where my sewing could go, you know. And also like in past years scrolling through the Instagram feed in May was like the highlights of the year for me cause you'd see, sewist from all over the world making wonderful things, you know, not just even Apparel sewing, even like, you know, quilting and home decor.

Chioma: (08:09)
And it was just, it was joyful. Like when I discovered me made May, I was like, whaat people like this exist. I mean this sewing. Community, work which I think like I have only like 500 plus subscribers, I'm like there are more, there are thousands more out there. Well, you know, I was so happy I wanted to be part of that.

Lisa: (08:33)
Yes. And you not only were you part of it, I think that you did a fantastic job. Oh, it's not just from someone, not just for someone doing it for the first time, but someone doing it at all. And so you were saying that your goal was to wear two me made pieces per week . what did you end up with at the end of the, at the end of the session was that , did you meet your goal?

Chioma: (09:00)
Yes, I did but.I found I was wearing, I was wearing more than two me made items a week. I was, there are some weeks where I'll change in the daytime, I'll go to work with the me made item, then come back, then go out with my friends and wear something else. So I liked that but, I think for next year. But my aim for next year is to wear complete outfits because I found, I would wear a me made top and a ready to wear bottom or Me made bottom on a ready to wear top. Which, which isn't bad. But like, like I said, the purpose of me made may was to show me where my sewing could go. And I think it did, you know, I think it did.

Lisa: (09:45)
I really agree. Um, I was thinking about, you have, I'm looking at this flat lay right now of a dress that you did. Um, I think it's day 12, and it's this beautiful red dress with this yellow, um, these yellow gores in like yellow gores in the skirts and there's a lovely picture of you standing with these beautiful black shoes and it's just so cute. And I see that you were inspired. I think this is a picture of Kerry Washington wearing a similar dress.

Chioma: (10:18)
Yeah Yes. Yeah, that's yet.

Lisa: (10:22)
It was so cute. And I love, I love the fabric. I even love the flat lay that you use to put the shoes right next to it. Tell me a bit more about that dress because that seems like a fulfillment of one of your goals was to take it to a tailor and say, this is what I've seen in a magazine and this is what I want to wear. And the tailor saying, no, I'm going to make you what I think you should have. And you say instead, no, no, I'm gonna make what I really want. So it looks like you really did that.

Chioma: (10:55)
Okay at this time. This is actually believing on this actually, my first dress that I made that I wore out.

Lisa: (11:04)
You're kidding.

Chioma: (11:05)
This was like, I'm, I'm not like, I see, cause it still fits to today and I know I don't believe that means I'm still the same weight as I was then. I doubt that very much. But yeah. Um, the guy that taught me how to Sew. He is late now, his name is Joe, uh, rest his soul. Um,

Lisa: (11:25)
Oh, rest his soul.

Chioma: (11:25)
Yeah. So I showed him the Kerry Washington, uh, uh, picture and I was like, uh, I have to make this dress. And he's like, huh, you have not even started. And you don't , you know in Nigeria, and you have not started sewing the little ones. You want to go into this advanced thing. I'm like, I'm like, it's for my friends wedding I have to go there and represent my sewing.

Lisa: (11:53)
I'm talking today with Chioma a sewing and style blogger and video maker in Nigeria. We'll talk more with Chioma and learn about how well she represented her sewing after the break.

Lisa: (12:10)
Stitch please. The black women's stitch podcast talks a lot about sewing, but if you'd like to see some of what we're discussing, we invite you to follow us on the socials on Facebook. You can find us at stitch please and on Instagram you can find us at black women's stitch on Instagram. You'll find a lot of great pictures and compelling social commentary. In addition, you can participate in a weekly live Instagram chat at 3:00 PM on Thursdays at Eastern standard time, so follow us on the socials, Facebook at Stitch please and Instagram at black women's stitch and get your stitch together. I'm happy to be joined today by Chioma a sewing and style blogger based in Nigeria. Let's learn more about how well she represented her sewing with this special event outfit. We'll also learn more about the relationship she sees between sewing and pattern drafting. Here we go,

Chioma: (13:16)
so he's like, okay, how do you know how to cut this out? I was like, I think I have an idea. Is that okay? Keep cutting if you run into any problems, tell me, you know, so I went to the markets uh, I bought, this was ankara fabric. The red one is ankara fabric . My, you know, like in Nigeria if you're doing a wedding and the everybody like your friends want to wear the same thing. So we buy like the same fabric and everything. So she uh, showed this fabric to us for her asoebi that's what we call it.

Lisa: (13:54)

Chioma: (13:55)
Then yeah, so I got the, this is actually the gold pot. is satin that I got and um, I got some Brown that's bias binding all through and that's Brown actually.

Lisa: (14:08)

Chioma: (14:09)
So yeah, just um, I cut into the fabric. It took me so much time because as a newbie sewist and my sewing machine at the time wasn't the best. I kept on taking out stitches, putting back stitches, taking out stitches, putting back stitches. I dropped it for like a week. I came back, well, I conquered then when I was done. I just thought, this just isn't, wow. enough I need to put some sparkles. So those things, that are sparkling on the dress are actually, I think they're called iron on glitter or something like that. That you just iron yes, yes. The iron them on to the dress um, I. was being so, I was being so fancy, so I just thought,

Lisa: (14:58)
Oh, I can see that. Oh,

Chioma: (14:59)
I am from the shoulder it would be like a star bursting effect.

Chioma: (15:06)
So there's a lot on the shoulder. Uh, is it distresses us goes down.

Lisa: (15:11)
Yes. Yes.

Chioma: (15:13)
Then in the middle of the, of the squares there, I thought I'd put just the big, big iron on ones there. Yeah, voila!

Lisa: (15:22)
. Yes. I mean, I cannot believe that this is the first dress you wore out.

Chioma: (15:29)
Um, I'm very serious. Yeah,

Lisa: (15:32)
and you just saw a picture and you've just made the dress. You know what's so funny about this, uh, Chioma is that my grandmother who is also, she is now late, she passed away at.

Chioma: (15:44)

Lisa: (15:45)
at the age of 100 104,

Chioma: (15:48)
after a long wonderful life.

Lisa: (15:50)
And yes, she had a very good, a long, wonderful life. But my mother and still remembers how when she was younger she would look at pictures in the newspaper of dresses and then she would just make a pattern and make the dress just by looking at it. I don't have that skill, but she has it. She had it. Then you have it. That's very, a lot of people do that. They don't need to buy patterns at the store. And that was something I wanted to ask about. I don't know very much at all about the Nigeria, um, sewing scene. Um, except what I've learned from you and a few other Nigerian sewists seamstresses and designers that I'm following on Instagram. So tell me, like for me, I go to the fabric store that pickup a pattern because I use patterns or I'll buy a pattern online. How do you, how, what is your process? You said you went to the market, you get the fabric and that the fabric for the wedding. I have, I do know about this tradition where sometimes at a wedding, a bride will send out for family members, this is what we're wearing. This fabric makes sure you all wear that, tell me about like if you're making something just for yourself for work or something, how do you, how do you shop for fabric? Is it, is there, it seems like there's so much fabric they, cause I see so many beautiful fashions. So what is the Nigerian fashion sewing scene like in terms of just acquiring materials? Do you use a lot of patterns normally or are you just someone who can create out of her mind?

Chioma: (17:22)
No, the thing is, uh, you know, like I, when I was in England I discovered, Oh, even when I came online I discovered that for most people, at least as far as I knew outside of Nigeria, sewing and pattern drafting are two different things but for us in Nigeria is the same thing. Because if you go to someone to teach you how to sew,

Lisa: (17:47)

Chioma: (17:48)
they teach you how to pattern draft.

Chioma: (17:51)
And for them, for us over here, the sewing is just putting it on the machine and sewing. For us, the real thing about sewing is pattern drafting, you know, so there isn't that distinction. Then secondly, we don't get a lot of before the advent of PDF patterns. We don't get to lots of patterns over here. So yeah, you're truly left with your imagination, you know, and if you have a good tailor that teaches you how to pattern draft that is at least very much back then, that's all you have. That's all you had. But now with the advent of maybe PDF patterns and people can travel out and maybe buy patterns for themselves, I think it's, um, people do that. But it's not, it's not the norm. You know, if it like, I know if I want to make a dress, I look at the style online or wherever I see, I decide what kind of fabrics will be better for it.

Chioma: (18:55)
Then I go to the market. We don't really have like a Joann in Nigeria. A Joann store in Nigeria where you go, you see Patterns, you see fabrics. Oh, nicely put. Mostly its just the markets. You go to the markets. You have a, a guy who, who, you know, has a good variety of fabric in his shop. You go there, you pick whatever fabric you can get. Because like I said, it's not like a Joann where they'll have the uh, uh, a maybe like a cotton section or you see different colors of the same type of cotton. No, he might just have one or two, three colors on. Yeah. If you're dead set on buying cotton fabric, thus than what's you're going to buy, you know, it's not, there it isn't that much variety. I wouldn't say like, there isn't that consistency of saying I am not sure if you go back there tomorrow.

Chioma: (19:55)
You will see that same fabric, because if it's a very nice fabric, so many people will have come there and bought up everything.

Lisa: (20:03)
Right, right. What I really like about what you're describing is that it's such an organic way to sew, and it is very different from how we learn in the States. I think it, I can't speak for everyone, but for myself, I was learning. It was like, it was like your teacher who was, I'm trying to get you to start small. Like you wanted to make a dress though. You made a dress. Oh, when I wanted. When I started sewing, I wanted to make a dress too, but I started with a tote bag and then a pillow case and all of these very simple things. And I think a lot of folks in the U S a lot of new sewers get kind of frustrated with the traditional method that says you have to start, you know, you have to learn to read a pattern and you get so dependent on patterns that we don't learn to draft in the way that you're describing.

Lisa: (20:56)
And I think the way that you're describing is so much better because you get to learn to make things to fit your body instead of learning how to take a standard pattern that was not designed to fit your body and then trying to change it and then getting frustrated and then maybe feeling badly that your body is not the size of a Popsicle stick. Um, and yeah, which is what the pattern might be designed for. And so your method is such an organic and holistic method of how to sew that they go hand in hand.

Chioma: (21:29)
Yes, you're right in that, in that respect, I do consider myself lucky because, um, well I say, luckier, is a better word because I feel that, you know, I can, it's just like you said, it's better if you can draft than when you see a pattern a sewing pattern, I think it would be easier to just, uh, adjust the pattern to fit yourself even though each, I think it will make you understand the sewing pattern better, I think,

Lisa: (22:00)
no, I think that's true because you understand what a sleeve is supposed to look like. You know what it means to fit over your body. You know, how the bodice is going to fit on your center back. Those kinds of things are skills that, that are, that are considered very advanced skills. At least in my experience here in the U S.

Chioma: (22:18)
and I like the way it is now. I like, I know the length of sleeves I like, and I think you, you, you accept those things about yourself faster. Like I mean, like you know your style faster when you pattern draft, you know, because you, yeah. You know, like I like three quarter sleeves more than I like short sleeves. I know. Well if I'm making, if I'm making something that is empire waist, I know where the sleeves should, should hit me to make the dress look balanced no matter what the pattern. You understand? Yes. So yes. Yes. Because you can show something.

Chioma: (23:03)
Yes. You know, high, waist empire waist and you wear a top. Yes, yes. It's not balanced. You don't really look proportionate in what you're wearing, but if you pattern draft, especially for yourself or even sewing for yourself, I think pattern drafting makes you get there faster. You, you, yeah. You realize that this silhouette fits me better. You know, this volume of skirt fits me better, you know, on you like, yeah. I, I think that's another thing sewing has given me, you know, like I'm more aware of my style, where I'll go, how far I'll go with the plunging neckline, how far won't go, you know, those, those little details and, and so it makes you accept that about yourself so much faster, I think.

Lisa: (23:55)
Yes, yes, yes. That's beautiful way to put it. Let me ask you, um, as we wrap up, what is next for you? What is your next big sewing plan that you have for as we move in toward the end of 2020, the 2019?

Chioma: (24:12)
Um, I think I've already started on it. If you, if you look through my feed, you see where I was talking about making pants, not just a colossal pants, fitted pants I really want to, is something I really want to see if I can conquer, but yeah. Yeah. I've started making one, but I've had fitting issues and once those things come up by, I like give the pattern, some space for a couple of days. If I get back to it, then uh, my brother is also getting married at the end of the year, so that kind of puts a hold on things for me because I have to make, I'm making what I'm wearing for his wedding. I make what I wear to all my brother's weddings so far. So, yeah, that that is really, it for, for me, for the end, as far as this year is hopefully I start making nice fitted pants.

Lisa: (25:07)
That's it. Yeah, that's a great goal. I can't wait to see both your, um, how your fitted pants come out and your beautiful wedding ensemble for your brother's wedding. That both of these sound like fantastic pieces, um, that I'm really, eager to see , tell our listeners where they can find you on the social so they can find you on YouTube and Instagram. Let us get dropped us your tags and your links so we can find you. And I'll also put everything in the show notes, but I wanted them to just listen right now to find out where they can find you.

Chioma: (25:39)
Okay. So my, I have a blog and its, www.chi9ja.com. that's C H I nine J A .com and on Instagram is the same thing. CHI9Ja. Uh, Truda is the same thing. CHI9JA Ah, I have a Facebook group.

Chioma: (25:58)
If people are more interested in Facebook it's also called Chi9ja. And so I'm, I'm easy to find I think and I hope they like my content as much as you do. Um, uh, yeah, let's all have fun with this. Even my YouTube, my YouTube is also CHI9JA, which is where I have the tutorial. Sewing tutorials and stuff like that. So yeah, come everybody. Let's all be one big family.

Lisa: (26:27)
Thank you so much Chioma for taking the time to speak with us from Nigeria tonight. Um, I know it's, again, it's, it's a five hour difference between me and Virginia, um, and you in Nigeria. So that's a long way, but I thank you so much for taking the time. This has been delightful.

Chioma: (26:44)
Okay. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for having me. Like I said, it's my first podcast and I'm really, really stoked like I can't wait to go listen later on.

Lisa: (26:55)
Me too. Me too. I am really excited.

Chioma: (26:58)
Thank you so much. Thank you so much. Thank you to everybody listening. Hope you enjoyed the show.

Lisa: (27:06)
I hope you all enjoyed listening to the show as much as Chioma and I enjoyed having that conversation. Thank you for joining us for today's episode of stitch please the black women's stitch podcast. Let's continue the conversation. Come find us on the socials. We're at black women's stitch on Instagram where we have a very active page and you can also find us on stitch please on Facebook. We also would love to hear from you, so feel free to email us at black women's stitch@gmail.com there are three big ways you can support this project and one of them you're doing already by listening to the podcast, you're really helping us, so thank you for doing that. In addition, if you rate review, subscribe and share the podcast with other folks, that helps the podcast to grow and it also gives the algorithm that managed podcast information that will also help our podcast thrive.

Lisa: (28:00)
The third way to help the podcast is for those of you all who happen to have a little extra change, burning a hole in your pocket and if you don't have any plans to use it to buy your 20th or in my case 378th big four pattern. That's how many I have in my top pattern drawer, about 378 patterns. You could take that money that you would spend at the pattern sale and give it to us. We are accepting donations at our Patreon site where you can donate as little as $2 a month or you could buy us a coffee at K O. Dot. F I and small donations are greatly accepted and appreciated so thank you for considering that. If you'd like a transcript of that episode, you can find that at our website @stitchpleasepodcast.com and we also ask that you check the show notes where we have lots of additional information and supplemental information from what we discussed in the podcast. You can find affiliate links there for the products that we like. You can find web links to the black women that we've been talking about here on the show to elevate and center their work, and you can also find the info we've mentioned about donations as well as our email link. All of that is available at stitchpleasepodcast.com thanks again for joining us today. We look forward to seeing you next time. Come back and we'll help you get your stitch together.

Speaker 1: (29:28)

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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