Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Playing with New Fabrics for Magic Baby WorldWear Designs

A new baby quilt made from shweshwe
When I went to the Quilt National opening a few weeks ago in Athens, Ohio, my friend and hostess Gill introduced me to a new fabric: shweshwe. In all my years of sewing, I had never even of heard of it before. Gill is South African, and shweshwe is a specialty fabric from South Africa. She was replicating a quilt she had made for her son many moons ago, recreating it for her new granddaughter. I helped her baste and tie the quilt, so she could finish the binding and send it along. What a great fabric for a baby quilt.

And what a great fabric for Magic Baby Designs' WorldWear line. Shweshwe is very high quality cotton still produced in the traditional manner, just as it was in the 1800s when it was created in England and shipped to South Africa. Initially worn only by local tribes, Gill says the name shweshwe came from the sound the fabric made when you were wearing it. The fabric was coated with a glaze designed to protect it from moisture during the long journey from England to South Africa, producing a particular feel to the fabric. No wonder the native women named it! The beautiful cotton becomes softer and softer as it is worn and washed. What a great discovery, and how lucky I am that Gill gave me a stash of her fabrics to play with.

WorldWear shweshwe dress in progress

As a thank you, I have sewn a new Magic Baby WorldWear dress for the new little granddaughter using my mix and match approach to designing and my beautiful new stash of shweshwe. Here are a few pictures of the dress in progress along with the finished piece. I absolutely love it, and hope Gill's new little Magic Baby will love it, too.

WorldWear shweshwe dress front. The bodice is pieced
to take advantage of the wonderful design. I used some
vintage indigo Japanese fabrics for the bodice band at the waist
and for the hem ruffle.

This is a detail of the inside. I pieced the front and covered
the seams with binding on the inside. Here you can also
see the logo of one of the companies that produces
this terrific fabric, Three Cats.

WorldWear shweshwe dress, back
Here is a detail of the sleeve. Instead of a
butterfly sleeve, I pleated it into a cuff band.


  1. It's love at first shwe!!!!!! ;) Absolutely adorable!!!!!!

  2. This dress is wonderful, Gayle! I loved watching you and Gill work on tying and binding that little baby quilt, and wow! Such a beautiful dress! You're really very, very brilliant, my dear!

  3. Ha, love at first shwe! That's a good one, HB. Susan, thanks for the kind comments. It is truly such a fun fabric to work with. Can't wait to cut out some more ideas.