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Folashade Dan-Oketola: How Aunty Tailor Boosted My Desire to Acquire Sewing Skills

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dreamstime_m_30853047This is the last time I’ll be buying you girls lace fabrics in this house! Do you even have any idea how much those fabrics cost? I didn’t buy them to be kept in the wardrobe, they’re to be worn! No more lace” – That is my mum being a typical Naija mother.

It wasn’t the first time she was getting upset that we hardly wore the expensive lace fabrics she ought for us. And believe me, that day wasn’t the last. My mother did not understand that, not wearing it had nothing to do with the fabric, rather a whole lot to do with the style.

Every time she bought us these laces, we were excited. She would drive us to her tailor’s shop which was about 30km away from our home so we could pick desired styles. Aunty, as we used to call the tailor, would give us catalogues to make the style selection process easier. I usually couldn’t make up my mind then, so there were times I picked sleeves from a different design, neckline design from a another dress and probably skirt from yet another.
After we were done, the excitement of owning new clothes would get the better part of us and all we did was countdown the collection date.

My mum would bundle us into the car again on pick up day and off we went. Till date, I still can’t explain why, but Aunty Tailor seemed to be hell bent on making us quickly get over our excitement when she brings out the clothes.
Killjoy best describes it.

She brought the clothes out on this particular trip and we were left wondering if she had our clothes mixed up with another customer’s clothes. The designs were nothing close to what we picked. She almost, always changes the design! The painful part is she always gave us a reason for doing so. I remember vividly she once said “the style you picked isn’t suitable for a child of God. It’s indecent, this is better”. Huh?!

And my mum who wasn’t very involved in the style selection process because she wanted us to decide ourselves, never understood why we didn’t like the ‘fine’ dresses.

Poor us!

In all fairness to Aunty Tailor, there were times when the ‘spirit of indecency’ had its way and she would cut exactly what we wanted. Only that, those were times the dresses weren’t ready to be collected when we arrived at her shop. Imagine going all the way and all you get is your clothes not assembled. Let’s not even talk about the days we got there and met the shop locked when she had said she’ll be there.

That was the cycle of experience we had to put up with. Being a student of clothing and textiles in my school, made it even harder for me in particular because I wanted more than the service she offered. So, one day I told her I wanted to learn how to sew during the holidays.

Big mistake.

Her reply was “ha, you better face your book. You think it is easy? It’s very time consuming and difficult o! Don’t even think about it! “ I believed her.

Believing her was even easier, because my home economics teacher in school had missed out on telling us what we could achieve with what she taught us in class. She didn’t help us see the bigger picture of what we could achieve with the stitches we learnt in school and that even by hand sewing, we could make dresses or anything else. It would only take a longer time.

We put up with Aunty Tailor till eventually she closed shop unfortunately. I guess she’d disappointed too many people who had stopped patronising her.

Fast forward to 6 years ago, I enrolled in a fashion school after I resigned from my job at the bank, and realised Aunty Tailor lied.

It’s not difficult if you set your mind to it and you’re determined to achieve your end result. I enjoyed sewing and I still do. I had learnt it because I wanted to be able to craft out my own designs and have it fit just the way I wanted. Decent or not, is nobody’s business.

I found that being able to eventually make my own clothes is convenient and comes with less disappointments.

I saved a lot on tailors’ charges and was able to buy more fabrics as I desired.

I remember by my second month, my younger sister came home from school with Ankara fabric saying “I wore the gown you sewed for me to school last week and my friends liked it. Two of them brought fabrics that I should give you to make for them. How much is it so I can tell them? ” I didn’t believe it! In fact, I didn’t even know how to charge them! Who would have thought I would start having clients and making money only two months into my learning when all I knew how to sew then were simple skirts and dresses?!

It felt very surreal!

After I graduated from the fashion school and clients started to troop in, I didn’t stop learning. I can almost say today, that fashion school laid the foundation but further personal learning from videos and books groomed me better to be able to compete with the evolving trends in the fashion industry.

The most fulfilling part for me is that unlike, Aunty Tailor, for every busy lady who has reached out to me showing interest, I do not only teach them online, I also ensure that I encourage them and give as much support as I can because rather than see them as competitors, I see it as an opportunity to help them save money, acquire a skill, earn another source of income & build a profitable business. As they say…empower a woman, empower a generation.

What skills have you been pushed to learn?

Photo Credit: Photographerlondon | Dreamstime.com

Folashade Dan-Oketola teaches sewing lessons to people online, especially busy women, interested in learning how to make their own clothes. Also, she helps them see the possibilities of earning extra income from the acquired skill. These she does in her online sewing school, Sew Easy Workshop, co-owned with Wonderfull Abuah. Details about the online school can be found at www.seweasyworkshop.com

25 Comments

  1. Busola I

    October 31, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    Super! Well done! sewing is a very important skill especially if you have been disappointed several times by ‘aunty tailor’

    • Fleur

      October 31, 2016 at 5:42 pm

      Gbam – every disappointment should spur invention and growth. I just started cutting patterns on my own because I just threw away a nice outfit I spend about $250 making, including price of fabric and the tailor literally mangled the outfit. She did not even have the freaking decency to give me the design i asked for. I shall be sewing by God’s grace in 6 months. Nonsense.

    • Sew Easy Workshop

      November 1, 2016 at 11:49 am

      Thank you so much. Oh yes! Acquiring sewing skills cannot be overemphasized.

  2. Gigi

    October 31, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    Learning how to sew is one the best decision I made.

  3. Pam

    October 31, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    I started learning how to see recently. Sewing is very interesting, I’m loving every bit of the learning process

  4. Sonia Paloma

    October 31, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    I am currently teaching myself to sew and also designing clothes myself with Adobe illustrator. Even though it can be tiring because i work full time, but i love to learn and bring the creative side of me to life. I am always excited when i illustrate a fashion on a croquis and then prepare to sew it. Bliss!

    • Sew Easy Workshop

      November 2, 2016 at 5:52 am

      Way to go Paloma. Our interests drive us to achievemement despite the excuses.

  5. vora

    October 31, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    I learnt to fix Weavon and braid hair so we moved to the US and it has helped me to fix my hair and make wigs for myself

  6. teesha

    October 31, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    Thank you sooo much for this article, Folashade. I’ve been telling myself that I will learn sewing for some years now. A lot of people have discouraged me but I have passion for it and I love to sketch designs. This is very motivating.

    • Sew Easy Workshop

      November 2, 2016 at 5:54 am

      Please go for it! There are many ways to achieve it now. If you’re gainfully employed, you can register to learn online. Your dreams are valid, don’t let anyone talk you out of it.

  7. Ocean beauty

    October 31, 2016 at 5:51 pm

    Started this year without even knowing how to make a straight line on my own head. Enrolled for wig making classes and now I have even taught others. This is coming from someone who couldn’t do any handiwork.

  8. Ibukunoluwa

    November 1, 2016 at 11:49 am

    Wonderful job sis. What av I been pushed to learn? Ermmm…

  9. Ayaba

    November 1, 2016 at 11:51 am

    Empowerment is everything and takes a brave person to be willing to empower others. If one person tries to empower just one other person, won’t it be a better world? Nice piece and thank God for aunty tailor

    • Sew Easy Workshop

      November 2, 2016 at 5:57 am

      You’re right Ayaba, if only we will all pass empowerment forward, the world would be better.

  10. ebony

    November 1, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    same here oo. infact this past wknd, i was browsing how to hand sew baby clothes an adult blouses. this is just the push i need. my tailor collects 4k to sew iro and buba not to talk of skirts and blouses. i have no choice cos other options i have just succeeded in wasting my money. its time to start even if its sew my own clothes,its enough.

    • Sew Easy Workshop

      November 2, 2016 at 5:59 am

      That’s what necessity is about. People who live outside Nigeria DIY a lot.

  11. A

    November 1, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    Story of my life

  12. Olufunmilola

    November 1, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    I decided to eventually know how to make hair. So, last week my journey started with my mum’s hair. She was impressed. I know I look at the hands of people and also feel the hands of the hair dressers on my head to know how they do it but never got the courage to start. So now, I have started. In fact she reminded me this morning that she wants to loosen it and I will make her hair again tonight. I am very excited.
    My Mum my muse. Hehehehehehehehehehehehe.

    Thank you for this lovely piece.

    • Sew Easy Workshop

      November 2, 2016 at 6:02 am

      Way to go Olufunmilola, with constant practice and an enrolment to learn the basics will help you improve.

  13. AsobyEbi

    November 1, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    Thank you Folashade for this article 🙂

  14. opeyemi

    November 1, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    sew easy sister we love yah

  15. ANTHONIA

    November 2, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    Nice one!

  16. Omo

    November 3, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    Nice one from our very own Alumnus Folashade; who was our trainee at FSD’s Fashion School (Field of Skills and Dreams VTE Academy).
    Truly well spoken, skill acquisition is not tough when you have the right environment to learn.
    Folashade and Wonderful Abuah met at FSD’s training school as co-trainees and have become partners to champion online training on the SEW Easy Platform. Greater heights to you both and to all FSD Alumni out there. keep on doing FSD proud.

  17. Oluwadarasimi

    November 5, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    Story of my life! Was learning how to sew while awaiting Youth Service 10 years back . I asked for money to get a sewing machine but my Dad couldn’t fathom why I had to waste his money on university education. I got discouraged and quit! After enduring unending disappointment and Shakara from Tailors, I decided that I’ve had enough. So I bought a sewing machine last month and enrolled for weekend classes. Feeling super cool about it. Thanks for the Article Folashade, will check out the online school .

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