A Simple Ankara Guide for Fashionistas

Ankara, also known as African wax print or Dutch wax print, is a type of machine-made fabric that mimics the appearance of wax resist.

Do you have any memories of trying your hand at fabric dying or wax-resist painting in school? Using a crayon or hot wax, you make a pattern on your paper or piece of fabric. You then painted over it or dipped it in a bucket of dye and pressed the wax off once it was dry. That is the basic procedure.

Since it is made of cotton, a natural fiber, it is perspiration- and sweat-resistant near the skin.

It’s a fantastic fabric for newbies. Think of a fabric that is soft like a cotton lawn and in between a cotton poplin and quilting weight cotton. It is sturdy and able to tolerate frequent seam ripping! Due to this, it holds its shape when cutting and stitching and doesn’t sag.

How do you sew with Ankara fabric?

Do you know what it takes to get a bold and beautiful Ankara? Over the years, we have seen designers pull stunts with this fabric.  If you want to produce a similar feat, below are some important tips you should keep in mind when sewing with Ankara or African wax print:

  1. Prepare to buy more than you need

Wax print fabric is typically sold in 6yd bundles rather than by the meter. Instead of being intimidated by the surplus, think about how many projects you could squeeze out of it! If you’re interested in being able to pattern-match the print, it’s a good idea to buy much of the 115cm (45in) broadcloth.

2. Look for 100% cotton

Polyester/cotton blend Ankara is widely available and, more often than not, costs less compared to 100% cotton. Pure cotton is my go-to fabric because it is breathable. Always inquire about the composition because the labeling may not always be accurate. Additionally, I’d suggest going out and buying wax prints yourself so you can practice telling them apart by touch and sight.

The polycotton Ankara tends to feel pretty scrunchy and appear highly sparkly, however, it’s not an exact science. True cotton fabric has a somewhat softer feel, and a less polished appearance, and the design is typically just as prominent on the reverse as it is on the right. Ankara made of polycotton also has a tendency to fray more when cut. Be cautious when ironing a polycotton material since they tend to burn easily.

3. Hunt around for styles you love

Personally, I believe that there is an Ankara print and colour made to suit every single person.  You’re in luck if you appreciate witty, silly, and amusing prints. You can find small spherical eyeglasses, irons, sewing machines, the alphabet, fans, hair dryers, and more woven into ankara cloth if you look hard enough. If abstract is your kind of thing, you can also find a lot of it.

Though there is a lot of variety in scale, print, and colour in Ankara, not everything is enormous print or too cluttered. Although I adore brilliant colors, I also enjoy more muted hues and leafy patterns, both of which are prevalent in African wax print.

4. Remove the labels carefully

Sticky product labels are usually used to sell Ankara fabric. Typically, there are two large labels and then a few tiny ones that hold the bundle together.

It is simple to remove the labels. Just set an old sheet or ironing cloth over the spot, select the steam setting, and iron over it. The labels should come off without much difficulty, but occasionally there will be a sticky spot that needs to be ironed until it disappears.

5. Don’t fear the washing machine

Pre-washing your fabric before stitching is always a smart move. Simply use a standard 30 or 40°C cycle for washing. Some people discovered that applying lemon juice to the wash can help the fabric become less waxy.

Because of the printing process, the colour is vibrant and resists fading. I have clothes from my mother that are more than 50 years old, and the colour is still vibrant and hasn’t faded appreciably; instead, it just appears to get softer to the touch each washing.

However, if you don’t have a washing machine you should be gentle on the fabric when you want to wash it.