Hot! The Bhutanese Anda

Taken by my son outside Timba Trading, African Mall, Gaborone; please excuse the sweaty hairdo.

The Facts:

Fabric: thrifted Martha Stewart double sheet = $5
Pattern: Burdastyle Anda, used previously so =$0
Year: 2009
Notions: none
Time to complete: 3 hours
First worn:  fabric shopping in Gaborone, Botswana.
Wear again? Yes
Total price: $5

Dumelang from Gaborone!  Inspired by Bhutan, made in Canada, photographed in Botswana…, this dress really gets around….kinda like me.

Having grown up in a working class family, foreign travel was just something that other (read: rich) people did.  All that changed when my mother started working for our national airline when I was 15, and we could travel almost anywhere, and for very little money.  I was hooked.  Even a bout with flying phobia about 10 years ago didn’t stop me.  I would force myself on planes, sweating and shaking my way around the world.  I squeezed that family travel benefit dry for as long as I could, backpacking on 5 continents thus far, and I’ve been lucky enough to experience things that most people never get a chance to.  Despite all that, I still held out for one big travel fantasy:  Bhutan.

I’ve been obsessed with Bhutan since I read a National Geographic article back in the early ’80s about the closed Kingdom.  Then in the ’90s, a Canadian woman began sending letters to our morning CBC radio show about her experiences teaching in Pema Gatshel, Bhutan.  Jamie Zeppa went on to write a book, “Beyond the Sky and the Earth”,  about the culture shock, the strong links between Canada and Bhutan, the political problems during that time, and about falling in love and building a family high up in the Himalayas.  Needless to say, I devoured that book a few times over.  But several things conspired against my visiting the country:  the King had instituted a tourism control system whereby all visitors needed to pre-book with a group tour, fly on designated flights and pay a $200US visa fee per day.   With the Canadian dollar stagnant at about 65 cents against the US$ for much of the ’90s-2000s, I just couldn’t justify the price.  Plus I had a job to show up for every day and a breastfeeding kid who I had to care for around the clock.

Then in 2007, things just came together: I had 3 weeks of vacation to use up, the Canadian dollar went par with the US$, and my son weaned himself.  I booked a flight to India, managed to sweet talk my way into getting added to a tour group of Americans at the last minute, and ran to the travel clinic for some doxycycline and cipro.  There were no seats left on the approved flights into Paro, so I booked a driver to take me from Bagdogra to the border town of Phuntshoeling to meet up with the tour group.  The driver wasn’t there when I arrived, but this was India after all……. so I bellied up to the airport bar.  Several hours and beers later, someone approached me with a scribbled note that said, “Victor.  Bootan”.  Close enough, I thought, and got in his van.  We sped through the dark, over roads so pot-holed that my head kept hitting the roof of the van.  Fruit bats flew overhead.  The driver dropped me at the border and took off before I had the chance to turn around and say thanks.  After more than 20 years of dreaming, I was finally in Bhutan.  And I loved every gorgeous, dirty, exotic, diarrhea-inducing minute of it.

The first thing that struck me about the country was the encircling Himalayas.  The second thing was the architecture.  No boring cement block houses here:  most buildings are made of timber and stone, covered by whitewashed stucco and intricately painted with traditional designs.  And always those curly, curly Bhutanese style clouds.


I don’t think the artists over at Martha Stewart were thinking about Bhutan when they designed this fabric, but it’s the first thing I thought of when I saw those stylized clouds.

I needed something loose and cotton to wear on this business trip to Botswana,  but I was understandably short on time in the weeks before leaving.  I didn’t even want to waste time cutting a pattern, so I found my first Burda paper pattern in a pile of mess carefully filed away and decided it would just about do.

Sawing machine? Herbedashery?

I’m not going to say anything about the construction details of an Anda dress.  It’s basically two pieces sewn together at the shoulders and sides, with neck and armscye finished with bias tape.  I made a nice long tie from the top hem of the sheet, but I think it looks better with this belt after all.  I wore this outfit while fabric shopping in Gaborone today, and was stopped by a young woman who asked me where I got it, and said she’d love to have one too.  I guess sack dresses are back in!  I’ll be posting more about Botswanan and South African fabrics and shopping madness over on my blog when I’m back in the land of faster internet, so do please stop by.

Kadinchey!  (click on that link for a mashup video by Pogo with stunning images of Bhutan.  Oh man, now I want to go back…..)




Vicki used to sew when she was young and free, but then raising young'uns and bringing home (some of) the bacon took up all her time. Now her closet is full of skinny clothes, maternity clothes and post-partum clothes, none of which fit properly. Maybe that's why she started sewing again in 2010.


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  1. That fabric is fantastic. I wish I was so lucky in finding usable bedsheets at thrift stores!

    • I’ve managed to get quite a few good ones around here, although you do have to be careful and open them out completely: the centre area often is faded/worn or there are *ahem* stains you’d rather not see. I have a prized ’60s purple and blue poppy print single sheet that I am saving for just the right project.

  2. What a great experience! Shopping in other counties can be so much fun! They seem to do a lot more sewing than we do in the US, so the variety and price can be very interesting. I loved reading about your adventure, and seeing you with your son, The dress looks just right for the hot weather. I can’t wait to see what you do with your fabrics down the road.

    • I brought a huge rolling suitcase full of lab supplies to Botswana with me, and it’s coming back filled with fabric! (only half full now, but I have one more day in Cape Town to remedy that situation)

  3. I know that book! I loved it too! And I’m Canadian! And I have those same sheets!!! And with all of that in common, I’m here sewing in my Ontario basement and you are showing off pictures of Bhutan. Way to go making the big leap! (I’ve travelled lots – I’m not complaining! :) What an awesome experience for you and your son!!!!

    • It’s funny how her book became such a Canadian touch stone; I’ve met many, many people who have read it, and of course, every Canadian I met in Bhutan had recently re-read it for the trip!
      I come to Botswana and South Africa every year to meet with my research team, but this was supposed to be my last trip and I decided to bring my son and my husband / photographer / fabric porter along for the experience. Now I find out I have to come back in April to solve some problems, and then again in the fall…..oh no…..two more free trips to Africa….my job sucks so much…. ;)

  4. Wow, iw arched the video and bookmarked it. I love all the photos, what beautiful inspiration. Love the dress, great for travel.

  5. Wow Vicki what an adventure love the photos, just gorgeous, the architecture is dreamy, your job sounds amazing and your dress is perfect.

  6. Thanks Kazz. I always feel like I’m in a dream when I’m here….like I never imagined I would get a chance to even see this part of the world, let alone work here and have great friends who love to go fabric shopping with me!

  7. I love your adventurous spirit, and I love your new dress! I hope you are having a most amazing adventure and enjoying every minute of it!!

    • We’re leaving tomorrow, and not looking forward to the 2 days of travel to get home. My son says he wants to stay here!

  8. Good post! I loved reading it (and we all know how I usually just look at the pictures). That’s really cool how you got to go to Bhutan and the dress is very nice. I’ve never made the Anda.

    • The Anda is not really a pattern; it’s more like a vague body shape with holes for head and arms to poke out. No shaping to it at all. I bought it from back before I knew that you could sew your own shapes just as well and save the $$!

  9. Gorgeous photos! Thank you for sharing them along with your amazing & inspiring story of travel dreams realized.