The “Mfengu Cross Country” Skirt

The Facts:

Fabric: Thrifted linen skirt = $1
Pattern: none
Year: traditional and contemporary
Notions: bias tape, buttons = $0.50
Time to complete: two days in the car
First worn:  Truck stop photoshoot
Wear again? Yes, once I’m back home and pair it with a better top.
Total price: ~$1.50

Last year, I went to the art gallery in Stellenbosch, South Africa.  While the collection of paintings and sculpture was an interesting enough diversion for an hour or so, the real treasures (in my opinion), were in the basement with the ethnological displays.  Here’s a quick pocket camera photo that I snapped when no guards were looking:

It’s hard to see from this photo, but the buttonwork was amazing.  The blankets were covered in hand beading, lines of ribbon and buttons made from nacre.  Here’s a photo I grabbed from a trading company’s website that shows the work in better detail:

In the spirit of this kind of Xhosa / Mfengu buttonwork, I decided to modify an old linen skirt with bias tape and plastic buttons.  Since we had a two day road trip to Nova Scotia ahead of us, I sewed the bias tape on by machine at home and then saved the button work for the car trip.

I finished just before we stopped at a truck stop for lunch, so we attempted a photo shoot in the middle of all the heavy machinery, transport trucks and parking lots.  It was somewhat  successful.  Although now that I see the photos I realize that I probably shouldn’t have pulled that skirt on over my black shorts so the fit is all weird and bulky!  And that top really doesn’t go.  Well, what are ya gonna do when all your clothes are packed in the back under a tonne of kid stuff, and such a inspring backdrop is just calling out to you?

We finally arrived on Sunday evening and snapped one sunset photo at the top, looking out over the Atlantic Ocean.  Just out of frame is the family, a hammock, a beer and a field full of wild strawberries.  What could be better?



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. I LOVE your skirt and the blouse, in the pics, looks good. I can’t really see your shorts so I think you’re ok but what fabulous inspiration for the skirt! Something to tuck into the back of my brain : )

    • Thanks Loran. I knew I didn’t want something that was completely covered in buttons and beads like the Mfengu blankets (because that would take FOREVER), but I may add more buttons on the drive back home!