Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Interview With Gifty

The girls and I have recently been privileged to make the acquaintance of a delightfully lovely lady named Gifty. It all began when I bought prom gowns for the girls in South Africa and found that they'd need to be altered. Having no idea where to begin to find this service where we live, I consulted a friend who gave me the number of her favorite seamstress. I had Caelyn make the call and arrange for a fitting, and I didn't realize then what a wonderful meeting it would be!

It turns out that we already know Gifty's children from sports and other activities here, but we didn't make the connection until later. Anyway, this sweet lady confessed after the girls' fitting that she doesn't do alterations. However, she was so impressed by Caelyn's polite phone etiquette, that she "couldn't say no" to helping with the dresses. She even threw in handmade shawls to protect their shoulders from the cool night breeze from the ocean on prom night "as a gift" -- which she later had delivered to our door!

Hearing a few bits and pieces of her story, which she shared with the girls during their fitting, I became intrigued and wanted to know more about this very interesting woman. When we met with Gifty to pick up the dresses, she invited us to see her studio upstairs in her home, where she keeps her inventory of unique fashions and accessories designed from felted wool which she prepares, herself. What a gorgeous variety of items she has stashed away up there! We couldn't stay long, but I asked her if we might possibly return one day to take some photos just so I could share her fun story with my bloggy friends.

On that first visit to see her inventory, we arrived in the early afternoon when the sun was pouring through the large windows and really doing justice to all of the colors of the wool products. Unfortunately, when we returned to take photos, we didn't take into account the time that we had agreed upon. In Maputo, I have yet to enter a home that has really great lighting. So, please bear with these photos. I'm no photographer, and we really needed more light. We still had a marvelous time, however, and I hope you'll enjoy "meeting" Gifty and seeing some of her wares. I've only shared a few photos here, but if you would like to see more, click here.

Gifty is quite camera-shy, but I managed to sneak a couple. In the first photo, she was describing the different kinds of wool that she uses, their origins, and the process by which she transforms the skeins into felt.

Growing up in Ghana, Gifty didn't have many options as far as leisure activities were concerned. She could sew, read, or listen to the radio. At the age of 8, she began using her mother's sewing machine for fun. She was just drawn to it, and admits that even now she can't stand to spend much time away from sewing. On an upcoming family holiday to northern Europe, where her husband is from, she has promised to leave her machine behind in order to ensure having plenty of family time. (Likewise, her children will agree to leave behind any games and electronics that would be a distraction. Good idea!)

We asked Gifty what her first-ever sewing project was. She said that it was a blouse, which she cut free-hand -- as she does every one of her projects -- and when she put it over head, her mother had to cut it off of her! She admits that she can't bear the use of any pattern. Once she gets an idea in her mind for a garment of any sort, she immediately sets to cutting it out.

She says that her ideas are literally fleeting, so she must get to them right away. At times she finds that what she originally envisioned materializes in a completely different way. Particularly with the felted wool items, she is often at the mercy of the fabric and follows what it naturally does within her hands. Because of the nature of the fibers, she has been unable to ever duplicate any of her wool products.

She opened an atelier in the Netherlands while living there with her family several years ago. (Isn't that a great word?) She once owned a shop here in Maputo, as well. There isn't a huge market for wool items here, since "winter" isn't what we know it to be. In the meantime, she has built clientele here for her regular line of unique clothing creations. In fact, she is currently working on a blouse for my friend, Mindy, to wear to her son's upcoming high school graduation. I can hardly wait to see the finished product!

The girls and I were so pleased to learn that Gifty offers workshops for anyone interested in learning to cut free-hand sewing projects, and also for those who'd like to learn wool felting. We hope to take one or both of these classes before she and her family leave for their extended holiday.

From my first glimpse of her extensive collection of unique hats, I knew that I'd want to have a "dress-up" party in her studio!

Her many colorful accessories allow for nearly endless possibilities! I love the scarves!

And oh! The bags! I could use this entire bunch.

This hat was made for Caelyn I think.

Can a hat match dimples? This one certainly does.

I was trying to get Gabriela to act out her thoughts while trying on a fun hat. I'm not sure which thought this is, but she did have fun with it. I chose this pose because it shows the back of the hat. She was more animated in the other photos.

Gifty's friend, Jane, has modeled for her before. She really has a great face and perfect hair for hats. Every one she tried looked absolutely perfect on her. I love this flower and hat combination on her.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with this incredibly talented lady who is appropriately named. She is truly gifted, and very generous. After our dress-up session, we were invited downstairs for dinner, where we had the honor of asking questions and hearing more about her exciting life. Caelyn asked Gifty what advice she would give to an aspiring entrepreneur, to which she replied, "Don't lose your passion. Don't stop dreaming. And practice!"


  1. Great post Dayna!! Thank you so much for going to the extra trouble of sharing Gifty and her amazing talent with us. It was a treat!!

  2. This looks like so much fun. Love all those hats!