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Dovetailed: Interview with founder Adaku Parker

Adaku Parker is the founder of Dovetailed, an online African wax print fabric shop, and the author of Sewing with African Wax Print Fabric. We caught up with her to learn about her unconventional journey into textiles and sewing, the exciting projects she's worked on and her advice for aspiring makers.

Order Adaku's book Sewing with African Wax Print Fabric to get your hands on numerous fabulous patterns and inspiration. Can't wait to dive into new sewing projects? Get a taster of the book and Make a Marilyn Makeup Bag with African Wax Print Fabric, a free project from Adaku courtesy of CICO Books.

A book titled "Sewing with African Wax Print Fabric" on a surface of brightly coloured and patterned textiles. On the cover of the book is a woman wearing a flowing colourful dress.

What inspired you to start your brand?

Before starting my business, I had been a criminal barrister for 15 years. It was when on maternity leave for the second time that I started giving more thought to a different career. During the summer of 2016, I was watching an episode of the Sewing Bee and it sparked my interest in sewing. Then about a month later, I saw an advert for classes in Textiles at my local adult learning centre. I signed up to as many as I could. From September 2016 until June 2017, I took a number of ten week classes in clothes making, tailoring, pattern cutting, and African fashion to name but a few. I had started making bags and accessories in January 2017, both for fun and to test my sewing. However, I soon started receiving commissions from family and friends. This is when I realised I could turn my hobby into a business. Fast forward to today, and I have published my first sewing book called ‘Sewing with African wax print fabric.’ 

Adaku Parker holding a stack of African wax print fabrics

What are your favourite fabrics to work with?

My favourite fabric is African wax print fabric. I adore the bright colours, bold motifs and the fact that it is a fabric that has a complex cultural history. It is a fabric that tells a story and allows the wearer the also tell a story. It is also incredibly easy to sew with and is a great fabric for beginner sewers as it is a super stable fabric and does not move about too much.

One of Adaku's designs, a boldly patterned blue, green and orange overcoat on a model.

What is the favourite project that you have worked on to date?

I have been lucky enough to receive some sewing pattern commissions from sewing magazines. This means that I create a pattern that is then exclusive to the magazine for a period of time. My favourite sewing pattern to date is a coat I designed for Issue 89 of Love Sewing magazine. I thoroughly enjoyed this project and I am over the moon with the finished look. 

What do you do in your spare time? 

The business does keep me incredibly busy. I like to listen to audio books and podcasts or watch box sets whilst working. My current favourites are The Great Sewing Bee, Dragon’s Den and Line of Duty. 

Adaku Parker wearing one of her colourful designs in a floral purple and white fabric.

What is some advice you have for aspiring makers and business owners? 

If you dream of leaving your day job and starting a business doing what you love, my top tip is to start by testing the waters. Doing something as a hobby is very different to turning that hobby into a business. The hobby is just fun but the business, whilst it will still be fun in parts, requires a lot of work and forces you to use your ‘business brain’ alongside your ‘creative brain’. The simple truth is that running a business is not for everyone. By dipping a few toes into the water and starting small, you will find out sooner rather than later whether it is or isn't for you.

Read more about the history of African wax print fabrics, or Make a Marilyn Makeup Bag with African Wax Print Fabric with this a free project from Adaku's book, courtesy of CICO Books.