Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Self Sufficiency and the Muslim Life

.Self Sufficiency and the Muslim Life by Artsyfartsymuslimah.blogspot.com

Long before I reverted to Islam, I was very interested in the ideas of self-sufficiency and homesteading.  The lure of independence was overwhelming.  I longed to live with the simplicity of our ancestors.  I yearned to make what we needed and make things last instead being caught in the constant cycle of consumerism.  I felt an appreciation and reverence for God's creation and the resources He has given us and wished to respect that.

But then my first husband passed away.  I was devastated.  All the homesteading skills I had worked to develop seemed meaningless.  I had no desire to work to create a utopia anymore.  The utopia I had been working so hard to build was destroyed.

It took me seven years to remarry.  And seven years to care about my future again.  But falling in love for a second time, having an instant family with (mostly grown) step-children and a new home has brought back my love of the independent lifestyle, as well as a financial need for it.

As I have been gardening, canning, freezing, sewing, thrifting, etc. this summer I have thought a lot about how this translates into the Muslim lifestyle I now live.

Self Sufficiency and the Muslim Life by Artsyfartsymuslimah.blogspot.com

In reading other blogs I have seen many reasons for pursuing such knowledge and lifestyle.  One of the top reasons is religious beliefs.  Many Evangelical Christians and Mormons believe in stockpiling food and learning essential skills such as canning and growing a garden.  Their beliefs behind this are not that much different than our own.  We too believe in an "end times".  And preparing for any emergency is a smart idea.  But I think there are even more compelling reasons for a Muslim to practice self-sufficiency.

1.)  To better follow the rules of the Quran.  

We are forbidden from collecting/paying interest.  One of the "tenets" of self-sufficiency is frugality and having money set aside for emergencies, etc.  When practicing self-sufficiency, you live a lifestyle that makes it easier to avoid buying on credit, borrowing money in emergency situations, etc.  

Also, by living a simple lifestyle you avoid temptation for haraam activities.  When you stop eating out as much you avoid your server asking you if you want something from the bar.  When your friends know how you live (and probably live that way themselves), you will not get invited to haraam parties or outings to haraam places like a casino.  

Self Sufficiency and the Muslim Life by Artsyfartsymuslimah.blogspot.com
My husband, proud of some of the potatoes he grew this year.

When living simply, you will find your lifestyle centered around your home and your family.  It will be easier to make your salat.  You will have more choices about work as your dependence on your job lessens.  As you grow your food piles and your savings and lower your wants, you will find you are not as tied to that job that requires you to be in the office/store/shop/etc. on Friday afternoons.  You will find freedom to live as Allah intended.

Self Sufficiency and the Muslim Life by Artsyfartsymuslimah.blogspot.com

2.)  Safety.  

Muslims across the globe are in precarious positions right now.  Even in the USA.  Times are good right now for us financially, but what about in the near future?  It is easy to become suddenly unemployed in America, no matter who you are.  But what if something happens to change the collective will and we suddenly are unemployable as Muslims?  We will say alhamdullilah for a pantry of stored food, a fat savings account, and the skills to help ourselves.

Safety is also a daily concern for many Muslimahs, especially those living in the "Red" states or in some cities.  Just a simple trip to the grocery store can result in harassment.  So many hijabis are giving up wearing this sacred ayat of Allah because they fear for their safety.  And in many cases, rightfully so!  But what if there were options?

What if you didn't need to make little emergency trips to the store because you had a well stocked pantry, stored food, and a plan of what you would need?  That way you could always plan your shopping trips with your husband, older son, father, or a group of women?

What if you didn't have to take that job you only took for the money because between living simpler and saving money, the money your husband makes is enough to support your family?

Self Sufficiency and the Muslim Life by Artsyfartsymuslimah.blogspot.com

I see so many Muslimahs working hard to try and earn money for their families in a way they can do from home.  Alhamdullilah!  Now I challenge us all to learn skills to make us more self-sufficient, to store food for an emergency, and to save some of that hard earned money for a rainy day.

Not all the skills that can be learned or practiced for a simpler, self-sufficient life will interest you or even be possible in your situation.  Find the ones that work for you.  Implement them.  See your life change for the better. 

Self Sufficiency and the Muslim Life by Artsyfartsymuslimah.blogspot.com
What 50 pounds of tomatoes looks like after canning.  This is spaghetti sauce.  Not having to buy it in the store, this lot will save me over $50 over the next year.  

You don't need to live in the country and be interested in farming and animal husbandry.  Many housekeeping and self-sufficiency skills were developed and adapted for urban dwellers during the World Wars.  There was a great need during those times for growing your own food, storing the excess, and making what you owned last because resources were so scarce from the wars.  

Remember that creating a self-sufficient life is a process, not a goal.  Baby steps will bring you closer to what you hope for, but as you get closer your goals may change as well.  Be prepared to accept yourself and your successes and failures along the way.  Every little bit you do protects you in the here and now.

Self Sufficiency and the Muslim Life by Artsyfartsymuslimah.blogspot.com
My husband's garden last year while living in an apartment.  It is possible to garden anywhere.  There are always container gardens and community gardens.

Since this has interested me for many years, I have some skills already in my arsenal (i.e. preserving food, simple cooking from scratch, sewing, knitting, etc.)  And my husband brought with him some such as he is an excellent gardener and can do simple stuff on our car, among others.  But in the areas of having a stockpile of preserved foods and bulk purchased items, saving an emergency fund, and implementing a workable budget, I am just getting started.  

I intend to have my journey in all of this be a regular part of this blog.  So far I have canned 50 pounds of tomatoes (and have 50 pounds more to go!), made about two gallons of apple butter, as well as some plum preserves and raspberry jam.  I have started us on a budget and a strict savings plan.  Our garden has produced even better than we expected.  We have stopped eating out and bought a house within walking distance of our work, my parents, and the library.  It is so nice to be feeling more in control of our life and finances and to know we are doing so in a halaal way.  I hope you can find this serenity too, inshAllah!

Please share with me in the comments below how you gain independence and self-sufficiency in our modern times.

Self Sufficiency and the Muslim Life by Artsyfartsymuslimah.blogspot.com

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Capsule Wardrobes for Muslimahs Part 1

These days it is so easy to build up a large collection of clothes.  Often we have more than we even wear.  So many abayas cluttering up our closets, our storage areas, our homes, our lives.  We keep that French jilbab for sentimental reasons.  The manteau we hope to fit into again one day.  The shalwar kameez that is so cute, but never fit our lifestyle. 

Eventually comes a strong longing for simplicity.  We realize that we don't need to own so much.   That the Earth's resources are finite and by having too much we are keeping some of these resources from others in the world.

Owning too much encumbers us.  Our lives.  Our souls.  It makes us clumsy and inefficient.  How much time is wasted looking for items?  How many times do we purchase something to find at home that we forgot we already had something that is nearly the same?

There is a movement that people are talking about.  Capsule wardrobe.  The idea is not new.  But it certainly is a good one.

The way it works is to have a limited number of garments of each type (pants, blouse, etc.) and have each of them be interchangeable creating a whole wardrobe of outfits without any of those wasteful garments we all own that don't really match much else.

Sounds great, right?  But how does this translate into a Muslimah's wardrobe?  (Please see my post on the requirements of hijab to know the exact parameters of our dress if you are unfamiliar.)  But in short, I am talking about wearing a jilbab (an outer garment) with a head covering (which may or may not be part of the jilbab) and clothing underneath.

So there are three categories of clothing needed:

  1. Outer clothing worn in public (Jilbab)
  2. Outer clothing worn in private but when non-maharem men are present
  3. Under clothing worn in private in front of family or under the jilbab (not underwear)

1. Outer clothing worn in public

This is the jilbab and a head covering.  There are certain styles of jilbab that have an attached head covering and those where each is separate.  Which is acceptable to you is according to the scholars you follow.  Most allow for them to be separate as long as the same goal is achieved (covering of everything except the hands and face), but some prefer it all to be one piece.

At the very least a jilbab needs to be one garment that covers you from the shoulders to the feet with a head/neck covering also worn.  Everything must be covered except the hands and the face.  It should not be tight as to reveal your shape.  And it should be opaque.  If it is not one garment, it may be comprised of multiple garments as long as it still accomplishes the same requirements (though a few scholars disagree with this).

There are as many styles of jilbabs as there are Muslim cultures in the world.  Not all are easily available in America.  Not all are practical for Western life.

2. Clothing worn in private but when non-maharem men are present

When you are not in public, you are not required to wear a jilbab.  But if you are in front of men you can marry (see this post for the list of who these are), you still need to be covered.  That means the following choices (though this is not an exhaustive list):

1. a head scarf and an abaya or loose dress which covers all except your hands and face.
2. a head scarf and a tunic shirt and very loose pants or skirt (again covering all but hands and face.)
3. a long khimar, french jilbab, or chador worn over loose pants or skirt

Really anything goes here as long as you are still covered and it is loose.  This is where salwar kameez are perfect!

3. Under clothing worn in private in front of family (not underwear)

Under your jilbab you should wear more clothing than just panties and a bra and maybe a slip.  You need to wear real clothes you would wear around your husband, kids, or female friends. 

It is clear from the Quran that a jilbab is to be worn over your clothes when you go out.  So that means you should be wearing clothes at home before you pull your jilbab on, right?  I don't think there are many women who walk around naked or in their underwear at home in front of their family.

This is the group of clothing I have had the hardest time understanding.  I have come to the conclusion through study that it needs to be more than underwear, as I just stated.  But how much more?  Here some people differ.

If I will sit around the house watching TV or cleaning or talking to my Mom in it, that is what I will wear under my jilbab.  

So in the summer I will wear a tank top or t-shirt and loose pants (I rarely wear a skirt since I wear long jilbabs and my pants are loose legged).  In the winter I dress warmer: long sleeves, turtlenecks.

So those are the main categories of clothing needed for a Muslimah.  In Part 2 of this article I will discuss the different clothing styles that are common for Muslims.

Until then, my homework for you is to think about your life and your activities.  How you spend your time determines what kinds of clothes your need and wear.  A young professional will need much different clothing than a mother of four.  Be honest about your needs as well as the style that makes you comfortable.  Building a Capsule wardrobe is mostly about being honest about yourself and your needs and not buying items that feed into a fantasy. 

What items of Muslim clothing have you found you love and feel the most comfortable in?  Please share in the comments.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Why do we wear hijab?

I am in a number of Facebook groups for Muslim women.  And we discuss a broad range of issues.  And sometimes we talk about hijab.  Recently a woman in one of the groups made two separate comments that has me thinking. Why do we wear hijab?    

Awhile ago I gave up wearing hijab for 3 months.  And I don't mean just giving up the headscarf.  I gave up Muslim clothing.  I still didn't dress like most American woman (I believed strongly in modesty long before I became Muslim), but I had friends that saw the shape of my ankles for the first time in our relationship.

I gave it up because I realized I didn't know why I was wearing it.  When people asked me, I had canned lines from Muslim websites and memes I could regurgitate.  But none of them rang true in my heart.  

Sappy examples comparing women to objects such as lollipops, candy, pearls in oysters, and the moon.  The idea that precious things are wrapped, covered, hidden.  Not on display for anyone to ogle.

This image is from a blog that has a nice post on exactly what I am talking about.  

I do believe that our bodies are precious and given to us by Allah.  But women are human beings.  Not objects, even valuable ones.  Modesty shows that we have respect for ourselves.  It is not a method of hiding women from the scary world.

And in Western culture you can be modest without dressing like a Muslimah.  A below knee length skirt and a long sleeve blouse accomplish the same goal as an abaya.  Both send the message that you respect yourself and do not share yourself with just anyone.  

If, in my culture, I can dress as a Westerner modestly and send the same message, why do I need to go through the trouble of wearing a jilbab (outer garment) and head scarf?  (see this past post of mine to learn about jilbab)  What exactly does a headscarf and jilbab do for me that modest Western dress cannot?

I have been told multiple times (always by men) that hijab is my protection.  Protection from being harassed.  Are they kidding me?  I don't mean to be rude but this isn't really true.   Yes, dressing modestly can often save you from cat calls and sexual harassment.  To most men (of course there are always jerks who don't get the hint or actually like bothering girls who say NO), a modest outfit tells them that a woman is off limits.  But as I showed before, in America, a modest outfit need not only be Muslim dress.

This is an excellent video that shows how women are looked at on the street by men when they are not dressed modestly.  

But there is another form of harassment that is very common in America for a woman dressed as a Muslimah.  It is based on religious prejudice and bigotry.  It is often levied at women because they are assumed to be an easier target as well as the fact that they are more easily identifiable as a Muslim due to the clothing they wear.  

I am more harassed dressed as a Muslimah then I ever was as a modestly dressed Westerner.  Everywhere I go, I get stared at, gawked at, I even have rude comments made to me.  Last week driving to the masjid, two men in separate trucks rudely stared at me.  Honestly, I barely noticed as I am so used to it.  But my husband was quite upset and worried about me.  And many women have it much worse.  My wearing Islamic clothing puts me at a greater danger in America.  It does not protect me.

But I am not looking for protection.  I am not hoping to hide in the shadows in safety.  After a lot of study, reflection, and prayer I realized why we wear hijab.  Why we go above and beyond the Western idea of modesty.  Why we even risk our lives wearing such clothing, and in some countries break the law.  There is only one reason.

To show that we are Muslim.

That is the most compelling reason.  When I put on the scarf and a jilbab, I am telling the world that I believe in Allah swt and His prophet Muhammad (saws).  

Ya ayyuha an-Nabiyy qul li azwajika wa banatika wa nisa al-mu'minin yudnina alayhinna min jalabib hinna; dhalika adna an yu'rafna fa laa yu'dhayn. Wa kana Allahu Ghafur Rahim

O Prophet! Say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the faithful to draw their JALABIB close around them; that is better that they will be recognized and not annoyed. And God is ever Forgiving, Gentle.  
Quran, Surah al-Ahzab ayah 59 (33:59) 

In that three months that I gave up wearing hijab, I kept up my other obligations as a Muslim.  I even fasted part of Ramadan dressed as a modest Westerner.  I kidded myself that my clothes didn't matter as long as I was still modestly dressed and covered.  I still kept all covered other than my head/hair/neck and my shape.  I was still more modestly dressed than many modestly dressed people.  I told myself I didn't need a headscarf to be a Muslim.  I had fun doing my hair and wearing make-up and feeling pretty.

And then I went on a short vacation to our state capitol.  We walked downtown to a farmer's market that is held weekly right at the base of the capitol building itself.  On some steps leading to the building was a protest in support of Palestine.  I was excited to see other Muslims!  I live in a small town where we are one of only two Muslim families.  And even we I go to the larger nearby city to shop, I rarely run into other Muslims.  So to see so many, I was elated!

They were ending their protest and all came walking right by us.  I said "Asalaam alikum" to a lovely, young sister wearing hijab.  I got no response.  

In her defense, I don't think she could hear me.  The crowd was quite loud.  And, in her defense, why should she ever expect a greeting from me?  There was no reason to ever believe I was Muslim.  I certainly wasn't dressed like one.  I learned a valuable lesson from that little heartbreak (and it was heartbreak as I so rarely get to greet other Muslims.)

Clothing is a language.  We communicate through it who we are and what we believe and many other subtle details.    As Muslims, our clothing tells the world in whom and what we believe.  We are standing up for our beliefs, our way of life, the Quran, and Allah swt.  We are telling the world that a woman can be Muslim and dress like this and still be a doctor, a secretary, a mother, a teacher, a writer, a person who rejects violence and injustice in the world.  That we need not be thought of as oppressed.  That we are every bit as capable, loved, encouraged, and valued as Western women.

But more importantly, it tells other Muslims who and where we are.  In much of the world, we are the majority.  But not in America.  We need to know each other.  We need to identify.  We need to create communities for support.  We need to be able to greet each other as Allah (swt) in the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad (saws) have taught us.

"And when you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with what is better than it, or (at least) return it equally."
(Qur'an, An-Nisa 4:86)

"You will not enter paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another: 'spread salaam' (the greeting of peace) among you." (Muslim)

Our religion is a beautiful one.  It teaches us how to live the best possible life.  One of the most important aspects of our faith is community.  People are meant to live together and Islam is a religion that is meant to be shared.  The first way to have a strong, vibrant community is to clearly be able to identify each other.  I hear/read everyday the tales of converts who are lonely and without community.  Being able to recognize each other is the first step in creating a widespread American Muslim community.  

I believe that Allah provided women with hijab for precisely this reason.  Community starts in the home, with the mother.  I challenge every Muslimah to think of herself as a mother to the Ummah.  Wear your hijab proud and use it to increase the visibility of our Muslim community.  Show people what a real Muslim woman is like, not the lies that Fox News would have people believe about us.  And show other Muslims that you exist.  That we are 1/3 of the Earth's population.  That we are many and that we are strong.  Let us stand tall, wearing our scarves and jilbabs, recognizing each other and strengthening the ummah, insh'Allah, for the glory of Allah swt.

Monday, July 6, 2015

7 Gorgeous Plus Size Abayas for Eid

Every woman wants to look special on a special occasion.   And nothing is more special to a Muslim than Eid!   But for plus sized women this can be harder as finding clothes in our size and that flatters us can be a challenge.  Here are 7 pieces that will make you feel on Eid like the Muslim Queen that you are!  

Last year I showed you how to alter or make new clothes for Eid with little time or $.  This year I am sharing with you seven of the prettiest gowns available in plus sizes and you can still get in time for Eid.  Have fun drooling and ordering!

Shukr:  They are shipping yet until July 11th for Eid.  Please note what they say on their site about these gowns: "All our Gowns are slimmer fitting in the upper body and sleeves compared to normal SHUKR dresses and abayas. They are equivalent to half a size down from your regular SHUKR size. They are designed to be worn at female-only gatherings or in front of family members."

Secret Garden Gown $169.95  Also comes in a lovely Tawny Brown color.  

Zanubiya Gown  $189.95  

East Essence: They are shipping through July 11th as well.

Arabian Silver Beaded Occasion Abaya $59.99  comes in more colors as well

Al Hannah:  For standard shipping, they are shipping until July 11th.

All photos are the property of the companies they represent.

Do you know of any great gowns for Eid?  What are you planning on wearing?  Let me know below!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

My Favorite Plus Sized Muslim Online Clothing Sources

I am going to do what women rarely do... share my favorite shopping sources with you all.  Plus sized shopping is hard for Muslimahs.  I don't really understand why, since it seems so many of us are a bit more generous sized.  We (Muslims) should have a culture that promotes respect of our bodies and not trying to fit into today's beauty standards.  My only guess is that many Muslim clothing companies are in countries where better eating and more exercise are more prevalent than in the US, so even as a woman ages and gets "fuller" she is still quite thin compared to many of her American counterparts.  But some are realizing that the US is a big market (no pun intended) and are starting to offer a larger range of sizes.

DISCLAIMER:  Not all of the following business have I purchased from or done business with or had any contact with at all.  And even if I have and give them a good recommendation, that does not mean your experience will be the same as mine.  This list does not recommend or promise a good shopping experience and I am in no way responsible if you have complications or are unhappy.  That being said, here is a list of some tips for ordering online, specifically with foreign, Islamic clothing sites.  (If you have more tips, please add them in the comments section!)

1.  Always look for a size chart with the measurements for their sizes.  Sizes are not standard, even in the US.  A company can make a size any measurement they want.  Know your personal measurements and look for the actual measurements not just the size.  Here is a good tutorial on how to take your measurements.  Just last week I was looking at a site and saw that their 8X fit an American size 18!!!  I would have bought my normal size and been severely disappointed had I not checked their measurement chart.

2.  Once you find their measurement chart and confirm that their sizes fit you, always size up.  Our clothing is also supposed to conceal our shape, so it shouldn't be tight.  I normally go up a size.  But if you want to be sure, adding 2-3 inches on to your measurements for your bust and hips should be plenty of extra room.

3.  Also know the length you need.  Since Muslim clothing is often supposed to be longer length, the right length can be critical.  Some companies will go by your height, having designed the abaya/jilbab/etc. to hit you at a certain point, such as ankle length.  Other times they will just tell you the length and if it isn't long enough (or too long), oh well.  The best are when you can choose the length.  Then you can decide if you want that garment to be calf length, ankle length or floor length.  So know your measurements for each length of a garment length you like.  Again, go to this link for help in about getting your own measurements.

4.  Google Translate is your friend.  There is a whole world of foreign sites that you can buy from.  But often their websites are not in English.  But that shouldn't stop you.  Just cut and paste yourself to understanding on Google Translate.  Keep in mind that foreign companies need to be able to process your payment and ship your order to you.  Not all companies are able to do this.  Look for companies able to take PayPal or bank transfers.

5.  Be prepared to pay for shipping.  This is the hardest part of online shopping.  Make sure you check the shipping costs before you approve the purchase.  What is too expensive for shipping is really up to you.  If I really love something and haven't been able to find it anywhere else, I will be willing to pay more for shipping.  But if what you want is found on a couple of sites and this is the cheapest, make sure it really is the cheapest when you add in shipping.  Don't be afraid of using plain old United States Postal Service.  I have been buying online for over 15 years and have never had problems with them.

6.  Don't stick to just businesses that have their own websites.  eBay, Etsy, and Amazon are all good places to find smaller retailers, especially custom seamstresses.  Be open to them, but be careful.  First thing to watch for is larger retailers offering their stuff on Amazon or eBay or Etsy at inflated prices.  Always look at who the seller of an item is and if they have a website.  Check the website to compare prices.  Of course, sometimes they offer items at a reduced rate or items they are not offering any more on their site.  Then you know you are getting a deal!

7.  Do research.  Ask around.  Read blogs that do reviews.  Google the company.  Look at their Facebook page.  If you are shopping on Etsy or eBay make sure you read the feedback and check their rating.  Read the reviews on Amazon.  If there are more negative comments than positive, stay away.

8.  When buying from a retailer for the first time, only order one thing or a small dollar amount.  That way if you are disappointed by their service, quality, packing, anything, you are not out a lot of money.

9.  Do not be afraid to talk to the customer service representatives.  They are there to help and make sure you are happy with your order.  They know their products and can help answer any questions you have about them.  If you have any reservations about ordering, you will probably feel better after talking to them.  Or maybe you won't and then you will feel better that you didn't order after all.

10.  Yes, there are horror stories out there of orders not showing up, getting the wrong items, not being able to get a hold of the company to resolve problems.  Remember that those are often isolated incidents or companies that you would know to avoid if you do a little research.  Refer to points 7 and 8 to reduce your risk.

Now on to the shopping!

Note:  I did not consider going up to size XL to be Plus Sized.  There are plenty of sites like that.  I am looking for 2X and up according to the measurements on the chart below.  Read carefully and pay attention to measurements NOT to sizes!!!

Custom made Clothing:

By "custom" I mean companies where you give them you measurements and your garment is made to order.  You should expect longer delivery times for these companies as they need time to make your clothing as well as expedite your order and ship it.

Overgarments.com:  This site does custom made over garments in the abaya style.  Give them your measurements and choose your color(s) and you will get your own unique garment.  I have never purchased from her, but have read many good reviews on Facebook.  She has great prices and often has even better deals!

jilbabcity: A seamstress from Houston, Texas who sells her overstock on eBay.  I have purchased 3 garments from her.  All were very well made and of good quality fabric.  

Love Unspoken:  Traditional styles with unique details.  Custom made.  You pick the fabric, color, and measurements.  

East Essence:  I have bought from this company more than a few times.  I have pieces of their I love and others that are just OK.  I have read that they have greatly improved their koshibo fabric, which I never cared for.  I would recommend them, but remember that you get what you pay for.  They are not the highest quality, but are a good choice for the Muslimah on a tight budget.

Islamic Attire

My Batua:  This company is very similar to East Essence but a little more expensive and a little higher quality.  Some of their things are too expensive, in my opinion.  I have purchased from them.  Only one of the pieces (out of seven) was I really happy with.  This was from a design standpoint and a matter of fit.  Their items tend to be slimmer through the hips and I needed them a bit roomier without being baggy in the bust.  For this reason, I don't know that I would buy from them again.  But their quality was good.

Online Abaya: Be careful of their sizing and check the measurements.  They run smaller than you would think.

Ready to Wear:

Modanisa:  A Turkish company specializing in Turkish styles.  You can get their website in English.  Look for the symbol on the top to change the language if you need to.  They accept Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal for foreign payments.  I have read a good review of them on Old School Hijabi's blog, but I have never purchased from them myself.  The one problem I have with the site is they do not give the measurements for the sizes.  They do tell you the measurements and size the model is wearing, which is very helpful.  But they do not give the measurements for the other sizes.  They use the more common Middle Eastern sizing system which is the size of the bust.  Not real helpful if your hips are bigger.

Al-mujalbaba   I have never purchased from them but have read fantastic reviews.  They are a US (New York City) based business.  Abayas and large square scarves are their specialty.  They have a fun, youthful, urban style and most of their stuff is nursing friendly.  And before you think I am wrong about adding them to this list, look at their measurement chart.  Their XL equals a US 24/26/28.  And in the description they give the actual measurements.

Al Hannah: A website with  long established reputation.  I have ordered from them in the past and have been very happy.  I know of others with the same experience.  They import much of their clothing from Jordan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.  They recently redid their website and now it is easier to use.

Plus Size Muslimah:  A lovely site and a lovely company.  I have a longer review in this post.  I have purchased from them and plan to again in the near future.  Excellent quality.

Shukr: I have never purchased from them, though I have always heard wonderful things about them.  What I have heard is that though they may seem expensive, their clothes are worth every penny.



AlSharifa: Some of their caftans go up to a size 20.  

French Jilbab:

French jilbabs are an over-the-head garment that is perfect for plus sized Muslimahs.  They are sized by your height because they are so voluminous they will fit nearly any size. The only exception to that is the two piece ones because the waistband of the bottom skirt or sarouel pants is normally meant to fit a smaller sized waist.  But the top piece will still fit.  

To learn more about French jilbabs, check out my post about sewing your own.  It is quite easy!  But if you don't sew, the following companies sell beautiful ones. 

Jilbab London

Tasmin Collections

Bismillah Boutique:  I have never actually purchased from this company, so I cannot speak to their customer service.  But I do have one of their French jilbabs.  I got it in a trade with a friend.  I like it a lot.  It is excellent quality.  Too good in fact.  The elastic on the sleeves is a bit tight for me to comfortably push them up to wear under a jacket.  I wanted to remove it, but it is actually sewn in place.  I also had to pick out stitches and resew the edges of the face hole so my face would fit.  Other than those two issues, the fabric is beautiful, it is very well made, and it is comfortable to wear.

Nabira  I have ordered from this site a couple of times.  I have always been pleased.  My order came very fast.  Usually less than a week.  All the way from France!  Their prices are extremely reasonable and yet their quality is good.  They have a nice selection of French jilbabs, but I actually have only purchased other garments from them, which I love and wear all the time.

Al Moultazimoun:  Fashion forward designs.  Beautiful colors.  Very feminine.


Do you have a favorite plus size Islamic shopping source I didn't mention?  Or comments on the ones I did?  Please share below so we can help each other.

Thank you to ashleyelladesign for the above stock photos.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Sew a Jilbab From an Abaya for an Interview

The last five months have been crazy!  First, I got married.  Then I got really sick.  I mean really sick.  Off of work.  Multiple trips to the doctor.  I was sick for seven long weeks.   In that time I also got a new job (which I had applied for before I got sick).  Alhamdullilah I got better just before we moved into our new house!  I had to unpack.  I left my new job.  I left because I didn't like juggling two part-time jobs (among other reasons).  I decided to find full-time work and that leads me to today's blog post...  sewing a jilbab for an interview from an existing abaya.  Since I wear hijab, I can't just go to a department store and pick up a suit for an interview.  Plus I am plus sized, making things even harder.  I had to get creative.  

Sew a Jilbab From an Abaya for an Interview

This all started when I sent in my resume and was just hoping for an interview.  I knew I would need something to wear.  I have clothes for work, but nothing I thought would be good for an interview.  Plus, since I only recently started wearing an outer garment, a jilbab, as part of my hijab (see my post about hijab to learn more about this) I don't have a lot of choices.  This was the perfect opportunity to have the jilbab of my dreams.

So I shopped.  And shopped.  And shopped some more.  All online, of course.  I live in rural Wisconsin.  There are no Muslim clothing stores in the area.  I have to travel 2 hours to get to one in Madison.  And they do not carry what I was looking for.  And I was pretty sure that even if I drove to Chicago itself, I would have a hard time finding what I was looking for.  Mainly I figured this because I have had such a hard time finding it online!

Coat style jilbabs are not easy to find in plus sizes.  And that is what I wanted.  A button down, full length, summer weight jilbab, preferably with A line styling.  And not in what most websites consider "plus size" (AKA XL).  I am a bigger girl than that!

First, I must say that if Shukr would increase their range of sizes, I would purchase from them in a heartbeat.  I love most of their stuff and they have exactly what I was looking for.  But alas, they only have sizes for the slender among us.

I considered East Essence.  I have purchased from them before and am familiar with their quality.  I H.A.T.E. their koshibo fabric, though I read that it may have changed for the better since I last ordered it two years ago.  Other items of theirs I have, love, and wear all the time.  They have a jilbab that I am interested in, but I had read it is not really a summer weight so I am saving it for later.  Also, it takes time to get their stuff since it is custom made and shipped from India.  I hoped I didn't have time for that!  I wanted an interview NOW.

I like some of the stuff from Islamic Attire but they have the same problem as East Essence... the custom making and shipping from India.  So again, I will save them for a later date.

Then I looked at Plus Size Muslimah.  I had never purchased from them nor had ever heard from anyone who had.  Their website certainly is attractive.  As are their designs.  I had admired several of their abayas for a long time but had never bought anything.  Now, I saw that they had several designs on sale for $19.99, including the Colorblock Abaya.  Unfortunately, it only came in a 7X.  That is more than double the size I needed.  But gazing longingly at the picture of this handsome abaya, I had an idea.  I saw a button down jilbab made from this abaya.  The same lovely colorblock design.  The same attractive summer weight fabric.  The same conservative, interview worthy colors.  But with black buttons running down the front, creating the button down coat I longed for.

Picture used with the permission of www.plussizemuslimah.com

I figured that if I ordered a size so much larger than my own, I would have plenty of fabric to work with.  I hemmed and hawed and finally dove in and ordered it.  I considered ordering more of their products at the same time but I try to order small the first time I order from a company so if I am unhappy I am at least unhappy at a smaller dollar amount.

There was no need to worry.  My package came lightening quick!  And it was packaged beautifully.  Even wrapped with a pretty ribbon.  The abaya itself, though way too big for me, was very well made and of a beautiful fabric.  Light yet opaque.  Perfect for summer.  Perfect for the project.

Sew a Jilbab From an Abaya for an Interview

Sew a Jilbab From an Abaya for an Interview

For this project I had to enlist a helper.  My good friend Kim became my assistant.  By this time, I had the interview!  We had only three days to complete the project.

The first evening we laid the abaya out on the floor.  We laid one of my frequently worn abayas on top of it to compare the sizes.  Wow.  We certainly had plenty of fabric to work with.

Sew a Jilbab From an Abaya for an Interview

Sew a Jilbab From an Abaya for an Interview

The first job was to cut up the middle of the front so we could make the front opening.  After a moment's hesitation, Kim cut right up the center.

Next we pinned each side to create the placards.  I put more fabric on the inside edge of the inside flap so that if there was gaping while wearing it, it would be less likely you could see through the gap as the extra fabric will help fill it.

Sew a Jilbab From an Abaya for an Interview

After carefully pinning the front, I tried it on.  I knew I wanted an A line silhouette.  So wearing the abaya inside out, Kim pinned in the waist.  I wanted it loose enough for hijab standards, but without a lot of excess fabric in the waist.  My bust and hips are much larger than my waist.  I do not want to emphasize my shape, but I cannot stand too much excess fabric bulking up under my arms.  I was looking for a nice, clean diagonal line out from my armpit, skimming over my hips, and to the floor.

Sew a Jilbab From an Abaya for an Interview

The first sewing I did was sewing in that fabric on the sides.  Then I sewed up the placards.  Once they were sewed, it was easier to try on.  So far, I was very pleased.

In front of the TV that night, I sewed on the buttons.  Then I hand sewed the buttonholes.  I chose to do them by hand because (and this is my dirty little secret) I have never sewn a buttonhole by machine.  Gasp!  Honestly, I don't really feel like a real seamstress without that experience, but there it is.  In the end, I was very pleased.  The hand done ones turned out perfectly.  My two tips are using a razor blade to cut the hole instead of a scissors and using embroidery cotton instead of sewing thread.

Sew a Jilbab From an Abaya for an Interview

Once I could button it and see how it hung while wearing it, it was possible to do the hem.  I wanted a hem that just skimmed the floor.  The week before I had seen at the Masjid some women with lovely jilbabs that were that length and loved the look.  I believe the only foolproof way to do a hem, especially one like that where there is no room for error, is to pin it while wearing it.  Once again, my assistant helped me, doing a wonderful job pinning it.

I didn't actually sew the hem as I hate a noticeable hem seam and I didn't really have the time to do a hand sewn one.  Instead I used iron on hem tape.  That stuff is awesome and is very easy to use!

I took in the arms and shortened them as well.

Sew a Jilbab From an Abaya for an Interview

Afterwards, I was pleased as punch!

Sew a Jilbab From an Abaya for an Interview

Sew a Jilbab From an Abaya for an Interview

Sew a Jilbab From an Abaya for an Interview

Sew a Jilbab From an Abaya for an Interview
How I looked the day of the interview.
Thank you to my wonderful assistant and fabulous friend, Kim!!!  I honestly could not have finished this project without you.
Sew a Jilbab From an Abaya for an Interview

After notes:

I always like to talk about what I wish I had done different and if I am pleased with the project.  With this one, yes, I am pleased.  Very pleased!  I wear this jilbab A LOT!  The only thing I would have done different is the hem.  I think it looks really good at that length, but I step on the front of it all the time.  I am not sure how to fix it other than just making it shorter.  I am still considering the situation.

The abaya itself that I used was really nice.  The construction was too good!  I felt bad cutting it apart it was made so well.  The seams were all french seams, not serged.  A more expensive way to do them because they take more fabric and more time, but they last much longer.  And are perfect for plus sized ladies because they can take more stress and wear.  The fabric is wonderful.  I know it doesn't look that light but it is and yet still opaque.  Despite the dark color I am finding it quite comfortable for summer.

Plus Size Muslimah as a company impressed me a lot.  My order came lightning fast!  The picture above shows how nicely it was wrapped.  When I contacted them to ask their permission to use the above picture, they were very excited and offered to help me any way they could.  From this abaya alone, I believe that this company understands the needs of plus sized Muslim women for their clothing.  I will definitely be ordering from them in the future.

Please let me know what you think!  Do you like coat style jilbabs?  Do you have a hard time finding plus-sized Muslim clothing?