Me and my first dress

I’m Leigh and I’m a completely clueless sewing newbie. I’ve decided to start a blog to chart my attempts to teach myself what I’m doing and so that I can hopefully look back in the future and see how far I’ve come. I also really love reading sewing blogs and would like to become a part of the online sewing community, I’m hoping I’ll get up the bottle to start commenting on other blogs any day now – such a wimp.

I started sewing in March, after umming and ahhing over buying a sewing machine for about a year. I finally cracked and bought myself a basic sewing machine (Janome SMD1000). At this point my entire sewing experience amounted to following some lines on a piece of paper with an unthreaded machine when I was 11 so I wasn’t that optimistic about my sewing ability. But I’ve since made an envelope back cushion, a simple elasticated waist skirt (with awesome raccoons on it it) and two dresses – a By Hand London Anna and a Simplicity 2444.

Fitting is where I’m having my biggest problem as I appear to have the body of a monster. I’m short (5’2”) with small boobs and a thick waist, so I’ve had to learn quite quickly how to make adjustments or grade between sizes. But of course I have no idea what I’m doing. For my Anna dress I think I made 5 toiles and I still have changes to make before I make my next version.

Firstly I made a straight size 16 based on my waist measurement and I was drowning in fabric and being garrotted. Not even knowing that a SBA (that’s a Small Bust Adjustment for fellow floundering sewers) was a thing at this point I had the idea of talking out some of the length between my boobs and shoulders. I pinned it out and it made a big difference so I altered my pattern pieces and made a second toile(/muslin if you prefer). Which was better but still had a lot of extra fabric around my bust and shoulders.

By now I’d learned that a SBA was a thing, just not how the hell to do one on the Anna dress. All of the tutorials I could find were for bodices with a waist dart and a bust dart. Eventually I found this tutorial from Emily at Belgian Seams, which was really helpful and I hacked into my pattern pieces once more and whipped up a third toile.

Cue a MUCH better fit at the front but lots of bunching at the back of my armpits – if that makes any sense – and no one wants baggy armpits. Google helped me discover a narrow back/shoulder adjustment and I bodged one of them and made another toile. I was almost happy with this one but the shoulders were sitting a bit wide so I narrowed the neckline at the front and back and made my last toile.

Finally happy/sick of toiles I cut into my red shirting and knocked up a dress. I used french seams throughout and a zig zag stitch on the edge of my facing as I don’t have an overlocker and didn’t even have pinking shears at this point. I really love french seams.

Red By Hand London Anna
Excuse the terrible selfie, I lost my better photos.

It’s riddled with mistakes. I spent ages making sure the waist seam lined up at the zip and ended up getting it way out when I actually sewed the blinkin’ thing. I could/should have unpicked it and redone it but I decided I didn’t care enough (it was late). I loved it anyway until I got a friend at work to take a couple of photos of me in it and noticed that weird pull going from the bottom of one of my boobs up towards the top of the other. I didn’t have it on the final toile so I can only assume that it’s something I messed up in the construction causing it rather than a fit issue.

I’m not entirely happy with the fit now either though. The waist is too high and I think the armholes come up a bit short. I also read a comment on a blog post discussing darts that said pull lines from the top of the dart to the side seams are a sign that the darts are finishing too high and I have some of them – I think. So I think the solution might be to re-add the length that I took out after my first toile. That would lower the waist, extend the armholes and mean that the darts are finishing slightly lower.

Red By Hand London Anna dress

So yeah, that’s me and my first shoddy dress. I’m hoping that my second Anna – a maxi length floral version – will work out better.

4 thoughts on “Me and my first dress

  1. Hi! Your dress looks so cool! I really want to make a red Anna now! Glad you found my tutorial useful! 🙂 I know what it feels like to franticly google for SBA help! 🙂

    1. Thank you, I do think Anna looks lovely in red. Your tutorial was so, so helpful – I’d probably still be weeping in my dining room surrounded by calico if I hadn’t found it.

  2. I found your blog via Tilly and The Buttons. Welcome! Although, strictly speaking I’m not sire I’mreally part of the sewing community. I’m also a sewing newbie (and just as scared of the big world of sewing blogging!) but decided to try and integrate my sewing trials and tribulations with my existing blog, we’ll see how that goes. I love that your first dress was a BHL, so was mine; Georgia! It looks great and wow, I am impressed with all the adjustments and toiling (ooh pun!). The fit does look great. Subscribed in Bloglovin and looking forward to following your progress. 😀

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