Floral Anna Maxi Dress

By Hand London Anna dress

I love love love this dress so much. I am very much a maxi dress girl in the summer and the maxi version of the By Hand London Anna dress was one of the things that drew me to the pattern in the first place. I got this lovely floaty cotton lawn from Abakhan for £4.99/metre. I used 3 metres so with the notions that’s less than £20 for a dress that makes me feel amazing. Sewing is great.

I used French seams throughout again and I’ve used loads of new techniques. I applied bias binding to the edge of the facing, I understitched for the first time, which was no where near as scary and hard as I was expecting thanks to this great tutorial from Tasia of Sewaholic. Sewing it as a straight line just made it so easy.

Understitched bias bound facing
Understitched bias bound facing

I also made my own bias binding and bound the centre back seams before putting in my zip. This didn’t go that well. I used the pin method to fold my bias tape as I don’t have one of the maker thingies and it was pain in the arse and didn’t really fold that evenly (and I hadn’t cut it that well either). Because it was all uneven I foolishly tried attaching the binding to the first raw edge just by folding it in half and stitching both sides at once, which I buggered up and had to try to sort out loads of bits where the fabric wasn’t enclosed properly.

So for the second edge I did sew along the fold first like you’re supposed to, even though the fold was wonky and then used a zig zag stitch to close it. That worked much better but the inside doesn’t have the nice clean finish I was intending when I decided the bind the unfinished edges rather than just zig zag or pink it. It doesn’t detract from how happy I am with the dress though. I just want to dance around in it waiting for people to tell me how pretty it is so I can creepily shout, “THANKS, I MADE IT!” in their faces.

By Hand London Anna dress

I used my altered bodice pieces from before but with the length I took out initially put back in and the fit is much better than my first Anna. I took 5 inches off the skirt pieces before cutting them out and the dress would have been long enough to wear with heels but I wanted it to be short enough to wear with flats so I took off another 2 inches before hemming. It’s now maybe a teeny bit short if I ever did want to wear it with heels but I’m more of a flip flop girl anyway so it doesn’t really matter.

almost matched the zip at the waist seam, it’s a few mm out. It starts a little bit too far off the top of the dress too but I put a hook and eye in for the first time so it’s not really a problem. I was going to handstitch the hem but it was gone 9 o’clock by the time I was ready to start and I wanted to wear it to work today so I decided to machine stitch it. I had lots of compliments from people at work, who were very impressed when I said that I’d made it.

I’m so, so happy with this dress. It’s easily my favourite of the three I’ve made so far and it’s possibly my favourite maxi dress I own (I have about six). I’m very glad I started sewing.

I’ll leave you with one more photo featuring a photobombing dog.

By Hand London Anna and Max the dog
Rub my tummy, Human.

June Sewing Plans

This month I’m planning to make:

A maxi length Anna. I’ve got all my pieces cut out and the darts and pleats pinned ready to be sewn. Hopefully I’ll get a chance over the weekend.

A navy Deer and Doe Anemone skirt. I think I’m going to cut the shorter version but I may leave out the peplum (or fins as I’ve described them to other people) and add some gold buttons for a nautical feel.

I’m going to sta20140606-105948-39588960.jpgrt work on a Megan dress from Tilly and the Buttons’ fabulous book, Love at First Stitch. I may not finish in June as I’m slow and I seem to always have to make up a couple of trial versions ironing out fitting kinks. Though from the looks of the finished measurements on Megan I should be able to cut a straight size 4 but I doubt it’ll be that simple. I was planning on making a wearable toile first (copying Tilly’s red and navy colour blocked version as I have leftover fabric of both colours) and then making it in this gorgeous mustard floral cotton lawn but I’m not sure the fabric is right for the dress. You are supposed to use something a bit heavier and I really want to use this fabric for exactly the right thing because I love it. I would love to turn it into a Sew Over It 1940s Tea Dress but it says it’s an advanced pattern so I don’t think I’m ready for that.

I’d also like to try and make a Grainline Scout t’shirt but I’m not sure I’ll get round to that as I’m being a bit ambitious already.

 

Polka Dot Simplicity 2444

Simplicity 2444
Polka dot Simplicity 2444

I’m much happier with this dress than my first one. I never would have bought this pattern if it wasn’t for seeing so many lovely versions of it all over the internet. Fitting wasn’t quite as big a nightmare as with my Anna as it’s a lot easier to grade between sizes on this one. I did still end up making loads of toiles but I won’t bore you with all details. I ended up sewing a size 12 at the shoulders and bust and then grading out to a 16 at the waist. A 16 is a a bit too big but a 14 was too small and I didn’t really want to faff about with altering the skirt pieces so I just went with the 16. I also took about an inch out of the front and back neckline.

I lined the bodice because I don’t really like facings and because the dress is made from a polycotton that doesn’t feel that nice.

A surprise discovery since I started sewing is that I quite enjoy hand sewing. Which is lucky as I did bloody loads of it for this dress, what with slipstiching the bodice lining down at the waist and to the zip tape and that giant hem. I’m not very quick so the hem alone took me two hours.

Simplicity 2444
Ready for Uplands Market

I’ve worn it twice already. First to a lovely monthly market in Uplands in Swansea where I was glad of the extra room in the waist as I snaffled lots of delicious foods – a huge roast pork bap, a scotch egg and so many delicious samples of cheese and pies (Caws Cenarth Cheese is possibly the best cheese in the world). And then to work, where I’ve had lots of compliments on it, which is nice. I love being able to say, “Thank you, I made it.”

Cheese, pies, pickles and bread
My market haul.

Overall I’m much happier with this dress than my first one and I feel like I’ve learned more skills. There was lining the bodice, sewing pleats, staystitching the neckline and pattern matching – though I didn’t do as great a job of that as I thought I had and I have some slightly figure 8 shaped polka dots. I can definitely see me making lots more versions of this pattern.

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.