“By Hand London” is a relatively new indie pattern company and so far they have launched four patterns and generated a huge interest in online sewing community. I have passed them on in the past as I did’t think the styles are particularly “me”. What a mistake! After seeing a lot of beautiful incarnations of their Anna dress, like this one and that one. I decided to try my hands on this pattern. On the same day as it arrived (yesterday that is), I couldn’t resist and whipped the dress up within one day, from tracing to hemming that is! It was a seriously fast make and the result can not be more perfect.
First impression: The pattern come in a beautiful purple envelope protected by a separate card slip. I heard it comes with a cute cloth label that you can attach to your finished garment but I couldn’t find it in mine. (no biggie). It has three variations on the tin – the slash neck maxi with thigh high split, the V-neck maxi and the slash neck with midi skirt. To be honest you can easily create many more – the options are endless. The instructions are very well written, with a lot of good sewing advises for beginners. However if you have some dressmaking experience you probably don’t have to look at them at all.
The sizing comes in both UK and US, take the guess out I guess:-) I decided to go for variation 3, the slash neck with midi length as my fabric has a lot of body so more suited for this particular look. I used a light blue/white tiny pin stripes poly/cotton blend in my stash, I bought it for ages without knowing what to do with it. It is very crispy, maybe a shirting material, feels a bit stiff to the touch.
My bust and waist sizes are more or less a UK 16/ US 12 (within 0.5 inch difference) so I decided to go for that (although I am able to wear UK12-14 RTW; vanity sizing that’s all ). I did’t make a bodice toile but did a quick tissue fitting to my duct tape bodyform Gladys (as in gladys and glynnis in Friends, haha) and it looked OK. It is a quick way to check your fit however bear in mind it is not suited for fine-tuning and will not help you visionizing this dress at all. I figured it is ok since this will be my wearable muslin.
The construction of the garment went like a breeze, there was no interfacing, no reinforcing the seams, no lining, no sleeve setting and no buttons closures. The invisible zipper at the central back was probably the most time consuming part but even that was not too onerous. I just pressed and pressed the foot pedals for hours like a worker in sweatshop! I used an overlocker where I can to save time as the dress has a lot of long seams on the skirt panel. I also understitch the neckline to keep the facing laying flat. The bodice has four pleats on the front instead of darts and they should “opening up almost flower-like to accommodate your bobbies” (quoted from the instruction booklet!). The skit has seven parts, and they all looked roughly the same, so labelling and notching them carefully would save a lot of headache later. All bits matched perfectly, apart from the skirt circumference seamed an inch longer than the bodice – I think it was my mistake rather than a fault of the pattern. Sometimes when overlocking I tend to pull the garment to the side when near the end which results in a narrowed seam allowance. It was no biggie I just took in some fabric at the seams joining the central front and the central side skirts so the pleated lines aligned with the skirt seams as they should.
I had some doubts over the kimono sleeves and the slash neck, as I feared they may make my shoulders looking even broader than they are in real life. But I needed to fear no more as the design turned out to be very flattering. I think the pleats and kimono sleazes contributed to the universally flattering shape for a range of body types. I just love the way the sleeves and the skirts are flared out which instantly slim the waist (see, I learnt a thing or two from Gok Wan).
Overall, I am very pleased with the dress and the pattern. On the first day wearing it, I received the first compliment from a complete stranger. Sure, i received complements on my home-made garments since I started sewing from friends – but what else are they supposed to say? And I don’t even count praises from Mr X as I consider parterner’s compliment obligatory. Thank you, gentleman from Waitrose, you said it was “simple yet sophisticated”. Yes, those are the exact words I would use to describe my first Anna.
The pattern is deceptively simple and it has huge potentials for a variety of completely different looks. You want a casual cotton dress for summer with knee length? Sure. You want a feminine, flowing silk maxi dress to stroll the beach? You got it! You want a thigh splitting, vampy, crime-boss’-mistressy, velvet dress? Seriously what planet are you on?
Do you know “By Hand London” is hosting a sew-along for Anna soon, on 16th Sep? Pop over to have a look here. I will definitely join it. This time I am thinking a v-neck maxi dress with a thigh split… Can’t wait.
Bottom line: believe me you need it