Completed, My first Anna Dress, By Hand London


“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. IMG_2692

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).

One more to the side. I chopped two inches off and used a wide hem so the hemline just sits above the knees.IMG_7712

I attached a pink rickrack on the collar which gives a vintage homemade feel.IMG_7675

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


Cake Pattern – Tiramisu Dress – My thoughts


Many of you may have heard of the cake patterns and their legendary tiramisu dress. (what? you have not? Have a look here quick!). I have sewn a couple of knit dresses and one Tshirt and It was an easy project for me with a few challenges. If you choose a stripy fabric then you definitely will need more time and patience when cutting and sewing to ensure the stripes matching (give yourself one evening just for the cutting.)

There have been a sew-along on the Cake Pattern website which I read but not religiously followed when I saw the dress.  It was rather useful especially if you are relatively new to sewing knit materials.  The instruction itself is very clear and concise, with clear diagrams ( i love the clever symbols in each diagram showing the steps that involves such as pressing, pinning, and basting etc).
I chose a red and white stripe viscose jersey (not the most original idea I know), cos I think this fabric and the pattern are a match made in heaven. The fabric is on the thin side and quite stretchy (at least 50%) on both directions and recovers well.  Tip:  if you want to match your stripes and your knit is very shifty then I will say you’d better cut it one single layer at a time – I cut mine on a single layer using the handy stripe guide came with the pattern. it would also save your fabric – after I cut the first layer I manage to cut another bodice front and back from the scrapes hence saved a larger piece on the 2nd layer. I think I can make a stripy Tshirt out of it – who doesn’t love a stripy tshirt!
The pattern has its own sizing system which is based on high bust size, and it comes with cup sizing A-D and a bust alteration line – I was rather baffled at first but quickly understood what that was meant for after reading the pattern instruction and the sew-along posts. I am on the larger side of 35 so I went for that; I normally wear a cup C bra (blush) but decided to go for size B for a more snug fit. It fits really well and no gaping at the neck line at all.
If your fabric is stripy and you are using an overlocker I strongly recommend first to baste the side seams together and go slowly at your sewing machine. if you mismatched it’d be a pain in the butt to rip the overlocked seam, and you lost quite a bit seam allowances on the cutting knife too. Also when attaching the bodice to the waist band, I used a zigzag stitch instead of overlocking as there’re too many layers for my overlocker to chew, and it gives me better control as well.  With careful cutting and sewing I managed to match the stripes. As the dress was cut on the bias the long seams seemed a bit wavy but once I put it on the dress just stretch to conform my body really smoothly.
Look, I made it just on time for the Campbeltown weekend. Look, a fun fair, could not be a more perfect occasion for the dress. I have been wearing the dress a few times now with the raw hem, as the pattern instruction recommends that to allow the bias cut to settle. I have decided to chop 2 inches off so it is just above the knees.
It is fun, it is comfy and it is sexy. When wearing it I feel dressed up but not trying too hard. It is also very easy to find me in the crowd, if I got lost in a big festival or something.
Bottom line: love