Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Miss Anna Sees Spots

Bonjour, mes amis! This was quite a week, filled with many a stressful thing, but also a couple of completed dresses.

Now that I have a room dedicated to sewing (it is, technically, also an office, but that's about 1/10th of the space), it's much easier to use sewing as a stress reliever. Before moving to Waco, I sewed at my dining room table, which meant an exhausting process of pulling supplies and fabric out of closets and prompt clean up. Nothing saps one's creative energy like the thought of cleaning! Now, however, my projects are always waiting for me. It's made my sewing time more productive, but more enjoyable as well.

This week, my big project was an initial version of By Hand London's Anna Dress. Unlike most other bloggers out there, this was not a love-at-first sight pattern for me. I think BHL's designs are downright foxy, but they've all seemed targeted to a lither, leggier silhouette than mine. Anna seemed to be in the same vein. Sure, it was fit-and-flare, but it also clung to the hips in a disquieting manner.

But then I saw Alana's fabulous jersey version. And Lauren's adorable seersucker.

Plus, Emmie's floral confection, Kathryn's Liberty lovely, and Roisin's star-spangled stunner.

Basically, Anna looked awesome on everyone and I needed to make it. Stat.

Skeptical as I was about the styling, however, I decided to make a wearable muslin first. This black and grey polka dot poplin from Lisette has been sitting in my stash for years now. It was an impulse purchase, when JoAnn was doing one of their crazy sales, and not my favorite fabric ever. The polka dots are cute and all, but it washed up to a rather papery texture and is a bit on the juvenile side for my taste. But, silver lining! It made a perfect wearable muslin Anna.

Sizing wise, I graded rather than performing an FBA. Using Swedish tracing paper, I  traced up to a 16 at the bust, down to a 12 at the waist, then up to a 14 at the hips. This matches my past experiences with UK ready-to-wear sizing. Invariably, something will fit in the bust, but be baggy around my waist. I do love that by sewing my own clothes, such things can be fixed as I go, rather than altered later.

In the end, I like the dress quite a lot. It's the sort of thing I'll have to wear shapewear with, or else face the bellybutton issue happening in some of these pictures. I couldn't find my Spanx before the sun set on this shootif you wear them during a Texas summer, you're a card-carrying masochist, anywaybut they were probably needed.

The shape is lovely, however, skimming out from the waist in a ladylike flare. There's something vaguely 1930's about this pattern, which speaks to my Nancy Drew loving self. Can't you just envision it made up in a floral rayon? All I'd need is a sprightly hat and a garden party to attend, for a complete look.

On the inside, which I neglected to take pictures of, all of my seams are overlocked and were constructed in precisely the manner instructed. These days, I tend to construct things to my own preferences, only reading the given instructions if something seems particularly convoluted. With a new pattern company though, it's nice to get a feel for the designer's intentions and style, by following along with them. I absolutely loved the cheeky tone to the instructions that the BHL girls tookoffering insightful suggestions and funny asides along the way.

The instructions were easy to follow, although not always in the expected order. For example, they have you hem the armholes before the sideseams, which worked so perfectly that I may do that from now on. The only quibble I had was with the order of sewing the facings in. I tend to prefer the neater finish that comes with doing them last, after any zipper installation, rather than having them among the first steps. But with a bit of hand sewing, they came out well, so who cares? Next time, I'll just do them my way. 

Oh look! What's that? An actual zipper. Crazy, right? I'm all too tempted to omit zippers normally, but the Anna dress really needs to fit close at the waist, in order to look correct. I still didn't get it as close as I wanted, but the zipper helped quite a bit to fit the dress well. The installation is not totally perfect at the top, but this is a wearable muslin, after all. Rule #1 of Mary's muslins: Don't unpick a zipper more than once. 

So, that's it! An Anna on a Mary! I have some slinkier fabrics that will look wonderful made up in this pattern, including a floral rayon or two. This is not the last we'll see of Anna, despite my initial reservations.

Plus, it looks damn cute with a cardigan...


  1. This is just heavenly! Must get started on my own Anna!

    1. Thanks so much, Naomi! I would love to see yours, once you've finished. It is such a lovely pattern.

  2. Cute.

  3. This is ticking all the boxes of radness: polka dots, great fit and fab with a cardi! Epic work :D

    1. Thanks, Amanda! Polka dots and a cardigan are my favorite combination, no doubt.

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks, Roisin! Not going to lie, your fabulous versions have had me wishing for more novelty fabric in my stash. Those stars were killer!

  5. you look amazing!! a definite keeper! thanks for the mention xx

    1. Thanks so much, Emmie! Yours was absolutley adorable!

  6. You look so good in your Anna dress ; I just want one for me now !!
    Thanks for updating your blog, I used to read it very carefully
    (sorry if my english is bad, I'm french ^^)

  7. ooooh, very nice, you have me hankering after a floral rayon Anna now too. How unfair that we're well into autumn here. I love your honest appraisal of By Hand patterns too,