Friday, 27 June 2014

Mashed up, hacked up and perfectly fitted: By Hand London Anna

OK, I've had these photos for a while, but the other day Kelly at Cut Cut Sew posted her first Anna dress, and I suddenly got all inspired to blog mine too. So without further ado... here it is!

To say I am pleased with this would be a tremendous understatement. I am OVER THE MOON!  As everyone knows (come on, who doesn't by now?) this is a lovely, lovely dress pattern which is straightforward to sew, and both easy and flattering to wear. But what I'm most pleased with, beyond all other things and beyond a shadow of a doubt, is the fit.

Now, some people tend to find that patterns fit pretty much straight out of the envelope. In fact this is the thing about Kelly's post that prompted me to get writing my own immediately. Because I most emphatically do not tend to fall in that category, and this dress was no exception.  It took 5 or possibly 6 muslins, tweaking here and there and redrawing those marvellous pleats over and over again - I was so very fed up with the whole thing.

But then, in the end, I got this:

That, my friends, is the best fitting bodice I have EVER had. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say it's the first bodice I've ever had that fit properly at all, either homemade or ready-to-wear. It took a lot of adjustments, but they were the right adjustments, and I'm willing to bet I can now rely on variations of those same adjustments to work for me on any number of patterns.

Let me say, here, that this is something I long feared would never happen. I know what it is to despair of ever managing to fit your clothes properly. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one. But I do think that if we keep at it, anything is possible - no-one's the "right" shape or the "wrong" one, it's just a matter of figuring out what works for you. Get yourself a good book, ask the sewcialists, and know that eventually all that trial and error will pay off.  If I can do it, you can!

For those who're interested, my ridiculously long list of fit changes is at the end. For now, can I show you the skirt fabric? It's yet another piece swiped at a sewing-meet swap, and yet again I've forgotten who from (I expect it was Anneke because almost every piece of fabric I've ever acquired at a swap turned out to be hers, oh she of marvellous fabric tastes). It was a fairly small length - just under a metre - so my only option if I really wanted to use it (which I did!) was to swap out the pattern's panelled skirt for pleats (gathers would have worked too, but I dislike them). I used literally all of it, not a single scrap left, cutting it on the cross grain so I could get these cows (are they cows??) walking around the hem:

I like having the name there on the selvedge too. It's at the centre back hem:

Another side effect of having a bit too little skirt fabric was that I couldn't afford to cut a centre back seam for the zip.  So, aside from all my bodice fitting, I also adjusted the pattern to cut the whole back of the dress on the fold, and then inserted the zip in the side seam.  Sounds like quite a lot of fiddling around with an entirely new-to-me pattern company, doesn't it?

To round the whole lot off, I decided to fully line it too.

Pretty darn pleased with that there invisible zip

Inside out!

So, there you have it.  A hacked-up and mashed-up By Hand London Anna dress, which fits me like a dream :-)  Since finishing this I've also made a maxi version, following the pattern precisely this time - and I absolutely cannot WAIT to show it to you, it's a beaut! Just the small matter of getting some good photos first...

Fit-geeks, read on. The rest of you can go now if you like :-)

:: :: ::

Pattern: By Hand London Anna dress.
Size: 6/10 at the shoulders and sleeves, graded out to a 12/16 at the waist.

Adjustments for fit:

  • FBA to add 1.5 cm width and 3 cm length (at the front bodice, not the side seams).
  • Split the two under-bust pleats into four (much more flattering on a full bust).
  • Moved the under-bust pleats 1.5cm towards the side seam (what can I say, they're not as perky as they once were...)
  • 4cm petite adjustment to the upper bodice (I just sort of pinched out what I had to on my first muslin and worked it out from there). I think this means I have a hollow chest - in any case it completely dealt with the gaping and excess fabric above the bust that I've had with most patterns ever. Apparently it's a common full-busted/slim-shouldered thing.
  • Straightened the centre back seam. This was mainly so I could cut the back in one piece, but I also realised early on that it would deal with some gaping at the top.
  • Shortened the back darts 4 cm.
  • 2cm swayback adjustment.
  • Phew! I think that's it!

Other modifications:

  • Cut the back on the fold.
  • Replaced the back zipper with an invisible zip at the side.
  • Replaced the panelled skirt with a pleated one. The back skirt is slightly wider than the front - I just felt it balanced well like that.
  • Fully lined both bodice and skirt in cotton poplin (the outer bodice is poplin too). The skirt fabric needed lining as it's pretty light, so I just did the whole thing.

End. Someone pass me a G&T, I'm exhausted again just typing it.


  1. It looks wonderful and like all the effort was worth it! That skirt fabric is divine!

  2. AMAZING! It turned out great, definitely worth the effort!

    And yes, that fabric came from me. It's really funny to see my ex-stash come along here, good to see it's being used!

  3. Stephanie RamaekersJune 27, 2014 10:36 am

    This is the loveliest Anna I've seen so far and actually the first to make me want to make one as well :) And damnit, now I want cows walking on my hem as well :)

  4. Thanks! Yes I'm so glad I persisted! And the fabric is entirely down to Annette Tirette's good taste :-)

  5. I find it quite funny that every piece of fabric I've ever picked up at a swap is yours! There was only one where I actually knew it was yours (the icelandic mountains - still trying to think of a plan worthy of it!) And it's actually really cool too trying to think of good uses for pieces that are smaller than I'd usually buy for a whole project.

  6. haha the cows on the hem is what inspired the entire thing! I couldn't think what I was going to do with it until I turned the piece of fabric sideways and saw that!

  7. Haha! Maybe we should try that Sew Bossy thing. Like I don't have enough projects on my mind already!

  8. ooh good idea! But yeah, maybe we could do an end-of-summer edition or something, it's all pretty crazy right now. Plus we have to be on holiday at some point :-)

  9. I agree with Stephanie - this is the nicest one I've seen, I love the contrasting bodice and skirt fabrics. It's never been a pattern that floated my sew-boat, but on you it looks chic indeed. The v-neck suits you.

  10. Wow! Fantastic! You really scored with that fabric! Can't wait to see the maxi!

  11. Oh wow, this is such a beautiful dress! Your many muslins and hours of hard work totally paid off. In fact you've inspired me to have another stab at Anna, especially if results ike this are possible!

  12. This is gorgeous! I've yet to crack this bodice, I love the shape of it on other people but I haven't got it to fit me properly yet, I might have to steal some of your adjustments!!

  13. Love those cows on the hem! Not sure I'll ever have the patience for 5 toiled let alone 6, so I in awe of your patience and definitely paid off!

  14. Well done! It does look like a fantastic fit. Beautifully finished, too.

  15. Gorgeous! I love the fabric and I think all the adjustments and work were definitely worth it. I can't wait to see more!

  16. The dress is great! And I love that skirt fabric, fantastic. They look a little like llamas to me :) Well done on all the adjustments. Not sure I'm that intrepid yet :)

  17. It looks great! I also have to make a lot of modificiations to bodice patterns. I think your modifications nailed it! The fit looks perfect!


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