By Hand London Flora

By Hand London Flora montage

I may as well get it out of the way up front and tell you that I kind of hate this dress.

I made it to wear to a good friend’s wedding a couple of weeks ago – By Hand London Flora is practically made for wearing to weddings after all – and I enjoyed wearing it, the skirt has a lovely swish to it and the fabric is cool and soft but when I look at these pictures of me I cringe. The fit is just so so bad.

I sort of made a half arsed notquiteatoile but it clearly didn’t really help.

My measurements fall exactly half way between the (UK) 14 and 16 so I decided that I would start with the 14 first and just sew the side seams with a smaller seam allowance (10mm / 3/8″) which would have given me roughly an extra inch, which I thought would be plenty.

By Hand London Flora dress
The only photo taken at the wedding.

I was trying out using lightweight sew-in interfacing as Swedish tracing paper, so I traced the 14 on to that, sewed it all together and tried it on. It looked way off fitting. The centre back and front didn’t both want to be at my centre back and front at anywhere near the same time.

So I traced the 16 onto normal tracing paper and used it to cut out my lining. I then used the lining as sort of a working toile/muslin. It was too big. Quite a bit too big but I soldiered on with that size and just made some adjustments, which I suspect was my dress ruining mistake and I should have gone back to the 14.

flora-laughing
I clearly thoroughly enjoyed taking these pictures.

I took the side seams in by 5mm at the top, grading out to nothing at the waist and I curved the waist darts to take in some of the excess fabric under my bust. I also shortened the straps slightly, roughly a cm I think. The lining then looked like quite a good fit so I adjusted my paper pattern and cut out my main fabric and went ahead with the dress. It was only when I put the zip in that I saw how badly it actually fit. So I unpicked it and sewed it again with a much bigger seam allowance.

But as you can see there are still fit issues. The bodice is too long, there are saggy lumps of fabric at my bust and the front of the armscye could possibly do with tightening up.

flora
Urgh, the wrinkles

I don’t seem to have much luck with By Hand London patterns and the fit process is such a pain that it puts me off buying any more of their patterns, despite how pretty I find them. That’s not to say I won’t make another Flora as I probably will, I just need to put some work into the fit first.

I did my first ever bias bound hem, which I love. It gives the skirt a lovely flute and a bit of weight. Of course that didn’t stop it flying up at the teensiest bit of wind. The fabric I used was a Javanaise Viscose from Abakhan and it’s ever so lovely. I’m tempted to buy some of all the Javanaise Viscose they have. Soft and silky and just gorgeous. I was lucky enough to get the bride’s second dance at the wedding because it was I’ve had the Time of my Life from Dirty Dancing and that’s Our Song. (Well we generally prefer the Dirty Dancing megamix but we’ll take the big number.) During our dance she twirled me around and my skirt flew right up so I flashed my (fortunately pretty) knickers at everyone who was watching.

flora-marilyn
Nearly happened again.

I tried really hard to pattern match across the back and I did an okay job but that got messed up when I had to move the zip. One flower still sort of matches though so that’s good.

flora-back-closeup

 

I did think about remaking the bodice for this as I love the skirt part and I have enough fabric but basically I just can’t be arsed. I guess I’ll just have to chalk this one up as a fail and allow more time for proper toiles in future. Especially for By Hand London dresses.

 

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.

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.