Thursday, August 18, 2016

Finally, Anna

Let me tell you a tale of two Annas!
So, I really honestly believed that I was the very last of the sewers/sewists/seamstresses (whatever the heck you call us these days!) to make the By Hand London Anna dress.  Or at the very least I was the very last in the sewing blogosphere to make it, but I've been reassured there are others out there like myself that hadn't yet gotten around to making it for whatever reason.

To be honest when I first saw it a few years ago I was kind of underwhelmed by it.  It's not my usual style.  It's better suited to willowy figures.  It's almost $17 Cdn with the exchange.  I had reason after reason why Anna was not going to join the ranks of dresses hanging in my closet.  But over time I grew to like Anna.  Really like her.  Covet her graceful lines and feminine bodice pleats.  I had it BAD.  Every time another one popped up in my sights I was smitten even further.

Finally this spring in a moment of madness (and not terrible exchange rate) I snagged the pattern.  I don't know why it took me until now, at the end of summer to finally sew it up.  I kept waffling.  I was nervous after reading about so many fitting woes and then I couldn't find fabric I loved and again the reasons why not to dive in were popping up even though I really wanted an Anna of my own.  Some times I suffer a lack of confidence and it really does my head in.  But then the Maxi Dress Sew Along popped up on my Facebook feed and it was all the push I needed to get me going.

I hit up a sale at Fabricland at the end of July and what a sale it was!  I struck gold in the bargain centre where everything was 50% off, finding a quilt cotton that was reminiscent of the beautiful African wax prints I've been eyeballing for the last several months on line with its bright colours and interesting print.  At $2.50/metre I knew that even if Anna turned out to be my most hated sew ever (see - told you I was lacking confidence at the time!) I would have spent less than $8.00 on it.  I can do that.  I also got a great cotton sateen tropical print for 70% off that day that I'd been wanting for awhile but  was to cheap thrifty budget conscious to spend the money on.  With possible Anna fabrics purchased, washed, dried and stashed away at the ready there really was no valid reason for not giving it a go.

I muslined Anna and found that the fit issues didn't actually seem to be that ominous.  I wasn't experiencing any of the horrible back of neck gaping that so many did.  The neck line didn't seem too high.  The bodice was short, but bodices are ALWAYS short on me, so no big deal.  The fit felt good, although I was nervous about the snugness of the bodice.  I'm hard to please with that - I like to have a bit more ease in my clothes but there's a fine line between ease and sloppy and I hate sloppy.

I decided to cut out my quilt cotton first and make the midi-length version so that it wouldn't be such a fabric suck if things went south with it.  Sewing was super easy - except the zipper.  WHY do zippers always have to give me such fits???  That beast took one try for the first side (as always) and three tries and a chocolate bar for sustenance to get the second side looking decent.  I sewed up the side seams with a 3/8" seam allowance instead of the instructed 5/8" to allow for more ease and then I tried on my dress.  Dismay.  It felt and in my eyes looked like a frumpy dumpy sack.  Which in turn of course made me feel like a frumpy dumpy sack.

My zipper installing supplies at the ready!
I didn't know what to do to salvage it.  I consulted blogs, loads of pattern reviews and finally asked in one of my Ravelry groups where there is a super helpful, supportive lot of members who sew.  I took all their suggestions, thoughts and advice into consideration and decided to start with the easiest of them all.  I went back and stitched the side seams with the 5/8" seam allowance tapering out to a 1/2" allowance at the waistline.  Put the dress on again and couldn't believe the difference it made. I also made a mental note to stay stitch the heck out of the neck line next time, because I'm pretty sure that was part of my problem.

I wore the dress all day on Tuesday and while the neck line still feels a bit loose, it's totally wearable and what's better?  It's totally comfortable.  That dress is secret pyjamas I tell you!  I immediately cut out my tropical sateen when I got home and thought I'd finally tackle the maxi dress version for the sew along!

I have to tell you that I'm not sure I'm actually even a fan of maxi dresses.  I like them well enough on others, but for me?  I'm just not convinced.  Plus there's that danger of tripping and falling.  I have a history.  I once, during my ballet exam, when I was about 9 years old, managed to step on the hem of my circle skirt during the Italian Tarantella and instead of ending with a swish of my skirt and a clap of my tambourine, I ended up with the heel of my character shoe tangled in the skirt and me on my butt trying not to cry from the humiliation of it all.  Anyways.  That's enough traumatic wandering down memory lane for now.  Back to my maxi Anna.  I decided in for a penny in for a pound.  After all I had several maxi length dresses in the 70s as a little girl and I survived to tell the tale.  So I  spent Tuesday evening and yesterday afternoon sewing it up.

This time I shortened the boat neck line by about 5/8" inch on either side and stay stitched it.  I redrafted the facings and interfaced them right away so they wouldn't stretch out any on me.  I also had run low on printer ink so had Little Man measure from my hem of my first version to the top of my feet to know how much to continue down from the original midi length pattern (I also saved myself from having to reprint and assemble something like 43 pages just for the bottom half of the skirt that way).  Unfortunately, Little Man isn't necessarily the most accurate of measurers and my skirt is WAY too long.  Drag on the floor, potentially trip me up and make me fall down too long.  But he's seven, so you know.  You get what you get.  He did his best and I was glad for his assistance.  I'll just either wear stilts from now on or shorten the dress a few inches.  Oh!  I also, at the last minute decided to add pockets and just used the first pocket pattern I found in the disaster that I call my sewing room.  (It was the Emery Dress pockets in case you're at all curious).  I also tried the trick of putting a strip of interfacing down the zipper line.

I love the fit of this bodice even better than the first! My seams and pleats are a bit off (HOW?!?!), but they're symmetrically off so I'm just going to live with it.  My zipper oddly only took one try for both sides and turned out great!  The gods of sewing were clearly smiling on me.  I ate the chocolate bar as a reward instead of as a consolation like the first dress required.  My happy face seam ripper was not needed.

I'm ready for you invisible zip!
Anna.  She's a good one.  I'll definitely be making more of her.


  1. Ooooh that maxi dress turned out so pretty!!!!!!! Nice job!

    1. Thanks so much, Lauren! :)

  2. Don't you just love making your own cloths!! Your dresses are lovely!

    1. I do love making my own clothes - it's like a superpower! :)

      Thanks for the kind words!