Hi! I’m Rachel and I have a recently-rediscovered passion for sewing.
Just over a month ago I put out a plea for help on this blog. I had three metres of a beautiful and delicate geometric print fabric imported from Japan and purchased in sunny Barcelona and I just didn’t know what to do with it!
I had narrowed it down to two options, the first a classic and comfortable Emery, then second a clean, modern Anna. With your help I made my decision and here she is…
Say hello (again!) to By Hand London’s Anna!
I say again because I have made Anna once before, all the way back in June (that’s a long time in sewing days!). As I recall my Anna was something of a labour of love at that time and I promised myself that once I had attempted a few more makes and picked up a few more skills along the way I would come back to this pattern.I must say that she has been worth the wait.
I am so pleased with the improved fit, a legacy from my hard work understanding my body shape and assembling Simplicity 8523E. The close alignment of the delicate print in the multiple skirt panels owes it debt to Chardon, this skirt featuring a bolder but no less complex print.
Anna Take Two really does feel like a culmination of all of my sewing experiments in the past few months and I can’t begin to describe the great satisfaction in seeing your skills progress.
With my first Anna I really struggled with fitting the bodice although I have since discovered that this is not an uncommon difficulty with the pattern. All my subsequent research has pointed to the neckline being a source of difficulty for a number of seamstresses.
Having made such a hash of it first time around I feel I have gained a some great experience in making the bodice work which I would like to share with you in greater detail in
my next post. Be sure to stop by on Thursday for that greater detail. in this post right here.
In the meantime a few general notes on the bodice. I did decide to go against my standard fit today and not add my usual extra inch as I felt the hem fell in the right place for making my waist look as small as possible. I also followed a trick first tested in my Mrytle top in cutting the neckline to a size 10 and bringing the pattern up to a size 14 through the curve of the arm holes, thus accounting for both my small shoulders and my breast cup size.
This time around I decided to cut a v-neck line as per variation 2 of the pattern. The motivation behind this change was not only personal preference but also in the name of fit. Putting this in the most delicate way possible whilst I may not the most well endowed in the breast area, I do still have a fair handful. With Anna v1 I found that the pleats and any subsequent alterations for gaping necklines etc, resulted in a slight stretching of fabric around the breasts. I have since found that the v neck is a more comfortable fit in this respect and avoided any unnecessary stretching.
Swiftly changing the topic away from my breasts, I also decided to put in what has turned out to be an exposed zip. As this rather confusing sentence may suggest this wasn’t supposed to be exposed zip, actually it was supposed to be an invisible zip. I know what you’re thinking now, this is surely the most visible zip in the history of the world, how could this have happened?
The short answer here is that I seem to have purchased a duff zip. Ok, ok I know a bad workman blames their tools but this zip didn’t even want to do what she was created to do – zip up. Some quick thinking, aka bending to her will, and she became an exposed zip and you know what? I think she looks pretty good for it.
As my final word for today I have to say Anna is surely one of my favourite patterns. Clean, modern, versatile she has it all, have you made Anna yet?
Fresh from setting my sewing goals for the remainder of 2014 I would like to introduce you to the first tick on my list with the completion of my first knitted make Colette’s brand new pattern Myrtle – well the top half of it at least.
My journey with Myrtle hasn’t been the easiest of my dressmaking career. To tell you the truth we just lacked chemistry, we were like one of those couples leaning in to kiss but forever bumping noses. I also cannot say I was without my suspicions from the start. I’m an English graduate and pay great attention to my literary characters; all of my literary Myrtles, Gatsby’s Myrtle Wilson and even Harry Potter’s Moaning Mrytle, were all very tragic ladies.
Despite all this initial doom and gloom I’m channelling the tenth and most important tip from Coletterie’s 10 things I wish I’d known when I started sewing post – Mistakes are Good. I couldn’t agree more and hey, Mrytle and I worked it out. She isn’t the dress she started her life as but Mrytle top and I are getting by quite happily.
The weight of initial fabric is where our problems first started, the cream and grey jersey was just too thin for a beginner knit pattern user. The fabric just couldn’t withstand any unpicking from my trusty stitch ripper and small holes kept appearing at my unpicked seams. At first, I tried to patch the holes but to no avail, my cream coloured jersey had to be abandoned for the top half at least.
I pressed on with the intention of making a two-tone Mrytle with a coffee coloured top and the construction went rather well all in all. Barring a blip with my back right arm hole, my twin needle efforts went rather swimmingly.
The coffee and cream appeared to be a good combination, that was until it came to inserting the elasticated waistband. Once inserted the elastic waistband seemed to pull the waist higher than intended, the elastic bulged outwards from the dress and made a thick ring around the join.
I just couldn’t work out why this had happened. A quick google later and it appears I’m not alone in this one as Jeanette from the Lazy Seamstress posted about a similar experience here.
Jeanette tackled her waistband by inserting a thinner elastic, the pattern calls for a thickness of one inch. I considered following this route myself until my boyfriend mentioned that he really liked the top half. I looked again and thought a Myrtle top might not be such a bad idea.
You know what, I might be right!
Mrytle and I may not have had the smoothest of relationships but I have to say she has been one of the most rewarding projects I have worked on to date. I wholeheartedly believe that overcoming and working through those challenges will make me a much better seamstress.
That’s all for me today but I’d love to hear about your sewing challenges. Do you agree with Coletterie’s Sarai – are mistakes good?
The wait is finally over and the time has come to say hello or should I say bonjour to my Chardon skirt!
The Chardon is my latest make from French pattern company and my new-found love Deer and Doe. Here I am taking my brand new jupe on a test drive at Columbia Road flower market.
My Chardon skirt has formed a key part in two of my recent Cheatsheet posts: firstly as a tutorial for inserting inverted box pleats and secondly, going a little off piste with this pattern, as a walk through for inserting an invisible zip.
For those of you who have followed those tutorials, I thought you may like a closer view of the finished article. Here is an example of the back of skirt where you can see that slinky invisible zip.
I hope you agree that this style of zip was the way to go here, I feel that the seamless continuation of the design fully vindicates the decision.
As you will soon discover the tension between following the pattern versus making sacrifices to preserve the overall design of the garment runs heavily in this post. The greatest of these decisions relates to the choice of fabric and as a consequence the structure of the skirt.
Let me explain. When I first purchased 2 metres of the gorgeous fabric in Barcelona I didn’t quite notice that the pattern was different on both halves of the fabric. As you can see in the below image, one half of the fabric featured small tight green triangles and the other larger green, blue and white triangles with bird designs.
This was a fantastic discovery for me, the fabric was even more beautiful than I imagined! However in spite of this great luck, preserving the actual design presented me with an alternative problem – if I were to cut the fabric along the grain line as intended I would at worst lose the pattern or at best have the left side of the skirt displaying one design and the right side featuring another.
Remembering I had only 2 metres of fabric to play with and unfortunately for me no imminent plans to return to Barca, I had to make a decision as to whether to use an alternative fabric or to cut the fabric on the cross grain which presented me with a tremendous risk. All of my research told me that cutting on the cross grain would ultimately lead to a sacrifice in the fit and shape of the design, this would surely be an unwise move. However I also discovered that the effect could potentially be minimised if the design was fitted and had a strong structure.
I thought long and hard about this and reasoned that the Chardon would fulfil this criteria and a design of smaller triangles falling down into the larger shapes was worth the risk. I went ahead and cut my fabric and I’m not afraid to say I’m tremendously and even a little disgustingly proud of the result – just check out that shape and volume. I hope you agree that it was definitely worth the risk!
I also made two additional alterations to the pattern, the first in name of necessity and the second by way of design. Firstly I lengthened the skirt by an additional 1.5 inches to match the length of my Belladone dress. Secondly I omitted the bow and belt loops from the pattern as I did not want to distract from the waist band design. I really wanted those triangles to cascade down the skirt like so:
That’s all from me today, I am planning on posting my grain line research here in the coming week if you would like to find out more.
In the meantime I would love to hear about some the risks you may have taken with your garments. Where do you fall in the pattern versus design debate?
a.k.a Belladone for Barcelona… a.k.a the one week dress…
The observant among you may have noticed that whilst fabric shopping in Barca I was wearing something new. If you did spot this then congratulations, you were correct! I was wearing the Deer and Doe Belladone in a lovely blue chambray.
I’ve been a long time admirer of Deer and Doe patterns having seen some gorgeous examples online, and the Belladone has always struck a particular cord for me. I’m clearly not alone in this as the Belladone seems to be an addiction for lots of seamstresses out there. You can see a couple of my favourites here, here and here.
Here’s the first of what surely will be multiple Belladones:
The opportunity to make my Belladone came when my boyfriend and I made a snap decision to book a trip to Barcelona leaving in a week’s time. Cue plenty of panic on my part – I didn’t have anything to wear!
I scoured pattern makers for the perfect mooching-around-the-city-and/or-beach dress but kept coming back to the Belladone even though as an intermediate make it would be a bit of a challenge for me. What the hell I thought, it’s just too pretty to resist! I mean it has pockets, pockets! And it’s all about the back…
Full disclosure here, this image has been ever so slightly airbushed but only to remove a very unhappy looking insect bite. Trust me it’s better for all of us this way!
First up alterations: Deer and Doe state that their patterns are designed for an average height of 1.68m or 5ft 5″. I am quite a tall lady at 1.77m or roughly 5ft 10″ so I was ready from the outset for some major alterations. Rather helpfully, Deer and Doe’s pattern model, Camille, is 1.72m. Understanding where the average length fell on Camille was helpful in working out where and by how much I would need to extend the dress in order for it to fit me.
I do love getting my legs out more than most but felt a midi-length would be best for the Belladone and so I added an additional 1.5 inches to the length. My experience of Simplicity 8523 E has also taught me that I will automatically need to lengthen my bodice going forward. I added an additional 1 inch to the front bodice and the centre back.
Just as note on the pattern here, unlike the majority of independent patterns I have tried out so far the Belladone does not come with a lengthening line. This wasn’t really an issue for me but would have been a helpful addition to the otherwise brilliant instructions.
As many a blogger will tell you one of the greatest challenges for this dress is in getting the back to lie flat. I was well aware of this potential banana skin before I began but with a strict time limit I didn’t have time to make a muslin. What I did have time for however was to buy a lot of chambray ready to rectify any hiccups along the way!
Not having had too much time to reflect on 8523 E I cut my bodice to a size 38 which whilst fitting at the bust left me with a bit of gaping at the back neckline. I had to make a choice at this point and decided to rectify the back neckline as, let’s face it, that’s the money shot for this dress. I moved the neck points further over, creating more of an overlap and a narrower diamond to get the fit at the neck. The sacrifice was slight gaping at the front neckline as you can see below:
Once completed I also seemed to have too much fabric at the centre back which led to further gaping. I didn’t panic here however as I remembered my Anna and followed the same technique in moving the zip to create a larger seam fitted exactly to the arch of my back. I really should credit my boyfriend here as without him pinning it together whilst I was wearing it I would never have got it to fit so well – little does he know he’s now got a job for life!
I should also take this moment to talk pleats. The pleats were the bane of my life for the dress. My brain just couldn’t seem to compute when making them!
For this pattern the pleats are made by making the fold on the reverse of the fabric so that the marks meet. The pleats are then stitched using a 0.75 inch seam allowance to form the pleats.
Reading this back now this all looks very simple but what I couldn’t quite understand was whether the fabric was stitched together at the fold first anyway, my first attempt was an accidental but very well formed inverted box pleat and on the second attempt I went through both layers of the fabric.
As you may know chambray doesn’t really like too much unpicking so I was using up my spare fabric pretty quickly and I was getting worried. Finally whilst thinking nothing of sewing but only, as I sprinted for the train, how I was late for work, I finally got it and it was so simple. I just needed to treat the pleat as a seam however I also needed to sew away from the fold of the pleat so it would become a soft tuck. Hurrah!
Double hurrah as you can see below I managed to get my pleats to line up perfectly with my front darts – hurrah x2!
Whilst she may not be perfect I’m a big fan of my Belladone and in taking on this challenge I’ve managed to put in my first pockets and my first machine-stitched blind hem, I’ve used bias tape for the first time and of course made my first pleats!
I also discovered in the course of this make that there doesn’t seem to be too much picture-heavy advice on what to do if you suffer a pleat meltdown like I did. I’ve made note and I will seek to create some pleat related Cheatsheets in the near future.
I leave you for today with my final Barca photo:
And so here it is! My completed Simplicity 8523 E. I intended to photograph this is in my local area but I thought it would look even better on the balcony of our holiday apartment in Barcelona. I hope you agree because here I am enjoying la bella vista!
My body shape study was of great use as it helped me understand and ascertain the best fit for me. One of the key discoveries was confirmation that my upper body is a little longer than average, something I’ve long suspected when shop bought t-shirts have sought to expose my mid-riff but not that of the mannequin!
The lengthening of the bodice definitely did the trick here, as the top ended correctly at hip height with a short side split (for want of the proper name) allowing the top to flare and not to strain at the hip.
The second alteration was the introduction of two long thin darts on the back of the top with the aim of reducing gape at the neckline. With no real upper body muscle to speak of and, barring the odd length, no real swimming ability I have always had quite small shoulders so encouraging my makes to fit in this area is likely to be a perennial challenge for me.
The sunshine in this image is making me feel very glass half full so I thought I would show you that I achieved my aim first of all before going into detail:
When assembling my bodice it became apparent that the darts I originally placed were not quite long enough as my back curves in to the neck a little earlier than expected. I adjusted for this, lengthening the darts by an inch and re-drawing them to meet the new point. They were now very long thin darts but worked well to gently pull the neckline in and ensure the perfect fit.
Here’s a closer look at those darts:
On to my more general points on assembly, Simplicity 8523 E was an absolute dream to assemble consisting of only 5 pattern pieces. The pieces were clearly marked and – well as you may expect – very simple to trace out. There was also a very handy line indicating the point from which to lengthen the bodice.
I did suffer a couple of tricky moments when putting together my sleeve, this was probably the only point where the instructions were not particularly clear. I struggled comprehending the idea of putting in three lines of basting stitches and pulling the ends of the threads to fit to sleeve to the arm hole without creating a gathered sleeve. I finally got my head around it with the aid of my trusty Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing although there are a couple of very slight gathers on each sleeve which I couldn’t quite smooth out.
In my confusion I also stitched my sleeve on inside out on my first attempt – major face palm moment although on the plus side it was very smoothly attached!
I’m not entirely happy with the facing of my V neck at the tip of the V, as you can hopefully see below I have a lot of excess fabric there and the facing is not lying particularly flat. It’s not too much of a pain in the meantime as you can’t really see it on the right side but I would definitely appreciate any suggestions for tidying this up.
On a final note I would just to say how much I love this fabric – it feels very Ted Baker but for a fraction of the cost!
I tried my best to line up the pattern pieces using this very handy pattern matching tutorial from Sewaholic. This post was really handy and whilst I don’t think my seams were quite as perfect as Tasia’s it’s a definitely improvement and something I intend to work on as I continue sewing.
That’s everything for today, now back to breakfast…