Hi! I’m Rachel and I have a recently-rediscovered passion for sewing.
My experiences with Anna v1 inspired me to undertake a bodice fitting journey which started with understanding my bodice and continued through the making of Simplicity 8523 E and Belladone. Anna v2 is a culmination of all of those experiences.
Today I will be providing you with a little more detail on fitting the Anna bodice. Having made quite a mess of the bodice for my Anna v1, I had a wealth of experience to drawn upon by the time it came to Anna v2.
As a general disclaimer, if you thought I talked too much about my assets in Sunday’s post you may want to skip this one!
General Sizing Notes
Anna v1 was cut to a size 12 all over without taking into consideration to curves of my body shape. The resulting bodice was too small at the lower back, struggling to meet at the zip and gaping at the neckline. To overcome the majority of these fitting issues I let out the side seam allowance, removed the back darts and reduced the size of the front pleats. These amendments reclaimed the fabric and allowed me to fit the bodice around my torso.
The below photo shows my attempt at inserting a zip on Anna v1, despite my recovery job it did get very tight at the join with the skirt!
I overcame these issues with Anna v2 by cutting the shoulders and neckline to a size 10 corresponding to my bust size. I recalled from Anna v1 that the seam allowance was quite tight across the bust despite the additional room provided by a size 12. This was likely to be a consequence of my slightly larger than average cup size. To avoid this fitting issue second time around I followed a trick I had attempted with my Myrtle top in bringing the sizing of the dress up to size 14 through the arm holes, thus allowing for extra give around the bust and centre back.
As a quick note the v neckline was also a much better fit for the bustier lady, I do find that the fabric on the straight neck is more likely to ripple when worn.
I decided not to lengthen the bodice for both Anna v1 and v2 as I liked the point where the bodice and skirt met. Choosing not to lengthen the bodice did leave me with some issues with the front pleats. Anna’s front pleats are intended to “open like a flower” at the bust, however on both occasions the pleats were too long and somewhat squished my assets like so:
Utilising an incredibly sophisticated method of visual assessment, i.e. looking and measuring with fingers, I decided to reduce the height of the pleats by one inch. This reduction in height would allow the tip of the pleat to sit just beneath the bust and allow the pleats to open as required.
You can see those reduced pleats and their effect just here:
Admittedly these aren’t great photos but hopefully you can see my point!
I wasn’t able to completely avoid the gaping neckline second time around but I did save myself from the masses of excess fabric found in v1. To amend this and ensure the right fit for me I followed exactly the same steps I tried first time around.
Firstly I assessed the amount of excess fabric like so:
Using this excess and some strategically placed pins as a guide I moved the left side of the invisible zip over to right to create a larger seam allowance at the top of the dress. This is allowed me to effectively fit the dress to my body using only the zip.
Due to the volume of excess fabric with Anna v1 I trimmed the seam allowance but do not do this second time around.
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?
Today’s post is a call for help, I need your advice. On my recent shopping trip I bought two beautiful Japanese prints, the green geometric print earmarked for my Chardon and this delicate orange star print on left of this image:
Ever since I purchased this orange star fabric I have been searching for the perfect pattern. The perfect pattern has to be a great wearable garment and yet simple and understated enough not to distract from the fabric design. I’ve finally narrowed it down to two classic patterns: the Christine Haynes Emery dress or a second version of By Hand London’s Anna dress.
In the left corner we have the Emery dress:
The Emery is great vintage inspired dress which has the simplicity to carry a delicate design such as my orange star print without swamping it. The detail of the bow or in this version a collar add a bit of interest to the dress which may be missing from the Anna. I can just imagine the star pattern with a contrasting cream collar and short sleeves, similar to these beautiful versions from Adey at The Sew Convert. How gorgeous is the Pink Bird Collar?
Taking on the Emery is the Anna dress:
The Anna is a cool, casual dress with great clean lines which would suit the orange star fabric. I am familiar with the pattern having previously made the above version in an olive green and have been keen to make a second version perhaps with a V-neckline.
Hopefully now you can see my dilemma: one great fabric and two great dress patterns – what is a girl to do?
And so this brings me to my call for help. Which pattern do you think I should go for? Have you tried making the Emery or the Anna and do you have any tips? Or do you think I’ve missed a great pattern perfect this fabric?
To help you with this decision I can tell you that I have purchased 3 metres of the fabric so there are no issues there. The fabric a stiff cotton and similar in texture and structure to the organic cotton twill used in my 8523 E.
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:
All of this beautiful sunny weather has inspired me to make some summery dresses and here is my first – Anna.
Unfortunately on the day it came to photographing my Anna we’ve been treated to some typical English summer rain so I apologise in advance for the lack of sun!
If you are an avid fan of sewing blogs like me you will have seen lots of variations of By Hand London’s gorgeously feminine Anna dress, I have noted a couple of my favourites here. There are three versions of the pattern, I always like to show a bit of leg so I’ve gone for version 3 for my summer staple.
I’m really happy with my Anna, she’s the perfect summer dress but she’s been a bit of a labour of love. I know there are a number of you who have the Anna on your sewing table so I am going to share my tale with you warts and all.
The first note on this cautionary tale is that I didn’t make a muslin, this is absolutely essential for the bodice. Instead I cut my pattern pieces with no adjustments to a UK size 12. I have always been smaller on top and usually buy tops in sizes 10-12, although I have been known at times to fit into a small. I believed that the size 12 would give me plenty of room for manoeuvre and if any adjustments were required I would be giving myself the ease to do this. I strode ahead assembling the bodice which included two front pleats and two darts on the back.
Now, I have always suspected that I possess a longer upper body than average but it was only when I tried on my completed bodice that this was confirmed for me. The resulting look was a bodice too small to meet at the back of bust but with a 7cm overlap leaving me with a gaping neckline. The front darts which were meant to “open like a flower at the bust” were 5cm too high and squashing my assets. Disaster!
I went into auto-pilot, I unpicked the back darts and let out the seams, restitching them from 1.5cm to a careful 6mm (1/4 inch) allowance. I unpicked my front pleats firstly by 3cm and then by 2cm more. Holding my breath I tried the bodice back on…
It fit! (I am much happier about it than this picture suggests).
Yes I had minimal seam allowance to work with for the invisible zip and I still had that gaping neckline but still I did my victory dance!
In comparison to the bodice the skirt was joy to stitch, it consisted of seven individual skirt panels to be sewn together. I whizzed through them and then sooner than I could blink I needed to attach the bodice to the skirt.
As you can see I was now in the situation where the seam allowance for my bodice was more generous that that of the top of my skirt. Nightmare!
I took a deep breath and attached my first ever invisible zip as carefully as I could. To remove the gaping neckline, I created a larger seam allowance at the top of the dress and fitted the dress to me. Once fitted I cut away any excess fabric, leaving a more manageable seam.
Although I did not spot this at the time the By Hand London sewalong recommended using the same technique for rectifying a gaping neckline.
I am very pleased with the result, although as you can see the zip is a little less invisible at the join between the bodice and skirt. I won’t beat myself up about this though as I only had 6mm to work with!
Since making this dress I have received a number of compliments about the fit on the back so I will definitely consider this a successful rescue job. Here’s a photo of the back of the dress and a celebrity guest:
This is my neighbour’s cat Simba, our garden is part of his territory and he insists on supervising all activity within it!
Back to the garment, I’m very happy with how this came out and if anything the trials I went through in making it have made me love it even it more! A special mention should go to this gorgeous fabric, an olive green cotton with cream coloured spots which I found in my local fabric shop Rolls and Rems Lewisham. Without this patterned fabric my amendments and rescue efforts may not have been disguised so easily.
You’ll be pleased to know the trials and tribulations with my Anna haven’t put me off and I’ll definitely be making another one soon.
Have you tried making an Anna? I’d love to hear your stories.
In the meantime, do you ever feel like you’re being watched?