Archive | April, 2014

A little late to the party – My Sew Dolly Clackett By Hand London Anna

27 Apr

I know, I know, I’m late to the Sew Dolly Clackett party. Sew Dolly Clackett is the brainchild of Sarah from Rhinestones and Telephones – getting sewists worldwide to create a dress emulating the style of Roisin as a wedding present to her and Nic. And it’s a great excuse for us all to create a dress in Roisin’s fabulous style – colourful, often novelty, prints, and well-fitting dresses!


Although I said in my post on trying to get the fit right on this dress that I was going to forget about the deadline, and just focus on getting a great fitting dress, when more and more Sew Dolly Clackett dresses started popping up in my blog reader (you can see them all in the Flickr group), the temptation to get it finished in time was too strong, and I knew I had to give it a good go.


I had a bit of time over Easter weekend (turns out, not as much as I’d planned, isn’t that always the way?!) and I managed to make some pattern adjustments, sew up a new toile, and get the dress almost completely finished, other than the zip and the hem. I didn’t think I’d have any problem getting those done before the deadline on Wednesday. Famous last words.


Anyway, I’ll get to that, let’s go back to where we left off in the my last post. I’d sewn up a toile in a UK size 10, but had a lot of excess fabric across the chest and the back. Thank you all for your helpful comments on that post, I did a lot of research, reading about other people’s fitting issues, and how they’d fixed them (Neeno’s and Sonja’s were especially helpful).

I tried going down a size and doing a full bust adjustment, using Alison’s tutorial. This is what my pattern piece looked like when I was done with it:

By Hand London Anna Dress FBA

It did not work. It ended up too big across the bust, and I decided that this definitely wasn’t the way to go. I went back to my original toile. The main ares of excess fabric were across the top of the chest and back, and the point at which the sleeves joined the body (or where the would, if they weren’t cut on). This photo shows where I’d pinned out all the excess:


Taking the wedges out the top of the neckline would have been straightforward enough, but I just couldn’t work out a way to take out the excess by the sleeves – all the excess was in the middle of the fabric, not at the edges, so taking out a wedge wasn’t going to work. I spent quite a while trying to get this to work, but it just wasn’t happening – I couldn’t find a way of doing it where I was happy with the result.

Due to the fact that the toile fitted well across and under the bust, and all the excess seemed to be in the upper chest, I wondered whether it would work if I tried grading out the sizes. I retraced my pattern (for about the 4th time, ughh!), tracing off the 8 for the top half, grading out to the 10 just under the bottom of the sleeves. I fudged it a little bit – on the pattern piece, the shoulder line of the 8 sits above that of the 10. I stuck with the line for the 10 here, but then only extended it out as far as the 8.


I also did a narrow back adjustment on the back bodice piece, taking out half an inch on each side of the bodice – this was something that was picked up when I did my fitting course, and as there seemed to be excess fabric all the way down the back, I thought this would help.



I didn’t do any other adjustments at this stage – I thought that I might need to, but decided to work those out once I had sewed up the toile. As it turns out , I didn’t need to :) The fit of the toile was pretty good, a definite improvement on the last one.



It was actually a little tight now, so I let out the side seams a bit, sewing them up with 3/8 inch seam allowance instead of the usual 5/8, and that was enough to fix the issue. I also put the zip in by lining up the edge of the fabric with the zipper tape, rather than using a larger seam allowance here.

I was happy enough with this fit to get straight onto making the actual dress – yay! I bought this fabric when I went to Goldhawk Road in March. The colour of the fabric I chose was entirely determined by the only pair of Roisin-worthy shoes I own! I chose to make another By Hand London Anna, which is one of many patterns that Roisin has made multiple times. Her swimmers Anna was one of the first ones I saw that made me decide I needed to make this pattern!


The pattern specifies that for a size 10, midi length Anna, you need 2.6m of fabric. I knew, based on my last Anna, and other people’s comments, that this was an over-estimation, so I bought 2 metres of this cotton lawn from Classic Textiles, for £7/m. It wasn’t until I got home that I realised that this fabric was a directional print and so, according to the pattern, I’d need significantly more. This threw me into a bit of a panic, I had a vision in my head of Anna made up in this fabric, and wasn’t going to be going anywhere near Goldhawk Road again to get any more :( But I decided to lay out the pattern pieces and double check that I didn’t have enough. Turns out I did! 2m of (50″ wide, so not sure if this would work with 45″) directional print fabric is enough to make a By Hand London Anna :) That made me very happy! I’ve even got some pretty decent sized scraps left over.


Most of the rest of sewing up the dress went without a hitch – I said it last time I made this dress – this is a lovely pattern to sew up – it’s one of the quickest sews I’ve had. I used French seams throughout. I didn’t think I’d be able to on the reduced bodice side seams, but just about managed. I then overlocked the edge of the facing, and the waist seam.


All was going well until I tried to insert the zip on Wednesday evening. I know invisible zips get a lot of bad press, but I have to say, I have never had a problem with them. I use an invisible zip foot, and they have always gone in beautifully – no zipper tape showing at all – truly invisible. But of course, the one time I needed to get a dress finished for a deadline…I don’t know why it wasn’t work – every time I put it in, the stitching was either way too far out from the teeth, so that a few mm of zip tape was visible on either side of the zip when done up, or, when I tried to get the stitching closer, I ended up sewing through some of the teeth, so it wouldn’t do up. After 4 unsuccessful attempts, I took Claire’s advice and took a break from it. But after cooking dinner, I just didn’t have the energy go back to it. So I had to admit defeat at getting it into the sewalong on time, but I knew that I wasn’t going to get a good result by rushing it.


Slight wrinkly back, but I’m not going to let that bother me!

I had some time to go back to it on Saturday, and FINALLY managed to get the zip in in a vaguely acceptable fashion. Still not perfect, there’s still a bit of zipper tape visible around the waistline, but it was good enough.


There was only one problem with the zip insertion – the top of the dress didn’t quite line up (neither did the waistline or the hem, by even more). It was only about 4mm out, and I was going to leave it as it was (I had finally got the zip in, I felt I ought to take that and run!), butttttt…I decided to re-do one side of it to get it to line up better.


Luckily the zip went in ok again this time, and the top of the dress is now lined up, although the waistband and hem were still a little off. I had already taken 1 3/4 inches of the bottom of the hem, so I just trimmed off the excess from one side to make it even, and then turned it up by the specified amount. My previous Anna dress was a bit long for my liking, but this one is just right, hitting at my knees.


As you can see from the photos, the fit on this dress is pretty spot on – I’m absolutely delighted with it. I think it’s safe to say that this is the best fitting garment I’ve made – it was definitely worth the time it took to get the fit right.




Stupid smile, because the fit of this dress makes me deliriously happy :)


And because a dress wouldn’t be a Dolly Clackett dress without a name, I’m calling this one the ‘Get me to the church on time’ dress. Maybe next time I will make it!


I am, and I’m sure many other sewists are too, really grateful to the competition for encouraging us to sew up a dress in a print that we might normally not have chosen. I love my dress, and I do have the fabric for another Sew Dolly Clackett dress lined up as well. My dress may not have made it to the wedding, but it’s in it for the marriage. I wish Roisin and Nic all the best for theirs.



Colour analysis with House of Colour

13 Apr

So, this isn’t strictly a sewing post, but I hope you’ll find it interesting nonetheless. It sort of ties in with the Wardrobe Architect posts that Colette have been running recently (and which I mean to work through as soon as I have a bit more time!).

A few months ago, I got a call from my sister at lunchtime, saying that she’d had an idea of what we could get our mum for Christmas. Her idea, and it was a brilliant one, was for the three of us to go to a colour analysis session together. The owner of a salon my sister used to work at had talked to her about it before, and recommended a consultant to her, and I remember my dad saying on a number of occasions how my granny had had it done years ago, and he thought that she always looked great when she wore the colours that she should. A friend of mine had also had a mini session recently, and raved about it, so I thought it would be a great thing to have done.

house of colour colour wheel

The House of Colour colour wheel. Source

Since I’ve started sewing, I’ve started thinking a lot more about style, and what sort of things suit me, so I was hoping this would add to that. Knowing what colours I should be looking for when I’m buying fabric would be really helpful, and also probably cut down on the amount of fabric I buy just because I like it, when it might not actually particularly suit me.


The consultant who had been recommended to my sister was Lisa Whiteside, a House of Colour consultant who happens to be based near Oxford. So we booked in for the three of us to go along for a colour analysis class in January. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pics throughout the session – I really wish I had, but I think my sister would probably have disowned me had I dare to put a photo of her without make up on on my blog!


Number 5 (musk pink) was one of the colours which looked especially good in. The double starred colours are the best ones – the ones that you could wear head to toe and look great in.

For those of you who aren’t aware, the idea behind colour analysis is that everyone has unique skin tone and eye colour, and this affects which colours look great on you, and which don’t look so hot. House of Colour explain it in more detail here. The colour spectrum is split into four ‘seasons’, and the consultant will work out which season works best for you, and then classify the colours within the season to tell you which ones work best.


Some of the Summer palette

Establishing which season you are is done by using a number of coloured drapes. You need to do it with no make up on, and your hair and top will be covered up with white as well, so that you’re essentially a blank slate, and it’s easier to see how the colours work. While you’re sitting in front of a mirror, the consultant will stand behind you, so she can wrap the drapes round your neck. They start with a couple of ‘base’ colours, which will determine if the more blue based colours (winter and summer), or the yellow based colours (autumn and spring) work best with you.


The drapes that are used. Source

Once they’ve established which half of the colour wheel you fall into, they then use the drapes in pairs, using two very similar shades, but one from each of the two different seasons in your half of the wheel. She will put one on you, then the other, and decide which one looks best of the two, viewing each a few times if necessary. It’s fascinating watching it done on someone else, as it really is obvious which ones look best on them. It’s much easier to see it on someone else than it is to see it on yourself. You might not have noticed that a particular colour works really well on them, but when you see it next to one that doesn’t work so well, I was surprised at how noticeable it was.


Number 12 (delph) is another of my best colours, with 9 (dark blue grey) and 11 (airforce blue) also rating highly

My sister went first, and she fell into the yellow half of the spectrum. She turned out to be an autumn, and the olive green and rust and coral colours really did look absolutely stunning on her. With a few of those draped round her neck, you could really see how well they not only went together, but how much they suited her as well.


For the sake of comparison, my sister. Who will probably hate me for including this photo, sorry Roz!

Next up was my mum, who fell into the other half of the spectrum, with the blue based colours looking better on her. After going through the draping process with her, we established that she was a summer. The summer colours are the more muted of the blue-based colours; the winter colours are much more vibrant. Again, we were all amazed at the difference it made, and how good some of these colours looked on her.


16 (cornflower) and 19 (sea green) also come into my top colours; 15 (sky blue), 17 (hyacinth) and 20 (jade) also come in high

Finally it was my turn. Often, you will share the same season as family members, so it was going to be interesting to see if I matched either of the other two. As seems to be my style, I turned out to be a bit more of a challenge, and it look Lisa a little longer to establish whether I looked better in the blue- or the yellow-based colours. Eventually we settled on the blue-based ones, and went through the draping process again. I turned out to be a summer as well, taking after my mum.


22 (duck egg) and 23 (pastel aqua) – some of my favourite colours to wear – I’m glad they are in my palette!

After we’d all had our seasons established, we also looked at some of the make up that suited our colours, and then moved on to look at the colours in more detail. In this part, Lisa again held up each of the drapes in our season against us, and rated them, depending on which she thought looked best. And again, I was surprised at how easy it was to see what she meant. A colour that had looked great when you were comparing it to one from a different season suddenly didn’t look quite so great when you compared it to one that really did look amazing. She went through each of the 30-odd drapes, giving us a rating for each one, and whether it was a colour we should wear an entire outfit of, or one that was better as just a top, or just worn below the waist.


Another top colour with 26 (plum), 25 (smoked grape) also coming in high, and 27 (amethyst) being one that would be great to wear making up 75% of my outfit – e.g. a coat in this colour but with a different coloured scarf, or a suit, but with a different coloured top

This section was interesting as, although my mum and I had come out the same season, the colours that looked the absolute best on each of us differed – the paler of the summer shades looked best on my mum, while some of the darker ones suited me better.


As you can see, most of my top rated ones tended to be the darker shades, like 31 (burgundy). 32 (cherry) also came in pretty highly.

You get a wallet to take home, which contains 36 swatches of the colours of your season. They are quick to point out though that your colours aren’t just those 36 colours, but a quarter of all colours – when buying clothes (or fabric!) you don’t have to stick just to those colours in your wallet, but should be looking for colours which fit into that colour palette.


34 (rose madder) is another top colour of mine

I found the whole day really interesting and enlightening, and we all really enjoyed it. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone. It’s certainly made me think more about the colours I wear, and has made me pause before buying clothes or fabric. It makes you suddenly realise why an item of clothing you love on someone else and go out a buy might leave you feeling disappointed when you put it on yourself. I still need to go through my wardrobe and sort that out into things which are ‘my’ colours, and things that are not, and then eventually get rid of most of the things that are not, but that is a challenge that I’m not quite ready to take on yet. One of the most challenging things will be cutting out black (winter is the only season in which true black appears), and replacing it with other neutrals such as navy and grey. Not because I love wearing black, but just because it’s so readily available, whereas other colours might not be so much. I think that this is where being a sewist will come in really handy – as people who make our own clothes, we’re not restricted by what colours the fashion industry decides are ‘in season’ and limited to those when we shop. I’m pretty sure I could go out at any given time and pick up more than enough fabrics that are in my colour palette.

It’s also made me realise which colours I don’t wear much of, and probably ought to try a bit more often – I don’t wear a lot of pink at all. I don’t know why. I was never really a ‘pink’ kind of girl, and it’s often deemed as such a girly colour, that because I didn’t love it, I just tended to avoid it completely. But there are a lot of different shades of pink in the summer palette, some of which looked great on me, so I’m definitely going to try and include it in my wardrobe more.


Definitely need to start including these colours in my wardrobe more. Both 28 (cyclamen) and 29 (clover) were rated very highly for me to wear as 50% of an outfit (e.g. a top, jacket, skirt or trousers)

I have made some changes already though – I have ditched my black eyeliner and mascara in favour of navy, and, on the first day I wore those, about 3 people commented on my make up looking nice, so it does seem to work! I am certainly thinking more carefully about what I wear now, and I just need to start sewing myself up a wardrobe in my correct colours!

Some By Hand London Anna dress fitting issues

9 Apr

I have today off work, and was planning on using the time to try and make some headway on my Sew Dolly Clackett dress, for which I’m making a By Hand London Anna. I’ve made an Anna before, and although I love it, I did not get the fit right. Nothing drastic – it could definitely have done with an FBA, but other than that there weren’t really any issues.


I decided that, this time round, I was going to try and get the fit right. I initially thought I’d need to do an FBA, but then I looked again at the measurements, and thought that maybe I could get away without. Last time I made the dress I made US10/UK14, which fitted my measurements – 37 inch bust and 30 inch waist. But at the time, my upper bust measurement was only 34 inches, so I should probably have made a US6/UK10, with an FBA.


But just to complicate matters, I’ve lost quite a bit of weight since then – I now have a 34 inch bust, 27 inch waist, and 33 inch high bust. So, looking at the measurements, and with only an inch difference between my bust and high bust measurements, I thought that a straight US6/UK10 might actually fit. So I traced off the pattern and sewed up a toile. And I’m not really sure what to do with the results.

On first glance, it doesn’t look too bad…fit under and across the bust looks ok:



But there actually seems to be quite a lot of excess fabric across my upper chest:



I can pinch a good couple of inches out to the front:


I’m not sure why this is – it’s not a problem that I noticed having on my last version. I just don’t know where the extra fabric is coming from – if I’d chosen the size based on my upper bust measurement and done an FBA, I’d only have made one size smaller. When I did the fitting course with fit2sew, I didn’t have any issues with needing a hollow/scoop chest adjustment, although maybe that could have changed since I’ve lost weight?

The pleats aren’t sitting exactly where I think they should under my bust either. Ignore my right hand side in this pic, as they seems to have risen up a little, but if you look at where my hand is on the left, my middle finger is at the top of the pleat stitching, and my thumb is on the bottom of my bra, right underneath my bust. I don’t think there should be that much of a gap.


It certainly feels like a better fit when I pull the bodice up slightly so that the pleats sit directly under my bust, but then there’s a good  inch or so excess above my shoulders, although it’s not amazingly clear in this pic. Bizarrely, I’ve also had the same issue recently with two RTW dresses – they’ve always been fine before, but I wore them both recently and spent the whole day each time pulling the dress up at the front, to save from flashing my bra at everyone, but when I did that, the dresses were way too long in the upper bust area. It’s almost like the space between my shoulders and my bust has shrunk!


So, with all the excess fabric across my upper chest, is an FBA what I need? The bodice is quite a good fit across my bust, and under my bust as well. When I’ve realised in the past that I’ve needed an FBA, it’s been when the dress has fitted across my bust, but been too big under my bust, and I’ve had to take in loads of excess at the centre back. The back doesn’t feel too bad on this, but looking at the top picture, maybe there is a bit of excess there:



Those pics also demonstrate another issue in that the shoulder seams are sitting too far back, but that should be easily fixed with a forward shoulder adjustment. The side seams however, do line up ok down my side:


So i’m just trying to work out where I should go from here, and any advice or guidance anyone can give would be much appreciated. do I need an FBA after all? And if so, does anyone have a good method for an FBA on an Anna? I don’t like the idea of adding a bust dart like the FBA BHL did in their sewalong. I was going to try using Alison’s tutorial, although she does say that’s for adding 1.5 inches or more, not sure if it would work for a smaller FBA?  Or do I not need an FBA at all? Is there something else I’m missing?

I’ve decided that I really want to conquer the fit on this. I have to admit, even though I’d decided to fit it properly, and gone to the effort of making a toile, I was half tempted just to say ‘it’s good enough’ and sew it up anyway. Mainly out of lazyness and lack of time and just wanting to get something sewn up. But I know that I wouldn’t be happy with it, and I’m much better off taking my time and doing a proper job, especially as I want to make more versions of this dress, so having a well-fitting pattern will be invaluable. But sometimes I find it hard to make myself slow down and actually take the time to get the fit right, especially when I’m making something as part of a sewalong and therefore have a deadline for getting it finished. But you know what, if I don’t get it finished in time, so what? I’ll still get the dress at some point, and I’ll be much happier if I take the time to make it fit properly. So instead i’m going to turn the fitting into a challenge, and I am determined to conquer it!

chinelo bally

Dressmaker| Author| Blogger| Freehand cutter


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