Tag Archives: By Hand London

Finished: By Hand London Flora for a summer wedding

11 Oct

If you’re a regular reader of sewing blogs, and you’re thinking that this dress looks a little familiar, that’s probably because it is. I admit, this is a shameless copy (with her permission) of Fiona’s Flora that she made during pattern testing. I saw her dress, completely fell in love with it, and thought it would be perfect for a wedding I had to go to in the summer.



The fabric Fiona had used just looked (and sounded) glorious, and when I googled it to check it out, I came across a listing for it on ebay for £2.50/m! At that price, who was I to refuse! I promptly bought 4m of it (and wished I’d bought more, but they were out of it when I checked back). The fabric is a gorgeous John Kaldor viscose twill and it is beautifully soft and drapey. I love the colours as well. I don’t wear a lot of pink, and am trying to wear a bit more after my colour analysis session.

The lining is some poly viscose that I picked up in Goldhawk Road at the NYLon meet up in May, for £1.99/m. I bought 3m of this and then had a panic when I thought it wasn’t enough, as it’s only 45″ wide, but managed to get around it by cutting the skirt pieces on the crossgrain.


The dipped hem version of Flora was perfect for a wedding – the longer length at the back would be too long on me if it was that length all the way round, but having it longer at the back adds a bit of class to balance out the shorter front. I went for the tank version of the bodice – I’m really not sold on the faux wrap version of the Flora bodice, but I love the tank version – it’s just nice and simple and unfussy but at the same time quite unusual.


In typical me-style, although I’d had both the pattern and fabric for months, I started work on this dress….oh, about a week before the wedding! Why do I do that! I can only imagine that it’s some subconscious thing because I know I perform well under pressure!

I did a very quick toile of the bodice (very quick, I didn’t even bother putting a zip in), and it seemed pretty alright, so I went ahead and cut it out in a size 10. Looking at the photos, the neckline is actually gaping a bit at the back, so that might need a bit of adjustment if I make another version.

By Hand London Flora

I also apologise for the fact that the dress has not been ironed in these photos! Luckily the full skirt hides it well!

I had a few issues cutting the dress out, mainly because the viscose was just so slinky it wouldn’t stay still. I cut out one of my skirt panels, only to realise that, after I took the pattern piece off, the pattern piece and the skirt piece I’d just cut were completely different shapes. My friend Clare (Clare number 1 to Marcus, who insists I number my sewing friends called Cla(i)re as there are so many of them) then suggested using spray starch, so I used that on the rest of my cutting, and it made things a lot easier. Luckily it was the main fabric that went wonky, and I had enough of that to re-cut the skirt panel.

I think the dress sewed up without too much drama. This is the point at which I really wish I actually did what I intended to do and keep a notebook by my side when I’m sewing, to note down things about the pattern and process. I actually bought a notebook for this purpose, but haven’t really taken to keeping notes. And now of course I can’t remember many of the details of sewing the dress up…we’ll take that as a good sign – if something had gone drastically wrong, I think I’d remember, and I managed to get it finished in time for the wedding, so it must have been fine!

By Hand London Flora

This is my first fully lined dress, and I’m really happy with how it turned out. I understitched the lining along the bodice, to stop it peeking out, which worked well, but due to the way the bodice is structured with the straps, there were a couple of bits in the corners of the tank I couldn’t get to to understitch. Is there a way I could have done that?


I wasn’t sure how best to attach the lining to the invisible zip, but I used the Sewaholic Cambie tutorial and it worked brilliantly.



Somehow the bodice lining ended up slightly longer than the bodice shell – I guess the fabric just stretched out a bit more. This doesn’t bother me too much, I just had to trim the skirt lining down a bit so that it was shorter than the shell. Looking at the photos, the lining could do with being a bit shorted on the right at the front, but I didn’t notice when wearing it because the skirt moves around so much.

By Hand London Flora

This is the first time I’ve made a circle skirt, and so I did what I was meant to do and left it to hang for a day or two before hemming it, so that I could even it out after the fabric had dropped. However, the fabric didn’t seem to drop at all. Either that, or I have a really bad eye for telling if things are level!

And how good are circle skirts for swishing around and dancing at weddings?! I did SO much twirling around!


Ok, have to be a bit careful twirling *too* much in the full skirt!

I just machine hemmed the skirt lining, and debated how to hem the main fabric of the skirt. Fiona beautifully hand stitched hers but I knew that I really didn’t have time for that. I also have basically never done any hand stitching on my garments, and so didn’t trust that I would be able to hand stitch the hem and have it look good. I decicded in the end to do a blind hem on my sewing machine. It’s something I learned how to do on my original sewing course, but haven’t actually used since. It turned out alright – not completely blind (largely due to the fact that the fabric isn’t a consistent colour all over), but it looks better than it would have done had I just stitched it normally. I need to work on my technique a bit – there are a few spots where it didn’t quite catch the fabric properly, but it’s good enough!

The straps on the dress are quite narrow set, so bra straps can show when you’re wearing it. I was going to put bra strap carriers in, but in the end just wore a strapless bra to the wedding. I’ll probably go back and add them at some point so that I’ve got a bit more flexibility with wearing the dress.


The dress lived up to all my expectations and was absolutely perfect for the wedding. I basically love everything about it, and the swirly skirt makes it especially good for twirly dancing. An extra unexpected bonus to the fabric is that when you’re trying to balance your plate with a scone with clotted cream and jam on (mmmm!) on top of your cup of tea (so that you have a spare hand to eat the scone with), and it all slips and you smoosh creamy, jammy scone onto the underside of your boob, the fabric pattern hides it very well!


The wedding was of two of our capoeira friends, Simon and Zanna, and it was absolutely amazing – it was held at Zanna’s grandad’s place, which was stunning, and the weather was glorious, despite the fact that it was forecast to rain all day. Zanna was wearing a gorgeous vintage wedding dress and looked absolutely fantastic.


Unfortunately, due to my leaving my dress making to the last minute, I didn’t have time to make their wedding present before the wedding. I have just finished that now (blog post to follow!), so they will finally get that soon! Sorry guys!

I’m going to leave you with this photo of our capoeira friends who attended the wedding – I love the fact that 3 of the dresses (and one of the waistcoats) in this photo are handmade :)



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!

Finished: (My first) By Hand London Anna dress

21 Sep

If you are a regular lurker of sewing blogs then by now I’m sure you’ll had seen oodles of beautiful Anna dresses popping up everywhere. There’s only so much temptation I can take before I decided to jump on the bandwagon!

I’ll share with you some of my favourite ones that I’ve seen, which really pushed me towards buying the pattern. At first, it was some of the long versions that I really fell in love with, such as Lizzy’sRoisin’s and, later, Lauren’s. But then I started seeing lovely short versions cropping up too, such as Roisin’s (again!) and Fiona’s.

After seeing Lizzy’s and Roisin’s, I decided that a long, white version of some kind was the way to go. I had in my stash a piece of white linen-like fabric, with embroidered flowers on, from my freecycle hoarde, which was the right kind of design that I was after, but I thought the fabric was probably a bit too stiff, and not flowy enough for the full length version. After seeing Fiona’s, I though a short white version might also look good, and so decided to make that up as a wearable toile.

By Hand London Anna Dress

I ummed and ahhed a bit over what size to make, as I pretty much fell between two sizes. The versions of this dress that I’ve seen that I’ve liked most are the ones that are really well fitting round the bust and waist area, so I didn’t want it to be too big, but, based on the finished garment measurements, I thought the smaller of the two sizes may well be a little on the tight side for me. I decided to make up the larger of the two, and hoped I’d be able to take it in easily enough if I needed to.

By Hand London Anna Dress

Unfortunately the fabric looks a little washed out in most of these pics.

People have been saying that this is a really easy dress to make up, and boy is it! I did most of it on the Sunday of my weekend of sewing, and really only had the zip and hem left to do after that. Admittedly it took me almost another 2 weeks to get those done (I really need to stop doing that!), but it really is a quick make. Also took me another couple of weeks after that to be able to get photos taken – I stupidly didn’t take them on the first day I wore it, when it was nice and sunny, and then didn’t see the sun again for a while. Man I miss summer.

By Hand London Anna Dress

I only felt slightly odd posing with a lamp post in the car park of the flats! Luckily I had Marcus around to take photos, I’d have felt slightly weirder if I was posing with a lamp post while taking photos of myself!

The only bit I really struggled with was understanding how the pleats on the front of the bodice worked. Having never sewn a pleat of any kind before, I just couldn’t get my head round exactly what they meant by the instructions. I thought I knew what they meant, but I really wasn’t sure. In the end, the lovely people over on The Sewing Forum were able to help me out and confirm that it did mean what I thought it meant. Now that I’ve figured them out though, I think that they’re one of my favourite parts of the dress, I really love how they look.

By Hand London Anna Dress

I’m also having a bit of a problem getting the facing to behave itself – it just wants to flap around all over the place! I initially understitched it to the seam allowance, hoping that might hold it in place, but it still wouldn’t behave, so I topstitched it as well. That’s helped a bit, although it’s still not staying in place as well as I’d like.

By Hand London Anna Dress

Here’s a better view of the fabric

I used French seams on all the seams, except for the waistline, which I overlocked. I looks so neat inside! However, I must get better at keeping my stitch lines straight, and consistent. When I came to attach the facing to the bodice, I discovered that the front half of the facing was shorter than the front half of the bodice. Whoops. I’m not sure which one went wrong, but I fixed it by ripping out one of the facing seams and re-doing it with a slightly smaller seam allowance. The full length of the facing then somehow ended up longer than the length of the neckline! Maybe the fabric stretched a bit!

By Hand London Anna Dress

I did have to use a much larger seam allowance on the zip at the back than the stated 1.5cm. It was nearing 2 inches on each side in the end. This was one of the reasons it took me so long to finish the dress – I couldn’t work out exactly how far in the zip needed to be placed. In the end, once I’d basted one side in, I had to get Marcus to see if that was lying down the centre, and then to measure how much seam allowance I needed to use on the other side. It’s turned out a pretty snug fit, which I’m pleased with. I’ll probably be regretting that if I ever eat a big meal while wearing it! The tops of the zip aren’t quite level at the top, but adjusting that would mean they weren’t level at the waistline (see what I mean about getting my seams consistent!), so I left it as it is.

By Hand London Anna Dress

The fabric I used is also slightly see through. Luckily this is solved when wearing it by wearing a white vest top underneath, and white underwear. It does mean that the seam allowances are visible through the fabric. As they’re nice tidy french seams, this isn’t too much of a problem, except where the front bust pleats lines up with with the front skirt seams, there’s a slight mismatch, due to the pleats being pressed open, and the french seams being pressed to one side. It looks like my seam isn’t match up properly, even though it is!

By Hand London Anna Dress

The finished dress is perhaps a little wide across the chest – that, and the fact that I had to take in so much at the back suggest that maybe I should have gone for the smaller size after all! You can see where some of the excess fabric is from where it’s really creased under the arm. I think next time I probably need to make a smaller size and do a full bust adjustment. I’m actually doing a pattern fitting course in a couple of weeks’ time, which I’m really looking forward to. I think that I should probably be doing full bust adjustments on all my dresses, so it will be good to establish exactly what adjustments I should be making, and get some guidance on how to do them.

By Hand London Anna Dress

Creasy fabric

I debated for a little while on how long to make the dress. I originally thought that I’d have to shorten it a bit to make it a suitable length for me I tend to like my dresses to hit around the knee, and I’m not a massive fan of wearing heels, so anything approaching mid-calf length is not ideal. I tried it on, and pinned it up to various lengths. In the end, I decided not to chop anything off the bottom. It’s a little longer than I’d normally go for, but I think it works ok, and I can always shorten it later if I decide I want to do that.

By Hand London Anna Dress

Overall, I really like the finished result, I can’t wait to make more of these dresses! It’s such a lovely pattern to make up, and definitely the quickest dress I’ve made so far. I really want to give some more By Hand London patterns a go now!

chinelo bally

Dressmaker| Author| Blogger| Freehand cutter


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