Wooooheeee! I finished the Anna Dress late last night – or should I say early this morning? Yes, it really was down to the wire. This is my entry for Dressed to the Nines. My husband thought I was a crazy person because I was still sewing at 3 am. I told him, I’m trying to finish this dress for Sewing Indie Month!
I never stay up that late on a work night but I made an exception because I really wanted to complete something to celebrate Sewing Indie Month. Mari of Seamster Patterns did such an amazing job creating and organizing this month-long online sewing party, I just had to buckle down and get it done – though it took me a while to get there!
I completely forgot about mentioning the fact that Laura Mae of great blog Lilacs & Lace is hosting the Dressed to the Nines category of Sewing Indie Month. (Forgive me but I’ve been a bit sleep deprived from making this dress!) She has great tutorials and a lot more on her blog, which features sewn and knitted vintage and vintage-inspired garments.
You have until Friday, June 13 to cast your vote!!*******
I initially wanted to make the lovely Beatrice Dress by Sew Chic Patterns. In early May I visited all the websites of the participating designers and bought this pattern and the Anna Dress from By Hand London. The Beatrice Dress paper pattern arrived the week of May 5. Fast delivery!
I love the pockets on it and the beautiful neckline. After I traced the pattern and made a muslin of the bodice, I knew I would need to do a small bust adjustment.
However, I couldn’t quite figure out how to do it because the bodice only has a waist dart, no side dart. I placed the Beatrice front bodice piece next to my Emery Dress pattern bodice piece and could see that I needed to come in a little bit but how to do that?
I’ve only done an SBA on a bodice with a side bust dart and a waist dart (the Emery Dress sewing pattern by Christine Hayes, also a Sewing Indie designer participant! You can see my Emery Dress here.) I followed the SBA instructions provided with the Emery Dress sewalong.
I posted photos on my Instagram account (@csews) and got advice from many helpful folks along the way. Brooke of Custom Style suggested that I add a side dart by cutting and rotating dart manipulation to reduce the spread of the vertical one. And Maddie of Madalynne told me to redraw dart legs to it points to bust point and ends about a 1/2 inch before it.
In the meantime I also emailed Sew Chic Patterns – and then I tried what Brooke suggested. But I didn’t really know what I was doing.
And it still didn’t fit right. Then lo and behold, Laura of Sew Chic replied to my email over the weekend! How’s that for customer service? She told me I did not need a line to the side, all I needed to do was to cut through the dart to the apex and then from the apex to the shoulder seam and overlap closing the dart – and true the shoulder. And she even sent me a PDF with additional info. Oh, yay. So simple. So I did it.
And it worked! Bagginess gone and it was so easy to do! Thank you Laura!
It took me three muslins to get to this point, meanwhile, it was the last week of May – and I hadn’t done any fitting of the skirt part of this fitted pattern. I also did a wide shoulder adjustment to the bodice. I have pretty broad shoulders. This means that the ease in Big Four patterns is perfect for my shoulders. Heheh. I used to wonder, what are folks talking about the ease being super huge on Big Four patterns? I haven’t had to adjust shoulders or arms on Big Four patterns.
Next I attached the sleeves only to discover that the sleeve felt a little tight in the fleshy area between the bewb (spelling courtesy of Leila of Three Dresses) and the arm. Oh, dear – more pattern adjustments? Um, yeah, plus I haven’t been to the gym in five months so that area is fleshier than usual. (sigh)
Once again I asked for advice on IG and emailed Laura at Sew Chic again. I got advice from all but then decided I didn’t have enough time to do a good job. Time was running out so I had to switch gears and decided to go to the Anna Dress, which I thought I had a shot at completing because it wasn’t as fitted as Beatrice. Anna has just four waist pleats in front, not darts, and two back darts at the waist. So I got started on Anna and discovered that the pleats went up too high, darn it!
Then I lowered the pleats about an inch and discovered that I needed to do an SBA – oh, noooooooo!!!
It doesn’t look too bad in this photo but when I glanced at my profile from the side, uh, the bust area looked like a balloon with half the air taken out. Not. Good.
On to muslin no. 3! I took the SBA tip from Sew Chic’s Laura and applied it to the Anna bodice – slicing from the middle of the first two pleats to the apex of my bewb (you can kind of see the pink highlighter in that spot) and then from the apex all the way to the center of the shoulder seam line. I moved the pattern over 1/2 inch. I didn’t redraw the pleats because I didn’t know how/where I would do that and whether that would affect the matching of the front seams. The middle pleat seam lined up with one of the skirt seams. So I just left it where it was and crossed my fingers, hoping that I could ease my way into matching those seam lines.
And it fit sooooo much better! Yay!
I used a bed sheet from Goodwill to make that muslin. And now I was ready to cut my fashion fabric.
I got this unusual directional print at Britex Fabrics remnant sale a couple of years ago. It’s cotton with a touch of lycra and imported from Italy. The lighting isn’t so great on the photo but it’s 58 inches wide and the print goes from large size “squares” at the selvedges to small in the middle. The rectangular shapes are either black or charcoal grey and the lighter color squares in the middle are sort of beige.
I only had a little over two yards so I thought of alternating the skirt panels with charcoal grey or something. So I went back to Britex (lucky me, I work within walking distance so I could drop by during lunch) and looked at some lightweight cotton solids but nothing was in the right shade of grey. The saleslady suggested we look at prints but nothing worked well with this busy print. Then she told me that they still had that fabric in stock.
“Really?” I asked. Well, getting more fabric seemed to be the best option. So I paid full price for two more yards (ahem – $39.95/yard ). I don’t usually spend that much on a single piece of fabric but I had a good feeling about it.
I decided to make Variation 2 with the V-neck,which seemed like a better fit with this directional print. And I decided to create my own length. I didn’t want a floor-length Anna because when I wear maxi skirts I tend to trip on the hem going up stairs. So I wanted more of a tea length – somewhere in between the knees and the ankles. A nontrippable length.
I just added 10 inches to the midi-length line on the skirt pattern pieces and drew a line there, which I called “CS length.” I traced out the maxi length in case I should change my mind and I just folded up the pattern at my CS length line and cut my skirt pieces out. I decided to lay my pieces out so that the smaller part of the print starts at the waist and then gets bigger at the bottom. This meant that I was placing my pattern pieces perpendicular to the grainline instead of parallel like you typically do.
The tricky part was deciding which way the print would go on the bodice pieces. The print is really large – about four inches wide, which I thought wouldn’t be too flattering across the shoulders. So I decided to go from large to small from my right side to the left. I also made sure that the pattern began shifting to the smallest squares past the center of the bodice. I’ve got the pattern piece here face down. This was so I could see where the right half would begin and end. The front bodice piece is cut on the fold so I wanted to choose exactly where that center fold would land. The bodice pieces were laid out on grain.
Then I began to sew the front pleats, which you iron on the wrong side so that the pleats are centered over the seam. To make it easier to do that I inserted a chopstick in pleat, which helped me center the fabric over the seam and then I ironed the pleats.
For the back pieces, I had the larger part of the print on the same side as the front. I cut the two back bodice pieces separately. Below I’ve cut the left back side of the bodice and I’m placing the pattern piece for the right back side. I deliberately did not line up the right side. I moved the pattern piece about an inch higher than the bottom of the left bodice piece. Before I cut my fabric I had already decided that I wasn’t going to match anything at the seam lines on this fabric – not without driving myself completely bonkers anyway – so I wanted to be way off as opposed to slightly off, which would have made it look like I tried (and failed) to match the print.
And here’s what the completed back looks like at the waist – check out those matching seam lines! The center seam is my installed invisible zipper – everything lined up. Yay!
And here’s the front – the two center pleats line up with the seam lines of the center skirt panel. I was a bit concerned that the SBA would affect the pleat placement. But when I pinned the bodice to the waist, I was able to ease the skirt so that the pleats lined up with center seam line. (Whew!)
And here are a few more view of the Anna Dress!
And here are some more photos of the dress, which I really love. This is a very lightweight and drapey fabric. And it was really breezy today so in most of my photos the skirt is drifting in the breeze.
Oh, and a note on accessories. I’m wearing a vintage hat, which I got at a great boutique in Oakland called All Things Vintage. Nearly every time I got there I get a new hat! This one is made out of straw and velvet. The underside of the brim is black velvet as well as the hat band. I’m also wearing a vintage bracelet – it’s striped (black and ivory) and Bandolino pumps I got at DSW several weeks ago.
This photo was taken when the wind died down for two seconds. I think it’s one of the few photos where the skirt isn’t blowing against my legs. You can really see the drape of the fabric here.
The photos were all taken with my digital camera on a timer. Hey, I accidentally discovered the multiple shot feature in my camera earlier this year and now I use that along with the timer. So much easier!
Thank you for visiting! And don’t forget to visit Lilacs & Lace on Monday to vote for your favorite outfit in the Dressed to the Nines sewalong contest! You have until June 13 to cast your vote!