Finished: My Red Anna Dress

Red Anna Dress - By Hand London -

Red Anna Dress - By Hand London - sewing pattern -

I made a red Anna Dress! This is the second project I made as part of my summer stashbusting mission. Yep – I’m participating in Summer Stashbust 2014. My first project was The Trench. I seem to be making stuff from fabric I’ve had for a couple of years. Well, that’s not exactly true. I bought the solid red fabric – Robert Kauffman Radiance, a cotton-silk sateen, from Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley last month. So it’s really not a stashbust fabric but it has a very nice hand that went well with my fabric. This cotton-silk blend is super shiny on one side and more of a matte finish but with a slight sheen on the other side, which went well with my print. I used the more matte side as the “right” side of my fabric.

Stashbust 2014 - red circle fabric - - C Sews
Robert Kauffman Radiance on left, stash fabric on right

[Confession: The stashbust challenge goes from June 21 to Sept. 21. But I wasn’t paying attention to the cutoff date and I bought this solid red fabric a day after the challenge started. Ooops!]

I’ve had this print – large sort of ying/yang randomly placed circles of two shades of red on an off-white background for about three or four years. It’s a cotton lycra blend. I think I bought it because I liked the colors but I didn’t consider just how big those circles were and how overwhelming they’d be on a skirt. So it just languished in my stash. And when the stashbust challenge came up I looked at it again and realized it could work if I broke it up with a solid red fabric. The print wouldn’t be as overwhelming.

Sketch of color blocking - Anna Dress - csews.comSo I decided to make a color blocked Anna Dress, the oh-so-popular By Hand London pattern, with a solid red bodice and then alternating skirt panels. But I had to think about how that would work because there are three skirt panels in the front and four in the back.

I thought I could alternate the panels: print/solid/print/solid. But you can’t alternate all the panels when you have an odd number of panels. Two panels will need to be the same fabric. I made this sketch to figure it out.

For the front, I decided the center and would be solid red and the two side panels the circle print. For the back I would put the solid red on the sides and use the print for the two center panels. The letters on my sketch refer to the Anna pattern pieces.

I cut out my pattern pieces almost exactly as I had for my first Anna Dress, which I made for Sewing Indie Month, except that I added about an inch of length to the sleeves.

After I pressed the pleats/darts in the bodice, spraying a little water here and there, I saw that wet spots really showed up, which meant it wouldn’t look so great on a hot summer day. So after I posted a blurry photo on Instagram  (@csews) and asked folks for advice (line or not?), I decided I did need a lining. If I had thought about this earlier, I would have underlined and just sewed the pleats/darts into both pieces of fabric together. That’s what Heather of Handmade by Heather B did when she made her Tiki Goddess Anna Dress. I confess that I never really gave much thought to underlining until I read Seamstress Erin PhD’s post When to Underline Your Sewing. I’ve lined dresses and skirts but I haven’t underlined anything.

Because I already put the pleats/darts in the bodice, I couldn’t underline. So I cut another bodice but I didn’t add length to sleeves. Then I sewed the pleats/darts, and attached the two bodice pieces at the neckline. I put the shiny side of the fabric on the inside – it’s oh so soft and luxurious. But I sewed the side seams together like an underlining as you can see in the back view here. I did the same thing when I attached the skirt to the bodice as you can see here. I didn’t feel like hand stitching a lining to the waist. 😉

Anna Dress - Back view lining - By Hand London -

I hemmed the sleeves by folding the ends twice and hand stitching it to the lining, which was cut the same length as the pattern pieces. Here’s a view of the inside of the bodice. Check out that sleeve hem!

Anna Dress - By Hand London - Inside sleeve hem -

For this version I sewed french seams for the skirt panel pieces.

French seams - Anna Dress - By Hand London -

I tried to careful in sewing and pressing my french seams, hoping that my bodice seams would line up but they were slightly off in two spots so when I pinned I eased them as much as I could to line them up.

And here are more photos of the dress. I took a lot of photos so you can see the color blocking. I’m wearing my white straw hat, which I got at a consignment shop in Oakland a few years ago. I don’t wear it very much so it was fun to take it out of the hat box for this photo shoot.

Red Anna Dress - left - By Hand London -

Note on photography: Exposure and focus are tricky when you’re using a timer on a digital camera. I focused on the ivy and then had to experiment with my exposure settings to get the colors of the fabric to look right. The ivy is more in focus than I am. If you have any tips on timer photography, let me know.

Red Anna Dress - back - By Hand London pattern -

I also took photos wearing my vintage black straw and velvet hat so you can see my Peterham ribbon flower, which I made a while ago (oh the hand pleating!). As you can see this shade of red is one of my faves. I took these photos last Sunday. My hair isn’t this long any more though. I got about six inches lopped off yesterday. No more pony tail!

Red Anna Dress - back - By hand london -

I had problems installing the invisible zipper. For some reason my machine got stuck after I sewed a couple of inches down the zipper. So I ended up hand sewing the zipper in place, which kinda sucked because it’s a long zipper. It took me an evening in front of the television to finish sewing it. And my waist seam ended up being a tiny bit off in the back – about 1/16 of an inch. I wasn’t about to unpick all my hand stitches though. It’s in the back so I can live with it.

Red Anna Dress - back - By Hand London -

Red Anna Dress - right side - By Hand London -

Red Anna Dress - By Hand London -

Have you made any color blocked clothes? What did you make and what fabrics did you use?

BTW – If you’re a member of Bay Area Sewists and are coming to our fabric swap this Saturday, July 26, you can get about 1 1/4 yards of my red circle print fabric. I’m bringing it to the meetup. 🙂

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Author: Chuleenan

Chuleenan sews, collects hats and shoes, and is a fabric addict. She is also the organizer for the Bay Area Sewists Meetup group.

6 thoughts on “Finished: My Red Anna Dress”

  1. Pretty pretty! I love the bright color! I like the dress with both hats too but I think I like it best with the white one. That zipper will never come out with your handstitching. =)

    I’m no self-timer expert but I would try bringing something like a music stand to set up where you will be standing to pre-focus your camera. Tape a piece of white paper to the stand to set your white-balance and that will help with color.

    I have a bunch of fabrics (most have white backgrounds) which I have been putting off sewing because I know I’m going to have to underline (aka flat-lining) so you can’t see the seams showing through. I think things sitting in my stash for 1-2 years is pretty average for me.

    1. Thanks, Brooke! I like the white hat, too. It’s a bit showy though so I have to be in the right mood to wear it. The black one is rather dressy because of the velvet – makes the dress more formal.

      Good point about the zipper. 🙂 And I put some woven fusible behind it to give it some extra support.

      Thanks for your idea about using a music stand as a stand-in! I have a collapsible music stand somewhere – I used to play the flute. Now I can put that stand to some good use. 😉

      Is there any particular fabric you like to use to underline?

  2. Lovely!! The dress looks great on you.
    Regarding hand sewing the zipper, sometimes I do that even if the machine does not get stuck. I find that hand installation ends in a softer hand in the zipper area. Maybe because there is less thread?
    And, yes I’ve color blocked a chiffon tunic and made it entirely by hand 🙂 – out of choice. Call me crazy but it’s the softest, most comfy garment in my closet.

    1. Thank you, Samina! I only hand sewed one other invisible zipper. I think I needed to pay more attention to my thread tension when I hand sewed this zipper. I don’t think it lays as flat as it could.

      Your chiffon tunic sounds dreamy! Hand sewing garments can be nice and meditative.

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