Oonapalooza Birthday Maxi Dress

Technical difficulties meant I couldn’t blog my Ooonapalooza dress in time to be counted on Oona’s round up but I’m still excited to show you all this year’s birthday dress.

birthday a

There is a lot of love in the sewing world for African wax print fabrics, but usually the colours or designs aren’t me. Until I saw this fabric in one of the shops off Walthamstow market; purple, pink and turquoise! The poor woman in the shop had to search high and low for a piece of the fabric, until she decided to just give me the piece hanging on display. butterflies and oonapalooza 207

Sticking with the Sewcialist theme I knew I had to make an Anna maxi dress. At the By Hand London Kickstarter party there were so many wax print Annas I had to copy the cool kids.

butterflies and oonapalooza 243

With so many panels on the skirt I knew pattern matching was going to be tricky. I shortened the skirt pieces and they just fit on the fabric along the cross-grain. I folded the fabric so that the top cut edge matched the bottom layer as much as possible, then laid out the skirt pieces in the order they would be sewn together.

fabric layoutBecause the print is so zig-zaggy and jagged I think it worked! The back skirt pieces don’t match perfectly but they are close enough and the dress is busy enough it isn’t too noticeable.

birthday c

 

Having made Anna before (and done extensive fitting previously) this was pretty straightforward to make. I added a waist band as I think it looks better on me, and made the front slit start a good few inches lower down. It took time because the pieces and seams were so long and I did lovely French seams everywhere, which I then top-stitched down (and top-stitched on the other side of the seam too!) so each seam took double triple the time. I bound the neckline, armholes, hem and waist seams with purple bias binding so the insides are as nice as the outside.butterflies and oonapalooza 208

This is my first Anna maxi and I loved how elegant it looks, but super practical – the front slit allowed for sitting cross-legged on a picnic blanket and running around playing frisbee.birthday b

And of course, the skirt has awesome swishy, twirly-ness!butterflies and oonapalooza 305

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“I think I’m gonna go inside and sing myself some more karaoke. ‘Cause God knows that’s what I want to be doing, singing myself some more karaoke.” (aka Sew Dolly Clackett)

One of the things that helped me get back at the sewing machine was #SewDollyClackett organised by Sarah of Rhinestones and Telephones; it is a sew-a-long competition inspired by Roisin of Dolly Clackett to celebrate her awesomeness and her upcoming wedding. I’ve got to know Roisin in real/twitter life and she is as lovely as everyone says 🙂 And her fiancé Nic is also good at fabric shopping with a good eye for a fun print.

I love Roisin’s style and for the past year I have been thinking “Would Roisin wear this?” when looking at fun fabrics and deciding if they are suitable for grown-up clothes. People who know me in real life will have heard me defend my outfits by saying “but my sewing friend Roisin would wear…!” There are loads of great dresses on her blog, but here are some of my favourites (all pics from Dolly Clackett)…sew dollyPolka-dots, bright colours, gingham, animals (not animal print!), big flowers,… so much inspiration.

The first dress I made was fabric I already had; navy and white elephants. This print is fairly subtle for Roisin, but was a tester for a bodice mash-up combining the Sewaholic Cambie with the Simplicity 2444 bodices (details on how I did this to follow soon).  Annoyingly the fabric was printed off grain so I had a tricky job making sure the elephants lined up all the way around, but it made hemming easier as I could take it up by 2 elephants. This dress is really comfy to throw on, it feels like a t-shirt but with the

elephants

Next was the dress I was most exited about because the fabric has baby ducks on it!!! I saw the fabric on The Village Haberdashery blog but thought it would be too OTT for a dress, then when I saw it in person Annie almost convinced me it would work (they also have pink Bambi and blue foxes!), but I couldn’t stop thinking about it all week so knew I had to have it. The pattern is By Hand London’s Anna with a full gathered skirt (a Dolly-Clackett mash-up) which I wasn’t overwhelmed by in the autumn but after wearing again recently I grew to like. ducksI spent a long time matching up the ducks across the centre back and am really pleased with the result. I lowered the back neckline by a couple of inches as I wanted an invisible zipper to show off the pattern matching, and that was the length I had (too impatient to go into town to buy one!). The skirt has some subtle red rick-rack around the hem: a deliberate design choice and not at all because I forgot to add seam-allowances when measuring how much fabric I’d need to buy!

Finally I knew I needed some gingham or polka-dots to channel true Dolly Clackett style, and when I found this fabric I knew it was perfect for the challenge – tape measures that look like gingham! I made a classic Cambie dress and re-discovered how amazing the pattern is to sew, cleverly hiding away all the insides. I added a plain waist band as I had had enough check matching by this point (the tape measures are all slightly different widths, and a little flat piping/band around the neckline, but I’m not convinced how well it works from these pictures. I liked the dress when I was wearing it, but looking at the photos I’m not sure it is the most flattering…

checksAn adjustment I made was to pleat the skirt instead of gathering it at the waist. I pretty much folded along the lines of the tape-measures (to quote Roisin “I’m smug because I’m calling a pleated rectangle a ‘self-drafted skirt’ “) so that the pattern is un-interrupted along the waist band. And I lined up the waist band with the tape-measures for a white border. Patrick and May would be impressed I think!

So there you go, three Dolly Clackett dresses in a week! Luckily I took a leaf out of Roisin’s book and sewed up some tried and tested patterns so there was no fitting, just quick sewing. There are so many amazing dresses in the flickr group it will be tough for Roisin to choose a winner tomorrow!

*The title of this post is in tribute to Roisin’s wacky post titles and one of our shared loves…

Ambivalent about Anna

Thanks for all the lovely comments about my dotty Hawthorn dress 🙂 As soon as I tried on my first shirt muslin I knew I loved the pattern; I didn’t get that feeling with this Anna dress. (The picture below could be interpreted as a look of uncertainty, but actually I was eating a mint. Yup, that’s how comfortable I am about photos of myself on this blog now, I’ll even take photos while I’m eating!)

anna 2

I’m not sure whether I dislike the pattern on my body, or whether it just didn’t live up to the hype and adulation of millions of other bloggers (I’m looking at you Dolly Clackett!). This is why I refuse to get into popular shows or books until many years after the hype has eased off; If I watch something expecting to love it and I only really like it, the expectation and pressure to enjoy something takes away from my actual enjoyment. I think that is what happened with Anna. I expected so much from this little pattern, maybe more than a pattern can deliver, so when I tried it on during making I was underwhelmed and left it in my to-do pile for a quite a few weeks.

anna 4

I made this version in a cheap light-weight cotton (it had some slight flaws every 50cm or so, but I love the print so I got loads) with a plan to be a wearable muslin before using some fancy fabric for a winter dress. I did a Full Bust Adjustment (you have seen this already in my tutorials here and here) and followed the sew-along instructions to add sleeves to the bodice. The sleeves were initially 3/4 length but they were too snug to move, so I just hemmed them at the point where they fit.anna 1I much prefer the dress when worn with a cardigan, as I think it is the kimono sleeves that are the part I’m not so keen on. I’m not small round the chest, so the extra fabric from the kimono sleeves adds a bit more than I feel confident with. Maybe a summer Anna with no sleeves might feel better. The neckline here was a rush job, as I wasn’t feeling the love for this dress and just wanted it finished. As lots of people found, I was able to pull this over my head without undoing the zipper.anna 3There are some good things about this dress, but the hype was too much for it to live up to. My cousin saw these pictures and liked the dress, so I think I am being a bit picky, but after years of sewing I guess I am at the stage where I don’t put up with less than almost perfect. I am currently at my parents for Christmas, with ALL the cousins (for the first time in four or five years!) which is super exciting, but I have a couple more garments to show you when I have some quiet time.

 

Anna Dress FBA – changing the gathers to flatter a fuller bust

I am so glad you liked my FBA tutorial for the Anna dress 🙂 (And I am glad you realised how much effort it was; I took photos as I went along, but it wasn’t until I was editting them that I realised how many steps there were!)

I have sewn my bodice muslin (well in a cheap fabric that I will use for first wearable test version) and realised the gathers I have are a bit too big to be flattering. Do you remember my Cambie dresses? I had the same problem there; with a full bust, the size of darts/gathers is big, so the darts begin to make a pointy corner. And how did I solve that problem? I changed the darts from one to three, so each dart was slightly smaller and less pointy!

Here is a quick diagram to show the extremely scientific method I used to adjust the gathers on my Anna (after unpicking the first set). Following my FBA tutorial, work your way to step 20, and stop there.

Anna FBA part 3

Changing gathers is easier than changing darts, as you don’t have to worry about the pointy dart ends. For my measurements I narrowed each pleat by about an inch (technically it was a thumbnail length). I then created a new pleat in between (green lines), making sure it was the same size as the amount I removed (2 red lines below). This gave me 3 approximately equal pleats, but you could measure them and do some maths (if you haven’t spent all day teaching 4 year olds how to sit quietly! this method is good enough for me!)

pleatsAnd here is how the pleats now look in real life:
pleat

Dodgy camera-phone shots in the mirror, but I think you can see the effect. I have pinned and re-sewn the pleats more than my fabric could cope with, so I need to cut out a new bodice before I can carry on with the sewalong. Who else is sewing along? How is it going?

 

Anna Dress FBA – how to use your high bust for a great fit

Warning: This is a long post, full of pictures, but only because you requested fitting tutorials!

I am definitely on the By Hand London bandwagon and love the drafting of their patterns, however I was a little disappointed by the FBA (full bust adjustment) advice in the Anna dress Sewalong. The method is fine if you just have a tiny bit to add, but I have read lots of people saying they had big or gaping necklines on their Anna dresses; the method they show will cause/add to this problem, so here is how I did my FBA (using the Y-Method for adding more than 1.5″).

Before we start I’m going to explain why I am using my high-bust measurement instead of my full-bust. Hopefully these pictures will make sense to you, but let me know if you have any questions.

Why you need to use high bust

Patterns are graded to fit different sizes, but the shape of the garment usually remains the same or similar proportions (a). Most commercial patterns are drafted for a B or C cup, and if you are much bigger than this then your proportions will be different (b). Someone with a full bust measurement of X could either have a full-frame and wear a B-cup (c – outer black line), or have a smaller frame and wear a GG-cup (c – red line); your high-bust measurement is a better indicator of your overall frame. When choosing your size (d) it is better to fit to your high-bust and adjust, otherwise you will have extra fabric above and below your bust (e); it is easier to fit the waist with darts/gathers but a baggy/gaping neckline is harder to fix.

Does that make sense? I hope so! So now you need to measure your high-bust and full bust, and we can get started…

Anna FBA part 1

  1. Get your resources and tools ready. You will need your pattern, tape-measure, ruler, pencil and pens, sticky-tape and tissue paper (I like to use multiple colours to see the changes I have made).
  2. Some patterns include high-bust measurements, but today we have to do some maths. Take your high bust and add ease (I added an inch for this pattern). Divide by 4 and then add seam-allowance to get X. Take your tape measure to the pattern and measure to find the size that matches X at the underarm, going up a size if you fall between sizes. I am ignoring my waist measurement at the moment, as the FBA will add extra at the waist.
  3. Place tissue paper over the pattern and hold it in place with weights or tape. Trace the size you have just chosen.
  4. Use a ruler to trace grainline markings and darts to ensure they are nice and straight.
  5. Mark the stitching lines. This is SUPER important so don’t skip this step! Use your ruler or tape-measure to make marks 5/8″ or 1.5cm inside the pattern, and join them up with a ruler/french-curve or freehand.
  6. Cut out your traced pattern.
  7. Pin the shoulder and side-seams together, and darts/gathers at the seam allowance. Now you need to carefully try it on and measure how much you need to add at the bust.

    Anna FBA part 2

  8. While you are wearing the tissue bodice you need to mark your bust point; this is the fullest part of your bust/nipple area.
  9. Before we can do the FBA, we need to get rid of the sleeve. Draw a line from the side-seam (before it curves out) straight up to the shoulder. Cut along the line and put this piece in a safe place.
  10. With a ruler draw some lines from the bust point to
    a) the waist seam (parallel to the centre-front fold). I made sure mine was in between the two gathers.
    b) the shoulder seam
    c) two-thirds up from the underarm (armhole)
    d) just under the underarm
  11. Cut along these lines, stopping at the stitching line you drew in step 5. This keeps the stitching line of the shoulder the same length so it will still match the back shoulders. (I left the underarm line intact for a few steps)
  12. Place some tissue paper under the pattern and start to spread the slashes.
  13. Do you remember how much you needed to add? Spread the shoulder slash until it is half this distance away from the bust point, and tape in place.
  14. Now spread the armhole slash the rest of the distance and tape down onto the tissue paper.
  15. Now cut the underarm line and slash until the pattern lies parallel with the centre-front piece. Slash the centre front piece horizontally and spread down until the waistlines line up.

    If you want to sew up a side dart, you can tape everything down and skip ahead to part 4. I didn’t want to spoil the lines of the bodice with a side dart, so I rotated the dart out into the waist gathers.

    Anna FBA part 3

  16. Before we can rotate the dart, we need to move the gather/pleat to underneath the bust point. Cut a box around the pleat and move it across.
  17. Position the pleat so the bust point is directly above the centre of the pleat. Tape in place and fill in the gap with tissue.
  18. Cut up the pleat to the bust point (following the original cut lines). Spread this cut and half close the underarm dart (we are going to share the fullness between both pleats). Tape extra tissue in place.
  19. Cut along the top of the underarm dart, extending to above the second pleat, and then down between the pleat markings.
  20. Fully close the underarm dart and tape tissue in place.
  21. Now draw on the cutting and stitching lines to fill the gaps on the added tissue.
  22. When you get to the pleats, fold the pleats together and mark the lines on the under layers at the fold. Use a pen for this as you need the marks to bleed through the tissue.
  23. Join the dots using a ruler.

    Nearly there…

    Anna FBA part 4

  24. The FBA is now done. Make sure all the layers are taped down securely. You might want to trim away the excess tissue paper layers on the back.
  25. Now we need to add the sleeve piece we removed in step 9. Carefully join the stitching lines (in red) and tape in place.
  26. Fill in the hole with more tissue and tape. There! We have finished the adjustments!
  27. Check the fit by pinning the front and back bodice pieces, making sure you have pinned the pleats and darts closed. My waist was a bit snug so I redrew the pleat markings a little closer together. If your waist is too big, you could easily extend the pleats to nip in the waist some more.

And we are done! It sounds like a lot of stages, but it really does make difference to the fit around the neckline and shoulders. Before you cut into your yummy fabric, it is a great idea to make a muslin in cheap cotton (or similar weight to your fashion fabric). My fabric for the sew-along was only £1.50pm (it has a tiny fault every 75cm) and I got plenty so I am going to make a wearable muslin of the whole dress.

I really hope this is useful. If there are any questions or if anything isn’t clear, please ask in the comments below and I can try and explain.