An Anna dress for all seasons, except probably not winter

Hello, dearest readers! I’m wrapping up a short holiday break from work, which means more sewing and more blogging! I got a new friend for Christmas, and she’s here to help me introduce you to my latest and happiest dressmaking adventure, the By Hand London Anna dress:

BHL Anna dress

That’s right, I am the proud owner of a dress form! I have named her Bluebell (we’ll see if it sticks), and I’m pretty excited to have her. It would have been nice if she had been in my life for dear Anna’s construction, as there was A LOT of fitting and tweaking involved, and when you are your own fit model, you end up doing a lot of sewing in your underwear. Here’s to a future of sewing fully clothed! Anyway. Let’s talk about the dress, shall we?

The gals over at BHL call this dress “effortless,” and I’ve seen many a well fitted version floating around the internets, but for me things were quite a bit more…effortful. Not in terms of construction per se (which was made even easier by leaving out the zipper) or ease of wearing (truly a great design), but certainly in terms of fit. In my attempts to get this little number to both fit and flatter, I went through 4 (!) bodice muslins and made some major edits to the skirt. Worth it for a great fit, but woof. I’m going to focus on the fit issues in a later post about the full bust adjustment I ended up settling on, but suffice it to say that I learned with this project that even if a pattern matches your measurements, a good fit is not guaranteed.

In addition to the bust adjustment (Cliffs notes version: I lengthened the bust by 2 inches and added a 2 inch side seam dart), I also raised the waist by 1/2 inch to account for my short waist. I probably could have gone a little higher but I didn’t want to truncate the bust pleats too much. In the end, I think the fit through the bodice turned out really well.

Anna dress, front

Anna dress, back

Looking at this second photo, I think the back is still a little long, or perhaps in need of a swayback adjustment? I would not be surprised if this is my next fitting challenge, but I’m going to ignore that extra fold of fabric until I fully conquer the whole bust adjustment business. For the time being, I’m proud enough of the fit I was able to achieve.

Then we come to the skirt; this is where I was rather worried about flattery. My first skirt bodice confirmed that the hip-skimming design just did not work for me. I have admired many an Anna with an alternate skirt (this and this are particular favorites), but I wanted to maintain the paneled skirt because I like the look. And I REALLY didn’t want to totally redraft the pieces to create a fuller skirt. With those parameters, what’s a girl to do?

I’ll tell you what this girl did: she trimmed 2 1/2 vertical inches off the skirt at the waist seam. This created a skirt that was probably 4 inches wider than the bodice, so some easing/gathering was required, but it gave the skirt just the fullness I wanted around the upper hip. This plus raising the waist did result in a skirt slightly shorter than I’d envisioned, so if/when I make another Anna I will need to add some length to the bottom of the skirt, but it’s certainly not indecently short, so I’m satisfied. The view below probably best shows the final length.

BHL Anna dress

The fabric is a lovely, buttery Joel Dewberry rayon that I picked up at the delightful Finch Sewing Studio in Leesburg with this dress in mind, and on a return trip I noted that the owner Nicole had made up an Anna floor sample in the very same fabric, proving that great minds do think a like. (To answer a few questions: yes, as in Leesburg, Virginia, and yes, I have driven there twice for the sole purpose of visiting this shop, and yes, I know I am crazy, but it’s totally worth it. Go there, you will not regret it.)

I bought the pattern this fall thinking I’d take part in the Anna sew-along, which given my schedule at the time was laughable, but the fabric was selected with a fall dress in mind. That was itself a stretch. After construction actually started, I briefly convinced myself it could be a holiday dress, but the length, weight of the fabric, and short sleeves ultimately have put this dress solidly into the spring-summer (and maybe fall) wardrobe.

That did not stop me, though, from getting dolled up and making my sister brave the subfreezing temperatures for a Christmas day photoshoot. It was cold (see picture 3), but at least my theatrical shivering pose took my hands off my hips for once. Though I suppose everyone needs a signature pose, and “arms akimbo” is certainly more fun to say than most. Please ignore my dayglo white legs.

Anna dress triptych

Ack, I just love this dress so much, and styling it was so fun. Maybe I can reclaim it for winter with a nice cardigan and woolly tights? Never say never.

Stay tuned for the aforementioned FBA post later this week (non-sewing friends, you might want to skip this one, unless you’re eager to learn about adjusting sewing patterns for an…ample bosom). And with that, I leave you with perhaps my favorite pic from the frigid photo session. Hope you had a very merry Christmas and wishing you a fantastic New Years!

Anna dress holiday greeting

It’s two, two, two knits in one (post)

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Oh hi, internet neighbor! Winter has arrived here in Baltimore with not one, not two, but THREE days of snowfall last week. Well, yesterday was a little more of a rain event, but there were maybe 30 minutes where actual snow was falling from the sky. Not going to lie, I’m pretty excited about it . So excited that I’ve completed two knitting projects for myself this past week. Here I am in both:

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These two projects are the Everdeen Beanie from Weekend Hats and the Rasta Cowl from the little book Malabrigo 3 I just picked up this week. Let’s start with the hat, shall we?

This hat is the cover project from the book (remember my craft library obsession?), and I actually started knitting it up about a year ago. It was put down after I messed up some basic math required to cut out a pattern repeat (needed because though I have a gigantic head, I am also a rather loose knitter). Somehow I ended up with 111 stitches but didn’t realize it, and I could tell the lace pattern wasn’t working out but didn’t think to count stitches, so the hat and I needed to take a break. I found it again a few weeks ago and figured out the mistake, and I’m very happy with the end result. Our prolonged hiatus has left me with no idea what yarn this is, though, which is a shame, because it’s great and I love the stitch definition.

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Excuse the resolution, another iPhone photo shoot (and thanks to my mother!). I just love this fan stitch, and it was easy to remember once I got into the rhythm. If you’re looking for more project info, find the deets on my Ravelry page here. Hats and lace knitting, how I love you; I already have a few more patterns picked out from the book that meet just those criteria!

Next, the neckwarmer. This project and I had a whirlwind romance. After spotting a floor model right as I walked in the door, I picked up the yarn and the book Wednesday at Woolworks and started knitting right when I got home. On size 17 needles, it was a very quick knit, and I was more or less done that night. There were some tense moments the next day when I went to finish the last few rows (seriously, I had like 3 inches left after binding off), but I actually didn’t find the buttonhole bind-off hard at all, despite suggestions to the contrary on Ravelry. Add some 2-for-1 buttons from my friend Joann, and it was done!

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I think this project is absolutely a perfect handmade gift, and it’s so quick to make up, you still have time to get one (or several!) up before Christmas. I could barely restrain myself from going out to get more of this yarn to start another this weekend. Interested parties can find out more details on the yarn, etc. on my Ravelry project page here.

And can we talk about this little Malabrigo 3 book? I tried to resist its charms (and spent many minutes committing the neckwarmer pattern to memory to save myself a little money), but then I started flipping through, and found a few more projects I would love to make, especially this sweater and this little baby hoodie. So into the “buy” pile it went!

And I leave you with a little photo collage (look who’s getting fancy!) of some of the…less serious moments from our photo sesh to show off the knits in all their glory. From left to right, sassing my mother’s lack of iPhone camera skills (ungrateful child that I am), hiding in the neckwarmer, and…let’s be honest, just being me. Enjoy!

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And so the baby sewing begins…

I don’t know about you, but I know quite a few folks who are having babies lately. In the past, knitting has been my baby gifting jam (see this post to get an idea). When I started sewing again this spring, though my mind was immediately filled with thoughts of all the baby sewing I could get up to, and the internets are FULL of inspiration on that front. I quickly discovered Oliver + S patterns, and an obsession was born. (I should have an entire post someday about how Liesl Gibson is my hero, both sewing-wise and professionally, because she is. Seriously.) All I had to wait for was some one to pop out a girl baby, and I was good to go.

Well, some of those girl babies have popped out (ew?), and so the baby sewing has commenced. In preparation for this moment, I bought several patterns in a sale a few months ago, and promptly hit up a quilting fabric sale at Joann, so I currently have patterns and fabric ready for about five Oliver + S dresses (obsession, I told you).  In an effort to ease my way into things, I chose one of Oliver + S’s “one scissor” offerings, the Seashore Dress:

(c) Liesl + Co

I have to say, what attracted me to the pattern most of all was the bloomers, and the precious coordination possibilities. Plus the treasure pockets. Here’s what I came up with in my first outing:

Seashore dress and bloomers

I really have to get better at my photography and photo editing skills, but c’est la vie. New Year’s resolution. Anyway, I was pretty pleased with myself on the coordination here. I was less pleased with myself for cutting the fronts and back for the bloomers in two different orientations (back upside down), but I had enough fabric to recut the front only, so I just went for it and embraced imperfection. Otherwise the bloomers didn’t disappoint (and the suggested ribbon “tag” to tell the back from the front is pretty cute, too).

Seashore bloomers

There were a few firsts for me in this pattern. The main new skill was buttonholes. Actually, I would technically estimate these to be my 34th and 35th buttonholes, because I was so anxious about the entire buttonhole scenario that I made approximately 3 dozen practice ones. I think my confidence was initially shaken by a classic “failing to read the buttonholer instructions” incident, but rebounded with the aforementioned practice, and I think the end result was worth it. This was also more gathering than I’d done in other projects, best illustrated by the back view. Made easy by the excellent instructions!

Seashore dress, back

Looking at these sad, flat photos, I realize that my photos would be exponentially cuter if there were an actual little girl occupying these clothes, but since this has yet to be gifted, you, dear readers, are stuck sans baby. Also, this is obviously a summer outfit completed in the dead of winter, and in a size that won’t fit your average 4-month-old (it’s the 12-18 month size, for the record). I actually agonized a LOT about which size to make for this peanut who will be about a year old when Seashore dress weather rolls around. My pediatric training has been sadly lacking in children’s clothing sizing, and at one point I became convinced this was going to be far too large for this summer, so I took the dress on a frantic field trip to Target for some comparisons, and it seemed right on par with the commercial 12-18 month dresses. (Liesl, how could I have doubted you?!?) Since it seems most babies are on the bigger side these days, and a too small outfit isn’t of much use to anyone, I’m hoping this was the right way to go. Only time will tell. One last look at the dress before it gets packaged for gifting:

Seashore dress, front

I’m in the midst of a quieter spell at work, and that plus a few days off for the holidays means more sewing, knitting, and (hopefully) blogging. Up next on the blogging docket are a few little knits I’ve just finished, more baby sewing (shower ahead) and, sewing gods willing, a v-neck Anna dress I’m planning to have ready for holiday festivities. I have already made four (4!!!) bodice muslins for this bad girl, but I think the end is finally in sight. Ooh, AND I have some sewing field trips/fabric safaris to document. Busy busy, see you back here soon!