Monday, 27 January 2014

Finished Project & Pattern Review: By Hand London 'Anna'.

Finished project By Hand London Anna Dress

This dress is by far, the BEST thing I've handmade in my life! 

I am so pleased with the final result. All the hours of measuring, marking, photographing, crying, tweeting, swearing, googling, sewing (times 400) paid off in the end. I am smitten with this dress. Absolutely in love with it.

The fabric is cotton voile, I bought with the intention of making a a dress or maxi gathered skirt. I asked for 2m but the lady accidentally snipped at 1m so she gave me a little extra fabric, I ended up with 2.3m.

The fabric is 114cm (45") wide. After cutting off 9" on the skirt panels I managed to fit all the pieces on the 2.3m length.

The floral print is so busy, I don't think there is any obvious direction on the fabric, so two of the skirt panels were laid upside-down. 

Overlocked the arm holes, turned them up twice, machine stitched.

Interfaced facings with whisperweft.

All edges overlocked.

The seams were finished on the overlocker, I used white thread for the whole dress - except for the arm holes, I don't know... I felt obligated to use the pink thread. Shrugs.

I was going to handpick the zipper, but went with an invisible one to practice. OMG I have lost my touch. I used to be so good at sewing on invisible zippers, now I suck. It took me over 1 hour to get the zipper on. 

The dress took me 7 hours to sew, I didn't stop for meals. I had a deadline to have the dress finished Saturday night to wear on Sunday to a birthday party. 

I started to get pretty fatigued at the four hour mark and sewed the facing on the wrong way. Luckily I realised my mistake before trimming and understitching. I went and drank a protein shake then carried on.

Pretty pink zipper and a pretty good dart!

My beautiful facings match, yay!

I used the machine to stitch the facing down (instead of hand blind stitching). I flipped the facing over so right side of bodice and facing were together, and stitched down along the zipper teeth.

Because I made so many adjustments to the bodice, I drafted/drew my own facings rather than making adjustments to the facings in the pattern, seemed easier at the time.

Pattern Review: By Hand London, Anna

Size: 2/6 bust, 6/10 waist, 6/10 hips
Fabric2.3m cotton voile
Notions: Gutermann thread (800, 733), 22" invisible zipper, 0.5m whisperweft interfacing, 
Pattern Modification/Adjustments: Hahahahahahhahaahha!! Where do I begin?!?!?!
  • shoulder seam adjustment - shoulder seam was sitting too far back, redistributed 3cm from front shoulder seam to back shoulder seam (more details here)
  • side seam adjustment - side seam was swinging forwards, redistributed 3cm from back bodice to front bodice (more details here)
  • hollow chest adjustment - took 4cm wedges out of front bodice at the neckline (more details here)
  • swayback adjustment - 2.5cm swayback adjustment (more details here)
  • erect back adjustment - took 3cm wedge out of CBL (more details here)
  • added 2cm back into CBL to raise back neckline higher 
  • lengthened front bodice by 2cm
  • short person adjustment, took 9" off the skirt length :P
What I learnt: I learnt so much about my body. I learnt that I have an erect posture and that the front half of my torso is bigger than my back half - big rib cage, hollow back!! 

What I love about the pattern:
  • The instruction booklet is incredible, so detailed and also funny to read. Boobies, hehehe
  • The way BHL marked the darts using pins and chalk - genius! I hate doing tailors tacks
  • Finally, a pattern that doesn't add too much ease and has a size that fits my small bust

What I didn't love about the pattern: Can't say there is anything I do not like about the pattern except maybe BHL should have added some more markings on the skirt panels to make it easier to differentiate which side is which, for example how the BIG4 mark the centre back seam with the 3 notches, that's usually handy, but other than that the pattern is perfect.
Cost: Fabric $20,  Zip $5, Interfacing $5
Hours: 1 hr cutting, 7 hours sewing.
Completed on: 25th January 2014.
First worn: 26th January 2014, friend's 30th birthday party.

Pleat seams matched up with skirt panel seams, yay!

Side seam is straight, yay!

Waist seam matched when zipped up, yay! 
Darts at the back didn't match up with skirt panel seams, no biggie.
The wrinkles that were on the back of my muslin didn't appear on the dress, so I won't worry about. On the next version I make with the rayon (for my friend's wedding) I will lower the front pleats about 1.5cm so the pleats open up just under my boobs - on this dress the pleats finish just above the underwire of my bra, I'd like them to finish on or below the underwire. I'll also follow Ginger Makes tutorial and take a small wedge out of the back neckline. And maybe relocate the back dart so they line up with the skirt seams.

Finished project By Hand London Anna DressFinished project By Hand London Anna DressFinished project By Hand London Anna Dress

It was such a beautiful day yesterday, sunny with light winds, perfect conditions for a maxi dress. 

Party finished up at about 3am but because it was a long weekend taxis were no where to be found so we crashed on my friend's couch. I gotta say this dress is very comfortable to sleep in and the cotton voile doesn't wrinkle much. 10/10 for comfort.

I can't wait to make this dress up in the rayon. I'm a little petrified at the thought of french seaming all those skirt panels, but I'll break up the sewing sessions over a few days, no more marathon sewing for me.

The last two weeks have been a great learning experience for me, how can one body have so many fitting issues lol. I'm curious to know if there is anyone out there who doesn't need to make any adjustments? Who is this person with no sway-back and super long legs??

I have found so much information on the internet to help with fitting, which I will share below. Hopefully this will help others like me who up until last week only cared about whether or not my waist fit and dismissed everything else.

My next project will be the rayon Anna and also the Georgia dress sewalong. I hope I will be able to keep up! Wish there was more hours in the day.

Thank you for reading! And if you're in Australia, I hope you had an awesome long weekend.

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Friday, 24 January 2014

FITTING: By Hand London 'Anna' muslin/toile with sway back adjustment, neck darts & repositioned side seam (part 4).

By now I am sure you are sick to death of my posts and tweets on this topic. I am a woman possessed!! Just make the fucking thing already, right?

Well, now I can!!! I finally got the fit right on my muslin.

After making what felt like two hundred adjustments, the Anna dress is ready to be made up in my beautiful floral cotton voile.

After I did the erect back/short back and shoulder seam adjustments the waistline was still dipping and there was some gaping at the front neck.

I ended up doing a 2.5cm sway back adjustment and took 4cm wedges out of the neck.

As you can see, the neck fit better, the waist was level, but the side seams were still swinging forward. 

I was going to ignore the swinging side seam, but I realised that it would probably affect the way the front of skirt sits on my body, forcing the skirt side seam to swing forward, creating some weird bump... so off to Google I went and I found this:


I think instructions "add/subtract twice (abc)" mean you add/subtract on both left and right (ie twice) because they were repositioning the side seams on a sloper whereas I repositioned the side seams on my pattern piece so I didn't add/subtract (abc) amount twice.

I also repositioned the skirt side seams so the bodice and skirt side seams will match up.

The erect back adjustment of 3cm lowered my back neckline, so I added 2cm back into the CB and neckline. Maybe the erect back adjustment wasn't needed?

 So now, I present to you the muslin that has consumed the last fortnight of my life...

Side seam: before and after. I've have since added 2cm to the front bodice length.
Bodice caving in at the top

No more gaping.

There are also some wrinkles on the back and under the arms, but I can't be fucked making another muslin take on another issue right now so I'll turn a blind eye. The wrinkles don't bother me that much.

I have already cut out my floral cotton voile and plan on sewing it this Saturday to wear to a 30th birthday party and a housewarming (both on Sunday). If the wrinkles on this floral version bother me, then I will make more adjustments so that the rayon version I plan to make for my friend's wedding will be perfect. 

Even though it was a frustrating and long winded process, I have to say I enjoyed the challenge. I have learnt a lot of things about my body. Hopefully the next pattern I make (probably Georgia, for the sewalong) won't be as difficult, as I now now what my body issues are and how to fix them.

Speaking of the Georgia Sewalong, I believe that is happening this weekend! Yayyyyy! Who's in???

So now that my fitting dramas with Anna are over, what will I tweet about now? Hahahhaha. 
Thank you every one for your advice, for emailing and linking me to tutorials, for diagnosing my 'issues', for encouraging me and for putting up with the hundreds of #annadress #fittingwoes tweets (especially those followers that DGAF about sewing... who would never read this blog to see this, anyway).

I leave you with a pretty picture of my floral cotton voile, a 22" American Beauty invisible zipper and thread #733.

Happy Australia Day long weekend :)

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Wednesday, 22 January 2014

FITTING: By Hand London 'Anna' muslin/toile with shoulder & erect/short back adjustments (part 3).

Good morning, happy hump day!

Last night I made a bunch of adjustments to Anna muslin number three (muslin number 2 was a complete fail, I stuffed up the shoulder adjustment - inadvertently added 3cm to CB when I was adjusting the shoulder, lets not talk about it).

Reading through all the tweets and comments on my last two posts (part 1part two), everyone pointed out that I had erect shoulders/posture, a short back, forward shoulders.

CheekyChaCha kindly emailed me info on forward shoulder fitting problems - THANK YOU, THANK YOU THANK YOU, I need to get a copy of that fitting book that you own!! 

I've ticked the problems I am definitely experiencing, the rest of them I am unsure...
  • shoulders seams lie behind the shoulder tip 
  • loose wrinkles form along front armhole
  • tighter stress wrinkles form between the back armhole and shoulder blade
  • sleeve cap is tight around front of shoulder 
  • sleeve cap is loose, puffy, over the back of shoulder
  • shoulder seam needs to be moved forward 
  • bodice front needs less fabric width at armhole
  • bodice back needs more width at armhole
  • front sleeve cap needs to be more rounded
  • back sleeve cap needs to be flatter

It was evident from the photos I posted online that my shoulder seams were sitting about 3cms back from centre of my shoulder. Yet to determine if the forward shoulders is causing the waist seam to dip backwards.

My first adjustment was redistributing 3cm from the front shoulder to the back shoulder so the shoulder seam will sit on the centre of my shoulder.

  • I drew a line at the seam allowance (SA) of FRONT shoulder, slashed it and removed 3cms. 
  • I drew a line at the seam allowance (SA) of BACK shoulder, slashed it and added 3cms. 

Removed 3cms from front bodice shoulder.
Before and after.
Redistributed the 3cms taken from front bodice to back bodice shoulder.

It worked! The should seam now sits centered on my shoulder (blade??). Looks and feels way better than before!

Forward shoulder problem fixed *pops champagne* shoulder seam sitting comfortably, woo hoo!! 
Now for my erect back/posture/short back issue.

I'm not sure if erect shoulders, erect posture, short back are three difference issues; or if they are the same issue with different descriptions.

A lot of people suggested my erect back/posture was the cause of my waist seam dipping back, because my overly erect posture made my centre back length (CBL) decrease between the neck and mid-back... or something. I still don't get this one!!

CheekyChaCha also sent info on erect back fitting problems, again I've ticked the problems I am experiencing, the rest of them I am unsure...

  • excess fabric sags into loose horizontal wrinkles across upper back
  • flatter contour of the back needs less dart shaping
  • bodice back needs less length   
  • bodice back needs narrower darts 

My next adjustment was to take a wedge out of the centre back (CB) following this tutorial for erect back adjustment.

The waist seam was dipping about 3cm towards the back, so I took a wedge of 3cms out of the centre back. 

I'm not really sure if this was the right fix for me, as I didn't notice much of the fabric riding up my neck to begin with (as per tutorial, fabric riding up is one of the fitting problems). I gave the adjustment a shot anyway.
  • I drew a line perpendicular to the grainline, in the upper back
  • I cut into the back bodice piece from centre back, stopping before the seam allowance (cut along the line I drew)
  • I pivoted the top piece of pattern down to "remove" 3cms from the centre back
  • I straightened up the CB and grainline 

Before and after shoulder seam and erect back adjustment.
Here is the result...

Front and back waist seam still not level.
Waist is dipping back/front rising up.

I will do the 'elastic test' tonight as suggested by some ladies on Twitter, however I do prefer my waist seam sitting just above my natural waist.

Should I need to take another wedge out of the lower back at the waist, and then lengthen the front bodice so that the seam will be level?

Bust/neck looks a little gapey in this photo taken last night...  but in the photo below taken this morning, it looks fine.
No more gaping...? I will do the 'bending over test' tonight.
Photo taken last night: I noticed wrinkles in the back, but this morning they disappeared! 
Photo taken this morning, no wrinkles..?
Is the back meant to be this low? Should I make the back neckline higher?

This dress has been on my mind 24/7 since last Thursday, I'm exhausted but I really want to get the fit perfect. Even though I'm super frustrated that I haven't cut into my beautiful fabric yet, I'm enjoying the challenge. 

Thank you guys soooooooo sooooo much for helping me with the shoulder seams. I'm so happy that I've at least knocked out one fitting problem.

Now I need your helpful suggestions on the next lot of fitting problems:
  • how do level the waist seam?
  • should be concerned about those wrinkles on the back bodice that come and go?
  • shoulder I make the back neckline higher?
Please comment below, tweet me @sewmelove or email me :)

Thanking you in advance!!

PS. After posting this, I found this document on the internet which I found helpful.
It describes my problem - "Too much fabric at the back waist causing a puff at the centre back, 
wrinkles under the waistband, pants seat is stretched, side seams swing forward and hemlines are longer in the back" - their diagnosis is "swayback or down sloping waistline".

My side seams definitely swing forward! Down sloping waistline, that's a new one! Thoughts?

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Saturday, 18 January 2014

FITTING: By Hand London 'Anna' muslin/toile, adjustments for my erect shoulders (part 2).

Huh??? What is an erect shoulder??? I googled to find out more in order to accurately diagnose my sewing issue, and the results page was mortifying to view.
Advice: don't google the words "erect" and "back" in the same sentence.

Thank you to every one on Twitter and those that commented on my last blog post with advice. Without you guys I'd either throw out the Anna and give up on sewing completely or I'd hem the dress shorter at the back and live with the dipping waist seam. Every one has said that my shoulder seam sits too far back therefore causing the front bodice to ride up.

So it seems I have erect shoulders. Not sure if this is a good thing or not?? I always try to stand tall with my shoulders back. The trainers at my gym have drilled into my head the importance of standing tall ("chest out, butt out, sternum *something-something*") so I guess this is proof that I have alright posture?

I don't understand, if erect posture is a good thing, why don't RTW clothes and pattern companies design patterns to accommodate this? I feel like I'm being punished for having "good" posture.

I tried on a RTW dress and noticed that the shoulder seams also sit back (about 1.5cm). I pulled the seam forward to straighten the waist seam and marked on my shoulders where the seam should sit to achieve a straight waist seam.

I've taken some more photos to explain the issue. The waist seam is sitting above the yellow measuring tape. The markings on my door strongly confirm that the issue is my front bodice is riding up.

Erect shoulder issue
LEFT PIC: How the waist seam/dress sits naturally on my body.
RIGHT PIC: How the waist seam/dress sits after I pull the shoulder seams forward.
Hopefully you can see the shoulder seam clearly in this photo.
Pen mark on my shoulder is where seam should sit to achieve a straight waist seam.
Left shoulder seams sits 3cm back from mark.
Right shoulder sits 2cm back from mark (could be due to my right boob being the smaller one).

I should point point out that I have had this issue ever since I started sewing so I don't think it is the design of Anna. I used to assume it was because I drafted my own skirts or because I didn't have a Kim Kardashian butt. I also suspected I had a sway back.

Fitting issue:
  • Shoulder seams sitting too far back - 3cm back on left shoulder, 2cm on right shoulder. Difference could be due to my right boob being smaller than the left?)
Which has resulted in:
  • Waist seam/front bodice is riding up at the front
  • The waist seam appearing like it's dipping/tilting towards the back (but in actual fact it's just riding up at the front, as per photos)
  • Dress hem is longer at the back
How to fix:
I've been told that I simply add the 3cm on to the back shoulder seam.
But I also saw somewhere on the internet that I need to then subtract 3cm from the front shoulder seam.
There was also an "erect back tutorial" that advised to take a wedge out. Thanks for linking me to the tutorial Sew Little Time!

I'm still trying to get my head around there being such thing as "erect shoulders" so may keep pondering (aka tweeting about it, googling 'erect back', sighing every time I walk pass my sewing room). When I fully understand the logistics behind the fix I will cut out another bodice muslin.

How do I make the add length to the shoulder seams without affecting the neckline and armholes, as they fit well right now.

If anyone knows how to fix this issue, please comment :)
I'm sure after I fix this erect shoulder issue, I'll run into some more fitting issues. Oh the joys of sewing, always keeping me on my toes!

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Friday, 17 January 2014

FITTING: By Hand London 'Anna' muslin/toile - I need your help with fitting (part 1).

And here she is, my Anna wearable toile/muslin, almost completed.

Fabric from my stash, it's cotton dad got from Vietnam for me in November 2012. 
I only had 2m of fabric so the skirt neither midi or maxi - just made do with the length left over after I cut out the bodice. 
The neckline and arm holes are finished with bias binding. 
Bodice seams frenched and skirt seams serged.

It's been 44C degrees for four consecutive days in Melbourne so haven't been sewing this week. Bloody heatwave. My sewing room is like an oven. I would have died if I stayed in that room for a sewing session; someone would have noticed my absence on social media (probably my sister) and I'd be found in my bra and undies, with a yellow tape measure around my neck, holding the Anna dress.

Last night (aka day 3 of heatwave) I sat in the lounge, which  thankfully has aircon, and handpicked the zip. I tried it on one last time before hemming and found some problemos...


Fitting issues:
  • Hem at the back is lower than the front
  • The waist seam doesn't sit 'straight', it dips towards the back
  • The front bodice seems to ride up, I keep feeling the need to pull it down

My measurements are:
  • bust 78cm
  • waist 68cm
  • hips 90cm

I cut a size 2/6 bust and graded out to a 6/10 waist. 
Even though my hips corresponded with size 2/6, I cut a 6/10 to match up with the waist. Would this have anything to do with the hem being longer at the back.front bodice riding up?

Anna size chart from By Hand London website.

I really want my Anna to be perfect the next time round, so for once I will do the right thing and fix the problem areas properly before moving on to the real version. 

I found the Anna pattern easy to make. By Hand London's patterns are superb! I read the instruction booklet cover to cover. 

The real version will be the maxi with thigh high slit. I need it completed by 23rd February to wear to a wedding, my best friend is getting married, yippee!

So, I really need your help, please comment below with what you think is wrong with fit and what modifications to make on the pattern before I cut out the next version. 

I appreciate all advice so please give me any thoughts you have. 
I reached out on Twitter last night and got a lot of helpful suggestions but I wasn't able to get gross, sweaty photos till today and I thought this deserved a blog post as 140 characters is not enough!

Is it a swayback?
Do I need a FBA?
Do I need a bigger size?
Help, help help.

Thanking you ladies in advance! 

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Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Georgia Dress Sewalong!!

Georgia sewalong is coming! I'm so excited!! 

This will be my first ever sewalong. First time I'm not late to the party (I'm currently working on my Anna dress, the last person on Earth to make that dress..!?)

I have a shiny new sewing machine, the Georgia pattern and plenty of fabric to choose from.

I will sew Variation 2, with skinny straps, but with above the knee length.

Which one will you be making?

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