By Hand London Anna dress

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Hayden said I looked quite vintage looking here!

You know when you have an event to go to but procrastinate for so long that you don’t have anything to wear until the last minute? No? Just me then…

Last year my cousin got married, and I needed something nice to wear for the occasion. I really was short on time and didn’t really have time to alter anything too complicated – enter the By Hand London Anna Dress.

I originally had a go at this pattern a few year ago, before I really started sewing again after university, but I had made it in a cotton print that was a bit too stiff and I loathed it so the pattern had been tucked away in a box, cut but unloved, for several years. Being short on time I knew I would need to use something from my stash and I had a beautiful floral viscose-ish print that I had picked up from the Sewing Bee Live last year that I wanted to use, so after rummaging through my pattern stash I dug out the Anna. Thankfully (sort of?) I was still the same size as I was when I had cut the pattern, so I was able to cut and sew this really quickly!

The Anna is a great beginner dress as you can get away with very basic adjustments – I img_1813.jpgusually have to do a FBA but for this dress I was able to get away with drafting between sizes to get the fit I wanted. That being said, the back neck gapes a bit so I might need to do a narrow back adjustment? If I make it again I might also add a more full skirt to up the swooshiness. I also might fully line the bodice as I find the facing flaps about and doesn’t seem to sit nicely. I think binding the neck might also work – I’m not a fan of a facing. I did rush the construction of this and I’m not sure the hem is entirely even either but because the fabric is quite flowy and drapey I think I can get away without hemming it again!

Now I totally get why everyone loves this pattern. It’s simple, flattering and above all pretty comfortable. I’m still not a dress girl so this doesn’t get worn but I don’t want to consign it to the refashioning pile just yet! If anyone knows where I could find more of this fabric please let me know – I can’t remember which stall at Sewing Bee Live I bought it from but if I spot more I will snap it up!

November sewing plans

Late again! No excuses really, other than I’ve been getting back in to the swing of real life after an extraordinary October. I was away from home (and my sewing machine) for 4 weeks so no sewing was completed in October at all but now I’m home I feel quite motivated to sew!

This month I want to:

  • Make some new workout leggings. I’ve gained more weight than I had anticipated whilst away (a lot of wine is to blame) so lately I’ve felt awkward and uncomfortable in all my clothes. I joined the gym again and now I want new gym clothes! I’m thinking of making one of the legging patterns I haven’t used from FehrTrade (probably the PB Jam pattern) and hopefully I’ll find some great sports fabric.
  • Finish an embroidery project. I’ve got a hoop kit from Oh Sew Bootiful that is nearly finished that will look so cute when it’s done.
  • Purge my wardrobe. I have more than enough clothes but there are plenty I don’t wear because I don’t like them anymore, my style has changed or I’m just plain too chunky for right now. Ideally a total wardrobe overhaul would be great but I think I need to take it slowly and really focus on what I want to add or take away from my current wardrobe. This also means I could refocus on my making plans to fill the gaps.
  • Catch up on some posts. I had a couple scheduled for while I was away but none of them posted!

September and October in review

In September I did finish my Ginger jeans and these are wearing in nicely. I will get round to posting about my jeans making experience… at some point… I also finished a New Look 6483 but the 4 blog posts never got scheduled or even finished for that matter. Whoops!

In October I visited San Francisco, New Zealand and Tokyo and or course I went fabric shopping in each place. I don’t plan on doing a haul post but there will be a post in the near future!

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Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

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Mission Bay, North Island, New Zealand

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Yurakucho, Tokyo

September sewing plans

My poor neglected blog… I’m still here I promise! I’ve had a post for September half drafted for ages but I just haven’t had the time to properly finish it. August ran away with me too – I was away for a week so that did cut down sewing time, but if I’m being totally honest… I also haven’t wanted to sew much or blog much over the last few months. I’ve been forcing some of the sewing and so the blogging has certainly fallen by the wayside and a big reason for that is that I don’t feel particularly cute in what I make so I don’t want to share it. I mean, I like what I make but I feel quite negative about my body lately, despite this seeming to be the age of body positivity, and publishing posts where I have to show what I look like in my makes has been hard.

I’ve also felt quite pressured as I am going away for 4 weeks and have been trying to sew a lot of things to take away with me. Some of those plans have long been abandoned though, I work full time and I just haven’t had the time to make everything for the trip and all of the pressure is self-inflicted so I’m the only one to blame here!

So at this point in the month it seems a bit silly to share my monthly goals but I still have some time before I go and I am sure I can finish a few more things!

  • Make some Ginger jeans. My first pair have worn thin and are approaching the completely unwearable stage and I need some other trousers to take on the trip.
  • Finish and schedule 4 blog posts. Not including this one! I think I have enough photos to be able to finally share some posts.
  • Finish my latest New Look 6483 top. This only needs hemming and one armhole binding so I’m optimistic I can get this done!

August in review

I did finish my Ginger jeans and have worn them much more than I had anticipated. I also made my Kelly anorak and I love it! I already want another one. I still didn’t make that Datura blouse. I will do eventually, but I just don’t have enough time this month! I also visited the Rag Market with some friends and went to Stoff and Stil in Berlin so it ended up being a good month and I’m so happy with my 2 completed makes!

August sewing plans

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Another month has flown by but July was a surprisingly productive month! Maybe planning a lot of things is the key trick to help me be more productive? I guess I will have to try it again and see! Not for this month though, we’re almost halfway though already! As always this post is a bit late – the start of the month was very busy and for the last week I have been on holiday so I haven’t sewn anything anyway. I needed a break though, I’ve been struggling a bit lately with my mental health and the change of scenery and sunshine was much appreciated. I even managed to visit a fabric shop!

  • Finish the Ginger jeans I started in July. These are pretty close to being done but our washing machine has packed in so I’m a bit stuck as they need to be dyed again before they’re properly finished.
  • Make a Kelly anorak. This is my big August bank holiday aim and I’m hoping I can find the perfect fabric before then to make it. I’ve probably got something in my stash to line it with so I just need the shell fabric – recommendations and suggestions welcomed!
  • Make a Deer and Doe Datura blouse. I didn’t get to this in July so I want this to be high up on my to-do list.

July in review

I got most of what I wanted to do done! I finished my Melilot blouse and love it. I already want to make another dozen. I made an ironing board cover and I did cut out some Ginger jeans. Not the ones I had planned to cut, but jeans are jeans! I also started making them up which was not part of my plan. I made a Hemlock tee but I haven’t worn it yet as it’s been too hot. I finished my sashiko embroidery and just need to frame it and I also made a few make-up remover pads too but I think these require a bit more work. I didn’t get to the Datura blouse (too much time spent on making green jeans, whoops) and I also didn’t make any shorts. I’d wanted to get these done before my holiday but I ran out of time and ended up buying a couple of ready to wear pairs instead. I hate shopping for clothes and it was a good, timely reminder why I make my own clothes!

Sasha trousers from Closet Case Patterns

As soon as Heather Lou released this pattern, I knew I wanted to sew it. Sasha is a classic slim fit stretch trouser based on the same block as the Ginger jeans. I’ve made the

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Gingers (to be blogged soon) and I knew they fit me reasonably well so the Sashas would be a good bet too. I’ve wanted a pair of slim fit trousers that would be good for work and I hoped these would be the perfect pair to make me feel a bit more put together while I continue to explore my style. These are also on my Make Nine list for this year!

As always, this pattern is well drafted with good, clear instructions. Would you expect anything else from Closet Case Patterns?! Sasha has 2 views: view a, full length with pockets, and view b, cropped length with no pockets. I decided in my infinite wisdom decided to combine the 2 views and made the cropped length with pockets but no back pockets (because I couldn’t be bothered to do the welt pocket. Of course I now regret that decision!).

Based on the fit adjustments I had had to make for the Gingers, I knew these trousers would need a bit of work to get them to a wearable state. Based on measurements I traced a US size 20 graded to a US 18 at the waist – this is a full size bigger than I cut for the Gingers but I still needed to take in the waist by at least an extra inch and both side seams by an inch each, so I probably could have sized down to at least a US 16 and then adjusted from there. I didn’t muslin these trousers and made my adjustments as I sewed as plenty of them could be done that way. All in all I adjusted the following:

  • 1/2″ low butt adjustment
  • took in back leg fullness by 1″
  • let out front fullness 0.5cm (yes I know you should work in 1 set of measurements but that’s not me)
  • tapered legs by 10cm – my legs appear to be several sizes smaller from the mid-thigh down!)
  • took in inseam by 1/2″
  • shortened leg by 1″

All of these adjustments did help with the fit but there are still some pretty big issues I need to work on. I think I need to do an adjustment to give more room at the calf as mine are quite big and I really need to deal with the huge amount of excess fabric around the knee. If I had shortened the legs properly at the lengthen/shorten line this would helped a bit but without shaving lots off the seams I just don’t know what adjustment to make to get rid of it. Fit for Real People and Pants for Real People, alongside a Singer brand fitting book let me down as none of them had any advise on how to fix it so if you have any ideas, please let me know! I also need to do something about the excess at the back leg, I think increasing the back rise would help to pull it all in to the right place. I sewed the hook and bar in the wrong place and also had to have a few attempts at the internal

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I know when fitting you need to follow the wrinkles to the problem area but the wrinkles here have no idea where they’re going so…

buttonhole as my machine is a bit temperamental – I’ve been looking at a few at Sew Essential but if anyone has a machine that does a really beautiful buttonhole please let me know!

I ranted a lot about my fitting issues on instagram stories and someone suggested I look in to prominent thigh adjustments too – if you have any tips for these too I’d greatly appreciate it! I’d be lying if I said that all the fitting problems I had hadn’t knocked my confidence though. Since finishing these my sewing and body confidence has been very low but I’m working my way through it. I’ve spent so many years in jeans and my own perception of how I look does differ from the reality and sometimes I struggle to find the balance between the two. I do not look like Heather Lou’s beautiful model in these trousers and that’s ok. I look like me and sewing gives me an opportunity to explore new styles and shapes that shopping for RTW just doesn’t. I also realised that I’ve never made myself slim fitting trousers before, and for a first go these actually aren’t too bad! I’m not sure I’d call these a win yet though – looking at the photos I’m not sure these are the best style for me but I also think my perception is a bit biased because of the difficulties I faced. Time will tell!

I used a really beautiful soft stretch cotton twill from Sew Essential in the French Navy colour. The fabric has a good amount of stretch for these and enough recovery to stop them getting too baggy by the end of the day if you do a lot of sitting in them but I think personally I might need to wash them every wear. Somehow my waist has shrunk a little since I starting cutting these out so I’m probably going to need a belt but for now I think I can get away with it! The fabric also withstood a fair amount of unpicking pretty well too without warping or going all holey! I’m debating getting the same fabric in black to make a second pair of (properly adjusted) Sashas. I used a pretty floral cotton from my stash for my pocket linings and I also used it to make bias binding to finish the waistband off. I also managed to dig out a clear button to use on the inside and it actually looks quite professional inside! I did considering using the Ginger pocket and adding some back patch pockets but I decided to keep them clean and simple initially, although I might go back and add some soon. I do have to confess that despite my love of the pattern and the fabrics, I’m not sure how flattering Sasha is on my body shape right now but pocket placement is like a magic trick on the Gingers and that might help.

Fitting issues and body image woes aside, I’m actually quite pleased with these trousers. I’ve even worn them to work! To everyone who watched my instagram stories and responded with really helpful tips or words of comfort, I am very grateful and I’m sending you all a big squishy hug!

Disclaimer: this is a sponsored post. I was very kindly sent the pattern and fabric by Sew Essential for use in this post. All opinions are my own.

July sewing plans

June went past in a flash didn’t it?! I can’t believe it is July already. Lately I’ve left like I had really big plans for this year and have yet to achieve any of them, but that’s not really true. I had no big plans, just lots of small ones. I wonder if maybe I need to start pushing myself out of my comfort zone a bit more and see where that takes me – you know, applying for that opportunity, contacting this person etc. I don’t know… This is a bit deep for a Saturday! Hopefully July will be a month of productive reflection and I might come out on the other side with a more clear picture for the rest of the year. And even if I don’t, at least I tried!

I’ve been quite ambitious for this month and made a big list. I think I need a bit of a push to boost my productivity:

  • finish the Melilot blouse from last month. This just needs the collar, hem and buttons so there isn’t far to go
  • cut out a new pair of Ginger jeans. I’ve already got the denim and I think I need to cut a smaller size this time
  • make an ironing board cover. Our current one was a cheap one and isn’t very nice and I have some nice cotton to use for a new cover
  • make a Deer and Doe Datura blouse. I’ve been dying to make this and I will definitely have something in my stash that would work
  • make a Grainline Hemlock tee. I recently bought some nice stripy jersey for a new Hemlock and this will be a quick make
  • work on some embroidery. I have a sashiko kit I bought recently that I want to make this month. I need a project for when I’m sat in front of the tv!
  • maybe make some shorts. The most recent issue of Love Sewing has a freebie shorts pattern that I think I want to try ahead of a holiday in the summer
  • make some reusable makeup remover pads. I’m trying to reduce how many single use items I buy and thought this was an easy thing to address

June in review

I did make up 2 new pairs of Acacia knickers and I have now finished my Sasha trousers. I didn’t make n ironing board cover which is why it’s in my list for this month but I have started my Melilot shirt and I’m hoping I can finish that in an afternoon! I also had a bit of a blog revamp which I’m really pleased with although there a few things more to tweak. Let me know what you think of the new look!

Keeping it simple

And now for something completely different – embroidery! OK, so it isn’t exactly a major departure from the norm but it’s been years since I embroidered anything so I think this might be a first for the blog!

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Wonky photo, not a wonky hoop

Kathy from Sew Dainty has recently started selling cross stitch embroidery designs on etsy for the bargain price of £3 per design. Kathy’s designs are sewing themed or positive affirmations and are simple, single colour designs. They’re also not too complicated to follow so would be an ideal project for a beginner. Kathy’s newest release is a design that says ‘Makers Gonna Make’ and I was keen to support a small indie business venture so I snapped it up on sale!

I used to do a lot of cross stitch when I was younger so I was confident that I would be able to complete it pretty quickly. It also meant that I was able to use up some materials from my stash so I chose a light dove grey 14 count aida and although the pattern calls for black embroidery thread, I wanted to use a variegated thread from DMC that I had received in last years Sewing Weekender goodie bag. I was even able to use an 8″ hoop I already had to sew and frame it! I bought the pdf pattern on the day it was released, printed it the next day and it was finished and hanging in my sewing room just two days later!

You can see the colours of the thread as it changes stitch by stitch

I must confess that because I am familiar with following cross stitch charts I completely ignored the instructions that came with the pattern but having read over them they are clear and detailed and would definitely be helpful for those dipping their toes in to cross stitch. There were a couple of things I did differently to the instructions. Instead of starting from the top left and following the pattern as finish the back of my hoop with help – the instructions recommend trimming away excess fabric but if you want to back your hoop this tutorial will show you how.

I timed myself from start to finish at the entire process took me about 6.5 hours including finishing the back of the hoop – I am not a quick stitcher by any stretch and I was stitching when tired and quite late at night. If you’re a speedy cross stitcher, this will probably take you far less time!

I’m really please with the finished piece. The colour combination in the thread is really lovely and quite effective – it makes the finished project look like a lot more effort went in to it! I also realised how much I missed hand stitching. Embroidery isn’t something I’m very good at but I have a few other simple projects to work on next. The repetitive nature of hand sewing is very therapeutic!