Monday, July 21, 2014

The Anna Dress - Pattern Test

Happy Monday, all!

Back to the grind after a hectic weekend.  Saturday evening, we went to a 90's grunge tribute show at one of our favorite spots, The Manette Saloon. 

My attempt at the grunge look - plaid + stripes + red lips and loads of eyeliner

Even though it was stiflingly hot, it was a total blast and made me feel like a college kid again.  We missed the STP cover band because the show started on time (who does that?), and left before Pantera because I was beat.  But we did get to see the fantastic Alice in Chains tribute by the Seattle-based band Silvergun.  I kept closing my eyes (not overly smart in a pit, but whatevs) because they were so good I felt like I was listening to Layne Staley. 

Silvergun, aka Alice in Chains

Then the guys from Bad Habit Bremerton took the stage and blew the place away with their tribute to Nirvana (complete with thrift store sweater!).  And if that wasn't awesome enough, my friends Becca, Melissa, and I were pulled up on the stage to back-up dance for the last few songs of the set. It was so much fun, I was an exhausted, sweaty mess by the end and I was thrilled!

Nirvana back up dancers.  I wish I had pom-poms.
Sunday was spent doing Sunday chores, although we did go take advantage of our new memberships to the Athletic Club.  To anyone I've ever told that swimming laps isn't hard enough cardio, I am deeply, truly sorry.  Everything hurts.  Owie.  But it was fun, and it felt great to be active again.

I also swung by Pacific Fabrics and picked up a couple of really cool lengths of fabric - Little Red Riding Hood and an absolutely gorgeous map print accented in teal.  Oooooo.

I like the staff there; they're friendly and helpful and the store is chocked with designs I can't get from JoAnn's.  It's a bit more expensive than online shopping, but for instant grafication an support of a local business you can't go wrong.

Backing up, Saturday afternoon was spent on my newest pattern acquistion, the long-awaited and coveted Anna dress from By Hand London.

I had anxiously waited for this pattern after discovering the joy that was the Flora dress (but I'll get to that review later).  By Hand London is an independant pattern company that offers some of the coolest, unique patterns I've come across.  And I have a LOT of patterns.  After seeing some of the gorgeous creations gracing the internet, I was obsessed with obtaining it for my own.  Not really thrilled with the idea of international shipping, I found it for sale through - score!  Alas, the pattern was sold out on their site, and everywhere else.  EVERYWHERE. I was a bit dejected, but placed my order and reserved a spot on the wait list - pouting all the while.

Then the Great Vacation Project took over, and thoughts of Anna took a backseat to cranking out a ridiculous number of dresses in 1/2 a month.  A project I completed successfully, but it did occupy ever spare moment of time until we left.

After I returned from vacation, I decided to check my online shopping cart at Pattern Review, and not only was the dress back in stock, but it had already shipped and was scheduled to arrive the next day.  I was overjoyed.

The pattern arrived, like the other two By Hand patterns I own, beautifully presented in a sturdy folder with a little story of the design name on the back.  I checked the measurements against the Flora, decided on my normal UK 10, and - of course - cut the pattern because I'm too lazy to trace.  One day...maybe.

I had lovely chocolate brown damask I bought from the clearance section of my local Joann Fabrics, and decided to use that for the mock-up. My theory is this - if I'm going to toile a pattern, it should be wearable. I believe the fabric was clearanced and then another 50% off, so the investment was less than muslin or a sheet.  Fabric also depreciates in value to me; if I've had it for a while, it is somehow less of an investment than brand new fabric (cost of the purchase never figures in).  And this yet another example of why I failed Economics in college.

I decided that I only wanted to test the bodice and save the skirt for later, as I didn't have enough fabric to use the skirt pieces properly.  I laid out the pattern pieces and jumped in.

After the fabric was cut, and the darts and pleats were marked, I put the pieces aside for the evening, ready to come back to it on Saturday.  Then I saw that my fabric pen had vanished, leaving me a trail of pins, but no stitching lines. 

Um,where are my markings?
Balls. So I pulled the pattern out again, and remarked everything with chalk.


Yes, I cut the darts out of my pattern.  It makes my life easier (I do reinforce them with tape so don't go too crazy, internet).

The bodice went together without a hitch.  I ignored the paper instructions, because By Hand London offers a killer online sew-along.  I read over the steps for the slash neck top, didn't see any major issues, and went on my way. 

Bodice pleats pinned - this is before the lines were re-drawn in chalk
Darts and pleats sewn and pressed - already looks amazing
The neckline is finished with bias tape because my hate for facings knows no bounds. Burn in hell, facings. 

Nifty Wonder Clips and a pic I forgot to rotate

Of course, as I was so hot to whip this baby out, I forgot that facings take up a 5/8 seam allowance. Since I didn't remove the excess fabric, the neckline is a bit higher than I want (and than the pattern is drafted for). Well, moving right along...

After the bodice was finished, I took the remaining fabric and decided to gather it into a skirt.  I used two pieces that were the width of the fabric, splitting one piece in half for the skirt back.  After sewing them together, I started what SHOULD have been the simple process of gathering.  Yeah.

For some reason, my thread kept snapping as I gathered.  I don't know if it was the weight of all the fabric or a defect in the thread, but after it happened twice I was a bit pissed off.  So I decided to gather it in three seperate sections, using matching the side seams with the bodice.  That worked, but the tremendous amount of fabric created issues beyond gathering.

FINALLY gathered and pinned
Annoyingly, even after carefully pinning, the waist seam skewed on me after the zipper was inserted.  Oh well.  It's a minimal difference, this was a mock-up, and the print is busy enough that I don't care enough to rip it all out.

The seams are all pinked (my new favorite method of finishing), the neckline is finished with bias tape, and the hem is serged, then turned up once and machine stitched in place.  This is because I have no patience and my hand sewing is atrocious.

Now, I admittedly ran into several issues with this project, but they were all entirely operator error.  This pattern is marked as a beginner, and I firmly agree with that rating so don't be scared off.  It's a simple 2 piece bodice with kimono sleeves, back darts, and front pleats rather than front darts (SO cool) - but even though the pattern is simple and all the techniques used are basic, you get a very sophisticated look.  And the sew-along tutorial is fabulous, even for a hands-on learner like myself.

The next time I make this, I will be making my standard adjustment to the center back seam and removing some width.  The front is perfect, but I do have a bit of excess in the back (normal issue).

Anna <3

I was initially concerned that, because I had waited so long for the pattern that the finished product would in no way measure up to the dresses I had daydreamed of making.  Boy, was I wrong.  I love this pattern.  Love.  My biggest issue is whether to make another slash-neck version immediately, or try the v-neck style next.  And that's a pretty good problem to have, sewing-wise.

Until next time, cheers!

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