Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Shibori Dot Anna Dress: By Hand London

To continue my By Hand London pattern streak, here is my first Anna dress!

I had planned to make this pattern for the wedding I was attending in August. I had this pattern all ready to go, even had the toile done, in mid July, but I just couldn't find the right fabric! I know, that is crazy, since theoretically you could make this pattern in almost any fabric. I had this idea in my head of a drapey, floor length dress in a summery pattern, but everything I looked at was not drapey enough, not summery enough, or just too expensive to purchase 3.5 yards (or more, if it was a 44 inch fabric like many silks). I almost did it in the digital linen I made the Flora dress with, but at $30/yard I just couldn't get myself to spend over $100 just in fabric for this dress. I also was concerned that the linen would wrinkle and look dressed down, which isn't the look I was going for, and I didn't think underlining was going to work well for the Anna dress. Then there was this gorgeous blue crepe de chine, but it was strikingly similar to the fabric of my mom's dress... anyhow, the point is that the Anna got put aside.

As soon as we got back from the wedding, I was eager to sew up an Anna in whatever I could find from my stash. I decided on this gorgeous cotton shibori dot print cotton from Marcy Tilton (still on their website!). The fabric is even more lovely in person than in pictures... the dots are a bit dimensional from the dying process. The Anna is a departure from my usual silhouette-- as you've probably noticed, I love sheath dresses. But I'm working on at least exploring other shapes on my body. I figure that in a dark, quietly beautiful fabric, this dress might work for my work wardrobe as well as dressed up for the evening.

It was just barely possible to get all the pieces laid out with 2 yards of 50-55in fabric (the midi length calls for 2.5 yards of 60 inch fabric). If it had been any narrower, or directional, it wouldn't have been possible. There are only small scraps left!

It is actually a surprisingly heavy fabric, sort of a light twill weave, which might not have been ideal for the Anna. I made the problem even worse by deciding that I would make an all-in-one facing for the bodice, rather than the suggested facing- and since my order of black cotton batiste from Fabric.com refused to show up in a timely manner, I did it with self-fabric. And, I made it EVEN WORSE by deciding that I needed to interface, even though the directions called for nothing of the sort. No, I didn't choose a nice lightweight interfacing... I used organza.

In this particular case, I probably should have just stuck with the neck facing, possibly with a lightweight interfacing. But by the time I realized this, it was too late to go back.

The end result is that the bodice is a little more "structured" than is really necessary. It makes it so that the V neck is nice and sharp and unlikely to stretch out, which is a good thing. But it also made the kimono sleeves stand up like little wings. Therefore, I cut off most of the kimono sleeve and made the dress nearly sleeveless, which a actually sort of prefer, although I would give the sleeves another go if I make it in a more drapey fabric.

Back gape!

No back gape? or gape occuring lower down?
The other problem with the rather stiff bodice is that it points to possible fit problems. There seems to be gaping in the back sometimes-- it seems to depend on my posture. I think I would just take a bit out there for good measure, if I get to alterations. And while the shoulders fit well when standing, as soon as I sit down and forget about my posture, the shoulders of the dress feel like they are floating inches over my real shoulders. I think, if I were going to sit down and fix things, I might take in the shoulder seams half an inch or so. None of this was apparent in my muslin, which was done in nice soft muslin, and seemed to hug my body quite well. But, rather than taking it all apart and fussing over it, I think I am going to let things stand for now, and wash and wear it a few more times to see how it all settles in.

The benefit of the slightly heavy fabric is that it skims the body well and gives a nice line to my not-so-perfect post baby body. The fabric also has quite a lot of mechanical stretch, so it is very comfortable to wear.

I did make some pattern alterations. I lowered the v neckline about an inch, as many other bloggers have done. I also lowered the slit about 6 inches to make it more modest for wearing to work. Even before the stiff bodice problem, I cut about 1.5 inches off each of the kimono sleeves, they are just too long for my taste. I did my usual grading up a size for the waist and hips. Since the fabric doesn't ravel much, I didn't do any particular seam finishes, and I machine sewed the hem and slit.

I'm eager to try this dress again in something nice and drapey! It might be just the pattern for a particular silk that I have been hoarding for years... I wonder if I have enough of it to make the maxi version...? And if I do make this in silk, with a V neck, how should I finish the neckline? Perhaps I should follow the instructions, and just deal with the neck facing, but I have never met a neck facing that has stayed put despite understitching, topstitching and tacking. Maybe an all-in-one facing wouldn't affect the drape of the fabric so much if it was a softer fabric to begin with, and only interfaced just around the v-neck with a lightweight iron on or batiste-- it does also give such a nice clean look to the armhole, and it gives the option to make the neckline with no visible seams. Or should I risk a self-bias binding finish-- this would be lovely on a rounded neck, but I'm not sure I can get it to lay perfectly on a v-neck.

However, that will have to wait a bit since I have a bunch of projects lined up. Fall work wardrobe items are going to be needed rather soon. As soon as my fabric arrives (Marcy Tilton again! love her ponte selection right now), I'm planning 2-3 princess seamed ponte tops, and if that Fabric.com order ever arrives with my cotton batiste lining fabric, a navy linen sheath.

In addition, I've gotten excited about the Jacket sew along/contest at Marcy Tilton.com. I have always admired the Tilton jacket patterns but haven't yet sewn a single one. Vogue 8430 has been in my stash for years, and I just pulled it out last night. I also unburied a gorgeous felted, embroidered wool I have been saving for just this pattern, also from Marcy Tilton. I particularly love the innovative collars on their patterns. The versions made by Katherine and Marcy Tilton are all stunning, but I've been put off by the experiences of other sewists who find the pattern to run huge. I've seen some lovely artistic versions that drape beautifully, but others who sew the pattern seem to be buried in folds of fabric. But I think I can make it work... I was comparing the pattern to some of the other jackets I've fitted to my body, and I think with a few tweaks I can make something to my liking while preserving the uniqueness of the pattern. We'll see... if I am successful, you'll see it here, and if not, you'll see it here too!

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