the Anna dress

What is there to say about the Anna dress that hasn’t already been said at this point? I am about six years late to this particular pattern party – but it’s clear why it’s so beloved.

This dress has been on my sewing radar for a couple of years now (it’s so beautiful and so flattering on so many people) – and when one of my best friends set her wedding date for this April I knew it was the perfect occasion to finally make it!

Did I mention it was a beautiful coastal wedding? My handsome date (with a very cute photobomb from Jenny the Bernie).

I went a bit off script with the fabric choice. My favorite versions of this dress all seemed to be made out of crepe – so I knew I wanted something with a nice drape and a little more weight than a rayon, but having never sewed with crepe I was a bit weary of that particular fabric. I couldn’t find anybody else who’d made this pattern with a tencel twill, but after creeping on Instagram for other makes with that fabric – I decided to go for it.

I’m still super happy with my choice! The fabric sewed as easily as a cotton or a linen, but the finished garment had a luxe feel and a nice matte texture (several people asked me if the fabric was suede). My only quibble is that it was not the easiest to press. I could go to a level two on my iron with a press cloth (and really, I’m too lazy for that) – so it was the lowest heat setting only for this baby.

My attempt at the classic Anna pose?

The fitting was much less difficult than I’ve encountered with some other patterns. I think this is partly because I selected the size from the waist and hip measurements rather than the bust – so the small bust adjustment was the only major change I had to make to the bodice. I’ve finally accepted that I do in fact need an SBA with most garments I make, and it seems like selecting my size from the waist rather than the bust helps me avoid issues with the shoulders or the armscyes being outrageously small.

I’m still very glad I made a muslin though – because my first attempt at the SBA was done incorrectly, and I needed to take in the top part of center back 5/8″ to correct gaping at the back of my neck. I hemmed and hawwed over the correct way to do this without distorting the grainline – and ultimately opted to keep the grainline as is but staystick the tapered seam line. Of course I later discovered that the answer to this and how to correctly do the SBA were posted on the By Hand London blog all along . . . do your research people!

I still don’t know if this technically correct – but I ended up leaving the grainline as is. My other choice was darts but I didn’t want extra seam lines.

Anywho! I also mixed up the various skirt panels when I put together the muslin – so none of my seamlines lined up where they were supposed to from the bodice to the skirt. Not a big deal for fitting, but when I constructed the actual dress I was VERY careful about labeling which pattern pieces were what (and I still managed to mix two of them up – but luckily I caught the mistake in time to correct it).

Each piece carefully labelled and sorted before actual construction.

In terms of the construction – it was all very straightforward, except I did find the instructions somewhat sparse. I opted to interface the area where I applied the zipper, and I underlined the neckline facing to help keep it folded under. I’m feeling really grateful to be at a point in my sewing practice where I can identify the need for these techniques without explicit instructions.

The only photo I got of the back of the dress – oops! You get the idea.

Because I was feeling fancy! I also opted to use french seams for the skirt panel (my first!) and a blind hand stitch for the sleeves, skirt slit and hem (also firsts!). It felt like miles and miles of hand stitching – but I actually really enjoyed it (perhaps because I’m already so fond of embroidering).

Cheesing with a fellow bridesmaid (and one of my best friends).

Trying to hem the skirt myself was a bit of an adventure. I wanted to make sure the bottom of the dress would just skim the ground in the shoes I was planning on wearing (4″ platform heels) – so this involved my husband placing the first set of pins for me, taking the dress on and off and repinning as needed until I was finally happy with it.

Ultimately, I was super happy with how this project turned out – there is nothing like a really beautiful dress that fits you correctly to make you feel good. It’s also the first time I’ve worn a maxi dress that wasn’t too short, and/or worn a dress with a thigh slit that wasn’t too high (no Britney moments here!). I will admit to getting a little carried away pretending to be Angelina Jolie all day. Oh well! It was really a wonderful and fun day.

Soooo extra.

The Details:

  • Fabric: Navy Tencel Twill from Blackbird Fabrics (I bought 4.5 meters but only needed 2.5 – oops!)
  • Pattern: Anna Dress by By Hand London
  • Size: 6
  • Adjustments:
    • Small Bust Adjustment: 2″ (1″ each side)
    • 5/8″ taken in at upper center back
    • Swayback: 5/8″ in the bodice, 3/4″ in the skirt panels
  • Total Cost: ~ $70
    • $13 for the pattern
    • $45 for the fabric (not including the extra yardage I didn’t actually need)
    • $10 for notions and shipping

tutorial: how to taper jeans

If you have a pair of jeans that’s no longer bringing you joy because the legs are cut too wide – take a pause before you put them in the Goodwill pile & consider tapering the legs yourself instead.

Maybe the pants are old enough that the original silhouette is no longer in style, or maybe you are shorter than average – in which case the jeans bag at the knees. Either way, it’s a very simple alteration that you can have finished in just a couple of hours.

Tools Required:

  • Sewing Machine
  • Matching Thread
  • Pins
  • Seam Ripper
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Tailor’s Chalk or Wax (opt.)

Steps:

1.) Using a seam ripper, undo the hem on the outside seam of the leg. Only rip the seam slightly farther than you plan to take it in.

Ripped seam vs. unripped seam. Note how the hem of the unripped seam gets in the way.

2.) Put the jeans on, inside out.

3.) Using pins, mark along the outside seam of the leg how much you want to take in (this step is much easier with a second person to help). Make sure to do this for both legs as you are unlikely to be symmetrical, and imperfection is okay. Try to gradually blend the pins towards the original seam to keep the new stitch line as smooth as possible.

Do as a say and not as I do: make sure to place the pins pointy side UP so they don’t stab your poor husband when he has to take the pinned garment off.

4.) Once the pins are in place and you are happy with how they look, walk around and sit down a few times to make sure the pants will still be comfortable once taken in. If you identify any problem areas, repin and adjust until you are happy.

Depending on the original shape of the pants and how much you want to taper the jeans – you may need to taper above or below the knee. The more width you need to remove, the higher you will want to taper – but ultimately it comes down to personal preference.

5.) OPTIONAL: Using tailors chalk or wax, mark a continuous line where you’ve placed your pins.

This will not only help you while you’re sewing, but it’s also a good safety check in case any pins fall out over the next few steps.

6.) Take the jeans off, leaving them inside out. Sew a straight stitch along the line where you’ve pinned.

Make sure to sew over the line of the hem. This will be folded back up at the end.

7.) Relax! Everything is still completely reversible to this point.

Mishka, Chief Alteration Assistant reporting for duty.

8.) Try the pants back on, this time right side out. Are you happy with the new fit? If yes – great! Go ahead and move on. If not – no big deal. Unpick the seam, adjust & try again until you are happy.

9.) Using a sharp pair of scissors, cut off the excess fabric on each leg. Leave about 1/2″ of seam allowance (aka the extra fabric on the outside of a stitch line).

10.) With a hot iron: press the seam allowances open. Don’t skip this step! It is the biggest difference between a professional-looking finish and one that . . . is not.

Make sure to check your iron settings on one of the scrap pieces you just cut off. Most denim can take high heat – but if it has a dark dye or it’s stretch denim (ie. there is spandex content) it may need a cooler setting.

11.) Finish the raw edges of the seam allowance to prevent future fraying. You can use a zig zag stitch, overcast stitch, pinking shears or a serger (pictured below).

On this pair of jeans, the seam allowances were finished separately on the original garment – however yours may be finished together. Go with whatever method was used originally.

12.) Use the iron to press the seam allowances to one side. Fold the hem back into place. Press and pin.

The hem is pressed back into place.

13.) Topstitch the hem (aka sew with the right side out) over the original seam line.

Luckily it’s typically obvious where the old stitch line was. If the jeans have a gold or orange topstitch thread – it may be worth buying something similar to match (especially if you have a few denim alterations in your future).

14.) Give everything a good press and ta-da! You have yourself a pair of new jeans.

Tapered pair of jeans #2. Please note that the final version of these were also hemmed, which I will cover how to do in a future blog post.

Note: As Pati Palmer likes to say, “Fitting is an art, not a science.” – and I am not a purist when it comes to alterations. I’ve picked the method I described above because I think it’s the easiest, the most accessible, and looks just as good to the layman eye. If you’d like to see how this alteration would be done professionally, Williamsburg Garment Company has a really great article & video describing the process.

the Joni dress

Despite the below 60 degree temperatures in California, I am happily bouncing about in my new Joni dress from Tilly’s book Stretch.

Finishing this piece felt like a herculean effort, mostly because the pattern calls for 2.5 yards of fabric, and yet I was determined to squeak it out with 1.5 yards. Did I accomplish it? Yes. Was it ill-advised? Also yes.

I spent 3-4 hours playing fabric tetris with the pattern pieces trying to figure out ANY possible way it would work. This sounds insane, but also there’s a threshold where you’ve already spent so much time on something . . . there is no going back!

This ultimately involved cutting the fabric on one layer (usually the first step when you are trying to save yardage), shaving an inch off the skirt, and sacrificing a few seamlines. Small confession: it wasn’t until after I’d finally cut the pieces that I realized I could have double-traced the “on the fold” pattern pieces, and saved myself an hour or two of trying to figure out the pattern placement. It was especially silly considering that I traced the pieces to begin with, but oh well!

Anyway! The nice part about using so little yardage? An satisfyingly-tiny scrap pile:

The construction was – okay. I’m slightly disgrunted with how the twisty-front came together but I will also admit that it’s probably a personal problem. Having only heard rave reviews about the simplicity of this design feature – I think I came into it a little over confident. The seam allowance is trimmed down in the center and sewn flat to itself on the wrong side. After many twist attempts – it seemed like no matter what I did either the wrong side of my fabric was showing, OR the contrasting zigzag stitches were showing. I eventually gave up and just unpicked those stitches in the front. I’m guessing that’s not the best fix and so let’s just hope the twist survives the wash.

Since this is a knit pattern, and I’ve had good luck with Tilly’s pattern block before – I didn’t bother to make a muslin. Although considering the lengths I went to in order to use this particular fabric, it miiiight have been a good idea. But fate was on my side and I’m pretty happy with the fit. I made a size 2 and my adjustments were pretty minimal: 1″ hollow chest adjustment, and 1″ added to the sleeve length. On this and other Tilly patterns, I think I will add an inch or two to the bodice length going forward as they are pretty short-waisted.

As for the fabric – I have no idea what it is. My husband bought me a serger for Christmas, and I immediately raced to Joann to purchase something inexpensive I could “play” with. That idea was immediately forgotten until this last weekend, when I decided it was a good idea to make a dress with only a yard and a half (I jest but in all seriousness – do. not. recommend.).

I know it’s a knit, I THINK it’s a polyester. The selvage has a Joann logo but I can’t find it online, nor have I seen it in any stores since. Typically I try to take a picture of the end of the bolt when I buy something, but in my haste to get back home I completely forgot. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ The drape is nice and silky, but it’s not nearly as slippery as you might expect. All in all great to sew with, and if I can ever figure out what it is I would purchase it again. So if anybody has ideas or recognizes it, please help ya girl out.

Finally! Given the fabric constraints, pattern matching was not an option here (lol @ me pretending to know how to do that anyway). This combined with twist disgruntlement = miranda parked firmly in the “disillusionment” state of creativity for most of this project. Even after I’d finished it and tried it on, I thought to myself “wow this dress is coo coo for cocopuffs.” But as they say, everything looks better in the morning and with a good night’s sleep and I’m actually quite happy with it.

howdy // im back

miranda, 2019: doing my best impression of the instagram influencer

It’s a weird feeling starting a blog at 28. I spent many of my formative years journaling in some way or another (password diary, xanga, livejournal, tumblr – you name it, I probably had it), but it’s been a decade since I’ve taken the time to write a post for ye olde internet. And I’m really not sure why – was it growing into adulthood and becoming too busy? An encroaching and paralyzing sense of perfectionism? Or simply a fear of how public the internet had truly become? I mean, it was always public . . . but at least to a teenager in the early 2000s it didn’t always feel that way.

miranda, 2007: taking a low-res selfie on my nokia chocolate and naming the file “myspace 2”

Anywho, here we are. The year is 2019 and I find myself back in this space. It may be past the true heyday of blogs as an entity, with different platforms moving increasingly towards micro-content – but that’s okay and I suppose that’s why I’m here. Instagram is great space, but there’s only so much I can do with it. The character limit is real, and when I’ve made a dozen adjustments and pivots during a particular project, it’s tough to document all that information in a single post. Things inevitably get left behind or forgotten.

When I first discovered the world of sewing blogs in 2016, I was amazed & crazy inspired by the things people could do with a single pattern as starting point. Create an elastic channel! Add a faux ribbon bow and pocket! Use cozy flannel instead of quilting cotton! My eyes were opened to the possibilities of sewing, and the myriad of ways that basic skills could be transferred and applied to any project you want. These blogs posts were inspiring but also really educational – walking me through the logic & thought that went into all of these decisions. What worked, what didn’t work, and why they tried whatever particular adjustment they did. I still can’t get enough.

my first garment, the margot pajamas, 2016: quilting cotton! ill-advised contrast thread! cardboard-like fabric tie! and still, a victory.

So there’s the educational aspect of sharing more about my makes – but there’s also a very practical one. I’ve sewed enough at this point that I’m losing track of what went into each piece. How much did I add to the bodice? Did I do a swayback adjustment? Was there another change I wanted to make to future versions of this garment? I’ve got a lot of post-it notes everywhere trying to document this stuff – but they are increasingly hard to find and often incomplete. And so, this blog exists in an attempt to develop a more comprehensive archive of that information. Mostly useful for me – and maybe helpful for somebody else, too.

where the magic happens & the post-it notes frolic. clean and tidy for this photo BUT THAT’S A LIE.

Finally, I really do just like teaching people things & I’d love a place to write comprehensive tutorials. Not everybody wants to sew their own garments from start to finish, and that’s okay. But a few basic skills can take you a long way. In a word of cheap clothes and astronomical levels of textile waste – knowing how to repair a torn seam, change a hem, or replace a button can keep clothes in your closet and out of the garbage. And we all need less things going in the trash, amirite?