Sew Over It Betty Dress

How are you all? I hope you're all enjoying your weekend. May has been an impossibly long and busy month for me with many evenings curled on the sofa trying to regain some energy for the next day. This culminated in a big event a few days ago that also left me on the sofa, almost unable to walk as I strained my ankles running around so much. Needless to say I'm very, very pleased to see what back of this month! I did, however, have the energy to make a dress. 

This is a dress that started with the fabric. I've long adored the Betty dress by Sew Over It and finally scooped it up a couple of months ago when my By Hand London fabric arrived. I had ordered an extra metre from the girls to make sure I could fit a Betty out of this gorgeous design. The fabric is Sweet Female Attitude in pale grey and pink and I just love how they work together. 

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Before launching into the construction details, can I start with what makes me sad about this dress please? I was so excited when the fabric arrived. It was beautifully presented with my other goodies (I've not been parted with my mug while sewing since it entered the house). It washed and pressed very well, and has a good hand, like a lot of high quality cottons I've used in the past. I had high hopes for it but they were dashed a little. You see, this cotton is a little unforgiving. Pins left marks and I have permanent lines where I ripped out poorly sewn lines or removed basting stitches. These permanent lines are now white and glare at me constantly. No one else seems to notice it though. Despite these issues, I'm still very pleased that I paired this fabric to this pattern and I hope you will agree. 

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I was first drawn to Betty by her feminine style and back neckline shaping and she hasn't disappointed. We did have a little argument though over the bodice. I had to make a series of alterations: lowered the armholes by 1.5cm, hollow chest adjustment of 2cm, moved the back darts closer to my centre, and pinched out about 2cm from the back neckline. My second toile fitted perfectly so I merrily cut out and during a sewing day with VG, stitched until the bodice was attached to the skirt. I got home, delighted with my progress, only to find that she didn't fit. The centre back seam didn't meet. Fabric was thrown and a few tears were shed. I'm still not fully certain what happened but I suspect I took too much out the paper pattern when I altered the pieces from my toile. Thankfully I had enough left over fabric to recut the entire bodice at the original size and just pinched out the excess at the back before inserting the zip. 

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The skirt isn't as full as I had originally envisaged. I struggled to get the full skirt width out of the fabric so removed about 10cm of width from each piece. I also shortened it by 3.5cm to ensure the white borders of the fabric were hidden. I rather like the effect. The cotton hangs beautifully and I love how it flows over my hips. It seems that there is the right amount of fulness for this fabric. Construction was easy. I love that the facings are all in one even if I got a little confused on how to finish the shoulder seams cleanly. Turns out it very easy in practice, not so easy to describe in words! 

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Despite our rocky start, Betty and I have made it up completely. She is a very welcome addition to my wardrobe and I love how versatile she is. I can wear her as a summer day dress or dress her up for smarter events and thankfully I have enough accessories to match her subtle colours. Except shoes, I need to buy shoes - now that's a hardship isn't it? How about you, do have an item that you fell out with at the beginning but wouldn't be without now? 

Late to the Party Anna dress

I’m late to the party again. But hopefully, fashionably late. This is my first Anna and she wasn’t part of my sewing plans. When byhandlondon realised her as a pdf it was about five days before their party in London I wondered "can I make an Anna in just five evenings?" Well, there was only one way to find out!

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I figured if I could get the fit worked out in the first evening, it might just be possible. I quickly taped together the pdf. It goes together very easily and there is little wasted paper. It only comes in the midi version which was perfect for this make. Instructions are included for making the maxi skirt though.

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I had to think for a while about which size to make. I knew I would have to grade out for my waist but I fell right between two sizes all over. Erring on the side of caution I made the bigger one for my toile. It fit well across my waist and back but there was so much excess across my chest and into the sleeves. I started to pin it in when I remembered Kelly’s fitting experiences. This was a great time saver. I made another toile which was a smaller size at the shoulders and bust. Most of the excess fabric disappeared. You can see that the fit isn’t quite right - the neckline is a little too big and the dress slips to one side a little. It isn’t too big a deal though.

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I knew I wanted a dress that would go from day to night and I think I have achieved that. It is a smart dress for the office that works well for going out after work. Also perfect for a weekend evening meal out. 

I went stash shopping and pulled out this fabric that I picked up at Goldhawk Road a couple of years ago. Unsurprisingly, I just couldn’t resist the bright blue flowers. I’m not fully certain what fabric it is but it has a lovely drape, is as silky as it looks on the outside and is matt on the inside. One of the benefits about sewing this in the evening is seeing the fabric in artificial light. Turns out it is a little transparent and you would definitely be able to see everything underneath in bright light! I should have lined the dress but opted to buy a slip instead. Don’t judge me - I was on a time limit!

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I got the full dress out of 2m of fabric and decided that pattern matching didn’t matter that much. I’m not even sorry for that decision, although I will say I’m pleased that there is almost a full flower on the centre back - complete fluke. Oh, can I show you the zip please? It is my best invisible zip to date! I didn’t change the way I inserted it but for some reason it just clicked. Or maybe it was the fact I was determined to make it work with a £4 zip! Needless to say I won't be going back to that shop for a zip.

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I finished the neckline, sleeves and hem with bias tape turned to the inside and hand stitched in place. Yep, somehow I found the time to hand stitch although I thought I would become permanently crossed eyed. I did wonder if the hem would be a little too rigid but I think it is ok. What do you think of the length of the dress? It has caused a fair bit of discussion between me and Adam... I think I was trying to show the swish of the skirt in this picture.

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I've worn this dress twice and loved it both times. I can definitely see this getting a lot of wear and it certainly won't be my last Anna.  

Completed: Beehive Victoria Blazer

Following on from my last post about being late to the party with social media, here is an example with sewing patterns. I've been watching the blogsphere explode with creations made from By Hand London patterns. With autumn on the door step, I noticed that I could do with another jacket and quickly rearranged my plans to sew the Victoria Blazer. The pictures below were all taken on our trip to the zoo recently. I'm sorry, I couldn't resist including animals. 

Before we get going on the details of my version, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the packaging of the pattern. I'm very impressed by it. It almost feels like a DVD case. The pattern and instruction book are placed in a small but sturdy cardboard folder and then there is a cardboard sleeve that goes over that. You really get the sense that the pattern will last for a long time while not in use and that you have spent your money wisely. 

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For those of you that don't know this pattern, it is a casual blazer with a fair amount of ease built in to give it a relaxed feel. While I am completely smitten with the cropped version, mainly because of Roisin's and Marie's creations, I figured it wouldn't be warm enough for the windy and rainy days that are characteristic of a UK autumn. So I went for full length. 

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The construction was a breeze once I had stopped staring at the odd dart at the front. I hadn't come across this before but it really is quite clever. I loved being able to sew two darts, as well as the collar, in one stitching line. If you're interested, this tutorial explains it really well and it has a cute kitten at the beginning! 

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I used the green crepe I bought in Croatia for the shell. It frayed like nobody's business but was really easy to work with once I had overlocked all of the edges. For the lining, I originally planned to use a grey cotton with Egyptian hieroglyphics from a UFO that I have but there was just no way I could get all the needed pieces from it. At a quick shopping trip to Darn It and Stitch I fell in love with the bees and thought it would make great cuffs. I was all for making it the full lining when Adam spotted the honeycomb fabric and the beehive blazer was born. Both are Robert Kaufman cottons. I'm really pleased I chose the bees as it breaks up the colour of the shell. When I put it on to check I had set the sleeves correctly I thought that I had won the Masters!

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I lengthened the sleeves to full length and made a late decision to line them as the overlocked edges of the crepe were a little scratchy. They are a little too long as I didn't check the length before stitching on the cuffs but I haven't noticed it when wearing it. Ah, the cuffs. Using a french seam to finish these are another clever part of this design. It makes for a lovely, neat enclosed finish. 

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I think there will be future versions of this blazer as there are so many options available: a more fitted look by going down a size, the cropped version, contrasting lapels, removing a couple of inches from the hem line of the full length version so it hits nearer the lower waist. Need I go on? The By Hand girls describe it as "the perfect throw-it-over-everything wardrobe staple" and I don't think I can disagree with them. It goes with so much of my wardrobe. 

All I need now is a bee lapel pin. Anyone know where I can get one from?