Tag Archives: by hand london

Just in time for number 3? BHL Flora Dolly Clackett style


It’s been a good week.  I was off work so managed to get some sewing done, and I won Katy Sleek Silhouette’s skirt pattern and fabric giveaway! Go and check out what she made – we are going to be skirt twins!

This is what I managed to finish.  I’m not sure if I made it in time for the deadline but here is Sew Dolly Clackett dress number 3,  (here are numbers one and two) and my first attempt at the By Hand London Flora dress. I wish I was clever at naming my dresses but I’m not, so I will go for the obvious and call it my Seaside Flora. ‘Cos look:

P1220570This picture shows the print off best, it came from the market in Birmingham when I went on the meet up last year.  Unfortunately we had to abandon our outdoors photo shoot due to next door’s son gurning at me in a particularly disturbing way as I was posing. Very off putting. What this dress really needs is a proper English seaside back drop, with ice cream and sand castles, but I only had about five minutes to grab the photos so no time to head to the beach.

This is my first attempt at Flora.  Even with the addition of some fake piping on the bodice (I realised after the shops closed that I had run out of cord, so I just folded over my bias binding tape and used it the same way I would proper piping) it was a quick and easy make.  However it definitely needs tweaking. I cut a UK size 14 all over, which is larger than I would normally make but I have put on a few pounds and it seemed to be the right size for my measurements according to the packet.  Unfortunately the bodice came up way too big and the darts were off. I also had to add a couple of upper back darts to sort out gaping and take a chunk out of the centre back.  I know I should have muslined it first but I was desperate to make it and the fabric was only cheap.  I would have been better off sticking with a 12 for the bodice, and have done for Flora number two, I have already started as I am dying to try this pattern again.   I also found that the front skirt came up really short.  I am only 5 foot two with stubby legs so be aware of this if you are making the high low hemline version. There is quite a dramatic difference between the length of the front and back, which is the whole point of a high low hem, I guess:

P1220641Excuse the bruised legs – a hazard of chasing small children over pebble beaches.

Oh, and I almost forgot to show you my amazing rayon seam binding bound seams:


Not quite perfect but I’m pretty bloody proud of them.

Anyway I used bias binding tape instead of a hem to avoid losing any more length, and I took the side seams in and while it is by no means perfect it is definitely wearable.  And wearing this print makes me really happy, like summer is on it’s way.  That and the amazing twirl factor of this skirt and it’s got to be worth a dance:

P1220627P1220612Don’t you just love that when you move in one direction and your boobs move the opposite way?


After the initial disappointment with the fit this dress is definitely growing on me, I may even love it a little bit and it will get worn this summer.  Maybe not as much as the last two dresses I made, because of the short front, but it will be perfect for summer evening beach barbecues.  And I have already cut out my second Flora. I am a bit gutted not to have finished it yet, because the fabric is totally Dolly Clackett and I think it will be perfect, but I really wanted to sort out the fitting issues before using such amazing fabric. So watch this space, I may even get it finished this weekend.


Spotty Anna – when wasps and children attack…


It’s that time of year when everything accelerates. Summer turned into Autumn over night. I’ve just got out my thick black tights to wear tomorrow and I am starting to see Christmas cards in the shops.   Depressing anyone yet?  And I am back at work with new management and the effort of pretending that I am a mature, sensible professional is killing me.  I am hoping I can keep it up until they lose their enthusiasm and bugger off back to their offices instead of sniffing around trying to be supportive.  More importantly I have realised that it is over a week since I took these pictures and I’ve only just got round to sorting them out.

It’s another Anna of course, but my first with the slash neck and midi length skirt. I haven’t had much luck with slash necks in the past but I love the way they look so I decided I was going to do this properly.  I made a muslin!  I knew I would need to take some in from the neck at the front and back and do a narrow shoulder type adjustment.  I then traced the pattern out again with all my changes added in and made sure it all lined up properly, the grainlines were right, blah de blah de blah.   A pain in the arse when I just wanted to get on with sewing but totally worth it.  Actually I still have a little bit of gaping because when it came to transferring the changes to the pattern I was worried I was taking a bit too much out so I took less than I should have, but I can live with it.   If you want to see how I made the changes  Ginger Makes has a great tutorial here. I did what she suggests for the back and then pretty much the same thing for the front. I just wish I had seen it first instead of having to work it all out for myself on my muslin (lazy cow that I am). I also added side seam pockets. They do add a little bit of bulk at the hips but I wear my dresses with pockets a lot more than the ones without and this one is no exception.

Making the dress was as easy as before. Nothing to report really. I cut it out, sewed it up, job done. Taking photos proved more difficult.

IMG_2654No, I’m not doing the Teen Wolf dance. Wasps. Actually drunk wasps.  That is what you get for taking photos in a pub garden at the end of summer. We persevered but it wasn’t happening:


IMG_2657Okay, maybe I should just try and get some photos sitting down.

IMG_2660IMG_2664IMG_2667My feral child had other ideas.  Standing up?

IMG_2673IMG_2675A  last attempt in the car park before we left…

IMG_2688IMG_2691Look at this gorgeous old car parked by ours. It almost takes your eye away from the clingy grumpy three year old:

IMG_2693So there you have it, Anna number three. I love her just as much as my other two and have worn her to work a couple of times already. I also love my daughter, even when she’s being a little madam.  However if you want to take this post as a public service warning not to mess up your contraception then please do. And I do not like wasps.

Dark Rose Anna – the difficult little sister.

P1210980I’m sorry but I loved my last Anna so much that I had to cut another one out straight away.  Those By Hand London patterns are seriously addictive. My first attempt was a dream to sew and came together really quickly. However, Anna number two was not quite as cooperative.

It was my fault entirely. I have had this rose print batik in my stash for ages. It originally came from  Fabric Inspirations.  I can’t find it on their website any more although I must admit I didn’t spend too much time looking because I am on another fabric buying ban and it was too tempting.

IMG_2387Oh look, I didn’t notice those cat hairs before. They show up even though the rest of the picture is out of focus. Bloody cats, they’re lucky I love them. Am I the only person whose animals would rather sleep on a sewing project covered in pins than virtually anywhere else?

Anyway I had this idea that it would be perfect for Anna, completely ignoring the fact that it is quite a stiff cotton, very different to the last fabric I used with not much drape.  And there, I think, lies the problem.  It is amazing how changing the fabric you use can completely bugger up the fit.  With this one I have read somewhere that it should soften up with a few washes, but despite pre-washing it did not behave the way it needed to.  While the only adjustment with my last Anna was to take an inch or so out of the centre back, with this version when I put it on the V neck stuck out, away from my body like a pelican’s bill.

Not a good look.  I think on my previous dress the fabric was that bit softer and drapier so it clung to my body while this, well it just stuck out weirdly. I tried to fix it with a couple of darts at the top of the neckline, which helped a bit but not enough. At this point I had a tantrum, put it in my UFO’s drawer and did some housework.  And I can promise you that things have got desperate when I choose housework over sewing.

I obviously disturbed the Gods by doing something as heinous as wasting valuable sewing time, however, because for the last couple of days my oldest daughter has been ill. Nothing serious, but not very pleasant.  Once I had resigned myself to the fact that I was stuck in the house all day clearing up child vomit, and torn myself away from watching kids TV with her (I had no idea how addictive kids TV is these days. If you fancy killing a few hours and have no shame about watching things aimed at pre-teens, which I clearly don’t, then I can recommend The Sarah Jane Adventures, Young Dracula, Wolfblood….) I decided I had to tackle the dress again.

This time I was not messing about. I pinched about two inches out of the V at the front, which has also raised the neckline but that’s not such a bad thing, basted it to check, it looked okay so I hacked it off and stitched it up. Job done. Of course this means that it looks a right mess on the inside. The facings are all over the place and I just kind of hacked and stitched until they lay flat then top stitched the neckline to keep everything in place. Not very professional but it did the job.  And when I tried her on I fell back in love.  This dress makes me feel like I have grown six inches and lost half a stone:

P1210975I think that now I have wrestled the fabric into submission the fit is pretty good. There are still a few wrinkles that I would rather not have, but without them I probably wouldn’t be able to breathe. One of the things I love about my other Anna is how it looks elegant while still being comfortable. This one is too, and once again I managed without a zip.  I love how it looks in this print, and while the cotton is stiffer than my last Anna it is still quite swooshy. Which is good, because more than anything this dress makes me want to do Flamenco dancing:

P1210984P1210994P1210993P1210992P1210983No, I cannot Flamenco dance. Can you tell?
No, I have never been to Spain. Although I do like Tapas.
Yes, I have perfected the art of making my boobs swing in completely different directions to the rest of my body. I need to get me some titty tassles.
Yes, I have obviously been stuck in the house too long.
Yes, I have successfully appeased the Sewing Gods, and my daughter is feeling much better.
And yes, I have already picked out the fabric for my next Anna. What can I say, I have an addictive personality…

Starry Anna vs The Prince of Darkness

I really was going to wait until I got paid before buying anything sewing related. However that plan went completely tits up when I started seeing  By Hand London Anna dresses popping up all over the place. First Kim-ing’s, here and here.  Then Jane’s, Karen’s, Emmie’s, Alice’s,  Kathryn’s ….all gorgeous, all pushing me closer to pressing that order button.

It was Lizzy’s trio, Anna Rose, Anna Blue and especially Jungle Anna that finally broke my resolve and had me reaching for my credit card and by Tuesday afternoon I was holding the pattern in my grubby little hand.

I made the maxi length version with the thigh split and the V neck.  This was such a quick make despite there being a lot of pieces- seven just for the skirt! I started cutting it out at ten o’clock on Wednesday morning. By two it was all done except for the hemming. No issues, cock ups or problems. In fact the main hindrance to my progress was this:

IMG_2243Little G did not want me to sew.

I was helped massively by Karen’s post on constructing the Anna dress. Loads of useful tips about what kind of fabric and how much, as well as advice about the length and the width of the back. If I hadn’t read her post I wouldn’t have picked this fabric, a midnight blue cotton with tiny white stars that has been in my stash for ever, because I only had three metres. As it happened it was just enough, despite being less than 60 inches wide. I think it helped that I cut the skirt pieces at least a foot shorter than the pattern as I am only 5 foot 2.  I didn’t bother with any hand stitching, even on the thigh split, as this was meant to be wearable muslin and I wanted to wear it that evening so needed it quickly. Instead I folded the edge, stitched it then folded it again and top?/edge? stitched it:

PicMonkey CollageIt could have been neater but the stitching hardly shows in real life.

As far as fitting goes, as well as taking loads off the length I took the back in by about an inch and a half the way that Karen describes in her post. And that was it. To my delight I found after basting in my zip that I could actually get the dress on and off over my head without using it, so I took out the zip and sewed up the back.

I finished hemming the dress just in time to go out last night. I met Mr T down the pub. His first comment: Nice dress. You look like a wizard.

We grabbed some beers and walked along the beach to Tankerton Slopes to watch the open air screening of Dracula as part of the Whitstable Oyster Festival, starring Whitstable resident Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. I am seriously considering changing my name to Van Helsing, how cool would that be at work? I did manage to persuade the husband to take photos on the way there.

IMG_2260He is still not as good as my daughter but she’s on holiday with her grandparents so I had to make do.

IMG_2263The neck is only gaping because my bag is pulling it, it is fine in real life.


IMG_2268Showing a bit of leg. I did lower the split so i wasn’t showing too much – I was very aware that I didn’t want to be flashing fanjo,  but as soon as I sat down on the grass to watch the film the stitches ripped to where it should have been originally, so Anna clearly thought I needed to flash more thigh.


IMG_2282Waiting for the film to start.

IMG_2278IMG_2285I love Hammer Horror. It was great sitting outside by the sea watching a classic film as the sun went down with a few drinks and good company.  Once again I really  appreciated the fact that I live here.   Afterwards we decided to have a couple in the pub before walking back along the beach. Which is where it all started to go a bit wrong.

IMG_2290A bit of a dance…..

IMG_2294 - CopyYes, these are out of focus, but by this point in the evening so was I.


IMG_2301Scarey vampire moves…

IMG_2297Well no one can accuse me of not road testing my makes properly….

There are so many things I love about this dress. It is quick to make.  It is comfortable but doesn’t look it.  It makes me look like a wizard, meaning I can make all sorts of inappropriate comments about wizard’s sleeves.  It copes with sitting on grass, beer spillages, dancing, climbing, minor falls, vampire antics, menacing seagulls and blood stains hardly show.  As I said before this is a wearable muslin. I have the perfect fabric for my next one. Only problem, it’s silk (cue terrifying  vampire like scream….)

Cambilex – when Sewaholic meets By Hand London


I was going to call this the Bastard Love Child dress, but bastard is the wrong word to use. I really really love this dress, which is probably why there are so many pictures, sorry.

I got this gingham in Kestrel Makes Spring Sewing Swap from my partner Louise, aka Tabatha Tweedie from Thread carefully.  I love other people’s gingham creations,  I have pinned a gorgeous gingham Vivienne Westwood dress on my Pinterest but I have always talked myself out of using it. The reason? School dresses.  I know that there is no way I am going to be mistaken for a school girl, but I also don’t want to be accused of dressing like my eight year old daughter.  However when I opened my Spring sewing Swap parcel I was really happy. As I said, I really love other people’s gingham creations and there would be no talking myself out of it this time.

After seeing Louise’s and Winnie’s I amost made a shirt dress. I also wanted a quick make to wear this weekend so at the last minute I decided to make a Cambie, inspired by Roisin’s here and here which are about as un-school dressy as you can get.

I wrote about the problems I had with the fit on my last Cambie here.   Since then I have had a revelation.  I was reading this post on the Colette Hawthorn Sewalong, about shoulder adjustments, when I saw this:

‘For narrow shoulders, the armholes sit too far out and off the shoulder. There is also an excess fabric across the upper chest and upper back.’

I always have to pinch an inch or so out of the back and front of things I make because of excess fabric. With my last Cambie I also made the straps shorter, which messed up the proportions of the bodice. Maybe instead of faffing around with all these adjustments I just needed to do one for narrow shoulders.  I’m afraid I couldn’t be bothered to get too technical, so I folded my existing pattern rather than cutting and measuring, etc…  Despite this I think it’s worked! I finally have a fit on the Cambie that I am happy with.  Actually it is a smidgen tight,  but not uncomfortable so.  I think it is because I made the back seam allowance quite wide so that I could do a lapped zip again, as they are my new favourite kind of zip.  As you can see I lowered the back again, because I wanted to.

Once I’d got the bodice done I realised that it still needed a bit more va voom. And which pattern has the most va voom of any pattern I own? The Elisalex of course.  I absolutely love the curves I get from the Elisalex skirt so I decided to use it with the Cambie bodice to guarantee there would be no mistaking this for a school dress. I missed off the cambie waistband as the Elisalex skirt joins quite high up on the original pattern.  I made a rough attempt to line up darts and pleats, which turned out pretty good.  And there you have it – the Cambilex.

I bribed my daughter to take photos down at the Harbour.


P1210838I think I still need to work on breathing in photos.


Looking at the photos it does look shorter at the back than the front, but I don’t think it is in real life.





We got to the harbour early so it was pretty empty.  By this time tomorrow however it will be heaving as the crowds descend for the Whitstable Oyster festival.  I’m not a big fan of oysters myself. If I want something chewy, salty and slimey why would I pay for the privilege when I can just pick my nose and eat it?  However the Festival is not just about oysters. It is paradise for foodies with local producers selling everything from cider to olives. There are live bands, competitions, something for everyone in fact. It makes me really proud that this is my adopted home town. Come on down and join us, but if you do don’t even think of driving unless you enjoy sitting in queues or driving in circles for hours looking for a parking space. Your best bet is probably to come here by train.  And here are a couple of photos from previous years to give you a taste of what to expect:


Maybe see you there?

Deckchair Elisalex – Stripe matching and an uncharacteristic attack of perfectionism.

I’ve been meaning to write about my third Elisalex, the dress I wore for the London meet up, for ages.  I wasn’t going to make a new dress for the day. I was exhausted, recovering from flu and nursing a very spotty grumpy child through chicken pox. I think I was on autopilot when I took this deckchair striped fabric, originally intended for new kitchen curtains, from my stash and began to cut. A few hours later, sewing in twenty minute bursts while the youngest dozed in front of Dora the Explorer and Doc McStuffins and it was all done bar the hemming and stitching the lining down.  I hung it on my wardrobe door before I went to bed.
Job done.

Only it wasn’t.  I failed to match the darts in the bodice with the pleats in the skirt, but that didn’t bother me too much. Also, as you can see I didn’t quite get the stripes matching on the princess seams. IMG_1386

Of course I didn’t, the stripes are straight and it is a curved seam. But who was going to notice a little thing like that? However lying awake after being woken up several times by the screamy itchy child all I could see was those stripes not matching.  Usually I would ignore it. It was good enough and who was going to be staring that closely anyway? However in my sleep deprived irritable state I just couldn’t let it go. So I hatched a plan.

I decided to recut the side panels from some fabric I had left over. However there was no way I was going to unpick the top stitching, lining and side panels of a virtually finished dress. Now with hindsight I realise that this would have actually been the easier option. Anyway, I got the original photocopied pattern pieces that I used and marked the position where I wanted the stripes to be on to them. Using this as a guide I then cut the front side pieces.

As I had already found out, you can’t get straight stripes to match up on a princess seam. Or if you can then I haven’t figured out how.  However when I held them up to the dress I realised that all I needed to do was make a tiny dart in each one, maybe 3mm, making sure it was at the edge of a stripe so it wouldn’t show as much.
I did this with each piece then attacked them with a steamy iron until they were flat. Held them up against the dress and Huzzaah! Matching stripes!

Now this is the point where I should have just unpicked the lining and the original front side pieces and put in my new pieces. But no, where is the fun in that.  I decided to hand sew my new matching pieces on top.
I have no idea if I have done this properly. I’m ashamed to admit that I wouldn’t know a slip stitch from a whip stitch, but it seemed to go okay and the stitches don’t show. I’m pretty sure I was delusional with tiredness by this point, but the action of stitching the pieces on was kind of hypnotic, and before long I had finished the dress and was able to snatch a couple of hours of much needed sleep.  So here it is – front:

IMG_1506I promise the zip doesn’t look that dodgy in real life, I think it’s my hands on my hips pulling on it.

IMG_1514Checking my shoes. Realising I need to hoover. Or get the husband to do it.

IMG_1520And some leaning. You need leaning in photos for that authentic early 90s Grattan catalogue look.

I don’t know whether it was worth the hassle or not. I’ve received loads of compliments for this dress. Whether I would have if I hadn’t fixed the dodgy stripes – I don’t know?  I do love it though and have worn it several times since London.  It is formal enough for work as long as I wear a jacket or a cardigan, and can also be dressed down for weekends. Now I just need to remember to always hand wash it in cold water. Stupidly I also forgot to pre-wash it and I know that this fabric shrinks loads when machine washed. Duh…

Let the Sewathon begin! First up – Elisalex No. 2

I don’t know why I do it to myself.  I am going away on Sunday. That is in three days time.  This time yesterday I had four dresses to complete – the Elisalex  from By Hand London that I want to wear to the wedding I am going to on Wednesday, two Cambie’s to take with me and my Sewing For Victory Dress.  I don’t know if I will do it but here is my first finished dress, my second Elisalex. Remember my impulse buy of baby blue polka dot poplin?


I went for the original skirt this time and I’m really glad I did. I LOVE this dress! Looking at the photos I can see that I haven’t quite cracked the fit yet. No idea what is causing the under-boob creases, but I’m hoping it is mostly due to not wearing the bra I wore when I was trying it on during the make. That would mean it is easily fixed.  Anyway I don’t think they show as badly in real life.


There are a lot of firsts here for me.  Mainly the hand sewing. I don’t know why I avoided it for so long. It was actually quite relaxing to do in front of a couple of episodes of Law and Order.  As well as the lining I hemmed the bottom and sleeves by hand and did my first ever hand picked zipper.  Not perfect, but I’m happy with it.  I underlined the whole thing with a cotton sheet to make sure it didn’t flop as the fabric was a bit drapey. It was also my first time using ric rac. I had it lying around so I thought why not? I think it turned out quite well.   And of course I had to add pockets, as outlined in this Sewalong post.


There is not a lot to say about the construction that hasn’t already been said. It came together really easily. I made a couple of adjustments after my last effort, mainly to take it in another inch at the back and at the front neckline.  Looking at the photos there are a few more tweaks I will make next time. I could have made more effort to match the polka dots at the back, and I can now see some puckers on the princess seams at the front, but I’m still happy with what I have come up with.  I did worry that all the extra pouffiness on my hips would make me look huge but i think it actually has the opposite effect, making my waist shrink.  It is really comfy and the sleeves hide my lunch lady arms (note to self- ten minutes a night with the weights really does make a difference, so just get on with it.)  Anyway, some more pics-

P1200785Taking photos must be taken very seriously…

P1200793 Not!

P1200792Of course I need to make sure I can dance in it.  I’m usually more of a ‘prop the bar up and watch’ kind of girl, but as it’s a wedding  I may be drunk enough to make the effort.

P1200807The back view. No idea where I got that bruise?  Legs like a brickie – classy.

P1200803Did I tread in something?

Right. Three more dresses in three days.  Bring on the Cambie production line…

Elisalex No 1 -twirly twirly…..

At last, as promised, I have completed my first Elisalex.

elisalex d

I am going to call this a wearable muslin.  Yes, I know that I do this quite a bit.  I admit that it is mainly to excuse the fact that it’s not quite perfect but I can’t be arsed to go back and fix it all.  Whatever, the way I see it as long as I am learning from my mistakes and I produce something that I am happy to wear despite the imperfections then I have a winner.  And by calling it a wearable muslin it means that I do intend to go back and make it again without all the little flaws.

Anyway… you can see that I made the sleeveless version and used a half circle skirt instead of the proper one in the pattern.  With hindsight I think that switching the skirts was a mistake.  At the time I wanted something full and twirly, in contrast to the other things I had made recently.  However I think that when I realised I only had enough fabric for the half circle instead of a full then I should have gone back to plan A.  In the end I also had to add a bit extra on the bottom as well as it was still way too short.  I think I just about got away with it.

Well on the plus side I can indeed twirl in it…

elisalex1 b

On the minus side, I think that on me, without the tulip skirt it looks a bit, dare I say it, meh….?  Don’t get me wrong, I do love the this pattern. It fits almost perfectly, and the whole thing came together really quickly and easily.   And some of the others I’ve seen online with different skirts have been fabulous, Kathryns, for example, and Lauren’s.   I just think this one is  nothing special.  Nothing to do with the pattern, just my bad choice.  And it’s a shame cos look at the fabric. I got this an age ago from Fabric Inspirations. Their website really is fabric porn if you like prints.   From a distance it looks like a kind of bandana print, but close up you get little tiny skulls! How cool is that?


elisalex1 cI had to take in the upper back by about an inch and a half on either side, which is pretty usual for me. And I still need to add a hook and eye at the top, which should eliminate most of that gaping.  I used a zipper from my stash so it is not as long as the one the pattern calls for.

elisalex1 aI also made the usual silly mistakes of course – sewing one of the back pieces on upside down, then sewing the side seams before reading the next step which said add the lining first – duh.  My excuse is that the only time I have had to sew recently is after the girls have gone to bed, by which time I have usually already been up for nearly fifteen hours and done a full day at work. Which is also my excuse for failing to hoover or pick up cat toys before taking photos.  As my mother used to say – a tidy house is the sign of a wasted life.  (disclaimer – my house is actually pretty tidy but this is mostly down to my husband, who is wonderful and amazing. And my mother had a cleaner.)

Spurred on by my mistakes with this one and by Roisin’s perfect version here, (and I love anyone who references Father Ted) I have nearly finished Elisalex No. 2.  It is most definitely closer to the pattern, with the proper skirt and sleeves.  I love it already.

As for this one, I will definitely wear it. Actually I will probably wear it more than if I had used the correct skirt.  I do have a tendency to keep stuff I really love for best, a habit that I am trying to break because I rarely go anywhere that requires best clothes so it goes unworn. And I do like it, I just don’t love it yet.

elisalex1 e