Me Made May 16: I did. Did you?

Hello (sheepish whisper). It’s been quite a while. i honestly didn’t know if I’d come back to writing this blog. Which is a shame. It was an absolute lifeline when I was at home in London with two very small children. Being in touch with the sewing community kept me on the right side of sane. Just. A year into life in Malaysia and with a full-time job, I have a lot less desire to spend my evenings in front of a computer screen, but I am still sewing and I do stay in touch with my favourite bloggers even if it tends to be on Instagram!

I answered the call to Me Made May with a pledge to wear something handmade every day, which I more or less do most of the time these days. I got to the end of the month with no repeat outfits and learned a couple of things to boot.

Although I wear my handmade clothes almost every day, I really missed my favourite Muji linen dresses. They are so comfy and loose-fitting but after this week’s new Inari Tee Dress even they may become obsolete. FYI: I think this just may be the most versatile and flattering dress ever!

Over the course of this year I have been consciously making clothes in solid dark colours and in jersey to redress the balance of my wardrobe and to reflect my fashion preferences. MMM was reminder that my early handmade clothes were often inspired by my love of colour and print. As I reached for my favourite black Moneta, I realised I wanted to look more sleek and elegant than ‘colourful art teacher’ chic. We all had one, didn’t we?! There’s still a fair bit of colour in these photos, but some solids too.

The month also revealed my pattern company loyalties. When I like something, I want it in every colour and texture. Chances are I will buy all of your patterns. Witness my numerous Colette Patterns outfits (Wren, Moneta, Laurel), and multiple Tilly and the Buttons numbers (Mathilde, Agnes, Bettine), not to mention ALL the Grainline Studio patterns! There was a profusion of indie patterns, and according to these photos, only a couple of big pattern companies (the floral scuba McCalls M6886, Simplicity 2444, and the Big Purple One – Simplicity 2406).

Being ‘coerced’ into wearing all the handmade clothes I could lay my hands on meant that I rediscovered a few gems that have been languishing at the back of the wardrobe. I kicked off Day 1 with my first ever Tilly Mathilde (not pictured here). It was like a reunion with a dear friend. Why was I not wearing this every week like I used to? Is there such a thing as too many handmade clothes??

The daily selfie-taking did me in eventually. The light in the tropics is unforgiving and harsh. If I didn’t get my photo taken pre-school run it wasn’t possible. Lord knows there’s enough pressure in my life getting myself and two small people out of the house by 7.45am without a blog-worthy photo shoot thrown into the mix. My five year old did me proud and snapped a few of these – clever girl. The downside is that her school photo came this week. There she is with hand on hip and giving good ‘right leg’ while the other kids stand up straight. They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…!

I’ll sign off (for another 3 months!) with one of my two new garments from May – a black Colette Wren (the other was the Grainline Alder at the top of this post). It’s a winner and ticks all the boxes for dark, solid colours in a flattering, work-friendly jersey dress. It’s been lovely to catch up. Take care all. x


BHL Anna Maxi

Here’s a dress I’m not entirely sure about. I mean, it looks fine, well better than it ought, despite an epic last minute alteration. It’s just not my usual style or palette. I wouldn’t consider myself a ‘maxi type’ but I was curious to make the Anna dress as By Hand London intended it to be.

I have had success with this pattern previously. After a few alterations I ended up with a really well fitting bodice for my Nautical Anna dress. I chose to add a gathered skirt from the Christine Haynes Emery dress, rather than adding the gored skirt, and was very happy with it.

I’ve seen some gorgeous maxi versions of this dress, so I thought I’d make it in viscose and see if it might work as an evening gown in something fancy like satin backed crepe or silk. I mean, everyone needs a floor-length evening gown in the wardrobe for a rainy day, right?

I added the same alterations to the bodice: a 0.5″ FBA and lengthened the bodice by 1″. I had a lingering suspicion that the bodice had been too long on my Nautical Anna, but it still looked fine. My suspicion of a case of over-alteration was confirmed when the maxi skirt added to this dress. The waistline was way too low, so the extra 1″ was wholly unnecessary. It’s funny, isn’t it, how when you learn to fit there’s a real risk of over-doing it! This fitting issue came to light rather late in the day after the skirt had been stitched and overlocked to bodice. There’s also a big difference in fit on this diaphanous viscose number compared to the cotton poplin of the last one. I had to execute emergency procedures and removed the extra 1″. I moved waist seam by 1″ without undoing the stitching. A total hack in the literal sense of the word; this involved moving the waist seam up by 1″ and easing the skirt to fit. I am disappointed that at this stage I’m still bungling my mistakes, but the miracle of print and the generosity of viscose means that you can’t actually tell!

There is a residual fit issue: the waist seam lower at back than front on both dresses. Can you see? Any ideas? Hopefully my Christmas stocking will contain ‘Fit for Real People’, so I should get to the bottom of it. No pun intended! This photo also helpfully shows how I moved the zip to the right side. It’s quite possibly the neatest, most invisible zip I’ve ever inserted.
Here’s the ubiquitous leg split shot! This dress had lain half-competed for a while as my seasonally-inappropriate urge for a sweatshirt got in the way! I received a metaphorical kick up the backside to finish my Anna courtesy of Amanda at Bimble and Pimble, the blogging genius behind #Sewvember where people are prompted to post a sewing photo a day. I’ve been merrily snapping away on Instagram (@SewSouthLondon). The prompt for Day 16 was unfinished makes (UFO). It’s amazing how airing your neglected projects and have others urge you to complete them works like a charm.    

So here she is: Anna in her full length glory. It’s a bit cooler and wetter in Malaysia at the moment, but still around 30 degrees most days. As I write this I’m amazed to hear that my UK friends might be waking up to snow today! It’s a bit early for Christmas!

A Nautical Anna

So I’m back on my balcony. The pollution has been so bad of late that the schools have been closed on and off  and we have been staying indoors at the weekend. Funny how the decrease in air quality correlates with a spike in sewing!

I wonder whether I’m the last person to tackle the Anna dress by By Hand London. This was a slow-burner for me. I wasn’t a fan of the gored skirt. I thought it looked a bit dated. I was also not convinced that the gathered under-bust darts would create a flattering shape on a fuller bust. There was a danger, I thought, that the girls would look like saggy, forlorn dumplings.

But then the #internationalannaparty happened on Instagram… Without exception, every single Anna dress on ladies large and small, tall and short looked absolutely cracking. By golly, these BHL ladies have only gone and designed the perfect dress for the whole of womankind, I thought.

I’ve had a bit of fun with this pattern. I cut a size 10/14, graded to the next size up at the waist. I added 1″ across the chest with a FBA, which resulted in additional bust darts. I also added an inch to the length of the bodice as the muslin felt like it was riding high. I had the same issue with my Emery dresses. As much as I love them I get a mild feeling of discomfort, as though the skirt is beginning just under my bust. I did wonder if the bodice was a touch too long but these photos suggest that it’s about right. Maybe that odd feeling I was getting in the midriff region was a sign that I’d got the fit right for once!
So the tinkering didn’t end there. I decided to move the back zip to the right side seam. I think it gives a much cleaner look, and if it’s not as invisible as it might be, who can tell? I also added the Emery dress skirt instead of the original design. I have to credit Meg at Cookin’ and Craftin’ for that stroke of inspiration. After feeling ridiculously joyful and chic in my culottes I thought I might try out the midi length on this dress, so I added 5 inches to the length of the skirt, following the line of the pattern and continuing to grade it out to maintain the flare.

My other hesitation with this dress was the fabric. I was totally sold on the nautical print I found in Singapore. There was no doubt that I had been influenced by a certain Ms Clarinda Kaleidoscope and her divine nautical BHL Kim dress as seen on the high seas, well Norwegian fjords! But as I began to sew I started to envisage myself dressed in a giant toddlers’ dress in novelty print. Had I made a huge error in nicking Clarinda’s style and this was my punishment??!

I’m pleased to report that I am totally in love with Anna and her modifications. This really is a bodice to flatter all dimensions. The cherry on the cake was having my Instagram pic re-grammed by the BHL ladies. What a compliment! Next up will be a full length viscose version complete with thigh split. Once I’ve mastered it I might be bold enough to have a go with my precious Shanghai Tang silk, you never know!