Anna goes to Camden and Hastings


I’ve made some frocks! I finally got round to making the legendary By Hand London Anna dress and did some serious experimenting with pattern grading. I think I had to add about 8 inches on to the bust, waist and hips of the largest size (sigh) and I lengthened the bodice two inches on the second one I made. It must be said this was not entirely successful. Pattern grading is something I am really going to have to get my head round as being 5 foot 10 and large all over, I’m very often bigger than the biggest size in the the indie labels and well, I WANT TO WEAR COOL THINGS DAMMIT.

In a cool thing

In a cool thing

I know that pretty much everyone has to make adjustments to their patterns, but it’s annoying to have to both grade and adjust, and not really be sure how those two things relate. As a beginner I find it hard to know if I have graded every piece correctly and then if I make adjustments on top of that, I often lose track of if what I am creating is anything like the original pattern. However, nuff moaning. These two dresses aren’t perfect, but they still look like Anna dresses don’t they?

Hooray, I'm by the seaside!

Hooray, I’m by the seaside!

I made the nautical print one first in a very cheap polycotton from Chawla’s . As is often the way, I think I like my wearable muslin more than my actual dress. It’s a bit tight round the tummy and bunches up round the bust but it looks awesome, huh? Here I am wearing it for my Dad’s 64th birthday lunch in Camden.

Me and Pops

Me and Pops

I graded up the bodice really well I think, but didn’t add quite enough to each of the pieces of the seven gore skirt, so the skirt was to small to attach to the bodice. Being the idiot that I am, I didn’t unpick and re sew the skirt pieces  with a small seam allowance, but instead took in the waist with some random extra darts. The joys of a busy fabric and under bust pleats mean I can kind of get away with such amateurishness. Well, that and being an amateur!

Bodge darts

Bodge darts

This did however make it too tight, so the bodice rides up constantly. And I can’t breathe so well when it’s pulled down. And I need to pull it down as the bodice is too short anyway. It generally looks kind of empire line when I wear it hitched up under my boobs. But it’s lovely, I love the shape and IT’S MY FIRST EVER FULLY LINED DRESS! I’m so proud. It’s lined with a lovely light cotton batiste which was way more expensive than the ‘fashion fabric’ but means it’s cool, breathable and not see through. I’m happy.


The second Anna is also nice, but I’m not actually sure it’s as flattering as my ill fitting cheapo first attempt. Maybe that’s because it doesn’t also function as a corset! This one is made with a lovely poly crepe de chine from Croft Mill. When I say lovely, I mean it looks lovely but frays and presses like a bugger. It was quite hard to work with, but I french seamed everything and it turned out ok, if you don’t look at the shiny bits where I ironed it without a press cloth.  This was unlined with an annoying facing (are facings ever not annoying?!) that was very hard to press properly but that is not the fault of the pattern. I think I just hate facings and want to line everything. I graded up the skirt pieces a bit more (but still not quite enough as the bodice bags out a bit over the waist seam) and added a couple of inches to the bodice length which is much more suitable, but maybe I like the empire line look? Anyway, here it is.

IMG_2036 IMG_2031 IMG_2028 IMG_2022


I think I could do with lowering the under boob pleats half an inch and taking the hem up a good inch or two, but it’s pretty much there. I just need to add about another half inch over the skirt pieces (ah, tiny maths fractions) and I have a workable me sized Anna pattern. I love it as much as everyone else does and I think I will make a lot of these dresses. Next up is a teal maxi dress rayon version. I just hope the fabric is a bit less clingy in the breeze!


Not such a winning look

Not such a winning look

I’m very sad that I finally got round to making my first By Hand pattern just as the wonderful women announced they could no longer afford to run their business full time. I was so saddened and shocked by this news, as I thought that if anyone could do it, they certainly could. Their patterns are so fantastic but it’s tough out there, even for the most talented, creative and entrepreneurial. I am really pleased that they are going to continue releasing PDF patterns (inappropriately timed request: please extend your size range a few inches!) and will look forward to their latest designs.  This really is as brilliant a pattern as everyone says, and was a good pattern to practice grading on. It’s simple, chic and stylish and easy to adapt. I’m looking forward to shamelessly copying gorgeous Idle Fancy and making one with a gathered skirt in future.

A tale of two Annas. Also, they look a LOT better on than on the hanger don't they?

A tale of two Annas. Also, they look a LOT better on than on the hanger don’t they?

So which version do you prefer? Have you graded up any patterns? Will I ever be rigorous and accurate enough to do it properly? Or shall I bodge always?!



28 thoughts on “Anna goes to Camden and Hastings

  1. I like the blue one, but I do share your love for linings in dresses. They just seem to make dresses feel like they’re so much higher quality, you know? And you’re less likely to need to mess around with slips, and the less hassle in my life, the better. I’ve only graded up one pattern and I hope to not have to do that again.

    I keep wondering how the blue dress would look with a wide belt or sash or something? Maybe black to match your tights?


  2. I like the sailboats! Kudos to you for making all those adjustments – they came out great! I’m too scared to tweak some of my patterns, so I stick to the usual grading between sizes or lengthening the torso. I think a class would be helpful, but AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT.

    The Anna dress is so cute and I love yours. I haven’t hopped on the Anna bandwagon yet (sooo many dresses to sewww), but I’ve had my eyes on it for a while. 🙂


    • Do grading up classes exist? It would be awesome if they did but ain’t nobody got time for inventing a class and then going to it!

      I was the same with Anna, it was one of the first patterns I bought. My advice, do it soon, even with grading it was so quick and easy and if you don’t have to grade/adjust you can make it in the blink of an eye!


      • Bloody well done on the grading, it always makes me think twice about projects. But jumping in on the grading classes. Craftsy have a class dedicated to grading patterns. I haven’t watched it all the way through but it does cover about areas you should “watch out ” for when grading up. Also another craftsy class “fitting for plus sizes” (I think) has a section on grading. There are frequent craftsy sales so worth keeping an eye out.


  3. I love the Anna pattern! Anna plus sailboats is a perfect combo too, looks great 🙂 Not done any grading up a size, but I always have to alter patterns quite a lot to fit my extremely short self.

    I had not heard about By Hand, that is extremely sad 😦


  4. I actually think the blue one looks really nice. The color suits you and the waist looks to hang straight to my eye. The wrinkles are from sitting, no? We’re always more critical of hand made than ready to wear. Something about believing perfection is nearly possible.
    I find adjusting very irritating, so good work for stomaching both an 8-inch grade and adjusting!


    • Aw thanks, I think I was a bit harsh on it! You are right: the better you get, the more faults you start finding. I think we need to remember this is a hobby and we are not trained couturiers! Adjusting is a giant faff, but worth it in the end. As long as you don’t find fault in it all the time!


  5. I so agree with you about facings! They are my nemesis. I do like linings, but if I don’t want to line it (either for weight reasons, or just can’t be bothered) I often use bias binding instead.
    I also really like the sailboats one – very cute!


  6. Congrats on the grading and the lining, both big accomplishments for a newbie! I definitely still consider myself a beginner, though i’ve been sewing for maybe 2.5 years now, and I’m still pleased with myself when I grade something successfully. I have to admit that I’ve never actually lined anything yet! Gah! I’ve made the anna and I graded it the lazy way. Since I’m not super busty, I think I only had to grade the bodice up one size and then just made smaller pleats/seam allowances at the waist until it fit. Then I just gathered a rectangle to make a drindl skirt! I couldn’t be bothered to mess with that gored skirt, it sounded like a nightmare, and I would have had to grade it up significantly more than the bodice due to my pear shape. So, I suggest this method if you are still struggling with the skirt fit. Plus, I do find that style easier to wear on a day to day basis, because (like I said above) LAZY and I don’t want to worry about something tight around my belly/hips!


    • Hello! I shall have to go and investigate your Anna if it’s blogged?! I definitely want to make a dirndl version. Much better than grading up the seven gores!

      I wonder when anyone stops thinking of themselves as a beginner?! Or if they ever do? There is always so much to learn……


      • Haha, good point about the always feeling like a beginner thing! Though I can have weeks where I knock out a new knit top, dress, or leggings every night, I still feel like a beginner since I almost never sew with wovens, am only just now figuring out standard fit adjustments, and have only put in like 5 zippers in 2.5 years. I guess I do consider myself intermediate when it comes to knits, if thats a thing? Anyways, I’ve kind gotten lackadaisical on the blogging front but you can find me on instagram and I think I have photos of my two annas plus the muslin there, its The Green Violet (and I do think I’m following you if that makes it easier).

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Hooray for Anna dresses–I have that one on my “make this eventually” list but am in no great hurry. I like your blue one, mostly because the fabric is so flowy and drapey and swishy! And yes, your Annas look like Annas for sure. Grading is a lost art, even among patternmakers. (I learned that at class!!) It’s hard. Really hard. But I think if you keep working at it, you will get there–you got damn close on these dresses, and you know where you need to make adjustments. That’s great progress!

    (And I was also pretty bummed about BHL. I backed the Kickstarter because I like to do that sometimes, and I got every single printed pattern they have, plus 2 meters of fabric, plus some other random sewing-related bits and bobs in return. Sometimes businesses fail, that’s life and lessons learned, but hopefully they can keep doing the PDFs and keep designing.)


    • It is lovely to wear the blue one. I just want to flounce everywhere! That’s interesting about the pattern grading. You should defo make an Anna though because it’s such a quick make and looks so fancy! Especially as you backed the kickstarter: that’s so great! What fabric did you get? It was such a good idea but so expensive and hard to compete in a market flooded with cheap fabrics sadly. I really do hope they manage to find the time to keep releasing patterns on top of their day jobs, but millions of women do. Yay multitasking!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: International Anna Party! | sparkleneedles

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