I had planned to use Friday to do a bit of sewing and a lot of lazing on the sofa. I was still in my pyjamas at 10:45 when the postman arrived, bearing my copy of the Anna dress pattern from By Hand London. I've been busting to buy this baby since it was released in early June but tedious financial practicality won out and I decided to wait to payday before ordering. It was the first thing I did upon arriving in work on Wednesday - I was sitting in the boardroom, waiting for a meeting to start, buying the pattern on my phone. It's not that I'm a By Hand London stalker or anything. Well, it IS that. But anyway, the pattern is beautiful. I had some amazing fabric that came to me as a gift from Handmade Jane all ready and waiting for it too, so as soon as the pattern arrived, I got down to sewing!
Like the Elisalex dress and the Victoria blazer, the Anna dress is beautifully drafted and it comes together so quickly. It's aimed at beginners and I think this would be a brilliant project for a beginner because the instructions guide you through french seams and inserting a concealed zip so effortlessly. I sewed in bursts here and there throughout the day - stopping to go out for cake, and later to go for a long walk with a pitstop at the new Aldi in Leamington to buy some of their own-brand gin, cooking dinner and making cocktails. Even with that, by bedtime I was putting the finishing touches on my dress:
I love the label that is included in the pattern!
I had planned on wearing another new handmade dress to the Goldhawk Road meet-up on Saturday, but when I finished this on Friday night I knew I had to wear it. It's maybe a bit much for Shepherd's Bush, but I knew I'd be going to Camden in the afternoon and that anything goes there! Enough teasing, though, here's my Anna dress:
Beauty School Dropout dress - Anna dress from By Hand London, made with retro swimmer fabric from Classic Textiles on Goldhawk Road
Nic's dad is Indian, and he's always telling me I should give wearing a sari a go. I understand why he says this - he gets that I love bright, pretty clothes, and I think he's nostalgic for the country where he grew up. But wearing a sari would feel too much like cultural appropriation for me, so I'm uncomfortable with it and I wouldn't - but maxi dresses always feel like a good compromise. Nic's dad always likes it when I wear a maxi dress, and so does Nic, but this is the first one I have ever made! It certainly won't be the last, though. When I told Nic I was making a maxi dress he was really pleased, and when I told him I was making it with a thigh high split in it he was all LOL...WUT? To be fair, it's not something I would ever have imagined going for. Blame Sew Busy Lizzy and Karen. It just felt like I needed to go there.
I'll front with you, though. I did have the wobbles a bit about wearing this dress around London all day. I mean, I'm no Angelina Jolie. These are pretty pasty Irish limbs I'm talking about here. But once I was out and about, I felt kind of awesome. It didn't hurt a bit that my lovely man kept telling me I looked like a 30s movie star. I mean, I know that I DON'T, but this dress definitely has that vibe.
I feel that the train in the background really adds a shot of glamour to this photo! No shit though, I know it's sad and everything, but I love Leamington station. I'm obviously a bit of a trainspotter at heart.
The only adjustments I made to the dress were to raise the shoulder seams by about half an inch - something I have to do on basically everything - and to invert the pleats. Yes, my pleats are on the outside of the bodice. They look like little fins, which is fitting given the ladies on the dress. I'd like to say this was on purpose, but it wasn't really. It started out as an accident - but I liked how it looked so much that I left it the way it was. The pleats look kind of deco, and it means that less of the print is lost. As a few people have said elsewhere, the skirt pieces are HELLA long, so when I was tracing them I traced to 40 inches and gave the skirt a two inch hem. I could have gone longer if I wanted a floor-sweeping gown, but this fabric is white so keeping it off the ground felt like a safer bet. I don't have any photos of the inside, but the bodice is all french-seamed, and the waist seam and skirt seams are pinked - apart from the split, which is turned and stitched, and then slip-stitched down.
COFFEE FACE. I was up late on Friday night. That's a vice-like grip on my coffee cup, there.
It turns out that a maxi dress with a thigh-high split is a surprisingly comfortable and practical garment. It was the perfect thing to wear to meet celebrities...
I AM SIEGE FACE
Wanted on voyage. Please look after this bear.
It was also perfect for meeting up with sewing bloggers and hitting up the fabric shops on Goldhawk Road. Nic and I were waiting by the Paddington statue to meet Emmie before catching the tube over to Shepherd's Bush, where we hooked up with Claire and 30-odd other sewing bloggers and sewing blogger groupies. Yes, apparently sewing bloggers do have groupies:
He was offered a sticker with his name on, but Nic opted to stay with this one.
I'd been really looking forward to the meet-up because I loved all of the fabric that I bought last time I visited Goldhawk Road, but mainly because I was excited about catching up with sewing friends and meeting some in real life for the first time:
I was really looking forward to meeting Vicki in real life, as she's been an amazing friend to me over the past year. I was thrilled to see her in a Michael Miller print, as well - the girl has taste! It was also fabulous to meet Rachel for the first time and to hang out with my fellow Pacey fans Alison, Amy and Kat. I think we agreed that we can share him, but no-one else seemed to feel the Fauxlivia love. Shame, because I think she's a badass.
We headed off to the shops in smallish to medium sized groups - the little group I was in picked up Zora and Lorna and eventually Kat on the way, and of course Nic joined us to sniff out the fab novelty fabrics! We were also eventually joined by a surprise Ooobop, which was a real joy, as ever. I had a lot of fun chatting with the ladies and doing some shopping (no photos of what I bought - it's all washed and ironed and I can't be faffed, but you'll see it eventually) Pretty soon it was time for lunch, and I waved goodbye to everyone as Nic and I weren't joining everyone for lunch. Before we got back on the tube, we made a quick stop into Classic Textiles, which was lovely. Three of the staff were like WOAH THAT'S OUR FABRIC, which was pretty funny! Well chosen, Handmade Jane.
So, Nic and I wandered back through the market and got the tube to King's Cross, and walked from there to Camden. It was a beautiful day for it. I loved walking along Midland Road, it's so beautiful, and of course I found an opportunity for more posing:
Specialist tailor - Midland Road
I'd never been to Camden before, but Nic and I had agreed to meet our friends there as they were working nearby. On Friday, Nic asked twitter folk for recommendations of things to do in Camden - he got a few good ones (and one person who helpfully told him it was "horrid" like yeah, thanks that, Enid Blyton. NOT.) but in the end we just pottered around. It was very hot so pushing through the market didn't appeal, and instead we walked up the canal to Primrose Hill, had an ice-cream in the park and a drink in a pub, before heading back to St. Pancras Way to meet Josh in The Constitution. We snagged a table out in the garden by the canal and enjoyed a few drinks and lots of chat in the sunshine.
The Artist Formerly Known As Nic, enjoying a well-deserved pint
Wine time. This dress is great for drinking wine in. Also look - despite eating, travelling on the tube, drinking coffee, and lolling around on the grass my dress was totally stain-free. GO ME!
It was really good to catch up with Josh and to meet some of his friends, and all too soon we were on our way back to Marylebone to catch the 11:08 back up the road. It was a very full and very enjoyable day out, filled with excellent people and lots of fun. And a fucking brilliant dress. I have to say it again - you ladies at By Hand London are geniuses. This pattern is so beautiful. I'm going to leave you with a few more photos of my dress, and I'm going to go and make myself a cocktail and - you guessed it - watch an episode of Inspector Morse.
Here's what it looks like from behind. I don't normally do concealed zips, but it does definitely work with this pattern.
Another shot of the bodice - you can just about see the inverted pleats there
And one more full-length one, just because. Oh! In case you're wondering, the name 'Beauty School Dropout' IS a reference to Grease. Not because I love the film (I don't, especially. I like it well enough, but I don't love it) but the retro swimmers reminded me of Frenchie, and also the song has been in my head for other reasons recently. It's a good song, too.
Baby get moving, why keep your feeble hopes alive?
What are you proving, you've got the dream but not the drive
If you go for your diploma, you could join a steno pool
Turn in your teasin' comb and go back to high school...