My Christmas Party By Hand London Flora Dress

I’ve kept my love of By Hand London’s patterns no secret. I’ve made a couple of Elisalex dresses, a few Flora skirts and I have the Sabrina dress pattern cut and ready to go. I also have my eye on the Holly and the Victoria. But even though I’ve had this pattern for about 6 months now this is the first time that I’ve made the Flora dress, I can’t believe that I left it so long! To be honest I was put off by the thought of having to fit the bodice – I made a fair few adjustments to the Elisalex bodice and wasn’t really too enthusiastic about going through that process again but hey, sewing the same bodice over and over again would get a bit boring if I never fitted another design so I went head first into making it and had another great reason to get started – the work Christmas party!

The bodice was super quick and easy to put together and thankfully I didn’t need to make many adjustments. I shorted the bodice by half an inch took in the side seams by a quarter inch and the centre back seam by a quarter inch. I shortened the skirt pieces previously when I made my navy flora skirt and I can’t remember how much I took off but it was a fair bit as I’m not that tall and like an above the knee skirt. I’ve become a fan of a side zip instead of at centre back but as I was making the bodice for the first time I wanted to follow the instructions to the T so I went with the intended centre back zip. Although it’s possible, I find it hard to zip the dress all the way up plus I’ve added a hook an eye to the top so I think I’ll need hubby around to get me in and out of it!

Onto the fabrics, this dress was certainly a stash buster as I didn’t have to buy a thing. I had about a metre of this gold fabric which I bought ages and ages ago but didn’t really have a plan for (see, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with impulse buying fabric!). I think it’s some kind of poly. The skirt fabric is a black cotton sateen that I bought in the summer. I fell in love with it because it’s just so soft and was the perfect weight and drape for a swishy skirt like this one. The lining is a mix of fabric scraps, red polycotton for the front bodice lining and some polka dot cotton for the back. One of the things I like about By Hand London is that they include a label in with each pattern – I’ve always forgotten to sew it in to my other BHL makes but this time I remembered and I think it makes my dress extra special …


The Christmas party isn’t for another week yet so sadly for me there’s no pics of me having a twirl, or playing about outside with hubby as the photographer which happens to be my favourite part of putting together a blog post! Despite this I hope you like the finished article (which includes my new party necklace)…



Fit is not a destination, it’s a way of life… Elisalex dress no.2

I mentioned this dress briefly in my Selfish Sewing Week post but didn’t want to go into too much detail as that was already a long-enough post! I’ve adored this pattern for AGES and treated myself to it for my birthday this year when I made a wax print version for my big night out to the theatre. I did make a toile then but there were still a couple of fit issues; the shoulder seams needed taking in a bit, and the waistline needed to be raised (the waistline has a tendency to rise up constantly, I think that’s because I am shorter than the model that the pattern is designed to fit). Despite these flaws I still love that version of the dress but felt the need to make more adjustments for Elisalex No.2.


The fabric I used this time is a cotton sateen print from the legendary ‘man outside Sainsbury’s’ in Walthamstow market. It’s a medium weight fabric with a bit of stretch to it and it’s really soft, almost like a brushed cotton, so it’s perfect for the cooler weather.


After cutting out the pattern pieces I pinched out the excess fabric and pinned, which was a bit tricky as I had no helper! But I think it went okay. After 3 or 4 ‘fittings’ I was finally able to transfer all the alterations to the paper pattern pieces ready to go for next time.


These are the alterations that I made to the bodice:

* I took in the bust seams by 3/4″ at the top tapering down to 3 1/4″ above bodice bottom edge

* I took in the side seams from the underarm tapering down to 7/8″

* I took in the shoulder seams by 1/2″

* I took in the centre back seam by 1/2″ from the top tapering down to 5 1/2 ” above bodice bottom edge

* Once all this was done I then shortened all the bodice pieces by 1 5/8″

* I also lowered the armscyes by 1 3/4″as after I altered the shoulder and side seams they were too small. Lesson learned!

The only alteration I made to the skirt was to shorten it by 4″ (I had already shortened the skirt pattern pieces by a fair amount the first time around).


I didn’t rely on the pattern symbols when it came to assembling the pleats as I didn’t think they would match up with the princess seams since I had shortened the bodice. I just assembled them so they all lined up nicely. You can just about see the pleats and princess seams here, the busy pattern does kinda hide them though…


Other pattern alterations
I inserted an invisible zip in the left hand side seam instead of at centre back. My first Elisalex has a back zip as per the instructions but I do find it awkward to zip up and now that this dress is complete I really do prefer the side zip. It’s also actually invisible unlike some of my previous attempts! I realised that to get a zip in as invisibly as possible it’s good to hold down the zip teeth as they go through the zipper foot. Like this…



This time around I omitted the lining and bound the neckline and armscyes with this orange bias binding that I found in my stash. I quite like using a contrasting binding as I think it’s just a bit more fun. It’s like a secret that only I (and now you) know about ;o)


Finished dress


I love it! This is one of my favourite patterns and I can’t wait to make my next one. I think I just need to add an extra 1/2″ to the bodice (I took a little too much off this time of I’m honest). I really like this plain black version made by Bec Stitches, it looks so classic! I think Elisalex no.3 will be an all black version too, French seamed throughout and lined for a neat finish.

For now though, I’ll have fun twirling about in this one.




Red shoes! Love, love, love…



Happy birthday to me in my Elisalex!

I’d had my eye on the By Hand London Elisalex dress pattern for over a year but never really felt that I has the skills to create a dress from a pattern. I’d used patterns to make tops and skirts before but dresses just seemed that little bit more complex – linings, joining bodice to skirt and fitting, OMG fitting, that’s for the experts! I bought this pattern to make myself a dress for my birthday – I had asked my husband to get us theatre tickets and I wanted to go handmade for the occasion. I thought this dress would fit the bill nicely ♥


 It wasn’t as difficult as I initially expected (thank goodness). I made a toile and needed to take the centre back seams in a little. I think this pattern (and patterns in general) are designed with quite tall people in mind because I also had to take about 12 inches off of the hemline!

I had to spend a fair amount of time playing with the pleat notches on the pattern because initially they didn’t match up, although I’m no expert so it may have been down to pattern-user error rather than problems with the pattern itself (anyone else have this problem?). Thankfully, in the end it all worked out!

I learned quite a bit during the process of making this dress, firstly this is the first time that I’ve ever lined anything – the bodice is lined in a soft red cotton and I really like the way it makes the garment look and feel (albeit from the inside).

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Secondly, I learned that I need to be more accurate with my sewing – the back waist seams either side of the zip are slightly out of line. Boo. Fixing it would have meant unpicking half of the dress so I’ll just have to live with it!


And lastly, the next time I use fabric with a big pattern I’ll cut the skirt pieces (the biggest pieces) first and then cut the bodice pieces because they’re smaller and therefore it’s easier to match the pattern. I would have liked to at least match the skirt front with the bodice front but I couldn’t fit the pattern piece onto the fabric in a way that matched the pattern. To be honest I was a bit worried about that but I actually love the finished result, who cares about pattern matching!!!

So I think that’s all to say for now, apart from confessing that I put in a regular zip instead of a invisible one – the result of a combination of not actually buying an invisible zip and being scared of sewing one in, surely it can’t be that hard?

So, time for the reveal!…



And just in case you were wondering what we saw at the Theatre, we saw ‘Wicked’ after a lovely meal at a South African restaurant. Lovely, lovely, just lovely :o)

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