the long journey to Anna


Oh, Anna. You eluded me for a long time. First there was the hilarious failure from last summer, when I naively dove in with a completely wrong fabric and merely a vague conception of fitting. Then there was a long period when I played hard to get, jealously watching the International Anna Dress Party from a dark corner, telling myself you were not a pattern for me.

But you kept calling from the box of patterns, Anna. I stalled all winter and spring, but when the sunny days returned, I knew you were right. So I caved and muslined.

My alterations ranged from the standard (forward shoulder adjustment, sway back adjustment, scooping out the neckline a bit) to the unexpected. I found Neeno’s detailed fitting notes helpful in figuring out what to pay attention to.

The first bodice muslin came out pretty… saggy. Camille mentioned having a similar issue in her review of the dress, which got me thinking. I turned to the trusted unscientific method of pinching out the excess, ending up with about 3/8″ (1 cm) thus pinched out above the bust on the front and on the upper back.

The shortened bodice really fit much better. I also shortened the back darts about 1″, newly schooled by my troubles with upper back tightness on McCall’s 6891. It was a good idea. I know lots of people have written about issues with the upper back fitting too loosely — especially at the top of the zipper — so I recommend you think about what kind of fit you want and need there. I can move in my dress without any problems, and while in certain body positions you could say there is a little bit of excess fabric up there, my unscientific wiggle-and-jiggle test showed me that when I raise and stretch out my arms, I have enough but not too much fabric up there.

I didn’t need to tweak the skirt apart from sway back on the back waistline seam. I also — unusually for me — decided against adding pockets. So far, I’m not regretting it.

Here’s a few more sewing details if, like me, you happen to enjoy those:

  • French seams everywhere apart from the waist seam and the central back seam. I bound the central back seam with Hug Snug
  • I also Hug-Snugged the sleeve hems, making the sleeves longer, which I think looks good in this drapey fabric
  • I followed Anna’s tutorial for finishing the waist seam.  It was hot, I was lazy, and so I reached for Hug Snug again, but bias binding would have been the better choice. It would have been stretchier, not so… snug. Go figure. (The dress fits nonetheless, I just felt that seam after the big dinner to which I wore it right after I finished it.)
  • no invisible zipper here — I substituted a hand-picked lapped one. If there is a next time, I’ll do that again, just with a tiny bit more generous seam allowance
  • and no contemtuous facings either — bias facing instead. (Looking for a good tutorial? I really like this one.)
  • I tried out hemming with a walking foot. I don’t know how I feel about it — it took some effort to keep the fabric from dancing around underneath.

The fabric is a rayon print I picked up at Joann’s last winter… on two separate occasions, so it added up and this is the third garment in it, and I promise that’s finally it.

So, Anna, you win. You are a great dress. You are also my third make for May, so whew!


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I write about sewing, knitting, and may sometimes be tempted to talk about books.

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