Last summer, the lovely @cath_craft and @secret_life_of_a_seamstress held an Instagram challenge, where the goal was to mash up two different patterns to create a brand new garment. I am quite fond of pattern hacking (although I think I have the tendency to play it a bit safe and never go too wild…), so I jumped into this challenge and got a dress that I have been wearing pretty much non-stop since I finished it in July — this is the reason I have been so slow on getting photos and a blog post online! I have worn this dress to so many special occasions: my work summer party in Munich, my friend Naiz’s mehndi party, out exploring the giant sequoia forests in Yosemite, and to a friend’s wedding with Simon in Germany (worn the same way I styled it here, with sparkly heels and my sky-blue fascinator) ♥️

[I am still not quite sure why I am so thrilled to be posing with a zebra statue at my work party, but this is possibly the only photo from that night that is acceptable to put online; I was four espresso martinis deep by this point and things only deteriorated from this point onwards… But I digress.]

I genuinely adore Rifle Paper Co designs so much, and have a couple of their fabrics earmarked for special makes in my stash. I got this 2.5m of this ‘Garden Party Vines ‘ cotton from Emmercery (which has sadly since closed) in a Black Friday sale a couple of years ago, and decided to take the plunge and use it for #SewMashUp challenge. This cotton is medium weight, with a smooth hand and crisp drape. It holds gathers beautifully and was super easy to work with, and the colours of the flowers are so vibrant on the navy background. I wish I had bought several more metres, I am that infatuated with Rifle Paper Co.

For my two patterns to mash together, I went for the By Hand London Anna bodice and combined with the simple gathered skirt portion of the Simplicity 9136. The Anna dress is really pretty, with grown-on sleeves, an option of a slash neckline or v-neck, and with bust shaping achieved with two pleats at the waistband. The a-line skirt portion of the Anna is comprised of six panels at either a midi or maxi length , which can make it a pretty fabric-hungry pattern if you are using a narrow bolt of fabric like I was. Luckily, the skirt portion of Simplicity 9136 used up just the right amount of fabric to make a skirt that hits just below my knee when in heels, and I was only left with a few precious scraps. I made my usual size 12 in By Hand London patterns, making an FBA to give me a better fit at the bust. By Hand London have a Bodice Fitting Companion e-book, which is an invaluable resource on how to make a variety of adjustments on the bodices of their patterns.

Before I cut out this dress, I spent some time thinking about the stripe placement on both the bodice and the skirt. I put a poll up on my Instagram on whether to have the stripes running vertically or horizontally on the skirt, with opinion very firmly pro-vertical stripes! For the bodice, I wanted to carefully place the floral stripes, so that it would look balanced between the plain navy portions. By having the navy portion concentrated at both the waistline and slightly above my bust point, the eye goes there, which creates a nice visual balance between the full gathered skirt.

Construction of this dress was super quick, as there was no fiddling around setting in sleeves or lining up multiple skirt panels! I switched out the neckline facing with bias binding instead, as I usually prefer that finish on an unlined garment. I am so chuffed with my invisible zip — this may be my best attempt yet. Practice truly does make perfect, and sewing is a great hobby for seeing evidence on how you improve over time. I wish I had more fabric, so I could have patterned-matched across the back bodice, but alas it was not feasible 😅
I still want to make the original Anna dress at some point (thigh high splits and all!), but this hack is very wearable and perfect for warm summer days — it is definitely going on the ever-growing ‘make again’ list.

By Hand London Anna
Size 2/6 – 30/34
Full Bust: 32″- 61¼″
Waist: 25″- 56¼″
Hips: 35″-63¼″

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