By Hand London – Hannah Dress

My final make of 2019 was possibly my favourite ever. It was the Hannah dress from By Hand London, which at the time was their latest pattern. As soon as I saw it, I really wanted to make it.

I decided I was going to make myself a party dress for my work Christmas party in December and Hannah would be perfect. It has 3 sleeve options; a short sleeve, a bishop sleeve and a tulip sleeve. I decided I wanted to make the bishop sleeve version but I decided not to use the sleeve ties. I thought these would annoy me and leaving the sleeve as a huge flare would annoy me too. Instead, I decided to elasticate the cuff. I measured the circumference of my wrist and cut a piece of elastic 2 cm longer. I then sewed a channel in the sleeve, leaving an inch or so gap, and threaded the elastic through. Then I sewed the elastic into a loop with a 1cm seam allowance and then sewed up the gap in the sleeve channel. It wasn’t the neatest bit of sewing ever but it did the job! The good thing about this was my wrists are different sizes (I have so many weird body things) so I was able to get the sleeves to fit perfectly!

I wasn’t sure what fabric to use at first. You could use pretty much any type of woven fabric you liked. I thought about a crepe or a viscose but I settled on one I already had in my stash. I used a black double gauze with gold dots. I bought this a while ago for another project that had never gotten made so decided to use it on the dress. I didn’t quite have enough so had to order another metre. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember which shop I’d bought it from and quite a few places sell it, or so I thought! When it arrived, I realised it was a slightly different shade of black to my original fabric and the gold dots were spaced differently. Oops! This meant that I had to think carefully which pieces to use out of which fabric. I think I ended up making the bodice out of the new fabric and the sleeves and skirt from the first fabric! Luckily, you can’t really tell! I hope!

As I was making this for an occasion and it wasn’t a cheap make, I decided to make a toile of the bodice. Thank goodness I did! My first version didn’t fit well. It’s quite a low crossover for the wrap which made my boobs look like they were spilling out everywhere! I put a little help message out on Instagram and I got sent some very helpful advice, even from Elisalex herself and she recommended taking some gape out the neck line. I bought By Hand London’s Bodice Fitting Companion ebook and that was a really good purchase. It tells you how to make lots of different adjustments and I will definitely use it in future to get tops and dresses to fit better!

Anyway, I enlisted my mums help and she suggested we pin the shoulder seam higher up, which in turn raised the wrap crossover so I was able to keep my modesty. I took 2cm off both shoulders. I then made another toile. This time, the wrap over was definitely better but this left me with more gape in the back neck as I’d widen it by adjusting the shoulders. I used the instructions in the ebook to take 2 inches of gape from the neck and add it to the back darts. Then I made a third toile and this one fit pretty well! Yay! I’m very glad I took the time to fit the bodice.

I like skirts to be knee length or above. I don’t think midi length suits me well so I took 4.5 inches off the length. I basically tried the dress on when I’d finished it (except the hem) and got my boyfriend to help me measure and pin it where I wanted it to sit.

One of the skills I improved whilst making this dress (as well as fitting) was gathering. There is lots of gathering involved in this make! The skirt is made from 3 huge rectangles that are gathered to fit the bodice. They are literally double the size of the bodice. The instructions recommend that when sewing in your gathering stitches, you backstitch one side so you only gather from the other end. This didn’t work for me as the amount of gathering is massive and the threads got stuck. Grrr! I ended up unpicking the gathering stitches and resewing them so I could gather from either side! That was a night of stress!

Another technique used in the Hannah dress was bias bound neckline. OMG! I love the finish this gives and I now want to finish everything with bias binding. Such a lovely finish! It’s made me want to go back to my Saraste blouse from Named clothing’s Breaking the Pattern book that I started last year and haven’t finished yet. I now know where I’ve gone wrong. I’ve used too wide a bias binding and now I know how to apply it correctly!

Overall, I really enjoyed this make. The fabric is lovely and easy to sew, plus it’s very warm when you’re having a night out. Winner winner! The dress is actually quite easy to make. There are no fastenings as everything is fastened with ties. As long as you can gather and use bias binding to finish the neckline, you should be ok and it doesn’t take too long. I made it in a few evenings and I’m a slow sewist. I’m hoping to make a short sleeve casual version for the summer.

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