Final make of 2013: BHL Anna

I think I might possibly be the last person ever to have a go at the Anna dress but finally, here is my version, and my last make of 2013:

I intended to wear this dress on New Year’s Day…and I did, hemming it in the afternoon on New Years Eve


I hosted the in-laws for family lunch on New Years Day but not everything went as expected and my mind was elsewhere so of course I completely forgot to get any photos on the day! Luckily Nerdy Husband loves taking photos so on a beautifully sunny Wellington day we went out for lunch followed by a drive around the bays and found a fun spot for some pics.

It was a bit bright, I’ll admit, and I forgot my polarising filter but I am coming here again for photos, I mean, look at that view!

Looking towards the Hutt Valley/Petone and Matiu/Soames Island

Looking towards the CBD

I really love my Anna dress. It took me a long time to cut out since I laid the whole pattern out in-the-flat to make the best of the fabric and avoid any accidental pattern placement, but that extra effort was worth it.

I am especially pleased with my zipper and pattern matching!

Oh yes!

I fused a strip of interfacing down each side before inserting my zipper which made things go really smoothly and because this cotton is so thin it also helped to reinforce the seam.

This is my new I-will-do-this-everytime-now technique!

The pattern is great and I feel amazing in my dress, a simple shape that I think is very flattering.

I would like to comment on some parts in the instructions that I found a bit strange.

They are very friendly, in a “Yay, let’s make a dress, this is going to be so easy” kind of way, which is sweet. They are encouraging for beginners, the diagrams are very clear and they don’t rush through any steps.

However, I don’t agree with finishing the arm holes before stitching the side seams:

I think “this way makes finishing the sleeve much easier and neater” is only partially true.

You will find it easy to hem the sleeve in the flat, but when you sew your side seams you will end up with the seam showing under your arm and any seam finish you use too (see last diagram above).

I finished my sleeves last, after stitching the side seams, it wasn’t tricky at all and if I can do it then so can you.

The construction order also includes steps to construct all the bodice pieces together,  followed by attaching all the skirt pieces together and then attaching bodice to skirt.

On a very fitted dress this can add strength to the waist seam (kind of like a waist stay) but because I don’t think this dress needs that I chose to do it differently, for two reasons:

Firstly, there are a lot of seams in the skirt of this dress. Seams that need to line up with the bodice front pleats, and back darts and you also want the side seams to line up too right? If you sew all those skirt pieces together into one long connected piece and then try to attach them to the long connected bodice pieces you have more chance of miss-aligning those points. You only need to be out by 1 or 2 millimetres at each seam/pleat/dart and that discrepancy gets multiplied as you go along.

Secondly, this method leaves no chance for you to adjust your fit at the side seams after you’ve attached the bodice to the skirt. This is my most common final fit tweak.

My construction order went like this: Sew front skirt pieces together, then attach them to the front bodice. Next sew back skirt pieces together and attach them to the back bodice, insert zipper. Now sew your shoulder and side seams and give them a final tweak to fit.

I also left off attaching my neck facings until last after reading on so many other blogs about the back neck gaping. Mine did too, see above.

I was able to try on and add some darts to each side of the zipper before attaching my facings. My darts are about 5cm out on each side of the zipper, 1.5cm wide and 4cm long.

Then I folded my facing out over the zipper and stitched it down using my regular zipper foot to save any hand stitching at the end. I also under-stitched as much of the facing as I could get to instead of top-stitching, I think this is neater and suits the neckline.

To keep the facing from flipping out I used a medium width zig-zag stitch on 0 stitch length and stitched-in-ditch at shoulder seam and strategically in a couple of other places to keep it from flipping out. Good luck finding any of my machine tacks in the busy print. 🙂

The instructions aren’t necessarily all bad, as I said earlier, I think beginners will love the easy tone that will inspire confidence and the more experienced can deviate as they chose. Overall the dress sews up quickly and effortlessly and I hope my construction notes help anyone else thinking of jumping on the BHL Anna sewing wagon 🙂

Scarlet models to show you the print in easier light.

OMG that zipper!

OK, I admit it’s about 99% there but because the print wavered all over the show it could have been so much worse. I chalk that up as a win for me! 🙂

(Also, the zipper goes all the way up, I just didn’t notice that when I took this photo, oops)

Inside out – all raw edges overlocked.


Pattern – By Hand London Anna Dress, variation 3, straight size 12

Fabric – 100% cotton (lawn?) from Arthur Toye, Wellington

Other notions – Invisible zipper, a smidge of fusible interfacing

Two thumbs up!

47 thoughts on “Final make of 2013: BHL Anna

  1. Hey! I just saw your post now and I know everybody’s already said it, but pattern matching, yes maam!!! The back seam is awesome! I have not sewn the Anna dress, don’t own the pattern, and don’t currently have plans to purchase it. Hope I’m not ostracized, lol!

    Oh, and I’ve been stalking your social media icons to try and copy them as I’m attempting s blog overhaul and I’ve got them to work!! Zippee! 🙂

  2. Thanks for your tips – Anna is my next project but one (in lawn cotton) so your tips are timely for me :). I’ll definitely be taking them on board. Love your version – great job!

  3. I haven’t even acquired the pattern yet and I’ve been lusting after Anna for months! You’ll be a trend setter by the time I get around to it.

    Yours is absolutely beautiful, you’ve done a wonderful job, gorgeous!

  4. Oh man I don’t even own an Anna so I have to live vicariously through your two gorgeous makes. Mel, this version is just lovely and the pattern matching, and that zip and and and. Purfeck. Thank you for the construction notes too – very very useful for reference later 🙂

  5. Pingback: By Hand London Anna dress | thornberry

  6. Lovely dress. I followed the instructions in making the dress. And you were perfectly right about attaching the full bodice to the skirt. The seams did not connect in the right places. Although not that obvious from distance, it annoys me. So next time I will follow your approach construct front and back pieces separately before stitching the side seams. 😉

  7. I think I’m the last person on planet earth NOT to make an Anna! Will have to put it on the to sew list for sure now. Beautiful dress and the fabric is so colourful and great on you!

  8. I still haven’t sewn my Anna – I mean to, but you know – so many projects. I love yours and OMG that zipper!! Beautiful! I think I should actually sew it soon though, it does seem like a frock for the summer months (which are too short around here!)

  9. Lovely! Gorgeous fabric and I love your back seam matching! Anna really is the dress pattern of late 2013, yours looks wonderful 😉 I’ve just finished mine (photos soon) & agree with your suggested changes, I ended up with mismatched seams between the skirt panels & darts, and being frenched – arghh, they can stay unaligned…

  10. Wow, *awesome* pattern matching at the zipper – I’m super impressed! And I agree with you – the pattern order isn’t necessarily ideal as written. I left my facing off until last, though I did sew the entire skirt before attaching it to the bodice and just pinned very carefully to match the seams. I also added interfacing to the neck facing, which I was surprised was left off the pattern – it seems like an important step to keep the neckline from stretching out! All in all, your dress looks fantastic – and I’m so jealous that it’s summer where you are and you can wear things like that!!! Agh I hate winter!!

    • I was surprised that interfacing was left off the facing too, but my cotton was really stable so my under-stitching should keep it all in place. Summer will be with you soon and it’ll be me grumbling about winter, I’m not ready to stop making summer dresses yet! 🙂

  11. Absolutely my favourite of your 2013 makes – you saved the best for last! Wonderful match up of pattern and fabric, and the matching of fabric is just spot on! Are you blushing yet!! Thanks for the tip about the zip and interfacing – I have done that years ago but it disappeared out of my brain! I will use it for my next dress. Looking forward to reading all about your 2014 adventures and maybe even get to met up in person!!

    • Thank you, I think it might be my favourite of 2013 too, go out with a bang, yeah! 🙂

      I think the interfacing trick was something was taught a little while ago too – I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to finally use it, it is amazing.

  12. You make some excellent points about the construction, now I know for when I am the last person to sew an Anna… but tbh I often read the instructions and then go about it in my own way, because I have a system that works for me now (and is very similar to your mode of construction here!). Love the dress, the pattern placement is amazeballs and I’m totally stealing that interfacing on the zipper trick from you. Genius.

    • “The last person to sew…” could be a good TMS theme – take a pattern that’s been out for ages and finally sew it?

      Perhaps they should call them “guidelines” instead 🙂 I do enjoy the freedom sewing gives us, to alter and change as we will – it’s much more fun that way.

  13. Apparently you’re not the last person out there to sew the Anna dress because I have just bought the pattern.
    Your dress fits really great and that fabric is to die for! What a lovely summer frock you made!
    And thanks for the great construction notes. I will for sure refer to this post while making my Anna dress! I totally get your point in the things you changed up.

  14. Love the dress! Great fabric and awesome print matching. I own the pattern but haven’t made it up yet. I was going to, then winter set in here in the UK and I suddenly felt the need for warm long-sleeved tees and the like! I’m determined to try it out in 2014 though so your tips will be really helpful. Thanks!

  15. I love this dress. The one I’ve made was lined, so sleeve issues weren’t a problem, but the other construction points are really helpful. Must bear those in mind for my next one. I agree the side seam is the first place I go to tweak the fit. But that pattern matching… OMG!

  16. Wow – so beautiful! The fabric and the dress, so pretty. You are so good at matching prints. Those pictures make me miss the summer but look forward to summer dresses. I hope you make more like this one.

  17. Wow! That looks really lovely. I have asked for an Anna pattern and fabric of my birthday in February. I like it in your colours and busy print. I think I will be using your construction points! They sound like my way too!

  18. Great dress, and I totally agree about the order of sewing things together (your way is the way I always do it, unless it has sleeves and then I try and do the sleeves before the side seams if possible). That view is stunning! Where is it?

  19. I feel good now that I’m not the only one still posting about my 2013 makes! I agree totally with all your construction changes, I would have done exactly the same 🙂 I am in awe of your pattern matching – pure perfection! Beautiful!

  20. Absolutely gorgeous. I thought about buying this pattern. Now after seeing after yours, I am not so sure I will. I don’t think I could make one as beautiful as yours. I could not come close to sewing a zipper, facing and matching fabric as you did. Your details on construction are fantastic.

  21. My first thought when I saw your PR review was ‘look at that fabulous print matching!’ and then I hopped over to this post – very instructive tips! Esp your gorgeously finished zipper reinforcements! And, just in case you were worried, you’re not the last person to make an Anna…mine is still in plotting stage ;-).

  22. What a beautiful job you did on this dress; it’s one of the best-looking versions I’ve seen, beautiful fabric too! Thank you for your tips on the construction; they will come in handy as I have the pattern and will sew it in the next month or so. I hope my version comes out as well-constructed as yours; I’m full of admiration for your zipper insert and your pattern matching.

  23. What a beautiful dress. Your fabric is gorgeous and your matching is great. Thank you for the details on the construction. I like the order in which you assembled the dress. It would definitely make it easier to tweak the side seams once the dress is together. Great job. 🙂

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