27 September 2014

Sewing Saturday: By Hand London Georgia Dress

Remember those sewing and dressmaking classes I attended? All that sewing I said I was (going to be) doing? The Sewing Saturday series I started? And a sewing page on the blog I made? It happened, honest. And now it's time to revisit all of that.

I've been wanting to share my sewing escapades with you lot for aaaaages! But only now — after moving house, trying to more effectively manage my time, lots of work (the day job!), some travel, and of course, procrastination — am I finally at a point where I can start doing that. And I'm really excited for you to see what I've made so far!

You've already heard about totes bags, cushions and more in the Sewing Saturday posts thus far, with pretty pictures on the sewing page; which I've finally updated and shall endeavour to keep updated. But what I've not shared yet, are any of the dressmaking projects I've completed; a good number now! So that's what's I'm going to do.

Be warned: I'm a novice sewer, and certainly not a sewing blogger, of which there are many awesome examples! Also, I cannot promise excellent photography: the problem with trying to show off clothes is you have to wear them and get someone to take photos of you. Good ones. But I'll try.


By Hand London — Georgia  |  £9 PDF Pattern  |  Variation 2 (skinny straps)

My first dress! Well, that isn't strictly true. You probably don't remember — I'm not even sure I do, or want to — but I tried to make a dress before; New Look 6968. But, it remains in my fabric drawer, unfinished. I'd become fed up with it; the cotton fabric, the fitting issues and not really wanting to wear it. Maybe I will finish it one day...

Anyway, so I was apprehensive about starting another dress and not finishing it but as it was for a friend's big birthday party, I couldn't really not finish it, else I'd have nothing to wear. But just to be safe, and to avoid forced feedback, I didn't tell anyone I was constructing my attire for the evening.

I have a couple of photos from the evening itself but none that show enough of the dress to be suitable here. Instead, you get a shot in our sunny garden.

Geometric print, stretch cotton sateen. Purchased during a a fabric trip to London's Goldhawk Road, ~£7 per metre. 
Sizing and cutting
A couple of points:
  • Size: based on the finished garment measurements, and accounting for the amount of stretch in my fabric, I graded the pattern between a UK 8 bust : UK 10 waist : UK 12 hips. This is not the sizing you see in the photos, see Fitting and alterations below.
  • Adjustment(s): according to my measurements, no Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) or Small Bust Adjustment (SBA) was required. I made a toile of the bodice in some cotton from my stash and was happy I did. Whilst a FBA or SBA was not necessary, it was very helpful in determining this without using my geometric fabric.
  • Fabric: I was going to have alternating panels of black and print à la House of Pinheiro's panelled Georgia dress, which is beautiful! But in the end, I wanted all of mine to be in the fab geometric print that I'd been waiting to use, and did the straps in black stretch cotton sateen. Also, it might look like I cut some of the pieces wonky but there was a slight slope in some sections of the fabric. I also didn't pattern match because a) I think it's fine and b) would've taken an age and more brainpower than I have!

Pattern instructions
In general, the pattern instructions were very good and the BHL's sewalong posts helped a lot. I got somewhat confused between some of the images in the pattern instructions and those in the sewalong posts. This may have been due to my beginner skill level but I personally found the sewalong instructions more accurate. I contacted BHL for some clarification and they were quick to respond and very lovely. 
Fitting and alterations
After trying it on, I needed to alter the pattern quite considerably, but some elements also fit out of the packet:
  • Skinny straps: I shortened these by ~1" but they were still a little too long so would shorten them further if making again.
  • Side seams: the whole dress was too big so I shaved 1–2" off the side seams, to fit my body shape. I could've spread this reduction across all of the panel seams but this worked fine (and I was in a bit of a rush), especially for such a busy print. Ultimately, I think I could've cut at least a UK 8 all round. 
  • Lower back: I have a big booty and a relatively small waist and under-bust area. This meant I had a lot of a fabric hanging loose around the lower back area. I came in by 1" at my waist, grading out to my hips. Even if I'd cut a UK 8 all round, I suspect I still might've needed to bring this area in.
  • Under-bust: there is still a little bit of loose fabric here but actually, I don't think it looks too bad.
I now just need to make these adjustments to the pattern pieces! Ya know, when I learn how to do that properly.
  • Seams: An overlocker gives a professional finish, as seen on clothing in fashion stores. But since I don't have one of those (on my wish list!), I pinked all of the seams. 
  • Lining: I lined with white cotton lawn, although in hindsight, perhaps black may have been better. Due to time constraints, I just tacked the lining and really must sew it in properly.
  • Hem: Again, due to time constraints, I opted for a double-turned topstitched hem. I planned to have a blind hem but as the fabric is so busy, you can barely see the black cotton, and where you can see it, I quite like the look. So I probably won't change it.
Overall, a success I think! And I would make this again. I now want a black version with the wide collar straps. Lessons learned? I should allow more time for sewing as this took longer than I thought, especially with the alternations.

Working on...

Tilly And The Buttons — Lilou Dress  |  Traced pattern  |  Book £10 on Amazon

After settling into the flat, and purchasing a desk for sewing and blogging purposes mainly, I set out to kit out my sewing space (more on that soon!), including some relevant literature. I'd given myself some breathing space to see whether my zest for sewing and dressmaking was going to continue now I was no longer attending classes. And I'm very glad to say it has! If anything, I'm even more eager to progress and excited by the possibilities for developing my skill(s).

After much consideration, I opted for:

The first two contain patterns; 7 patterns you have to trace or draft for Love At First Stitch, and 5 full-sized tissue paper patterns for The Colette Sewing Handbook. Whilst The Sewtionary is an excellent A to Z, spiral-bound reference book for sewers of any skill level.

Of all the projects I could choose from Love At First Stitch, I have gone for the last project: the beautiful Lilou dress and shall be added a scalloped neckline. I've cut a size 2 in some blue cotton with white polka dots I picked up from Abakhan fabrics in Manchester for ~£7 per metre.

I look forward to sharing more of these with you!


Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I purchased all items mentioned myself and all views expressed are my own.


  1. Wow, that's an impressive result for your first dress! I'd love to be able to make clothes, but at the moment my sewing skills only extend to super simple stuff like cushions. Maybe I should take a class of some kind to give me the confidence I need.

    1. Thanks Janet! I started on cushions too so know for a fact you have the ability to do this too! I'd certainly recommend a class; the sewing class I took gave me the basic sewing skills (which I think you almost definitely already have!) and the dressmaking class allowed me to understand how to read a dress pattern and clothing construction. Having said that, a lot of sewers taught themselves via blogs and YouTube videos! I'm still really learning and there are lots of tiny little mistakes but I just embrace those mistakes as part of the learning process and it's still fun!

  2. LOVE that dress! You look fantastic in it - you should be very pleased with yourself! I am very impressed :-)

    1. Thanks Amy! It makes my legs look uber dumpy and I am wearing a rather stupid face - for some reason I really hadn't thought about what I should do with my face in these photos?! I debated chopping my head off but thought oh sod it! And just let the scheduled post publish.

  3. That is one cracking first dress! Congrats, looks really wearable! And I generally find it's more the fit than the actual construction which can be tricky but looks like a sterling job -plus the fabric's great :)

    1. Thanks Marie! It is very wearable, very comfortable being in cotton sateen. Sometimes my bra pokes over the top of the back but on the whole, the fit is good. Oh yes I love the fabric! I'm not sure I'd buy a dress in this fabric in a high street shop but I wanted it as soon as I saw it!

  4. Hey well done!!! That's so cool! I really want to be able to make my own clothes but a) worried about space for sewing machine, b) lack of time, c) I am awful at sewing!!! x

    1. Thanks Kezzie! Yeah, I don't really have a lot of space but keep my sewing machine underneath my desk and just fetch it out when I need it. Time is always an issue, but that pretty much goes for everything in my life! Ohh I'm sure you're not awful! And practice makes perfect. :D More sewers in the world is definitely a good thing.

  5. Oooh very swish! Can't believe that's your first go, both it and yourself look pretty amazing! :-) xx

    1. Thanks Louisa! Well, I have made other things, tops and shorts, just not finished a dress before. I decided to post this one first as it is the most jazzy and so not I could enter a competition that was running with my review.

  6. Your Georgia is fantastic! You look great in it and the fit looks perfect!

    1. Thanks Leigh! Yeah, the fit is reasonably good. Still some things I would change a little.

  7. Wow! You look fantastic in that dress, Jen! I haven't been brave enough to try anything so complicated as a dress--I've rather sworn off clothes after the skirt I made failed to fit at the hips--but there was a one-seam maxi dress I liked the look of.

    1. Aww thanks Angela! Yeah but you do quilts! I cannot really wrap my mind around them. Oh the first skirt I made was a terrible fit! I have bigger hips than my tummy so the skirt was far too tight on my hips and then loads of loose fabric around the tummy area. It meant it also kept riding up! A maxi dress is a good one, I've not tried that as yet as I don't really have any maxi dresses or skirts in my wardrobe so not sure if I'd wear it. Then again, I said that about skinny jeans oh so many moons ago and now, they're the only jeans I have in my wardrobe. Ha. Hopefully I get to hear about the maxi dress if you make it!

  8. Hi Jen, I'm visiting from Louisa's blog (duck in a dress). Your dress is ace - can't believe it's your go (my own first dress was pretty wonky) ! Looks like a great fit and that fabric is fabulous. I do love a fabric shopping spree on the goldhawk rd - always such a good range of bargainous stuff :)

    1. Thanks Annie, for stopping by and for your lovely comment! Oh well, there are plenty of small mistakes and slight fitting issues I would change but the busy fabric helps to hide them! Mwhaha. And most of the time, your average joe or jane have no idea about the minor things that you can see. Yeah Goldhawk Road was great! I wish I lived in London for that.

  9. SO BEAUTIFUL!!! I love the geometric print and the fit is just superb.