Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane

Indies 2 – Anna


Sub-title: DRESS QUEST 2

Part 2 of the independent pattern company sojourn……

After the rather abysmal attempt for sewing for teenage son I swiftly returned to sewing for me and hit a resounding success. The indie pattern company is By Hand, London. The previous patterns by this company were ‘nice’ but not for 50 yr old women and so I quietly admired from afar but this one – timeless, seasonless, ageless, gorgeous!

I’ve already hinted at the rave blogs about this dress but if you missed them here they are again: see this and this and this and this and this. And some new ones – this and this.

Now you can add me to this list too.

I checked my real life measurements (as opposed to those I think I have!) against the chart and cut the 14 – my usual size. This is UK sizing but of course, but like most of us, I don’t fall neatly into one size category but I left well enough alone and instead of making muslins, I alter as I sew. OK feel free to criticise in the comments section.

DSC00279I’ve also previously praised the beautiful packaging, the personal touches and humour in the instructions, the woven label – a very special pattern. Just one tiny gripe and that is there is no line diagram of the design. This may be due to By Hand protecting their design as the clever ones out there could take a line drawing and replicate it without spending money on the original pattern. Whatever, it would be good to see the darts, seams and so on on a simple sketch. I went with the bloggers on this one and scrutinised their photos and devoured their words.

I opted for a rather unusual fabric for my Anna. Most others are made in lightweight fabrics like cotton or rayon but I had this wool in the box purchased for an autumn dress that was, at the time of buying, as yet undecided. While the fabric has a high content of wool (70%), it is lightweight and mixed with polyester; it has chemical creases, rather like pleats (plisse) but not as regular. It is black/grey/navy/ with a metallic sheen, actually I’ve no idea what colour it is – think of gunmetal with a dull lustre – got it? It is different in every photo I took.


My version is for autumn work wear, not romantic dinners, or balmy days by the river, or floaty summer evenings, but in my continued and relentless attempt to scare the new students.  I made the V neck and midi dress length but there is also a maxi length and a boat neck variation, and markings for a thigh high split – go for it!  As I am emphatically not 20 or 30 something, I lengthened the midi dress by 7″ to fall just below my knees and sewed up the split most securely – I don’t want scare the students that much!

Just look at the little sewing machines on the front of the pattern folder – only one of them is shaded – that means it’s a really easy sewing project – and I couldn’t argue with that!

An invisible zip at centre back is probably the hardest thing about this dress. However, (yeah, there’s alway one) my fabric did not have an obvious right or wrong side and I think I may have mixed up the skirt panels a bit when sewing them together. Not that anyone would notice and I did match up my notches etc, but I’m not 100% convinced I got it right. Look at the plisse on the left side of the skirt and angle of the creases – bit off wouldn’t you say?

DSC00340The most difficult thing for me in making this dress was NOT pressing! I love to press. I flatten and hammer and batter every seam, corner and hem to within an inch of its life but pressing this just took out the creases. It was like having an itch that I could scratch. Where you see ‘flattened’ fabric in the above photo that is merely my womanly body filling in the ease……

While you’re here, let me tell you about the V neck and wee tutorial to stop it gaping and flopping.

The V is cut across the fabric, therefore rendering it a bias cut, and it will stretch all on its own. See the photos below of the neckline on Doris – waving and gaping. What we want to do is tame the bias and make the V fit neatly to our own shape.


You could sew tape immediately upon cutting to the neckline within the seam allowance or attach a strip of fusible interfacing to hold it in place but I’ve found that my shape and a V neckline don’t always match up. Take the extra time to do this and you will never have a gap or be embarrassed about bending forward in your dress.

Measure from your shoulder seams to the end of the V, double it, subtract 1″ and cut a strip of narrow cotton tape to fit. Pin the ends of the tape to the dress shoulder seams and the middle to the V, folding the tape back on itself at the point. Pull the tape fairly tight.

Distribute the extra fabric evenly along the tape with pins. You could also hand sew a large running stitch and gather the extra fabric to fit the tape – bit like ease on a sleeve insertion.

DSC00311Look at the photo on the right – just pins and tape and no gaping. Yes, there are wrinkles underneath the tape but magically they vanish.


Carefully machine (or hand) sew the tape in place, making sure to flatten the excess fabric as you sew. Hand stitching gives you much more control of this and I’d advise this method if you have a tonne of wrinkles to get rid of. I sew just inside the seam allowance – about 1/2″ or 1cm.

Usually, at this stage I press the living daylights out of the fabric to shrink it but in this case a light whoosh of the steam was all I could afford to avoid pressing out the fabric creases.

Now that the front has effectively been reduced in size, your facing will be too big! Position the front and back facings over the dress and pinch out the excess at the shoulders. DSC00313Sew this new seam as usual and trim. Attach the new-size facing to the dress as normal, trim and clip. Under-stitch to keep the facing from turning out. Turn to the inside and press to your heart’s desire. I sew the facing to the dress to within an inch or two of the shoulder seam and then pin out the excess; sew the facing seam; complete sewing the facing to the dress.

The result of this 15 minute exercise can be evidenced in the photos below – tight V, no gaping and absolutely no possibility of gaping in the future. Although you trimmed and clipped and whatever, there is still enough tape to hold the shape and that little bit of under-stitching will help too.

DSC00319 DSC00320

Couture technique in an easy dress – what’s better than that?

Although it looks like there is a waist band – there isn’t. There is a waist seam and two darts extending from this to blossom out perfectly just under the bust – the darts tighten the fit around the mid-rift – their positioning couldn’t have been better if I’d commissioned this design from Paris.

I was so happy with this dress that I couldn’t help myself but add other small details – lace finish on the hand sewn hem and overlocked seams. Yes, this mechanical beast is tamed and purring in my sewing room now. It growls now and again but I have a whip and know how to use it! Hidden (almost) hook and eye at the top of almost perfect invisible zip.




For me, the pattern fits without major alterations, though I will lengthen the bodice 1″ at the front for the next time. Yes, there will be a next time and maybe a next. It is a flattering style that would suit most body types in my opinion and a breeze to stitch together too. And you can make the Anna dress in any fabric you want: a jersey wouldn’t need the back zip, a chiffon would need a slip, a tweed would just need a bit more clipping at the neck edge to lie flat. You can wear it with a belt, statement jewellery or not, boots, sandals or courts – make this your own! This just goes to show how truly versatile this pattern is.

Dare I go so far to say this is THE dress?

Now, if only I could figure out a suitable longer sleeve version……..

56 thoughts on “Indies 2 – Anna

  1. Great tutorial and great finished project! Don’t we have to come up with clever solutions when we use interesting/troublesome fabrics? It fits you so well and I am sure you will be tempted to make another version and add that extra length to the bodice. The sleeve length is a challenge…how to make them longer…hmmmm Maybe in a knit they could be extended and drape a little lower on your arm….worth a try!

  2. Lovely dress 😉 Thanks for the information about the neckline, i would,nt have thought of that

  3. GREAT dress and marvelous fabric! What a wonderful tip on the v-neck. I always stay-stitch immediately, but will give your method a go next time, it looks very finished, fits so well.

  4. It’s a great dress and a good contrast to the more summery versions I’ve seen so far. I’m really pleased you posted this as I have been admiring all the Anna’s but wasn’t sure how it would work for non spring chickens 🙂 It most definitely works and I shall be ordering the pattern straight away.

  5. Aargh, wish I’d had the benefit of your V-Neck no-gape tutorial before making up the neckline of my Anna!! Never mind, mine is a cheap viscose ‘muslin’ and I’ll know better when I fork out for the 3m of silk when/if I make the upgrade.

    It’s a lovely pattern on you and I look forward to your future versions: you always come up with surprises. And a very glam way for you to start the school year!

  6. I love this on you- the shape is so flattering and I love the textured fabric- nicely done- I think this may be the pattern that pushes me into indie land…..

  7. This is a lovely version of the Anna dress. It suits you beautifully and thanks for the helpful tutorial on the V neck.

  8. So glad you enjoyed making your very first Anna Dress! Really lovely fabric and excellent choice on that midi length, very elegant. Also, great tutorial for sorting out a gapey v-neck! I just have one question about the line drawings, we do have line drawings of the dress on the back of the folder (where the finished measurements are) and by the layplans. We’d really appreciate it if you let us know whether you simply don’t feel these are detailed enough. We really do love all feedback! Just give me a shout at Much appreciated in advance! x

  9. What a beautiful dress and so flattering. Your neckline tips are priceless.

  10. Thank you for sharing this technique, I will be sure to use it in the future.

    Your dress is lovely. The fit, fabric, and pattern are perfect together.

  11. Ruth,

    That dress is so beautifully made, I’m terrified. Would Threads’ Cut-on Gusset tutorial work for your desired long sleeves, perhaps? If you can’t view it, let me know and I’ll send it to you.

    Oh, and life in Sergerland is divine once mastered. Mine is a 20 year old borrowed beast that does the job wonderfully and my generous friend ain’t never gettin’ it back now! Don’t you just love it?!

    Rock on with your bad self,


    • Thank you Coco, I can read the article and very interesting too. I’ll have to think a little before attempting a full sleeve, until then I just pop a cardy on. The serger and me are getting on much better these days.

  12. Is the tape within the seam allowance, or do you stitch through it when you add the facing? Thanks.

    • Hi Laurie, position the edge of the tape just over the stitching line of the seam, we’re talking mm here, and sew it about 1/2″, 1cm from the edge of your neckline. When you attach the facing the whole thing is sewn together and don’t worry about clipping into the tape later – it’s already done its job.

  13. Absolutely lovely dress on you! Looks just wonderful. Great tutorial on the V neckline. I do that other places but hadn’t thought about the neckline. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Beautiful dress. When applying tape to neckline did you flip the tape at the V or continue attaching the the same side?

    • I just flipped it Sheila so there’s a little fold at the V. Sometimes I think the point needs a bit of extra reinforcement ,depends on your fabric. Thank you

  15. Your dress looks wonderful . There is no chance of scaring the students – just dazzling them with your fabulosity (yes, that is a real word). Well done 🙂

  16. Your dress is beautiful n well made.

  17. Gangbusters dress! Good tutorial. Thanks.

  18. Fab dress and a thoroughly enjoyable read! I like the v-neck tip. Do you know if it would work on stretch fabric?

    • Megan, if you can wait a week or two I’ll be able to tell you for sure… maybe on a knit you would need a fusible knit interfacing instead. The tape restricts the fabric from stretching at all and so defeats the purpose of using a knit. To be honest I’m not sure so I guess we’ll just have try it and see. Thanks

  19. A very classy looking dress on a classy looking lady! I love it.

  20. Nice dress and useful tip on v-neck – thanks

  21. Great dress and thank you or your great tips on the V-neckline. Sure I’ am going to use it!!

  22. Love this dress on you. Your v-neck instructions most helpful. I have yet to try any of this line of patterns.

  23. Reading your post could not have come at a better time for me. I had just tried on the dress and was horrified at how the neck gaped. I was contemplating lifting the shoulders but that would have meant the bodice not fitting. So what did I do – chucked it to the side and went on-line. How lucky to have found you with a solution to hand. I hope it works as well as yours has. As to the pattern, I found there was not enough information on the skirt pieces. In the end I put notes on the pieces myself ( eg front/ front side/ centre back etc). All the blogs I have read consider this pattern to be suitable for beginners, so I know that I am alone on this, but I think it would be quite daunting for a new sewer.

    • Sheree, when I cut a pattern I pin the pieces onto my mannequin so that I know what goes where. But I know what you mean about the skirt pieces that’s why I think one of mine is back to front. Just take your time and I hope the neckline works out for you. Just ask anything if you want some help and I’ll try to answer. Thanks for stopping by and good luck with your sewing.

  24. Thanks Ruth – I am glad I stopped by, and will add you to my other sewing blogs that I have book-marked. Problem with that is that I seem to spend more time reading about sewing than I do in actually sewing……! Oh dear.

  25. Yes yes yes. This pattern is so perfect for so many.
    I’ve actually got some chiffon to make my (shuffles feet, blushes) 4th Anna. I can’t decide to underline it or make a slip/another Anna… what do you think??

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  27. Beautiful Anna – I love it! I am very grateful for the v neck advice as I too was disappointed with the gape in my Annas neckline so away to unpick and use your method.
    Thanks K x x

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  29. Lovely dress. My Anna is half finished, and I had a few issues with the v neck too, but worked them out, and the bodice fits well now. I noticed on the Anna sewalong that there were instructions for longer sleeves, which I will try for the next one.
    One thing I really like is that it works well on the more “mature” figure, and is quite flattering.

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  31. I love your version of this dress! I regret that I was feeling lazy and didn’t make a muslin for my Anna dress. Now I’ve finished the bodice, including facing, and everything fits great, except for a gaping V-neckline. Is there any way to fix it at this point?

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