Sewing Projects


Hello lovelies! As I type there is approximately 2 feet of snow outside, my new parka is getting broken in and I have stacks of wrapped Christmas gifts on the cutting table. It’s that short, beautiful time of winter where the weather hasn’t started to feel oppressive and all of the holiday parties take the edge off the fact that snow boots are your new daily staple.

Speaking of holiday parties….. I took a break from sewing comfy, loungey knits to make some icing. Some gilded, foiled icing that makes me feel like a Christmas decoration in the best possible way. It feels like it’s been forever since I made an actual dress with darts and a zipper and it was fun to get back to my sewing roots: ridiculously over the top dresses that rarely get worn but make you smile every time you see them.

By Hand London Anna Charlotte hack By Hand London Anna Charlotte hack-2 By Hand London Anna Charlotte hack-3

The fabric really called the shots for this project. On one of my trips to the wholesale wonderland that is the Chabanal district in Montreal, I stumbled on this gold foil organza. It reminds me of camo print, like if Ted Nugent did drag (if anyone is wondering what my dream Christmas gift would be, it is Ted Nugent giving Liza Minelli realness, fyi). I couldn’t resist it’s gilded lure, especially for $5 a yard. I brought it home, draped it on the form and tried to figure out what pattern would work. I wanted something with simultaneous softness and structure, so I turned to an old favourite, the Anna dress from By Hand London. Inspired by the beautiful Anna/Charlotte hack from Diary of Chain Stitcher, I decided a cocktail dress with a pencil skirt was the way to go.

I made the Charlotte way back when, but it was too tight and the fit was off (the things you realize in hindsight). This pattern has double darts in front which makes me look pregnant with hollow air babies. However, I wanted to keep them so that they lined up with the double pleats on the Anna bodice. I made a few muslins to try and perfect the fit, since this fabric magnifies drag lines like you wouldn’t believe. I cut a US10 for the bodice and a US12 for the skirt. Here’s a list of pattern modifications I made:

  • Took out a wedge from front and back neckline to prevent gaping.
  • Shaved 2 inches off each shoulder, basically removing a wedge and tapering to nothing at the under arm, since the fabric was too stiff for the wider kimono sleeve.
  • Drafted a deep V in the back. Since this means fabric is cut on the bias, to prevent gaping I shaved 1/8″ at the inner back shoulder, tapering to nothing at the outer arm. It helps pull the fabric in a little.
  • Shortened the front pleats by about 3/4″. I’ve never had to make this modification before but in this fabric, the pleats weren’t ending beneath the girls like they should have.
  • The skirt gave me some headaches since I was moving the darts higher than they were designed to sit on the body. I was getting crazy volume under my tummy, so I narrowed the front darts on the skirt to half the original size, lengthened then by about 1″and moved them over to align with the pleats. I then removed the excess width at the waist, and moved the side seams over so they aligned with bodice.
  • Lengthened the back dart by 1″ and moved it over so it aligned with bodice dart.

By Hand London Anna Charlotte hack-6 By Hand London Anna Charlotte hack-11

I was fairly happy with the fit in the end, but in hindsight I’d shave more off the back shoulder seam since the back gapes ever so slightly. It’s also a little hard to assess if the fit is spot on or not since the fabric is so distracting and stiff. I think I could have made the front darts even skinnier since there is still a little too much volume around the baby maker.

In terms of construction, I left the seams raw since they were ever so pretty, hemmed with lace tape, fully lined it with a navy bemberg rayon, interfaced the CB for an invisible zipper and added a hook and eye at the top. I used my favourite method to line the bodice, which is to sew both the bodice and lining at shoulder seams, and then sew then together along the neckline and arm opening. You then pull one end of each side through the shoulder opening and sew the side seams in one continuous line (refer to this tutorial if that is not clear). I was in a bit of a rush and didn’t have time to handstitch the lining to the zipper, so I tried flipping everything inside out and machine stitched the lining to the zipper. I’ve never done this before and it was a little tricky to get everything aligned but it’s a good time saver. My lining ended up looking a bit wonky at the top but no one will ever see it so, pffft.

By Hand London Anna Charlotte hack-10 By Hand London Anna Charlotte hack-12 By Hand London Anna Charlotte hack-13By Hand London Anna Charlotte hack-14

I wore this to a holiday party last weekend in New York, and will probably pull it on New Year’s Eve. It’s been a long time since I made a party dress and I forgot how much I missed the process! The only real problem is that this fabric creases like CRAZY and looks a little worse for wear after an evening of sitting. I’m hoping a good steam will release some of those creases.

How about you? Any holiday dress sewing plans?

  • Mindy Nickel

    LOVE your dress! That fabric is fabulous. Holiday icing pieces are so fun, even if they don’t get worn often. No holiday pieces planned for me this year, sadly.

  • Ooh, it’s so shiny! I love the combination of gold and navy.

    I have a plan for a holiday dress but it’s going to have to be next year’s! I haven’t found the right pattern yet and I could hack my own, but it wouldn’t be exactly what I wanted, so it’s better to wait. I don’t have any glamorous holiday parties anyway, and a cocktail dress for beer and board games is a little bit overkill…

    • Hahah, depends on who you’re playing board games with!

  • Now that’s a party dress’s party dress! I’m not much of a dress sew-er, but I’ve been kind of yearning to make one. My coat project has taken over, however, so it’s not going to happen for me. Admiring yours is almost as good!

    • Thanks love. I haven’t had much of a need for dresses lately but it was nice way to shake up my sewing routine.

  • This dress is aboslutely for the holiday!

  • After seeing this georgeous number I might go back to the shop and buy that sparkly gold jersey I saw and make a little dress for New Years!!

  • Best holiday dress ever! I’ve been waiting to see this one ever since you showed us a sneaky peak of the bodice. Totally lived up to expectations!


    And what a stunning party dress, love the blu lace too. I use lace tape for most of my hems , it adds that little detail that only I know it’s there and for a stupid reason makes me smile whenever I see it.

    • I bought a ton of it on sale this summer – I’ve never used it before but I think it looks much better (and sews much easier) then hemming tape.

  • sallieforrer

    MeOW!! Love this!! You are a vision in gold, and the party dress queen! This is such a great hack – Anna looks so good with a wiggly pencil skirt. 60’s sex kitten all the way. And that fabric is holiday perfection. Also – shoes, lipstick, earrings, and mega-bun. Picture perfect.

    I – sadly – have no parties to attend this year ::sad trombone:: so I will be making feeble attempts at holiday frippery to fancy up my immensely un-fancy life. But oh how you’re making me long to wrap myself in gold foil and slur my words from too much champagne…

    • Hahahaha, I didn’t drink nearly enough champers, unfortunately.

  • What a great holiday dress!! I also chose the Anna bodice, but I did it with a gathered skirt. Yours looks fantastic with a pencil skirt!!

  • Love a gold party dress, yours looks great. Gold foil, gorgeous! I’ll be wearing my gold Elisalex with pencil skirt that’s been covered in 18 meters of fringe!

  • mokosha

    looking fab! love that gold fabric! haven’t made a party dress in ages, maybe your golden beauty gives me the push in the right direction

    • I almost forgot how to sew dresses! It’s a good way to force you out of a sewing rut.

  • OMG this is STUNNING! Absolutely beautiful. The fit is perfect and the fabric. …the fabric <3 <3 <3

  • You are a stunner! Ow ow Heather! Was this the dress you wore while out and about with Miss Marce? I was so jealous of that IG upload. Wish I was with you ladies!
    I had a very selfless sewing month – I taught 2 girls how to make a skirt, which required me to do a lot of the sewing (because every first project is pretty much not wearable), and made my family handmade gifts. I’m so excited to get back to selfish sewing in January. I actually began a little early and cut my next make last night.

    • Yep, it was NY bound. But hoping it will get more wear this season!

  • Fabulous! Love it, love it, love it! I wish I had some fun holiday parties to go to this year, but alas, no party dress making around these parts. I have however, spends about 1,280 hours obsessing about the fit of my ginger jeans 🙂 I wear jeans all the time and have never had a perfect fitting pair, so the obsessing will be so worth it!

    • It totally will. That sounds like a LOT of hours – whats the issue?

      • I’m having some problems getting my unique snowflake of a crotch to behave. I’m toeing the difficult line between crotch depth and length. Sad thing is, I was pretty close to perfect, but decided I wasn’t and started from scratch. I know that some of the issues are depth related (I’m getting a “shelf” at the crotch). The other problem is whiskering. It gets close, then bam, I’ve gone too far and it’s whiskering because I’ve now made them too tight. I have just a little bit of a hollow on the inside part of my thigh that causes some of it as well. My perfectionist self has now read 3 books about it and no other advise can be given except for “it’s a precarious balance.” I’m close though, I can FEEL it!

        • Just try not to make changes bigger than 1/8″. And also, RELAX!! A little whiskering is seriously no big deal. You are the only person who would ever notice!!

          • Relax isn’t in my vocabulary! hahaha! I’m giving myself one more fit session before I feel I can let go. Then I’ll have jeans, magic!

  • sj kurtz


    Back in the day, when we had ROTARY phones and a new party dress. Finally made one this year, Sew Chic’s Fifth Avenue, which is the perfect dress for us folks who remember rotary phones (holds you in, camouflages lumps). Party dress sewing really is a different process, particularly the part where I gotta find reasons to wear it. And that alone makes you get out. High fives and fist bumps for everyone.

    • I just googled that pattern – what a stunner! Definitely gives you incentive to get out of jammies and show it off.

  • truebias

    you look stunning!

  • it’s sooo amazing!! I love the gold foil! you look like the prettiest present ever 🙂

    and I didn’t make a holiday dress, I made a holiday top! in a hunter green pointe knit. it’s a peplum top with princess seams and darts and it has adult circle skirt as the bottom so it’s real poufy! it’s totally dint to twirl in. I can’t wait to post about it on my blog 🙂

  • A cheerful dress for gloomy weather! And SO perfect for holiday parties! xo

  • What a gorgeous dress! It’ll be perfect for New Years. I just decided I need to make a dress for christms day so hopefully I can get that done. New holiday dresses are the best!

    • Please tell me it is made from red velvet.

  • I adore it. What a perfect party dress.

  • so sad I missed you and potentially seeing this in person. come back to ny soon xx

  • honigdesign

    Gorgeous! I remember the early winter days of snow boots and party dresses fondly 🙂 Have a super holiday!

  • oonaballoona

    you really look like a foil wrapped prize. i hope Mr G enjoys.

    also…i can’t believe i didn’t look under your skirt. epic sewist fail.

  • hahaha pregnant with hollow air babies…the charlotte does the same thing to me! I also eventually figured out that lengthening the darts would get rid of the air baby.