By Hand London Alix Maxi Dress

By Hand London Alix Maxi Dress
This week, the Great British Sewing Bee had a 1970's theme which means that the #gbsbsewalong is vintage themed. I was totally taken in with all the gorgeous maxi dresses from the final challenge; whilst I was watching all I could think of was the By Hand London Alix Dress pattern that I had, and how I had always wanted to improve on my first version with a summer maxi, so here it is (in March!). I took a lot of learning through from my first version and I'm much happier with this maxi.

Fabric

I bought this fabric last Autumn at the Knitting and Stitching Show from the Textile Centre. I had just under 3m for something in the region of £12 (I think). In any case I thought it was very good value at the time! I couldn't say exactly what composition this fabric is...it is lightweight and slightly sheer but it does not feel (or fray as badly) like georgette or chiffon. It may simply be a very lightweight polyester/crepe. It does fray, but is able to cope with seams finished with an overlocker rather than french seaming. I used a fine universal needle which appeared to work fairly well, and I double lined the front bodice to make extra sure it wouldn't be see through there. Over the rest of the dress there is a lot of doubling over from the folds and pleats, which this fabric drapes beautifully for and so far no see through worries. 
It was really important to me to go for a lighter weight fabric from my first Alix dress; in that one I used a normal crepe which was far too thick. I never wear it and a large factor was poor fabric choice. This time around though I think I found an excellent candidate for this pattern.



Pattern and Instructions

By Hand London Patterns are pdf only. In the download you get versions that can be printed at home or by copy shop as well as an instruction booklet. The pattern has three variations that use the same top half with three different lengths for the bottom part ranging from blouse to maxi. Features include a shaped V neck yoke, voluminous raglan set sleeves, waist insert with ties for the back and pleats all over! What this means is that construction of the sleeves is simple and there is little to no fitting because you rely on the waist ties. The only bit that really needs time to get right is the v neck and bust area.

Personally, I like BHL instructions. I find the diagrams are very helpful and the whole process is really clear. Though there are a fair few pattern pieces, the construction is straightforward and once you have mastered the V neck front area, moves along quite quickly. All the pieces always fit well together in BHL patterns so you never have to spend time squeezing parts together that don't match! The key to successful fitting with this pattern will be the bust area, as everything else has lots of room to work with. I went with the size 8/12 based on my measurements and this fit pretty well.


Alterations

Having spent time and money making one dress I never wear, I took a lot of learning through to this project (beyond the poor fabric choice).

I raised the neckline at the front because the original pattern is a little too deep for me - I know it's designed to be a bit racy but I'm not! (This is where my previous make was handy because I could try it on and see where I would have preferred it to sit). I extended the front yoke up by 3cm where the two pieces join at the centre. Then I drew from this point to where the collarbone hits on the neckband.  If you want to do the same but don't have a toile or previous garment you can establish these points for yourself by tissue fitting the front yoke and back neckband. I also took the optional step of interfacing one set of the yoke/neckband pieces for added stability.
I made a few adjustments to the length of the dress and sleeves so that they weren't too long - this is pretty standard for me.

By Hand London Alix Maxi Dress

The other main alteration I made was to change the sleeve cuffs. I try to avoid elastic where possible and have never got on with the elastic cuffs on this pattern. Instead created something similar to a shirt cuff. I didn't join the underarm seam of the sleeve to the end, leaving about 4 inches where I turned the raw edge under instead. Then I cut a pair of rectangles for the cuffs (22cm x 12cm). I also cut a 4x10cm rectangle on the bias. I used this to create a rouleau loop and followed the instructions for creating a cuff that are used in the Sew Over It Pussy Bow Blouse. Deviations from the instructions were that I had only built in a 1cm seam allowance and I pleated my sleeve in to the cuff at each end so that it would match the rest of the detailing on the dress. I had these gold buttons in my button jar (I think they may have come with a ready to wear item a very long time ago!) which matched beautifully.

I'm very pleased with both alterations as they make the dress much more comfortable to wear. I even enjoyed hand sewing down the inside of the cuffs after my couture dressmaking classes!
And I have a maxi dress that matches my short stature....definitely not something that's easy to find in the shops!


By Hand London Alix Maxi Dress




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Hi, I'm Laura. Welcome to my journeys with modern, feminine dressmaking; pattern reviews, tips and guides for beginners. I'm a lifelong foodie, so you'll also find some delicious recipes and places to get that foodie fix.
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