Alix Dress, By Hand London (the tester version)

This is the ‘tester’ version of the Alix Dress from By Hand London. I haven’t made up the newly released version.

Alix Dress - the tester version from By Hand London

Alix Dress – the tester version from By Hand London

It is described as: “ A high-waisted prairie dress with a V-neck yoke, inset waistband, tie back belt and a full skirt, pleated at centre front and back. And best of all, no zipper! With long, billowing raglan sleeves secured at the wrist with a delicate elasticated cuff and three skirt length options (& everything in between!)”. It’s got a 70s vibe which is one of my favourite eras. I made the tester UK 6 / US 2 size.

When I went to sew this dress up, the feedback from the earlier testers was the pleats were a little ‘pointy’ on smaller bust sizes and perhaps using gathers instead of the pleats might be worth trying.

I did this. However I think the gathers need to be spread over a larger distance than the pleat space as I ended up with a ‘puff’ of fabric directly under my bust with nowhere for it to go. You can see this below on the left hand side of the image.

The released pattern has been changed to have an option to change the pleat into a gather and from the purple sample on the By Hand London website, the gather has been eased across a greater distance on the inset waistband than I did here. That should remove the ‘puff’ of fabric issue.

It’s a shame as the general bust fit is OK on me and the neckline is lovely. Low but it is OK on my build.

Alix Dress, By Hand London

Alix Dress, By Hand London

I thought there was a considerable amount of easing to get the front bodice piece to fit into the arm. I think it is why there is bubbling above the bust along the armhole line. It’s not terrible but I would prefer a smoother fit. And I dare say I’ve put up with worse in RTW before I started sewing.

The fit does change depending on my bra choice as you would expect but that bubbling the upper bust remains. I have had a lot of compliments when I have worn it (from the non-sewing non-fit people in my life). Perhaps those people don’t zoom in on my bust zone!

I had to reduce the pleats in order to get the skirt piece to fit onto the inset waistband. I’m going to have to cut out the pattern again to see if this was some sort of idiot pattern cutting accident as apparently I was alone in this issue.


I don’t believe there have been many changes to the pattern I tested (other than the pleat to a gather option) and apparently my issues with the bust and upper bust fit were limited to me, the feedback on fit was generally very happy. Maybe I’m just becoming too fussy, I sewed it up too fast or my bust/upper bust is weird!

Despite all my issues, the print of the fabric hides many sins, I had to zoom in with the camera to capture the issues as once you step back the fabric puffs and bubbles seem to disappear. I have worn this dress a few times in the last few weeks as the rayon is cool to wear and I quite like long sleeve for a change. I’m not a massive fan of elastic in my wrist cuffs but it’s not a huge issue.

I made the mini dress version and while it is short, it is not self-consciously so – you should note I am 5 foot 4 or 164cm tall.

This dress has no buttons, zips etc. It simply slips over your head and ties pull the dress in for a neater fit.

The perfect accessory - an old happy greyhound

The perfect accessory – an old happy greyhound. Banjo was beetling around off-the-leash at his usual furious pace!

I’ve got lots of dresses I would like to make this summer but right now I need some sleeveless ones sooner rather than later!

Dress: Alix Dress, By Hand London (tester version), size sewn UK 6 / US 2.
Fabric: Woven rayon from Fantazia Fabricland, Tweed Heads QLD
Also See: Adventures of a Young Seamstress | Lily Sage & Co | Sewn by Ashley | Sweet Shard | Sew 2 Pro |

And this is what the first splash of cold water feels like some days…

Alix Dress, By Hand London

Alix Dress, By Hand London

Thank you all so much on your feedback on my last few posts. My work life has been exceptionally busy and I’ve been ‘on the road’ a few times in the last few weeks – however I have read them all and will respond as soon as I can!

and the By Hand London pack winner is…

with a massive 333 entries… the lucky, lucky, lucky winner of the By Hand London Triple Pack is Anthea P (and I’ve notified Anthea P via email).

blog giveaway from BHL

By Hand London Triple Pack giveaway

Thank you for all of your lovely comments – they are much appreciated. The girls are in the middle of Speech & Drama Eisteddfod, Ballet Eisteddfod, end-of-term assignments and school concert season so I will respond as soon as it’s all over!

Holly Jumpsuit not! It’s a Holly Dress! By Hand London

Yes, I liked the bodice so much I was curious about how Holly would look as a dress. So here it is…

By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit - as a dress made in rayon. Excuse creases, this fabric is beautiful but delights in being ironed... frequently.

By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit – as a dress made in rayon. This fabric is beautiful but delights in being ironed… frequently. Taken in the bush reserve behind my home.

By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit - as a dress. Back view.

By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit – as a dress. Back view.

By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit - as a dress. Side view. Taken earlier in the day while checking out rockpools with the kids.

By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit – as a dress. Side view.
Taken earlier in the day while checking out rockpools with the kids & watching for the seasonal whale traffic going by.

I had planned a maxi. Decided the floral would be a little too overwhelming. Considered the quarter-circle skirt using the By Hand London app but having not drafted one before, there only being one side seam (the bodice has two, I like balance, yes a bit OCD) – and no back-up fabric… I decided to use the bias-cut skirt of Vogue 1351 (made previously here) as it was in my pattern pile – an easy option. I opted for a simple skirt to match the simple bodice, I felt gathers or pleats would not be a good match or balance. I also felt too much fabric in the skirt would create too much strain on the narrow straps – while this is rayon, it’s not a really flimsy rayon.

The skirt was a little wider so I shaved off some of the sides. SoNotTechnicalLizzy. It worked. Making this & adding a skirt was very easy, not rocket science at all. In fact it’s easier than making the jumpsuit. Less fabric, less seams. The skirt need not be bias cut either.

I also machined the straps, rather than hand stitching as I did with Holly the First and Holly the Second. I was curious to see how the straps differed. While hand sewing takes longer – I do prefer the straps slip-stitched to the bodice and along the edges to finish them.


Sorry these pictures were snapped on my iPhone while racing out the door for the school run and work, hence not the best quality.

I used my roll-hem foot – which gives the skirt hem a nice fluted effect.

Holly Dress - By Hand london

I love a rolled hem.

I also turned the edges of the cowl under as I attached the straps as this completely hid the little hem of the cowl neckline when I wear it.

By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit - as a dress. Bodice & strap detail.

The top edge of the bodice where it meets the strap.

Pattern: By Hand London, Holly Jumpsuit & Vogue 1351

Thanks for reading 🙂

Holly Jumpsuit, By Hand London… my first two anyway!

This was one of those pattern tests when I just went bananas. I’ve made three… so far… yes there are another two in the works. I think I have a new BFF.

I’ve mentioned I was working on this several times and I’ve been BUSTING to share – I love this make and it’s very different everything else I’ve ever made here.

Today I’ll show you the first two – because the third is something completely different (patience is a virtue – apparently).

Yes, it’s the By Hand London Holly pattern.

The three faces of Holly! A jumpsuit, a playsuit and trousers!

The three faces of Holly! A jumpsuit, a playsuit and trousers!

When the By Hand London girls contacted me about Flora… I was cheeky enough to ask if they would mind designing a jumpsuit… and funnily enough it was already in the works! So when they asked if I would like to pattern test… I was completely and utterly unable to refuse. They had me at ‘hello’. I chose to make the jumpsuit as I had been obsessing about jumpsuits – and I seriously don’t think I could pull off a playsuit in my grand old age.

As they have previously blogged, By Hand London completely redesigned the bodice during the testing phase due to tester feedback. So I started all over again… and this time I was beside myself with excitement… BECAUSE IT WAS A COWL BODICE. Apart of my recent jumpsuit obsession – I also have a mad passion for cowl anything. I rocketed past 7th Heaven and into Sewing Nirvana…


My first version was a black ‘sandwashed’ cotton linen. I was having some weird confidence crisis and cut a size larger than I usually would, I didn’t think there would be enough ease around the hips. I’m glad I did as I needed it for the length through the body. The hip in the test pattern hadn’t been graded correctly – this has been fixed. I would recommend that you follow the pattern measurements – then again everyone has a different preference when it comes to fit. That said, I’m longer through the body than average.

Sadly this lovely version is a bit too big through the waist and hips (widthwise) as a result of my decision to upsize. My pattern testing approach is to make up at least one version of the pattern exactly as drafted. I could have graded out the hips etc however my personal approach is to make the pattern up as is. I prefer to see how the original pattern fits first in comparison to other patterns (and there is the notches & all that business to consider) – then I alter on the second round. That’s just the Sew Busy Lizzy way. No better or worse than others.

By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit - front view

By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit – front view. Had to crop this to death as the camera strap flopped over. More doh!

So this lovely outfit is slightly too large as you can see (and could have done with a better iron, doh!). It creases through the body as I walk due to the slight oversizing (well hello Christmas lunch outfit I guess!). But heck. I still like it.

By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit - side view

By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit – side view

I’ve been considering how to alter it. I did run it in quite a bit through the side seams. However, there is only so much width that you can take from the side before it looks odd. I think the solution might be to unpick the back waist seam and fiddle with the centre back seam and bodice seams etc. Then again this pattern is not a difficult or overly involved sew so it might be more rewarding to simply make another in black.

By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit - front view

By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit – front view. I think I should lengthen the straps…

Argh – how I love it in a solid. It doesn’t feel obviously ‘jumpsuit’ and ‘fashion-y’, it’s lovely and classic (well I think so!). Sorry any up-close detail photos were a big fail… it’s just so very black…

I’ve used a belt to create a defined waist and dress it up – it’s more ‘going out’ wear than Holly the Second.


With Holly the Second, as I had done the pattern testing business, I added about 1/2 inch crotch length to the test pattern and cut a size US2/UK6 at the waist and graded out to a US4/UK8 at the hips. I took about two to three inches off the legs (I’m 5 foot 4). I cut the bodice as a size US2/UK6.

I was curious how Holly would look as a mad print… and here she is…

By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit - side view

By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit – side view

I really should have posed with my ukulele (yes I play one – badly). This is a very soft drapey rayon… feels like heaven – looks like a Hawaiian riot!

By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit - back view

By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit – back view (somewhat wind whipped)

She’s a little mad, crazy and birthed from my fabric ‘library’ – but amazingly comfortable and I love the fit and feel of this one. She’s going to be lovely on a hot summer day. As you can see the legs are too long – I’ve hemmed it for heels.

I feel like I could hang out with Oonaballoona in this one.


It’s really easy to sew together. Like really easy.

It’s got a side zip (no front fly and all that business that often goes with trouders). I added a hook and eye above my zip.

The front bodice is cut on the bias (think about this when choosing your fabric) and the back is in three pieces. For the jumpsuit version, I would recommend a fabric with drape.

The straps are bias and sewn to the inside then turned over to the front and stitched down. I did this by hand, including sewing the straps all the way along by hand. I don’t mind hand stitching later at night (although black-on-black stitching kinda sucked).

I’ve like my fit slightly looser. Given the softer fit of the bodice and the wide, wide legs I personally would steer away from a mega snug fit through the body – that’s my personal preference. It’s got a bit of ‘swoosh’ about it.

I had to take about 3 inches off the leg length as I’m 5 foot 4.


  • Wide, wide legs
  • Shoestring bias straps
  • Bodice pleats not darts
  • Gentle fit
  • Side zip (I do like underarm zips, you barely see them)
  • and clearly… the COWL. Kill me now.
By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit - I just love this bodice

By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit – I just love this bodice

Overall I do really love this pattern – it’s not often I sew the same things three times in a row so that does say something. I really like the bodice, I love softly fitted bodices. I also adore wide-leg trousers. Overall I think the shape is quite lengthening and slimming on my frame.


Now if you are thinking that a jumpsuit ain’t for you because you have more curves than me – well go check out the beautiful Cashmerette who has just blogged her version (featuring the first designed jumpsuit bodice). She looks fabulous. And she’s also beachside 🙂 gotta love that!

The straps are fine so it’s letting the girls hang as nature intended or wearing a strapless bra if you can’t live with ‘peek-a-boo’ straps. As you can see I am wearing a normal bra with Holly the Second. I pulled this jumpsuit on after snapping my Hello Summer Dress while walking the now world-famous Banjo (also on a tight timeframe as my husband was leaving the country for two weeks). Pulling the jumpsuit up under the dress was modest enough but I wasn’t changing my underwear in public even if the beach was very quiet that day. That said, the bra isn’t unbearably obvious. Thin strap bras could look quite cute if they blend in with your fabric.

If you shudder at the thought of strapless, let me tell you Calvin Klein makes some amazingly comfortable ones (for me anyway), I wear mine all day without any discomfort. Good underwear is worth every penny (note: personal opinion here).


BHL offered to help cover the cost of fabric or find someone to provide fabric for this pattern test. However my stash is big (I consider it a ‘library’ these days) and can accommodate the odd pattern test… instead I suggested something for my readers instead – I get enough stuff and like to share the love when I can.

So I’ve got the giveaway provided by By Hand London – you can indulge yourself in Charlotte, Georgia and Flora, note: Holly wasn’t printed when they sent me this package during the testing phase. Plus it’s in a cute tote bag with stickers!

blog giveaway from BHL

blog giveaway from BHL

This giveaway is open to everyone – anywhere in the world. NOW CLOSED.

Competition closes Wednesday 10 September 2014 (now closed)- winner chosen by random number generator and notified via email (winner has been notified).


I pattern test. I’ve always been quite clear about that.
I completely understand & respect that some people have issues with the process.
Here’s my take on me doing pattern testing… I simply wanted to say a few things about the subject (kinda why I blog LOL).
I’m OK with doing pattern testing, I once edited craft patterns – making, editing and writing is a passion for me, personally and once-upon-a-time professionally. Yes it involves receiving a pattern – it’s hard to test without one. Pattern testing sits comfortably with me. I enjoy it – even with deadlines and changing details.
Sew Busy Lizzy is about me (whoa – self-centred moment). I sew and blog about sewing because I love it – it really is that simple. I started sewing because I needed some ‘happy’ in my life at a very difficult time. Blogging came next as I had no one to talk to IRL about sewing (I started talking to myself in this space and people started reading and talking back – no strategy at all).
I have a fulltime career and this is my ‘yoga’. It doesn’t mean I’m not serious about my sewing – in fact I’m very OTT about my sewing!
Yes, I sometimes receive patterns and I blog for Mood Fabrics (still pinching myself about that one), I disclose these things. I pass patterns, fabric etc onto my followers when I can.
That’s the plain, simple, unadorned truth. If you think otherwise, chuck me on a lie detector and prepare to be disappointed. I’m really that dull. Sorry about that.
I’m just here for the sewing 🙂

Heavens, that’s probably going to ignite a debate here or elsewhere but seriously people, I just like to sew…

… on a lighter note… and here’s one for Banjo’s loyal followers… yes, my blog photos are most often taken on our family outings when walking – or running with – the adorable little hound known as Banjo.

Banjo hot on my heels...

Banjo hot on my heels…

You can meet Holly the Third tomorrow 🙂 I promise…

FLORA Nightshade, By Hand London – the PM edition

Hello Flora Nightshade, the new By Hand London dress pattern – and some amazing fabric courtesy of Tessuti Fabrics (thank you very much!). Colette at Tessuti sent me images of a range of options – and I just immediately fell in love with this strong & striking blue/black classic print.

It’s an amazing cotton sateen with a satin finish… and I just adore black and blue together, possibly my all-time favourite combination.

While predominantly dark, the repeat does have a small amount of white – I chose to use this in the bodice and keep the skirt dark and dramatic.

BY Hand London Flora Dress - wrap bodice version

Do I take my shoes off at every opportunity? ummm… yes… oh course I trimmed just that little too much off the lining hem and now need to attach some bias tape to the hem to hide the reverse of the fabric. SewIdiotLizzy

BY Hand London Flora Dress - wrap bodice version

Back view – I moved the zip to the underarm so I didn’t have to break up that lovely print

BY Hand London Flora Dress - wrap bodice version

Just proving that sometimes I do wear shoes…

By Hand London Flora Dress - wrap bodice version

Just love this shot – even if it is blown out. It’s so soft in comparison to the other images

Pattern Modifications

  • I lined the skirt
  • I added elastic to the warp bodice edges
  • I moved the zip to the underarm so I didn’t disrupt that beautiful pattern.

Hem Alert

Please be aware that I am not particularly tall. People are often (politely) surprised when they meet me. I’m a very unimpressive 5 foot 4. I make the smallest size in By Hand London patterns (US 2 / UK 6). So I’m not just short but also have a very small frame – yes, at some point I forgot to grow in all directions – sorry about that. This skirt is quite short at the front. If you are a leggier lass than me, you might like to consider that when cutting your fabric.

Fabric Choices

I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again… you need WIDE fabric. This fabric was certainly wide enough… except the pattern repeat wasn’t quite centred… so it was either have an off-kilter pattern repeat… which would have been terribly obvious in such a strong and striking print… or centre the print and find a solution.

I was bamboozled for a while… rather than decrease the volume of the skirt, I cut as much of the skirt pieces as I could – which left a triangular wedge at each side of the dress. This needed to be filled – so I cut wedges from the remaining fabric and sewed them into the side of the skirt… see if you can spot them in the above photos!

Even I find the wedges hard to spot – one is directly below my hand in the side shot above.

The wrap bodice

I was concerned about the slight bodice gaping with the Flora AM version.

After some investigation I tried something new *faints*.

I studied Couture Sewing Techniques: Revised and Updated by Claire Shaeffer and came across a technique to prevent necklines from gaping using elastic.

While Shaeffer has you create a tunnel with herringbone stitches along the inside of the neckline which you then thread the elastic through, I was bamboozled as to whether these were in the inside or outside of the lining.

In the end I created my own little technique – well at least I haven’t seen it elsewhere.
After attaching the lining to the front wrap pieces, I then understitched the lining. Then I sewed another line of stitching in the seam allowance, in effect creating a tunnel running alongside the line of understitching. I threaded some narrow flat elastic through this. I secured the top end in the seam allowance. I let the elastic relax and then gently pulled about an inch out at the bottom end and secured it to the seam allowance.

This is no way gathers up the wrap edge but does create a slight tension which helps the bodice sit more firmly against your chest.

Do not gather the elastic up excessively or you will end up with a puckered bodice edge. I dunno that might be the look you are after – but I dare say not.

I don’t think this is a solution if the neckline is gaping massively – it just helps it sit firmer against your chest. I did find taking in the back by straightening up the centre back seam helped the front bodice fit enormously.

Is that clear enough? Or do you need pictures?

Pattern: Flora, By Hand London
Fabric: Cotton Sateen with a satin finish, Tessuti Fabrics

Also see: Dolly Clackett | Gingermakes | Jolies Bobines | Diary of a Chainstitcher | A Stitching Odyssey | Dixie DIY | Nette | Lladybird | Zo Sews

I took this for you Little Stone Cottage

Lighthouse Beach, Port Macquarie

Lighthouse Beach, Port Macquarie

and this one is for you Begonia Sews


Kookaburra… this one is for your Begonia Sews!