Anna Dress Sprout Hack

Today’s guest blogger is Kelly, Director of Engineering over at Spoonflower. She also writes a blog where she focuses on sewing, weaving and reading. It’s called Dress Insouciantly – check it out!


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We’ve all had this moment before: It’s late at night and you got carried away working on a project when you realize you’re missing an essential element. But of course, the craft store is closed. Why oh why can’t craft stores be open at reasonable times? Say, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week? Sadly, I found myself in this position just last week.

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I’ve been eyeing By Hand London’s Anna dress ever since Sprout Patterns listed it. It looks elegant without being fussy, and can serve as both casual day dress or evening wear depending on what fabric you choose. With a birthday coming up, I decided now was the time, and designed the dress with a beautiful floral design called Winter Garden Antique from Ceciliamok. I chose the poly crepe de chine fabric because I love the light feeling it has and I really wanted that draped effect the slash-necked bodice has.

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As life so often goes, time caught up with me, and it was the night before my birthday party before I really got down to business and started sewing. I wasn’t worried though, this pattern is beautiful in its simplicity. The use of pleats in the bodice, instead of darts, makes it very easy to fit. And the long straight sides of the skirt are a breeze! And then, of course, I get to the very last step: the zipper. But wait, where is my zipper? I know I put it around here somewhere…

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Long story short, I had no 22inch zipper; what I did have was a 7-9 inch zipper. It was nearly midnight, there were no craft stores open anywhere. And yet, I was determined to wear this dress tomorrow, what could I do?

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Eventually, I realized that the zipper is really only needed for the narrowest part of the waist. Because the dress uses kimono sleeves instead of inset ones, and the bodice pleats encourage a relaxed fit and gathered look, the back of the dress isn’t actually supporting any structure. As long as the back of the neck is connected, the zipper really only needs to go as high as the bodice pleats. I decided that it would be completely possible to still finish the dress and create an open back feature.

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I set my 9inch zipper in the back seam so that the bottom of the zipper met the marks in the pattern and the top of it reached just past the bodice darts. Then I drew a gentle curve on the remaining section of each piece of the back bodice and cut away a little bit more than an inch of fabric. I hemmed these pieces with a double fold, making sure to catch the back facing in for a clean finish. I attached a button to the top of one back piece, and a loop of elastic thread to the other. Voila! I now have a key-hole back on my Anna dress!

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I am very pleased with how this dress turned out. I’m even happy I forgot to get a zipper of the right length; because of that mistake I ended up with a unique dress with an interesting feature. I feel like there are plenty of open back styles that would still work with the Anna dress pattern. You could add cross pieces, or cut the key-hole in a different shape, or don’t cut it out at all and let the pieces overlap each other for a more subtle look. With a little bit of extra scrap fabric you could create a draped cowl. Or you could add a large sculptural button for a statement piece… With so many ideas I’m going to have to save up to buy another Sprout dress again!