Anzy's Anthea Blouse

Hi, I’m Anzy (@anzymillblenk on Instagram), and I’m delighted to write about my Anna Allen Anthea dress with this wonderful Navy Tencel Twill, with added smocking on the sleeves!

Anzy in her Anthea DressAnzy in her Anthea Dress

Firstly though, I just wanted to show you the great labels that come with the fabric from The Sewist Fabric shop – very handy to have all these details! And its so important to me that the packaging is all recyclable or compostable and I can say that this is true from The Sewist Fabric shop, which is fantastic.

Fabric tag from The Sewist Fabric Shop

I absolutely love Tencel twill – it's so beautifully drapey and has a wonderful shimmer to it, but also is weighty enough to make so many garments: trousers, jackets, blouses, dresses…. to name a few! I decided that with this fabric I wanted to make a dress, and thought something with some Big Sleeve Energy (I think Elisalex coined this term from By Hand London- thank you!) would work wonders for the drapiness of the fabric. I also decided that I wanted to make more of the sleeves and try out for the first time some smocking, and I’m so glad I did, as I absolutely love the effect on the smocked cuffs!


Construction notes:

The Anna Allen Anthea Blouse and Dress is drafted from 31 to 48 inch bust, for a 5ft5 person with B/C cup. It is dartless and features a full button placket, bias bound neckline, and two options of puffed sleeves – one slightly shorter than the other, both with a bias bound cuff.

Anna Allen Anthea Blouse and Dress Line Drawing

I have the following measurements: Bust 33inc, Waist 26inc, Hip36inc, Height 5ft3, and I made the size 2 in this pattern, with the only adjustments of lengthen the sleeves, and adding pockets (pockets are essential to me!). To length the sleeves I did this on the shorten/lengthen line to maintain the curved end shape of the sleeve, as I decided that it created a lovely cuff shape underneath the smocking.

The first step in the pattern is to staystitch the neckline. I recently have been using Form Tape interfacing instead of stay stitching – see this wonderful blog from Guthrie and Ghani, as I find it much easier, and also I find the finish is better as sometimes I find I can stretch out a neckline when I am stay stitching.  However, I had run out of this, so thought maybe I could do a bodge job using normal seam tape interfacing (the difference between seam tape interfacing and form tape interfacing is that form tape is cut on the bias and so can easily curve around neckline curves while seam tape is not, and so cannot curve at all). So I cut little segments of the seam tape interfacing and made a makeshift curve, ironed this on, then did a line of normal staystiches on top. Worked perfectly and my neckline did not stretch out! Looking back at it, the better way to do this would be to cut some bias strips from my stash of interfacing – that would have been able to curve around the neckline just like the form tape interfacing.

I also used my seam tape interfacing when adding some in seam pockets. I followed this lovely tutorial from Tilly and the Buttons, but as I had decided to use french seams everywhere to make pretty insides, I also used this tutorial from In The Folds on how to do french seams with in-seam pockets.

When it came around to doing the button holes, I tested many times on a scrap part of the fabric, then once I was happy with the settings, I started with the buttonhole at the bottom of the dress. I like to start at the bottom and work up, as the top buttonholes are the ones that are seen most and are most obvious so I want to do as much practice as possible before I get to those ones!

Smocking fun!

I love Instagram for all the wonderful inspiration I get from seeing what everybody makes, and also how they hack and change patterns in so many wonderful ways! I absolutely loved the pin-tucked version of the Anthea sleeves by @vivianshaochen, and also the shirring version by Hannah @newcrafthouse. But I decided to have a go smocking after seeing this wonderful top by @themakersatelier. I played around with the size and placement of the smocking details, but decided in the end with 3 rows ­­near the end of the sleeve to create a lovely cuffed detail. I drew the ½ inch squares on using chalk and then hand-sewed the pleats together for each row – creating a lovely effect by staggering the pleats on the next row. The below diagram illustrates how the pleats are made – the red curves highlight which corners are brought together to create the effect.

Final thoughts!

I love the end result of this dress – the smocking details just makes me smile and makes this dress so special! The dress feels luxurious in this wonderful Tencel twill too - it’s so soft and silky! I can see myself wearing this to parties but also just in the house or going out and about – it’s definitely going to get a lot of wear!


You can find Anzy on Instagram @anzymillblenk.


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