By Hand London: Sophia Dress

You may have spotted our red bombshell of a dress in our window or on Instagram with the sunlight popping off the white print, wondering when Ray Stitch went sexy for a moment...

By Hand London Sophia: Ray Stitch

We were testing out By Hand London's Sophia dress, alongside our Holly dress hack and Victoria blazer and think that it's just one showstopper of a dress that we had to use that red lawn. Lightweight lawn works stunni for summer dresses that need a bit of fullness yet shouldn't be too heavy (swishing would be way too tiring if it was heavy). The Temple Outline print was scaled small enough that for the godets it wouldn't seem too weird to be upside down (godets = bias cut triangles, with the pattern piece flipped over to use the least amount of fabric), and it adds a bit of quirk to a standard red dress.

So the fabric was great to work with and suits the dress shape really nicely. We would recommend to fully line the fitted sheath dress if you were to go for that - perhaps the fabric is slightly too translucent for something close-fitting, and a more substantial weight of fabric would suit the contours of this style. As with the Holly hack, there were some small niggles with the instruction and the pattern markings that made the making up just that little bit harder, but overall it was a straightforward make taking around 9 hours from cutting out to final pressing.

By Hand London Sophia: Ray Stitch

Firstly, the suggestion By Hand make of stabilising armhole and neckline edges with a basting stitch always seems a bit of a waste of time, and potentially more problematic if you accidentally stretch the edges as you sew, or the tension makes it gather. When it came to the collar, the instruction gives the tip of interfacing if you're using a lightweight fabric, and I felt with lawn that the collar would sit better with a bit of weight. I fused only the under collar with the thinking that it would sit flatter, whilst the top collar could still roll (the pattern piece size difference allows for this roll), though I realised when constructing that I should have fused the top collar rather than the under collar (or fused both pieces) because the allowance for some reason ended up making the top collar ripple with excess. I had to make the top collar the under collar instead in order to hide the rippling. I also felt like there should have been marked notches for where the collar was supposed to end at the front and back bodice, as opposed to the instruction solely saying, "it is designed to start approximately 15mm from the centre front seam..." - surely a pattern notch would just be more straightforward. As I found with the Holly, the shoulder seams didn't match in length and so I had to cut off the excess seam allowance when bagging out the bodice.

By Hand London Sophia: Ray Stitch Sewing the lining to the bodice / understitching the lining to the main body seam allowance / mysterious baggy lining on one side


Just as a tip, if like me you get sick of checking if the bodice piece you're holding has two armhole notches or not, chalk F or B on your piece. The bodice pieces are so similar that I had to triple (maybe quadruple) check what I was doing. The sewing up of the lining and bodice in one fell swoop was genius, and nice diagram in the booklet too! I do believe that By Hand are very good with their technical drawings, though as explanatory as the diagrams can be (perhaps moreso than written text) the lack of clear pattern markings can void any goodness here. When it came to assembling the skirt with godet pieces, it really took a lot of playing around to work out exactly where I should pin the piece up to - the pattern markings weren't clear about what notch was for what, nor were the text instructions for this part helpful ("place a godet panel face down, aligning the notches"). It really is a tricky sewing part and time should be allowed to get it right. When you get one godet in and it looks good, you wonder (or, at least I did) how it was possible to work so well when the wrong side looked so messy. Then you just have another 6 to do... they should be a doddle however - practice makes perfect. A tip here is to be careful to pin accurately and sew slowly so that you're not stretching the godet piece - as it has been cut on the bias, you don't want to make it wonky or stretch.

By Hand London Sophia: Ray Stitch Sewing the skirt main panels together / successful godet seen from the wrong side / godets seen from the right side


The invisible zip is an invisible zip... nothing really fancy to talk about here. I would just say to make sure to get the very top of the zip right up in the main/lining so that it's flush when you zip up. I never seem to get the waist seams matched first time (in fact, it took me three attempts with this one) so that's something to watch for if you're also one of those flooky zip-inserters. And then finally, the hem. I did heed By Hand's advice here to baste stitch around the entire hem before double rolling as I always struggle in not adding excess as I'm going round pressing. Annoyingly though, my stitch length gathered the fabric and I had to spend a while de-gathering before I could press. I think overall it did help with the hem rolling though, so if you don't have a roll hem foot, stitching half of your seam allowance in first is quite a good tip.

By Hand London Sophia: Ray Stitch

That was a fairly lengthy review... hopefully it will have given you some insight if you haven't yet tackled Sophia or any other By Hand pattern. As the finished result was pretty stunning, and the make was straightforward enough, we decided to put on a class to make either style of Sophia. There were some tricky bits that I think having someone around to aide you would be constructive; someone to give you confidence in order to go at it yourself the next time around. We also just believe in the influence that sitting with likeminded people can have on your sewing spirit, and so quite intense classes like this are likely to boost your confidence and probably knowledge too - it is nice to have some quiet sewing time, but nicer still to have people to bounce ideas off.

By Hand London Sophia: Ray Stitch

If you fancy having a go, check out the class details and book online or give us a call. You will need 3 metres for the sheath or 5.2 metres for the full dress (I managed to cut ours in 4.9m for a 10 but I'm pretty stingy and doesn't cover bigger sizes so just be careful not to underestimate how much you'll need), but taking a class with us gives you 10% off in our shop, which we think is rather nice. The class will include the now antique paper pattern and guidance from our talented teachers, as well as maybe some tea or wine to get you through the evening sessions.


Words by Steph.