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BHL x Sprout Patterns: A print, cut & sew Anna Dress!

Believe it or not (but do, because it's true), I made this Anna dress in under three hours. Start to finish, cutting and sewing: one evening's work. Admittedly, that's a full on machine stitched hem, but you get my drift. The secret to my swiftness? Sprout Patterns.

Sprout Patterns is basically the sewist little sister of US custom fabric printing giant, Spoonflower, and they've taken the concept of custom printing to the next level. With Sprout, you choose the sewing pattern you want to make, select your size and then you choose your fabric from Spoonflower's vast library of designs (or upload your very own fabric design of course!), and hey presto - you get your pattern pieces printed directly onto your fabric and all that's left for you to do is cut and sew. It's that simple. 

Psssst! The lovely team at Sprout HQ are offering you guys 20% off all By Hand London designs available on Sprout from today until Wednesday 16th March 2016. Simply enter the code BHLLOVE at checkout.

The not so simple part, however, was settling on one final fabric design from so many amazing possibilities! But actually, that was also part of the fun - once you've chosen your project - and there's loads of sewing patterns on offer from designers like Grainline, Colette, Named, and yours truly, with more being added all the time - you get to play with their 3D design selection page! A lot like Cher Horowitz's infamous computerised outfit selector, Sprout lets you rack up a bunch of potential fabric designs, compare how they'll look on a 3D, fully rotatable model of your chosen project, and play around with the pattern placement to get the best out of your print.

I managed to narrow it down to a final six before calling upon the people of Instagram to help me make my final decision...


I eventually settled on the handpainted polka dot print in a drapey poly crepe de chine, but that doesn't mean that I don't still have eyes for the other five runners up...

A couple of weeks later (transatlantic shipping not always being the speediest, but I was prepared for that) my package arrived and I got to work. 

You guys, when I say it's literally as simple as cut and sew, it really is that - each pattern piece is clearly outlined and labelled, all notches marked. All you have to do is get cutting. No tracing, no tricky pattern placement. And thanks to their handy tip about pinning the labels to the pattern pieces as you cut (totally obvious thinking about it now, although it certainly hadn't occurred to me in the moment!), keeping track of Anna's multiple skirt panels was a breeze.

The only thing that stumped me for a moment was that the tops of the pleats and darts weren't marked on the fabric - for obvious reasons of not wanting to leave any visible markings on the finished garment. When you buy from Sprout, as well as getting your fabric, you also get the original PDF pattern and instructions, and a note reminding you to transfer markings like darts from the original pattern itself.

I, however, in a moment of inspired laziness, decided to take this opportunity to try out a bodice construction hack that I've wanted to do for a while - instead of sewing the double pleats at the bodice, I assembled them as unstitched double knife pleats, and I think that the soft, drapey-ness of the crepe allows this method of construction to work perfectly.

The rest of the sewing process went without a hitch and before I knew it, I had a brand new Anna Dress! 

As well as the Anna Dress, you can also find the Victoria Blazer on our Sprout shop, with the Zeena Dress joining the crew by the end of this week, and the Sarah Shirt coming soon. Seeing as you obviously can't perform complex pattern alterations such as full bust adjustments directly onto the fabric, we decided that our more fitted patterns probably wouldn't work so well in cut & sew format, which is why you'll only find our more easy-going designs on Sprout.

Don't forget, you have until Wednesday 16th March 2016 to make use of your exclusive 20% discount on all BHL designs available on Sprout! Simply enter BHLLOVE at checkout.

Comments on this post (7)

  • Mar 22, 2016

    What a genius idea. I AM EXCITED!!!! Gorgeous dress too…thanks for bringing Sprout to my attention!

    — HP

  • Mar 14, 2016

    Hi drP! The fabric pressed fine, considering it’s polyester! You can expect the fabrics from Sprout to press and handle just like they would if you were buying them from a regular fabric store. Yes, seam allowances are included – it’s simply a case of cutting around the lines and sewing as normal! As I mentioned in the post, there is pretty much no scope for pattern altering (except for say, adding in a little dart to fix a gapey neckline for example), which is why we’ve not provided Sprout with our more fitted designs. With the nature of cut & sew being very convenience and speed of completion oriented, I think that it’s the simpler, more immediately gratifying projects that work best with the Sprout concept as opposed to the more slow burning, technical and fitted garments. I hope this answers your question! ~Elisalex

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Mar 14, 2016

    Is there any scope for fitting? Is the seam allowance printed?
    I was also wondering about the prewashing/shrinkage.

    Does the fabric press well?

    — drP

  • Mar 14, 2016

    Hi Kati, regarding pre-washing… this is definitely one of the (few) downsides of the print, cut & sew – that and the not being able to fit and alter a pattern. When you’re on the Sprout website, you can click through to find out more about each fabric they offer, including shrinkage. Indeed, I’m not expecting any changes with the polyester, and I’ve yet to try their natural fabrics (although my next Sprout project will definitely be with natural fabric), but from what I’ve seen it’s only like 2% or so, so I’m not super worried! Hope this helps, and keep a lookout here for more Sprout x BHL reports! ~Elisalex

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Mar 10, 2016

    Oh, I guess shrinkage is a non-issue with poly crepe-de-chine but do you know how they manage with cottons?

    — Kati

  • Mar 10, 2016

    This is gorgeous! I’m curious about something: is the fabric pre-washed? Or how does one deal with possible shrinkage?

    — Kati

  • Mar 09, 2016

    Lovely and gorgeous as usual!

    — Caroline

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