Turns out making a dress by hand isn't the major undertaking I thought it might be. The patterns from the Alabama Chanin books are based on very simple shapes - my dress is four pieces and some bias strips - which undoubtedly helps. The instructions they give on how to go about it are clear and straightforward, and because you are working with knit fabric, the edges don't have to be finished. So, just like that (or so it feels) I have a dress. Furthermore I have a dress that fits okay and didn't fall to pieces the first time I moved in it.
The seams are sewn with a running stitch and then felled, the binding strips that encase the neckline and armholes are sewn with Cretan stitch. My stitches could be more even: I found especially when felling the seams and sewing through 3 layers that I had to keep checking both sides, or one would look okay but the stitches would hardly make it through on the other. But this is my first go and I'm pretty happy. I was even prepared to have my photo taken wearing it but I had to enlist help with this and didn't think to check what else was going on in the picture, so I've had to crop more than I'd like (in real life I have hands, and feet, and a head). Oh, and I had wet hair, so those are drip marks on my front. You can see what a beautifully organised, well thought out life I am leading.
I'm definitely go to have another go at this.