Thursday, August 2, 2018

Pattern Review - Merchant & Mills Francine Top

Francine is a top & dress pattern from British company Merchant & Mills' recently released Denim Collection. It's a stylish and simple take on a workwear style, 'inspired by the fishermen of Brittany'.

For the purposes of a true-to-the-pattern shop sample I made a size 12 top with no alterations. 

This size was chosen based on my previous experience with Merchant & Mills patterns, but my measurements would put me in a size 14. Not all Merchant & Mills patterns are quite so generous in ease, as I discovered! If I was making this specifically for my own wearing I'd have made a muslin first, so please bear in mind the fit comments below are not intended as criticisms of the pattern, but as observations that may be helpful to others who make it.

The process

I find Merchant & Mills instructions to be quite good, but often a bit different to methods I'm used to. I don't mind this, and quite enjoy surrendering to the process, trusting in the instructions and usually learning along the way.

For example, the front neckline slit is staystitched on the bodice and facing separately, then each is snipped open, and the two not joined together until somewhat later. You get to sew the front collar edges and neckline slit all in one smooth line which is quite satisfying.

The collar is attached to facing and bodice necklines separately and you end up with a bunch of seam allowances pressed open and kind of floating about loose inside the collar edge. It seems fine for now but I do wonder how this would go through wash and wear. Might the seam allowances decide to move around and maybe fold the wrong way and make lumps? Hmmm.

A quirky feature of the Francine is the option to place the pocket on the outside or the inside. I didn't notice until I read the instructions, but the garment on the pattern cover has the pocket sewn on the inside. Perhaps this is a traditional 'fishermen of Brittany' feature but honestly I just find it a bit weird so I opted for an outside pocket!

There's a lot of satisfying topstitching on this pattern and as per when I sewed my jeans, I set up a second machine for this because it requires special thread, needle and tension and it's done at many different stages of construction. It makes a relatively simple top take a bit longer to sew but the extra detail is what makes it special.

Everything came together nicely. There's minimal ease in the sleeve head, although it appears there's a bit at first because of the generous seam allowance.

I recommend pinning as close as possible to the actual stitching line, and having the sleeve side down towards the feed dogs of your machine as you sew, to help ease the curves together.

I'm not sure that I've really mastered the split side hem on any garment yet. I found the end result difficult to visualise so again just walked through the steps as instructed and it worked well enough. I added extra topstitching and then, later, a bartack along the top of the split because it looked to me like it needed a bit of reinforcement.

The fit

I'm used to Merchant & Mills patterns being on the generous side for fit so it came as a bit of a surprise to me that the Francine was quite snug across the bust, with a feeling of pulling my shoulders forward. (It has no darts so perhaps not so surprising really.) As mentioned above, my size per measurements is really a 14 so this would have provided me with more breathing room. However the shoulder width in the 12 fits me, so I would choose to do an FBA on this size.

Without an FBA the top rides up in front. Once corrected, it's possible I still might want this top a little bit longer. I like the length but this girl needs to move without flashing her belly.

These are certainly long enough. The shoulder sits nicely when my arms are by my sides. However, if I raise my arms the entire garment lifts... a lot. It's another case of high sleeve head and sleeve fitted in at a sharp angle, such as I experienced with the Papercut Patterns Skipper Tunic. I'm not sure if this is specific to my body shape, but for me at least, I will redraw the armscye and sleeve head from a favourite fitting pattern (Deer and Doe Aubepine) to give myself freedom of movement without indecent exposure!
poor quality photo for the sake of sewing information!

I find the top a little bit of a struggle to extract myself from, around the shoulder area. Possibly an FBA will also help with this. Overall there seems to be significantly less wearing ease in this pattern than the other two Merchant & Mills dress patterns I've made (Factory Dress and now out of print Union Dress). I expected that the fit might be a bit like the Top 64 (I've tried on our shop sample size 12) which is also quite generous on me. However it's much more of a shirt-like fit than an overshirt, and it's a fair bit shorter.
perhaps one day I will learn how to adjust something without a waist seam to fix that pooling in the back


Merchant & Mills Francine Top (& Dress)

100% cotton Japanese Denim, 'Schist', 1.65m x 110cm wide (as usual with M&M patterns I found the fabric allowance accurate and pleasingly non-wasteful).


None for this sample, would add bust dart and change sleeve head/armscye for personal fit.

A very appealing style, more fitted and shirt-like than I was expecting. Versatile, because it works well in denim weight but I can also imagine it in a light cotton or linen with short sleeves - and also as a dress - for summer. Measure yourself carefully and if in doubt, make a muslin!

- Jane & Fiona xx

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