Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Merchant & Mills: The Trapeze Dress


When we first started stocking Merchant & Mills patterns, they told us that the Trapeze Dress was their biggest seller. Blinded by the goodness of some of the other M&M dresses like the Factory and Dress Shirt, we were resistant to the allure of the Trapeze until a customer came in wearing one she made out of a heavy, drapey denim. It looked fantastic. Finally, the penny dropped - we got it!

I've since made this pattern up twice. The first version, in black washed linen (above, black linen currently out of stock), has become one of my most reached-for handmades. It's easy to wear and layers up well on cooler days. The Trapeze is also a great one to wear out for dinner: there's a lot of volume in that there skirt - second helpings are no problem! I could smuggle my smallest child under there if the need ever arose. 

Hence my second version, a party Trapeze, made from Tsumiki black & metallic gold linen. (Black also sold out, but natural and gold available here).

This is a straightforward pattern to sew with no fastenings and little to no fitting required, making it a beginner-friendly project. I found that the sizing ran fairly large, plus it's a loose-fitting garment, so I went down one size from what my measurements suggested. 

The sleeveless version has a substantial facing which covers both neck and arm, and the method of attaching it to your main dress is one that was new to me. There's a little fabric twisting and some awkward sewing involved - but it really is one of those situations where you just trust in the pattern and forge ahead. The pattern instructions advise that the technique seems "twisted and weird", but it does indeed work. The facing gives the garment some nice structure (handy if you're using fabric with a heavy drape), and some nice clean lines so it is worth it. The sleeved version (on the pattern cover) has a facing on the neckine only.

For my second version I was short on fabric, so I left out the facing and simply bias bound the neck and arm openings. This worked a treat too. If you decide to go down this path bear in mind that the seam allowance is a nice healthy 15mm, so you'll need to trim down your arm and neck openings to account for that - also so you can get it over your head. ;)

Suggested fabric
Any fabric with good drape would make a great Trapeze. Any of our washed linens would be super. Merchant and Mills also suggest woven wools or chambrays. We think it might work in rayon too, for the ultimate breezy light summer dress.

The Trapeze Pattern is on our website here.

Happy summer sewing!
- Fiona & Jane xx

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Merchant & Mills All State shirt in Washed Linen

Merchant & Mills, who produce some of our best-selling women's patterns, have recently released three patterns for men. The Merchant & Mills style of casual elegance - understated and slightly rumpled yet distinctly tailored - translates well into these garments.

I was quietly excited when I saw the All State shirt. My husband has a chequered history of wearing my handmades. He's very particular. But could this be the breakthrough? What's not to like?

My cunning plan was to make a 'sample for the shop' that just happened to be in Andy's size and choice of fabric. So here I present, The (no pressure at all, really) Shop's Shirt.

 And, maybe not The Shop's Shirt after all.
 I'm not sure if I've ever made a garment so true to the pattern cover image.
There's lots of nice topstitching, although in matching thread it is quite subtle on this substantial linen.
The pattern came together nicely, with some nifty bits like mitred corners inside the front hem and simple but clever side splits. 
Sometimes I'd like a little bit more hand-holding from the slightly sparse Merchant & Mills pattern instructions. They have some quaint wording such as 'on a big stitch' (baste), and when they instruct to 'organise yoke and topstitch' I have visions of blowing a whistle Captain Von Trapp-style and having the fabric fall obediently into line. In any case, the garments always turn out well in the end.
 My very special thanks go to Andy for being such a good sport and modeling this (shop?) shirt for us. He may not have an enormous vice like the guy on the pattern packet...
... but he has a loyal greyhound, which is surely just as good.

Merchant & Mills All State Shirt

Washed linen in Indigo (there is a very small amount of this left at time of writing), 1.6m **NB: fabric requirements stated 1.45m and after cutting this, I did not have quite enough. On close inspection the pattern layout in the instructions allows for only one back yoke piece when in fact you need two. The inner yoke could of course be from a different fabric but if you want self-fabric then allow an extra 15cm above stated pattern requirements.**

Gutermann cotton thread, cotton woven fusible interfacing, corozo (tagua nut) buttons, available in store.

42 (very true to size, very tall men will probably wish to lengthen)

I really like the look of this shirt and it is reportedly very comfortable. 
Please note the fabric requirements as per above!
This would be a good pattern for advnaced beginner and upwards. Especially good as a first men's shirt project, given that it has just a one-piece collar and no plackets or cuffs. An achievable project with a very professional-looking finish.

- Jane & Fiona xx

PS if you see this shirt hanging in the shop, well... just tell me how nice it looks.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas gifts for the sewist: Boundless Style by Kristiann Boos of Victory Patterns

This year we're turning the gift-giving attention to the sewists. Perfect for sewing friends and relations, or for you to use as gentle hints to your nearest and dearest!

Just in is this beautiful new book, Boundless Style by Canadian Kristiann Boos of Victory Patterns. It's a treasure trove of patterns and sewing information.

At its heart is a collection of bodice and skirt patterns that can be combined to make a practically endless variety of women's garments. But more than that, this book has a wealth of information set out with excellent clear diagrams and photos.

It's a fabulous resource for the beginner or intermediate sewist. More experienced garment makers will appreciate the creative freedom to create the dresses, skirts and tops of their dreams.

On the Victory Patterns website there's brilliant little mix'n'match style creator where you can swap around Boundless Style's sleeve, bodice and skirt line drawings to create your own perfect dress.

Boundless Style by Kristiann Boos is available in-store now for $39.99.

- Jane & Fiona xx

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Pattern review: Marilla Walker Roberts Collection Jumpsuit

Summer is certainly here and like us you may be looking for clothing that is loose and cool. Allow us to introduce (if you haven't already met), the Roberts Collection by UK designer Marilla Walker. It's only available as a pdf downloadable pattern at the moment (follow link above to her Etsy shop), which means a lot of printing and stickytaping together. But I'm here to tell you it's well worth it!
What's more you get four distinctly different versions, and one not-so-different which is just a longer version of the dress. I want to make them all! But first up was View A. Yes, a jumpsuit... gasp.

This is actually my wearable muslin. Since the pattern takes 2.5m of 150cm wide fabric, it was a lot to risk on something that may not fit or even suit me. So I made up a straight size 4, which best met my measurements, in ordinary calico. And then since it fit so well I went ahead with the second part of my plan which was to dye it into something wearable.
I love the back seam details.
The colour was a haphazard mix of half a pack of turquoise, half a pack of denim blue and half a pack of black Rit dyes I had in the cupboard at home, boiled up on the stove according to directions. The mottling was unintentional but I like it.
The calico is not very strong and I'm not sure how long this garment will last but I'm going to thrash it while it does. Meanwhile I have another one immediately in the works in our amazing 'Settee' washed linen.
Other fabrics we think would work nicely include any other of our washed or heavier linens, for example this mid-weight charcoal:
these cotton/linen crossweaves:
this cotton crossweave which we have in five colours:
and this new mid-weight chambray:
Honestly the more we look around the shop the more we find that would be awesome in the various versions of this pattern.

The details:

PATTERN: Marilla Walker 'Roberts Collection' jumpsuit (View A)

FABRIC: home-dyed calico

SIZE: 4 (pattern goes from sizes 1 - 8, fitting bust 31 - 49 inches, hips 34 - 51 inches)

ALTERATIONS: None, the measurements given seem very accurate and the loose fit is forgiving.

  • The pattern came together really well and the instructions were great. Perhaps not a project for the complete beginner but anyone with a little experience should have no troubles. 
  • Marilla has you fell almost all the seams which makes for an attractive and strong finish, and she shows three different ways to achieve this. 
  • The neckline and button placket facing is all-in-one and topstitched down which makes for a great, neat finish with no annoying flappy facings. 
  • I would recommend sewing this jumpsuit with a polyester thread for strength. I used cotton in order to be able to dye it later and have already had to make a small repair to a 'stressed' seam.
  • I'm only 5'3" (163cm) and I think this fits me pretty well, so tall people may want to add length at the 'lengthen/shorten' lines which are clearly marked.
  • It's remarkably easy to iron since the whole garment lies more-or-less flat, and has the aforementioned topstitched facings. I find easy-to-iron garments have a much higher rotation in my wardrobe!
  • It's very bicycle-riding-friendly, hooray.
Love, love this pattern. Highly recommended! You might like to also check out Marilla's blog which has some lovely projects and information about her other patterns, too.

- Jane & Fiona xx

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Lotta Jansdotter's Esme Tunic from Everyday Style

Frocktober may be done and dusted but we are still sewing the frocks (all in the name of pattern research, heheh). Aaand, if it happens to be simple frocks with uncluttered lines you're after then this newly released book, "Handmade Style" by Lotta Jansdotter may be exactly what you've been looking for. I'm a long time fan of Lotta's, so it's no surprise that I've found this book super inspiring. It's aimed at beginner garment sewers, but we think that more experienced sewists will quite possibly find a good go-to pattern or two in here as well. All patterns are full sized in the back of the book and the size range is (a standard, but somewhat limited we think): 32" - 43" bust / 24.5"-34" waist / 35.5" - 45" hips.


Lotta admits that she had never sewn her own clothes prior to writing this book. She's designed the garments here and the patterns have been expertly drafted by the talented Alexia Abegg (Green Bee Patterns/Cotton & Steel). There are 5 main garment patterns: a pair of pants/shorts, two dresses/tops, a skirt and a jacket - each with numerous variations. There are a number of bag patterns and some general crafty ideas in here too, plus Lotta features little stories about her friends and family, who she's photographed wearing the clothes. All of which makes quite a lovely read!

My first make from the book was the Esme Tunic: a slightly a-line tunic dress with bust darts and three quarter sleeves. It's a quick sew, and the result is, frankly, something I could probably wear every day in a bunch of different fabrics and call it a uniform (apologies if I gusheth too much here...) The only minor difficulty I had was that there seems to be a fair bit of ease in the sleeve cap - it took a bit of faffing about to get it to go in without any gathers. You can see the extra fabric when I lift my arms (like in the photo of the back of the dress, below).

The facing is (pleasingly!) stitched down, so no annoying flipping up or bunching! This Esme was made from this Nani Iro "Freestyle" double gauze.

From the side...

... and the back. As a guide to length, I'm 167cm tall. I added 30cm to the tunic length for my muslin, then cut it off, then freaked out when I made this because it felt too short so added a facing to the hem instead of the usual double-turn. I'll live with it.

 This was the wearable muslin version - a shirt Esme made from some Merchant & Mills cotton.

We are currently out of stock of Everyday Style, but are expecting a new delivery any day, so it's available to pre-order here. If you're looking to make something like this - and fast, the Esme is remarkably similar to the Green Bee Pearl Dress, which can be also found right here.

- Fiona & Jane xx

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Frocktober: the Sylvie Dress by Christine Haynes

Well this may be our last official Frocktober frock post for 2015 but rest assured, the frocks don't stop here! Frocktober has had us thinking all the frocks, all the time and we will do our best to keep the inspiration flowing.
We've been very pleased with the support of our Frocktober fundraising and awareness for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. Thanks to all who have got behind this important cause!

The Sylvie Dress pattern was released by Christine Haynes early this year, just as we were heading into the cooler months. So this sleeveless style is really just starting to make sense about now for us southern hemisphere types!

I made this in a lightweight denim that we recently began stocking at The Drapery, and neither of us had tried yet. I am pleased to report that it was lovely to work with, and is soft and relatively non-wrinkling to wear. A lot of blue dye came out in the pre-wash so that is something to be aware of - although generally to be expected with denims.

I used this tutorial specific to the Sylvie pattern to make a full bust adjustment, which worked perfectly, distributing the extra fullness between the three under-bust darts. Before that, I moved the whole set of darts over a bit towards the centre for better positioning in line with my bust apex.

 For reasons too long and uninteresting to go into, I cut the waistband on the bias, and did not use interfacing. This has caused a bit of wrinking around that area and if I make this dress again (which is highly likely), I will actually obey the instructions!
The skirt is a dirndl-style gathered rectangle, but after making a muslin I decided pleats would be more flattering on me. I also cut down the volume by using the smallest size skirt pieces. Then I made a 1 inch pleat every 1.5 inches, back and front. I also used a regular zip rather than invisible.

Sounds like a lot of alterations but really this is quite true to the original pattern! I love it and have already worn it a lot. A denim dress with capacious pockets is just about my ideal everyday frock. Seriously, check out those pockets!
Frocktober ends at midnight tomorrow October 31, so come on into the store 12 - 4 for your 10% off frock pattern+fabric purchases or claim your online discount on frock pattern+fabric purchases by entering the code FROCKTOBER at checkout. $2 of every Frocktober special purchase will be donated to the OCRF.

- Jane & Fiona xx

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Frocktober - Amanda's gorgeous Deer + Doe Belladone Dress

Our final Frocktober Guest Post is our lovely customer and friend Amanda. We've seen Amanda's sewing skills blossom over the last couple of years. She's been able to create some really beautiful clothes custom-fitted to her tall, slender frame. She really is one of the nicest human beings you could possibly hope to meet and is always generously thinking of others, so we were pleased to encourage her to do some selfish sewing for Frocktober. Amanda doesn't have her own blog so we welcome her to ours, with her stunning new frock!
The Drapery kindly invited me to be one of their Frocktober friends. Ovarian cancer is difficult to diagnose and is rarely caught early. Its impact can be widespread and devastating. By supporting Frocktober we're raising awareness and much needed funds for research and support.
The pattern I chose was the Deer & Doe Belladone which I've made once before. I really love the feature back and of course the pockets! 

The only alteration I made was to add 2cm across the centre front. I'm sure it would have fit fine without this change but I do like some wine and cheese wiggle room! Despite having made the dress before I had a lapse in concentration (read: went rogue from the instructions) and accidentally laid the upper back pieces underneath instead of over top. Of course I didn't notice until after I'd completely finished the bodice! After some choice cursing, dedicated unpicking and a mercy dash to The Drapery for more fabric, I was on my way again.
When it came to picking my fabric, it really was a no-brainer. I only discovered Nani Iro in the last few years but it has become my firm favourite. The designs are stunning, the quality excellent and the fabric feels lovely. I quickly made a bee-line to this brush strokes linen/cotton (soon to be back in stock at The Drapery!). In order to make best use of the beautiful pattern placement, I broke a sewing rule and cut the entire dress across the grain. Despite the rule breaking causing high anxiety, it turned out fine! I made sure to give the fabric a really good pre-wash and it didn't have too much give in it anyway.
 Is that an under-stitched, handsewn bound hem I (don't) hear you ask? Yes, yes it is. I'm a bit of an incurable perfectionist and can't help myself with the details. I didn't know Birch made 100% cotton ready-made bias tape and I'm definitely a convert (it's also the perfect weight for double gauze).

I'm really happy with how this dress turned out - I absolutely love it. Big thanks to the lovely Jane and Fiona at The Drapery for inviting me to be involved in this project. Life hasn't exactly gone to plan of late and it was really nice to take some time out and make something just for me. I appreciate you guys more than you know. Also thanks to my husband who took these photos. I'm uncomfortable with posed photos and he had the patience of a saint.


Thank you so much Amanda for being a part of Frocktober at The Drapery! 

Deer and Doe patterns including the beautiful Belladone are sold only through brick & mortar retail stores so you can buy them from us in person, or by calling us on 08 7324 5883 (Wed - Fri 10 - 4, Sat 12 - 4), or email us on .

Don't forget the 10% Frocktober discount applies to frock pattern + fabric purchases all this month, in store or online using the code FROCKTOBER. $2 from every Frocktober special purchase is donated to the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.

- Fiona & Jane xx

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fabric Friday: Hello Sailor!

In this Friday's Fortnightly installment of fabric goodness, we have a simple classic: navy and white striped cotton jersey that we call 'Hello Sailor'. (It may look black on your screen but it's really a very dark inky navy.)
This is a 100% cotton jersey, made in New Zealand, and a lovely quality. We've had the red & white stripe 'Where's Wally' (just a metre left at time of writing!) from this manufacturer and also 'North Sea/Kalamata' and been very happy with the fabric. So although we had to wait several months for this deep navy stripe colourway to have its turn at the knitting mill, it was worth the wait.

Jersey fabric has a right and a wrong side, like a tiny version of traditional plain hand-knit, as you can probably just make out below.
The edges can be a bit curly so you may want to do a fair bit of pinning as you use this, especially to accurately match the stripes. You'll find that this 100% cotton jersey doesn't roll up quite as much as cotton/spandex blends though. You can even leave the edges raw on some garments if you don't mind a slightly rolled look: it won't fray.
 It's quite a fine stripe of about 5mm.
What to make from Hello Sailor? Well you can't go wrong with a classic striped tee like the Liesl & Co Maritime Top or Sewaholic Renfrew. It would also make a lovely light summer dress; perhaps the Christine Haynes Marianne or Colette Myrtle?

Find Hello Sailor in store or online here.

- Jane & Fiona xx