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