Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Pattern Review - Merchant and Mills Ellis Dress

We’ve had the Merchant and Mills Ellis & Hattie pattern sitting in the shop for years and I’ve often thought I’d like to give it a try. Gathered waists, however, are not necessarily my bag. Then there was the question of which one to make: Ellis with its sleeves and in-line pockets, or Hattie with a dropped waist, lined sleeveless bodice and impressively voluminous patch pickets. It was all too hard! The pattern stayed on the shelf.

Then, earlier this year one of our lovely customers, Alisha walked in wearing her gorgeous version of Ellis, and - BAM - straight it went to the top of my sewing queue. 

Weeks later when actual sewing was due to commence, we had just taken delivery of some beautiful fabrics from Japan and I was smitten with these linen/cotton light twills, especially in this lush deep teal. After cutting (of course, AFTER) I recalled that I may have unintentionally completely copied the version that inspired me: same pattern, same colour fabric. Oh no! Sorry, Alisha if you’re reading!

Merchant and Mills patterns usually have a lovely detail or two, and Ellis & Hattie is no different. What drew me to this dress was those swoon-worthy 4 darts around the neck line. Ditto the simple rouleau button closure at the back. 

As for the construction, this is a straightforward sew. The instructions and diagrams are clear and easy to follow. Also, the finishing is comprehensive - details usually left up to the maker like anchoring your facing to the finished garment are included in the pattern directions. Nothing is left to chance!

I’m not going to lie, this is one roomy frock. I made a bodice muslin and was happy with the fit, even though it was fairly loose. I chose the size according to my measurements, but have to say, after the gathered skirt is attached the volume of this dress skyrockets. On me, this feels perhaps a little too much, and in retrospect I could have sized down. There is also some excess fabric at my shoulder tips, which I may go back and remove. Worth noting though that the fit is slightly off the shoulder on the women pictured on the pattern packaging: this is supposed to be a loose fitting thing.

We’ve heard from customers that M&M arm pieces can sometimes be drafted a little on the narrow side, so I approached these with caution. Mine fit well, but perhaps that’s a refection of having been generous when choosing which size I’d make. The arms are certainly much more fitted than the rest of this dress - a style thing, but worth keeping in mind. We’d definitely recommend you make a full muslin (arms AND skirt included) before you make a final call on which size to choose for this pattern.

This cotton/linen, at 124gsm is fairly light and with good drape. We turned around and ordered a second bolt of this not long after the first arrived, such was our love for its slightly shot weave and gorgeous jewel-like hue. It works amply for the Ellis but I suspect this dress would benefit from something slightly weightier: a medium weight washed linen like Ocean would be ideal. But this is pleasingly floaty and will be nice and breezy on a warm day, or layered up with leggings when Autumn decides to actually hit.

I took about 8 inches out of the skirt width because of my gathered skirt trepidation. It’s not even noticeable - this skirt is still plentiful! I also took about 10 cm off the hem, for reference I’m 167cm (5'5"). Straight out of the box, this is a true midi length.

The wash up
To be honest, between finishing and wearing this I thought Ellis might have been the nail in the coffin for gathered skirts and me. But after a day’s wear I’m loving this dress. It was a really enjoyable sew and now I’m even wondering what the pattern would be like made into a peplum-style top. Who would have thought?!

- Fiona & Jane xx

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