This top represents a number of firsts for me. First time I’ve used a Merchant and Mills pattern, first time I’ve made a long-sleeved top, and the first time I’ve worked with bias cut fabric. Phew!
I love Merchant and Mills utilitarian aesthetic. Their clothes are non-fussy and practical. The first garment I decided to make was the Curlew, taken from their book, The Workbook. The Curlew is presented in three ways – a dress, a sleeveless t-shirt and a long-sleeved top. I decided to make the long-sleeved top to ease me into dressmaking. I made it over a couple of days in an attempt to slow down and concentrate on each stage, and not rush through and make too many mistakes.
Tracing out the pattern:
The first night I traced out the Curlew pattern in a size 18 – Merchant and Mills largest size. I used grease-proof paper to transfer the pattern which was without drama. I like the fact I still have a full pattern, and the possibility of modifying it in the future.
Cutting out the pieces:
The following evening I cut out the four pattern pieces. I think the fabric I’ve used is a linen mix, which I bought from Barry’s Fabric Store in Birmingham a few years ago. Oh, I need to make a little fabric swatch-book to record the different types of fabrics I have bought, with their costs, and the projects they are suitable for. I feel a little clueless about fabric at the moment.
Because I laid out the pattern on the bias, I realised I had to draw out both sides of the front and back pattern pieces, rather than fold the fabric and cut through two pieces. Also bias cut uses a lot of fabric. Merchant and Mills don’t recommended how much fabric to use (unless I missed it). Because I used linen, I decided not to line it, and cut into approximately 2 meters of fabric.
I marked the notches on the pattern pieces with dressmakers chalk, and then cut the fabric out, trying to handle it as little as possible to avoid pulling it out of shape. When it came to inserting the sleeves I realised the chalk marks had faded, and I had to remark the fabric. Next time I will cut out the notches.
On Friday I had the day off work, and all I wanted to do was relax and potter around my flat. Completing the Curlew was a perfect excuse to slow down. The whole garment came together really easily.
The instructions in the Workbook assume you have a reasonably good skill level in dressmaking. This wasn’t a problem, even for a novice like me, as I found lots of blogs and vlogs with great how-tos and advise on all manner of dressmaking details. After a bit of internet searching I worked out how to stabilise the neck and shoulder seams using Bondaweb.
Ha, although saying that, I do have a terrible habit of mis-reading instructions. You need to be careful when constructing the Curlew, as you have to dip in and out of instructions for both the Curlew dress and long-sleeved top, which are on different pages. Inevitably I missed out one or two steps. The shoulder seams should have been constructed with Princess seams, and I’ve used ordinary ones. Next time I will mark the instructions in the order I need to follow them! I followed Merchant and Mills advise for sewing linen on the bias, and used a slight zig-zag stitch on the side seams to allow for a little movement. You can already see in the photograph above how nicely the Curlew drapes.
Making Bias Tape:
The next challenge, for me, was to make bias tape for the neck seams. My previous attempts at making bias tape resulted in lots of swearing and no bias tape! I’ve watched dressmakers use the little metal bias tape thingy with great ease, but I’m all fingers and thumbs.
This time I took an extra deep breath and started slowly slowly, and wow it worked, I guess less swearing is the trick!!
Inserting sleeves is another skill I need to practice much more. Please do not look too closely at these sleeves, especially the left one. This was my second attempt, and I think I have stretched the fabric – oh well nothing a good cardigan wont cover ;).
My verdict on Merchant and Mills Workbook, and the Curlew long-sleeved top:
I love the book and I love the Curlew! I had read one or two comments with regards to the photography not giving a clear indication of what each garment looked like, but I think the images are quite clear. My only want is I would love to see more variety in the sizes of the models depicted. I was worried, being plus sized, that the pattern would not suit my shape, but the fit is great. The Curlew works really well and looks equally good with jeans, as it does with a skirt or trousers. I am currently raiding my fabric stash to make another one – I see a world with many Curlew’s in it.
I hope you enjoyed this post, and I would love to hear comments from more experienced dressmakers.