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Merchant & Mills Francine

Our friendly pattern reviewer and blog writer Cath has returned, with a review of one of our newer patterns

Hello again! Now that we are finally experiencing a wee dip in temperatures, I decided to sew something with sleeves! I chose the Merchant & Mills Francine Top (which can also be made as a dress in version 2) from their Made in Denim pattern range. I like the sample on the pattern cover and Elizabeth happens to stock the Merchant & Mills 9oz denim in both light and dark blue, so I selected the dark blue denim for this project.

As it was my first time sewing this pattern, I made a muslin out of an old doona cover. I observed that the fit was snug, more like a top then a layering piece. I decided I would like to have a looser fit as I will most likely be layering this during Autumn and Winter, so I went up a size. I also noticed that the sleeve head was too deep for my shoulders and the armscye was pulling the top up when I lifted my arms, so I decided to do a Full Bust Adjustment (using the How to do a FBA on a Dartless Shirt tutorial from PaprikaPatterns.com) and adjust the shape of the sleeve head a little for my shoulders. I then sewed a second muslin. This time I was happy with the fit and went ahead with the Merchant & Mills denim. 

Oh My Gosh. We need to talk about this fabric! Even though it has been pre-washed by the manufacturer, I pre-washed it again just to be sure to eliminate any further shrinkage and my goodness, it is soft and drapey and when I cut out the pattern pieces, of which there are not many, it was like a hot knife through butter. Soft, creamy butter. Seriously.  Delicious.  Fabric. I was mentally planning all the other items I want to make with this denim whenever I touched it. Dreamy.

Although the Francine pattern is simple, Merchant & Mills have included some interesting construction techniques. I have never attached a collar the way they suggest and felt like a Savile Row tailor once I had completed it. That may be a slight exaggeration, but a little hand stitching here and there will do that to me!

The split hem was also assembled in a different way to my usual method, but I do prefer the finish of the practise suggested in the instructions. However I did add a wee bar tack along the top of the split hem top stitching for durability. For the double rows of topstitching I read two online tips, part four of the Ginger Jeans Sewalong written by Heather Lou of Closet Case Patterns (many of which are stocked at House of Cloth!) and Eight Tricks for Perfect Topstitching from the Colette Patterns blog, but the tips here boil down to use a denim needle and a visual guide to keep the rows neat.

Finally, the tip in the instructions about the thread ends is particularly simple and goes against all mainstream advice about backstitching at the start and end of each line of sewing. For me, this is a more aesthetically pleasing finish, that provides peace of mind about any unravelling as the ends are literally knotted together and tucked out of sight in seam allowances. Another nugget of sewing advice, a technique not usually touted in sewing tutorials. 

For the next two weeks, my Francine top and Willow dress in Nani Iro double gauze will be on display in House of Cloth. These really are two great patterns in absolutely stunning fabrics, and I always enjoy seeing what a paper patterns look like made up in the flesh. Do pop in and have a look. I might just see you in there!