Fisherman's Blues: Merchant & Mills Top 64


Merchant & Mills Fisherman's Dress by Ivy Arch

A trip to Rye, East Sussex saw me heading straight for Merchant & Mills shop and headquarters. I had resisted buying their sewing patterns this far as to my mind their clean, simple designs look similar to many of the patterns I have previously made from Japanese sewing books. Their 'workwear' aesthetic also seemed a bit dour for my tastes and I was not wholly convinced would be flattering to my greying hair and middle aged pallor. However, I was prepared to be persuaded.

The shop itself is presented along the lines of a traditional drapers shop, or tailor's supply store circa the industrial revolution, with letterpress printed boxes of neatly packaged pins, needles, scissors and other sewing paraphernalia; heavy bolts of fabric in muted tones and natural fibres piled high on a wrought iron legged table in the centre of the shop; and cabinets full of tools, buckles and notions. The shop conveys an air of utilitarianism and serious craftsmanship, a romanticised ideal of authenticity being found in industrial mills, shades of greige and Shaker chic.

Merchant & Mills Headquarters, Rye, East Sussex

Fabrics stocked included some viscose and cotton jersey alongside the expected Irish linen, tweed, oilskin, denim and boiled wool in hues of blue, oatmeal, mushroom and grey. I also saw Indian block print cottons in subtle prints of indigo, grey and brown, as well as some brighter coloured linens. It took me a long time to choose a fabric that I felt I'd be able to wear with confidence back in my 21st century technicolour world but I eventually settled for a three-colour striped block print summer weight cotton. 

The Top 64 by Merchant & Mills

The sewing pattern I chose was Top 64, a simple loose-fitting tunic based on a traditional fisherman's smock. I had been forewarned that the sizing of Merchant & Mills patterns runs large, so for a perfect (but still generous) fit I cut the pattern across three sizes with the top part in size 10 grading out to a 14 across the hips. I shortened the sleeves and lengthened the hem to make it into a dress and cut my fabric with the stripes running in opposite directions to create more visual interest. The pattern was easy to follow and the dress enjoyably quick to make.

Ivy Arch: Merchant & Mills Top 64 as a dress

The finished frock is beautiful! It fits well and is has proved one of my most popular makes with the Instagram crowd. I haven't worn it out yet as the hot weather has seen me reaching for my usual colourful clothes, however this will be perfect for formal wear and who knows, may herald the start of a more subtle approach to dressing. Perhaps.

Fisherman's stripes

A Groovy Kaftan

Ivy Arch Far Out Esme Kaftan

The joy of sewing new dresses exceeds the routine of photographing and documenting them and so I have a small backlog of 3 new frocks which I shall endeavour to photograph and blog soon. Garments that don't make it to the blog usually still appear on my Dresses Made Pinterest page and often as a snapshot on Instagram, so do check in there if you want to see my latest concoctions.

Alexander Henry La Strada Fabric, 2008 Collection

This dress deserved more than a brief snapshot as I have used a most magnificent fabric! It's an Alexander Henry cotton print called La Strada. The internet tells me it's from their 2008 collection but it has just made its way to C&H fabrics in Chichester. With it I made my first Esme Kaftan - the long version of the Esme Dress and cover star of Lotta Jansdotter's Everyday Style sewing book.

Esme Kaftan by Ivy Arch, two views!

The kaftan speaks loudly for itself. I intended to keep it to wear at a very special (and I think currently top secret) event at Sussex Ukulele Festival in September, but can't wait until then! Instead I shall enjoy wearing it this summer, thus creating another potential dressmaking opportunity for September's event.

Groovy Kaftan by Ivy Arch

Trapeze Tree Dress

Trapeze Tree Dress by Ivy Arch

Always on the look out for another novelty tree print fabric, this beauty called to me across the floor at Chichester's C&H Fabrics shop. It's a lightweight polycotton, not a fabric I'd usually chose as I've an aversion to the poly, however the print is simply stunning and the price was a steal at £4 a metre.
Tree print dress with petticoat by Ivy Arch

I modified the Esme dress pattern into a trapeze shape and made a simple sleeveless cotton slip petticoat to wear underneath. I decided to give the dress a rising/falling hem so that the petticoat is visible peeking out underneath.

Tree Trapeze dress by Ivy Arch

Trial and error with a contrasting patch pocket resulted in my unpicking a bold first attempt before settling on this camouflaged diagonal pocket, matching the trees as closely as I could.

Tree treats: Ivy Arch dress with You Make Me Design brooch

The dress goes perfectly with my new green tree brooch from Etsy's fab You Make Me Design shop, a present to celebrate my 47th birthday!
Petticoat tales

Upcycled Esme Dress

Esme Dress in African Wax Print made by Ivy Arch

In an attempt to buy less fabric I have rummaged through my wardrobe and sorted out a pile of dresses I no longer wear with the intention of cutting them up and reusing the fabric to make new clothes. The first remake in this project uses a blue African wax print cotton salvaged from a beautiful dress I wore 6 years ago but have now grown out of! While I would love to have been able to squeeze into the original dress again, this is not really a healthy or realistic goal, so thought it was time to give the fabric a new lease of life and make it into something I can wear today. 
Esme dress details

There was not quite enough useable material to run to a full length frock so inspired by this Lotta Jansdotter patchwork Esme dress, I used a contrasting band of African wax print fabric left over from making a pair of loud trousers 2 years ago, to patch the material to the right length.

Ivy Arch's patched together Esme Dress made from reused fabric
Esme patch pocket with fish!

The Esme was super quick to sew and I love the finished result with its clashing prints. The dress is also lovely and soft as the fabric has been well washed and worn. I will definitely be making more of these patched together garments from the discarded dress pile.

Upcycled dress success!

Gudrun Sjödén's Patchwork Perfection

Gudrun Sjödén's sensational Murano knitted coat, Spring 2016

The stand-out piece from Gudrun Sjödén's Spring 2016 collection is her Murano knitted cardigan coat. The Murano is a sensation in all colourways but the lupine with its tones of blue and turquoise makes me want to jump for joy.


Gudrun Sjoden's joyous Murano coat.

The coat is made up of different patterned patches of knitted linen/cotton fabric cut into diagonals and squares and is expertly crafted and assembled. As with all Gudrun Sjödén clothes the colours have been carefully matched with her previous collections and it goes with everything in my wardrobe.

Myller leggings: Gudrun Sjödén S/S 2016

Gudrun's Spring collection is full of strong colours and prints so it was an unusual choice for me to choose a pair of Myller leggings in black. Black is not a colour I normally wear but the graphic surface print of flowers, dots and dashes in shades of grey and cream looks stunning. Of course I then had to buy the same leggings in cyclamen and china blue colours. They all work well with the Murano coat and give a lift to my old familiar handmade clothes too, refreshing my wardrobe in tune with spring.

Myller leggings and super socks by Gudrun Sjödén

In the Spring/Summer catalogue you can also see the results of the Gudrun Sjödén stripes photo shoot I took part in last July in Stockholm. It's a thrill to see these pictures published, a great reminder of a wonderful day spent with lovely people and an experience I'll never forget.

Gudrun Sjödén Spring/Summer 2016 catalogue
Gudrun's clothes are for all colourful women!

By the way, if you haven't already, you must see my friend Myf Tristram's ace sketch diary of our Stockholm trip, and I can't resist sharing Gudrun's video of the shoot below. Happy days for colourful women!

Ethereal Peplone Jacket: Sew Tina Givens

Tina Givens Peplone Jacket made by Ivy Arch

Tina Givens designs clothes fit for romanesque heroines inhabiting fictional landscapes. Her ethereal dresses, coats and blouses, available as sewing patterns, are also practical enough to transition into every day life with oversized easy silhouettes, large functional pockets and simple fastenings. These are garments designed to be easy to sew and intended to be worn layered.

Peplone Jacket in Indian block printed cotton made by Ivy Arch

This is her Peplone Jacket, which is actually more of a coat dress. I used a light airy floral block print Indian cotton (a bargain eBay win) as it seemed suitably romantic.

Pre-washed indian cotton on the washing line

The Peplone jacket was very quick to make and I simply followed the picture instructions supplied alongside the more detailed written text on the PDF print out, working instinctively. Instead of pleating the skirt back and front I gathered it (as in Dress T from Stylish Dress Book). 

A gathered Peplone pocket

Tina Givens Peplone Jacket made by Ivy Arch

I finished the jacket with hidden popper fastenings. I'm so pleased with the result that a second Peplone Jacket is now in the works...


New orange shoes!

Spring House Dress: Marcy Tilton Vogue 8813

Marcy Tilton Vogue 8813 House Dress made by Ivy Arch

This is a light, spring edition of the Marcy Tilton French House Dress made from a fine-gauge bird print cotton fabric bought last summer. 

Marcy Tilton V8813 details

This is my third version of Tilton's Vogue 8813 and though the sewing pattern instructions recommend using lightweight jersey, I think the drape and architectural qualities of this design lend it well to all kinds of fabrics from filmy light cottons to heavier weight linens. 

Marcy Tilton French House Dress
V8813 in spring bird print fabric by Ivy Arch

For an idea of the versatility of this design, I heartily recommend visiting Project Minima's wonderful dressmaking blog, where she has made several Marcy Tilton House Dresses in repurposed vintage linen table cloths to beautiful effect.

Ivy Arch green feet

February's Wukulele Jam

Post Wukulele hot chocolate

It's Wukulele tradition to take a break every January, so Sunday's jam was our first uke meet up of 2016. This was a packed event with standing room only for late-comers upstairs at Worthing Rowing Club. As always there was a jolly good mix of seasoned Wukulele jammers and new folk tentatively stepping out with their ukes for the very first time. Special guest was Portuguese rescue dog Sam who particularly enjoyed Harriet's kazoo solo.

Wukulele regulars sing and strum!
Wukulele's February uke jam at Worthing Rowing Club
Wukulele joy!
Wukulele jam

Flaming Sunset Jacket: Vintage Vogue 9554

Quilted sunset jacket: Vintage Vogue 9554 made by Ivy Arch

On a grey rainy Saturday afternoon I impulse bought two metres of Bernatex cotton material with a painterly flaming sunset print in the sale at the local fabric shop. Can't think why no one else had snapped up this spectacularly kitsch fabric! I thought it would make another quick Esme dress to bring cheer to a dull day.

Vogue 9554 vintage sewing pattern

I then remembered the vintage Vogue 9554 sewing pattern bought last year which includes a wide sleeved edge-to-edge quilted jacket. The idea of a quilted sunset jacket was too good not to pursue, so dusting off the seam gauge I prepared my sewing machine for channel quilting.

Channel quilting nirvana

I found a large enough piece of fruity floral print cotton in my stash to use as a lining for the inside of the jacket and had just enough thin soft wadding left over from the quilted ukulele bag making days. Sandwiching these layers together with the sunset fabric, I entered into the meditative state of bliss that is channel quilting long straight lines.

Flaming sunset jacket assembly line

Once quilted, the jacket pieces were easy to assemble. I finished off all the edges and trimmed the big patch pockets with purple bias binding bought from Worthing market.

Finished flaming sunset jacket: Vogue 9554 made with love by Ivy Arch
Finishing details
Inside: a fruity floral printed cotton gives further 1970s appeal

The finished jacket is a celestial sight to behold!

I wonder if Worthing is ready for the Flaming Sunset jacket?
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