Spanish Tile Esme Dress

Painter Laura Gunn's latest Valencia fabric collection for Michael Miller Fabrics features this amazing Spanish Tile design alongside other richly printed fabrics in her signature floral motifs.

I bought two and a half metres from Worthing's Eclectic Maker sewing shop – my go-to local destination for colourful, top quality fabrics. The material was almost too good to cut into! I decided to make another simple Esme dress to best show off the print and was mindful to carefully pattern match the patch pockets so as not to break up the tile pattern.

Laura Gunn's designs for Michael Miller are printed onto quilting weight cotton but I think they are ideal for dressmaking too. Last year I made a quilted coat using three different fabrics from her Garden Wall range so can testify to their wash and wearability – essential as I know this fabulous dress is going to get a lot of wear.

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