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Merchant and Mills workbook - one pattern book for a basic wardrobe

 
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I've been looking at this book: https://merchantandmills.com/store/gifts-2/gifts/the-workbook/



It's a pattern book with basic sewing ideas.  The goal of the book is to create a basic layered wardrobe - all the basic clothing you need!  It's a nifty idea!  
 
r ranson
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The more I look at these patterns, the more I'm thinking of getting this booklet as a treat for myself (it's been a difficult few weeks and creating something makes me feel better).

Sewing is a skill I'm desperate to acquire.  But I fail miserably at choosing the right fabric for the pattern or selecting the shape to my body.  I've often looked into lessons, but the timing was always off.  When I self-teach a skill, I look for a book that covers enough of the basics with enough basic projects to get me going.  Most beginner sewing books are too advanced in areas - they pretend to be for beginners, but the parts where it counts, they forget that there are people out there who cannot tell the difference between broadcloth and boucle.  Or they focus too much time on the super-basics or have projects that I don't have a use for (like draft excluders).


Looking at the projects in this book, I can see lots of things I can (hopefully) make with cloth I already have in my home.  Then adjust the patterns to match my size somehow.  The biggest problem I can see is that their models are flat-chested and I am... how would we put it?  Not.  I don't know how to adjust a pattern for that.  


 
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Most patterns are drafted for people with size B bust. You need use high bust measurement (across upper chest) to select the pattern size then do full bust adjustment or FBA to fit across busts.

Patternreview website is the community for home sewers and it's a great place to learning sewing,  just like Permie is to permaculture.
 
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My book has arrived and I adore it!

I was going to order from Amazon because it was cheaper, then I saw that it would be shipping from the UK which in normal times, means waiting two or three months.  So I bought my books from Maiwa as there are a few little things I've been needing but didn't have enough for the free shipping.  Now I do.  And the books arrived the next day (the shop is in Vancouver which is the nearest mega-city) and I've been devouring the books.

I got The Workbook which I'm very excited about, but disappointed that my bust is at least one size larger than the largest pattern size.  But it's a great opportunity to learn how to fit and adjust patterns to my measurements.  Most of all, almost every pattern in this book is something I want to make and wear (except perhaps the wrap-around top as I don't know how good that would look on a large busted woman.  



What do you think?  Am I right that this won't work on a busty shape?

I also picked up this pocketbook elementry sewing skills that I can pop in my bag for reading in every spare moment.  The Merchant and Mills Sewing Book.  This also has some patterns I'm keen to try but again, a bit small in the bust.  I see there's a chapter on darts which sounds like something that will come in handy.

What I love most about these books and patterns is that they are all worked with woven cloth.  

My goal here is to use up fabric that I've hoarded over the years.  With each pattern, I'll make a mock-up to adjust the pattern to my shape.  I don't know how to do this yet, but I figure if I take the largest pattern, make the mockup with 1 or 2-inch seam allowance, set my sewing machine top thread tension to loosey-goosey so it's easier to rip out the seams and see what happens.  Depending on how things go, I might see if I can find a sewing friend who is willing to pin me into shape, but if not, I'll have to find a mirror.

 
r ranson
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I also picked up some new tailers chalk.  I've been working with 80-year-old chalk which is very hard, waxy, and not very good at marking.  This new stuff is amazing!  Very happy I got it.  
 
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I think that for some situations, and some women, it could work. But, not all women or all situations. For example, it might be ok on a date, when you want to look very sexy, but would be impractical for milking the goat, lol. Depending on just *how* busty, it might work with a pencil skirt, for office work. Maybe.
 
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Carla Burke wrote:I think that for some situations, and some women, it could work. But, not all women or all situations. For example, it might be ok on a date, when you want to look very sexy, but would be impractical for milking the goat, lol. Depending on just *how* busty, it might work with a pencil skirt, for office work. Maybe.



Good to know.
I'm not aiming for sexy, just practical work around the farm and wear to work clothes.

The book suggests it's worn over a tank or short sleeve top.  But still, I think that wrap shape is good at emphasizing the bust, not something I want to do.  
 
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Something I've noticed about the patterns is that they are often finishing the edges with a zig-zag stitch or pinking sheers.  Unless I have a generous fairy godparent out there, pinking sheers or a zig-zag attachment for my 1919 Singer treadle machine are out of my budget.  

I need to find out more about how to finish seams.  That's something for the near future.  
I also need to learn when to use what kind of seam finish.  I have learned that French seams on curved edges look terrible.
 
Carla Burke
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IS there even a zigzag attachment made, for that machine???
 
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Carla Burke wrote:IS there even a zigzag attachment made, for that machine???

Not a chance! But some of the later Singer's did have a button-hole attachment that works quite well. Yes - that's what I learned to machine sew on and what I still have to sew on when I go to Ontario and have to help my sister with projects! Circa 1950!)
 
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Patterns:
R. Ranson, you're clearly an "outlier"! That's not good or bad, just reality. In your position, now that some of the Thrift shops are open again, I'd look for some used bed-sheets and use them as your "experimental" projects. They're large enough that if you adjust a pattern and sew it on the sheeting, if one part of the outfit doesn't fit, you can take it apart and cut an altered piece out of the sheet and try again. When you're happy with the fit, I would carefully mark the pieces, take it apart, and use the sheeting as your pattern. Yes, it would be bulkier to store than paper, but if it's the sort of outfit you will make over again with just minor changes in style or colour, I believe it would be worth it. Alternatively, my friend's mother always made "house dresses" out of sheets as it was cheaper than buying fabric!

Seam finishing:
Many modern patterns are designed for "serging" and only allow 1/4" seam allowances. Traditionally seams were more like 5/8" which is wide enough to fold over and stitch to itself, but as you mention, on curves where the seam allowance needs to be clipped to lie flat, it won't work. A simple extra straight seam parallel but closer to the edge than the seam will help although it's not as good as a zigzag.  "Top Stitching" can also help but isn't always the style you want. A "blanket stitch" would be the slow way to go, but on a critical seam where I can't use alternatives, I'd do it. People used to do *all* their sewing by hand, from the side seams of floor-length dresses to the 20 button holes up the back before zippers existed. We don't know how privileged we are - how privileged some of my friends are who pass their hemming jobs to me!
 
r ranson
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Carla Burke wrote:IS there even a zigzag attachment made, for that machine???



The zig-zagger comes in a bit later, but is backwards compatible.  It works by moving the fabric back and forth in a zig-zag motion instead of moving the needle like modern machines.  Here's the instruction manual for a later one.  (pdf) http://ismacs.net/singer_sewing_machine_company/manuals/singer-zigzagger-attachment-manual.pdf
More about the singer zig-zagger history http://ismacs.net/singer_sewing_machine_company/singer_zigzag_attachments.html

And a video


 
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Wow!!! Kinda like trying to eat an elephant - corn on the cob style!!
 
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The patterns in the book are mostly metric measurements, but it does sometimes forget and falls into imperial measurements without telling me.  Since most of my textile thinking is in imperial, I am thinking of making myself a handy little card to help me navigate these different measurements.

The seam allowance included in the pattern is 1.5cm.  Not sure how big that is in inches yet.  
 
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I need to find out more about how to finish seams.



I really like the look of flat felled seams. They can be tricky on very fitted princess seams, but doable.

 
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This is the 4th, in a 4pt series on seam finishing, but if you peruse the site, they have a lot of tutorials, including various seams types and hems. I'm just not sure which ones will work for you, if any, with your machine: https://so-sew-easy.com/turned-under-seam-finish/
 
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i started tracing the pattern.  have to erase most of it as I got confused between 8 an 18.  ops.
1595123156925187225069389430704.jpg
[Thumbnail for 1595123156925187225069389430704.jpg]
 
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I made my first mockup and it's um... needing adjusting.  It's the tank top one which looked simplest to make and adjust (no sleeves or fancy stuff)

After trying the mockup on, I took it off and added about 1/4 inch (for a total of 1 inch) to the upper half of the seam.  I definitely need darts to accommodate my bust, so now I'm on the hunt for find out how to make darts.
The Merchant and Mills sewing book has some ideas, which I don't understand.  But I wonder if I just follow the instructions if it will make sense.

I'm asymmetrical, but I'm thinking I'll just do the adjustments for my larger size and see what happens.  
 
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I watched some youtube and I can see the basics.  but... my underbust to overbust measurements are 10 inches different.  how big do I make this dart?
 
r ranson
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what do you think?

worth cutting out in fabric or completely on the wrong track?
bust-dart-attempt.jpg
bust dart attempt
bust dart attempt
 
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I wish I had helpful answers...
 
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Carla Burke wrote:I wish I had helpful answers...



I live with the hope that there are a finite number of ways to do it wrong and eventually I'll find a way to do it right.
 
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I like to be able to handle stuff as I am adjusting patterns ... From many miles away, that looks right to me.
 
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Hi,

I found this and, looking at the google search result for this link you look to be on the right track! I ended up watching the video and she makes it very clear. I think it will help. She does a whole series for beginners.

An alternative could be to go boho / lagen look? No darts involved! found this for you

Years ago I had a dressmaking business so take for granted 50 years of sewing but, I am learning how to spin and boy is it frustrating at times. (like most of the time)  Dont give up, just keep practicing and I second the 'cut up old sheets and stuff' for pattern sizing. The other thing that might help is a good dressmakers dummy that you can set up your size on, and fit your patterns and fabric to that?

Best of luck, and bon courage as they say here!

Lesley
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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How to make a duct tape body double.


Photo from Threads Magazine.

 
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Lesley Verbrugge wrote:

The other thing that might help is a good dressmakers dummy that you can set up your size on, and fit your patterns and fabric to that?

My concern is that R Ranson appears to be enough of an outlier that a dressmaker's dummy wouldn't adjust to her size. Also, they're mega expensive, any time I've seen them.

r ranson wrote:

I watched some youtube and I can see the basics.  but... my underbust to overbust measurements are 10 inches different.  how big do I make this dart?

That makes me feel even more that you might want to try googling "gusset". In a gusset, you're fitting in a piece of material rather than folding fabric out as you do with a dart. By adding a gusset, you won't be changing the drape of the fabric as much, because you aren't changing the angle of the fabric the same way you do when adding a large dart.

This link: https://journal.alabamachanin.com/2017/01/diy-factory-dress-pattern/
sort of shows the concept, but it's being used to provide flare to a skirt that keeps the warp lined up better.  You'd have to take the concept and use it to provide extra fabric across the breast while not changing the whole shape of the pattern in areas you don't want the shape to change, like under the arms.

This link: https://mellysews.com/make-sewing-pattern-bigger-smaller/
Shows adding a dart from the waste-line upward under the breast and that idea might help.

This link: https://sewguide.com/fit-and-flare-panel-dress-pattern/
is a variation of the first link taken to more of an extreme. In your case you'd be making panels that were wider where your breasts are, and narrower where your waist is.

Raven, you're trying to do something that's *really* difficult, so please keep trying. If you can get clothes that truly fit you in the end, I suspect you will feel really good about it. I rarely buy anything new "off the rack" as it just doesn't fit well enough to be worth it to me, but my issues are different (short, square, narrow torso) so the things I've done to patterns aren't the same as the things I think you need to do.

The post Joylynn just added has potential! It's pretty complicated and you'd need a buddy to do it with you, but it is another approach. Having never used a dummy, I won't vote as to whether it would help a beginner or not. I'm inclined to have you persevere with your current approach as the first step.
 
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I am no expert but I am geeky about pattern making and can totally relate to the confusion and frustration in sewing as a beginer.

I'd like to address the importance of choosing the right size to start with, when that's off, it is difficult to correct by adjusting later on.

Here is the example of the relationships between  bra size, body measurements and pattern sizing.
Average US woman has size 34D cup, which means
under bust measurement: 30 inches
Upper bust measurement: 34 inches, hence the 34 band
Full bust measurement: 38 inches, 38-34= 4 inch=D cup
Yet most pattern companies draft the patterns out of a B cup model, that means when you use full bust measurement to choose the pattern size, likely you will make a size 16 rather than 12. Bigger size means wider neckline, wider shoulder and deeper armsyc and broader back etc. If one choose size 12, all these places will have good fitting except the front bust area, adding 2 inches of FBA then mostly the issue is addressed. It's a good practice to check finished measurement with your own.

R.ranson has a full bust/under bust difference of 10 inches, that means she likely wears F cup or DDD cup. Started with upper bust measurement, likely close to full bust minus 6" then do 4" FBA. Or only 2 inch FBA, as this style of garment probably has very generous wearing ease( 4 inches? 6 inches?) Even with a loose fitting top, I feel it looks better with fabric skimming over the bust than having lots of empty space.

Anyway, a muslin is one step closer to the fitted garment. Good luck.

 
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lesley verbrugge wrote:

Years ago I had a dressmaking business so take for granted 50 years of sewing but, I am learning how to spin and boy is it frustrating at times. (like most of the time)  Dont give up, just keep practicing and I second the 'cut up old sheets and stuff' for pattern sizing. The other thing that might help is a good dressmakers dummy that you can set up your size on, and fit your patterns and fabric to that?

Best of luck, and bon courage as they say here!

Lesley



Thank you.
It's sobering to see my body shape like this.  A bit frustrating but I'm almost ready to gather my courage and make the next mockup.  I'm going to take a few moments to watch



then I'll try again.
 
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Well, there are darts.  

I um... forgot the part where I put the points about an inch towards the side from the 'apex' so I've got a bit of a madona thing going on.  But I can see how to fix that.

Next problem, the armholes are gaping too much at the bottom.  

Too tired to do more tonight.  
 
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try again
and again
and again
15957910579923778478393392713168.jpg
[Thumbnail for 15957910579923778478393392713168.jpg]
 
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Yes! I can see how you've shifted the "tip" of the dart to avoid the "Madonna effect".  I can't wait to see the end result, but please don't take that as pressure to go faster. Letting my unconscious help guide the process by making slow, intermittent changes and then observing and thinking about the results is often the way I actually end up with a project I'm happy with.
 
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Well, here I am trying on my first attempt at the top with good cloth.  It fits me about as well as commercial clothing.  Basically, I feel like I'm wearing a sack.

I'm going to finish off the facing another day.    The linen fabric I had on hand is a bit scratch for next to the skin.  But it is cool.

A big problem is that it wasn't warm enough last year to justify buying summer clothing so most of my summer clothing has worn out.  I have one t-shirt left that is suitable for wearing to work.  sigh.  I really need to figure this out and make some summer tops.  
 
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r ranson wrote:

It fits me about as well as commercial clothing.  Basically, I feel like I'm wearing a sack.

I'd love to see you experiment with darts which go from the waist up towards the breast in conjunction with the side ones. With the huge difference in size between your bust line and under breast rib measurement, I think you would find it would help decrease the extra fabric below your breast that may be contributing to the "sack-like" feeling. Can you picture how "pleats" work to give people extra room for their hips below the waist in the down-ward direction, and consider the same concept but going up from the waist towards the breast?
 
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Ohhh. You've got me thinking... But how to put the process in words... Sigh.



I'm thinking just pleats brought in under the bustline forming the appearance of a band, maybe 4 inches wide. It could bring the fabric in closer to your body to give you shape, but without emphasizing size. Then the fabric would flare back out.


Maybe just run a couple gathering stitches a few inches apart, to create a ruching effect?


Elastic! It does not have to hug your body.


Just a sash tied under the bustline? Cute for someone... ummm not me...
 
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Princess seams, rather than darts, maybe? http://curvysewingcollective.com/princess-seams-an-fba-for-large-busts/
 
r ranson
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I like how the princess seams use bits of fabric that aren't so wide.  With the darts, the fabric was too wide and I couldn't' figure out how to cut it out of the cloth economically.  

Right now I'm feeling that this would be a great thing for people to sell.  Custom-fit patterns for a basic wardrobe.  You spend the afternoon at their house with lots of tea, they measure and make the sloper or whatever, then next week you pop by and pick up 6 basic patterns that are custom measured to your shape!  
1. Vest/tank top
2. short sleeve top
3. long sleeve top
(alternatively 3 bodices styles with interchangeable sleeve - is this possible?)
4. a skirt
5. pants/shorts
6. a dress

Optional extras (for an extra fee): jacket and coat patterns

Then the person can take these patterns and make clothing that FITS!!!
Or they could pay extra for a quick tutorial on skill... xyz (how to choose the fabric, how to sew enclosed seams, how to...)

It would change my life and be well worth the expense for unusually shaped people like me.  At the current time, the best I can hope for is to make clothes that look almost not quite so bad as the manufactured stuff.  

...

I have to say the Merchant and Mills books have gotten me further than any other resource I've tried so far.  I followed the directions for altering the pattern in the M&M Sewing Book more than youtube (but youtube helped procrastinate while I gathered courage, so I'm grateful there).

Today is a busy day so no sewing, but my sawdust should arrive for making my tailor's ham.  I'm not sure why I need one, but it will be good practice to make it.  There are a few other projects in the M&M Sewing Book that I want to try in hopes of gaining confidence before going back to sewing clothing.  

 
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I'm sure there's at least a few *SOMEONES* out there doing it. The trick is finding them, and I'm sure their rates would be very high - probably based on how many patterns you want them to create. Finding someone near you, though? That's a whole other ball of wax.
 
Jay Angler
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One of the big issues here is the cost of fabric vs the cost of cheap clothing. Everything seems to have shifted to the "fashion" trend and "niche market" and the quality of fabrics has decreased. People don't buy or sew clothing to last 5 years let alone long enough for the next generation to wear as they did even 100 years ago (my mom had a wool reversible skirt she wore in high school, and my sister wore it in high school also!) We need a permaculture overhaul of the entire clothing industry to be more individual-centric and longer focused.
 
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I have similar fit issues to you, R Ranson... which is why I gave up on sewing so take my advice with a healthy pinch of salt. My mom is an excellent seamstress, and basically said if I wanted to make clothes I would need a body double. When she sews for me, she has me stand and pins around my body to figure out pleat and dart placement. . I considered making a duct tape version but she highly recommends a plaster cast version as it wont deform. You can even use your form to cast with silicone or foam so you can pin to it.

https://www.threadsmagazine.com/2008/10/24/clone-yourself-a-dress-form

Do you have any ready made that you like and could create a pattern from? Add seam allowance and done.  

For a pattern- some good tailors or seamstresses can make clothes and their own patterns. I have a cousin who is a mens tailor, who made me pants a few years ago. It would be very easy to take those pants and create a custom fit pattern.
 
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