Happiness in the form of a book

Review for the Merchant and Mills Workbook, a collection of versatile sewing
patterns for an elegant all season wardrobe“. (by Ute and a short note by myself)

Wir haben uns dazu entschieden, diesen Post nur auf Englisch anzubieten, da das Buch ebenfalls nur auf Englisch verfügbar ist und ein zweisprachiger Post zu unübersichtlich geworden wäre.
Wir sind aber bereit jegliche Fragen zum Buch, den Schnitten und der Verarbeitung zu beantworten, soweit es uns möglich ist.

My love for Merchant and Mills started about two years ago, when I came across
a picture of their Dress Shirt pattern on Pinterest.
The Dress Shirt was the
first adult sewing pattern I saw online that I absolutely wanted to make – regardless
of my skills. It was very exciting to order the pattern from England and to
receive a beautiful cardboard pattern in a tube, complete with a little metal hook to
hang the pattern pieces.
You can imagine my surprise and
excitement, when, after I had posted a linen version of the Dress Shirt on Instagram
during  #memademay, Merchant and Mills
contacted me and asked me if I wanted to review
their new book, the “Merchant
& Mills Workbook”
My answer was of course yes and they
even offered beautiful cloth from their shop to make something from the book.

I wanted to give this review more room than just a few posts on Instagram and so
I asked Monika to review it together with me for our #EmdenBerlin series. I
knew she would love and appreciate such a book as much as I do and would like
the patterns.
She bought her own copy and we each soon found our favorites… 

The Book 

“To move beyond simplicity…to take pause and invest thought, time and
labor in making our own clothes…to get inspired before you begin…”

This book is so much more than just
a sewing and pattern book, it is beautifully designed and photographed and I am
finding much joy and inspiration in looking through it again and again.
With the six patterns in the book you
can create an “all season, multi-layered
wardrobe from scratch”
. Depending on your choice of fabric, the garments
will work for different seasons and can be combined and layered, creating many
different looks.
It assumes
you have basic sewing skills and not every technique is explained in detail.
But I found the diagrams very helpful and accurate and did not need additional
explanations for the patterns I have made.
The Patterns
The book contains full pattern
sheets for six classic garments including variations for four of the patterns:


The Bantam, a loose fitting vest that can be adapted for
a dress;

The Curlew, a bias-cut dress, that
comes with pattern pieces for a top and a sleeveless shirt;
The Saltmarsh, a gently gathered
long-line skirt;
The Heron, a bat-winged wrap top;
The Haremere, an oversized,
drop-shouldered jacket or coat with a shawl collar;
The Strides, a pair of straight,
wide-leg trousers or shorts.

Some of the patterns are menswear
inspired (but “gently tailored to follow
a woman’s curve”
) which appeals to me and I love the idea to build a
wardrobe of classic pieces that can be worn together but also go well with the
clothes I already have.
The patterns need to be traced; all
seam allowances are included in the patterns and are indicated by notches on
each pattern piece.
The sizing of the patterns is
generous but since the finished measurements are provided for each garment, you
can decide how much ease you would like.
On the Merchant and Mills website you can find their sizing chart as a download.
What we made 
I like all of the patterns in the
book and will eventually make all of them. As my first project to get to know
the patterns and the sizing I chose The
vest and dress and then the most challenging pattern in the book, The Strides trousers.
Monika made The Curlew  for this review.
We will both be making The Haremere for an #EmdenBerlin post –
Monika the jacket in beautiful Harris Tweed
(I have seen it partly assembled and it is a dream!) and I will sew the coat in
organic cotton twill.
The Bantam


I love this pattern a lot and have
worn my two dresses and the vest many times this summer! It reminds me of my
father´s undershirts that I used to steal as a teenager.
I made the vest according to my
measurements (12 grading to 14). The fit of the original pattern has generous
width at the armholes, this is fine as a summer top and I have been wearing
mine a lot but for a more modest dress, I reduced the width under the armholes
to a size 8. I also lengthened the dresses by 45cm instead of 40cm so they are
mid-calf length on me now.
I bound the rounded hem with bias
instead of hemming the front and back individually.
the vest is Japanese yarn dyed
cotton, the brown dress is linen crepe and the grey one is washed linen in polar grey.


The Strides


I chose the Strides, because I have
always wanted trousers like this and because I finally wanted to tackle my fear
of making and fitting trousers for my pear shaped body.
I sewed them on
vacation without internet access to research additional sewing techniques and
only used the book to construct them. I took my time sewing them and made a few
beginner’s mistakes, like setting the zip in too high so I could not attach the
waistband the correct way, but all in all they came together beautifully.
There is a mistake in the pattern
pieces, the pocket lining and underlining do not fit together correctly.
Thankfully this is just a matter of shortening the pocket lining but it
confused me quite a bit! Merchant and Mills
knows of this mistake and will probably offer a download of the correct pattern
piece on their website.


My measurements put me in size 14
but after looking at the ease I decided to make them in a size 12. They fit
without any alterations and I still cannot believe this!
Due to the different fabrics my two Strides fit a bit differently – the white ones are much looser than the flannel ones. Something to keep in mind for my next pair!
In the pattern the fly opens to the
left side when you wear the trousers. Since all my other pants have a fly
opening to the right side I changed that for the first pair. For my second pair
I sewed them like the pattern instructs you to do, to see
how I would like this – it does not make such a difference even though it takes
getting used to! I also bound the pocket edges and waistband with bias for a
neater finish.
My test pair was made in enzyme
washed linen and my black pair in beautiful wool flannel.


The Curlew by Monika


When Ute told me about the chance to review the
M&M Workbook I instantly ordered it online. I had seen it before and loved
the look of it. And more than that I love the whole appearance of their website and company. Since I am a gentlemen’s tailor it reminds me of the small company where I learned my profession.
Flipping through the pages of the book it was
quite clear which projects I would choose.

(Definitely the Haremere in HarrisTweed – but be
patient – you will see
it later this year!)
Reminding me of my ElseDress pattern I wanted to give
the Curlew a go. The bias-cut did not scare me away at all, as I had designed a
similar dress years ago for a fashion show, that was held at my master school.
I do love the long narrow sleeves and the comfort that results from the bias-cut.



According to my measurements I traced size 14, but after sewing
a muslin of the shirt I decided to grade the upper back piece to 16. I know
that this is not the correct alteration, but I did not want to change the whole
pattern and so I chose a convenient way. 



I did not cut out the bustdarts as they did not fit me on my sleeveless Curlew-Shirt and I wanted to have the chance to modify them. I shortened them a bit, but was surprised how good they did fit in the dress. Furthermore I don’t like the serger seams at the darts and prefer to just iron them.

The dress has a curved back waist seam and here I should have made an adjustement for my swayback, e.g. drafting and eliminating two darts. I only realized this at the first fitting and could only fix it (kind of) in shortening the upperback-piece in the centre of the waist seam for about 1,5 cm and narrowing the whole backpiece for about 1 cm on each sideseam.
As the dress is semi-fitted (as written in the description) this will not bother me at all.

I narrowed the sleeves extending from the elbow to the wrist.

My Curlew is made out of beautiful laundered linen in dark blue.

Don’t be scared – there is a really good explanation in the book on how to work with the bias and how to prevent the neckline from stretching out!

*  *  *

Would we recommend this book?
Yes, we definitely would!
We can see ourselfs making the patterns
multiple times and love the concept of a simple but classic wardrobe that
consists of a few good and versatile patterns.
Especially the trousers made Ute
very happy and she will make a few more this fall and winter.
And since the style
and design, the beautiful details and the way it is created also appeal to us greatly, it truly is happiness in the form of a book.

Thank you Merchant and Mills for your generosity, we highly appreciate it!See you soon with the #EmdenBerlin Versions of the Haremere!

*  *  *

This is an advertising post for Merchant and Mills.
All the fabrics (except of the enzyme washed linen, the Japanese yarn dyed
cotton and the brown linen crepe) were given to us by Merchant and Mills to test the patterns properly in their recommended fabric.
Apart from that we reflect only our own thoughts and opinions.