Pattern review: Ellsworth shirt by Merchant & Mills in Hemp, Silk & Organic Cotton
This is a project where the fabric came first. This rather special hemp, silk and organic cotton blend is overstock from a local designer. Now that actual leaving-the-house-and-going-nice-places is becoming a thing again, this fabric was crying out to become something with a touch of the fancy.
The Ellsworth Shirt is a newer pattern from Merchant & Mills. It combines tailored details like two-piece collar, half button placket, sleeve cuffs and hem facing, with casual cut-on sleeves and oversized width. It's a deceptively simple silhouette which is actually quite a detailed sew. It's available in the full Merchant & Mills size range, split between two versions: sizes 6 - 18 and sizes 20 - 28. At the time of writing we only have the larger size version in stock, as the other was unavailable during our last restock. We'll get it back though!
The instructions call for a few steps of hand basting. Since this special fabric also lent itself to patience and care, I took my time and decided to hand-work a lot of the topstitching in a silk embroidery thread from my stash. It's a (very) subtle touch which was as much about enjoying the process as it was about the final appearance.
Merchant & Mills' instructions are never quite as hand-holdy as some independent pattern brands, but they're up-front with the difficulty scale. This pattern is rated as intermediate. If you've never sewn an inset button placket before, this is probably not the place to start. But having a general idea where it was going, I found the placket instructions led me through to a good result. It also helped that this fabric is delightfully malleable and forgiving, where something super-crisp, or prone to fraying, may not be.
The sleeve plackets are of the continuous-bound variety, and again, you wouldn't want this to be your first time. For extremely detailed and helpful instructions on this technique I recommend the Muna and Broad Waikerie Shirt pattern. Once more, the flexible nature of this fabric eased me through this step.
The final result?
Typically for me and Merchant & Mills, the size 14 I measured at and made is maybe a bit too oversized. (For personal fit I should probably make a 12 with FBA.) The size may be exaggerated by the slightly spongey, stretchy nature of this drapey fabric. It definitely needs to be paired with a very minimal silhouette on my bottom half. (Creased novelty print shorts FTW.) The fabric feels gorgeous to wear. So far I've only worn it around the house, where I've managed to drop butter down the front of it, which fortunately washed out with a bit of extra care! Maybe I'll get to take it out 'somewhere nice' soon.
Fabric: Hemp, Silk & Organic Cotton, 2m (NB: this fabric is 120cm wide, and the pattern does not entirely fit on this width beyond size 12. This is only because of the cut-on sleeve. I cut the sleeves out to the size 12 length which was totally fine, and may work for many sizes.)
Alterations: none except sleeve length
Comments: The oversized look in a super-drapey fabric is probably more suited to people with broader shoulders than me. But it feels luxurious and swishy, and it was nice to take my time with some special fabric. The natural colour is beautiful, but I'm also tempted to try natural dyeing the whole thing, because I think this fabric would take a botanical colour very well. Too many crafty ideas, not enough time!
- Jane xx