Pattern Review: Merchant & Mills Harlene Dungarees in Double Indigo Denim
Do you want to sew yourself a pair of classic, comfy, workwear-style overalls (dungarees)? The Harlene pattern by Merchant & Mills definitely delivers. What's more, it's now available in extended sizing, with two ranges encompassing UK sizes 8 - 28.
There's quite a number of overalls patterns out there in the sewiverse now, and I'm totally here for it. They're like jeans, but they don't pinch you in at the waist. I definitely wore them as a little kid, and I have great memories of a pair I bought as a teenager from Sportsgirl. I ripped off the branding patches on the bib pocket and covered the dark marks underneath with badges of my favourite bands. (It was the 80s.)
For the Harlene pattern, I couldn't go past a classic deep indigo denim with contrast topstitching. Our Double Indigo Japanese Selvedge Denim is 10oz, and the pattern recommends 8 - 11oz denim. Perfecto.
Sewing a Merchant & Mills pattern is always a pleasure. There are nice touches like trimming back parts of seam allowances a very precise amount to reduce bulk. The whole thing goes together like a high quality jigsaw puzzle (you know, the Ravensburger ones that became like rare gems during early lockdown times). It's also a project you need to tackle with the patient, methodical approach of a good thousand-piece puzzle. You're not going to get it all done in one day, but it will be all the more rewarding for it.
DID I TOILE?
No, friends, I did not. Foolish? Perhaps, but it was a calculated risk. I did my 'research' of versions by other sewists on Instagram. The finished garment measurements indicated plenty of ease (like, a lot). And heck, they're overalls, with adjustable straps. What could really go very wrong?
The end result is probably a little bit more oversized than I had pictured in my mind, but I think it's a vibe, it's a thing. Plus they're super comfy. They're going to get a tonne of wear.
It's worth mentioning that the pattern is long. I'm 163cm / 5ft 3" and I took 17cm off the ends of the straps when it came to adding the hardware, and in these pictures the cuffs are rolled up four times. (I'll wait until after the first wash before I hem them.) That's another great thing about overalls - they're adjustable at both ends!
HOW ARE THE INSTRUCTIONS?I'm a goody-two-shoes instruction follower, and these are quality ones. I only met a single hiccup at this point:
The only other part that gave me pause was this, which nonchalantly understates the trickiness of this manoeuvre:
MY 3 TOP TIPS FOR THE HARLENE DUNGAREES
1. Consider sizing down.
My measurements put me between the size 14 and 16, and on reading some other comments about the pattern, I went down to the 14. I love the loose fit, but I could probably quite easily fit into the 12. So if you're a bit in-between sizes, go for the lower, and if you're measuring one size, consult the finished measurements and consider choosing the next one down. Mind you, there's nothing wrong with a really oversized look if it's deliberate. Check out one of my favourite Instagram denim accounts, brand PeppinoPeppino, for inspiration. Also worth considering is that with this size, I can easily pull them on and off without having to undo any side buttons, which makes for easier loo trips... so perhaps that's another vote for oversized!
2. A separate machine for topstitching.
If you possibly can, have a separate sewing machine set up for the topstitching. (Unless of course you're just doing it with your regular thread that you're also using for the seams.) Really. These babies need a lot of topstitching, and it happens at many different points in the construction. I did a lot of swapping back and forth between two machines, and to be swapping out needles and thread and tension settings on just one machine is hard to contemplate.
And look, if you can get your hands on a Singer 201 for the topstitching job, I highly recommend.
They seem to be going for a bit more now in the secondhand marketplaces, but there are quite a few around. This was my Mum's first sewing machine. It weighs so much I'm afraid for the table legs, but it sails through layers of denim in near-silence. I only lug it out for topstitching, and it stays set up with the right needle and tension to make things even easier.
3. The pocket linings get flashed a bit, so choose wisely.
Are you happy to have a bit of contrasty lining waving hello at you and the general public now and then? Go for it. If you'd prefer a subtle 'what pocket lining?' effect, choose something that blends in well with your main fabric.
A FEW OTHER THINGS I DID
I have a particular concern about garment edges that are cut on the bias stretching out over time. I can't remember what bad experience caused this paranoia but a bit of interfacing can't hurt, right? The pattern did not call for it, but I added fusible interfacing to the bib sides, front pants pocket edges and curved back edges to help stabilise.
I added bartacks for durability on the top corners of the back pockets and on the bib pocket. I had planned on using rivets, but realised I didn't have any silver to match my KATM Dungarees Kit hardware. So I opted for subtle but effective.
Merchant & Mills has its own hardware kits for the Harlene Dungarees, which we have in stock as often as we can. I'm pleased to report that the kits by Australia's own Kylie And The Machine (KATM) work beautifully with this pattern. I also added a KATM label to the back pocket (Made It). I meant to add a 'So Comfy' to the bib pocket but got too caught up in topstitching and forgot.
Special thanks to Spottle the chicken for lending an agricultural aspect to my photo shoot.
I'm a fan of rich, darker blue denims. This Double Indigo denim will develop some lovely fades at its creases and seams, and it will also retain a depth of colour. If you prefer a more traditional extreme fade, try our Italian denim 'The Saint' which will develop that classic vintage denim look.
I hope you're excited to give Harlene a go for yourself!
- Jane & Fiona xx