Camber Set from Merchant & Mills


IMG_5923The Camber Set from Merchant & Mills has definitely become one of my go-to patterns for tops-I’ve made 4 now! I picked up the pattern early last year at a swap/meet up (it was the same meet up that I got the Maker’s Atelier Holiday top pattern too which has become another favourite, I’ve made 3 of those and blogged reviews of them here and here)

The first was a navy and white striped one in a linen-look viscose if I remember correctly- I bought it at least 20 years ago to make my Mum a dress but life intervened! What I’ve come to love about this pattern is the clean and stylish finish to the neckline. The front neck uses a strip of bias binding which is applied to the reverse and then brought over to the right side and top stitched.

the scissors necklace was from the V&A museum in London.

Next there’s a yoke at the back which is stitched in such a way that it neatens the back neck and encloses the shoulder seams all in one go. The instructions and diagrams are very clear but you do need to concentrate the first time because it seems a bit alien but trust me, it’s worth it. I had the bias on incorrectly initially because I assumed that it was turning in the usual way to the inside (it wouldn’t matter if you did it like that though, it’s just you wouldn’t then have the effect of the binding as decoration)

the stripes make yours eyes go a bit swizzy

I chose to contrast top-stitch some of the seams and the bust darts too for some visual interest.IMG_1353

I cut the top yoke on the bias simply because I had enough fabric to do so.

I cut a straight size 14 based on my measurements and it’s just right, roomy enough to be comfortable without being too baggy.  I would say that it’s an afternoon’s work if you make it exactly as the pattern.

The second one I made in more of a hurry to take to the second Sewing Weekender last August. This time I made it in some coral crepe-de-chine from my stash and made the bias and yoke in a contrasting butterfly crepe-de-chine which had been supplied by Adam Ross fabrics in the goody bags at the first Sewing Weekender! I mixed it up a bit by adding a small inverted box-pleat to the back.

The third version is a very straightforward plain ivory crepe (from Hitchin market I think) with no alterations. I love a patterned fabric and plain tops are not something I have loads of, I used to wear RTW T-shirts but I just don’t anymore so they need replacing with alternatives. I got cocky though and did the binding the wrong way round so it’s a bit narrower than it should be.

My most recent version of the Camber is a bit special IMHO. Recently I went with my friend Janet to Goldhawk Road to look for fabric for me to make her daughter a dress to wear to Janet’s son’s wedding (with me so far…?) Naturally I had a look at a few things myself but then in Misan I had some kind of out-of-body experience because I spent an ABSOLUTE BOMB on some Roberto Cavalli printed cotton lawn! I’m not even going to tell you how much it was, I’ve never paid that much per metre for any other fabric before, there was just something about the vibrancy of the colours and the prettiness of the design, plus Janet made me do it, she never even tried to stop me!! It’s a pity the photos don’t do it full justice though. [Misan also has 2 fabulous shops in Soho if you really want to blow the budget]

I bought 1m20 with a plan to make a Camber. With some really careful cutting (annoyingly there were two fairly wide unprinted white strips along each selvedge) I managed to get everything out so that the colours ran in ‘stripes’ around the body and on the sleeves too-this always pleases me immensely when I can achieve it-I was also able to add ruffles to the sleeves this time.

The although the fabric is 100% cotton it has a fair bit of inherent stretch which meant it had got a bit wonky from where I’d hung it on the washing line-a good steamy press largely sorted this out though. Basically I did everything the same as usual (except I really concentrated on the neck binding!) Instead of sink stitching the back yoke facing (that’s ‘stitch in the ditch’ in old money) I used one of the embroidery stitches that my Pfaff Quilt Ambition 2.0 offers. I chose one that’s fairly similar to the print on the cloth to complement it and used lemon yellow thread. I also added some small pleats to the back below the yoke.

I made the sleeves a fraction longer and added the ruffles, which I hemmed using the rolled hem finish on my overlocker. I’ve been trying to use this feature on suitable fabrics more often recently because it’s pretty and makes a change from a regular hem edge.

rolled hem finish


there are added small pleats in the back


I can’t wait to wear this, we’re off to Italy very soon and I’m going to wear it with white linen trousers (RTW ones sadly, I bought them when time ran out for making last summer) The photos don’t do the fabric and the colour justice at all but I think it’s going to be a summer favourite, it isn’t even my usual colour choice either!

This is the only M&M pattern I have, their aesthetic is very pared-back and utilitarian and not necessarily my thing but as you can see a variety of fabrics can make a simple style look very different-I don’t think I’m done with this pattern yet, I haven’t even made a dress version yet!

Happy sewing


Adding a pocket flap to Tilly and the Buttons Cleo dungarees.


In my previous blog about the Tilly and the Buttons Cleo I told you how my daughter had bought me the aubergine babycord kit for Christmas. I finally got around to making it this week after a bout of flu and a lingering cough slowed me up considerably.

You can read the first blog here, the reason for writing this one is to tell you briefly about putting a flap onto the patch pocket.

First I made a pattern piece for the flap using the actual pocket as a template.

I simply used the width and lower edge for the point and then it’s a case of deciding how deep you want the finished flap to be and add seam allowance to the top edge. This is about 3.5cms

I cut 2 in babycord but you could could have one in the main fabric and one in a contrast or lining fabric [this is definitely worth doing if your fabric is thick or bulky]

First apply the interfacing to what will become the top flap and then sew the 2 pieces of fabric together.
Trim the corners.
Turn it through and press. Stitch the open top edge together.
Top stitch around the lower edge if you like too.
Make the buttonhole at this point if you’re having one, as you can see this one was totally off-centre so I unpicked and did it again!

Sew the patch pocket onto the dress front according to the balance marks and then place the flap above it.

Pin it this way first, if you’ve used a contrast fabric under the flap this will be uppermost. The stitching line is a little above the pocket, probably about 1.2cms. Sew the flap on.
Carefully trim away some of the excess, being careful not to cut through the dress underneath! These are my duckbill scissors from Ernest Wright, they’ve been such an excellent buy.
Fold the flap down and topstitch all the way along the top edge. This method self-neatens the seam underneath. Sew on a button.


All finished! This time I topstitched around the edges which I didn’t on my teal version. I used the clips which were supplied with the Cleo kit too.

Button and buttonhole on the first version and no topstitching.

I love the shade of purple and I’m thinking about a top to go with it, possibly my next Simple Sew blogger project using some fabric from my stash….watch this space!

I’ve only put a flap on the main front pocket but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do them on the back pockets too.

I hope you find this easy to follow and it adds a little extra to the dress I think.

Happy sewing


a few ideas to get your project off to a good start.

I was compiling this collection of thoughts to take with me to the first Creative Social in Hertford and I thought it might be a useful list to publish on here. It isn’t a definitive list by any means but it’s a starting point which you might find helpful particularly if you’re a novice.

One of the jobs I’ve had over the years was as a sample cutter,  first for bridal and evening wear designer David Fielden and then later at bridal company Miranda McGowan Designs. This meant I was responsible for cutting the first samples of new designs for the collections, often cutting dresses from very expensive fabrics as economically as possible, along with accompanying linings, trims, notions etc. What this means is that I think taking your time to cut carefully is a job well worth doing and rushing this stage could already set you up for disappointment. You’ve spent good money on your lovely fabric and I know you’re keen to get on but slow it down.

Top Tips for Sewing Success!

By following a few simple rules before you start your dressmaking project you’re much more likely to have an outcome you’re pleased with. These are some of my suggestions…

  • Measure yourself accurately and truthfully (or get someone to help you) and cut the size closest to your body measurements-bust and hips primarily. These are often very different to shop sizes (which are smaller) just because you’re a 10 in the shops does NOT mean you’re a 10 in a dress pattern so ignore them at your peril!
  • Prewash your fabric if appropriate, especially if it could shrink or lose dye all over everything. You could always pop a ‘colour-catcher’ in the wash with it to see how much dye comes and out and wash again if necessary.
  • When laying up your fabric on the table, if it’s folded, keep the selvedges closest to you when possible, that way you can see they are both together and not wobbling about.
  • The table edge gives you a helpful visual guide of whether your fabric is laying flat and and the grain running parallel, use it.
  • Take your time laying up your fabric and then use a tape measure to ensure the grainline of the pattern pieces is placed parallel to the selvedge. If the pieces are cut badly off-grain your garment just won’t go together well.
  • Pin the pattern to the fabric about 1cm away from the edges and parallel to it, if it’s at an angle you could cut over the end of the pin accidentally and that’s VERY bad news for your scissors! I start by putting a pin in each ‘corner’ of the pattern first and then infill the longer edges. Using too many pins can cause the fabric to become overly wrinkled but not enough means it can move about! This will come with practice…
  • Try to avoid very cheap pins, these are usually awful, often blunt and scratchy, and can damage your lovely fabric.
  • I always use scissors to cut out because I think, with practice, they are better for cutting tricky shapes. They don’t need to be expensive but they do need to be sharp. Rotary blades are better for cutting patchwork and quilting, things that are mostly straight lines.
  • Try not to move your fabric about while you’re cutting it out, you should move to the piece you’re cutting rather than drag your carefully laid out fabric towards you. With stable fabrics this isn’t such a problem but more drapey fabrics like viscose, chiffon or lightweight satins for example will end up very misshapen and could spoil your final garment.
  • Transfer all markings before you remove the pattern, notches, balance marks etc. Use tailor’s tacks or purpose-designed marker pens/pencils.
  • Before you start sewing, if you’re using an unfamiliar pattern brand, check what the seam allowance is, it could be less than you’re used to and that could result in your garment coming up too small.
  • Once you know what the SA is stick to it! If you wobble about between amounts the fit will be compromised.
  • Press as you go but don’t over-press. A fine line I know as it helps ‘set’ the stitches, although too much pressing causes the fabric to get a bit…meh. If a fabric creases a lot then don’t waste your time pressing too often, every now and again will have to surfice.
  • There’s no shame in tacking tricky bits together, better that than just pinning but getting it wrong several times…too much unpicking!
  • Check the fit as you go. Don’t get too far along to be able to fix any fitting issues.
  • Why not cut several items at once then store each one, including pattern, interfacings, trims, zips etc, in ziplock bags so they’re ready to use when you have time to start a new project. I tend to sew one thing at a time rather than have lots on the go at once.

One other thing, if you go to a sewing class and have to take your project with you each time, pop it on a hanger as soon as practical so that it isn’t creased up in a bag, I hate to see my student’s hard work all crumpled up for want of a hanger!

Feel free to add any tips of your own,

happy sewing,