Merchant And Mills Factory Dress Review

In which I decide to explore a change in direction, and take a different approach to deciding which garments I want to sew and welcome into my wardrobe, with pattern company Merchant and Mills.

As I have not been producing multiple sewing projects this year, it has made me focus more on the garments I really want to sew. Most of my sewing time has been and will be taken up with continuing to work on my wedding dress, so any additional projects undertaken have been carefully considered.

In a way, this has also made me re-evaluate the type of items I want to sew. In the past I have made garments based on utilising amazing novelty prints or bright colour combinations. As much as still adore bright colours and prints, I have realised that I do not exactly have a lack of these in my wardrobe. In fact, whenever I open my closet I am confronted with a riot of colour and bold prints. At times, this can prove overwhelming when deciding on garments to combine in order to form coherent outfits.

All of these thoughts led me to the conclusion that I need to focus on making garments that are muted, solid colours (ie no prints), and will be key versatile pieces to combine with existing items. For me, part of the joy of sewing is being able to create pieces from unusual colour combinations or whimsical prints, so to focus on plain fabrics is quite a big change.

In order to hopefully lessen the days when I am overwhelmed by my brightly hued wardrobe, I turned to UK based pattern company Merchant & Mills. The Factory Dress was my very first pattern from Merchant & Mills, and as I opened the pattern envelope, this phrase perfectly surmised my recent thoughts and evaluations:

‘Take Pause. Invest thought time and labour in making your own clothes by your own hand.’

The Factory Dress is inspired by a 1920s design, made to be worn as a durable, hard working garment. The pattern comes in multiple sizes, from UK8 up to UK18. I decided to cut the UK 8, which turned out to be a nice fit. Full illustrated instructions are also included with the pattern, which I found not only helpful, but also a delight to read. Through the use of language, it is apparent that Merchant & Mills really encourage the development of sewing skills. Indeed, equal attention is heeded to the internal finishing of the dress as the overlook look of the garment, reinforcing the sense that garments made from Merchant & Mills patterns should be garments made to last.

I used a beautiful muted pink pure linen purchased from Ditto fabrics to sew up my Factory Dress. I feel this was the perfect fabric choice – durable, easily laundered, with just the right amount of drape and weight. I love that the pattern includes pockets in the side seams, I do have a tendency to fiddle around with pockets as a kind of social comfort blanket!

Overall, the dress did not take long to make at all, as I recall I had it whipped-up in a day or two. I spent extra time making my own bias binding, which I used to finish the facing and bodice/skirt join on the inside.

I would absolutely make up this dress again, as the pattern was so straight forward to work with. Sizing wise, even the darts were absolutely perfect on my completely flat bosom area – something which never happens with shop bought patterns.

As a testament to how impressed I was with the pattern, I persuaded Kieren to take us on a little road trip last weekend to visit the Merchant & Mills shop in Rye. I purchased the Workbook, and some beautiful English herringbone cotton twill. The next projects I intend to work on are the Saltmarsh skirt, and the Haremere coat – both from their Workbook.

Whilst I previously may have viewed plain, practical clothes as unexciting, Merchant & Mills patterns have made me realise a new joy in sewing – the joy of taking pleasure in the process. Creating and crafting something with care, thought and patience.

Outfit Details

Until next time dears!

Reproduction Vintage Hats with The Heritage Milliner

I really believe that accessories can go a long way to making an outfit complete. Hats have the power to elevate an outfit, providing that all important final flourish. Original vintage hats in good condition can sometimes be difficult to obtain, which is why reproduction hats are so appealing.

The Heritage Milliner is a UK based label, specialising in authentically styled women’s hats. Owner of the label Karen, produces hats based on vintage styles, with particular focus on the 1930s and 1940s.

As the owner of a few original vintage hats, I know how difficult it can be to find particular styles. Original pieces can sometimes be distorted out of shape, trims may be missing or damaged, and (usually the case with earlier styles of the 1920s); the fit may be extremely small. However, choosing a style of hat from the Heritage Milliner was a completely different experience for me. Firstly, Karen worked with me in order to decide on the style, main colour, trims, and any additional design details.

If you have an outfit or colour in mind that you would like to match – the Heritage Milliner can make that possible! I actually met Karen in ‘real life’, at the Festival of Vintage up in York. Whilst at the festival, I purchased a 1940s suit jacket in a lovely duck egg blue. I showed Karen the jacket, and decided that it would be so lovely to have a hat to match – so we designed a hat together! The end result is absolutely beautiful – but that is perhaps for another blog post a bit later on.

For this hat, I thought it would be a good idea to keep the trims minimal, and to stick to harmonising tones. The russet shade works beautifully with many colours – navy, as pictured, browns, yellows, greens, etc etc. I was tempted to go for a yellow hat (OF COURSE I WAS. I am obsessed with yellow after all), but I then thought it would be a better idea to go for a tone that I knew would work across the board.

This particular hat is called the Winnie style, fashioned from russet felt with brandy petersham trimming. As this style of hat is intended to perch on the head, there is elastic on the inside in order to secure it in place. I must admit, I was dubious about the elastic, as I have never really found it to be useful in my other hats. BUT – somehow Karen has figured out the perfect placement and length of the elastic to make it an excellent fit! I placed a hair grip either side of the elastic just to ensure it didn’t slip, and finished with a hat pin (which I purchased from Karen).

I highly recommend having a look at the Heritage Milliner’s website & store (details below). The quality of this hat and indeed the other hat I ordered are incredible. Currently, there are some styles ready-made available from the Heritage Milliner’s eBay store. For custom orders, allow 2-3 weeks. As I was unsure on what design or type of trimming I wanted for this hat & my other one, I let Karen decide to go ahead with whatever she thought would look best. Both hats look incredible, and – Karen encourages each customer to be unique and individual. This warms my heart, as part of the allure of true vintage is the level of uniqueness it affords. The Heritage Milliner allows customers to express their individual style & tastes – using high quality materials and techniques. I for one, shall definitely be placing more orders in the future!

The Heritage Milliner Details

  • Find the Heritage Milliner’s website here
  • eBay store here
  • Interview with Karen at 12mins.24secs in here (For mobile devices, view here instead)

Outfit Details

And lastly, I couldn’t resist including this picture of Kieren and I (the advantages of having a self-timer on the camera!) Kieren is wearing a beautifully tailored suit from Chester Cordite. Earlier in the year, we visited Chester Cordite’s HQ to sort out Kieren’s wedding suit. We were so impressed with the quality, cut and workmanship of the suits & shirts, that Kieren ordered this additional suit (the wedding suit has been squirreled away until the wedding!)

Disclaimer – the hat pictured and featured in this blog post I received in exchange for review purposes. The additional hat mentioned I purchased myself, and as mentioned, I’m sure I will be purchasing more in the future!

Until next time dears!