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Warp & Weft Sewing Society: Merchant and Mills Camber Dress {pattern review & fitting tips}

2014 May 29

When I got the Merchant and Mills Camber Set pattern from Warp & Weft I felt a little like a kid in a candy shop. Then she let me use her Essex Linen to make it. Then I realized the Sajou ribbon she gave me last year matched it… then I kind of geeked out a little and stared of into space and thought about how amazingly fortunate I am to be able to work with all of these beautiful things!

I loved working with the Essex Linen. It washed up wonderfully and wrinkles just the right amount for a linen (and for non-ironing me!). I sound a bit like a fabric snob when I talk about how well it ironed – but it’s true! It presses beautifully, the wrinkles just ease right out with a bit of steam. I have read online that it does tend to fray easily, so I made sure to finish all of my seams with a zig-zag stitch. It would be simple to french seam any future Cambers, but I wasn’t sure if it would leave too much bulk at the side seam? Of course, if you have a serger that would be simplest option for finishing the seams.

The Sajou ribbon… what can I say? The name of the one I used is “Semis Gris” and Sajou ribbon is woven near Saint-Etienne in France. What more could a fabric geek want?! I decided to machine stitch it on either side, after taking a deep breath of course. I am happy to say that I even still have half of my ribbon left for another project! You can get your own from Warp & Weft – she has a great ribbon collection, and she even has Sajou lace in stock!

The pattern itself is beautifully designed, of course! And the instructions are well thought out and illustrated. The part I liked the most were the easy “snipped in” notches that match up and mark the seam allowances at all of the corners. They make fitting all of the pattern pieces together a lot easier. The instructions themselves are not super-detailed, but if you have made anything with sleeves before you will be fine. Actually, there are only 5 pattern pieces to make either the dress or the top. They are pretty simple to put together, and if you have sewn a Camber before it is a super-fast project.

I love this pattern and it is beautifully drafted. If you have sewn apparel before the care taken in drafting it is evident in the lines and how the pieces connect together. The front of the dress curves less at the hips than the back piece, creating a more fitted shape, while still allowing it to be worn without any closures. The lovely snipped notches I was talking about mark the approximate waist and hip locations so it is not hard to stitch the side seams properly, even with the extra curves.

Despite the beautiful drafting I am not going to tell you that the road to a well-fitted Camber Set is super easy. Of course, you can stitch up the size closest to your measurements and I’m sure it will look beautiful. But if you’d like to tailor it more to your exact shape it is going to require a muslin or two. I made the mistake of trying to size my first muslin without having attached the sleeves. The fit completely changes once the sleeves are attached. The second muslin I made worked out much more easily – especially since I had realized at this point that my shoulders are 2 pattern sizes larger than the rest of me. I knew I had broad shoulders, but wow – two sizes is broader than I thought. No wonder ready-to-wear shoulders never fit!

The only thing I think I may still change in a future Camber is to take in the back with darts, or some shirring. Depending on your body shape, there is a lot of fabric in the centre back area. Though adding any more shape may mean inserting a zipper. I will be adding some shirring/elastic to the back of one of my wearable muslins and will report back!

Like I usually do, I read other pattern reviews online and get some hints as to how I should proceed with any possible alterations. I found a few great tips from Cheeky Cha Cha and a good review from Roobeedoo. I thought I’d throw my two cents in – so here is my list of helpful hints & fitting tips when making the Camber.

Helpful Hints:

  1.  Trace your pattern pieces – don’t cut them out! You can never go back, and what a shame it would be to lose that amazingly drafted sizing. I like to use freezer paper since it is really durable and still easy to see through for tracing.
  2. When making the muslin – don’t back-stitch. This may seem like common knowledge, but I spent more time taking out my back-stitches than I would have liked!
  3. Use deep pins – by that I mean, make sure you pin well into the 5/8″ (1.5 cm) seam allowance. I’m so used to a 1/4″ or 3/8″ seam allowance that I pinned for a shallow seam allowance and had to re-pin (especially when setting in the sleeves) several times.
  4. When Merchant and Mills says “jump” you ask “how high”! They didn’t get this big without a reason – since the instructions are well-written but sparse, each one counts. Don’t skip out! For example, sew up the side seams and then set in the sleeve. Trying to set in the sleeve before sewing up the sides works for some patterns, but these sleeves are very well drafted and therefore much easier to set in at the end.

Fitting Tips:

  1. The Camber is a loose fit. I made the mistake of trying to fit it too tightly, so it loses the ability to fit over your head without an added side zipper.
  2. I found the length quite long, though I am average height at 5′ 4″. I took off quite a bit of length and made a double 1″ hem at the bottom. Check the length before you cut your fabric and you can save yourself quite a bit of yardage.
  3. Since I have broad shoulders, I cut the arm scythe and shoulder at a size 12, and the side seams and sleeve side seams at a size 8 (like the rest of the dress). I was concerned this would not give me enough space in the sleeve, but it worked out well. It is actually quite easy to move in this dress, due to the great sleeve fit. I read that apparently the closer the underarm seam is to your actual underarm the better the fit.
  4. I found since I have a smaller bust measurement that the front of the dress was too wide. I narrowed the entire front of the dress by 1 1/4″ by placing it 5/8″ over the fold when cutting (tip found here). It fits much better, though it also makes the neckline smaller, so I had re-drew it 5/8″ wider in the front and the back neckline to make up for it.
  5. I also adjusted the shoulder, according to Aunty ChaCha. I took 5/8″ off the top of the front shoulder seam and putting it on the back shoulder seam. This also extends the top of the sleeve, where it is eased in, creating a wider shoulder. I found this really helpful in creating a better fit for my larger shoulders.
  6. The last thing I did, and this made a big difference, was to move the point of the bust dart up. I left the base of the dart in place, and moved the point up about an inch. This really helped to remove excess fabric that was at the top of the bodice, as well as make the bodice fit better. I found that without this dart movement, the top of the dress was fairly shapeless.


I hope this helps! I also hope I have not scared you away from trying the pattern. It truly is beautiful, just read through comments from other bloggers online! Or google “camber set” to find images. This is one of the first woven fabric garments I have made where I really am proud of the work I did to make it fit properly. Using a pattern and making it fit your body are two different things and I would encourage you to try some alterations and spend the extra time with a muslin or two. It is worth the extra time. If you are lucky you will be able to create a wearable muslin along the way!


I have Esmari to thank for letting me work through this process. I love my Camber Dress and will wear it often. You can get the Camber Set pattern, beautiful Essex Linen (in more than 10 colours!) and amazing Sajou products from her shop. Until next time!

** Please note: This is a sponsored post and the fabric and pattern were provided to me at no cost by Warp & Weft. However, as always, all opinions are my own and I will never promote something to you that I do not love myself. **

 
8 Responses leave one →
  1. Esmari Taylor permalink
    May 29, 2014

    Yowza, Sherri, that came together beautifully! How nicely does that Grey Essex Linen work with the Sajou ribbon?! Good choice!! I love it!

    • May 29, 2014

      I was so happy to find that it matched perfectly too! I love that I was able to use the ribbon – it needed a home :)

  2. Laura permalink
    May 29, 2014

    Oh my goodness! That turned out so gorgeous! And I LOVE the ribbon detail!

  3. May 30, 2014

    Thank You SO much for such a detailed and honest review, it really is appreciated!! Your Camber shows the work that you put into it, and the gorgeous linen and trim look wonderful with the fit you worked so well. It’s a lovely classic dress/tunic to treasure for years.

    • June 2, 2014

      Thank you MaciNic! I’m glad you like it. I will definitely keep this around for a long time!

  4. May 30, 2014

    Love it Sherri! I love all your fit tips too, really helpful.

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