Merchant and MIlls Workbook – Pattern 3 The Bantam Vest
Well, we can talk about these bantams:
Or these bantams:
Personally, I eat chickens and have a distaste of boxing so I guess we’re stuck on the last option, which is a good thing if you’re into sewing. If you are here to find out about breeding fowls or Carl Frampton you can backspace now! If you are here to know about Merchant and Mills Batam Vest Top you have come the right place. This is a long one: lots of pics and deviations – get a cup of tea or come back later when you have more time.
This is the first pattern in the Workbook but just happens to be the third one I’ve tried. Others have made this – Roobeedoo – with intimate details on the bias bindings: Su, Linda who also made the Bantam dress, Agnes from Blue Hedgehog who is doing the same as me and working her way through the Workbook.
You can see from my current collection that, once again, I am quite taken with this pattern – six, so far! A breeze to sew and uses about 1m of fabric (but I’ll come back to this yardage later) so a great stash buster. Once you get into the grove you can make this in one hour or so – much less than it actually takes to get in the car, find a parking space, go searching in a few shops, try on and buy a racer-back top that fits you and is the colour you want.
Pattern description: this is a simple slightly A-line type vest top; sleeveless with a mild racer back; long length with curved hemlines and a dipped back. You sew the hems before you sew the side seams! Such a simple but breakthrough idea. The curved hems are so much easier to do on a single piece instead of a completed garment. I will be using this technique on all future shirt tail patterns.
M&M instructions are to sew French seams which is really no big deal for two side seams and two small shoulder ones. Some of my collection have overlocked (serged) seams instead – lazy girl!
The hardest bit is the binding – neck and armholes. Bias bands are required and this needs a relatively large amount of fabric and I’m not the best at edge stitching. Hopefully after six of these and all that practise, I’m a little bit better…..
Each of my versions has a slightly different binding: raw edges allowed to fray; hand-stitched on the inside; machine-stitched on the outside; folded over to cover raw edges; serged and topstitched; totally folded to the inside. You name it, I’ve done it!
If you have 1m of leftover fabric stashed somewhere, some of mine was more than 15 yrs in waiting, this is a perfect alternative to Sorbetto (take note Twotoast!) but better. The problem is the bias binding because you’ll need loads more fabric to make this. The M&M pattern recommendations are for at least 1.4m of fabric but that includes cutting the bias strips. You can use commercial bias and that’s fine but needs to be turned to the inside to hide it and therefore your neckline and armholes will be smaller than initially intended. I used a similar method on my black muslin version. Here are some solutions to the bias binding issue
1. Make your own from small scraps.
This is a technique I’ve stolen from the dark-side of our sewing sisters – the quilters. Cut whatever you can from the corners and spares of leftover fabric on the 45 degree angle and square off the ends.
Place these at 90 degrees to each other and sew corner to corner, as the pin is placed.
Trim the excess corners off and press.
Now you have enough! You will have seam lines on your neckline and armholes but it’s better than having no binding at all.
2. Use stretch fabric.
Jersey stretches in all directions and so does not need to be cut at 45 degrees.
For my black muslin version I used a neutral cotton jersey cut on the cross grain (bit more stretch in this direction) to bind the neck and armholes.
This was sewn on, then folded inside and sewed again. The cotton jersey does not fray and matches my skin tone so if it does show it won’t be very noticeable. If you have darker skin than me (and let’s face it, most people do) then chose a jersey that is similar to your own and keep a metre in your stash for just this purpose.
Using this method means the straps are smaller and narrower.
Now for the racer-back style. I’m not renowned for my athletic abilities and so I do not own a sports bra and my days of going braless are long gone. To wear this top with style (without a cardi) really needs the correct undergarments. Your options are:
1. Buy one.
2. Use a bandeau bra. £4 Asda
3. Make your own.
Buy a thingy that holds conventional straps in.
Or…………..Take an existing bra.
Sew in place with zig-zag stitches. Ta Da! Racer back bra! Cheap and instant – what’s better than that?
OK, OK You’ve been very patient and have hopefully learnt some things along the way, so here’s the final result on a real live person….wearing her own adapted racer-back bra just to prove it works …….. All tops are worn with white linen trousers that I think are Vogue 7881, lined with white cotton and front patch pockets added.
Including the Heron Wrap…..