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The French Dart Week | inspiration

We are celebrating 5 glorious years of The French Dart this week!

Today, I’m going to share a bit of the inspiration behind the original French Dart, which was actually made about 4 or 5 years before I released her. Before she was even a twinkle in the eye of a pattern company!

 

 | One of the first French Darts! |

The beginning | I usually make with a purpose, so as with most things I make, it solved a problem. I needed a dress. More specifically I need a very tidy dress/outfit as I was working in a bridal shop, which involved spending a large part of my day on the floor fluffing hems, trains and veils. The upside is I can now tie a very nice chocolate box bow. 

Now, I am not know as a very tidy, formal, dressy person that you would expect to see in a bridal shop. And luckily for me they were a very relaxed shop, but there was a no denim policy. So that would be 90% of my wardrobe then. Hence, the dress dilemma.

So that was the actual inspiration…

  • a dress that could be worn to work that I wouldn’t really need to think about again
  • worn with leggings and boots (that shop was cold!)
  • I could move in it easily. 
  • And bend over in…without giving everyone in the shop an eyeful. 
  • And had pockets. 
  • Would be comfortable all day. 
  • Secret pyjamas for work before it was an Instagram hashtag. 

To design it I just worked backwards from what I needed it to do. 

And once you start combining that much need practicality of design with my influences – The French dart pretty much designed itself!

The first one was made in navy linen, and was worn until it could be worn no more (I love linen, but several years of wear frustratingly sent it into holes). This was replaced by a new navy linen a few years ago. Which will be replaced with another at some point I’m sure.

Influences | my design inspiration has always come from practicality. I like a design to function in everyday use. Something that you touch or use everyday shouldn’t be irritating; it should almost be unnoticed, wether that is your car, your fork or your dress.

Everything you experience becomes an influence. But a major one of mine is a lifetime of watching old films…I’d come home from school and my mum was watching the afternoon film – usually black and white, from the 60s, she favoured the British crime dramas and Ealing comedies. I was less fussy and pretty much watched anything – American or British 1940s – 1970s, no film is safe! The interiors were as inspiring as the clothes for me.  And just one more thing…should you find yourself at a loose end on a Sunday afternoon…I can confirm that Columbo is wardrobe gold.

So I naturally took a little inspiration from what I knew…Doris and Audrey…

Doris Day | Looking fabulous – images from Pillow Talk / Lover Come Back / Do Not Disturb

AUDREY HEPBURN | I admit to having a slight obsession with this jumper from Breakfast a Tiffany’s (1961). Givenchy is credited as principle wardrobe (not sure if that includes the jumper) with Edith Head as costume supervisor

And then we have this dress from How to Steal a Million (1966) again by Givenchy.

Ok, so there’s no actual reason for that hat and sunglasses to be here, just seemed rude not to include!

And now we have a little random assortment of inspiration from my Pinterest board (imaginatively entitled ‘Vintage’) that I have collected over the years. You can certainly see a theme had developed!

| #MAVENMAKERS |

We would love to see your French Darts! Old or new, share (or re-share!) them with us on Instagram Remember to tag us @MavenPatterns #FrenchDartMaven

 

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The French Dart Week | Welcome!

Hello to all of our dear Maven Makers!

This week we are celebrating 5 years of versatility and sustainability in the form of our French Dart Shift pattern. This week is also dedicated to helping our Maven Makers get even more from their French dart, so we will be sharing pattern tutorials, hacks, and of course your Maven Makes!
I have been wearing the French Dart Shift for about 10 years, a staple for everyday whether that’s office wear or lounging about in a lockdown. The French Dart is still as adaptable as ever so turn on post notifications to see how you can make the most out of your Maven pattern.

We’re looking forward to showing you all the exciting things you can do with the French Dart shift, featuring guest blog posts, new pattern hacks, giveaways and tutorials.

A guest post from Jen Hogg of @Jenerates with all the details of her marvellous Nani Iro panelled French Dart will be live on on the website tomorrow and we will be posting to Instagram everyday so you can keep up to date with all the details and inspiration there. There may even be a little giveaway at the end of the week! And look out for my post where I share my inspiration for the very first French Dart.

 

| #MAVENMAKERS |

We would love to see your French Darts! Old or new, share (or re-share!) them with us on Instagram Remember to tag us@MavenPatterns #FrenchDartMaven

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A Most Delightful Pattern Hack

The French Dart Shift | Button Back Tutorial

The French Dart Shift is possibly the most versatile pattern you will ever sew with and I have another little pattern hack to share with you today!

 

I originally made the Indigo Moon spot sample for The Festival of Quilts as I wanted to showcase the Corozo buttons that Mr.M had sourced. Corozo is a natural, sustainable product that works in harmony with the rainforests of Equador, and as it is an excellent alternative to plastic buttons so we felt it was an important message to share.

The sample and the buttons proved to be very popular and there were lots of requests for a tutorial on adding a button placket. The buttons and buttonholes are functional, but you don’t need to undo them to get the top on and off. I’ve added the buttons down the back of the garment, you could just as easily use these instructions and have them down the front instead. I’ve made this French Dart as a top but you could make a button through dress version, just be aware of how much ease you have in the hips and bum area – too little and your buttons and buttonholes may strain or pop open when you sit down! I made the top sleeveless – it was the height of summer here in England – you know that 3-day window where the sun shines consistently before normal British weather resumes when dressing involves sunglasses, factor 50, a cardigan and canoe, because who knows, but best be prepared?!  I made no alterations to the pattern to make it sleeveless, just left the sleeves off and bound the armholes.

| HABERDASHERY for a top|

For all sizes | 1.5m of 150cm wide fabric (you will have enough fabric to cut out short sleeves if you don’t want a sleeveless top).

Indigo sample | Indigo Moon Fabric, 7 Corozo buttons – 24 ligne (15mm) || white linen sample | the linen was found in Ikea bargain corner, 7 Agoya shell buttons in natural – 24 ligne (15mm)

TOOLS | French Dart pattern, paper, scissors, tape, buttons, lightweight interfacing, buttonhole foot, and the usual sewing stuff!

ABBREVIATIONS | CB: centre back | CF: centre front | WS: wrong side | WST: wrong side together | RST: right side together | RS: right side | SA: seam allowance

| THE PATTERN |

First, you’ll need to alter the pattern. As always when altering a pattern trace off a copy so your original stays intact (if you have the PDF version you can always print another). Copy the collar, back and front but don’t cut them out yet.

I left out the back darts to make it a slightly boxier shape.

Decide on your length. I made the CB finished length (the length when it’s all sewn up and not including any seam or hem allowance) 60 cm and added a hem allowance of 4cm (pattern length including hem and neck SA – 64.6cm). No need to overcomplicate this bit, I just measure up from the hem in several places and draw a new line before chopping off the length. The only things to be aware of are;

  1. make sure the new line intersects the CF and CB lines at right angles to stop weird pointy angles.
  2. make sure your side seams are the same length and run smoothly around the body, again to avoid weird pointy angles.

| ADDING THE BUTTON PLACKET |

 

Working on the BACK BODY of your copy pattern, mark the CB line in a red to make it clear (the original ‘cut to the fold line’ is the CB).

Draw a line 1.5cm away and parallel to the CB line, creating a button placket. This will be the folded edge.

Draw another line 4.5cm away and parallel to the fold line, this makes the back facing.

*I used 15mm buttons. If you are using bigger/smaller buttons you can adjust the width of the placket and facing to accommodate your buttons and buttonholes.

When the facing folds back into place it should be the same shape at the neck and the hem as the main body. Fold the facing along the fold line so it sits in place, pin to hold and cut through both layers of paper. Make sure the neck and hem intersect the fold and CB at right angles. When you unfold the facing it will be exactly the same shape as the body. Make a notch in your pattern on the fold line at the neck and hem.

Fold up the hem in the same way before cutting out to make sure it is the same shape as the body when folded into place.

| COLLAR | 

As we have extended the CB by adding 1.5cm for the placket, we need to add the same amount to EACH end of the collar so it still fits. (Don’t worry about the seam allowances as they are already on the pattern, just add the 1.5cm.) Remark your notches.

| INTERFACING | 

Cut a strip 5cm wide and the length of your CB pattern and press onto the WS of the facing. By making the interfacing slightly wider than the facing and you’ll be able to press a nice sharp fold in your fabric.

| CUT AND MAKE |

Make your French dart according to the instructions.

  • Stay tape the neck – for the back neck use half the given measurement and add 1.5cm, or finish the tape at CB if you forget as I did 😉
  • Close and neaten French darts, shoulder and side seams. Leave out the back darts for a boxier shape top.

| COLLAR |

Press 1cm SA on the long edge to WS (STEP 14 in the instruction booklet) and pin in place.

Mark the midpoint between the SA notches.

Keep the 1cm SA pinned in place and fold collar RST in half at the midpoint, align the SA notches.

Close CB collar seam with 1cm SA, keeping 1cm SA folded in place and 6mm SA hanging free below.

Trim top corner to reduce bulk.

Turn through to RS and press seam so as not to roll to either front or back but to sit right on the edge.

| FACING |

If you haven’t already, apply your interfacing to the facing.

Neaten (overlock or zigzag) the edge of the facing. Press facing to WS and pin to hold at the neck edge.

| ATTACH COLLAR |

Place collar RST with body aligning the 6mm SA edge with neck edge. We are just attaching a single layer so keep the other side of collar free. Align notches and place the back seam of collar flush with the folded edge of the facing (you don’t want a step!). Stitch collar to the neckline with 6mm SA.

Trim corner of SA to prevent bulk.

On the WS of garment bring the free edge of the collar to the neckline to cover the stitching by 3mm and enclosing all the SA. Tack and then stitch in the ditch from the RS to finish. This is the same as our usual method of attaching the collar – we are just enclosing an end.

| HEM |

I allowed a 4cm hem allowance. I pressed it to WS by 4cm and then pressed the top raw edge under by 1cm and topstitching it at just under 3cm making it a clean-finished hem.

TOP TIP – Make sure your backs are EXACTLY the same length now before you start buttonholing.

| BUTTONS & BUTTONHOLES | 

I’ll only briefly explain how I mark my buttons and buttonholes because that could be a whole post by itself!

I always mark my button positions first (on the side of the garment to be buttonholed) and then mark my buttonholes around them to get the correct spacing. My first button was 1cm below the neck seam (my buttonhole foot wouldn’t sit any closer to the seam) and I had an 8cm spacing between each button.

I did my top buttonhole horizontally and started it 3mm to the right of the CB seam to allow the button enough space to sit on the CB.

The other buttons were all vertical and positioned centrally to the button positions on the CB line.

Once the buttonholes are made and cut, I pin the back bodies WST and push a pin through each buttonhole…

… and mark a dot on the other side to show where to sew each button.

And there you have it…yet another garment from the French Dart Pattern!

 

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The French Dart Shift – BOILED WOOL

The French Dart Shift | BOILED WOOL

MAVEN PATTERNS_FRENCH DART SHIFT_BOILED WOOL

Lovely Nicky (@nickynackynoo_) sent me an Instagram message back in the middle of November asking would the French Dart Shift work in Boiled wool? Now, I always get quite excited when someone asks or suggests a pattern variation/hack I hadn’t thought of – oh, the delights and benefits of sharing ideas on the internet! That particular day was freezing here in the UK, and as I had bemoaned frequently that I never find any jumpers that I like, I ordered some fabric that very day and did a test.  And it worked beautifully if a tad itchy, but absolutely fine with a skinny t-shirt underneath. And was just perfection on a recent trip to Paris (in a chilly January!). It was très Chic, in fact!

THE FABRIC |

MAVEN PATTERNS_FRENCH DART SHIFT_BOILED WOOL

Boiled wool is a knitted fabric that has been washed and agitated, so the fibres have a tighter felt like finish. There are lots of options regarding fibre content and weight.

I used a grey boiled wool from Backstitch in smoke. (Weight: 368gm², 60% viscose, 40% wool – 142cms wide.)

The care instructions on the Backstitch website are to dry clean (but it is meant for a lined jacket or skirt, so fair enough). And the general advice for pre-washing boiled wool is not to wash and just give it a really good steam to shrink it, and then allow to cool. Which is fine if you’re making a coat or something similar. (You generally should allow stuff to cool after pressing to help stop it stretching and creasing while still warm.) The Colette blog recommends a damp towel and a tumble dryer method, but I don’t own a tumble dryer so not a method I could test, but sounds a good plan.

I eventually decided to ignore the general advice and wash it in the machine. My theory being I was making an everyday jumper style top, I knew this fabric would shrink (probably a lot) and I knew I would NEVER be bothered to handwash it, and I really wouldn’t be bothered to dry clean it – I would, in fact, chuck it in the machine when I had to. And my friend Maria told me to do it.MAVEN PATTERNS_FRENCH DART SHIFT_BOILED WOOL

So I did as I was told and chucked it in the machine on a short wash at 30°. It felted up a little more, so felt slightly thicker, but was still quite delightful! I did get a few of these bobbly bits, but they pulled off easily enough. What I didn’t do at the time was check how much it had shrunk. A post-cutting garment calculation puts it at about 20cm on 1.5m length (roughly 14% length shrinkage, never thought to check the width shrinkage!) I didn’t allow for that much shrinkage when I bought my fabric, but I managed to squeeze my top out. I had to do ¾ length sleeves rather than the full length ones I intended but hey-ho, such is life!

*I feel like I should put a disclaimer on bunging your boiled wool in the machine…it worked out fine for me, but I wouldn’t want you to ruin some hideously expensive cloth. Consider carefully how you will treat the finished garment, is it something you’ll chuck on the floor (me: “yes”) or is it one of those garments that you’ll hang up carefully and cherish. Be warned there are no guarantees when going against the stated care advice!

SEWING WITH BOILED WOOL | tips

Boiled wool is quite an easy fabric to sew with but there a couple of things to be aware of.

The thickness of the fabric: it’s bulky, so best not to have too many seams and details. Also, it’s easy to overpress it, which can lead to shiny marks or a stretched garment.

*Stabilise seams to prevent stretching

*Use a ballpoint needle

*Longer stitch length (I usually stitch on 3 and went up to a 4, test on a scrap of fabric for your machine)

*Walking foot: I tested on a scrap first without a walking foot and my sample was fine. Then as soon as started to stitch the garment – it wasn’t a happy bunny, it just didn’t want to feed through so I had to do a quick machine foot switch-a-roo! (My machine is pretty knackered now though, I’ve had it since 2001 and the stitch length is, shall we say, is inconsistent at best.)

* Boiled wool doesn’t fray, so doesn’t need neatening! Wahoo!

*Boiled wool doesn’t fray, so it doesn’t need hemming either!

*PRESS on a low heat, press gently and sparingly. Use a pressing cloth to help protect the fabric as you press. 

*Do not drag the iron (you may stretch the fabric) – that’s why it’s called pressing your garment and not ironing your garment.

*Press all the seams OPEN and trim/grade the bulky bits.

KEY: FDS | French Dart Shift   S/A | seam allowance   RST | right sides together   CB | centre back

FOR REFERENCE | what I did

 I cut a Size 10 (my usual size) with a finished CB length of 60cm with no hem allowance as I was leaving it raw and unfinished. 

¾ sleeves with a finished length of 46cm and 3cm hem allowance. I’m short – you’re going to want to check those measurements for you, measure something that you like to wear. (tutorial for lengthen a sleeve here!)

UPDATE – I didn’t bother hemming it and 3 years later, it’s fine!

I left out the back darts: I marked the darts with tailor tacks, but didn’t stitch them so I could try on the top first. The shape was nice without, so left them out to reduce bulk.

Changed the collar pattern (see below).

COLLAR | cuttingMAVEN PATTERNS_FRENCH DART SHIFT_BOILED WOOLThe collar for the French Dart is normally cut on the bias grain and then folded over – giving you 4 layers of fabric. I think we can all agree, in boiled wool, that was going to be a smidge thicker than comfortable so I cut it half the depth to eliminate the roll-over part of the collar. (Keep the length of the collar the same but you can make it any depth you fancy: pattern = finished depth of collar x2 + 6mm S/A to attach & 1cm S/A on the other edge). With boiled wool being a knit fabric that has been felted, I cut it on the straight grain. And I only cut the notches on one side of the collar (the one with the 6mm S/A to attach at neck).

STABILISE THE SEAMS |MAVEN PATTERNS_FRENCH DART SHIFT_BOILED WOOL

 

The neckline of the French Dart is taped to prevent it stretching, but when making in boiled wool you will also need to tape the shoulders and the armhole to prevent them stretching. To find the measurement – mark your seam allowances on the pattern and measure the stitch line/finished seam lengths. We don’t want to tape into the S/A as we don’t want to add any extra bulk at the seams.

MAVEN PATTERNS_FRENCH DART SHIFT_BOILED WOOL

For the neck and armholes I used a lightweight stay tape (I always trim the width in half for the neckline), follow the instructions how to tape the neck. Tape the back shoulder seam and position the tape so when you close the shoulder seam you will be stitching through the tape. MAVEN PATTERNS_FRENCH DART SHIFT_BOILED WOOLFor the front and back armhole, I cut some ½” wide (1.2cm) strips of knitted fusible interfacing on the bias and ironed them into place. Because it’s cut on the bias it follows the curves nicely. I purposely made them a few millimetres wider than the seam allowance of 1cm so when stitching the sleeve into the armhole you will be stitching through the interfacing to control the seam. (Actually would have been OK to cut them a smidge wider at 1.5cm.)

BUST DART | sewing

MAVEN PATTERNS_FRENCH DART SHIFT_BOILED WOOLStitch the French dart, and cut open the S/A a bit further towards the apex and gently press OPEN. (The pin marks the end of the dart.)

BODY | sewing

Close shoulder seams, side seams, underarm seams of sleeves.MAVEN PATTERNS_FRENCH DART SHIFT_BOILED WOOL

 Trim the bulky bits away! This is where the dart intersects at the side seam. Press open.

Set in the sleeves.

HEMMING | sleeves and the hemMAVEN PATTERNS_FRENCH DART SHIFT_BOILED WOOLMAVEN PATTERNS_FRENCH DART SHIFT_BOILED WOOL

If you are going to hem the sleeves and/or the hem, trim away the bulk and blind hem by hand. (Follow the instructions in your pattern for hemming, but leave out the neatening stage.)

MAVEN PATTERNS_FRENCH DART SHIFT_BOILED WOOL

Or Just leave your hems raw and unfinished.

COLLAR | sewing

MAVEN PATTERNS_FRENCH DART SHIFT_BOILED WOOL

 

Close CB seam of the collar and gently press open.

With RST attach the collar to the neckline (as described in instructions). Press neckline seam OPEN.

NOTE: I edgestitched the seam allowance on the body side of the seam, to flatten it a bit. Personally, I prefered the look of the garment without the edgestitching, but if you have bouncy seam allowances that won’t behave, edgestitching them flat is going to be the answer. You could actually twin needle the seam, with a row of stitching either side of the neck seam.

MAVEN PATTERNS_FRENCH DART SHIFT_BOILED WOOL

Fold the free edge of the collar to inside side to cover seam and allowances. Stitch in the Ditch of the seam from the right side to hold the collar in place.

MAVEN PATTERNS_FRENCH DART SHIFT_BOILED WOOL

Tah da!…..Or……
MAVEN PATTERNS_FRENCH DART SHIFT_BOILED WOOL

just leave the collar to flop over!

MAVEN PATTERNS_FRENCH DART SHIFT_BOILED WOOL