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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!


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 Frill Sleeve Pattern Hack

Sleeves and frills are apparently the ‘thing’ this season.FRILL HEM PATTERN HACK_MAVEN PATTERNS

source images: gingham / pink / black / navy / stripe / ivory

As you can see from the mood board, frill sleeves are all the rage and anything goes! All you need to do is look for inspiration and decide the length and fullness you want. Take a close look at them…what will it be? The ivory one has a shorter sleeve length and longer frill compared to the black top which has a long frill and full length sleeves. Or the contrast stripe direction with a Breton feel. Maybe a double layer of frilly-ness is your thing. Personally, I love the gingham and the seam stitched to create a ruffled top edge. If you look carefully you can see a peplum at the waist done in the same style. If you want to create this yourself it is the same principle as the method below – a rectangle gathered up and just stitched on. This is a very simple pattern hack that will give you extra mileage out of  The French Dart Shift pattern (or indeed any pattern). And here’s the real joy…when you are fed up with frills at your elbows, just chop them off and you are left with a classic top that you will be able to continue to wear for years. No wasteful transient fashions for us!


S/A: seam allowance | RST: right sides together


Trace the sleeve pattern. Decide the length you want the sleeve to finish without the frill. I wanted my frill to sit just above my elbow so I made my pattern 24cm nett (without seam allowance) in length and then added a 1cm hem allowance to attach the frill with. Check you like the hem circumference width, if you need to adjust it, now is the time but remember you need to be able to bend your arm.  I made the size 10 pattern with a 36cm finished hem circumference. (I’m 5’2″ so you may need a longer sleeve than me :/ Just measure your overarm or a garment you like.FRILL HEM PATTERN HACK_MAVEN PATTERNS


Next, decide how much fullness you want in your frill. I worked on a 2:1 ratio so there is twice the length of fabric for the frill compared to the NETT hem circumference of the sleeve. You can add more if you want, it depends a little on your fabric. A finer fabric might want a bit more gathering than my linen. I did a test to check what it would look like before I cut out my garment.

The one on the left is 2:1 ratio (20cm length gathered onto a 10cm piece of fabric) and on the right 2½:1 (25cm length gathered onto a 10cm piece of fabric)

To make your frill pattern:

It’s not complicated, it’s a rectangle and you’ll need to cut 1 pair.FRILL HEM PATTERN HACK_MAVEN PATTERNS

To calculate the width of the frill pattern:  take the NETT sleeve hem measurement (without seam allowances) and multiply by the ratio amount of frill.

The depth of the pattern is how deep do you want your frill to finish – I made mine to finish 10cm.


In my case with a 2:1 ratio –  PATTERN WIDTH is 36cm (nett hem width) x 2 = 72cm and depth is 10cm.

or  for more fullness with a 2½:1 ratio –  PATTERN WIDTH is 36cm x 2½ = 90cm and depth is 10cm.

Then add 1cm seam allowance all the way around the pattern piece. The grainline runs in the same direction as the sleeve, so along the shortest side of your pattern. You can change the grainline to run along the width if that works better for your fabric. If you are cutting stripes, they would look very nice running around, rather than down, the sleeve.



Make your garment up following your usual instructions. We will make the sleeves completely before setting them in.

SLEEVE: With RST, stitch the underarm seam, overlock and press open.

FRILL: With RST stitch the fold the frill in half so the shortest seams are together. Stitch with a 1cm S/A, overlock and press open.

Run 2 rows of gathering along one edge and pull up evenly to the sleeve hem measurement. FRILL HEM PATTERN HACK_MAVEN PATTERNS


Divide sleeve hem and frill into quarters, by folding in half and then half again and mark these points. With RST pin frill to sleeve hem, line up the at seams and the marks you just made to keep your gathering spread evenly. Attach the frill to sleeve hem with 1cm S/A. Check its all even and lovely before overlocking the seam and pressing upwards towards sleeve.


Overlock frill hem. Turn and press overlocking to the wrong side and edgestitch hem.


Give a press and then carry on and set in your sleeves and finish your garment.

And don’t forget when this frill sleeve trend has passed, don’t hide your French Dart Shift in the back of the wardrobe – chop off the frills and give it a new life!

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#MAVENMAKERS – a jersey surprise!

#MAVENPATTERNS_jersey surprise-36

#MAVENMAKERS – A Jersey Surprise!

I had a Facebook message from a very lovely lady called Elfi from Germany, asking if I had ever made the French Dart Shift in Jersey.

No, I replied, I’d thought about it, but wasn’t sure about the darts. In actual fact I had bought a gorgeous Olive striped cotton jersey with that very intention last November and then made something else because of my stripe/jersey/dart dilemma.

I’m regretting that now – Elfi’s has turned out so beautifully!!!


The collar looks great in jersey, but if you’re intending to try this at home, remember to cut it on the straight grain rather than on the bias. The straight grain follows the same direction as the body, so cut your collar out with the shortest length running parallel with the selvedge of your cloth. If you look at Elfi’s you can see the pattern on the collar and body all runs in the same direction. The neck will still need taping of course, to prevent it stretching out of shape. Depending on the fit you want, you may also need to skim in the body a little to make use of the stretch. I’m thinking of making a short version (hip length) to wear more as a semi-fitted sweatshirt sort of feel, with a comfort/cosy factor, rather than a very fitted t-shirt look. But you know the rules, ladies..TOILE FIRST!!!!

UPDATE: If you love the jersey used for this dress, I have some good news…..Elfi has a fabric shop! It’s full of lovely, lovely prints! 

The  BIGGEST of thank you’s to Elfi for sharing her very inspiring French Dart Shift




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THE FRENCH DART SHIFT | new sewing pattern release!



The French Dart Shift… a new sewing pattern…coming soon to my ETSY shop!

A little sneaky look at VERSION C of the next Maven Sewing Pattern.

This is the third sleeve option: a long sleeve with a gathered cuff, finished with bias binding. The pattern also includes a short sleeve and a cap sleeve option.  This is one of my most favourite garments I’ve made, it’s so simple and easy to wear…this is actually blue linen tunic #2, the first one had short sleeves, but I’ve worn it so much, usually over my jeans, that it now has holes in the underarm!

The collar is designed to be worn rolled down, you know…sixties style….but it made a such a great photo standing up – I can’t actually promise how practical it is to wear with the collar standing up, but hey…it looks good! Talking of practical, there are in-seam pockets at the side seams, always useful.