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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 Good Times Skirt | the inspiration

Enjoy to the Good Times | the inspiration

As always it started with a conversation with a friend. This one was about how clothes and fabrics remind us of points in our lives, how they become part of our history and our identity.  The clothes you remember having a good time in. This skirt became one of those items. I have been wearing this skirt for over a year, more like 18 months, road testing and tweaking as I always do. Slow fashion at it’s finest and of course, it continues our ethos of making well thought out practical patterns to fill a need in your wardrobe for many years to come.

I was inspired to make a denim skirt based on my original favourite that I bought from the gap in 2001 (still wearing it – just – ’tis a smidge snug), and the fear that it would wear out and then ‘WHAT WOULD I DO?’. It is a traditional 5 pocket western style (like jeans) but it was very long, to the ground (on me) and straight with a big slit in the front to just above the knee so it was possible to walk. Very dark, unwashed denim. In the sale £9.99. It went in the drawer, came out, went back, it just wasn’t quite right. Eventually, I chopped it off to knee length, used the spare fabric from the bottom and put godets in the side to give a bit of flare so it’s now a very gentle, slim, A-line. And I have worn and worn and worn this skirt. In true jeans tradition, you can’t get much in the pockets. And I really wished it had a bit of stretch for extra comfort, you know? But of course, we can always improve a favourite, so say hello BIG GINORMOUS pockets!

Its very first official outing was a trip to Paris in January 2018 with friends to see the original Dior exhibition – last year was the year we all turned 50.

Then it came on a trip to New York – still celebrating turning 50 – with Mr.M. I’m actually wearing the same skirt/boot combo right now as I type this, a whole year later.

Then it sneaked into my case to visit Berlin. This has been one well-worn and well-loved skirt.

I should mention that at 5’2″ I’m on the shorter side for modelling, so I chopped my skirt off. I encourage you to do the same and make your skirt the way you like it, so you’ll keep wearing it. There are shorten/lengthen lines on the pattern if you are finishing your hem with the contrast facing, but for the raw edge hem option I just cut it off after making (you can trim the frayed white threads if you prefer).

My Good Times skirt has made several city trips, London, Birmingham … Ikea, Coventry. It’s done a shift at Sewing for Pleasure back in March because I needed to use those pockets and I see many more sewing shows in its future! This is a good practical skirt with pockets that can hold a big mobile phone and a travelcard and keeps your hands free. All without fear that they will fall out of your pocket and be lost forever on the underground. What a relief. Every time I wear this skirt, I do indeed have a good time.


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A Little Inspiration and Philosophy

Do you ever wonder where the inspiration behind a sewing pattern comes from? Ideas can literally come from anywhere and everywhere. I mean, who hasn’t followed someone around a supermarket to get a better look at an interesting pocket or seam? Old films from the 50’s and 60’s are a constant source of joy for details and silhouettes. All of the little ideas just get tucked away subconsciously until it’s time for them to come into the daylight. You see, to be creative you have to put something in for something to come out. You have to take notice of the small stuff, the unusual colour combinations in the most random place, a shape, a silhouette of a shadow. Don’t just look at clothes, just look. Once you start looking at things with the eyes of a Maker, everything becomes a potential.

And then, of course, you find a fabric. Designs for me are often a response to a fabric…what does that cloth need to become? How will it drape? And this stripe was just begging to be made into a chevron. I made this skirt way back in 2014, when only the idea of Maven existed (the fabric was from John Lewis, but sadly no longer available). The skirt eventually developed into our Barcelona dress pattern. The Barcelona pattern was only released this year but she actually became a dress pattern in 2015 and gained her name when I did the classic make a last minute dress for a trip to Barcelona. I like to give the patterns time to develop naturally. We personally wearer trial everything so we know it works in the real world. I want garments in my wardrobe that are flexible and solve problems, not create them, not just for today but for years.

But above all for me, this quote by William Morris has resonated within my design work from the moment I first heard it. It made sense of my natural desire to make for purpose and practicality. I believe a garment has to meet the criteria of longevity and to function well within a wardrobe and within a lifestyle if we are to put the effort and time into making something. If we are going to use resources, we need to make consciously with a view to loving each garment for a lifetime. Here at Maven, that really is at the core of what we believe. 

The French Dart pattern as a top | The Barcelona pattern as a skirt

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Inspiration – The Kitty Dress

inspiration | the kitty dress

inspiration | the kitty dressinspiration-the-kitty-dress

Inspiration | The Kitty Dress

Just the loveliest little bit of sewing inspiration for the Bank Holiday Monday .

Mandy has embroidered roses on her Kitty Peter Pan collar….and they are so perfect!

I have had a plan to embroider a Kitty collar for months, so I’m basically living through someone else’s sewing right now!

Thanks to Mandy for sharing her work in progress, I can’t wait to see the finished collar.

Follow Mandy’s progress through her Instagram @mandycan42