Merchant & Mills sleeveless Trapeze…

What a F*****g nightmare! I do not exaggerate , I really don’t. Making this was, how shall I put it? Traumatic! I am not one to over dramatise but this really was one of the most mind boggling things I’ve ever made.


It all started off innocently enough. All was going to plan. Cut out the fabric, put the front and back together.  Constructed the facing, attached it to the neck. Was thinking, I might have this finished today. And then BAM! I hit a major brick wall. The armholes OMG the armholes, more to the point the armholes facing. WTF!


I started off OK, I pulled the facing outside and turned it over so right sides were facing each other. Started to pin in place pulling the inside out as I went, got to about half way up the armhole when it all started getting messy. And it was at this point that I decided that the good people of Merchant & Mills had lost their minds and missed out an entire section of instructions. It didn’t seem to matter what I did I could not get my garment to look like their illustration.

I can tell you now people, the air was pretty blue around me at this point, I was frustrated beyond belief. The Husband hearing my moans of despair came up to see what was wrong and when I explained, he had a look and tired to help. He couldn’t figure it out either. We were both convinced something was missing.

So I had to put it aside for a couple of days and wait till I could get to Rye and go see M&M in person. Which I did on the Monday. They were very helpful and assured me that they hadn’t missed anything out and that it was very common for people to get confused at this point. So that made me feel a bit better. Anyway the lovely lady pinned one half of the armhole for me and I watched intently as she did so. She said it really feels wrong and twisted whilst you’re doing it but it all works out in the end.

I couldn’t do anything till the next day. So finally I sat down to have another go. I stitched the side that was already pinned. And that takes some working out too. How best to place this deformed piece of cloth under the sewing machine? Once I figured out the best way for me to do it I started sewing. And let me tell you it still was not simple. I finished that half (oh and by the way I tacked it before sewing proper, just in case) and took a bash at pinning the other half. Trying to remember how she did it. Mine looked almost like hers. I tacked that side and then turned the facing to the inside. Hmmm, not quite right, nearly but not quite. It gets a bit messy at the shoulder seam. So I unpicked and had another go. Still not right. So I decide to have a go at the other armhole.

I will try and explain how its done.

What you do is, start by puling the bottom of the facing to the outside of  the garment and matching the seams so right side is facing right side, and then pin, then keep pulling the facing to the outside keeping the edges together and pin as you go. You do one half at a time. Now as you get to about half way up the arm hole things start to get very messy but persevere, keeping hold of the edge of the armhole facing and the armhole you just keep pinning and the garment gets more and more twisted, as you approach the shoulder seam you almost turn it inside out, but just at the shoulder keep pinning until you meet the seam. Now attempt to stitch, once you’ve done one half you do the next half in the same way. working up from the side seam to the shoulder seam. Apparently once done you turn it back through to the inside and voila a perfect armhole facing. At least thats how it should happen. Good luck!

There will  now follow some pictures in the hope that you get the gist of how horrible it is.


You can’t really tell whats going on here, and I can’t really explain it.





The bit sticking up is the shoulder seam.


Thats a bit more shoulder seam. Clear as mud eh?

Once again The shoulder seam beat me. I just couldn’t get it to lay flat, looked horrible. In the end I unpicked about 3inches of the top of the shoulder and top stitched it down, very close to the edge.


I think it works quite well and stopped me from completely giving up. I shan’t wear it when I go shopping in M&M as they might disapprove of my method.


I’ve put the above picture in just to show what a difference a really good press makes to a finished garment. I am truly amazed that the armhole ended up looking so good. And it was all down to the magic of the iron. Above picture is pre-ironing, and below is after ironing.


Ta dah!


Looks all lovely and innocent now, but it truly was a monster!


This is the inside of the garment. Look how well I’ve pattern matched it, right where nobody will ever see it…




One of the main reasons I made the sleeveless version was to have something that would go under my scuba cardi/jacket thing. The sleeves are quite snug on it so sleeveless is best for it really. And it does fit under it beautifully.


You can’t see it, but its there. Fitting very comfortably.




Have to say I’m not overly keen on the sleeveless look on me. My arms are not very toned anymore and look a bit stubby I feel, but needs must and I’m going to wear it. It was a challenge I have to say and I nearly gave up. So glad I didn’t. And even though I didn’t end up doing it exactly as I was supposed to, it still works and looks good. I partly blame the fabric, it frayed terribly and was quite difficult to manipulate. So there!

I have to add and this is quite important, might be obvious but I didn’t work it out I was told. Do not attempt to do the armhole facings with the garment on a dressmakers dummy. Can’t be done, end of!

Will I make another, yes, but a dress next time. And I’ll try and find more appropriate fabric.

  1. brilliant to have it all sorted out! I’ve bought the M&M book fingers crossed for the instructions x

  2. Darlene

    Thanks for explaining more about the sleeveless top. I have that pattern but still didn’t try. Is there a cutting line on the pattern to make it a top? or did you just cut where you like it best? it turned out really nice!

  3. Thank you, sleeveless version is a bit tricky I have to say. I’m not in a rush to make another! I traced the pattern on paper and made a top pattern at a length that suited me.

  4. Jacqueline

    Thank you. I made a toile last night and thought I was going bonkers. As you so perfectly put it wtf! At least reading your brilliant blog assures me I’m not going mad… will attempt the dress today. BTW it looks great, your arms are fine! I might also try it as a top having seen yours.

  5. I know! I really did think I had missed some crucial step and therefore it wasn’t working. Make you go bonkers is what the sleeveless version will do to you. Have to say though I am toying with the idea of a black sleeveless dress in a lovely crepe fabric. My thoughts when I wrote this post was that if it could help at least one person, I’d be happy. I could find no other blogs out there offering advice on this most confusing of techniques. So thank you for your feed back and lovely comments. Best of luck with yours. Please come back and tell me how you got on, or share a pic. Xx

  6. HelenB

    Aargh. I’m just trying the armhole facing now and I want to cry. I can’t see how it all untwists at the end. Have just unpicked the half I managed to sew but will try again after reading your advice.

  7. I feel for you I really do! It is a nightmare to do and I’ve not done another one! Good luck and I hope my advice helps.

  8. I SO feel your pain on this one. It nearly broke me, and as I live on the other side of the world, a shop visit was out of the question. I still cant actually explain how I figured it out in the end…?!
    Love your black crepe Imogen, I am just about to make it for the first time myself, such a pretty style

  9. Yep I know what you mean, nearly broke me too! If I didn’t live so close to the shop I probably would have given up sewing altogether. I seriously thought I was going mad! That is the only flaw of the Merchant & Mills patterns, lack of detailed instruction where needed most. Still it was good learning curve, I think!
    I love the Imogen pattern, I’m sure you’ll enjoy making yours. Xx

  10. Mindy

    Oh Mother of Pearl THE ARMHOLES! I was quite enjoying this project up till the armholes. All of the twisting and stretching! The fabric is as frayed as my nerves. I did a google search and found your page. I feel better just knowing that we all suffered through this together.
    The good news it your top looks super cute.

  11. I feel your pain! It is quite horrendous isn’t it? How did yours turn out in the end?