Note: A blue Morningside shirt

The second task I gave myself in my August shirt making challenge was to test a few patterns from my stash. I tend to buy a lot of patterns, but it may take a while before I start the actual sewing. Sounds familiar? This one has been at the top of my list for a while:

There are so many talented pattern designers out there who I admire, and I certainly wish I could try every single pattern they create. One of them is Sarah of French Navy Patterns from Cape Town, South Africa. She has created a small but incredibly versatile collection of patterns, all very wearable and useful for everyday life and just the kind of garments I love to sew because I can wear them often (when I like the result, of course). My lifestyle consist of far more “everydays” than events that require a more dressed up attire. I always prefer sewing for my lifestyle, it is the best use of my time. So far I’ve made three of the French Navy patterns, but I would love to try the others, too. There are a couple of dresses, tops, tees and a pair of pants to choose from in her Etsy-shop so far.

A couple of years ago Sarah released the Morningside shirt and shirtdress, a modern classic style with the option of a boyish short sleeve or a girly frilled one, a narrow collar, concealed placket and a dropped shoulder. It has a curved high-low hem, a double yoke and a choice between box pleat or gathers in the back. The dress view has pockets. Depending on the fabric choice you can achieve quite different styles with this pattern.

Construction and fit

The instructions are very thorough and easy to follow, but the pattern is still classified as intermediate. I agree with this because it has a few challenging features that could be quite difficult for an absolute beginner. For me, it was a first try on sewing a collar and placket with almost no visible seams. I unpicked the collar once for a better finish, the first attempt looked terrible. The construction is mostly as expected for a classic pop-over shirt except for the hem, which is sewn before the side seams. The argument is that a curved hem is difficult to get right when sewn in the round, and I agree – it worked really well doing it this way. I had no difficulties putting it together, but I had to remember to go very slowly to achieve the quality I wanted. Stitching accurately in the ditch is not easy! It helps to use the zipper foot and move the needle to the side.

My version is a very wearable toile to test the size and fit. I used remnants from two other projects, two different blue cotton shirtings in dark and light blue. The collar, placket, inside yoke and cuffs are in light blue, the rest in a darker shade. I think the resulting shirt reminds me of a polo shirt and has a slightly sporty effect.

The sizing is relaxed, but not oversized. I chose size M in accordance with the size chart, and the overall fit is very good. However, I’m between S and M in bust measurements and could probably benefit from grading from S in the bust to M in the hips. The collar is a bit wide on me, too, and this might help fix that. Another adjustment I plan to make is to the length. I prefer curved hems to sit higher on my hips – this one hits me at the lower part, almost on my thighs. This is most likely because the pattern is drafted for a much taller person. I’m only 1.63 m plus I’m short waisted, and this is a very common adjustment for me. Why didn’t I do that in the first place? I guess that’s what making toile is all about, but when the result is as good as this, it bothers me not getting it right in the first place. I might crop it and sew a straight hem going forward, but for now I like it tucked in, so it’s totally wearable.

Fabric choices and possible hacks

The fabric choice is important for this shirt (as for any garment, really). It looks best, in my opinion, in a lightweight crisp shirting for the view with folded cuffs, but a more fluid fabric works well here, too. I think the version with ruffled sleeves require fabric that drapes well to avoid them sticking out like bird wings – but if you are after a dramatic sleeve, why not! The shirtdress can be sewn in any lightweight fabric as long as it has a little drape. I think a linen would be fabulous, but you could of course use a tencel or viscose instead. It’s easy to tweak the design in many ways: Shorten/lengthen, long sleeves, band collar etc etc. It is probably an easy hack to alter it to a button front shirt instead of the suggested pop-over style. Maybe next time?

It is so lovely to wear this shirt in the current heatwave, and it is equally suitable for work and leisure. I think this pattern is a valuable addition to any pattern library, at least if you are into a modern, classic, effortless style. The illustrations alone make me dream of many more versions. I’m not the only one, check out the hashtags #morningsideshirt and #morningsidedress on Instagram to see the many inspiring versions by other makers.

More French Navy Patterns

French Navy Patterns also offers a fabulous free t-shirt pattern that I’ve made in a couple of versions, the Stellan tee. Highly recommended – if you want to learn how to sew a professional looking neckband, this is it. I’ve also made the Calyer pants, but they’ve not yet reached the blog. You should definitely follow French Navy Patterns if you are on Instagram. The feed is very inspirational, and Sarah responds quickly and is incredibly supportive and friendly if you have any questions for her.

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