Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Merchant & Mills - the Bantam Vest


Time for more from the Merchant & Mills Workbook - the Bantam Vest. I love it!

It's such a simple pattern, just two pieces plus binding (or not). I think M&M really got the lines right on this one. String vests are not just for men! This one, for women, has such fun details: a curved hem, which drops in the back, nice deep armholes, and a racerback that fits just right across our angel wings.

Emile is my photo model today, since my post-surgery arms are not yet allowed to go flying over my head. The white straps are from Emile's camisole, so you can see pretty much where lingerie straps would fall. IMHO, a matching cami strap would be cute - I'll do it!


I love the curve at the side of the hem and the back dip.


This one is done in cotton lawn from Fashion Fabric Club. I'm crazy for this print. Lawn is perfect for this pattern - M&M uses a lot of lightweight linen, but I find it to be very scratchy, no matter how often it's washed. Other choices might be voile and challis, both of which would drape more than lawn or linen.

The binding...hard to see, but it's there. I don't use pattern pieces provided for bindings. Whether they fit really depends on the fabric - how could one pattern address all those possibilities. So years ago I taught myself to make long strips of binding (bias for wovens, across the stretch for knits) and attach them by fit and feel around the various curves on a garment. I generally start at CB and work all the way around, no pinning. All I can say is, it's fast, dependable, and not frustrating! I'm really glad I learned how to do this, since I seldom use facings on dresses or tops.

So, how to stop at one Bantam - can't do it! Here's a version in an unusual knit that I got ages ago from My notes describe it as Florence nylon crushed jersey knit. It's very light, tissue weight, with horizontal slubs and heat-set crinkles. It has absolutely no vertical stretch, but about 30% horizontal stretch. 

I've avoided using it because it seemed a little scary! But it's perfect for the Bantam.


I have the same fabric in off-white. Maybe I'll do another vest to wear layered under this orange one - it would be fun. 

I tried doing hemming the bottom, but it just curled up. So I removed the stitching and ran a small straight stitch all way around, about 1/2" from the edge. Works fine, since jersey doesn't run, unless one really gives it a good yank. 


I used French seams on both versions, and using them on a knit was a first for me. But they worked surprising well on this thin fabric.  I didn't apply binding on this one, I just turned the armhole and neck edges in 1/4", two times, and topstitched. The result is much slimmer straps.

One thing I didn't do was iron any part of this version! I tested a fabric scrap with the iron, and all the crinkles disappeared - completely flattened the knit. OK, so it's really wash & wear!

A few sewing notes:

  • I sewed the size 12.
  • M&M doesn't call their seaming technique a French seam - but it is. However, they suggest sewing it with half of the 5/8" SA in each of the two seam components. I really don't recommend that approach. IMHO, using 1/4" on the RS pass, and 3/8" on the WS pass, results in a nicer finish. 
  • Instead of using a French seam on the shoulders, I flat-felled them. This technique makes a nice, smooth, flat, and comfortable seam.
  • I took in the sides by 1/2" at each armhole, cured down 6".
  • And I redrafted the front hem a bit, to reduce what another blogger called the loin-cloth appearance. LOL - but it's true. I brought it up about 3/4" at CF, cured out in the curve on each side.
  • The lawn version used about 1.5 yards of 55" wide fabric. And the knit used only a yard!

Parting shot:

The anoles and lizards in my yard love to lay their little eggs in my hanging plants. The orchids, ferns, hoyas, and succulents. And Ms. Squirrel and the blue jays know it. A little feasting going on. Ms. Anole was caught looking a little unhappy with the situation...

Bye for now! Coco


  1. Both of your versions of this vest are wonderful. I am making shirts for DH right now and cannot wait to try a few patterns from this Workbook. I like their aesthetic very much and while I love linen, I think I will investigate other fabric choices to add drape.

  2. Both are fantastic- love the shape!

  3. I'm with Valerie! I've seen so many lovely versions of garments made from the Merchant & Mills Workbook that I'm beginning to think I "need" it too, though in reality I haven't a clue when I'd get time to sew. It's taken me weeks to finish a simple blouse. Love your Bantams!

  4. And here I was thinking the book wouldn't have much I might be interested in. I love it and can think of at least a dozen smaller pieces of fabric I have that would be lovely made up in this pattern. Nice makes Coco and your little anole couldn't be cuter. We have lizards here but they are spiny and get pretty offended if handled!

  5. Lovely. It's the perfect top, isn't it? The layering of orange and white would really suit your climate.

  6. Love these tops! They are going to look great on you.


I love it that you came by...and thank you for your comments! Coco