A Shirt Dress (or, Ode to my Unpicker)


I love linen. Like, really love linen. My fantasy house has billowing linen curtains, linen sheets (changed daily by my fantasy help), me wearing linen Pajamas (ironed by my fantasy help naturally…). My fantasy life has me getting off a plane in only very slightly crumpled linen, looking cool & effortless. Anyone who has seen me roll off long haul knows just how fantastical that one is (hint, wear dark colours  take a sense of humor & at least two changes of top…)

So when I came across Merchant & Mills pattern The Shirt Dress I was tempted. Maybe I could nail me some crumpled effortless vibe after all, and it would fit! I was concerned initially as the size range only goes up to (a small!) 18, which is 41, 35, 44. But previous experience making Merchant & Mills patterns, I know they have a lot of ease built in.



I really like this style. We have sleeves (as you may know, I’m still in discussion with my biceps about the state of themselves), a decent length, and an easy, but not tent like fit. Perfect for work, or the weekend. The bib front is an interesting style point which feels a bit old fashioned to me. In my universe that’s a good thing hey. The top stitching finishes everything off nicely

Freezing, take the darn photo!

Its cold here in Auckland. By that I man to a soft Aucklander like moi, its COLD. 4 C here overnight. Naturally to any readers in places that get ACTUALLY cold (Canada in winter anyone? Anyone living in the Deep South here in NZ , currently a balmy -2…) you’ve possibly misplaced an eyeball rolling in the back of your head, but please bear with. Like many Kiwis I grew up in a woefully heated house (one fire for a five bed one level bungalow), where complaining of being cold got you a quick “put another jersey on” and one of Mums evening routines in winter was filling five hot water bottles ! I crave warmth, so linen isn’t an immediate choice for winter dressing.


But introduce merino cardigan and long boots and we may be talking? I’m a little obsessed with this Uniglo mustard cardigan. This colour is everything, if I have it in my wardrobe, chances are mustard will go with it. Polarizing yes (one friend commented “its the colour of poo basically” , but I love it! Mustard & Navy? Oh yes please…

The linen is from The Fabric Store, it’s crisp, the colour is rich, everything linen should be. Isn’t navy blue & brown just the best combination?


The pattern is great quality, printed on heavy paper, with a clear instruction sheet. The only quibble I would have with M&M patterns is their styling. On the one hand I love the ” industrial 40’s workman” vibe, but I do wish they details on the clothing were easier to actually see. And why do the models always look so miserable?

Now, the details. A nifty pattern than came together effortless, with nary a swear word or wine consumed?

It came together perfectly….yeah right!

Hell no! I fell like this dress was sponsored by my unpicker (seam ripper to NH friends), it was certainly the most used tool in the whole operation. Everything was going seamlessly (like what I did there?), until it came to the yoke. Not only did the wheels fall off at that point, they caught a flight & moved continents. I sewed & unpicked that thing FIVE times. In fact I unpicked the yoke so many times it disintegrated, thankfully I had enough surplus fabric to cut two new ones. Honestly.

The worst thing is I’m still not 100% sure what I did wrong or how I fixed it. Which is a fat lot of good if you’ve come here for useful sewing info like how to sew the yoke on the Shirt Dress pattern. For that I apologize. It isn’t the first time I’ve struggled with a yoke, and as you can see it’s far from perfect, but we got there in the end…

Booty call…or “look at the state of that fence” call?

I can tell you I added 2.5 cm to to the sleeve, to accommodate my generous biceps. Other that that, I made no alterations to the pattern (as I said, the sizing is generous!). After unpicking the yoke numerous times, I then thought I’d add to the fun by sewing my sleeves on without changing the stitch selection from a long gathering stitch. Well my did those sleeves have some lovely gathers (puckers!) in them. After Mr D had grudgingly dragged himself away from the football for 3 minutes (I curse you FIFA!) to take some pics in the gloom (in Scotland it would be gloaming, that time between day & night, isn’t that the best word?)I realized how bad those sleeves were. A calming Chardonnay later, I took both sleeves out & re sewed them, but my photographer refused to play ball…

Despite my unpicker shenanigans, I love this pattern. So easy to wear, I have several colours of this pegged with boots & a cardi for winter. In summer I’m looking fwd to the longer sleeve version turned up, with sandals & a pretty necklace for casual but cute dining…or walking off planes looking fancy. As you do.

In between blog posts, whats been occurring at Plum Towers? Sorting fabric with my trusty “helper” Tuppence.


Making cakes. This is for my Mother in Law Florence, really pretty, I’m happy to say she loved it. Which given she’s my MIL is a good thing yes?


Chocolate drip cake for a friend to take to a 50th birthday…notice not actual “50” on the cake. Yes.



It’s been lovely to get back into the sewing room, here’s to a lot more fun stitching. Maybe with a tad less unpicking….




  1. Deborah says:

    Your cakes look beautiful! I like your dress, too. I have been learning about linen fabric lately. It started with wanting to make some bags for my home baked bread. I learned that it’s very cool in summer, so I am now looking for yardage for some dresses. I also want to order some linen yarn for a summer sweater.


    1. plumkitchen says:

      Thank you! Yes its the perfect summer fabric, even if it does crease , in fact one of my friends made the comment “yes, it creases, but they are expensive looking creases!” 🙂


  2. I’ve just found your blog and absolutely love your post, grinning away on my train commute. I’m a kiwi living in the UK and it is really nice to get a flavour of NZ from afar. Now to binge read your previous ones… Well done on your perserverance with the yokes.


    1. plumkitchen says:

      How lovely, thank you so much😚 I lived in London for 7 wonderful years and spent many hours on the train commuting, I can absolutely picture that, so pleased to bring a splash of NZ to the journey x


  3. Judith Staley says:

    Love your humour as usual. Love your dress too. I have just taken receipt of 3 linens from M&M including ‘Milk’ And ‘Scuttle black’…. what on earth possessed me to wash them together??? Cry! That’s before I start sewing and brandishing the unpicker!


    1. plumkitchen says:

      Oh lovely, it’s just such fab fabric to sew & wear ( even after wielding the unpicker!😉) Although after dealing with Navy I’m not sure my eyesight could deal with Scuttle black, but I love the idea of black linen, very chic!


  4. Pingback: I heart Ngaio…
  5. Lola says:

    My friend grew up (USA) thinking the unpicker was called the “d2mm1t” because that is all she ever heard when it was used.


    1. plumkitchen says:

      Ha Ha, sounds like our cat , for about the first 8 weeks we had him he thought his name was No Tommy No!😂


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s