A while back, Merchant & Mills unveiled a new dress pattern, called the Ellis & Hattie. We were immediately drawn to the unique lines of this dress, which add fun details around the neckline. But we were a little unsure of the style. The bulky skirt seemed unflattering, and the length was awkward. We put it in the drawer and never made that sample. Until recently, when Bonnie had the genius idea to crop the skirt, turning it into a super cute peplum top! Naturally, this required quite a few alterations; not just the length of the skirt, but throughout. Read on to find out how Bonnie achieved this final look!
The Merchant & Mills Ellis & Hattie pattern has two versions. Both have lovely detailing along the neckline, a gathered skirt, and optional pockets. The Ellis has sleeves, while the Hattie does not. Bonnie made the long-sleeved Ellis version, though she made a handful of significant changes to the garment. While Merchant & Mills has an oversized, utilitarian aesthetic, Bonnie ultimately decided that that did not suit her. So she took it upon herself to tweak and alter until she made a version she could wear with confidence. And that’s the whole fun of sewing, right?
This pattern calls for linen or soft wool, or light- to medium-weight woven cottons. Bonnie used our fabulous Cupro Tencel Linen in Henna. It has a finish and hand similar to sand-washed silk, but with a bit more weight to it. The fantastic drape of this fabric is flattering without being clingy, and it was perfect for the swishy peplum.
Alterations & Modifications
The biggest change Bonnie made to this pattern—besides, of course, chopping the length—was to reduce the fullness of the skirt. Here are the final numbers: She took a whopping 7″ off either side of the front and back skirt pieces (yep, 28″ total!) to decrease the volume of the finished peplum. She also shortened the bust darts by 1″, took in the bodice 2″ on either side, and moved the shoulders up 1/2″. Oh, and she increased the sleeves by 4″ so they didn’t hit right at the elbow. Amazingly, even after all those alterations, the top really does look like the pattern—only better! Bonnie is an accomplished seamstress, so getting garments to fit and flatter is her super power. But pattern hacks such as turning a long skirt into a peplum and bringing the volume under control are not beyond the skills of most sewers. It just takes a little bit of creativity to visualize the finished piece, and then it’s just a matter of “making it work!”
In the end, this top turned out really cute and wearable. The great design of the original pattern is intact, but the elements that didn’t work were jettisoned. The Cupro Tencel Linen was the perfect fabric choice and is easy to care for. Lesson learned? A pattern is just a starting point, and instructions are best thought of as suggestions, not commands!