Let me start by clarifying the meaning of the title of this post – I am not deeming myself to look ‘sassy’ in this shirt. In fact, I don’t actually think I ever want to use that word to describe myself. It is a homage to Sassy, the orignal bad-ass furball kitty from the most traumatising kids film of all time. I am of course referring to the 1993 emotional train wreck that is Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey.
Forget ‘Marley and Me’, and ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ – if you want to cry and scar yourself for life then watch Chance, Shadow and Sassy try to find their own way home. I actually can’t believe they gave this film a ‘U’ rating – meaning ‘universal – suitable for all’. That is the biggest lie ever – it is only suitable for people with hearts made of stone because everyone else will be an absolute wreck curled up on the floor by the end of it.
In case your animal-recognition skills need a little help, or you haven’t yet experienced this wonderful cinematic masterpiece, here’s Sassy (on the right) with her canine pals. Just look at her face. She might look all cutesy and fwuffy but she can and will claw your eyes out while you sleep if you deserve it. Now *THAT’S* sass.
The shirt I have made is the ‘Melilot’ shirt by French pattern company Deer and Doe. Its described as a casual shirt with drop shoulders. You get short and long sleeve variations, with a mandarin or rounded collar. The patterns are printed on nice thick paper (not tissue paper) and come in a sturdier-than-usual cardboard sleeve. Two instruction booklets are included – one in English and one in French, which is good because my high school French skills are now proper dodgy after 16 years of not really using them.
Within the pattern you get sizes 34 to 46 covering busts of 31.5 to 41, with two versions:
Version A with long sleeves, rounded collar and a single pocket
Version B with short sleeves, mandarin collar, and double breast pocket.
Pockets and collars are interchangeable between designs, so you could make version A with two pockets, or version B with the rounded collar (which is what I have done).
I usually wear a UK size 10 in shirts, and cut a 38 in this pattern. The bust measurement of 34.5 for a size 38 is slightly over my actual measurements, but the fit is spot on – the size 36 would have been too small. Deer and Doe draft their patterns for curvy ladies with a bust – narrow waist, large hips and a C cup, so I wasn’t worried about it being too tight at the hips. In fact, I didn’t even check the hip measurement before cutting – with shirts I choose my sizing based on bust measurement.
I like the fact that the buttons are spaced quite closely together down the front – this reduces the chance of that annoying gape right at boob-height where everyone gets a flash of your bra and/or boobage if you don’t safety-pin it closed.
I’ve made my Melilot from a lightweight viscose fabric, bought from Till The Sun Goes Down at the Spring Knitting and Stitching show in London. I had a bit of a hard time deciding which way up the fabric went – both ways gave you a mix of cats that were the right and wrong way up! In the end I just picked one randomly…
The fabric is pretty, but it slid about so much on the cutting board! I folded the fabric down the middle so that I could cut my pieces out, but in hindsight this probably wasn’t so much of a good idea and I should have cut it single layer. I cut the pockets as a single layer, as they are smaller and a bit fiddly, but even with the fabric flat on the cutting mat as a single layer the grain of the fabric was sliding all over the place and I had to make sure everything was laying perfectly straight before I cut it. Spray starch helped a little bit here.
I’ve used Deer and Doe patterns before, so sort of knew what to expect from them. However, this was the first shirt pattern of theirs I had used. The instructions for putting together the collar and stand were VERY basic – and not sufficient if this was your first time attempting a collar. For example it didn’t tell you whether the interfaced bit sat against your neck or on the outside of the shirt, and didn’t instruct you to clip the edges so that pinning and stitching was easier. If you’re a total newbie to making shirts or collars, you’re not just going to ‘know’ these things – and swear words and tantrums will happen and the whole thing will end up in the bin. Yep, been there done that before. I also felt that notches and markings were in short supply, which again helps to align all the pieces so they end up where they are meant to be. For whatever reason (which doesn’t seem to have happened on any of my Vogue shirts that I’ve made) my collar just wasn’t long enough to get the two edges of it to meet at the centre of the neck, no matter what I tried. Seam allowances were correct, edges were clipped, collar was measured against paper template to make sure I had cut the right size. Everything was correct but I ended up with an annoying 1 inch gap above the button placket.
On a more positive note, the pockets are constructed really well, they are lined so no raw edges show through. I didn’t want to line mine with the same cat fabric as it’s quite thin and I was worried that you would see cats from the other layers through the front and it would end up looking like a trippy multi-dimensional cat party. I didn’t have anything else suitable to use so instead I went to a charity shop in Camden and bought a pre-loved lightweight scarf with a big white panel on it that would be perfect.
The pocket lining panel is cut the same size as the pocket, which when you’re trying to topstitch the pocket to the shirt makes it a little fiddly to tuck in all the lining and not get any edges showing. I guess that this is less of an issue if you’ve cut the lining from the same fabric as the shirt, because both pieces will be the same colour and you won’t really notice if a little of the lining is poking out from the edge… but as I’d had the bright idea of using white lining, this made it obvious when a little slipped through. I feel like the lining should have been a little bit smaller than the outer face of the pocket.
It took me a couple of attempts to get the pockets stitched to the shirt with all the pocket lining tucked in, and even then the pockets still got unpicked because one was higher than the other. TWICE. And then when both pockets were finally level-ish (or when I’d reached the point that I no longer cared if they weren’t), I tried on the shirt and hated the way they looked. I do have other shirts that have pockets, and they look alright on me, so I’m guessing that I had just stitched them on at an unflattering height. By this time I had lost the will to live over them and just took them off and left them off. With such a busy pattern on the fabric you couldn’t even see the pockets anyway, they just blended in to the herd of cats, so I just called it quits and forgot about them.
I’m not quite sure what’s going on with the sleeve cuffs, they are a little sticky-outy at the top – this may have something to do with the way I’ve stitched them on, or the fabric, or maybe I have funny shaped shoulders or something. I almost feel like the cuff should be narrower at the bottom and that there’s too much fabric. To be fair, on the model on the Deer and Doe website the sleeves are doing the same thing – so perhaps I should have looked harder at the finished item. She has a lot more room in her sleeves than I do though, hers look like you could almost get another arm in there but mine are pretty snug around my Hulk-arms which maybe doesn’t help the situation either.
Although the curved hem is a nice shape, the parts at the side where it rises are just a little too high for my liking. Unless I’m wearing high-waisted jeans, there’s going to be some skin showing here with a slight raise of the arm and I’d rather not have that. No one wants to see my muffin top. It’s nice to have a hem that’s not just the same level all the way around but I should have lowered the highest bits of it to have less of a dramatic curve.
The finished shirt is pretty, but overall I’m a little bit ‘meh’ over the whole thing. It has its good points, like nice tidy french seams on the inside and the method they have used for attaching the sleeve cuffs encloses the raw edges (unlike some other similar patterns I’ve seen), so construction-wise it is pretty neat. The dodgy pointy sleeve cuffs and the troubles with the collar and pockets have sadly put me off making another one, for now. At a later date I might try another one in a more stable cotton, and see if I’m happier with that.
Photos by Hmexus