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Danielle’s Chambray Dot Boilersuit

Women on city street standing against a grey wall wearing Thelma by Merchant & Mills in indigo dots with her brown dog standing by her side.

Thelma by Merchant & Mills 

Fabric: Chambray Dot in Indigo (4yds) (...technically I used 3yds & 6", but this took a bunch of time in layout mode & I don't recommend it)

Notions: 18mm Gold Pineapple Buttons (6), 11mm Antique Gold Metal Buttons (2), Kylie & the Machine “Imperfect” label, 40mm Waistband Elastic (19”), Sew-On Snaps from my mom’s stash similar to these, 70cm interfacing (this wasn’t on the pattern envelop, but was added on the M&M site as errata)

Size Made: 8 (I measure at a 37” bust & 41” hips if that helps)

Modifications: Buckle up friends, because there were a few.





Elastic to back waistband

Brought back pockets in 1”

Front placket buttons with snaps

Top button & buttonhole near collar

Patch to piece #9 so that lapels would match

Back pocket shape at bottom to match breast pocket

Pocket top construction to show reverse side of fabric

Second button on each sleeve

Sleeve tabs & buttons

Raised breast pocket up 1”

(done after pictures)

Back pocket flaps & buttons

Lengthen crotch adjustment

Alignment of front placket bottom (fly area) to skip the bulge that some other reviews mentioned here

If you only take one thing from this post, I hope you take this:
I won’t sugar coat it, this is a long project, with a lot of steps & heaps of pieces to cut out. It’s a bit intimidating with the fly, placket, collar, cuffs, buttons, & topstitching, and it might take you days, or even weeks to finish it with creativity wavering during this pandemic & other responsibilities (see 1yr old puppy in pictures)…but do it anyway. It’s worth every minute spent on it and if I can do it with only a few years of sewing garments under my belt, you can too!

Ok, so if you weren’t scared away by now, you’re probably down to hear some of the details! I mentioned this was a long one and I wasn’t kidding...there are 56 steps in the instructions, some multi-part. There are 78 pieces to cut out if you trace the pattern like I did (plus I cut the fabric singled instead of doubled because my dots weren’t lining up-yay perfectionism!) & count interfacing pieces. 80 pieces in total if you count the elastic & the patch that I ended up adding. But for all the time that I spent in cutting, the pattern made up for it in how easy to follow it was. All but one of the times I spent in “stop and figure it out mode” were self-imposed (see adding sleeve roll tabs, elastic to the back waistband, & trying to use less fabric), and I can’t thank Merchant & Mills enough for making an advanced difficulty project so easy to follow.

Detail photograph of Thelma by Merchant & Mills pattern with a cuff added to the pattern.  Fabric is indigo blue with white dots.

Let’s go back to the beginning though. If you’ve seen any of my makes before, you probably know that I rebel against using the recommended fabrics. If a pattern recommends a denim, you can bet I’m probably trying to figure out if I can use some drapey, breezy fabric instead. This works to my advantage AND disadvantage at times, but in my head I envision a full handmade wardrobe that responds easily to the ebb & flow of life (read as weight gain or loss). An empowering, yet comforting armor against all of the anxiety, doubt, & judgement we so regularly experience as women. So when the Thelma came in with its ease & slightly feminine fit, but “I can be a mechanic if I effing want to” look, I knew I had to try it.

Women on city street standing in front of a grey wall wearing Thelma by Merchant & Mills in indigo with white dots with her brown dog standing in front of her.

I really wanted to use one of the M&M 350 Tencels that we had in, but I was hesitant because I knew I wanted to play with the fit of the Thelma too. So it sat in the back of my mind & closet (because I definitely got the fabric) for a while, while I worked up the courage to take it on. With all the places that this boilersuit could go wrong (you’re basically making a button up shirt and pants here), I wanted a slightly more forgiving fabric for a trial run, but still something I would want to wear. I stalked IG boilersuit hashtags & blog posts of others that had made it, noting that some had trouble with thicker fabrics & sewing all of the layers in areas. These posts were where I got the idea to leave off the back pocket flaps & started asking myself how practical all of the buttons were if I had to pee, what size to make to still be able to sit comfortably…You know, real life stuff.

Detail photograph of showing the Thelma by Merchant & Mills in indigo with white dots.  Women is showing the snaps on the top of the boiler jumpsuit.

The fabric solution came to me as I was putting my shoes on one day to take my pup for a walk. I have a pair of polka dot chambray Toms that I bought a couple of years ago (because how often do you see fabric that your shop carries on shoes?!?) & had made the joke when I bought them that I could use the Kaufman fabric we carry to make a full outfit to #dresslikeacrayon one day. But as I tied my shoes, I realized the fabric was exactly what I’d been looking for.

It’s lightweight but opaque, has drape and structure, beautiful textural tones, & polka dots, com’on. So with that decided, it was on to buttons & I couldn’t stop going back to these awesome gold pineapple one we had in. There were only 6 left by the time I decided to use them though, so I omitted the second cuff button & used snaps on the front placket since they would be hidden anyway. I had never added snaps, but thanks to the internet, I found the tape trick to help them stay put while sewing them on, & now I know how! ☺

Women walking on a sidewalk past a grey wall wearing Thelma by Merchant & Mills in indigo dots with her brown dog walking beside her.

Also new to me were Tailor’s Tacks. I’ve always used chalk to mark my patterns before, but decided to try sewing tacks in this time & I found them to be really satisfying for some reason. The sleeve roll tabs were an idea I took from my favorite RTW top that I just kind of reverse engineered. I sort of hate it when other posts gloss over things like that, so maybe we can do a follow up post on how to add those soon!

I really love fabrics that you can use both the front and the back of, & wanted to highlight the reverse side, so I bypassed the pocket top construction in the pattern & just pressed the fabric towards the outside rather than the inside before topstitching it down. I also wanted to mimic the angled shape of the breast pocket in the rear pockets, so I measured the angle and cut the same angle off of the back pockets.

Detail photograph of back pockets on a boiler jumpsuit in indigo and white dots.  Brown dog is peeking around to say hello.

After making the Ginger Jeans, I learned that back pocket placement can have a huge effect on how low/high/wide/narrow your butt looks, so after sewing them on, I decided to move them both in 1” and loved the result. Somewhat in line with this, I knew from seeing the fit of some suits, I wouldn’t wear the boilersuit if it was too loose in the back, so I used some elastic I had purchased to replace the spent elastic on my husband’s underwear (yay using what you have!). I constructed the outside as laid out in the directions, but subtracted ~1/8” from the seam of each side (top & bottom) when attaching the inside waist lining to make room for the elastic I used. You could probably use an elastic that wasn’t as wide and not have to make any changes to the seam allowance and save yourself some time & trouble here. Adding the elastic probably added the fit problem I had in the crotch length that I might not have had otherwise, but this was solved by grading the seam allowance on both the front and back from the area that was tight out to the surged seam allowance. We’ll just chalk that up to another new skill unlocked!

The one frustration I had with the pattern that I didn’t see in any other posts was the fabric cutting layout, so be careful here if the layout for your size & fabric width have piece 9 going to the right. I didn’t read ahead in the pattern before cutting my fabric & ended up cutting out this piece with the wrong side of the pattern & the fabric facing up, which I thought was correct from the layout, but ended up giving me two different colored lapels (maybe this is only a problem with two-sided fabric?). Just be super, super careful here & read ahead to instruction #2 to make sure you’ll cut the piece out correctly. I ended up not having enough fabric to cut a new piece 9, so I made a patch to cover the part of the lapel/placket that faces outward.

Women on city street standing in front of a grey wall wearing Thelma by Merchant & Mills in indigo with white dots.  Women is facing the camera with her hand in her pocket and a black face mask on.

Whew. I think that’s all. Like I said before, it’s sounds overwhelming, & it’s a big project, but I hope you take it on. The instructions really carry you through each step, & it so, so worth it in the end. I learned a lot along the way, maybe most of all that I can do things that seem too hard in the beginning. It may not be perfect, but I made it and hope it inspires you to make one too. Feel free to reach out with any questions-we’re here to help!

Comments on this post (1)

  • Sep 30, 2020

    Love it – I wanted to use Tencel for mine, but M&M are out of stock. Might go with linen after making a mock up in some very fetching curtain fabric! Like your idea of the elastic in the back.

    — Carol Clark

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