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Merchant and Mills workbook - one pattern book for a basic wardrobe

 
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Jay Angler wrote:One of the big issues here is the cost of fabric vs the cost of cheap clothing. Everything seems to have shifted to the "fashion" trend and "niche market" and the quality of fabrics has decreased. People don't buy or sew clothing to last 5 years let alone long enough for the next generation to wear as they did even 100 years ago (my mom had a wool reversible skirt she wore in high school, and my sister wore it in high school also!) We need a permaculture overhaul of the entire clothing industry to be more individual-centric and longer focused.



Exactly!

That's what drew me to the Merchant and Mills brand.  The shape of the clothing is supposed to be classic enough to move through the different fashions and they encourage taking the time to make good quality clothing.  They are one of the first I've found that focus on the foundation garments instead of going with fashionable shapes and trends.  

That's what I need.  A basic wardrobe that will last 5+ years.

What I wish for is to make two of my six foundation garments (maybe only one dress as I nearly never wear dresses):
1. Vest/tank top
2. short sleeve top
3. long sleeve top
(alternatively 3 bodices styles with interchangeable sleeve - is this possible?)
4. a skirt
5. pants/shorts
6. a dress

That should give me enough clothing to get through the days.  Then from there, I can make more as needed.  

I also figure, if I know how to make the garment, it can be easier to repair it and make it last longer.

That's my goal.  Today I feel that goal is unobtainable and that I don't have the brain to learn the skills I need to accomplish this.

 
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r ranson wrote:

That's my goal.  Today I feel that goal is unobtainable and that I don't have the brain to learn the skills I need to accomplish this.



There are lots of friendly and knowledgeable people in Patternreview forum. But you will probably need to show pictures of your muslin with CF, bust line, waist line and apex marked, with front, back and side views in natural stance to get constructive advices.

I like the idea of making the TNT pattern multiple times, saving so much time and money. One of your fellow Canadian, Virginie, aka Jazz Couture, had a project to make 20 dresses from the same pattern. All look so gorgeous on her!
 
r ranson
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One of the patterns in the Merchant and Mills workbook I want to try next is a top cut on the bias.  



It looks really comfortable!

The problem is, it's long sleeve.  Right now I'm good for long sleeve tops, but am lacking in short sleeves.  I wonder how hard it is to make the sleeves shorter?

It also has a dart kind of thing, but without the extra flap of fabric.  It's like a slice of pie taken out of the side of the pattern where the dart is.  That seems to use less fabric!  (my goal is if I can sew these out of commercial fabric, I could weave fabric - so cloth conservation is a huge thing here)
 
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Interesting - I've not seen a blouse cut on bias! I don't know if it would conserve fabric or use more.

Sleeves - if *really* short would do, you could make bias tape out of the scraps of fabric and edge the arm hole, or cut the pattern a longer than you think you want the sleeves and the see how they lie before pinning a hem on them so that the hem reflects an angle you like.
 
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Out of curiosity, where are you getting fabric from?

I think you mentioned bedsheets for muslins, but what about the finished fabric?

All I have found in Canada is fabric land, which is both bloody expensive and not always great quality and rarely has anything in natural fibers that I am interested in buying.

Also- sleeves are usually easy to shorten. Most patterns you buy show sleeves i or pant legs in 2-3 lengths. You may be able to steal sleeves from another pattern in the book, or that looks like it might make a lovely tank top.
 
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Mostly I'm using fabric from my stash.  The white, undyed cotton is mostly going to mockups and I have about 10 yards left of linen that I can use for the first attempts.  It's not the softest linen, but it gets softer with wearing and it's so cool that I don't mind having it next to the skin.  

There is some wool and other few-yard bits of fabric that I've been given over the years.  

IF I can get the hang of how to make these, I'll save up some cash and buy some nice fabric to build the basic wardrobe out of.  I figure if I buy the fabric all at once, then I'll have a matching colour scheme that I can build any accessories around.  Any suggestions for favourite natural fibre sources?  
 
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I know you have issues with the chemicals/scents in second hand fabric, but it might be helpful to go thrifting one day.

If you can find some clothing that fits you the way you want, bring it home and take it apart. See how they're put together. Once you've got an idea of how things need to be constructed for your shape, it should be easier to adapt the patterns you're working with.

I don't want to be discouraging, but after looking at the patterns on their website, I get the impression they'd be very difficult to adjust for large busts. The styles seem more suited to small busted and/or slender bodies rsther than people with curves. The main shaping looks to be one dart on the side. In my experience, it's really hard to get one dart to do everything you need. I'm a pretty impatient, not very skillful seamstress, though. Another thing that's going to make it more difficult is that you're using woven fabric, not knit, so there's way less wiggle room. I always had a really hard time getting woven fabric to fit me in a way that didn't seem boxy and unflattering. In any case, if you feel discouraged, I don't blame you. It seems like you've chosen a tough project.

I really do think taking some decent-fitting clothes apart would be helpful.
 
Jan White
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Regarding your wish for someone to design custom patterns...maybe you could find someone to make a pattern from the book in your shape. Then you could make your own pattern from that. Having the original pattern should make it easy to see the adjustments.
 
May Lotito
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Cashmerette patterns are specifically designed for curvy people. They come with different cup sizes so save you the hassle of FBA. The bust dart can only do certain amount of shaping that's why their shirt pattern use double princess seams for busty women.
 
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Jan White wrote:

I really do think taking some decent-fitting clothes apart would be helpful.



I agree! I did this with some goodwill clothes and was very educated by the experience! My sewing machine has given up on being functional, but once I get another one, I'll be ready. Definitely worth a shot. Some things just don't look right in a diagram, you need to be able to feel it with your hands.
 
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Look what I found, for dress form making: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0057FDLDG?tag=duckduckgo-exp-b-20&linkCode=osi&th=1&psc=1#detail-bullets
 
r ranson
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getting there
15960510594254448631254208855131.jpg
[Thumbnail for 15960510594254448631254208855131.jpg]
 
r ranson
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I am wearing the top!

I can see lots to do differently if I make it again.

I think I like it enough that I might just make this again!

The Merchant and Mills workbook and Sewing Book are what got me this far.  That, and your encouragement.  

I'm going to go back to the M&M Sewing Book and make some of the more basic items in there.  The book also has a boat neck top which I adore, except for the neckline.  While I'm making the next item, I'm going to imagine "what if I could take the neckline off the top I just made and put it on that other top".  I wonder....
 
Jay Angler
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R Ranson - if you can change the bust line as much as you've had to do, swapping out necklines should be easy! I admit I dislike boat neck tops, so I'm with you on that principle alone. The key part is how the neckline is finished and whether both patterns have the same slope to the shoulders. If the neckline needs a facing, that has to still match when you do the transfer. A boat neck will go over anyone's head - make sure the change still opens enough to put it on. If the shoulders have different slopes, you draw in the change over several inches so it doesn't look jarring. I've had to do that with pant side-seams all the time. Go slow and steady like you did changing the first pattern!

I'm really glad you had success - success breeds more success! (it's contagious in a good way)
 
r ranson
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Ah HA!
I just found the words I'm looking for: Capsule Wardrobe
That's what this book is the start of, a simple set of clothes that, in theory, go together and can be layered for different weather.
 
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r ranson wrote:Ah HA!
I just found the words I'm looking for: Capsule Wardrobe
That's what this book is the start of, a simple set of clothes that, in theory, go together and can be layered for different weather.

Yes, and you have the advantage that you can choose to dye and weave your own cloth so that you can get colours that go together, but also give a genuine sense of uniqueness. We've been trained to feel that unless we're wearing a required "uniform", that we are somehow deprived if we have to wear the same thing day after day. I'm pretty immune to "fashion" and still felt that when I was younger and working full time. But trying to create a "Capsule Wardrobe" was difficult because as things wore out, it was often impossible to get more fabric that went with the existing "Capsule" as the shops had all moved on to the new latest and greatest colour. At one point I settled for black pants and skirt and managed to find a bunch of tops that looked as if they were happy to go with black, but other perfectly fine tops or bottoms suffered a "languishing" fate when their partners wore out and I couldn't find anything pre-made or fabric to go with the orphans. The last few times I've looked for replacement black pants, I couldn't even find those that fit - everything had that dropped waist that doesn't work for me. It makes me sooo... glad that I can just hang on my farm and say to heck with good clothes!
 
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I drew up some lists and divided them into farm and not-farm clothing.

For the Farm list, I'm just going to use up old clothing - once the not-farm clothes get too warn to look good, they get moved over to farm.

For the not-farm clothing, I found that 20 items works well for my style of life.  But for those 20 items, I would need to know how to sew somewhere between six and eight patterns and change the fabric and colour to match the situation.

My goal is to make the basic wardrobe out of modern fabric and find out how to fit the shapes to my body.  Then figure out what cloth goes well with what pattern style.  From there, as things need replacing, I'll try weaving the fabric.  Then from there, I'll try growing the cloth.  Should be interesting.  Might not work out.

But the nice thing is that this takes way less energy and stress than trying to buy clothes.  

I did try to go to the fabric shop today but there were over 20 people lined up outside in the hot sun, so I decided to give it a miss.

 
r ranson
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Right.  I did a bit of mending this weekend and I made a ham following the instructions in the M&M Sewing book.

I took my list for this capsule wardrobe idea and had a quick peek in my closet.  It looks like I have enough skirts and bottoms to last a while, but where I'm sort is tops.  Especially summer tops.  

So I need to find a couple more patterns and make them fit.  I can do this with the cloth I have on hand.  But I also want to get some good quality cloth for making my final wardrobe.  Something comfortable and not too stiff.  I'm wishing I knew how to buy the cloth I want online but I don't know what all the words mean.  It would be so much less stressful than going to a fabric shop with all the humans and sizing (the fumes make my brain sad).

Would this be good? https://fabricville.com/en/fabrics/paris-linen-white.html
Looks like it costs the same as a new top in my size.
 
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There’s a lot of great info on YouTube these days as well.
I love this video on hand-finished seams:



There are also these awesome people on YT these days working on historical costume, some of them as an alternative to buying fast fashion/disposable fashion (the cheap clothing made unsustainably & with poor labor practices)

- Morgan Donner is a hoot & her video on drafting a gored tunic is pretty interesting (to me - maybe also you, who knows):

-
- Constance Mackenzie is a historical costuming consultant and lives 24/7 in Edwardian times: no electricity, antique sewing machine, makes her own ironing starch - she’s pretty awesome.
Here’s her channel link:[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_ClFJYwA3lDagY4igPKddg[/youtube]
And from there you may run into the rest of “costube”, the world of costuming on YouTube, which is a rabbit hole and if you find yourself in there....I’m in there, too, so say hi.


The great value of these sources is less that it’s about making costumes, but more that they tend to focus on older methods  of sewing, pattern drafting, fabric use, etc, that’s a lot more permies than much of the modern fashion channels I’ve seen, but of course YMMV.
 
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r ranson wrote:

It would be so much less stressful than going to a fabric shop with all the humans and sizing (the fumes make my brain sad).

I hear you - the off-gassing, particularly formaldehyde, exhausts me. New fabric gets laundered before I try to sew with it.

Personally, despite that, I'd have trouble believing that the colours represented on the internet will look the same in real life, and I like to feel the weight and texture of a fabric, so I bight the bullet and make sure I get fresh air right after being in a fabric shop. Mind you, I get the same effect in regular clothing stores - particularly the T-shirt shops with those fancy "plastic" pictures on the fronts.
 
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I'm another who simply must touch the fabric, first. It's very rare that I'm able to order fabric online, and be happy with it. One of the few things is diaper flannel, lol. There can always be some variance there, of course, but it's fairly thick, pure white, and pretty dependable. Unfortunately, it's also quite narrow. But, it's so soft...
 
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R ranson, if you’re on Ravelry, there is an excellent thread on the Unravelers group called Common Fitting Issues which covers in great practical detail, exactly how to deal with the issues you’re having with adapting patterns. Lots of real life examples.

https://www.ravelry.com/discuss/unravelers/3655908/1-25
 
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Today I tried a mockup of the boat shirt from the Merchant and Mills Sewing book.  I'm very glad I did.

It looks like a cute top and I assumed the only thing I would need to do is change the neckline to be something not chok-y.  It is a nifty design where the short sleeves are part of the front and back fabric, so there isn't anything fancy that needs doing.  It's very simple.  Just sew two bits of fabric together.  But that's two flat bits of fabric that don't make a good covering for a curvy human.

There was so much that didn't fit.  Although the bust was okay, the arms and shoulders were too restrictive and there was almost too much fabric on the centre front. Too much fabric on the top of the sleeves, and nowhere near enough underneath.  I gave up and decided this wasn't the pattern for me.

The experience for this pattern was interesting.  Unlike the M&M Workbooks, the paper pattern in the envelope in the M&M Sewing Book isn't full size.  You have to increase by 175% or go to the website and download and print out a pattern on your printer at home and then tape it all together.  That wasn't much fun, but good practice.  What I didn't like was the issue of getting my pins through printer paper and onto the fabric!  There was also no cutting diagram so I had to guess and I'm not sure I did a good job.  

It looks like I'm going to have the biggest cabbage patch (box full of small bits of fabric leftover from cutting out patterns) in the world before I get the hang of this sewing lark.  sigh.  Feeling discouraged again.  
IMG_0106.JPG
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r ranson wrote:

What I didn't like was the issue of getting my pins through printer paper and onto the fabric!

Have you met a sewing tracing wheel or Tailor's chalk?
The wheel is used with special paper of different colours which you put face down on the fabric, put the pattern on top, and then use the wheel to outline the fabric and it pokes through the special paper leaving little dots on the fabric. These little dots aren't always as washable a I'd like, so I tend to make sure they'll end up on seam allowances. I've used this when I've had a pattern with multiple sizes and have wanted to trace a small size without cutting away the extra paper.

The chalk can similarly be used to outline the pattern cutting lines onto the fabric, but the colours available are limited, so if your fabric is multicoloured it may get fiddly. I have blue and white and that covers me most of the time. If I'm worried about the pattern moving as I go, I put a book on it.

My last choice, but I have done it, is to use masking tape and tape the pattern down! It won't be on for long and I usually try to cut from the side that will be the "inside" when sewn if I need to use the tape method.

I've never done this, but if you can access large sheets of tissue paper, you could lay it over the computer print-out paper and then mark the seams with a fine waterproof marker or pen onto the tissue paper.

Yes, deciding the lay-out of the pattern bits on the fabric is a bit of an art. I would suggest it improves with practice, but I think it also has to do with the same skills that let some people ace the computer game "Tetris" and other not so much. I will often use my Tailor's chalk while doing so, marking the "corners" of a pattern piece in one location, then experimenting with the other pieces like a giant gigsaw puzzle (another game with similar brain skills which some people find easier than others). If my table isn't large enough, I'm known to move this process to the floor, so I can get everything laid out at once and then move it back up to the table for cutting.

I had not realized the the "boat shirt" pattern you spoke of was of a type where the sleeves were part of the front and back. I think many women would have difficulty fitting that style to their bodies. There's a reason that even simple clothing patterns have a lot of curvy lines - humans just aren't made from straight lines! Try not to be too discouraged and consider other options in the book.
 
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This type of top with cut-on sleeve can be tricky even though the pattern appears to be simple.

Have you check your bicep circumference and armsyc length with the pattern measurements? It sure fits easier for women with smaller busts and slim arms.

Second challenge comes with fabric choices. It goes better with fluid fabrics like silk crepe de chine or satin but not very flattering with crisp cotton or linen. For the former, the fabric follows your shoulder curve and may have a cute little perk at the end. If you use stiffer fabric, then the shoulder will extend out and make you look humongous. Worse if the sleeves are too long.

Maybe this top can still be salvaged, can you cut the top sleeve shorter ( take a triangle wedge out if it) lower the arm pit then sew a narrow band to finish the edge?
 
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The pattern only gives one measurement - and it doesn't say what it is measuring.  Sigh.  I'm guessing it's the bust.

I would have to say, the patterns in the M&M Sewing book are not as beginner friendly as the ones in the Workbook.
 
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Rarely a pattern will fit right out of the envelope. Have you heard of tissue fitting developed by palmer and pletsch? It allows you to find fitting issues before cutting and sewing into actual fabric. I found tissue paper too thin and flimsy to mess with so I usually use contractor paper for pattern use. They are very cheap, lowe's sell 120fr roll for $10 or so. And you can iron it flat if needed.  If you want, cut the pattern out full sized (not just half as in pattern pieces) and tape them together. Then wear it, it feels like wearing an armor though. Then you are able to mark actual bust points shoulder points, check length etc. It saves time and money this way. Hope it helps.
 
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I'm still on the lookout for short sleve summer shirt patterns (that can be done with woven cloth), but I'm also thinking about winter.  I cannot knit anymore and my sweaters are getting a bit over-darned.  

What do you think about this?
https://merchantandmills.com/store/patterns/pdf/the-top-64-pdf/


and some reviews: https://sewing.patternreview.com/Patterns/64489
 
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That the reviewers often show the finished shirt on themselves is excellent for seeing how it fits different body types!

This pattern has *no* darts, so in my opinion, you will need to add them from the side seams as you altered the first pattern you made. If you click on the image of "Kellelely" you can see how the fabric is puckered under her right arm and I believe that is due to the extra fabric she needed and didn't allow for over her breasts. "Kate 88" used a larger size vs her body, and yet you still see some puckering - more obvious under her left arm.

If I was sewing this for someone with Raven's measurements, I would not only add the side seam darts, but I would also take advantage of the front seam to do a little shaping - a vertically narrow diamond-shaped "dart" either center front, or on each side below the breast would make it less "sack-like". The advantage of doing so below the breasts is that it could be added after you sew the garment and see how it fits.

There isn't any obvious closures on this pattern, so one does have to be careful about shaping so much that it can't easily go on and off. Adding just enough fabric at the front to turn this into an overlapped button shirt would not be hard to do, but I don't know if there are instructions regarding that in the books you bought.
 
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Someone linked this company in another thread. I am considering trying to sew something of theirs - I love that they draft their patterns for 3 different bust sizes/size and pants to two different hip waist ratios. I love the look of their button up top, as I cant find any that fit me well in store, and some of the tanks would look nice under a work blazer. They are pricey patterns but look really classic to me - easy enough to look fresh with a different fabric, or keep timeless with plain or neutral fabric. Wish they had more pants and fewer dresses though!

Here are their woven tops:
https://www.cashmerette.com/collections/cashmerette-patterns/woven-tops

They have tutorials on adjustments, and claim you can email them with pattern fitting questions.
 
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Example of blouse with cut-on/kimono sleeves in fluid silk
https://blog.colettehq.com/inspiration/vintage-details-surface-cording-tutorial

As for the top 64 pattern, the two piece raglan sleeve should be ease to fit.  I have the same concern as Jay, for a summer top, one can make wider neck line for poping over. For winter use, one probably want to make it narrower so the under layer won't show. Then you need to think about what type of closure to choose from.
 
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Today I'm wearing my tanktop/vest that I made upthread.  The one with the big dart addition.
I'm almost shocked by how comfortable it is.  I don't have to keep adjusting the neck or anything.  

I want to make three more from this pattern, but with a different cloth.
 
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Catie George wrote:Someone linked this company in another thread. I am considering trying to sew something of theirs - I love that they draft their patterns for 3 different bust sizes/size and pants to two different hip waist ratios. I love the look of their button up top, as I cant find any that fit me well in store, and some of the tanks would look nice under a work blazer. They are pricey patterns but look really classic to me - easy enough to look fresh with a different fabric, or keep timeless with plain or neutral fabric. Wish they had more pants and fewer dresses though!

Here are their woven tops:
https://www.cashmerette.com/collections/cashmerette-patterns/woven-tops

They have tutorials on adjustments, and claim you can email them with pattern fitting questions.



I like the torso on this one: https://www.cashmerette.com/collections/cashmerette-patterns/products/harrison-shirt-pdf-pattern



I could see wearing this!  

But first, I need to focus on finding a short sleeve top.  But this would be really good for the fall/winter/spring.  
 
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Even with my struggles, the Merchant and Mills books are exactly what I needed at this time.  That, and you guys.  You are so generous with your help!!!

This has opened up all sorts of possibilities.  I still cannot believe I managed to put darts in a pattern.

I can imagine actually having the wardrobe I want.  And to that end, I started a new thread about capsule wardrobes: https://permies.com/t/145494/
 
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The vest/tank top is so comfortable I'm going to make another one.  I'm also thinking of making a sleep shirt or gown out of it if I have enough fabric.  

I'm also getting excited about the coat in the M&M Workbook.  Once I get this button top finished, I'm thinking I'll make a mockup jacket out of an old duvet cover.  If I like it, then I'll invest in some wool fabric as there's some on sale at a local fabric shop for about $10 a meter (which is a very good price for wool).  I need a fall/spring jacket as I only have a winter coat.
 
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r ranson wrote:I'm still on the lookout for short sleve summer shirt patterns (that can be done with woven cloth), but I'm also thinking about winter.  I cannot knit anymore and my sweaters are getting a bit over-darned.  

What do you think about this?
https://merchantandmills.com/store/patterns/pdf/the-top-64-pdf/


and some reviews: https://sewing.patternreview.com/Patterns/64489



hmmmm.... cannot figure out how to do a full bust adjustment on this.

https://merchantandmills.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/linefront1.jpg
 
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As a guess, you'd have to do a dart in from the side-seam, just below the sleeve. Does the pattern mark a bust line on it? Raglan sleeves seem to me to go lower down the chest than regular set in sleeves, but that might be "impression" rather than reality. It also might not be, because a raglan sleeve has to give extra room somewhere to account for the lack of a "shoulder" - I suspect that's done by having it go further down the chest. Otherwise the sleeves might tend to bind as you move your arms forward.
 
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The problem I'm having is that the front comes in three pieces.  Two upper front (where I would need to add the dart) and the lower frot.  The line where they join is where the pockets are and I think it would look pretty bad if I get that line wonky.

So I'm nervous of trying.  
 
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Define "wonky" -
- as in "not straight"? That's easy to fix by adding an extra inch to all the top front pieces and then trim to length after fitting the top. Hmmm... maybe not so easy with the change to the bust line. I'm assuming you've read about "skirt measurers"? You measure the bottom of a skirt for hemming based on the floor with you footwear on, so the skirt ends up even all around. You may have to do similar using a table top as the floor and get someone to pin an even distance up from it with the top of the outfit on you. Trying to lie something "curvy" flat on a table and get "straight" is just not as simple as it sounds.

- as in "not matching in width?  Several options: A) top is wider than the bottom "pocket strip" - 1) a small dart going upward towards the breast would help the waist look more fitted and take up the slack 2) do a gather stitch along the bottom of the top section and "ease" it to fit - this shouldn't show if the difference is less than an inch - it's a technique used in fitted sleeves all the time due to the curves and doesn't "look" gathered because you're more "squishing" the fabric to fit than gathering it.   B) bottom strip is wider than the top strip - 1) if you don't need the width over the hips, you could just trim to match - this may make the bottom bind on the hips, so consider your measurements on days when you may want an extra layer under it for warmth. 2) if you do want the width over the hips, but are fine with the width of the finished upper section, I'd make a little pleat in the lower band under the arm area with the front of the pleat towards the side seam.

- as in "the pattern isn't going to match up" - this is a fabric choice. The picture shows a solid colour which won't be affected by changes to the bust line. Stripes will be affected as you will be changing the direction of the stripes beside and under the breast by the large dart you will need to add. It still shouldn't affect the center front, but if it looks to be a big problem, my only suggestion is that you need to "add a gusset" to accommodate the breast, rather than "fold fabric away" by making a dart. You might still need to leave some extra length on the bodice parts so you can do the "skirt measure" idea above to make sure you look "level" across the front.

This is *really* hard to describe in words. You may have to read it a couple of times just to figure out what I *haven't* explained that's niggling at your brain saying, "huh?" So please, send questions/comments and I'll try to help more.
 
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